Were you aware of gay people older than you?
Oh, yes. They were called old aunties.
It's really fun to hear from somebody of my dad's generation who was gay, too.
I'm your old auntie.
An elder. I'll elder you, honey.
[from an interview with Bill Regan, December 6, 1998. Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project, oral history transcript]
In the old days it was a lot easier to be around the old people. I loved being around the old aunties. That was a term: aunties. That referred to an older--usually nelly--male.
A story that was amusing to me--this happened long before I ever came along, but I understand that when Buckley [Washington] was still a mining community, they had a Sheriff or Chief of Police that was openly gay. He had a boyfriend who used to sit in a chenille robe in the summertime in a rocking chair on the front porch waving to everybody and was a housewife. That's the way the rural couples were.
The old timers had known these people and I can remember them talking about it. They thought it was hilarious that wifey sat on the front porch in a chenille bathrobe and waved to everybody while they were going to work in the morning.
fish out of water
I always felt like an outsider, different than the other girls. I liked to play outside with the boys, run around, play ball--I was really a tomboy. I didn't like dolls; I couldn't stand them. I always wanted to have a train, which my father would never let me have, and I liked mechanical things. I don't know whether these have anything to do with my sexual identity or not, but I think probably in our society they do.
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York with a name like Dawn, being African-American -- that's cute. In the seventies, you had a lot of the Back to Africa movement. So you had a lot of "Sheniquas" and folks like that. "Dawns" were blond-haired girls who played guitars and sat around under trees. [laughs]. It just didn't make any sense. We couldn't make a nickname out of it. ...
[At 16] I had a girlfriend and we'd been going out for a year. I was on the phone to her. She was on to the "You don't love me anymore," you know. My mother was doing dishes and I was so engrossed in the conversation, "Yes, Jennifer, I do love you. Now you know I love you," until I realized that my mother was staring at me. Oh, God! That phone call ended real quick! So I had to explain to my mother why I was saying that and none of the standard lies worked. She looked at us sideways every time a girl came over after that.
I was a fish out of water in my family in that I was interested in culture and took lessons in art and music. My family was very blue-collar. I'm one of the few people that escaped from Detroit without ever working in a factory. My father was a mechanic. My brothers were mechanically inclined. There were always cars out on our lawn. I had no interest in that, whatsoever. ...
My mom had some friends in and they were sitting in the living room. I came down and looked into the room and I thought, "Why am I not just as they are?" Not in those words, because I'm a small child at that point, but that was the feeling. "Why aren't I like them?"
I grew up as Marc and as the boy child of my parents. I doubt anyone would have detected any difference between me and any other male child. I did what was to be done.... Other kids were saying what they wanted to be, and I didn't, because thinking of the future was a very hazy bit of business.
the most gorgeous thing in the Klondike
I roamed around for a while working in drag, and I met Timmy [on the] drag circuit, in Alaska, in this so-called bar up there they'd just opened. I was the only one arrived. Me, all the gowns, wigs, makeup--everything--I had it. Honey, I was the most gorgeous thing in the Klondike.
They had taken all the clapboards they could find. They built this shed. That's exactly what it looked like--a shed. They took planks, old doors, a board, anything they'd get their hands on, and build a bar. There was a stage at one end made of old tables. They had curtains. They'd have a kitchen chair, they'd have an old barrel--anything, a box--for people to sit on, you know, because it was one of those quick money-making things. People [who] were working on the DEW line, and ships were coming in and going out. There was candlelight everywhere. You could have anything you wanted to drink--you wanted a Bloody Mary, it was on the bar; you want a Pousse Café, it was on the bar, honey--as long as it was canned heat. They had thousands of cans of canned heat. When it first came out it was pure alcohol, and it was pink. That's what they called a Pink Lady.
Anyway, the door opened and this guy came into the smoke-filled room. For some reason my mind said, "He's mine, honey." 'Cause there was only one other woman in town. She wore old engineer boots. She wore old GI clothes, and honey--she smelled for six blocks. She rubbed herself down with oil. Officially, she was the only other one. And I looked like a lady: pretty, proper, neat. He come down to me and said, "Can I buy you a drink?" ...
We clicked. He took my hand and said "Forever." That's been almost fifty years ago. It's been 43 years, before he died. That's how I met Timmy. ...