Partial Transcript: Well, I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, which is where my
family settled. World War II did a lot of things to a lot of families and mine
have spread. I have very deeply Southern roots in both my mother's and my
father's family, but we settled in Knoxville.
Keywords: Knoxville; WNC
Partial Transcript: Jennie Boyd Bul...:Up there, up there. Yeah, but it started off with, "Where am
I going to go to college?" And I really wanted to get out of Dodge. I was just
feeling very cramped by the expectations of Southern women, from both sides of
my family and my father saying things like, "Well, you're going to college, so
you can meet the right man and get married." Well, no. And I was not out at that
time, but I was aware that I wanted... And my mother had said, "You can do and
be anything you want to be."
Keywords: Baltimore; Knoxville; Wolfe County
Partial Transcript: Well, I wouldn't call myself a
professional lesbian for years., And then I came out and that was a small
community in Waverley. But then, we were out, I mean, we published a book of
poetry called Palm Of Your Hand. You can't really back. Well, this is where I
needed to... 1972, which is, poems by and about lesbians, and I have a poem in
it. We founded Diana Press, which was one of the first and more important
lesbian presses. They published Rita Mae Brown's first book of poetry, Songs To
A Handsome Woman.
Keywords: Baltimore; Feminist Movement; MCC; Poetry; Pride Day
Partial Transcript: And they were, I would say cautiously accepting. They certainly didn't kick me
out or exclude me in any way, but my mother just really didn't get it. And I
explained to her, "Well, there's right-handedness and left-handedness and more
people are right-handed than left-handed, and then some people are ambidextrous
and that's all natural. So why this condemnation of ..." And she bit her lip and
accepted it. And they were good to me.
Keywords: Acceptance; Episcopal; Family Legacy; Minister
Partial Transcript: We've
had our struggles, and will continue to, but because it's a smaller and very
diverse community, we learn how to work together and worship together.
So I was very active in MCC in Washington DC from I guess, let me see, '73. I
started from '73 until I moved to Baltimore in '82. And during that time, I
became student clergy. I was active with the congregation and we would fight
around inclusive language. Because I grew up with Father in the pulpit, I was
sick and tired of Father God, I would have none of it.
Keywords: Affirming; Christian; MCC; OLOC; Scripture; Western Culture
Partial Transcript: Let's talk about the years between 2001 and 2015 first.
Because that was a big shift for me. So what I didn't say is that there's a
whole spiritual path and unfolding here. So I grew up in this conservative
Christian church. Then I came to MCC and then revolution was my religion. And
then I came to MCC and expanded that understanding of Christianity. But I still,
I got past Father God and the Holy Spirit inside me was comfortable and real and
much more than comfortable, really important. But this Jesus was a man and I had
a hard time identifying with a man as, is this the person who's totally it for
me? And I know that Christianity has used the maleness of Jesus to exclude women
for years and the Catholic church still does.
Keywords: Books and Libraries; Catholic Church; Christianity; Feminist Christian Movement; Indian Spirituality; MCC; Trans Discrimination; Writing; Yancey County
Partial Transcript: Yeah, and while I was up north with the ashram, just LGBT
was, it was part of my identity, but it wasn't something I worked actively with
in any way. Then when I moved back here, it was a shock, it was a real shock.
First off, the whole LGBT community had moved into a very different direction,
and I remember when I first got here in 2016, I think, I went to Asheville,
there was some forum that the local group, I think the Campaign for Racial
Equality did with the Department of Agriculture, or something, where they had to
do a forum, or training.
Keywords: Anti-Gay Legislation; Asheville; Conservative; Critical Race Theory; Discrimination; LGBTQ+; Mitchell County GSA; Weaverville; Yancey County
Nico, Interview...:Hi, Jennie.00:01:00
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Hey.
Nico, Interview...:How are you?
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Good, good. Let me just put us on full screen.
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Hi Nico.
Nico, Interview...:Hi, yeah, it says oral history, but I'm Nico. I've beenemailing you this whole time. Are we ready to get started?
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Yeah.
Nico, Interview...:Okay great.
Jennie Boyd Bul...:[crosstalk] Some pictures. Sorry, I didn't do the whole thing yet.
Nico, Interview...:Oh, no, that's fine.
Jennie Boyd Bul...:No, I think it's better to see each other. Here we go. Okay-00:02:00
Jennie Boyd Bul...:You're younger than I am.
Nico, Interview...:A little bit, I guess.
Jennie Boyd Bul...:You live in Asheville, Nico?
Nico, Interview...:Yeah, I live in Asheville.
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Right, okay. And this is all connected with UNC in Asheville, right?
Nico, Interview...:Mm-hmm (affirmative), yes. Yeah, it's a project that I'm...Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Okay. All right. [crosstalk]. Thank you for your steadycommunication and just let me know what we do now.
Nico, Interview...:Yeah, sure. First, I got to read out the little beginningintro spiel. So, thank you for sharing your time and the gift of your stories. We can take a break, or end the interview at any point. My name is Nico, Wright, and I'm working with Blue Ridge Pride and Amanda Wray to record oral histories from elders and members of the LGBTQ community. With your permission, all stories will be archived with special collections at UNC Asheville and available 00:03:00as audio, video and typed transcript files. You'll be contacted to review your typed transcription, in advance of publication, in case you wish to make changes, corrections, or name restrictions. And then, you said in your email that you've already printed out the oral release form with no restrictions, correct?
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Yes.
Nico, Interview...:Okay, great. And we can talk about where to submit thatlater. You also have the donor agreement, as far as your various things you want to submit?
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Yeah. And I started that too, yeah. Good.
Nico, Interview...:Okay, great. Yeah, thank you. You can just send that copiesof those, either scanned to me, or the official archive, or you could physically mail them if that's easier. It's whatever works for you.
Jennie Boyd Bul...:I'll probably just mail them to you-
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Or, I might scan. My other question is when you said I, we00:04:00get to review the print.
Nico, Interview...:Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jennie Boyd Bul...:That's just for the archive nod, if there's somebody whorequests to use it?
Nico, Interview...:Yeah, that's just for the archives. So, before they publishanything, you get to read over it and decide if there's anything you want to change, yeah.
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Good. Sounds good.
Nico, Interview...:Okay, great.
Jennie Boyd Bul...:I'm used to archiving, so-
Nico, Interview...:Got you, got you. Okay. All right. So, today's date is August27th, 2021. I'm speaking with Jennie Boyd Bull. What are your pronouns?
Jennie Boyd Bul...:She, her, hers.
Nico, Interview...:Okay. And if you don't mind, if you're comfortable,obviously, what was your date of birth?
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Oh, sure. April 23rd, 1945. I am 76 years old.
Jennie Boyd Bul...:I was born at the end of World War II.
Nico, Interview...:Great. And then, in what city and state were you born? Just [inaudible].00:05:00
Jennie Boyd Bul...:I was born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where my father worked,it was all a secret city then, working on the atomic energy issues.
Nico, Interview...:Okay, great. I guess, just to start off, how would youdescribe yourself in terms of your own identity?
