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I don’t want to remember

I guess the Advocate is having a tizzwhack about the ratings for “When We Rise”. Well, I know a lot of people my age that lived through all that don’t particularly want to relive that period of our lives.

Some of it hurt a lot. You’re better off reading all the “Tales of the City’ like we did at the time.

I don’t want to remember lying in bed from July to September 1990 after my knee surgery when I wasn’t allowed to be weight bearing and having my best friend lying in another bed miles away dying of AIDS. I don’t want to remember that all I could do was phone and leave messages for him with his family. The day I was finally allowed up on crutches and out was for his funeral at Rose Hills. I don’t want to remember sitting at his funeral and having a priest who had never met him start by saying “If Art was hear today…” and getting clubbed on both sides from friends when I said very loudly because I was pissed. “If Art was here we wouldn’t be”. I don’t want to remember his mom and sister coming up to me afterwards because my picture was the one he had next to his bed and I never knew but they knew me to thank me for loving him. He was my best friend, how could I not love him?

I don’t want to remember how he went into every relationship he was in, in the 80s thinking this guy would be the ONE and he would get dumped and head to the bars and the baths to console himself and come home with tales of all the famous men he had seen there and bring me a souvenir pen. I don’t want to remember how scared I was when he did it. I don’t want to remember being able to fit into his jeans after he got sick because he had lost so much weight. I don’t want to remember reading “And the Band Played On” while I lay in bed wrapped in first ice blocks and then heating pads in 116 degree heat in July after my surgery and feeling so helpless about everything including missing my chance to go to the Gay Games in Vancouver with my friends.

I don’t want to remember my friend Jim who got sick in the early 80’s and no one knew what he had when he died just that he had funky spots and they called it a liver disease when it was GRID. Grid was the name they called AIDS first.

I don’t want to remember being called dyke on the street from some dudes in a truck waiting to cross the street. We didn’t even look particularly dykey, I thought.

I don’t want to remember going to the wonderful Long Beach Lesbian picnic and having to cross past gangs of men yelling things like “Who’s the man?” and telling us they were there if we needed a “real” man. Ick!

I don’t want to remember men dressed in black with immense black signs with evil things on them at the parade and screaming we were going to hell and hearing the sheriffs say they were going to arrest them for incitement to riot when they lunged at us.

I don’t want to remember the screaming when mom figured out I was “like my brother” and she wasn’t going to get any grandchildren. And how the church tried to shame my parents for having gay children and not raising us right, and trying to reconvert Cam and I to being straight. Especially since every minister there had a gay kid in the closet.

I don’t want to remember the night my brother called in tears because the last man left that he had come out with had died and he was feeling abandoned and scared.

I don’t want to remember the night he called me because his first lover, Steve had died. When they broke up Steve had gone to work at a bar and played around, and he told Cam it was his fault. So another incredibly talented piano player and sweet gentle soul was gone.

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I don’t want to remember all the guys I came out with at the Pasadena GLSU slowly disappearing from our group and finding out they had died.

I don’t want to remember walking into the AIDS Service Center when I was on call token pagan clergy person and finding out who had died between our clergy visits.

I don’t want to remember monitoring the AIDS Quilt AKA the Names Project at the Rose Bowl and seeing Steve’s quilt or walking around looking at names and realizing one square covered in roses was a guy my sorority arranged two blind dates with against my will. It did explain a lot about those non-starting dates but it really hit my heart. I don’t want to remember handing the Kleenex box that stood near every quilt square to people visiting family and friend’s pieces. I don’t want to remember folding or unfolding them every day.

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Steve’s piece

I don’t want to remember being on the board that put on the first Gay Pride event in Pasadena, all those guys are gone too.

No, I do not want to remember those events. The parades were fun and the guys were wonderful and taught me so much after my first lover dumped me and most of my friends took her side even though she left me for another woman. The guys took me clothes shopping and gave me a party and got me drunk beforehand so I could meet women which was one of the most fun nights I’ve ever had at a party. There was a lot of love facing a lot of hate from the outside but now we need to face the future and do it all again and I don’t want to remember…

 

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Art and I at the Gay Pride Parade circa 1982 or 83?

