Jacqbear: My First Herstory Buddy


This winter I got an email from someone through this blog. A lesbian in California had done an internet search looking for information to include in an obituary she was helping write. At fromwickedtowedded.com, she had found posts of Jacqueline Elizabeth Letalien’s writing about the local herstory, the experience of being a Springfield bardyke in the 1970s .  Recognizing we had a mutual friend, Sue wrote to tell me that Jacqueline had died.

Over the next few weeks I met and corresponded with several California lesbians who filled me in on Jacqueline’s more recent life and the details of her death. Sue, who first contacted me, was editor of the Humboldt County lesbian monthly the L-Word , which had published Jacqueline’s “Kulture Klatch” column since 2001. I also heard from a friend and former co-worker of Jacqueline’s at a local library; and a former partner who had moved with her from Oakland to the redwoods land of coastal northern California. I welcomed their insights and reflections, along with the personal details about a woman I had known best back in the 70s.

I hadn’t been in touch with Jacqueline since 2016, when I tracked her down to inquire about republishing some of her bar dyke poems. Though we were not regular correspondents, I find in my files an accumulation of papers she sent me sporadically over the decades from the West Coast. These include document collections of Valley history given to or saved by her and copies of her writing, particularly as they reflected on Western Massachusetts. She was my earliest and closest collaborator in establishing a core record of the beginnings of second wave feminism and lesbianfeminism in the Connecticut River Valley, work that provided a basis for this blog forty years later.

Her ex wondered if I had brought Jacqueline out, an inference from the stories told about me. Although we had fumbled around in bed once, two sort of clueless butches, I didn’t bring her out, at least not sexually. Perhaps I had politically, in a way, by introducing her to the Gay and Lesbian movements at UMass. There is a clear trajectory in her published writing as a student at UMass. She moves from vague poems of abstracted angst signed by “Jackie” in a dormitory publication to coming out in 1971 as “Jacqueline,” lesbian, in the UMass student newspaper in order to point out some homophobic behavior.

JEL letter 1_edited-1Massachusetts Daily Collegian, student paper UMass Amherst, Oct. 1971

JEL letter2_edited-1

By 1973, it was “Jacqueline E.“ who was inadvertently starting her career as a journalist with frequent letters to the editor and articles in the student paper defending, explaining, and/or protesting the War, Women’s Liberation, and Gay Rights. She was living at Green Street  by then. In June, when she graduated, a group of us women caravaned from Northampton down to her folks’ backyard in Agawam to celebrate.

The next thing to come in the mail to me after the packet of her clippings were three files of documents. She explained in a cover letter that, after a year in Oakland, she had lived in Springfield, Massachusetts from 1975 to 1977. An envelope of clippings, flyers and mimeoed information attest to a period of activism with feminists there. Two additional folders, which were given to her by a Springfield lesbian and feminist, provided the material for the blog post on WAFs and antiwar protests by active duty service personnel at nearby Westover Air Force Base .

There is also a skinny file with yellowed paper dating from 1978. This is the laboriously typed (pre-word processor days) first draft of what became the Valley Women’s Movement: a Herstorical Chronology, 1968-1978.   Notes for correction and additions are penciled in for a final edition that had to be completely retyped. At some point, I will tell a more complete story of the publication, but Jacqueline took my idea and scattered notes and invented a format to hold all the bits of data. She ordered and fit it all together, twice.

Years later, when I thanked her again for this work she had done, she replied that the fact that I had given her that task had saved her life. Another decade went by before I asked her what she meant by that.

Eventually, she replied: “When I returned from California after my 1975 adventure…I was a survivor of a very intense Saturn cycle experience, feeling fragile, exhausted and terrified. I was a woman on the verge. With your assistance (including giving her the chronology task)… I could get my bearings and figure out what I needed to do to begin a healing journey and make closure with the first thirty years.”

One of Jacqueline’s former partners suggests that Jacqueline may also have quit drinking at this point, before there was any support for lesbians in 12-step programs.

