Jennifer Patterson is a poet/writer, grief worker, creative and herbalist who uses words, threads and plants to explore queer survivorhood, the body and healing. She is the editor of the forthcoming anthology Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-Sexual Violence Movement (Magnus/ Riverdale Ave Books, 2016), facilitates writing workshops and has had writing published in OCHO: A Journal of Queer Arts, the Outrider Review, HandJob and on The Feminist Wire. Jennifer is also finishing a graduate program at Goddard College focusing on trauma, queer communities, healing, craft, loss, pleasure, pain and creative non-fiction. You can find more here.
Since the book came out, it’s garnered a long list of powerful reviews and has been the top selling book on Amazon in the genre of queer non-fiction. “Queering Sexual Violence is the much-needed book that has been simmering within the “violence against women” movement for decades,” wrote Minal Hajratwala, author & editor of Out! Stories from the New Queer India.
In the middle of her book tour and while finishing her thesis, Jennye was kind enough to answer these questions about Queering Sexual Violence, published by Riverdale Ave Books:
What propelled you to write this book?
- I identify as queer and am a survivor of multiple forms of violence. In my mid-late 20’s, I decided to start working in anti-violence work. I did fundraising for small organizations, trained and offered support as a rape crisis counselor and was a facilitator and organizer in an NYC organizing effort. And I was quickly struck by how these anti-violence spaces weren’t connected to larger social justice movements like queer & trans liberation, racial justice, disability justice, healing justice, prison abolition and so much more which felt a bit shocking to me. I felt super frustrated with how little space there was for LGB, queer, transgender and gender non-conforming people and how little understanding there was for our unique and frequent experiences with violence. So I decided to leave these spaces to try to create something that brought in the voices and work of people I knew were already doing this connective work. I love books and have long been a writer so I decided that creating something that people could hold and pass on to other people was the way to go.
How did you find so many contributors of such diverse backgrounds?
- My process for collecting work was manifold. I put out a call for submissions in late winter 2010 and it quickly traveled through a wide spectrum of internet spaces– on Facebook and Tumblr and anti-violence organizations, feminist & womanist websites and social justice groups all shared it. I reached out to my immediate friends and networks. And I also reached out personally to queer and trans people that I knew were already doing this work in different capacities, both personally and professionally. But I’d say 3/4 of what is in the anthology came to me fairly organically. I began the book a little over 6 years ago and so it was also just a really long process so when people needed more time to put something together or if they were coming up against blocks in being able to write the hard stuff, I was able to offer more time to finish.
Why is a book like this so important now?
- Back when I started this anthology I was hard pressed to find writing about queer people and sexual violence. There was an amazing zine turned book called The Revolution Starts at Home and there were a few pieces of writing here and there, including a piece by Liz Latty (also a Goddard graduate!) that I really appreciated but it was super limited. While today, 6 years later, there is a bit more writing, research and workshops about and for queer people and sexual violence, the way I see it, mainstream anti-violence organizations are only just starting to include LGBTQ people in their work and are only just starting to offer services more geared to LGBTQ people. You can see the lack of intention to include LGBTQ people in how so many survivor support groups are still geared towards cisgender women only or how gendered language is when mainstream anti-violence organizations talk about sexual violence or how gendered research is when it doesn’t intentionally include people who are trans and gender non-conforming. And from the extremely high rates of murder of trans women of color to interpersonal violence in queer relationships to the everyday violence LGBTQ experience just walking down the street, we just can’t afford to not make larger connections around what sexual violence is, who experiences it and who is allowed to access healing.