Talk to Me #13: Joanne Vannicola

Sep 12, 2017 by

Talk to Me #13: Joanne Vannicola

When you learned to love.

I was a child in love with tap shoes, music, my dance teacher, my animals, and my siblings—deeply important types of love that spoke to my soul and kept me going through some very difficult times. I’m not sure I would have had the language to express that as a child; I, only knew that the capacity for love was great, bigger than my body, and bigger than any one person. But it wasn’t from my parents that I learned to love.

Your first cut, was it the deepest?

I have had two first loves, one with a boy when I was young teen and one with a woman when I came out. They were both deep and equally filled with the fullness of falling in love for the first time. It is possible to love like an adolescent more than once as it turns out!

Your love who got away.

Oh, this is tragic. I was always told never to fall for a straight woman and I did (sort of) but I didn’t know she was straight.

Being lesbian is not only about sexuality, though certainly it is a part of it. But, for me, being LGBTQ is an identity, a way of life, part of my DNA, my culture. I bring that identity everywhere I go in the world. It’s visible, it’s in my language, my work, my art, and my relationships. So, I fell quick and hard for a woman who I thought was a lesbian. And she was interested.

Then I learned she had a husband. I didn’t want to pursue anyone who was in any relationship, queer or not, so everything from there was about loss. Losing her love, losing her friendship. She’s out now, by the way, but when she came out, she no longer wanted me.

See? It’s just tragedy.

Your “type” – and why.

I don’t have a type in the physical sense, not that I am aware of. I am drawn to feminists, to people with passion, compassion, people who are aware of what is going on in the world, who are left of center, artists, people who care about social justice.

Is this sounding like a dating match response to a questionnaire?

Mostly, it would have to be someone who would love so deeply and want only the best for (and in) a partner. Imagine that type of love? Where someone wants the other’s life to be beautiful and fulfilled?

Your favourite literary romance.

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. When I read that book I wept. I related to it in so many ways, and the women who fall in love with each other are such great characters: lesbians finding their way in the world, from the theatre, to the streets of London, to falling in love and then the heartbreak of losing that first love. It’s beautifully crafted, a period piece, and worth reading every one of its 470 pages.

Your thoughts on friends being lovers.

I don’t know if I have thoughts about this.

Your thoughts on the net amounts of pleasure and pain.

Well this question is odd. Who wants pain? Let me rephrase that, I do not want pain. I’ve had enough of that.

After coming out, I learned that there was a lot of collective pain in the LGBTQ community because we have not achieved full equality, and this pain would trickle down into all of my relationships in some way: whether some partners were out or not out, or family members were homophobic, then there was also internalized homophobia to deal with (not to mentioned internalized sexism).

And what the heck is this type of question anyway, ‘net amounts’ ? ☺

Your story about unrequited love.

When I was a teen, I had hopeless crushes on other girls. But the woman who got away (above) is my real story of unrequited love.

Your favourite author/artist on love.

Oh there are so many! Poets and song writers are so gifted around expressions of love, so immediate: Audre Lorde (genius) and Adele (makes me cry all the time). But also writers and filmmakers. Love is in all art forms, even in the stroke of a brush or the expression in a photograph. So: Georgia O’Keefe, John Lennon, Susan Sontag, Larry Kramer, Maya Angelou, Barbra Streisand, K.D. Lang, Ray Charles, Janis Joplin. Oh so many! Or movies: Wings of Desire, Harold and Maude, The Normal Heart. Too many artists I love to list. I could go on and on, perhaps because love is the root; painful or not, it’s the stuff that makes us create.

Your reconciliation of the domestic and the erotic.

This is abstract to me. I have nothing to say about it. (For a change! LOL.)

Your thoughts on marriage.

That’s a big one. Not sure I can adequately answer this briefly. For many years when gay marriage was not legal, I was out at protests and marches, giving speeches, making waves. It was a long battle that we finally won in this country. And doesn’t it seem odd now, the idea that LGBTQ people could not marry once upon a time? Though it was not long ago that we won the right to marry, and as easily as those rights have been won, they could be taken away (as we see politicians in the States trying to do). There are countries around the world where being queer is still a crime or punishable by death. I’m not sure if I will ever get married, but as long as LGBTQ people can equally marry and divorce within the same shitty system as heterosexual people, then that is still a victory!