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Oh, I've identified as a lesbian and call myself a lesbianand I know that dates me, but that's how I describe it, so...
Nico, Interview...:Okay, great. So, I guess what's something you would wantpeople to know about your life, just in the generality?
Jennie Boyd Bul...:No generality. I'm a Southern lesbian who lived most of herlife in Baltimore, Washington Area in Upstate New York and have been very involved in political activism, most of my life. And identifying especially, in 00:06:00feminist and lesbian issues, but also in racial issues, and anti-war activism, a number of different things. And I have always been involved in community matters at a local level, which I continue today in retirement, here in South Toe River Valley in Yancey County in North Carolina, where I've lived for the last six years.
Nico, Interview...:Great. So, you've lived in Western North Carolina for thelast six years, right?
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Nico, Interview...:What brought you here?
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Well, I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, which is where myfamily settled. World War II did a lot of things to a lot of families and mine have spread. I have very deeply Southern roots in both my mother's and my father's family, but we settled in Knoxville. So, I grew up in the Smokies, I 00:07:00love the mountains. And then, I escaped up to Baltimore in Washington for much of my adult working life, but I would go off and come back here for vacations. And when it came time, when I turned 70 and it was time to retire, I really wanted to return to the Southern mountains. And Tennessee was just too conservative for me and my family had left Knoxville proper. And so, I have two brothers in Nashville, and a sister in Texas. But, I have good friends who live in Weaverville, a lesbian couple who I've known for years and had maintained contact with.
And sometimes, I would stop in within when I was vacationing. So, I decided, thefour, or five years before I moved here, I would come down here and go camping for vacation, either in the Smokies, or up in the Blue Ridge Parkway. And hiking, I love the outdoors. And so, they let me stay with him for a month while 00:08:00I tried to figure out what to do. And I soon figured out that Buncombe County is much too expensive to live in. And so, somebody told me about the Celo Community on the South Toe in Yancey County. And I looked them up on Wikipedia and they had their Quaker background and lots of artists and writers. And it looked interesting. And I've lived in intentional communities, much of my life, not all of them, but a lot of my life.
And so, I was interested in that. So, Celo list is the condo, the local listserve up here and there was a ad for a house, or a rental property here in the South Toe. And I went to see it and grabbed it and I've been here ever since. So, I really am happy, that I so quickly, was able to find a spot that's been right for me. And I find a lot of support with other lesbians here. I'm a member 00:09:00of the Celo Trans Meeting, which is very supportive. I'm active with Dig In Community Garden, Carolina Mountains Literary Festival. My neighbors' Elder Care Network. We can get into all that. But, the point is that I found the place, to build a community for my later life. And here I am.
Nico, Interview...:Great, great. Yeah. My other question I guess, was, what'skept you here? But, I guess you partially answered that in explaining how you've created your own community yourself, in that particular area as well.
Jennie Boyd Bul...:And I mean, those activities are very important for me,because they help me connect with community and build community, but also, good friends with my neighbor across the road, who grew up here. So, there are a lot of real class and racial issues and political issues in Yancey County, as there 00:10:00is in North Carolina. And I have found that one of the things that I appreciate here is being able to daily and weekly, be in touch with people from all backgrounds, so that I can build connection across differences. And around here, your physical surroundings are so important. The way I connected with my neighbor Linda, was, I've got a really steep, windy driveway. And when the snow comes, how do I get out? And so, I got up my courage in that first few months I was here, the first winter and said, "Can I park over there on your property at the pool when it snows?"
And she said, "Sure honey, I understand. You can even use my driveway." And thatbegan our relationship. So, now she helps me a lot with gardening and canning 00:11:00and cooking and a lot of the wisdom she packs. So, that neighborliness and sharing with each other is an important part of rural communities. And I really appreciated this, especially as I've learned to garden and plant two wonderful pear trees in my yard, so I can barter with pears. So, that connection is important to me as well. And I'm also a member of the local NAACP here. So, there's a larger Spanish speaking community, about five to 10% of the county and a much smaller historic black community. But, I like to talk, so you got to stop me. [crosstalk].
Nico, Interview...:No, you're in the right spot for talking.
Jennie Boyd Bul...:But, did you know that Yancey County was the first county in00:12:00North Carolina to [inaudible] graded schools? And that's because, the black community, with the help of NAACP sued for integration, because all their children were having to be bused all the way into Asheville, which is an hour's trip, to go to school. So, we got some history here.
Nico, Interview...:Yeah, for sure. For sure.
Jennie Boyd Bul...:I like history too.
Nico, Interview...:Yeah. I guess one question I had, so you said you grew up inTennessee, and then you moved to Baltimore, or more Northern areas, as well as Baltimore. What age did you move down there? Or, move up there? Sorry.
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Up there, up there. Yeah, but it started off with, "Where amI going to go to college?" And I really wanted to get out of Dodge. I was just feeling very cramped by the expectations of Southern women, from both sides of my family and my father saying things like, "Well, you're going to college, so 00:13:00you can meet the right man and get married." Well, no. And I was not out at that time, but I was aware that I wanted... And my mother had said, "You can do and be anything you want to be." So, I took that from her and really felt like I needed to leave the social constraints that I grew up with in the '50s and early '60s in Knoxville, Tennessee. And so, I applied to several colleges and one of the Swarthmore College, which is a Quaker college, outside of Philadelphia and they accepted me.
It was a full scholarship, because they have needs-blind admission, which wasjust wonderful. And that really changed my life, because I was in a community. It's a very progressive, very egalitarian and much more racially inclusive now, than it was then. But anyway, I went to Swarthmore College and from there connected with the Quakers in American Friends Service Committee and ended up 00:14:00coming back to Kentucky, to work for two years with American Friends Service Committee in rural Kentucky, in one of the school houses, teaching for a couple of years. And then, came back to Baltimore. That's one of my first time I came back to Baltimore. I wrote out a chronology. I came back to Baltimore and I think it was '69. Yeah, because there was so much racial unrest in the country at that time, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated.
And the people in Wolfe County, Kentucky where I worked, many had never seen ablack person. And there was a lot of racism and I just needed to be more in the middle of things. And so, I finished out my AFSC time in DC at Catholic 00:15:00University. And then, at that point I was involved with a man who I had gone to college with, who was also a Quaker and we were married for about two years. And so, I was living with him in a commune called Toad Hall in Baltimore and working with the AFSC with high school students actually, creating an alternative high school for kids that were dropping out, whatever. So, that was how I ended up in Baltimore. And I spent a lot of time in the Baltimore, Washington area up until 2001, actually. So, we can talk about all of that. But, I moved into a commune called Toad Hall.
Nico, Interview...:Great. You were talking a little bit earlier about the, I00:16:00don't know, shared responsibilities you have in a rural community. Did you find that different in a more urban place like Baltimore? Or, by living in Toad Hall? Did you try to, I don't know, create more of a smaller community, within the urban atmosphere?
