Janice Packwood – Silence/Passing

“Do you really want to come out?”

I understand [not being out] because of how closeted we were, because of [my partner] being a counselor working with children and all that stuff. Even back in the mid-‘80s you didn’t talk [about being gay] at all hardly. We created our own sense of community: our family that knew [we were a couple], our friends that knew . . . That was a lot to us, because for a long time they didn’t know either. So it was just the two of us. [We were living together] but we had our own separate bedrooms. All that stupid stuff that you do. You learn to talk. You learn to say “I.” I understand it, because we did it. But what happened in Spokane is everybody just got comfortable with who they do know in their lives. They don’t need any more than that. They go to work and they have their life. If they have a family, so be it. But they just stay like that. They don’t go out beyond that. They’re just tired and they don’t want to.

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[In January 1992 some lesbians were assaulted at a Spokane Chiefs game.] What my daughter thought when she saw it in the paper was, “Oh, my God! That could be mom and Ann!” We were highly, highly closeted. Nobody knew. We weren’t out to anybody, other than our family, kids, and our friends. That [incident] said, “Do you really want to come out?” They got pretty roughed up at that hockey game.

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I think we’re our worst enemies [when we stay in the closet]. We tell people “we’re not okay” because we hide. We act like we are doing something wrong.

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Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson on 13 December 2006, held at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.