January 18, 2004 was an exceptional day for me and for many lesbians of my generation. The first episode of the seminal television series The L Word was broadcast. For the first time we could take a seat and watch the marvellous LGBTQ universe focusing on women being revealed to us.
I binge-watched The L Word, desperately trying to relate to it, but for some reason, the incredibly good-looking, typically skinny, wildly successful, coffee drinking lesbians felt miles away from my own experience; they were just too ‘Hollywood’ to connect with in a meaningful way.
My then 24-year-old self was living in a small town in southern Brazil. I could only dream of a life in which women were L Word perfect, and I was struggling to overlook the outright cliches from which a number of the characters were drawn. Predatory lesbians destroying straight relationships anyone? Not to mention the cheating wife (Bete, that plumber? What were you thinking?!)
Not long after The L Word started to set the tone for what the lesbian experience meant, by Hollywood standards, anyway, I moved to London. In the city my lesbian genetic pool increased significantly! I was exposed to all kinds of women, and I've marvelled at the refreshing diversity. At last, I was a lesbian in real life, and it was to that new and ever-expanding universe, of incredibly different, smart, brilliant, daring, caring ladies, all with their histories, their issues, their emotional baggage, their loves and losses, that I could finally belong to, and was proud to do so.
Women, in general, had always fascinated me. We are such emotional creatures but also capable of mighty deeds. Working as an aesthetic doctor also gave me an excellent platform to understand better how we can help someone blossom just by making their feel better about themselves. The vast majority of my patients are women, many of them going through rough patches in their lives and wanting to improve their self-esteem, and luckily I could witness first hand the resilience of great ladies, and no matter what life trowed at them, they bounced back stronger. All they needed was a little support, and the idea of a sisterhood of women being there for each other was a subject that had always fascinated me.
There is a lot of division in the lesbian community. We tend to let our sexuality define who we are. Butches and Femmes, how many times have we heard this binary option? And I feel that society tends to catalogue us too. I have lost the count of how many times I've heard that, "I don't look like a lesbian," to what I always reply "Oh, I am sorry, I forgot my unicorn at home."
Writing lesbian fiction is a challenge. We have been sexualised in the wrong way for too long and portraying women who love women and have this as a part of their beings and not the cornerstone that defines them as people is even more difficult. I read a lot lesbian fiction (lesfic), and as an avid consumer, I have struggled to find good books where the essential theme was not coming out or pursuing a forbidden love.
The Sarah Waters novels [are where] I found my biggest inspiration. Instigating plots where the fact that the main characters are homosexuals was part of the fabric that unfolded their personalities. Powerful women, alluring and relatable, for also showing their weaknesses, their conflicts.
In The Lilith Gene I’ve tried my best to harvest that strength in dealing with life’s struggles. Showing Vesna’s anxiety to portray how strong she is, revealing Olga’s conflict to address her force to change things in her life and challenge what she had as absolute truths. I really hope that we can trace parallels from their lives into ours and embracing the "Lobster Theory" that Rafaella is so keen on "only by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, we can become better versions of us.
Using the inspiration from the historical romances in Sarah’s books, I dug deep into history to bring to life strong women from the past. The Serbian war hero Milunka Savic who inspired Perzie’s character is a testimony of how magnificent we are, straight or gay, and how we can achieve anything.
Overall, I believe we should read and produce much more lesbian fiction and praise the great authors out there like Jae, Harper Bliss, Clare Lydon, to name a few, who make lesfic fun and accessible.
We only have a more vibrant "genetic pool" of lesbian heroines to dive in.
The Lilith Gene, by M Cassol is available now on Amazon.
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