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Exactly. And those were habits of late '60s, early '70s. So,those were a lot of what's going on. And one of the things, I just want to get this out upfront, is that I have just published a memoir called Learning to Weave: A Woman-Loving Life and literally came Wednesday night. And I was there for the early days of the women's liberation movement. So, I was in Toad Hall and there were women's consciousness-raising groups and the men in the leftist 00:17:00community, we considered ourselves leftists in the working class neighborhood of Waverley in Baltimore. They created a people's free medical clinic. Healthcare has been an issue for years. And then, their women, most of them married to these guys, not all, but most of them and mostly white middle-class, although there was some variation, created something called Women: A Journal of Liberation, which was one of the first women's periodicals of the second wave of feminism.
And I was their first paid staff person. And so, we sat around, creating themes,writing editorial, selecting pictures, and poems and articles to relate to what was going on. And here's one of the journals. So, it was exciting to be part of 00:18:00something that was new in history and it felt like it was moving things forward. And it really changed my life in terms of how I saw myself as a woman and getting support from other women. And so, that created a lot of the community there. And that was how I came out actually, is that in that context, all those women were straight and we were all feminists and we had the consciousness raising, but I began to really look at, what are my values as a woman? And to identify how in patriarchy, male domination is just [inaudible], to question that.
And there's a group called the Redstockings back then, in New York who published00:19:00something called The Woman Identified Woman Manifesto, which basically said, "What does it mean to identify myself with women? Instead of, assuming that men take the leadership and run the country and have the money and the power." Which they still do to the last part. So, I remember Rita Mae Brown. I don't know, that you may not know about Rita Mae Brown, but she was one of the first lesbians, she published a short novel called Ruby Fruit Jungle. That was an underground classic that a lot of people read and she was a poet and a lot of her works were important for newly coming out lesbians. There's a large underground way of connection. We didn't have email the way we have it now, but it was still there.
And there's also a book of poems by Judy Grahn. This one is a classic, these arethe things I'm going to give to an archive, called Edward the Dyke and Other 00:20:00Poems. This is self-published, it's typed on the inside, but it's a classic and it has been reprinted, and is a major iconic, early lesbian classic. And so, those things influenced me, and I realized that I really wanted to identify myself as a woman and be part of a women's community. And so, within two years, Howard and I married at Pendle hill, which is a Quaker study center, up near Philadelphia. I left that commune and left him in 1971, so it was two years, and moved into a women's commune called Ida Braiman Collective. And we were what we would call socialist feminists. And we weren't like the Furies in DC, who've 00:21:00gotten a lot of coverage, who are one of the first radical lesbian feminist collectives who were separatists.
We worked with men, we worked with leftist men, because Baltimore is veryworking class. It's different from DC in that way. DC is very racially divided. I talk about the white plantation with the quarters around. But anyway, in Baltimore, because we were in a working class community, we created a food co-op, we did things that would immediately support local people, but we also were in anti-war demonstrations and very active with that. I got arrested. Actually, I got arrested with the Quakers for reading the names of the Vietnamese warm dead on the US Capitol steps back... Oh, that was a long time 00:22:00ago. When was that? Probably '71, something like that. '70, '71. And so, my activism shifted to have a more specific women's focus.
And I can't even remember what your original question was, but we all moved intoIda Braiman, which was in the heart of that working class community in Waverley. And the clinic was there and a women's bookstore had been founded there, which I ended up managing years later. And there was a coffee house and a food co-op, there's a whole leftist center there. And none of us were out when we moved into that women's commune. We all had one room with mattresses where we slept, and 00:23:00then we painted the national liberation front of Vietnam's flag on the floor, in our side garden, and we would paint it, but yeah. Broke up the side yard and made a garden, and we danced to Moody Blues and Janis Joplin. Anyway, it was a good time. And within, I would say, six months to a year, everybody had either come out, or left.
So, I called that the crucible year. And that was '71. So, I had a crush on awoman who'd been involved in Women Against Daddy Warbucks' draft board accident in New York. I just thought she was hot stuff. And she ended up with somebody else. And so, then I was like, "Okay." And then, we started going to the bars and Baltimore is a very segregated city. At least, it was at that time. So, this 00:24:00was a white lesbian bar. And they had touch football on Sunday afternoons. And this is where you went to meet people. And it was the old dyke crowd that was very into roles. Everything was very binary at that point. Although, there was a whole huge drag culture in Baltimore, drag houses where people lived. But, anyway, we were called baby dykes.
We didn't quite fit that picture. We didn't wear nail polish and we did shaveour legs. And yet, we weren't particularly butch either. So, it was this mixed thing. And so, we were a curiosity, but I guess, that world is very different 00:25:00now. But, anyway, that's what I entered into. And it was called Mitch's, that bar, I had no idea. And a lot of them have closed down. And if it's still around. But, there's a woman from DC called Sibi, or Sylvia Deal who came, who I was attracted to, because I was looking and she was attracted to me and we ended up getting together. And I had a brief relationship with somebody else who had brought me out. And then, Sibi and I lived together for seven years and I ended up moving back to Washington, because she lived in Landover, which is a suburb in DC.
And that was the point in which it was like, "Okay, this has been wild. Let'ssettle down a little bit. Let's figure out how to support myself." Oh, the other 00:26:00thing I started doing during that time, was taking TaeKwonDo and studying how to be strong physically, as a woman. Because, I grew up, long before title, whatever, they didn't even have sports for women. It was very limited. So, I learned having strengthened my body in Tai Chi and ended up teaching it some, and kicks and punches and stuff. But, anyway, I got a job working as an editor, because when I went to college, I was an English major. And I was a champion speller in the sixth grade. So, I like words, I read a lot, I always have.
That's why I have this book, I like to write and read. So, I got a job as theeditor of a thoroughbred racing magazine, Turf And Sport Digest in Baltimore, 00:27:00Maryland as managing editor. And then, when I moved in with Sibi in DC, I got a job with the National Trust For Historic Preservation, as an editor. And that was a big jump, because that was a much more substantial organization. And I learned a lot about editing and book production there and worked for a while. So, I probably should stop and let you ask your questions.
Nico, Interview...:No, that's okay. That's great. I mean, you can talk for aslong as you want. Let's see. I guess, one thing that I'm interested in, is obviously you talked about, the particular women's commune and stuff like that, where you really started to understand your own identity, stuff like that. I guess, I could ask compared to then, and now. Back then, when you were first starting to understand your identity, were you only out within that group and 00:28:00not to others? Or, what was your, I don't know, thought process behind who am I going to come out to? When and where?
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Yeah, good question. Well, I wouldn't call myself aprofessional lesbian for years., And then I came out and that was a small community in Waverley. But then, we were out, I mean, we published a book of poetry called Palm Of Your Hand. You can't really back. Well, this is where I needed to... 1972, which is, poems by and about lesbians, and I have a poem in it. We founded Diana Press, which was one of the first and more important 00:29:00lesbian presses. They published Rita Mae Brown's first book of poetry, Songs To A Handsome Woman.