Several months before her death in December of 2018, as I was drafting a piece about the early 80s, I came across a flyer for a reading from her work Babelogues at Annabelle’s in Northampton by, as she now called herself, “Jacqueline Elizabeth”.

jacqueine 1982 cwc_edited-1

She later sent me a copy of Babelogues, which she more informally referred to as her Bar Dyke poems, about her gay bar experiences in the Valley at the Girls’ Club, the Arbor, the Pub, the Cellar, and the Arbor II. Part of a larger collection of poems, some of them were published in the Fall of 1981 in the first issue of Common Lives/Lesbian Lives.

She also sent me a volume she published in 1982, Hostages: Underground Lies a Woman Buried. In the introduction, she called it a collage of the Women’s Movement: women’s experience with government terrorism 1974-75. Coming to awareness of these multiple violations was a large part of what hit her at the beginning of her Saturn return. On the West Coast she heard of the experiences of Inez Garcia, SLA women, Karen Silkwood, and Yvonne Wanrow. On her return to the East Coast, she was met by reports on the experiences of Joanne Little, the Watergate women, the women of the Weather Underground, and those lesbians called before the New Haven Grand Jury and jailed. What she saw was that, from coast to coast, being battered was the bottom line for women as a class.

She self-published these two volumes from Oakland in 1981 and 1982, with second and third editions in 1997 and 1999. They are stapled-together photocopied collections of poems. There was a long gap in our communications. It was not until 2001 that she sent me copies of the later editions.

JEL SF Pride, Dora Abrahams photo

Jacqueline after reading on the main stage at a San Francisco Pride. photo courtesy Dora Abrahams

Along with them came a slim binder of her first seven “KultureKlatch” monthly columns for the L-Word, 2001-02. I love the introduction: “The name of this column is an Herstorical reference to mothers coming together in a coffee klatch with other mothers in the neighborhood to talk about children, husbands, marriage, cooking, dreams; what they live, know.”

The very first column, August 2001, opens with: “Currently a timber company is spraying poisons along the Klamath River, near and on the Yurok reservation.”

JEL redwoods 1990 Abrahams photo

Jacqueline in the Redwoods c. 1990, photo by Dora Abrahams

JEL cut her hair c.99 being a reporter Dora Abrahams pix

Jacqueline cut her signature long hair about 1999. Here in a characteristic reporter pose, photo courtesy Dora Abrahams.

JEL KultureKlatch_edited-1

Another few years passed. I had started doing this blog and tried to find a current address for Jacqueline. Searching online, I found that she had a blog, for one intense year it appeared. It had come and gone in 2011, but there was a contact address for “jacqbear!” (I love this.), and a wonderful photo of her, (unattributed). I left a message.

j pix

unattributed photo from her 2011 blog

Four months later, she responded via email. “Sorry, I have a love/hate relationship with computers.” We reconnected one last time in 2016. That time, the batch of files came electronically. I printed out five years of KultureKlatch, Aug 2002-2007.

Rereading this more recent work now, I am struck by her occasional circling back around again to her/our experiences in the Valley in the 1970s. Each retelling gains depth of insight, candidness, and greater narrative skill. She illuminates areas of our lives that it takes a long time to see and understand before trying to share it with each other. She always keeps a radical perspective. Among the many issues she addresses, I note particularly her references to coming to know herself as a woman of color, the problems of drinking in the bar culture, and the violence lesbians do to each other in intimate relationships. The need for truth, for our stories to be told, writing as activism.

I read Jacqbear’s obituaries  with great interest. I recognized my old friend in the descriptions given of her stubbornness, magic, love of earth and cats, grumpy bear need for solitude. I very much want, as promised by California sisters, to hear, to at least read, the final cycle of her writing. Those are stories she became known for telling in Humboldt County “that take one on a journey of… the natural cycles of earth, wind and water, the heartbeats of women, and echoing sacred silences.”

