I’m working diligently on a memoir about my life in the gay community between 1978 and 1982, the time immediate preceding, then immediately post-AIDS. The writing is going well and I am loving where it is headed and how it’s unfolding.
I have so many stories from that time, I considered naming the book Sex, Drugs & Disco, but there already is one from pre-AIDS San Francisco. Not that books can’t have the same name, it just seemed too easy. The working title is In the Bushes which comes from when I pimped for a gay friend in Lake Eola, looking for sex for him. We were 17-years old.
Then there were my first forays into the gay bar scene, the drag queens, the drugs, the copious amounts of alcohol… and the sex. Lots and lots of sex. One of my girls asked to read some of what I had written and then pushed it away in the first couple hundred words. I knew then I was on the right track. laughing She shan’t be a Beta Reader!
During that time, I lived with several gay men in a few places, including the Parliament House, a gay complex. Lots of naughtiness ensued.
I ran away to New York City, ran out of money in DC on the way home, was present for momentous occasions in our nation’s history and took part in many side trips into the infamy of DC life.
At the time, I had no idea I would write this book in 40 years.
This book was integral to my beginnings of loving my body as well as understanding the vulva in midwifery.
Tee Corrine was an artist in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. I learned of her around 1988 when I moved to San Diego from Frankfurt. I was a newly out dyke and Zack was still in the Army in Frankfurt (but was being separated for being lesbian) and I attended Lesbian Support Group meetings at the LGBT Center in downtown Hillcrest.
The Cunt Coloring Book, published initially in 1975, was extremely controversial, even when I first saw it in the late 1980’s. Older lesbians told the story of how difficult it was to get published and some enterprising dykes published it on their kitchen tables to start. It was shared in an underground fashion, passed quietly from woman to woman (ha! the spelling of “woman” at the time was “womyn”… couldn’t have the letters “men” anywhere around a vulva), sometimes one woman coloring a page and having the next in line color the next one.
There were very few lesbian mothers at the time and I knew of no gay fathers at all. We moms eventually formed a Lesbian Mother Support Group and it was awesome. I loved meeting other moms who understood the secrecy needed when sending our kids to school… how the Emergency Contact was a “friend” who happened to live with us.
Just like when any moms get together, there are going to be different parenting styles, but blessedly, they, for the most part, didn’t spank. I was already in the Natural Birth and Parenting Communities, a La Leche League leader (who I also had to hide my sexuality from) and had been a doula for around 6 years. There was one mom who talked about “seeing red” when she got mad at her kids and she thought we all did, that that was perfectly normal. I remember an intervention, of sorts, where we discussed what was discipline and what was abuse… a topic hardly ever mentioned back then. We encouraged her to find a therapist and deal with the anger instead of taking it out on her kids.
My first experience with a Lesbian Separatistwas when Zack and I were still in Germany. A woman in our Gay Support Group, Friends of Dorothy, was quite proud of telling us about how she was so Separatist that when she gave birth to a boy, she was disgusted and gave him to his father, never to be acknowledged again. I am still as horrified now as I was then.
The lesbian community in San Diego was quite polarized in 1988, the Separatist faction wanting nothing to do with men. At. All. I had a boy child (and co-parented Zack’s son as well) and was not welcome in Separatist spaces. Even if I didn’t go with my kids, I was snubbed and usually left because no one would talk to me. I refused to pretend my son didn’t exist, so soon learned where to, and where not, to go.
While there have been transgender folks since the beginning of time, there seemed to be so few back then… public… except in bars, usually as drag queens doing lip sync shows. Goddess forbid a lesbian come out trans; he was ridiculed and the venom flowed that he had joined The Enemy and just wanted to be part of The Establishment instead of remaining an oppressed dyke. I admit I shared that sentiment, finding transmen to be the most confusing aspects of the LGBT community. Little did I know I would be confronting it head-on in 20 more years.
Blessedly, the Lesbian Separatist Movement seems to have faded into the recesses of history.
San Diego Lesbian Press
At this time, the late 80’s, is when the term Politically Correct was just coming into vogue; it wasn’t a negative term yet. The words became a frequently used phrase when I worked at the San Diego Lesbian Press as a writer.
“The first issue of the San Diego Lesbian Pressis published in October (1987), just six months after a group of women meet to discuss the need for such a publication and form a collective to make it happen.”
A “Collective” being the operative word. The SDLP operated on the “consensus” method of making decisions. (Or rather, NOT making decisions!)
Consensus is a process for group decision-making. It is a method by which an entire group of people can come to an agreement. The input and ideas of all participants are gathered and synthesized to arrive at a final decision acceptable to all. Through consensus, we are not only working to achieve better solutions, but also to promote the growth of community and trust.
In other words, consensus is a group of people who argue for WEEKS on end about trivial shit and rarely, if ever, get anything done because everyone in the group is an Alpha Female and refuses to concede to a different position/belief/idea.
Clearly, I hate consensus. It started with the SDLP, but has continued in other, mainly lesbian or women-prominent spaces.
One SDLP argument:
It was a Separatist newspaper, but was always on the verge of dying because of lack of funds. One time, a man (gasp!) wanted to advertise in the paper… something benign like a lesbian bar. But he owned the club and the money would come from him. So several women had hairy cows over the issue of whether to accept the money or not. I am not exaggerating when I tell you the “discussion” went on for weeks… 3 meetings a week… for at least 4 weeks. “What if the check was written on his wife’s account? Can we do that?” “What if he ‘donated’ the money. Then could we accept it?” “We can’t take it for any reason… on principle.”