Here, Songs To A Handsome Woman. These are the things I'm going to pass along atsome point. So, those were very out things and Diana Press had a small walk in basement business on 25th Street, right in Baltimore City. And the thing about it, is in a city, you can be public with your alternative newspapers and whatever, but you don't necessarily get huge, broad publicity. Occasionally, there was some harassment, but there was certainly a lot of homophobia in the 00:30:00structures, but we were about creating an alternative culture and a women's culture. And did several things with Diana Press and limited in our elaboration, which was not particularly lesbian at all. It was much more of a general feminist movement. But, in fact, when I came out, I left Women: A Journal of Liberation, because the other women felt threatened by that, I think.
So, yeah, I was very out. And then, when I moved to DC... I've always been veryintentionally out in my work. So, when I was at Turf And Sport Digest, I was very clear with my boss. And when I went to interview at the National Trust, I told my editor, "I'm a lesbian and I'm not going to go around trying to recruit 00:31:00people in your office, but I want you to know that before you hire me." And that was fine. So, what I want to get into at some point, is the reason I call myself a professional lesbian is that, during the time I was with Sibi, we wanted some validation, or affirmation of our relationship. And so, we went to Metropolitan Community Church, which was in Baltimore and in Washington. And I'd never heard of it before, but MCC is a international denomination that serves the LGBTQ community.
And it's still very active around the world. And we had heard that they wouldbless your relationship. And so, you could either have... This is way, way, way before legalization of marriage. Way, way, way before. And of course, the church has been the source of much homophobia in Western culture. Don't get me started 00:32:00on it. So anyway, we went to MCC and had a rite of blessing and stayed. And that was a really interesting thing because ... But that started my career as an out lesbian because I ended up very active with that church and eventually went to seminary at Wesley Theological Seminary and was the first out lesbian to graduate from Wesley back in '80, started in '78.
So there was this gradual putting yourself out there, putting yourself outthere, TV interviews. We'll get to it. I'll return to Baltimore at some point. But I got appointed to the DC Human Relations Commission as a token lesbian. But then we also had a dinner program for homeless women because we were in the 00:33:00middle of downtown DC. And the big thing was MCC in DC. Now that's not true around the world, but in DC at that time was heavily white gay men. Many of them middle and upper class, much more economic difference. And here I was this out activist lesbian in a congregation that was white men. And so I was like, how do I work with this? And so I became the minister of outreach and we did the dinner program. We started a church in Northern Virginia. I started a support group for women in the church, and that's now radically changed. MCC is much more diverse and inclusive and is led by a woman for years and has large Black presence. In fact, that the church in Baltimore is now predominantly Black. 00:34:00
But the mission of MCC was not just to be a place where people could affirmtheir relationship. Although that's very important because if you've been kicked out of your home and you're in DC, because you're on the streets, which a lot of those, especially the young men were, or you're a homeless lesbian couple or if you come out and you lose your job, if you work for the CIA or ... there were just a lot of really closeted people at that time. And the pride days were very carefully ... Like the Pride Day in Baltimore was held in a park instead of a march for years, because it was less public. And I can tell you a story about that when we first had our first march.
So the homophobia, a lot of people were closeted. So if you're closeted, youcan't even tell your family, or your lover isn't welcome home for Christmas. And 00:35:00so for 20 years or whatever, you all are celebrating Christmas separately or you have to break with your family. So the tensions, the personal tensions around being closeted. And the other thing is if you're working and you're not out, people ask, "Well, what'd you do over the holidays?" "Oh, not much." And you change pronouns. You just do all these things to not be honest about who you are and what's important in your life, which is so destructive. Oh my God.
So learning how to be yourself and have a place where you can be yourself withlike-minded people is really important. And I think it's still important. And I think it's especially important these days around non-binary trans issues. But at that time it was just basically who you loved. And I want to be clear, 00:36:00because I wanted to get this in at some point, so I'll say it now. It's not about who you sleep with. One of the ways that I think the contemporary movement is, I'm not a lesbian just because I am sexually attracted to women. I'm a lesbian because I identify with and love women and want to be part of the supportive women's community. And I also work very comfortably with men, but I want to counteract that assumption. It's called being a woman identified woman. That's the way I grew up with it. That's the way I understand it. So it's not just about what my sexual orientations.
And I think your feminist movement, not just lesbian but feminist movement in00:37:00general was one of the, in the 20th century first started to question gender roles and to say this binary stuff is for birds. We can be whoever we choose to be. And there's a wide range of that and accepting of that and supporting that for people. And that rigidity is what I fled from in the south. But I was happy to begin to explore and expand in my time in Baltimore and Washington. And now that I'm back here, continuing to work with in other ways. Well, I don't know. I think I've wandered, but anyway.
Nico, Interview...:Oh, that's great. I guess related to the rigidity you'respeaking of then we talked about early about the roles of being a Southern woman 00:38:00and stuff like that, what was your relationship with your family at this point in time, especially considering that you were living apart from them?
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Yeah. Good question. Well, when I came out, which was back in'71, I wrote a letter to my parents telling them that I was a lesbian and they, within a couple of weeks, drove up to Baltimore to my commune to check on me. And they were, I would say cautiously accepting. They certainly didn't kick me out or exclude me in any way, but my mother just really didn't get it. And I explained to her, "Well, there's right-handedness and left-handedness and more people are right-handed than left-handed, and then some people are ambidextrous and that's all natural. So why this condemnation of ..." And she bit her lip and accepted it. And they were good to me. 00:39:00
What happened is my mother died in 1978. And then after a couple of years, myfather remarried and the woman he married was very homophobic. And so I got a letter as this was when I was with my long-term partner. I was with a woman in Baltimore for 18 years, whom I will call Linda. That's not her real name, but I want to honor her privacy. And in this book I wrote two of the women, I changed their names and everything else I'm upfront about. But anyway, we were going to come home for Christmas and he wrote a letter saying she wasn't welcome because Ruth daughters were in the house or some excuse. And so we didn't go. That was 00:40:00very hurtful. And it took several years, 1990. So that's a while. I really broke with my family at that point. I finally went back to reconcile with him. And so we were connected until his death.
And she again, like I went to a family reunion in South Carolina with Linda andmy stepmother objected to my presence. And then my father, who was a Episcopal minister, I'm a preacher's kid by the way. We'll get into that. But Episcopal minister on both sides of the family for generations, so I come by it honest. But I did it with the differences at MCC. But anyway, she objected to my presence and my father got up in the pulpit. And before he started preaching or 00:41:00anything, he said "Everybody is welcome here." So I was happy that he did that.
And my brother, because of this remarriage and my stepmother, my brother; I havea biological brother, John who lives in Nashville who's retired, whom I talk with on the phone every Monday, who's single at this point. And then when I was in high school, we adopted my sister, Susan, who now lives out in Texas. And my Vietnamese brother who was an AFS exchange student with us in Knoxville. After the war, he was one of the last people out on the US in the sea when Saigon fell, which we're repeating these days.