 

Lost Coast Outpost Jan. 19, 2019

LoCO Staff / Saturday, Jan. 19 @ 6:45 a.m. / Obits

OBITUARY: Jacqueline Elizabeth Magdalene Letalien, 1947-2018

Jacqueline Elizabeth Magdalene Letalien
December 29, 1947 – December 28, 2018.

She was born in Lowell, Massachusetts to Lillian and Arthur Letalien and had one sister, Vicky. Her family were French Corsican, Miqmaq, Maliseet, Scottish and Jewish.

Jacqueline was a writer, activist, and poet. She considered herself a crone, an elder teacher, a dream manifester, a truth sayer “I am Ya’akova Elishiva de L’Etoile.”

Jacqueline attended the University of Massachusetts where she began a lifelong process of bearing witness, telling untold stories, and working to make a difference in the various communities in which she lived. Moving to the Bay Area in the 1980s, she wrote for the New Bernal Journal, the North Mission News, the Bay Area Reporter, and began Spoken Word.

Once she moved to Humboldt County  she worked for the College of the Redwoods library, then the Humboldt County library, specifically the Kim Yerton Memorial Library in Hoopa, organizing poetry readings in both locations. She wrote a monthly column for The L-Word and Humboldtgov.org described her as: “a spoken word artist known to Humboldt County audiences for her powerful, thoughtful retellings of Native American traditional tales, and her poetry, words from the deep springs of an individual human spirit. Her poems take you on a journey of world mythology, human history, natural cycles of earth, wind and water, the heartbeats of women, and echoing sacred silences.” She wrote poetry and prose for a wide variety of publications and two collections of her work are in the process of publication.

Jacqueline was “grateful to live in this beautiful valley and would like to thank the Hupa people for their warmth and friendship.” She appreciated both the beauty and isolation of this area and the community here, so much so, she stayed on after she retired. Jacqueline created many overlapping families for herself in the various places she lived, and she is missed by many of us. Her final request is for you to continue to enjoy the library and to live peacefully.

In Jacqueline’s honor, an open poetry reading is scheduled for January 19th 10:30 am at the Kim Yerton Memorial Library, all are welcome. Reception to follow at the Straight Arrow Café, 12651 CA-96, Hoopa, CA 95546 530-625-1083.

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The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Jacqueline Letalien’s family. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.

L-Word remembrances published in the Feb 2019 issue:

Dora: Jacqueline and I were partners for 6 years, beginning around 1994. We met in Oakland at the Women’s Cancer Resource Center where she was the office manager and I was a volunteer.   I was drawn to her immediately, from the first time I heard her talk. She was Butch, keys hanging out of her pocket, long hair, Native jewelry, grounded and solid. She had a presence/a way of speaking that made a room listen. We became friends, fell in love, and saved together to move to Humboldt.  I had gone to HSU and planned on moving back eventually. She had visited and hoped to move to Humboldt.

One of the first presents she got me was a tiny plastic deer, a reminder to be gentle with myself. She taught me how to organize my paperwork, encouraged me to get rid of things with difficult energy attached to them, taught me to reward myself after doing hard work, and believed in my strength far more than I did at the time. She was my first live-in relationship, and we were as married as two women at that time could have been. It wasn’t until my relationship with her that I was able to sleep without the covers over my head.

She was not easy. She was a bull-headed Capricorn; a self described “growly bear” at times.  She could come across as stoic and cranky but she was a pussycat inside.

She trusted me with her vulnerability and effortlessly told me she loved me very early on in our relationship. One day early in our friendship, a mean ex of mine came into the Resource Center. Jacqueline silently came over to me, put down a chair, and just sat down. She was protective and chivalrous.

She had powerful magic. She lit candles, set intentions, said silent prayers, and situations would shift. She told me about her “bar dyke” days, referring to herself as a “drunk” in those times. She had quit drinking completely on her own. She was a Witch, a Poet, and an Activist.  She left far, far too early.

