Yesterday’s Annual General Meeting of OutStories Bristol went very well. Thanks to the fabulous Bea Hitchman we had a good crowd of interested outsiders to make us quorate; and thanks to expert training from Kevin I was able to speed through the formal part of the proceedings very quickly. That left us plenty of time to listen to Bea.
The subject of Bea’s talk was the historical research that she did into lesbian life in fin de siècle Paris when writing her novel, Petite Mort. Researching LGBT lives is never easy, because so much is erased or hidden behind obfuscating language. In the case of lesbians there is also much pseudo-history written by men who are more interested in the titillating power of girl-on-girl sex than they are in the reality of lesbian life.
So sadly the idea that in order to signal oneself as a lesbian in Paris what one did was purchase a poodle, have it splendidly coiffured, and tie a bow around its neck, proved to be untrue. French lesbians did appear to have a fondness for dogs, but eccentrically decorative poodles were not de rigueur.
There were, however, lesbian bars, including La Souris (the Mouse) and Le Rat Mort (the Dead Rat), which bespeak a possible fondness for things small and furry. Toulouse-Lautrec was a regular visitor, as he was rather fond of painting pictures of lesbians.
Still with animals, I learned that Sarah Bernhardt, who was bisexual, had an exotic menagerie whom she took everywhere with her. This included a cheetah, and a boa constrictor which sadly died because she fed it too much champagne.
All in all it was a very entertaining talk, for which thanks again to Bea. If you have an event that needs an excellent speaker on lesbian issues, or indeed anything to do with historical fiction, do consider her.
After the talk, all of the lesbians hit the alcohol. They did not object to me joining them, which pleased me on a number of levels. One of those is that the Golden Guinea has an excellent selection of beer. I got to try Jurassic Dark, a dark wheat beer from the Dorset Brewing Company. Highly recommended.