Being in a relationship with a woman has deepened my understanding of love
May 13th, 2019 (interview published at online Slovenian newspaper Torek ob petih http://torekobpetih.si/intervju/)
Katarina Majerhold, MSc. of philosophy, has been exploring the most universal theme in the world for many years - love. Who we are and how we love is at the heart of her philosophy. It is perhaps less known that she also writes about lesbian topics, especially about film, actresses and TV-and WEB-series. So she created her own website last year, where she writes about all aspects of lesbian life in lengthy and pervading. Thus, her book Love Through History, in which she focused on the different concepts of love, especially those still shaping and affecting our relationships, has also received an online upgrade.
Where did you get the idea for the LL passion website?
The idea came from the fact that I have been writing for LGBT+ media for a very long time and I wanted to have an explicit medium that would deal with lesbians. So far, in LGBT+ media, I have mostly written about pop culture topics, reviews of films and TV-series thus my initial aim of the website was to start represent lesbians in movies, TV- and WEB-series, etc. While I was surfing the Internet I noticed that media with lesbian contents has somehow decreased. I was a regular reader of the well-known US website AfterEllen since it was created in 2002, and for the past couple of years I noticed that this site no longer has its previous enthusiasm and contents. At the same time, the Autostraddle website appeared in 2009, which I found out that it does not suit me because it is not close to me in terms of LBT representation. Website like mine has not existed in Europe. In fact, for a very short time, in 2009-2010, there was a European version of Afterellen, EurOut.com, to which I was invited, but my life turned out differently at that time. That is how I positioned myself in terms of what and how I wish to present L-B contents in pop culture. However, I also found out that no one of the mentioned websites have included humanities and science therefore I decided to cover that area too. I noticed that lesbian theory is somehow in decline, there is a lack of passion in this area and we need to do something about that.
Is it the fight against the eradication of lesbians and lesbian representation in the media?
At the same time, it seemed important to include bisexual women as well. I decided that lesbians should show better inclusion of this group, which - in addition to transgender persons - has always been pushed to the margin, even within our community. That is why I decided to add a representation of bisexual women on the website, although it is of course an emphasis on lesbians.
Given that you are writing about everything related to lesbian and bisexual, queer women on your website, I wonder how do you understand the word lesbian?
I'm an 'old fashioned' lesbian, I would say. I grew up in time when we heared only a word lesbian, there were no other labels. Being queer in that time meant something negative since it was before queer theory was established. In short, I perceive myself as a cisgender person whose sexual orientation is homosexual, I am a lesbian. But I'm open to all forms of representation on my website. One of my contributing writers who previously wrote for AfterEllen identifies as queer. In 2018, a debate about lesbians and transgender people arose on Afterellen website; part of the lesbian community of that website resisted Pink News, who excluded lesbians from the New Years list they published to honor LGBT+ people. The then editor-in-chief and current owner of the AfterEllen website positioned herself on the side of the lesbian against transgender people, and then my contributing writer decided not to cooperate with website that was not open to transgender people. I do not want to step into this debate because transgender people have always been part of LGBT community and I know they have been oppressed even within our community therefore my opinion is that we have to keep solidarity, dignity and respect regardless of our personal identification.
Could you say that a lesbian is anyone who has experience with women and does not identify herself as a man?
That could be in a way according to what I said. I accept this definition because humans rights, dignity and respect are important to me.
You already mentioned that you missed the topic on humanities and social sciences. What are the specific topics that concern lesbianism and which ones you would like to write more about?
I would like to have more theoretical emphasis: philosophy, sociology, anthropology, history. All the websites I have mentioned do not tackle the lesbian topics from these perspectives. I miss the in-depth debate. I noticed that the writers from abroad are thaught not to write too long and detailed articles. This is probably due to a monetary, marketing aspect. The longer the articles are, the less they are interesting, since people often do not have time to read more in depth article or do not have this kind of attention, interest, and proper education. I miss a wider insight, even on a symbolic level, so that we can understand things directly, or indirectly from various aspects.
Could you be even more precise which aspects do you miss? Because lesbianism has been still invisible and without proper presentation of everyday aspects, such as traveling, family, relationships.
On my website I have written exactly that I hope that we have passed the stage of social isolation and exclusion and that we wish to present happier, peaceful, partner and family life of lesbians. For example, the Dutch online series Anne +, an interview with one of the actresses in the series respectively, is exactly the kind of series that tries to present a student who has just finished her studies and remembers her relationships with women during her studies. She is a typical student, just like any other students, only that her relationships are with women of her age, a little younger or a little older. The series also avoids various stereotypes about lesbians, regarding the style of clothing, behavior, type of music etc. I also want to overcome the stereotypes that lesbians are lonely, socially isolated, excluded, and wish to present us as happy and successful at all levels of our lives. In this sense regarding the portrayal of lesbians in films and series, I can say that stilll is not achieved - I can not say that was a really good movie which did not present a cliché or some sort of tragedy. Of course, we can say that art itself has some sort of tragedy intertwined into the story, however it is time to show a happy lesbian love story.
You have done a considerable research into love. How your interest in this topic developed?
At that time I was truly in love for the first time in my life and it happened to be with a woman. This was in 1994. It was quite a different social climate at that time: being lesbian was implicitly understood as something unnatural. It was precisely because of that that I started asking questions I tackle in book Love Through History, such as is there really a true love, is there only one proper love, are there different concepts, different forms, types of love? As a student of philosophy I knew that philosophy dealt with what is universal. And I asked myself what was the most universal theme - love. We almost all experience it and since I was a student at that time I was also listening the the course 'history of philosophy' and the topic among others was eroticism and cosmological love in ancient Greece. That was something I was interested in: an individual, couple, society, cosmos. Somehow all mentioned coincided in my life. And being in a relationship with a woman deepened my understanding of love too. If I was in a heterosexual relationship, I'm sure that I would not research the topic of love in such depth and broadness.
How has your relationship with a woman deepened the understanding of love?
There were no predefined rules, roles, but we had to negotiate, get to know each other, and also recognize certain things. People sometimes think that we are more progressive, less progressive, and then, in an unconventional relationship, we have to came to terms with things that otherwise would not to. If I was in a heterosexual relationship, I could perhaps agree to some conventional relationships. However because of my experience I also know that there are different forms of love - before Christianity there was an ancient Greek conception of love, before that was Egyptian and Sumerian. all forms of love and sexual identities have always existed.
The other thing is that we still live in a cultural, civilization sense in some part of the Judeo-Christian milieu and we know what it says, men, women, heterosexuality, reproduction. And since I was with a woman, I surpassed that milieu and among other things I realized that women's sexuality and love are universal and sacred. This spiritual dimension, which we know in male homosexuality from the very beginnings, is lacking in female homosexuality. Lesbians were defined as witches, vampiress or some sort of deviation, instead of being priestesses. I would like to upgrade the concept of lesbian love: if two women live together and have children, this is something sacred. I write about this in the articles The Future of Lesbian Love and The Future of Lesbian Film.