Dora Abrahams 1-23-2019

Sue: Those of you who’ve been to my house know that it’s seldom heated, but most of you don’t know that the only reason there’s heat at all is because of Jacqueline.  She’d been to my house and I think realized the problem, so at one point when she was moving she told me she didn’t need her (very nice, new-looking) space heater and brought it over, with a long extension cord so it could go anywhere in the house. It’s made many L-word layouts warmer.

Lori: I met Jacqueline at the first LWord Poetry Reading, at the Expresso Bar in Fields Landing, in the summer of 2010. We submitted and read our poetry, published in the LWord’s “Voices From the Edge of the Continent” (Vols I-IV). Whereas Iwas new to submitting and reading my poems, Jacqueline had been a writer and poet for decades. When Iwas organizing our last LWord poetry reading, Jacqueline emailed back, “I will come anywhere, any time, to read poetry.” It was just a couple of weeks later, in April 2018, that I joined Jacqueline to read our poems at the Eureka Public Library as part of their Poetry Series. Jacqueline was there when I arrived, having come all the way from Hoopa. Her poems and her style were different from mine, often epic in length and mythic in content. Jacqueline read with ease, which I greatly admired and hope to emulate. I looked forward to seeing her at an LWord poetry reading I am organizing this spring. I was saddened and shocked to hear of her passing, so soon after the loss of our fellow poet and writer, Suzanne Moore, as well as the loss of Montanna Jones, whom I always enjoyed seeing at the LWord brunches and song circle.

As announced in the January LWord, please email Sue (suejh@humboldt1.com) if you are a poet, a lover of poetry, and/or would like to read your own or one by Suzanne or Jacqueline. They and Montanna will be missed, and we will remember them through their words and how they touched our lives. I will always be grateful to Jacqueline and Suzanne for their kind words and as role models.

May they all be resting in peace. Lori Cole

 

 

 

SOURCES:

https://fromwickedtowedded.com/2017/04/14/mafia-bars-and-the-male-gaze/ https://fromwickedtowedded.com/2016/01/30/bar-dykes/

www.lword.mamajudy.com

the Valley Women’s Movement: a Herstorical Chronology, 1968-1978.   http://www.vwhc.org/timeline.html

http://www.lword.mamajudy.com/kulture_klatch.html

http://jacqbear.blogspot.com/

Obituary written by friends in the Lost Coast Outpost: https://lostcoastoutpost.com/2019/jan/19/obituary-jacqueline-elizabeth-magdalene-letalien-1/

Obituary and remembrances in Feb. 2019 issue of the L-word.  www.lword.mamajudy.com

 

The Goddess of Knowledge and Maiden Charity


Former city poet laureate Leslea Newman posited, tongue in cheek, that Northampton was fated to be Lesbianville “in 1884, when Thomas M. Shepherd designed the official city seal, which depicts the Goddess of Knowledge holding hands with the Maiden Charity.”  I included this quote in one of the earliest blog posts  along with a fuzzy reproduction of the city seal and a request for a better reproduction.

 

Recently, out of the blue, this three year old wish was granted. Elizabeth Sharpe, Co-Executive Director of Historic Northampton, sent me a scan of the original artwork by Shepherd from their holdings. Thank you Betty. Historic Northampton is also online if you are out of town and wish a browsing visit, including old maps and other sources. https://www.historicnorthampton.org/    and is also on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/HistoricNorthampton/

 

NORTHAMPTON-TOWN-SEAL-copy (1)
Northampton City Seal by Thomas M. Shepherd Courtesy of Historic Northampton

 

SOURCES:

__Leslea Newman. “Greetings from Lesbianville U.S.A.: grrrls, goddesses, and Gloria Steinem! Northampton, Mass., is the Sapphic center of America, tucked away among New England academia,” The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), 1 March 2005, /Greetings+from+Lesbianville+U.S.A.%3A+grrrls,+goddesses,+and+Gloria…-a0129710080.