Why growing up in church can kill your heart Part 2

I didn’t know there was a lesbian couple right in front of me keeping watch. The head of Christian Ed was a woman that had lived with the first head of Christian Ed, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrietta_Mears. Henrietta Mears lived with Ethel Mae Baldwin until her death and then Ethel Mae took over and no one ever thought that they might be in a relationship but after Henrietta died, Ethel May moved in with Adrienne. Ethel Mae was evidently keeping watch over me and I think she knew pretty early on about me. She is the one that encouraged me to start camp counselling at Forest Home, the camp church had founded.

Year after year I did it, starting in 9th grade and until I started working full time at the YWCA camp. She always gave me the kids that were going to be a challenge in some way and one time I asked her why and she told me that because I had been the kid that was a challenge she knew I could handle them with love and I did. It wasn’t until I came out many years later and she was gone I realized just how close an eye she was keeping on me considering how big the Sunday School had grown but she did know my mom and dad.

The first year I came home from working at the YW camp I had changed. I had created different person to be. I was more out going, I knew what I liked and didn’t like and I had learned to stand up for myself. I wasn’t as shy and retreating. So I came back with the first inklings that I really, really didn’t fit. The only place I felt safe and where I felt holy and sacred was outside and church was feeling like a prison. And I was oblivious to men. When the married choir director hit on me someone else had to tell me and since he had known me since I was little and mom worked for him it was more than a little creepy. So I ignored it.

Working at a Girl Scout camp after 2 years at the YW camp, I was beginning to be sure I liked women but I would be in the closet for 4 more years. I went to women’s music concerts with my friends but until I fell hard in love couldn’t take the step. Meanwhile my parents were freaking out that Cam was gay and I was still invisible. Although mom did ask one of the ministers about lesbians and he told her there was no such thing. Right, his daughter was a dyke. At that point every single minister had a kid that was exploring gay behaviour in some way. All but one came out and stayed out.

But I was really struggling because church was making it clear gay people were evil even though I knew several men were in choir, I was the lone lesbian. I literally lay awake many nights knowing that if the people I had known all my life knew my heart some of them would hate me. I lived in fear that people would know by looking at me and it appeared some did when my brother finally asked if I was because the gay men in choir had been discussing me. This was not helped by a male friend in choir was making shy overtures to date me and I was trying to figure out ways to avoid it. I had no desire to hurt his feelings but the quiet ones always seemed to think I was date material. I prayed so hard to be straight, guess what? the Gods and Goddesses don’t care if you’re gay.

But I kind of wanted to be caught because I cut my hair off very short and only wore t shirts, jeans, boots and flannel shirts. But finally the fear and the stress got too much and I walked away from my church home. And the minute people found out why, my parents lost friends.Some people who had known me since birth decided Cam and I were evil and that my parents had raised us wrong. Church friends gave my mom books on how to straighten us out.

Mom tried to trick me into going to the church psychs by driving her to her alleged appt and she wanted me to go in with her and I told her I had a good book and I refused to get out of the car. So she went in and came back out again and we went home. Mom being a severe narcissist did not take my coming out well at all because it reflected back on her.

I did not see any of those people again for over 15 years at my dad’s funeral where my mom had the minister give an altar call because of me and the pagan friends that came to support me. I was so furious and none of them came to my brother’s funeral, they did come to mom’s and barely spoke to me.

So I lost the place where I did a lot of growing up, where I thought people loved me and found out I was mostly only loved if I didn’t step out of line. They should have known something was up when I was 9. The first time I went to church camp in the third grade we had to write down what we wanted to be when we grew up and they sealed it in an envelope. When we closed up my parent’s house when dad died, I found it in mom’s dresser. I had written in crayon, “I want to be a minister”. When I had said it at camp it was one of the few times in my life I was told that girls couldn’t do something.

Joke was on them. I’m a priestess of the Goddess and an Arch Druidess and I’m a dyke.

