Liz, age 6
Buffalo, NY (1961)
I was always a tomboy. My mother had to bribe me to wear a dress, and I insisted on no puffed sleeves or ruffles of any kind. Most of the time, I was dressed as a cowboy or in some kind of uniform and always carrying a toy gun. When space travel became the next new thing, I became obsessed with all things NASA and wanted to be an astronaut. I would lie upside down in our living room chairs and pretend I was orbiting Earth in my own rocket.
I think I always knew I was “different,” but never really understood what that meant. When I was 7 or 8, I developed a huge crush on my very butch gym teacher (didn’t we all?), but my mother told me crushes on other girls were perfectly normal. I spent a lot of time being “perfectly normal” during six years at summer camp, with many crushes on older campers and cute, butch counselors.
It never occurred to me that I was doing anything wrong, and none of my crushes ever materialized into anything more than long, flowery letters over the winter professing undying friendship. That’s what girls did, right?
I was also lucky enough to go to all-girls’ schools from age 9 – 17, so my perfectly normal crushes intensified, but I dated boys throughout high school and college, because that’s what you did. It wasn’t until my senior year in college that I finally came to terms with my gayness. My crushes had become more intense, and I knew I wanted more from another woman than long, flowery letters. It was a relief to finally embrace my queer self.
I came out in 1978 amid newly formed gay rights groups and a radicalized political climate that would get the ball rolling for many of the changes we’re seeing today. Back then, I couldn’t imagine marriage rights, laws protecting GLBT jobs and housing, and out GLBT political candidates. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I marched in Gay Pride parades where half of my friends had to wear bags on their heads, to protect their identities.
Equal rights have come a long way...
But the road to complete equality is still a good distance away.