__ Historic Northampton. https://www.historicnorthampton.org/    Check out the History Sources Online feature and also on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HistoricNorthampton/

donate button? (news 2017)


For several years I have been trying to get a donate button up on this blog page to help defray the time and expense of this little side creation. I got the required Paypal business account. I printed out instructions three times following the observation that the WordPress-Paypal interface is difficult. And twice I have copied and pasted code. Alasses 😦  Now I read small print and find I need a paid WordPress platform.    For several years a feminist 501(C)3 has passed through a large donation to me, but it is not staffed adequately for handling lots of little ones.

fcpride by l's sister_edited-1

Franklin County Pride 2017 courtesy of Laura’s friend

 

I continue to slowly explore options for being more businesslike, but, while  the established regularity of the blog posts and steadily increasing readership are positive signs of growth, I find I am challenged to think  beyond the creation to its promotion. This is probably a basic conundrum for many artists.

I extroverted so much in November I have not posted here, but know several really deep posts are drafted and one will be in the air soon. Blessings to all of us to hold steady in our heart’s center as those cosmic storms sweep through.

UPDATE!!!! 2019. A computer genius friend  invented code to get the blog a donate button, bypassing the platform’s request for $25/month prepaid year in advance. So if you particularly like a post consider tossing a couple bucks my way. Every gift from you all really helps buy printer ink, books, computer maintenance, internet access, books, search engine subscriptions, paper, books, as well as my time earning the rent.

 

 

Bars at the Cultural Center


On a hot day with big blue sky when I was nineteen and an Army private, I took the city bus from Fort Sam to downtown San Antonio for the first time. After a tourist stop at the Alamo, I just walked around until I came upon an adult bookstore. Hoping to find some clue to gay women’s life in 1965 Texas, or at least a copy of the Ladder, I hesitantly scanned the display aisles, skirting men looking at I-didn’t- want-to-know-what.

Near one line of magazine racks, a young Latino caught my eye. Looking pointedly at my short hair and the wedding band on my left hand, he said hello and walked with me out of the store. Vincente, a high school student, befriended me then and there.

With the connivance of his Army nurse boyfriend Fred, who owned a car, Vincente began to pick me up at the WAC barracks for dates on the weekends. The story was that we were going horseback riding. That was the only excuse I could think of to  leave the post wearing pants instead of the required WAC clothing standard skirt.

We actually did go to “the country,” because that was what everyone called the gay bar outside the city limits. The bar was housed in a large single-story building surrounded by an even larger gravel parking lot in the middle of a very dark nowhere. Daylight might have revealed cattle pasture and scrub, but I never saw it during the day. The bar was mostly dance floor surrounded by tables. It was dimly lit and smoke filled. Vincente called me his auntie and taught me to dance to whatever was on the jukebox. This is where I came out, beyond that earlier declaration to myself and a few individuals, as a gay woman and butch. Doing the Jerk and the sounds of Motown became embedded forever, by hormones, in my DNA.

 

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Vincente’s 1965 school picture, inscribed on the back as my boyfriend for appearances

The inside of a queer bar was exposed to the world after the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando Florida June 12, 2016.  Pictures of the physical space, bar, and dance floor were flashed through newscasts and social media. These were also pictures of a kind of emotional space created by the people who danced there. In this case, those people were mostly young, male Latinx drawn from one of the largest Puerto Rican communities stateside.

In the days that followed the mass shooting, the importance of bars as central to queer culture was repeatedly stated in many different ways by that local queer community and others around the country. Queer bars were compared, even, to going to church. This centrality of bars to queer culture seemed primary even as Orlando’s GLBT community center stepped in to offer information, support, and services to the victims’ family and friends. The community center also kept the larger community informed about what was happening and needed.

In local discussion over the next few months, I was reminded that not everyone came/comes out in bars. There was a period in Northampton’s history when the Women’s Movement and then the Lesbianfeminist and Lesbian separatist communities offered an alternative to the bars of Springfield and Chicopee. The spaces – both physical and emotional – that these movements provided were where I came further out politically. They shaped the identities of at least one generation of Lesbians, those who once knew why the word was capitalized.

