2013 May 20 : Intellectual lesbians

by Jamilla Madingwane

It was not until I had to write this article that intellect became a very complex theme for me. I tried to break it down cognitively and artistically and I realised that intellect is a multi-dimensional, philosophical term on its own; because first and for most, what does it mean to be an intellect?
How does one tell intellects apart from non intellects?
At what point can one be labelled an intellect?

I was so keen to write this article, my first thoughts were:
“I’m going to interview all the educated lesbians I know.”
They are educated right?
So this means they are very intellectual people. As I jotted my questions down on all that I needed them to answer a voice echoed inside me like a little child and reminded me that I’m confusing intelligence with education. Confusing?
I ignored the voice and continued typing my questions down frantically, the voice still echoed and said: “but you do know this, not all educated people are intellects.”

It was at this point that I remembered educationalist like Howard Gardner. He looked at the human species and concluded that people have different types of intelligences, (he didn’t say they have to be educated) he broke them into nine:

*  The logical – mathematical (deals with reasoning and numbers)

*  The spatial (ability to visualise with the mind’s eye)

*  The linguistic (deals with language and words)

*  The bodily – kinaesthetic
(deals with the physical control of the body’s emotions)

*  The musical (sensitivity to sound and rhythm)

*  Interpersonal (interaction with others)

*  Intrapersonal (self-reflective capacities)

*  Existential ( spiritual or religious intelligence)

Now I am trying as much as I can to take an objective view on this topic. Looking at all these kinds of intelligences, I conclude by saying:
“lesbian people are the most intelligent people I know.”
I will make one point of reference to back this statement up. I met two lesbians in Durban about two years ago (and education has nothing to do with this, they did not get University education). They were both waitresses, they were so good with maths it was unbelievable, their imaginations expanded beyond the obvious, they were artists, which meant they were linguistically inclined, one was also a dancer, they sensed rhythm, had good interactions with others and could self-reflect and they had their own views and philosophies about religion and spirituality. One does not get more intelligent than that.

I once had a person who said to me: “you are too intelligent to be a lesbian.” You can have everything going right for you. You can get a handsome educated husband and raise intellectual kids.” I looked at them from the side frames of my eye glasses and said: “I am too intelligent, that’s why I am a lesbian.”
See, lesbians have personality, they have character, they are those people that would write poems that can move the world, take pictures that tell multiple stories of Africa, sing notes that mirror the world as a whole.
Albert Einstein said “we should take care not to make the intellect our God; it has of course powerful muscles but no personality.” And D.T Suzuki said “let intellect alone, it has its usefulness in its proper sphere but let it not interfere with a flowing of the life stream.”

On this note I asked one lesbian woman what it means for her to be an intellectual lesbian, she said that for her it means being intelligent enough not to conform to the indoctrinations of the world. It means crafting her own destiny, it means being intelligent enough to know that love does not come in the form of genitals one have but it comes in spirit. For her, she regards herself as intelligent because she is educated and talented but her life is a stream that flows on its own and her eyes are blind to gender, her mind is open to endless possibilities.
She referred to her mind as a universe crafted inside her skull and she asked me: “do you see the beauty of it, can you imagine endless horizons, twinkling stars, galaxies, shooting meteors, planets, all in my mind?
Now that’s why I am an intellectual lesbian.” I looked at her with a smile shimmering in the corners of my mouth because I knew that her mind was crafted as mine, just as she described it.

All the intellectual lesbians I spoke to said one thing in common.
“We are not trying to be men, (and men were known to be the most intellectual, invented things came up with theories after theories, and women were silences), the world has us confused and they do not even take time to try and get to know us, undo the misconceptions they have. We were not abused or hurt by any male figure; we are not men in women’s bodies”.

This topic can be explored in a lot of ways, there is a lot to be said but in my own view it comes down to this: “lesbians are humans beings with character and we all know that character is higher than intellect, a great soul will be strong to live as well as think.”
Lesbians are also the strongest people I know; they still walk with their heads held up high everyday knowing that the world shuns them. They wait for harsh words, punches, stone and even bullets to be thrown at them by the world as they justified that with the book of Leviticus in the bible, still they live on.

I am an intellectual lesbian, a person who lives a life of the mind. I pursue knowledge for its own sake. I have a natural curiosity.
What do you expect?
My mind is as colourful as a rainbow, it hopes and yearns, and it’s flooded with rains of imagination. The rainbow is painted but Mother Nature herself as a promise that there will be no floods no more, so how could I go wrong under the rainbow flag? I am an intellectual lesbian and there are many more others where I come from and this time we are not hiding it from anyone. We are made of fire, air, earth and water; it does not get more intellectual than this.

About the author

Jamilla's portrait by Collen Mfazwe (19.05.2013)

Jamilla’s portrait by Collen Mfazwe (19.05.2013)

Jamilla is a feminist, writer, poet and university student.

This entry was posted in Africa, Allies, Another Approach Is Possible, Art Activism in South Africa, Arts, As we are, Before You, Books, Collaborations, Community, Feminism, Intellectualism, Networking, Opinion, Our lives in the picture, Poetry, Power of the Voice, Professionals, ReClaim Your Activism, Records and histories, Relationships, revolution, Visual history, Visual history is a Right not a luxury, We Care, We Still Can with/out Resources, Women; Voices; Writings; Education; Traditions; Struggles; Cultures, Youth voices and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to 2013 May 20 : Intellectual lesbians

  1. We would love it if you would submit some of or all of this story to THE QUEER GRITS ANTHOLOGY! as an ally to queer women voices in the southern part of the U.S.A. southgrits@gmail.com / here is the facebook link https://www.facebook.com/grits.anthology
    Thank you

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  7. Kirsten Elizabeth Johnson says:

    beautifully written, but quite unfortunate that the world of the intellectual lesbian is so practically non-existent… at least on the internet. a search of this phrase brought up this article as well as an autostraddle.com link discussing lesbian stereotypes of the early 1900’s. where is that amazing message board forum where intellectualized lesbians can dish, via text, about whatever societal woes are in the forefront of our human consciousness?


    go to any lesbian bar and what you find are clubby pseudo-lesbos out to act wild for the night… or swarthy women who much prefer fishing to hyper intellectualizing the quatrains of ts eliot and shit.

    being an intellectual in the modern world is hard enough but add being a lesbian to the dynamic and it sets you even farther apart. please take into account that i am also a fat, queer identified androgynous cis gender and i am sure you can imaging its almost like being on a planet of my own.

    and so mabye this analogy you speak of which defines what exists within the skull of an intellectual lesbian is more than appropriate. i certainly feel as if my brain is its own planetary microcosm. being an intellectual lesbian persists i should live on a planet of my own making, singularly. it may be beautiful but it’s also sad.

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