Peter Williams – Discrimination

“We don’t get to know people who are different than us.”

Women of color that I know in Spokane felt left out a lot, who were lesbians, early on. You know, Spokane is very small minority representation. The problem is multifold. Number one, Spokane is a very white community. So anything that was happening was more white people than people of color in Spokane, whether it was gay/lesbian things, or just women’s issue things. It’s not as true now, but we still stay in our own separate little communities. We don’t branch out. We don’t get to know people who are different than us. [Women of color felt] isolated—and not visible. That was one of the stranger things of moving to this area from the Bay Area, was how white Spokane is.


My partner has a daughter. She’s [now age] 40. When she was going to [Lewis and Clark High School], she came home one day and said, “We were in [class] and this guy came in with a note for a student to go to the office. When he left everybody was going. ‘Oh, he’s so faggy!’ I spoke up and said ‘Well my mom’s a lesbian! And there’s nothing wrong with it.’” [Laughs.] Now, she was 15 at the time and I had just moved in with them. And, she said, “Mrs. So-And-So said, ‘Now class: Morgan just shared something very personal with us and we’re not going to spread this, are we?’”

At the time L. C. was the cool school! If you were gay, or lesbian, it was the school you could go to.  Among all the other things I did back in those early days, I know quite a few students who got harassed at other schools who ended up going to L. C. because it was safer. Obviously not totally safe, because the students were talking about this one boy in a somewhat negative way. But I know someone transferred from Ferris [High School]. I talked to a counselor who worked at—I think it was Nine Mile [Falls School District]—who had a student that was being harassed [and then transferred to L. C.] because the atmosphere there was better—about as good as you could get in Spokane.

I work at Gonzaga [University]. When I first started working there [in 1991,] I even agreed to consider Gonzaga as employment because they did not discriminate based on sexual orientation. That was in their Affirmative [Action] statement. I think it hadn’t been in there for very long at the time. But it was there. Quite frankly, knowing it was a Catholic institution, I wouldn’t have considered it, except that somebody pointed out to me that that was there. I thought, “Well. Let’s see how many butts we can push here.” [Laughs.] . . .


Sources: Interviews with Laura S. Hodgman on 9 November 2012, 3 December 2012, and 20 February 2014.