And he just wrote a big article in for NBC news about his experience with that.00:42:00And they came and my parents sponsored them to Knoxville and they have now grown and their three children and grandchildren and doing very well. So our family grew from two children to four children. And I'm in contact with all of those. And I'm in good contact with my Boyd cousins. We've had some family reunions and a lot of connection there. They're all Texans pretty much. And that works fine.
My Bull family, not so much. They're just very conservative and they've stayedin South Carolina. When I was in seminary, I studied family systems therapy. And there's closed family systems and open family systems, the Boyds. That's why I took the name Boyd. I'm not just Jennie Bull anymore. Boyd is my middle name, but to honor my mother after her death and to continue her legacy. So they're 00:43:00much more open family, but the Bulls are very conservative, have lived in South Carolina, all their lives even to this day. And so I have a harder time with them and don't connect too much.
So that's a very general thing, but I am really happy since I've returned toNorth Carolina to have much closer contact with my two brothers and my sister. We've visited. So, yeah.
Nico, Interview...:Great. I guess if you want to talk about it, you've mentioneda couple of times, religion especially in your family. How would you say that has influenced your life path related to, I don't know, gender and sexuality and 00:44:00stuff like that?
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Big time. This is going to be a long answer because it's muchof my life. So I would say revolution was my religion when I was coming out. I was an activist and well, in Baltimore in those early years. And then when Sibby and I went to MCC in DC for that rite of blessing, that really shifted because I realized that I wanted to claim something about my Christian background. But MCC did it with a difference because it was very affirming of lesbian, gay relationships and bisexual and trans. It was a very fluid, inclusive community.
One of the things I really appreciate about the LGBTQ community is that we havelearned because we've had to, because we're a smaller community to work through 00:45:00differences, to accept each other beyond whatever stereotypes are out there. Especially around race and class issue, we really had to work with them. We've had our struggles, and will continue to, but because it's a smaller and very diverse community, we learn how to work together and worship together.
So I was very active in MCC in Washington DC from I guess, let me see, '73. Istarted from '73 until I moved to Baltimore in '82. And during that time, I became student clergy. I was active with the congregation and we would fight around inclusive language. Because I grew up with Father in the pulpit, I was 00:46:00sick and tired of Father God, I would have none of it. And so working on changing the language and the hymns and the scriptures, all the Hes and the Hims. And so we literally take white out and change the words and hymns and we had a wonderful song that was one of our favorite songs and finding mother images in scripture. I'll just read you a verse from one of the hymns we created. "Our God is not a woman. Our God is not a man. Our God is both and neither. Our God is I who am. From all the roles that bind us, our God has set us free. But freedom does God give us, the freedom just to be." So that kept. That gives me chills just to say that.
And then there was the scripture and I think evangelical Christianity, which has00:47:00been so totally wedded with colonialism in Western culture has just really damaged LGBT people all over the world. And the more evangelical branches of the Baptist or the Methodist or the Quakers or whoever who went to Africa or Asia, and let's convert Christians and presented their homophobic view of sexuality, have really coming back to haunt us. It's still very hard. And in my book, I write about our work in MCC with the National Council of Churches, trying to get admitted as a member and never getting it because of these conservative churches who said, "We will have to leave if you let these people in."
So, what I want to share is when I say professional lesbian, I was also a00:48:00professional lesbian Christian. So one of the things I would do is write and talk about a different understanding of scripture and Jesus said nothing about LGBT people. He didn't criticize. There was nothing there. What you have is some old Testament things. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which where sodomy comes from is about inhospitality. It's about rite. It has nothing to do with committed loving relationships. There's nothing in scripture that condemns committed loving relationships. There are some places I think Paul in Romans talks about promiscuity and idolatry, temple prostitution and stuff. So it's 00:49:00really spending a lot of time unpacking those. But also talking about the positive images. David and Johnathan's love for each other, Ruth and Naomi. Letting people see a different ... looking with a different lens. It's a liberation theology, looking at a different lens. So that was ...
And one of the highlights, I just need to tell this story. So I was in DC until'82, and then I graduated from seminary, got ordained in MCC, and it was time to pastor my own church. So I went back to Baltimore. So I came back to Baltimore in '82 and stayed there until 2001, and was the pastor of the MCC church there for seven years until '89. And I think that's one of the more important chapters of my history, because Baltimore is a very different city from DC. It's much more working class, much more culturally diverse. It's not the division culture 00:50:00that Washington has. And very closeted, very homophobic. The head of the Catholic church is in Baltimore.
And our little congregation, we met in a Methodist church for a while. We met ina funeral home for a while, and then they, I wasn't there at that point. This was very early days, and they arrived one day to find they'd locked the doors on them and kicked them out. And so they met in a bar for a while. And then St. John's Methodist Church back in that Waverly/Charles Village area that I came out in, let us worship there. And then there was a fire that almost totally destroyed the church. And so we went to a Methodist church that was primarily Black with a very closeted gay pastor. And we worshiped there in Bolton Hill for a while.
And all during that time, there were about a hundred people in the congregation00:51:00and it was a good group of folks. Very racially mixed, very mixed men and women and in between. It was a good place. And then they kicked us out because they saw me conducting a Holy union for two women, two of the older matrons sitting there. And so they got their church to vote that we couldn't hold Holy unions in their building. And so we moved back to St. John's where we were welcomed, although it was more of a shell of a place. And that's where we worked for years. Now it's a predominantly Black congregation in downtown Baltimore.
But while I was in, the thing I want to share about that is that's when AIDS hitthe gay men's community, just as I was leaving DC and into Baltimore. And so I 00:52:00spent a lot of those years holding the hands of guys who were dying and their lovers and their parents. And we founded an AIDS Interfaith Network that helped for the different religious groups to work together, to support. And the Catholic church actually provided a home, a hospice for gay men who were dying. I think there's a lot of closeted gay priests in the Catholic church, but anyway. And we got the first Human Rights Ordinance passed in Baltimore, and I got appointed as the token lesbian to the commission on women.
So I guess you would say I was one of the leaders in the lesbian LGBT. Back thenit was lesbian and gay with a lots of Bi and trans people part of it. And it 00:53:00wasn't until the 90s that LGBT started and then Q and IA all got to be used. And we would do things like just what we talk about is alternatives to the bar. So we had a softball team, so we had a hot dog stand at the Baltimore Orioles games. So we would have dances. We'd just do different things that supported people in community. And I did a lot of Holy unions and it was a good group of people. I felt good about it.
But I'd come back to Baltimore where my lesbian feminist coming out days, andhere I was in a much broader context in a Christian church, an ecumenical, very open welcoming church, but still Christian church. And the lesbian feminist community was not at all sure if they wanted to relate to me. And so I spent a 00:54:00year or two just getting comfortable with people and people with me. And so I ended up in a lesbian support group and people began to trust me and see that I was not going to ... I'll just try to help them work through those rejection and issues instead of, because there's a lot of pain there instead of ... I wasn't evangelical. Let's put it that way.
