by Susan Horsman
After receiving the letter which appeared in last week's edition of Choragos under the heading 'Anniversary of Loneliness,' Choragos' editors were curious to know more about the author of the letter, and about the unique experience and frustrations which had motivated her to write the only letter about lesbianism which Choragos has ever received. Although unwilling to divulge her identity, 'Astronomer,' as she has called herself, consented to an interview with Choragos.
Astronomer explained that her purpose in writing 'Anniversary in Loneliness' was to bring the subject of lesbianism out into the open.
"It's never been mentioned in all the years I've been here," she said. "I wanted to help other people that felt similarly to myself not feel so isolated. If there is a lesbian underground (here), it's so far underground that it's like drilling for oil."
At Mount Holyoke, she feels, lesbians are forced to question themselves. Lesbianism is not taken seriously; it's treated as "as phase" or an emotional problem.
As a result, said 'Astronomer,' "I'm expending a lot of energy because I'm under psychic tension. I can't operate an [sic] effectively as I could have had I not had to think about these things."
"You have enough tensions here so that you shouldn't have to spend all your energy thinking about your sexual idenity," she continued. But stated that "if you do not have (a closeness to women), you have to go through some pretty dangerous thinking and some pretty heavy steps."
'Astronomer' illustrated the lack of self-confidence felt by lesbians at Mount Holyoke College with some stories about her relationships with other women. She described one in particular, a woman older that she who has since graduated.
"(We) wanted to get close together -- not sexual, just maybe touching each other or something." But, said 'Astronomer', the woman was afraid of being ostracized, of gaining a reputation as a lesbian.
After her friend's graduation, said 'Astronomer,' "I was really lonely, very very painfully and excruciatingly lonely... I went through agony, knowing I had no one to talk to on this campus. Eventually I just locked myself in my room and almost flunked out."
Now, however, she said she is "exploring," trying to find people whith whom she can talk about her lesbianism and relationships that are satisfying and close. But doing that isn't easy, she claims.
"I feel like I'm Magellan or Columbus. It's all very new but it's all very archaic. It's no different than what you have to go through to meet anyone -- the bars and the dances. Not everyone wants to meet someone half drunk."
'Astronomer' seemed to feel that Mount Holyoke social life was in direct conflict with lesbianism as she understands it.
"You come here from a family," she explained. "Every bit of security and comfort is just knocked away from you... It's very hard to find that kind of comfort (at Mount Holyoke)...(Some people) go to Amherst and get fucked when all they really wanted was closeness."
'Astronomer' explained that for her, lesbianism is more than simply a matter of sexual preference; it provides the kind of closeness that so many people really want.
"Everyone has the potential to love anyone," she explained. "If you love someone you want to touch them...But it's not just an issue of sex, it's an issue of expanding our ability to be human beings as much as we can... when you knock out one aspect of a relationship (i.e., the sexual aspect), the less you have to exchange. I can understand very well that (being close to men) is an option, but I think we should have the other option as well." Without it, she said, "We're only half human beings."
'Astronomer' stated that she first began to think about her sexual identity "even before junior high school."
"I just kept asking myself the question why a woman can't make a commitment to another woman." It was a long time, she said, before she was able to accept her lesbianism.
"I just kept hoping I'd outgrow it. As a sophomore in high school, I really started agonizing over it, never acting upon it, just on and on and on and on in my head."
The most difficult thing, she stated, has been "leading a double life."
"I have to sit at the dinner table and listen to my brother make fag jokes." Her parents, she said, don't know that she is a lesbian.
'Astronomer' stated that there is a real "dissonance" in society for lesbians.
"You're brought up one way and you feel another," she said. "The way you're brought up is constantly being reinforced, but you're constantly developing the way you feel."
'Astronomer' denied that she came to Mount Holyoke in order to find women who were lesbians.
"I knew Mount Holyoke didn't have that reputation, " she said. In fact, she claims, "I knew it was conservative... I came here to work with women, to meet challenging women... there's a lot that I want to do."
'Astronomer' said she hopes that publicizing the issue of lesbianism will help other people feel less isolated, possibly be help[ing to establish discussion groups or ways for lesbians to meet.
"We all know it's here," she said. "Maybe some facilities will come out of (this publicity), maybe some people will come out of it.. people here should be able to support their fellow students. We have to understand that there are some people here whose minds are really hurting."