Dean Speaking On:
I’d Like You to Know
Identity and Awareness
Mentoring and Support
Spirituality and Religion
Spokane in Perspective
I don’t remember [violence from straight people] being a big issue [in the 1970s]. And if there was violence, it would have been, from what I recall, against those who lived more on the edge: those who were more flamboyant, like cross dressers. Or, it occurred after the bars closed at two o’clock in the morning, when things like that have a greater tendency to happen. But walking on the streets, living your life, no, I was not aware of any fear of violence.
The women’s segment of the gay community became more powerful. What happened here is that we got bogged down in gender battles, battles over ethnicity, over equality, and how you are supposed to say things, a lot of issues that were semantic. A lot of the gay men, who had been involved [in LGBT activism] before, felt so ostracized that they dropped out of the whole process and, for the most part, [they] have never come back. Or have done so only on a peripheral basis. They were not going to be in the forefront. There was so many hurt feelings over being attacked. It wasn’t just sensitivity. There was outright hostility. I don’t believe it was intended to be “me being hostile towards you.” It was “me being hostile towards a society that wasn’t totally there,” in terms of being inclusive. I think many of the men weren’t able to disassociate that it wasn’t them personally; it was them as a representative [of white men]. It really created a pretty major divide in the community.
I think that, in hindsight, it had to happen. It’s unfortunate how people perceived it, but I think it did help set the stage for the next generation. Just as the use of the word “queer” still offends many of the older generation, both men and women, and others of us can use it. I would never use “the N word” in any environment, but I can understand how blacks can use it in their environment. Well, I can use “queer” in the same way. I can use queer in a mixed environment, where the intent may be to shock or whatever, and say it’s who we are and we can joke about that. So, I think the byproduct obviously made it better but the scars are still there.
After the city of Spokane passed its human rights ordinance in 1999, and there was the ballot measure to repeal it in 2000, I think that we did heal some of those earlier wounds. Mary Ellen Myrene and I co-chaired the “No On Discrimination Campaign,” which was designed to preserve our human rights ordinance. We had lots of gay men and lesbian women involved, and lots of straight people got involved too. We had an organization that, in some ways, brought some of the people back together again.
There have always been factions [in the LGBT community] and there always will be. I mean, you have the Court scene, you have the bar scene . . . I like a drink, but I have a very low tolerance to smoke. For the most part, that took the bar scene out of the picture for me. And now I don’t like loud noise. You’ve always had an element that’s in the religious vein. Then you have the married couples and the singles environment, the outdoor clubs . . .
There was a time when we were invited to a New Year’s party at some lesbian friends’ house, a couple’s house. We were raked over the coals by some of the other guests, because it was a lesbian party. Why were men there? So, the tension between the male and female community existed. I understand from some of the lesbian perspective of having been very, very poorly treated by men that they had been married to. I understand their anger and their animosity towards men, but I was not one of those that had treated them that way.
At work on the bulletin board there was a newspaper clipping for Patrick France, one of the first spokespersons in Spokane for HIV. Someone had drawn a big circle on it with a line through it. That was a very discriminatory message about HIV. I’m not aware of an individual situation which someone didn’t get a job because of HIV. I am aware of people who probably were forced out, and [they employer] used health reasons.
Sources: Two interviews with Maureen Nickerson [c. 2007]; transcribed by K. M. and Laura S. Hodgman; edited by Maureen Nickerson and Laura S. Hodgman; held in the Northwest Museum for Arts and Culture. Interviews with Laura S. Hodgman on 25 July 2013 and 12 September 2013.