And so I was involved with some really wonderful women who, these women inWeaverville were part of that group and to this day. The other thing I want to say is that when I was at Swarthmore, one of the women, Sharon Deevey, was also 00:55:00in school with me and we ended up staying connected with each other throughout the years, she took the pictures when Sibby and I had our rite of blessing. She came to visit me later when I was up in New York and we reconnected. One of the advantages of this COVID time is that you can actually connect with people that you haven't for a while. And so we reconnected and she encouraged me to publish this book.
I just want to say this, there are wonderful organizations for older lesbiansout there. There's a group called OLOC (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change) that is primary, they have chapters around the country, but they're primarily, they do a lot of Zooms and a lot of, like Ginny Berson just won the Goldie's non-fiction award for her Olivia on the Record, which is a book about the 00:56:00history of elaborate records. And Ginny and ... Do I have that here? Never mind. I don't need to show you everything. But you can see I'm a book person. I used to be a librarian too.
So anyway, Sharon Deevey was part of the Furies Collective in DC, which israther famous than infamous. And there was a documentary about them came out last year and Joan Biren who took the pictures. One of the pictures is actually in my book. But her book, Eye to Eye has just been re-released to major publicity. It was the first publication of photographs of lesbians. And I know JEB, from those years. The Furies women and the Baltimore women would get in 00:57:00fights because we were socialist feminist and they were separate feminists. But here's a picture of Sharon with JEB. That's the lesbian kiss picture that's rather famous. But anyway, what am I saying about JEB? She came and took a picture of me when I was a pastor in Baltimore and put it in her second book called Making A Way: Lesbians Out Front. So there's a picture of me standing there looking very clergy. Here we go, here's me.
But the story I wanted to tell about homophobia is the first year or two, I00:58:00guess '83 or '84, we moved our pride march from the park to downtown Baltimore. It was going to be a march. And so I said, let's make a banner. And so we got together, we made a rainbow banner that said MCC. And it was a big felt banner, and still, I hope it's still hanging in the wall of the church. And the board and the deacons and all these folks, we got together and made it. And then I showed up the next day to march in the march. And none of them were there. I was THE only one. So I found a young Jewish woman to carry the other end of it for me. We walked in the march and every once in a while, I'd see some of the people in the congregation back. There were just lines of people walking the streets. If you were at it, you could lose your job. It was risky back then to walk publicly. So they were hiding behind. 00:59:00
So nobody said a word the next day and we put it on the wall and within four orfive years, they were marching with that banner. They were lobbying their council people for a Human Rights Ordinance. We really shifted gears. And so I'm really proud of those 80s years when I think the whole country was shifting, but a lot of that was that LGBT people were pushing and being visible and saying, "Here I am."
And one more story. This is one of my same stories. The first year I was inBaltimore, it was big news at that point that there was a lesbian pastor in town. And so one of the local TV stations had an interview and invited me to 01:00:00come interview. And the two talk show co-hosts were Richard Sher and Oprah Winfrey. This was back before she made it big in Baltimore. And so they were interviewing me and I was sitting there in my little clerical collar, being all prim and nervous. And it was a talk show. So call in, so this guy called in and started just homophobic abomination crap. And I was very nervous and uptight. So I started spewing scripture and stuff. And Oprah leaned over to me and whispered in my ear and said, "Invite him to your church." And so I did. And I said, "Come to our church and see that we love each other and there's love there and what are you complaining about?" And then, I was just so grateful for her instincts to do what could shift that. And then I had to go tell the board, "This guy may 01:01:00show up at church." And so I preached about welcoming and he didn't show and everything was okay.
But those are the stories that I think embody some of the ... Oh, and RichardSher, her co-host, he was awful. He said, "Maybe you just haven't found the right man yet." So that was something about what those days were like. Does that answer your question?
Nico, Interview...:Yes. Yes. Thank you. Just want to get a little bit more intoyour time here in Western North Carolina, you talked a little bit about the communities you've found here. I guess one way to talk about this is how the goals of your activism and the general LGBTQ movement has shifted since you 01:02:00moved. You said you moved to Western North Carolina in 2001, is that correct?
Jennie Boyd Bul...:No, 2015.
Nico, Interview...:2000, Oh, sorry.
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Let's talk about the years between 2001 and 2015 first.Because that was a big shift for me. So what I didn't say is that there's a whole spiritual path and unfolding here. So I grew up in this conservative Christian church. Then I came to MCC and then revolution was my religion. And then I came to MCC and expanded that understanding of Christianity. But I still, I got past Father God and the Holy Spirit inside me was comfortable and real and much more than comfortable, really important. But this Jesus was a man and I had a hard time identifying with a man as, is this the person who's totally it for me? And I know that Christianity has used the maleness of Jesus to exclude women 01:03:00for years and the Catholic church still does.
And so that was a big issue for me and I really wrestled with it and I wrestledwith it. And then I wrote articles and I even published a little book that my professor in seminary used called Feminist Views of Christianity. It was study guide and reader, because that was the whole period of Mary Daly and Rosemary Radford Ruether. You may not know all that, but there was a whole feminist Christian movement. And so, I did all that and I felt that I was still really wrestling with the issue and doing a lot of personal work. And so at one point back in '82, I think that's when it was. No, I've been doing all that until '89, 01:04:00so almost seven years, and I was wrestling with all that. And so I finally, the combination of the personal rejection from my family with his remarriage, I was a very active with the National Council of Churches, their rejection, and then there was real dissent in the congregation in MCC Baltimore, and all of those things, and AIDS, I just needed to take a break. And so I resigned for a sabbatical with MCC Baltimore, and I had been meditating for a while, sitting quietly in our home each morning. And I had this experience of... oh, and I 01:05:00started having, I'm not going to get into all the details on this, but I started having these experiences when I was meditating of this strange energy, it would make me shake, and it was like, what's going on with this? Do I have a nervous disorder?
And so somebody lent me a book with a picture of a woman in it, and I learnedabout [priyas], which are those physical manifestations of your energy up your spinal column, which can include your spiritual energy, depending on how you define it. And so I started meditating with a picture of that woman, who turned out to be the woman who was my guru, and still is. And I had this experience of Jesus in this, when I was really upset one day, was working hard on myself, Jesus and this Indian woman coming and putting their hands on my chest and 01:06:00giving me love. And so I knew that they were in cahoots, they were not against each other, they were both having the same love. And so within a couple of months, and happened in August, this month, and then 31 years ago in October somebody told me about a meditation group and chanting groups that I could go to, and I walked in, and there was a picture of the woman.
And that's the path, the Indian spiritual path, that I just jumped, I knew thisis what I needed, that I could find a spiritual leader who would support my identity as a woman in my spiritual search, and teach me from that place. It's very similar to Quakers in that the belief is that the light of God, the divine, is within you, and you just need to go inside and find it, and love yourself, 01:07:00and therefore other people. So it's not in conflict, I felt like there was a real connection. And so I became very involved with that, ended up being a leader in the Jennian meditation group in Baltimore, and in the region.