Note: the church I grew up has now voted to be part of the retrograde Presbyterians that want nothing to do with gays. You would think as many of us that grew up there would have changed a few minds but I guess not

Why growing up in a church home can really hurt – part 1

I’ve been thinking a lot about Orlando and about how so many pastors condemned the dead and not the shooter. It brought back a lot of bad memories of growing up in church and hiding for all the years before I came out and had to leave the church or rather, they left me.

I was raised in the largest Presbyterian church in the US at the time. We always had a minimum of 5 pastors, an executive pastor, an asst, a pastor that did hospital visits, a youth pastor, a college pastor and we also had Christian ED heads, usually the only woman on the executive staff and a Minister of Music. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Presbyterian_Church_of_Hollywood

There were a multitude of choirs and we were world famous for the one that ranked the highest. I started in Carol Choir and moved up to the all girl Lyric choir in Junior high, I was also in a special choir that sang at Junior Church, Wylie Chapel Choir during second service which was supposed to be an honour to be asked to be in but most of us were choir brats whose parents were in the main choir, The Cathedral choir. There was also a High School choir and a choir that was a mix of people not good enough to be in Cathedral Choir and college kids that I skipped called the Chancel Choir and got into Cathedral Choir after High School and I was in the Sunday night choir called the Happening, (hey it was the 70s.) and we got to sing more modern music. We also had a bell choir for each age group and I was in those along with my brother and eventually my sister.

We started Sunday School at 2 years of age and started learning the Bible and memorizing to for awards, a Bible in third grade, filling up shields with memorized passages, (they were shields because they represented the armour of God). This why the holy rollers and Bible beaters can’t get far with me because I usually know the Bible better than they do. I was in Church every Sunday and at Bible Study during the week when I was older. We took catechism in 7th grade to become members of the church and that was the first big time I was aware that maybe I didn’t fit in. I had feelings before this about it. I had difficulty memorizing and Saturday nights before I had to recite some new thing were absolute torture, if I couldn’t sing it I had real trouble remembering  it. I felt really bad about it. I was told I wasn’t trying hard enough.

The year I joined the church I had to make some decisions. At the time I was dad’s punching bag when he got mad and I decided to tell the Elder that interviewed us to join about it and I did and I was told to honour my father and mother in all things. So I made my first act of rebellion. I refused to get baptized when I joined the church. Presbyterians dedicate their babies to raise them in the church and you are supposed to be baptized when you join the church. I told my parents it was because I didn’t want to get up in front of the church which shouldn’t have made any sense since we had to be in the front of the church to join and I was in front all the time when I was in choir and when I did other things but they bought it, even though my best friend was doing it.

My Dad was Head Usher, he was an Elder, he had been a Deacon. He had status in church and I did not. My mom was in Cathedral Choir, and was at one point, President of the Women’s Auxillary, She was President of Elder’s Wives and when women were allowed to be Deacons and Elders she became a Deacon. Wives and husbands couldn’t be Elders or Deacons at the same time. They were in their adult Sunday School classes. Mom was also the Executive Secretary for the Minister of Music. She had status.

We were in church at least 3 days a week, usually more. The only respite I got was summer when I was with my grandparents who for some reason did not go in the summer. That was when we took trips to be in nature. That was when I became a sponge to what my grandmother was teaching about nature and faeries and family stories. That was when I was free.

About 7th grade I became aware that I liked girls way more than the girls around me who liked boys. So not only did what they were teaching in church make me in uncomfortable but the only kind of church I felt at home in was when we went to camp.

They sent us to some conference where the minister yelled about the evils of holding hands and kissing boys and I felt relieved because I had no desire to do it anyway.

I would sit in Sunday School and make up questions to ask my Sunday School teachers. Miss Pringle was our 7th grade Sunday School teacher. She was older than God and had no business teaching a bunch of 12 year olds in the late 1960s. We were smarter than her and we knew it. I remember asking why is was okay for Mary to be an unwed mother and not us? She freaked out at the question and scolded all of us. This was on my mind because my mother has started going on about being an unwed mother and that it would be the worst thing in the world if I did that. Since I didn’t like boys, I found it amusing.

