As a lesbian, Segrest was part of a minority of people in a country where homophobia was rampant in both the social and political spheres. As a result, she and her partner were faced with the task of trying to “figure out how to have a life,” negotiate work, where one would most likely be fired for being openly gay, and to navigate a homosexual relationship in a largely intolerant society.
Segrest and her partner, Barbara, were also trying to figure out how to have a child. Not wanting to use an anonymous sperm donor, and wanting to provide their child with a father figure in her life, the two women contacted David, a gay man looking for a similar situation. Together they agreed that he would donate the sperm and Barbara would carry the child. After drawing up a contract to keep any disagreements out of the courts, the three successfully raised a healthy baby girl, Annie, born in 1986.
In the 1970s, Segrest moved to North Carolina to attend Duke, where she earned her Ph.D in English literature in 1979. Since 2002, Segrest has worked at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. In 2004, Segrest was appointed the Fuller-Matthai Professor of Gender & Women's Studies there. Currently she is on sabbatical and has a fellowship at Emory to research a book or series of books about the Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia.
Mab Segrest with Barbara and Annie, 1991, by Robert Giard
Mab Segrest is a feminist writer and activist. Segrest and her partner, Barbara, wanted to have a child, but not from an anonymous sperm donor, wanting to provide their child with a father figure in her life. The two women contacted David, a gay man looking for a similar situation. Together they agreed that he would donate the sperm and Barbara would carry the child. The three successfully raised a healthy baby girl, Annie. Segrest is known for her autobiographical work Memoir of a Race Traitor.
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitalSegrest has founded, served on the boards of, and consulted with a wide range of social justice organizations throughout her life. Segrest is recognized for speaking and writing about sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, and other forms of oppression. After Feminary disbanded, she worked for six years (1983–1990) with North Carolinians Against Racist and Religious Violence (NCARRV). During that time, she is credited by many for single-handedly ridding North Carolina of the Ku Klux Klan (Powell 102). She earned her livelihood from 1992-2000 as Coordinator of the Urban-Rural Mission (USA), part of the URM network of the World Council of Churches. After working full time with various political organizations, Segrest returned to academia.
Until it disbanded in 1983, Segrest worked in the southern feminist writing collective Feminary working to produce the journal of the same name. Feminarians, including Segrest, saw writing as a force for political change. Feminary was a Southern feminist journal that had a Southern focus and was anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic, and anti-classist. It was a unique contribution to women’s history. Through the collective and other activist work, Segrest generated material for her first book of essays, Segrest’s My Mama’s Dead Squirrel. Her book narrating her experience working against the Klan with NCARRV is Memoir of a Race Traitor, published in 1995. It was named an Outstanding Book on Human Rights in North America and was Editor’s Choice for the Lambda Literary Awards. Memoir of a Race Traitor has been hailed by Howard Zinn as “extraordinary . . . It is a ‘political memoir,’ but its language is poetic and its tone passionate” (“Mab Segrest”). It is considered a key text in white studies and anti-racist studies. In this work, Segrest outlines her definition of “queer socialism,” which is how she defines her political stance. This version of socialism demands a more caring world where all citizens are taken into consideration when resources are allocated and opportunities are dispensed. She says that while there is no blueprint as yet for this form of socialism, it would be based in feminist theory and practice.
Segrest’s latest book, Born to Belonging: Writings on Spirit and Justice was published in 2002 and recounts her experiences around the world. In 2003 Segrest co-edited Sing, Whisper, Shout, Pray: Feminist Strategies for a Just World with Jacqui Alexander, Lisa Albrect and Sharon Day.
In a nod to her efforts on women's social issues, the rock band Le Tigre mentions Prof. Segrest's name in the hit "Hot Topic."
Memoir of a Race Traitor by Mab Segrest
Paperback: 274 pages
Publisher: South End Press (July 1, 1999)
Amazon: Memoir of a Race Traitor
Against a backdrop of nine generations of her family's history, Mab Segrest explores her experience as a white lesbian organizing against a virulent Far Right movement in North Carolina.
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
More Real Life Romances at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance
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