An Elder in the LGBT Community

As most of you know, June is Pride Month. This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City, the beginning of the gay movement (original name).

At the age of 69, I am now an elder in the Greater Cincinnati community. Young people want to know what it was like to be lesbian in the 1970s. I came out at 21 over Christmas vacation. I followed Jean, a “known lesbian,” home to Ann Arbor. We both knew she would bring me out. But I knew I was a lesbian much earlier, in my teens (It may have begun as a crush on my babysitter!), but I was also aware that I couldn’t speak of it. The word then was homosexual. I have no idea how I knew not to go blabbing about this. When you don’t see images of gay people on tv, film, newspapers or magazines, you’re pretty much invisible.

Luckily in high school I had a friend named Barbara. She must have had early gaydar because she began sharing about her crush on the gym teacher. I had a terrible crush on my journalism teacher. We were sisters of the heart.

I call these times the Era of B.E.–Before Ellen (DeGeneres, that is).

I guess by the end of June I’ll be famous on a small scale anyway. With this upcoming 50th Anniversary of Stonewall, some people working on the Pride Committee are making a video documentary of sorts. They wish to speak with those who were around Back in the Day. So I’ll do a thirty minute talk then they’ll edit it down to a few minutes. After this, I’ll be interviewed by Chris Fortin of Out Cincinnati on Radio Artifact. Finally, Victoria Ramstetter and I, co-directors of OLA, will speak on the Archives late June at the Taft Museum Women’s Club luncheon.

By July I will just relax on my backyard deck. Happy Pride, everyone!

~ Phebe (Karen) Beiser

June activity!

Maybe it’s because June is Pride Month but whatever the reason, the Archives had an out of town visitor and I have a panel discussion coming up.

Last Thursday, I met Sharon Deevey, from greater Columbus, Ohio. We had met a few times in the past–at the Ohio Lesbian Festival and at Miami University when there was a panel on the 1970’s. She just loves research and had had it on her list to come visit OLA. As serendipity would have it, her eyes landed on an issue of The Furies, a radical feminist newspaper from 1970’s. We had nine issues and one was quite rare! She excitedly called her good friend, former comrade, and ex JEB (Joan E. Biren of photography fame). Joan was in the process of donating her works to her alma mater. (She had been a member of The Furies and recently noticed the missing issue in going through her collection).

Sharon and I had a great time chatting about the 70’s over lunch. By the time we had returned to the Archives, I urged her to take the missing issue (and the entire stack of issues). As a former librarian, I knew in the importance of complete collections. The Ohio Lesbian Archives will be credited as the source for this rare issue. Vic and I realize we can’t be all things to all lesbians; our space in the Clifton United Methodist Church basement is filled enough without maintaining Everything Lesbian. Sharon vows she will return to view more of our collection. She was a great contact and we had a fulfilling visit all the way around.

Tonight I will be one of several speakers at the local N.O.W. meeting. I have 5-10 minutes to inform the audience about OLA. Ten minutes isn’t much so it’s even more crucial to be concise. My personal mission is to entice a few women to make a visit. I fear someone will ask how many books and magazines we have in the collection. Sharon did and I admitted our inventory was too dated to be accurate. WE NEED AN INTERN!  Any student out there who wants to get some independent study credit during the summer? I’d open the Archives once a week for you. Remember to stay proud of who you are!

~ Phebe Beiser