But I was feeling more and more alienated and out of place and the feeling only grew as I got older. No one ever told me there was such a thing as lesbians and this was pre-Stonewall. I only ever heard about gay men and how it was so sad about them being “HOMOSEXUALS” even though I could see Jim in my mom’s choir was anything but sad and I loved him because he was always encouraging me to try new things like design needlework patterns. He loved to needlepoint and at the time I did a lot of it too.

A bar is not just a bar when it’s a gay bar

One of my straight friends on Facebook and I had a discussion yesterday. He  said he didn’t understand all the public rituals of grief that went on when a tragedy happened and he thought was all just for show and I had to disagree and I went to the vigil at City Hall to be with my brothers and sisters.

I can just about say with certainty that every single out gay person when they heard about Orlando said to themselves. “That could have been me”. Most straight people don’t really get the violence and hatred out gay people have experienced unless maybe they volunteer as escorts at abortion clinics. Gay people live with that threat all the time.

Women live in fear all the time anyway. We learn to fear men at an early age. Compound that as a lesbian and you really escalate the fear. Your inner voice cranks up. “Am I too butch? Am I safe? What is that guy looking at me for? Who is behind me? The street is dark, is there someone by my car?” As I came out of the bar or as in last night coming home from the vigil in my purple shirt and pride ring necklace? “Do they know I’m gay? Am I safe, Am I safe? Am I safe?”

We live with it every time we go out.

But there has always been one safe space. One my friend Marie Cartier did her PhD thesis on, the bar.

When I came out the local lesbian bar was the about the only place you could find your friends when it wasn’t camp season. We were there most weekends with our friends making sure we got there before 9 when they started charging the cover fee because we were all college students and poor.

I learned to dance in the bar, at least dance any other way but folk dancing at camp. I learned to flirt in a bar. I tried to learn to smoke and look cool but friends kept taking my Virginia Slims away because they said people with my babyface looked dumb smoking. I discovered after one night stand with really butch women were not my thing. (My only one night stand and as in Stone butch. {Joan, way butcher than you or Carol, LOL)) I lost a lover in one dance in the bar. For some reason I knew if Lynn danced with Chuck I had lost her and I did, sometimes it sucks to be an empath.

I learned there were Girl Scout dykes, and softball dykes. That there were granola dykes and Country Western dancing dykes. I learned who was butch and who was femme and who was androgenous. I learned dyke chic dressing. I learned I wanted to be the designated driver most nights. I learned about love in a safe space when there was nowhere else to go.

Much later they would found things like the Center here in LA. There would be GLSUs that when they started were GSUs because why would the boys want to include lesbians? We had to fight for that. There would be Gay bowling leagues and choirs. But in 1979, it was the bar or nothing. And the bar was the safe space. Yes, occasionally a straight man would come in and sit down and announce to all and sundry that all we needed was a “REAL MAN” and he quickly found out that was not a good idea in a bar full of dykes and the bouncers probably saved some men’s lives when they did that.  But inside it was our safe cocoon.

People went to that bar in Orlando to be themselves, to have a good time with their friends. They went to their holy place. They went to a place they assumed was inviolate. A gay bar is not just a bar even if you never drink anything but a coke, it’s holy and sacred and safe and now…every gay person is remembering all the unsafe places, and they are getting mad. And maybe just, maybe something will get done.

Saturday’s Faire was magical

Saturday at the Faire was wonderful. At our winter Faire I was sick and I was living with a diagnosis of advance ovarian cancer, supposedly Stage 3 or 4 and I hadn’t told anyone that it was that bad. I went through Faire wondering if it was my last time at Faire. I didn’t take as many pictures then as I usually do. I just wasn’t fully present and I was being pulled away.

Saturday was joyous. I have never been hugged and kissed by so many people. I’m firmly convinced these people saved my life by their loving wonderful energy. I% of the tumours like mine are advanced ovarian cancer but the doctors were wrong and I will take the 1% I was given with love gladly.

I took pictures which I will post some of soon. I even had my traditional photo battle with my friend Tony. We both do a lot of pagan events so we are always getting each other on film , He says I’m sneaky. I like to take candids and he likes to pose people. So we have a bit of fun, I smiled, I even danced a tiny bit. I hugged my friend, Ruth Barrett and was hugged and thanked in return for her support. I’ve known Ruth for 30 years. I started in the Dianic community and I will always have at least one foot there. What the pagan community is doing to her is wrong. And the majority should not rule in their bigotry to women who worship the Goddess and love other women.