And that took me to, so here I am, I've left MCC, I've started this new path,well how am I going to support myself? So I got hired by the 31st Street bookstore, which was a feminist bookstore in Baltimore, had been around for years, a real hub there in Waverley for the women's community, women and children. Strong lesbian section, very multicultural, and I loved managing that, 01:08:00that fed my bookish talents, and my community, we were a community centers. So we would have major, Adrienne Rich came and read, really good people. But what happened then is Borders and Barnes & Noble came to town, and like many feminist and independent bookstores, we went out of business after 24 years, and I was the manager when that happened, which was very hard.
But that's the whole, I call it, when the whole lesbian community went uptownwith increasing acceptance, and the women's festivals died out, and the bookstores collapsed, and there was just a whole shift from that community to a 01:09:00different stay, with a lot more, I guess I would say, assimilation. And so at that point it was, I would say in the 2000, I mean, you're a lot younger than I am, you may understand that better, because I was involved in other ways at that point, the whole trans issue became front and center. And I remember in Baltimore, the woman who cut my hair was trans, and she got murdered, somebody robbed her and discovered she was trans and killed her. And so I know at a deep level, at a personal level, the risk of it, especially trans women, and from my political background, I think that's because trans women have given up male privilege, but they're still threatening to men. 01:10:00
But anyway, I also know from my experiences, my butch friends, that that verymuch works both ways. I have a really close, she's my age, she would call herself butch, but she identifies in dress and manner very much as a man, and male stereo, whatever, and she was in the military and got raped. I mean, there's a lot of violence there, and so that's the growing front edge of trying to move towards more equality. I think I'm wondering again.
So anyway, what happened is that in 2001 my relationship with Linda ended over01:11:00personal issues that I don't need to go into, and so I ended up moving to the ashram up in the Northeast and living and serving there for 15 years, from 2001 to 2015. And while I was there, I was out, I always have been out, but it was not a major focus, my focus was on building an international network. I was the editor of the home study course, I was an archivist, doing what somebody's going to do for you, which is transcribing the talks, and filing them and doing all that.
And then for the last seven years I created a intellectual property department,01:12:00and created a network all over the world to educate people about how to use the materials appropriately, since yoga is big business these days. So all of that was very fruitful and helpful, and I was single during that, I have been single since then, but had some close women friends. And the path is, in more recent years, been very open about supporting of LGBT people. They have something on the website they'll say, and they're married to and give their same-sex spouses there.
So then I turned 70, that was the big difference, in 2015 I turned 70, and itwas time for me to retire. It's very full on work I was doing, and I could feel 01:13:00myself starting to slow down, and I also could get full social security. One of the best decisions I ever made was to wait until I was 70 to get social security, because I'd been working for nonprofits all my life, so I didn't have a lot of money. One of those things, thank God, is that the ashram, when I first moved there you had a budget workshop, we talked about how to start creating savings. I lived there with meals and housing provided, so I didn't have to spend a lot of money, and so I saved, and they helped me find a financial advisor who helped me create a Roth IRA. So now I would say I'm living on social security, basically, and a very small pension from when I was... I didn't even talk about being a librarian, I'm sorry.
When the bookstore disbanded in '94, from '94 to 2001 I was hired by Baltimore01:14:00County Public Library as a library associate, and worked in a predominantly, first predominantly Jewish, then predominantly black, branches, and we worked to support, back then, helping people learn how to use computers, helping grandmas get email accounts, it was good work. And so I worked there seven years, long enough to be vested, so I have a very small pension from them. So I live, one of the wonderful things about living here is that I'm able to live comfortably on little, living in Yancey County, because rents are lower, I have no interest in having to own a house, in terms of the upkeep that would take, and I have a good 01:15:00landlord and expect to be here for a while. And since I used to live in a 350 square foot room in the ashram, now I'm 750 square feet, so it's small, but it works well for me. And I have my cat. So what was your original question about living here?
Nico, Interview...:I guess it was tied into the question of the goals of youractivism and the LGBTQ movement in general have shifted, also partially because of you moving different places, and different places have different situations.
Jennie Boyd Bul...:Yeah, and while I was up north with the ashram, just LGBTwas, it was part of my identity, but it wasn't something I worked actively with in any way. Then when I moved back here, it was a shock, it was a real shock. 01:16:00First off, the whole LGBT community had moved into a very different direction, and I remember when I first got here in 2016, I think, I went to Asheville, there was some forum that the local group, I think the Campaign for Racial Equality did with the Department of Agriculture, or something, where they had to do a forum, or training. And so we were in tables, it must've been a hundred people, and I said the word lesbian and gay, and this guy said, "We're not there anymore." I was like, "Oh." So I had to learn, just literally I had to learn LGBTQ and get in that in my mouth so I could say it.
So it was really different that way, and I'm not in Asheville, and I'm chosen01:17:00intentionally to live in a rural community, because it's a slower pace, and I go on hikes all the time, I like being here, and it's less expensive. But the other shock was I felt like I was moving back 20 years when I moved here, because North Carolina is purple, and so is Yancey County, and in the last couple of years, it's become even more red. It used to be that there was a majority on the school board and the county commission of Democrats, and now it's Republican, and they just passed a resolution in Yancey County, at the board of education, to ban critical race theory in the schools. It's just really conservative that way, and well-organized conservative, I'd say.
And so I'm one of a small group of Democrats, it's not small, and the Democrats,01:18:00thank God, are quite diverse. There are people like me who've moved here, who've been active in other places, and then there are people who grew up who are blue dog grassroots Democrats here, like my neighbor across the road. And so learning how to work together, again, is an important piece, and learning how to reach people, and all the independents around here, it's just a whole anti-government. I think this generation's old in the mountains, we are here because we want to be on our own, and we don't want anybody to tell us what to do. And the Yancey school board, despite strong opposition and community protest, has not mandated masks for children in the schools this fall. I just read yesterday that the Gouge Elementary in Mitchell county, all three of their fourth grade classes have been canceled and quarantined because of COVID, just as an aside, so it 01:19:00really has consequences.
And Yancey is the highest case count in North Carolina right now for COVID, anda lot of that is, is resistance. One of the things I do here is I work with, I'm on the board of My Neighbors, which is an elder care network of volunteers, we're all volunteer, we help people age in place. Part of that is self-interest, I want to know how people age around here so I can be prepared, and also I want to help that. But what I do is there's several, we give people rides into Asheville for doctor's appointments, don't talk to me about healthcare in the rural areas, please, or Mission transfer to HCA.
So there is a lesbian community in Yancey County, and some of my very best01:20:00friends, my healthcare power of attorney and my financial executor, are both lesbian friends who live here, and one of them just moved here from Asheville, a lot of people are coming to the mountains, and then one of the leaders at the Quaker meeting is a lesbian. We have a Breezeway poetry critique group that meets monthly, and it's two thirds to three quarters lesbian. Gay men, I think, have it harder out here. I don't know as many gay men, and maybe that's just my vision, I'm looking for the lesbian community. And then, I want to talk, two 01:21:00more people that I call every week, one of the women I just mentioned, we take walks every week, so I feel like I have lesbian community here, I do not feel like I have LGBTQ community here. I think that's, when I say it's 20 years back, I think that's one of the things I mean.
