Well, I didn’t [come out to my family] willingly. The second girl I was involved with, we were up in my bedroom. My dad—who always knocked on my bedroom door if he had to tell me something—but this one time he didn’t. He opened the door and we were standing there kissing. It was obvious what we were doing. That was awful.
I had graduated [from high school], but I was still living at home [in Akron]. I was saving money so I could get an apartment, because I didn’t want to live at home anymore. I was afraid to go downstairs. Marcia said, “I guess I better leave.” And I said, “Yeah, it’d probably be a good idea.” Finally, I went downstairs. My dad looked at me and said, “How long has this been going on?” I said, “Oh, about two months.” He was livid. He was really upset.
That was the only “trauma” that I had. He ordered me out of the house. He said, “You can’t live here anymore. I can’t let you live here anymore.” Well, I went to my grandmother’s. I told my grandmother what happened. My grandmother said “Linda, I don’t understand why you’re like that, but I love you. I just want you to be happy and if that’s your lifestyle—they didn’t call it “gay” then—if that’s the way you’re going to be, then that is the way you’re going to be. I’m still going to love you.” She said, “Maybe it’s just a phase you’re going through.” Well, it certainly has been a long phase!
But my dad and I never really did get along, so it wasn’t anything new . . . He is dead. He was only 63, he died in 1987. Before he died we made our peace. That made me feel good, because he knew that I wasn’t ever going to change.
Six years ago I was home for my mom’s funeral. One cousin knew I was coming home, so she had a big family reunion. All my cousins were there, my aunts and uncles. And I’ve got [counts names on fingers] . . . There are five of us [that are gay]. I was the first, but my [extended] family accepts all their brothers and sisters. Nobody thinks anything about it. Oh! There is one more, but I can never think of his name. He’s on my mom’s side of the family. The others are on my dad’s side of the family. Anyway, my cousins, they are all my age. They say, “Linda, we’ve known for a long time that you are gay. It doesn’t make any difference to us. We liked you before we found out, so why wouldn’t we like you now?” That made me feel good. I mean, I didn’t have to flaunt it, I was just myself, and they accepted me for that. Accepted me for who I am, not who they wanted me to be. I feel comfortable when I go home now.
I don’t go around announcing it. I mean, a straight person isn’t going to come up to me and say, “Guess what? I’m a heterosexual.” You know, I’m just me. I don’t go up and say, “There is something you need to know about me.” I just figure when it comes to it, they are going to ask.
My friend, Jeanie, is a Christian woman. We used to work together out at Fairchild. She didn’t know that I was gay. When she found out she said, “Linda, I would have never guessed that you were gay. But you were my friend then, and you’re still my friend.” Her husband is the same way. I do some things with her. Most people, I find, they really don’t care. As long as I don’t try to hit on them, they don’t care whether I’m gay or not.
Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson, 22 November 2006; held in the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.