For once I was not horribly nervous when I was reading. I did it from my new Kindle which was not cooperating about which stories it allowed me to access. I think the faeries had control. They kept bringing up the Littlest Druid story I posted yesterday. I just couldn’t read that. I was already in tears from thanking everyone for their energy so I could be well.

Faire is always between the worlds but Saturday it felt so obvious that it was a rare safe space to be pagan in public. Womenspirit Faire was magical.

A Lesbian Scot tries to use the restroom

Back in the 80’s right after I had come home from a month in Britain, I went to hear the Royal Massed bands with the Gordon and Sutherland Highlanders at UCLA with my parents. We used to go whenever any of the Scots Guards bands came to town.

At intermission I went and stood in the enormous long line for the women’s restroom and didn’t think anything about it until this expensively, badly dressed woman started asking me at the top of her voice if I was in the right line. Shouldn’t I be in the men’s room line?

She was making an effort to embarrass me and she was sure I was a man. I was dressed in a blue button down shirt and a tie my grandfather had left me, blue jeans and the blue Fairisle I had bought in Scotland and I had just had my hair cut short in a pixie cut. I had 44 D boobs at the time but I guess she could only see my clothes since I weighed about a 110 lbs at the time, you could see that my top story wasn’t really small.

I just stared at her because I really didn’t know what to do. How do you prove you’re a woman without stripping to some unintelligent bigoted yahoo? You can’t.
Thank heavens for little old Scottish ladies that are used to seeing women in ties for school or other things. This tiny old woman walked up to the old bigot and in a very thick Scottish Highland accent told her to shut her mouth and asked if she had a brain since it was obvious to her that I was a woman and that she really should invest in some glasses if she couldn’t tell.

The woman quickly left the line and the Scottish lady came over and patted me and reassured me that some people were just stupid and she went into the bathroom with me and that was it. I had an a least 80 year old fierce protector as only little Scottish grannies can be and I was so grateful.

When I got back to my seat and told my parents , it was a very good thing my dad didn’t have a claymore. He always got worked up at Scottish events and could yell during “Black Bear” with the loudest of them, something that used to make my brother and I want to crawl under the seats. There would have been blood. (http://cornemusique.free.fr/ukblackbear.php)

Nowadays it looks like someone would have called the cops and I would have had to pull down my drawers in public. This is all just wrong

Old Dyke Days

Purple sage: https://purplesagefem.wordpress.com/ has an awesome blog and has been reading Lillian Faderman’s book on Dyke history. It’s interesting to see her take on my times.

I came out in the late 70’s and the 70’s and 80’s were a wonderful time to come out. There was a huge community here in the LA area and it was big enough to have a lot of different varieties and lifestyles. We had several bars but the culture had evolved enough that there were other things to do besides hang out in a bar. There were butch femme bars, mostly in Hollywood like the Palms, as well as Peanuts for the under 21 crowd. I used to go there with my deaf friends from CSUN because their speakers were on the floor and the deaf women could dance because they could feel the beat. There were the two main bars in Long Beach, The Suite where it was how you looked that mattered and was a meat market and the Que where everyone was welcome. Our bar was Vermies in Pasadena (If you wanted to see Melissa Ethridge she played the Que and Vermies but on week nights so you had to be willing to stay up) or we went out to Pomona to Robbies and the Valley had Menopause Manor AKA the Oxwood Inn. We thought the women at the Oxwood were sooo old, they were probably in their 40’s and 50’s. Sunday afternoons were for the men’s bar Rumours to see a local duo Second Wind.