The height of these movements, however, had a relatively brief period locally. While there were many interest groups, events, and a few businesses during that time, spaces that actually functioned as dedicated meeting and activity places were sparse and limited in their functions. Lesbian Gardens existed as part of the Valley Women’s Union on the third floor of 200 Main Street from 1975 until 1976. The whole group left the space when they were unable to meet a steep rent increase. The Common Womon Club opened on Masonic Street the next year, 1977. They provided a lesbian community dining, meeting, and communication space. They also sponsored many events in larger venues, including dances. The Club closed six years later, largely due to its unprofitability and reliance on an ever-changing collective of underpaid staff.

Only institutionally-supported centers seem to last in the Valley. In Northampton, this meant that Smith College housed a Lesbian Alliance for many years. (The name of the group given space has frequently changed.) Local area efforts in 1990 to open a GLBT community center failed, in large part because of the relatively high rental cost of space in the downtown.

This brief period since the 1970s of new spaces emerging outside the gay bars reflected a national trend. The disappearance of those new spaces is also reflected across the country, though a few spaces with the largest supporting population have lingered on.  Most recently, there has been increasing conversation about the disappearance of lesbian space prompted by the closing of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, which was an annual national gathering for 40 years.

The national discussion of disappearing women’s space also includes women’s (lesbian) bars. Northampton also has a history of bars that grew alongside and then largely outlived that of the Lesbian, separatist and feminist, spaces. Even as Lesbian Gardens was being organized by Separatists, lesbians found a way to dance in the backrooms at the straight bars Gala and Zelda’s in 1975. Other than that, lesbians relied on sporadically sponsored women’s dances elsewhere. Lesbians also followed the women’s bands that played the straight club circuit in the Valley and later attended lesbian DJ’ed nights in straight spaces.

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the Gala Cafe. Hand-tinted photo by Sandra Leigh Russell, used by permission of the photographer.

 

It was not until 1987 that Northampton had its own LGBT bar, owned and run by lesbians: The North Star on West Street lasted eight years. Competition came from Pearl Street, a straight dance club which began to hold a gay night. In 1996, a group bought out the North Star and opened the Grotto in that space, which lasted through 2001, perhaps. I have heard mention of a Club Metro, but have no information on it. The latest and the longest surviving LGBTQ bar has been Diva’s, opened in 2001 on Pleasant Street, but is announcing its “last” events this autumn of 2016.

The historical pattern seems to suggest there is enough business to support one bar establishment in Northampton if it makes an effort to cater to the wide variety people under the queer (or not) umbrella. It also suggests that a bar is more central to queer culture and community in Northampton than any of the other physical spaces that have come and gone.

A red light was mounted on the wall behind the bar in that 1965 Texas gay club called the Country. When it flashed on and off whoever was on the dance floor scurried to switch to dancing with partners of the opposite sex or sat down. Others stopped smooching and groping as the local police came in the door and did their nightly walk-through looking for illegal behavior.

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In 1965 every newly promoted sergeant was buying a Mustang. While the military could go through any personal possessions in the barracks at a whim, a search warrant was needed to look at anything in a person’s locked vehicle.

 

Out in the parking lot, military police crunched across the gravel, writing down license plate numbers of those with the mandated military stickers. The Country was off-limits to military personnel, a fact listed outside the orderly rooms of every barracks in the area. If one could sort out the names of establishments that were just violent, this list was a de facto gay guide. Being discovered at the Country could lead to further investigation and a dishonorable discharge or coercion to inform and entrap others. Gay women in particular were disproportionately discharged for homosexuality in almost annual salacious witch hunts, which I and many of my WAC friends endured.

legs-peggy-mary-grif-ft-sam-womens-track-team-196512112014
Every WAC in this 1965 track team photo was investigated for being a lesbian in one witch hunt or another while I was stationed there in San Antonio.  Me, “Legs”, on the left. On the right    F. Louise “Grif” Griffin known to many as co-creator of Something Special the lesbian dining experience+ in Miami.