I got so sick of it; that was when I left.
My Early Published Writings
I wrote some good pieces while I was at SDLP, though. Looking back, well…. I wrote a piece about admiring Indian (from India) women’s “costumes” after going to a parade and there were many women in sparkly harem outfits. I asked myself if the women were hiding behind the veil and did I find them “mysterious…” or did they really represent oppression? I asked if I was I admiring the oppression of women in another culture? I barely had a glimmer of recognizing oppression of other cultures by flaunting them. That would grow over time.
I wrote a very long and very well-received article on how BDSM is one of the most vile and sub-culturally-accepted forms of physical abuse against women. I insisted there could never be consensuality and both submissives and Dominants were deluded in their belief that it was acceptable behavior to be hit/hit, that no one EVER deserves to be hit. For any reason.
When I was coming out in the BDSM community in 1995, I had to overcome that long-held belief. Apparently, I did. Completely. laughing
I was privileged to attend several really cool lesbian concerts and shows and, because I wrote reviews, I got in free (I was way poor at the time). Jamie Anderson, Tret Fure, Cris Williamson and the Indigo Girls long, long before they were as well-known as they are now. There were also lesbian comedians: Lea DeLaria (now famous in Orange is the New Black), Kate Clinton and Lynn Lavner all gave me great interviews. It was hilarious hearing about our (lesbian) lives through their comedy. Decades before Ellen. Both the singers and comedians generally alluded to the lesbian community… except Lea DeLaria who was screamingly out. We were more used to reading between the lines and, in the case of songs, changing the gender from “him” to “her.” (I think lesbians and gay men still do this!)
My Own Early Activism
Below is a picture of me marching in the Gay Pride Parade (what they were called back then) about 1989.
It was very challenging being a lesbian mom back then. Many of my friends lost their kids to their former husbands when they came out. I was one of the very few lucky enough to march.
Besides lesbian issues being important to me back then, fat issues were also important. That will be a post all on its own, but I needed to make a comment here about my marching 3+ miles as a fat woman. I did it. Easily. I was also 28 years old. The fat activists of today are in their 20’s. I will share, in other posts, what exactly fat does to a body’s mobility as the years pass. And I’ll discuss fat and health issues as well. I believe that, because I spent a great deal of time speaking and writing about fat activist issues… the importance of not fat-shaming (a relatively new term)… that I am uniquely able to talk about fat as an older woman and the hobbling effect it has had on me. Anyway, as I said… other posts.
Okay, moving on to another topic. Writing as fast as I can.
I’ve always been femme. When I came out in 1979, I didn’t have one clue about the different nuances of lesbians, that took years of experience and then reading lesbian novels, books and magazines.
Meeting My Butch
On April 22, 1986, when my youngest, Aimee, was 2 days old, I went to a La Leche League meeting and among the 20+ women, pregnant and nursing alike, I saw Zack, 7-months pregnant. (Zack was presenting as a het woman at that time.) My first thought when I saw him was, “How the FUCK did this Dyke get pregnant?!”
A tad of backstory. I’d had Aimee in the car and finagled leaving the hospital in 3 hours and Zack heard about me at his childbirth class, wanting to leave the hospital right away as well, so got up from his nap to come to the LLL meeting specifically to meet me.
After the meeting, Zack hightailed it right for me. Damn, he was intense. And so, so Butch.
Just This Side of Being a Man
Once I met Zack, my taste in Dykes was sealed. I was fond of saying I liked women just this side of being a man. (Of course, now knowing Zack was trans all those years, he wasn’t on this side of being a man, but that side.) I really cannot find a Dyke Butch enough for me. Stone Butches make me weak in the knees.
(The topic of transmen begs to be discussed here, but it has to wait for its own post because it is one of the most convoluted emotions I have whirling around inside at the moment.)
Butch & femme – a Sweet Balance
When Zack and I got together a few months after he had his baby, we barely recognized, much less understood, what the Butch-femme dynamic meant. We knew we balanced each other well. (Yes, I really am going to flaunt stereotypical male and female characteristics.) I was an awesome stay-at-home mom, nursing the babies, reading to them and researching better ways to parent.
Zack, on the other hand, was mechanically inclined, great with spacial relations and was the “fun” parent.
Delightfully, he also co-nursed the babies. (We always said how great it was having 4 lactating breasts in the house.)
Then Political Correctness Intrudes
It was a gradual realization that what we were doing wasn’t the most acceptable way to be lesbians. I distinctly recall hearing that Butch-femme relationships were “aping” het marriages. (Could there be any uglier word to describe something?) I was really confused because we weren’t imitating anything; we just Were. I see now, on the periphery, as gender roles are smeared away, hints of Butch-femme acceptance again, but I promise you, there were the lean years when we were mocked and told how disgusting we were for acting like het couples.
I find it interesting I never tried to be anything but femme, even when doing so was incredibly looked down upon. And my Beloved Zack, never wavered in his ButchSelf either. I love that we simply ignored the winds of Political Correctness, living our lives in delicious balance.