But we also had things like softball leagues and rugby teams and I came out into the huge collection of Girl Scout lesbians. The place to see and be seen at the time were the women’s music concerts. When Cris Willamson, Margie Adams, Meg Christian or Holly Near came to town, they usually played Royce Hall at UCLA or the Veteran’s auditorium or the Ebell and it was packed. Everyone wore their best clothes. Somewhere I have a picture of all my friends and myself on our varying takes on dyke chic that were all tuxedo versions. It helped that women’s tuxedo fashion was very “in” in the 80’s so clothes we liked were readily available and then there was the wonderful West Coast Women’s Music and Comedy Festival that started in Willits and finally ended up in Yosemite. That happened every Labor Day and was heaven on earth. Usually about 3,000 women of all different communities all in one place.

We had Girl Scout campers area, neutral areas, noisy areas and S&M play area, there were the leatherdykes there were Goddess dykes, butch/femme areas and a disabled area with lots of friendly women to help. There were androgynous areas and child care for women with children and areas for young girls that came with their moms. There were workshops on every topic you could think of and music and drumming all the time. We had rituals out on the grass under the moon. The vegetarian food wasn’t that great so there were cooking areas for non-vegetarians which led some competition among the Girl Scout dykes and since my group included some friends from CalTech with access to dry ice some fudgsicles that were the envy of a lot of other women as well as when we baked things or fried bacon. Yes, we were evil and loved it.

There were tall women, short women, women of all colours and shades, women of all abilities, women with scars and women with bold beautiful tats covering mastectomy scars and we for a few days a year were all family. Women built the stages, ran the sound and did security and fire patrol, women did the cooking and the child care, and the first aid at the med tent, all of it volunteer labour and everyone took a shift or you had to pay extra. The only time you saw a man was when you heard, “Man on the land!” when they pumped the Portajanes.

They had awesome vendors and that is where the majority of my jewelry came from for years.

And at night all the communities melded at Main Stage under the stars and it was magic. To be among all those women loving women was amazing. My first one was in Santa Barbara and we had come straight from camp. It was amazing to see all those women. We drove up there and we knew we had reached the place because the women at the gate were topless. I remember thinking, oh Lady, you won’t catch me doing that. Yeah, that lasted until the next morning and it was hot. I learned that redheaded pasty white girls with chests that have never seen the sun should wear overalls over certain parts of your anatomy. I had a tan from camp but not there. Owie, thank heavens for the good souls with aloe vera to share. I had to go back to work when I got home.

Long Beach had a yearly dyke picnic that brought people together as well as a bunch of men that stood outside the park and would yell things like, “Which ones the man?” thank heavens the cops were pretty cool and kept them out of the park.

Point being, we had a community and when you came out, you had places to go and friends. There were bookstores to go to like Page One in Pasadena that was owned by two wonderful women and friends of mine worked there and told me what books I needed to read so I was introduced to Sally Gearhart and Rita Mae Brown and Jane Rule. I read Another Mother Tongue and Patience and Sarah and The Wanderground and laughed hard at Ruby Fruit Jungle. We could listen to the latest women’s music and pick up a copy. Occasionally we had a field trip to Sisterhood in Westwood. They had great posters and tshirts so we came home with Mountain Women ts and Uppity Women Unite or the Ladies Sewing and  Terrorist Circle.

Now that kind of community does not exist, the bookstores and bars are mostly gone. I haven’t heard of the picnic still happening and all of it was found in the Lesbian News, found all over town even in straight book and record stores with the free stuff at the front. I don’t know what a kid does now for community. Our biggest problem was finding a lover that hadn’t slept with most of your friends already. One of the reasons my friends found the first episode of the L word hysterical was because of the chart they made. We did that one night. I found out later the writer of that episode knew someone who had been there and used it.

I miss those days when it still was the LG community before the damn alphabet soup happened.

 

I’m proud to have been one of the contributors about lesbian health issues

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/new-provider-educational-resource-aims-to-help-improve-quality-care-for-lgbt-individuals-and-their-families-2015-04-09

Last year I did a series of interviews and other presentations about the challenges a lesbian can face in trying to obtain competent care from healthcare workers. Including some of the whoppers some idiot doctors have confronted me with such as, yes, I’m sure I’m not pregnant. An argument I had with an idiot Middle Eastern doctor in the ER who insisted I could be pregnant and not know it. Uh no! While my partner and the gay x-ray tech howled with laughter.