Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a queer disabled Sri Lankan writer, teacher and cultural worker. The author of Consensual Genocide and co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities, her work has appeared in many anthologies including Yes Means Yes, Visible: A Femmethology, Colonize This!, and Dangerous Families. Leah’s second book of poetry, Love Cake, and first memoir, Dirty River, are forthcoming. She’s the founder of Mangos With Chili, the national queer and trans people of colour performance organization, is a lead artist with Sins Invalid and teaches with June Jordan’s Poetry for the People. Leah comes from a long line of border jumpers, scholarship winners, middle class Sri Lankan feminists, working-class Ukrainian-Irish ladies with hard hands and three jobs, radical teachers, queers, crips, hustlers, storyellers and survivors.
Leah’s piece for Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme is called “Never Be Hungry Again.” Leah says it’s “about best femme friend of colour love. It’s about honouring each other, the joy and strength I’ve found in other femmes of colour, and also the heartbreaks.” We’re also proud to publish Leah’s FEMME SHARK MANIFESTO.
What made you want to be part of this anthology?
I wanted to make sure my words were recorded as part of an anthology that’s going to be groundbreaking and capture a moment in time—as a femme of colour, a disabled/chronically ill femme and as so much more.
What’s one of your favourite lines from your piece?
“I know what femme is, and it’s about honour.”
What’s your perception of the state of butch and femme communities today?
Vibrant. Coming of age in the 90s, for me, meant a time where there were amazing pieces of writing to read about being femme—Joan Nestle’s work, Chrystos’ poetry, Minnie Bruce Pratt’s work—but it was hard for me to be my mixed brown, hairy thighed, punk rock femme survivor self and be taken seriously as an organizer, a queer, a writer. I am so thankful to live in the vibrant, genderlicious, revolutionary communities that exist today - where there are spectrums of many delicious kinds of femme and masculine of centre genders, many names for who we are. Where increasingly femme is known as being synonymous with brown or Black, powerful, disabled, working-class or poor, fat and curvy and complicated and powerful and strong. This is so different from the 90s femme 1.0 communities where femme often was spoken of as being about being blonde, very traditionally white, middle class, able bodied, and about shoes not politics… when of course it’s about my hot silver glitter $6.99 Value Village wedges kicking the ass of the Oakland gang injunction.
I want to stress that this did not just happen—it has come to be through an incredible amount of work by femme organizers and people, and allies. I love that gender is not tied to genitals, and that I get to work with many, many world-changing radical femmes who are agitating for disability justice, the rights of queer and trans youth of colour to love and live, and creating transformative justice in our communities. That there are as many kinds of femmes as people and we’re part of long traditions in our communities. That we’re increasingly combatting femmephobia in our communities and building a new world where femme strength and power are seen as the revolutionary qualities they are.