Running from 1990 to 1999, the annual OutWrite conference played a pivotal role in shaping LGBTQ literary culture in the United States and its emerging canon. OutWrite provided a space where literary lions who had made their reputations before the gay liberation movement—like Edward Albee, John Rechy, and Samuel R. Delany—could mingle, network, and flirt with a new generation of emerging queer writers like Tony Kushner, Alison Bechdel, and Sarah Schulman.
This collection gives readers a taste of this fabulous moment in LGBTQ literary history with twenty-seven of the most memorable speeches from the OutWrite conference, including both keynote addresses and panel presentations. These talks are drawn from a diverse array of contributors, including Allen Ginsberg, Judy Grahn, Essex Hemphill, Patrick Califia, Dorothy Allison, Allan Gurganus, Chrystos, John Preston, Linda Villarosa, Edmund White, and many more.
OutWrite offers readers a front-row seat to the passionate debates, nascent identity politics, and provocative ideas that helped animate queer intellectual and literary culture in the 1990s. Covering everything from racial representation to sexual politics, the still-relevant topics in these talks are sure to strike a chord with today’s readers.
About the Author
JULIE R. ENSZER (she/her) is the author of four poetry collections, including Avowed, and the editor of The Complete Works of Pat Parker and Sister Love: The Letters of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker 1974-1989. Enszer edits and publishes Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal. She lives in central Florida.
ELENA GROSS (she/they) is an independent writer, curator, and culture critic living in Oakland, California. Her research specializes in conceptual and material abstractions of the body and representations of identity in fine art, photography, and popular media.
"The incredible importance of queer culture to American culture is usually ignored by heterosexuals and often underestimated by LGBTQ people. OutWrite: The Speeches that Shaped LGBTQ Literary Culture edited by Julie R. Enszer and Elena Gross is a magnificent testimony—and until now undocumented archive—of the expanse and the depth of LGBTQ literary and political culture that was the legacy of decades of struggle. Every piece here brilliantly embodies the insights, intellectual bravery, political acumen and sheer courage that went into building a fiercely independent literary and political culture that redefined American culture still illuminates how we live today. This is an invaluable contribution to LGBTQ literature, Queer Studies, and the everyday reader of queer literature."
— Michael Bronski
"OutWrite: The Speeches that Shaped LGBTQ Literary Culture is an incredible collection that taps into the heart of the queer literary community in the 1990s - the struggles, the successes, the visions, and the revisions. Reading it, I was struck by our loss of an entire parallel culture of LGBTQ businesses, conferences, and infrastructure that existed before the wide spread of the internet—but I was also struck by the continuity of hope, the clarity with which these authors fought for a freer future, against incredible odds. OutWrite is a history that feels searingly present."
— Hugh Ryan
"The Outwrite conferences of the 1990s marked a critical turning point in the history of LGBTQ literary life and culture. This collection restores to historical memory the anger, the militancy, and the vibrant cultural voices that confronted directly the pain of the AIDS epidemic as well as the racial and gender divisions within the community. The editors have given us a wonderfully moving and inspiring gift by bringing into print these powerfully insightful speeches from the past."
— John D’Emilio
"What a fabulous and fascinating collection of speeches from leading figures in queer arts and letters in the 1990s! For everyone who wishes that they had attended the OutWrite conferences, for those who will enjoy re-experiencing them, and for all who are interested in cultural activism, this valuable anthology will inspire with words, wit, and wisdom."
— Marc Stein
"The vital, urgent need to tell our stories, to share, to write within and for a community is an inspiring part of any gathering of writers and publishers, but it’s especially evident in the speeches collected in OutWrite: The Speeches that Shaped LGBTQ Literary Culture. This anthology documents the pivotal role the OutWrite conferences played in shaping and inspiring a generation of LGBTQ writers. The diversity of speakers gathered here, and the explicit links they make between silenced and marginalized sexual communities and other oppressed communities amidst the devastation wrought by the AIDS epidemic and the ‘90s culture wars is especially valuable. This collection honors the memory of our forebearers—many of whom fired my own passion for critical queer writing—and is sure to bolster today’s artists and activists working against a global pandemic, climate crises, and the continued ascendency of white supremacy and conservative politics."
— Dwight A. McBride, PhD
"Oh please, please powers-that-be, have the smarts and curiosity to bring OUT WRITE back into our lives. This inspiring collection reveals the dialogic community in negotiation/inspiration from all of its corners: where the most rewarded meet the most marginalized, where the grassroots meets the corporate, the dying met the future, and they all sit on the same panels, eat and drink together, make friends and lovers, business deals and friendships, and share aesthetics, politics, argue and thereby influence the creation of the literature."
— Sarah Schulman