 

Fifty years later things may have appeared to change, but it is apparent from Pulse nightclub massacre news accounts that some of the victims and/or their families did not want it known that they were in a queer bar. While the law might now at least superficially protect them as brown and queer people, the cultural attitudes that spawned the killer did not. There was and still is a danger in being queer, out, and out with others.

This danger is also part of Northampton’s history. As lesbians found each other in the town’s bars they became the target of rape and assault. Coming far enough out of the closet to march as a community with allies en masse down Main Street brought phone stalking and threats of murder and arson. It took a concerted political struggle with Northampton’s government, police, and press to begin to change the environment.

There is no making sense of the mass murder at the queer nightclub in Orlando, but a pause has allowed me to re-see, through my anger and grief, the importance of queer cultural meeting spaces for dancing and celebration. These centers of affirmation are an essential part of the LGBTQ story past and present, including Northampton’s. Over the coming months, I will be sharing accounts in this blog of much of what has just been briefly mentioned.   Meantime keep on dancing.

A Revolution of Sorts


The friction of contradictions fire the crucible out of which Northampton community formed.” This sentence is how historian Kerry Buckley introduced Historic Northampton’s 2004 update of the city’s story, A Place Called Paradise ”The dynamic between factions_ newcomers and old-timers, Yankees and immigrants, young and old, has always been part of the creative tension that, at its best, has enlarged the community’s capacity for tolerance.”

Add LGBTQ peoples to Buckley’s list of contrary factions. LGBTQ peoples in large numbers came to, or came out within, Northampton starting in 1970, creating friction both in the town and amongst themselves. Peoples, in the plural, because it has been successive waves of differently-identified persons who have emerged, come out, gathered, organized, agitated, advocated, and created on their own behalf. There have been multiple peoples over more than four decades, with little in common except an outlaw status — outside heteropatriarchal marriage (until 2004) and stigmatized — that has formed the basis for occasional coalition and a more mythical community.

LGBTQ people were here in Northampton all along, just not visible until starting in the 1970s various populations, sequentially, came out to each other swelling to a critical mass  that allowed for  organization. Lesbians; then gay men; then their parents; add queers and bisexuals, here come transsexuals, and transvestites; don’t forget young people; how about spouses or significant others? Each newly emerging group defined themselves, voiced their needs to each other, and added unique solutions to respond to those unmet needs. Each group spun themselves into the fabric of a subculture that gradually became more visible on Main Street. Chief among the needs for each group of people have been safe and supportive ways to meet each other, and, as increasing numbers of people came out and met, new groups or activities formed to meet increasingly specific needs.

Collectively (and fractiously) growing in strength over time, the activity centered in Northampton often provided an organizational nexus for all of Western Massachusetts. The long-lived and most visible LGBTQ cultural institution, the annual March/Parade (under varying names), began as a coalition for change in Northampton, reflected the shifts in politicized populations over time, and became a forum of expression for all of the region. As part of a state and national movement of change, a loose alliance of groups centered here helped bring new civil liberties in the state as well as inclusion in the politics of the municipality.

Some would say an integration of sorts has been achieved by these LGBTQ peoples, with many needs now met by mainstream institutions, and visibility largely unremarked upon in most parts of town. There is a record of groups forming and then falling away over time, but was that because they were no longer needed? The reasons for this could be explored in this blog, as well as a search for any lessons about creating change that can be applied to this new era. And still to be painted is a portrait of Northampton LGBTQ (add the latest initial) today, to hold up in comparison to that of the 1960s isolation. What has stayed the same? What has changed? What still is needed? Who is going to create something to fill that need? And can history hand them some tools to do it with?

COMING NEXT: An Overview of the 1970s.

button gay revolution 197103202015
button I brought back from Christopher Street March NYC June 1971