I don't know... oh, that's true, I know of one trans couple, and they have had areally hard time, really hard time here. But the woman, one of them is very active with our Dig In food distribution, so it's more what needs doing here. One out of four people in Yancey County don't have enough to eat, so let's grow a garden and give away some food, in addition to the canned stuff, the dry 01:22:00goods, so I've helped with that for six years. But what I was going to, get back to those two women, there's a couple who built their own house up in Mitchell County that I regularly connect with who are lesbian, who actually got married in Baltimore and moved down here, and I've known them for a long time, and they need a lot of support because of health issues, they're more isolated. So I'll go grocery shopping sometimes, but ones of them's a [inaudible], so they'll critique my work, so it's a very mutual thing.
And there's a woman who grew up, well actually she grew up in NortheastTennessee, near Bristol, but she's lived here for years with her lover. She's one of the only out local, local is not the right word, but grew up here lesbians I know, and she, just two weeks ago I helped her move into an assisted 01:23:00living place, and that was hard. But she's a wonderful person, and I still call her weekly, and will continue to.
So one of the questions, I remember when I was first coming out one of myquestions was well, where are, I was in my twenties, where are all the older lesbians? I don't see them, they're not at the bars, what happens to older lesbians? Well, I'm finding out, and one of the things I'm finding is that that community is really important, and building those connections, whether you're in a relationship or not. I know a few lesbian couples, but I know, I think, more single lesbians than couples out here. Don't know if that's fair. I can just say, maybe it's just because I'm single I know a lot of single lesbians, and my 01:24:00friends, my married friends in Weaverville, continued to be, and they've got a community, there's another lesbian couple who moved to live near them in the same community in Weaverville, and now two of those four women are on the board of the community association, so I think it's a little easier the closer you are to Asheville, in some ways.
So I would say that my relationship with the shifts is that I focus more on, oneof my mottoes throughout my life has been think globally and act locally, so while I care about what's happening in Afghanistan and on the border, and all 01:25:00sorts of things, most of my work and energy is about creating community where I live, and bridging differences where I live. And for me, a lot of that is about connecting with people across class, across race, and across homophobic differences. To be really honest, I don't like to say this in the interview, but it's the truth, my good friend across the world that I really value, I haven't come out to her, and there are very few people these days that I'm not out to, but I just know, from her strong Christian background, what that might do, her evangelical Christian.
And I just published this book, and the Toe River Crafts and Oak Gallery are01:26:00carrying it, I'm going to have a reading at the community center up here, my main goal was to get it into lesbian archives, and I'm going to give one to your archive, because of that history. But when it came to writing a press release for the Yancey Times Journal, how out do I want to be in that press release? Because I want people to know about and come to the reading I'm having September 19th, but one of my lesbian friends here said, "Don't use the word lesbian." So what I did, I changed my press release, my general press release, a little bit to say, "I came out as a feminist activist in the seventies in Baltimore," and 01:27:00anybody who knows what that means will get it.
I guess what I'm saying is, having lived life as being very out, I'm a littlemore discriminating here about choosing where to be out and not. And the My Neighbors group, the eldercare group, I'm the only out lesbian, as far as I know, in that whole group. And so I had a little flyer about my book, which is very out, lesbian feminist activism of the seventies in Baltimore, the growth of MCC at the height of AIDS deaths in the 1980s, LGBTQ commit centered. Anyway, I passed this around to them, and there was just silence. And I wrote a poem, 01:28:00actually, I published a book of poetry called Where I Live: Coming Home to the Southern Mountains, and I wrote a poem about coming out to my book group. Because one of the women, because I'm single and I'm older, she assumed I'm straight, and I'm not particularly gender fluid, I'm pretty clearly identified as a woman.
And one of the women in my book group assumed I was straight, in theconversation after I'd been there for a few months, and so I had to set her straight, set her queer. Anyway, I wrote a poem about it, Coming Out at Book Group, "Last month one of the women assumed I'm straight. As a single older woman I resolved to correct the image. North Carolina passed anti-gay legislation, my rights are at risk. This month we discuss a novel exploring 01:29:00homophobia in a mountain town. I note the power and subtlety of the treatment, then come out. I am a lesbian, have worked for years in the lesbian and gay community. Silence in the room, the discussion continues. My heart races, blood rushes to my head. Later one woman redirects the discussion to politics, another smiles, winks at me as she speaks. As people leave, I am alone. After all these years being out, I still feel the risks exposed, rejected, excluded. Am I risking other people in groups? Am I safe in this group? Is it helpful? I write this poem."
And so I want to say that when I gave the reading for this book, three or fourof my book group members were sitting in the second row, and I'm still part of that group, and they're very supportive. And so is the My Neighbors group, 01:30:00they've been very supportive. So I think a lot of it is a combination of internalized homophobia that I think I will continue to work through, but very real risks in terms of divisions and cultural attitudes where I live. And I think I've done a pretty good job of moving it out, of working with it, but it's just still startling to realize, oh, that's still there some, and that's why I really value the community of women here, and the support of the Celo Friends Meeting.
The thing I sent you that I thought might be helpful for the archive here wasback in 2017, I'm the head of the adult education team, and we had a whole 01:31:00series on welcoming the stranger. And so I put together a panel of local people, including the woman I mentioned who grew up here, and somebody at the local school, and a couple from town, retired teachers, one of them was on the school board, whose son is gay, and then myself and a friend, a close friend, who's my healthcare power of attorney. I'm also very active with the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival, and their archivist, believe it or not. And then the Mitchell County Gay Straight Alliance, which I hope you know about and contact, if you haven't already, that's the only active, that I know of, organization up here that's supportive of LGBT rights. And they did have something for young people 01:32:00at Penland School for a while, but that stopped a couple of years ago.
But anyway, we had a program with this panel, and then my share, I think I sentit to you, it covered pretty much everything I've talked about here, including some things about scripture, and their whole page of resources of the Mitchell County Gay Straight Alliance and the Youth OutRight, and the Campaign for Southern Equality, Equality North Carolina, the North Carolina chapter of [inaudible] legal defense fund, and then just some statistics about how homophobia is still very much... like 40% of young LGBT people are homeless, and I experienced that more in cities, people would run away to the city and live on the streets, and it was awful. And I remember talking to Kurt Schmoke, the mayor 01:33:00of Baltimore about the high suicide rate, which is shocking. I think some of this information is not publicly known, so it's important, and the financial difference.
Anyway. So, I don't want to end on that note, but we did have that public forumat the Celo Trans meeting, and there are a couple of other congregations here, the First Baptist Church, the Presbyterian Church, that are very progressive and positive and accepting. And out here, churches are the social center for many people. The first question people ask, "Well, what church do you go to?" It's where you live in what church do you got to. And so they provide the social support and connection. So even out here that's changing, and it's helpful. Is 01:34:00that enough? More?