Love changes when you have children.

That’s why I say, “Don’t have children!” Kidding. I mean, if you want children, go for it, but what do I know about having children? I only know what it is to have parents, and let’s just say that was no great adventure in love or family.

I’m going to go for the queer teens who need new families when I think I’m grown up enough myself to take on that responsibility. Every question is filtered for me around being LGBTQ. I do think queer people work very hard at being parents and, I may be biased, but I believe queer parents make great parents because more often than not, we have to work harder at creating those families, either through the system, or getting donors, or finding partners to co-parent with. There are no accidents, shall we say, when LGBTQ people start families. But I’m all about finding houses for children who have no parents or who are homeless. There are so many.

Your thoughts on resisting temptation.

Life is too short to resist temptation. I think it’s far more fun and healthier to smoke that joint, drink that wine, or kiss someone you want to kiss. Resisting temptation is a form of repression in some ways, something I think religions attempt to enforce. I don’t think it’s healthy: it leads to criminal behaviors, oppression, depression, violence. It’s just not worth it.

Your advice on breaking up.

I’m the last person to give advice. Break ups, endings, goodbyes, loss are the hardest things. I like to be friends with the people I’ve shared my life with, if it’s at all possible. I know it’s not always, but wouldn’t it be lovely if people could break up amicably? I can’t say that was always the case with me, but I wish it could have been. I still love the women I’ve been partnered with. I don’t mean in love, but I just love the people, even the ones I no longer speak with, even the ones where it was difficult. I just wish happiness for the women I’ve loved.

The influence of love on your work.

Love influences everything, even the lack of love, the desire for love, the loss of it, grief of it, joy of it. Without love, I wouldn’t be able to write, act, direct, be an advocate—there would be no passion, and that is the most despairing thought.

Your lessons from love.

Love has been fleeting. It’s hard when you come from a broken home, a violent history. There is no foundation of love. I have never experienced unconditional love, so it’s foreign. But I’ve known love, and love is about more than humans: it’s about animals, plants, the earth—all living things.

Your thoughts on infidelity – one night stand, fling, or affair.

What other people do is their choice, but I don’t think infidelity is healthy, hence my story earlier about falling for and leaving a woman who was married. I did not cross the boundary with her, even though I wanted to. It was a choice I made because I didn’t want to hurt the other person. I have always been aware of how horrible it would be to learn your partner has had an affair, and so I didn’t ever want to be the person who did that. It just leads to heartache and drama.

Non-monogamy is another issue. If people have open relationships then that is different. However, I prefer one person at a time. And if someone is not able to be honest and is willing to cheat and break a heart, well, it means something is missing, flawed, not working in the relationship or for the individual who turns outward for affection. Better to focus on healing what is broken or not working. But again, I can’t say I’m an authority on relationships. I just know that I wouldn’t want to be cheated on, and do not want to have affairs with someone who has a partner. No more drama, thank you.

Your feelings about the existence of a soulmate.

Well I’m a romantic at heart I think, even though I haven’t found a soulmate. But maybe it doesn’t exist, this notion of one soulmate. Some people stay together until death, and maybe it’s even possible to have more than one soulmate. If you can love different people in a lifetime, then perhaps love is all about souls finding each other, and that can happen multiple times. I have loved different women and loved deeply. I wouldn’t know how to love in any other way but with all my soul.

Is this too cheesy?

Your ideal love: madness or redemption?

I don’t know about either of these options. Is there another one?

Your advice on making love last.

I have no advice, other than love while you can. Love with your whole being. I don’t have any magic answers on making love last: just love each day, love from the morning until night. Take nothing for granted.

Joanne Vannicola is an Emmy award winning actor and LGBTQ advocate, working on her first book, a memoir: All We Knew but Couldn’t Say.

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