Golden Mermaids: Lesbian Creativity Through the Ages

I edited and compiled Sinister Wisdom 111: Golden Mermaids, and wrote the introductory “Notes for a Magazine,” in the fall of 2018—while listening to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Here is some of what I wrote.

It is early in the hearing; Dr. Ford just finished testifying. Senator Feinstein has just entered into the record one hundred, sixty letters supporting Dr. Ford from neighbors and over 1,000 letters from women physicians. The fact of these letters captures my imagination, and nearly reduces me to tears. These letters strike me as both congressional testimony and letters to the future, expressing perhaps promise or hope by women for a better future for all women. My hope listening to this hearing is that it is the last hearing needed for a Supreme Court nominee accused of misogynistic behavior. My fear is it will not be the last. Those letters, they contain the secret whispers of the future for how women will continue to speak out and resist.

Sinister Wisdom is like those letters entered by Senators as testimony. Sinister Wisdom as a journal has archived lesbian writing over the past 43 years. Lesbians write, and we enter it into the record.

Sinister Wisdom 111: Golden Mermaids, which officially published this month, offers testimony of lesbian lives today and features some of the best work from contemporary lesbian writers and artists. The words and images inside are a whisper and a promise to a future when lesbians are interested in reading the stories from these pages. 

6,000 copies of back issues of Sinister Wisdom are currently stored in the Sinister Wisdom office in Florida. I call these back issues our “vault.” In 2016, I moved over 10,000 copies of back issues from a storage facility in Berkeley, California.

Over the past two years, Sinister Wisdom distributed about 5,000 copies of the back issues to readers all over the United States and around the world, giving new voice to lesbians of yore. That work continues. 

Every year, we mail a new back issue from the “vault” with every package that leaves Sinister Wisdom. These back issues represent a vault of lesbian creativity—they are the golden mermaids of our past anchoring us as we write and envision lesbian futures.

We will continue to donate copies of all available back issues to community centers, libraries, schools, prisons and other places where lesbian readers can find and enjoy them until there are fewer than 2,000 issues of the journal on hand. (If you know somewhere we should send copies, please be in touch. Storing some back issues is an important function of Sinister Wisdom; we are dedicated to retaining our herstory. At the same time, the number of back issues stored needs to be manageable and not require a massive storage facility.)

What will Sinister Wisdom be and do 43 years into the future? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, there are issues to read.

Start with the current Sinister Wisdom 111: Golden Mermaids and then read backward. Afterward, bring Sinister Wisdom your wild ideas and imaginings! Be a golden mermaid and join us in celebrating lesbian creativity.


Julie R. Enszer is a scholar and poet. She's currently the editor of Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and a regular book reviewer for the Lambda Book Report and Calyx. Julie's research has appeared or is forthcoming in Southern CulturesJournal of Lesbian StudiesAmerican PeriodicalsWSQFrontiers and other journals; she is the author of the poetry collections AvowedLilith’s DemonsSisterhood and Handmade Love and the editor of The Complete Works of Pat Parker and Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry.