Transcript: Protests, Parades and Potlucks: The Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund

Rachel: So, hello. My name is Rachel Epstein and I have been doing activism, educating, writing related to LGBTQ parenting for probably close to 20 years. And I’m very, very honoured and very delighted to be conducting this interview today with three women who were involved with the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund in the 1970s and 80s. So, I’m going to start by first thanking all three of you so much for being part of this very important interview. And I’d like to start by asking you each to just very briefly introduce yourselves by saying your name and, you know, your connection to the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund. We’re going to get into all the details, but just, you know, your name and how you came to be connected. So, who would like to start?
Francie: I’ll start. I was part of the Wages for Housework campaign and the [Wages Due] lesbian component of Wages for Housework starting in around 1974. And I helped start the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund in 1977, ’78.
Rachel: And your name?
Francie: Francie Wyland.
Rachel: OK, thank you.
Francie: Thanks, Rachel.
Jeanne: My name is Jeanne Lacasse, and I was involved with the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund in around 1980. I was in contact with the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund because I was a mother of two daughters, was a single parent, and, yeah, and I was part of the steering committee later on. And part of the whole Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund until mid-’85, until we sort of closed the group.
Rachel: Thank you, Velvet.
Velvet: Yeah, my name is Velvet Lacasse and I was one of the kids that was raised by a group of really powerful and brave and loving women and folks in the LMDF.
Rachel: OK. Thank you. And I should mention that Francie, we’re very, very fortunate to have Francie with us here today and, unfortunately, she’s going to have to leave in approximately 20 minutes. So, we’re just giving you some warning that at some point, Francie will disappear. But thank you for being here for this part. So, I’m going to ask each of you if you could tell me the story of the – a bit more of the story of your involvement with the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund, what year was it, what was going on in your life that you became involved in the organization, just give us a little bit more background about how you came to be involved and how did you find out about the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund in the first place.
Francie: Can you two, Jeanne and Velvet, go before me, because I think I’ll just start talking and then stop when my time is up when we do that.
Jeanne: OK, well, one of the most, I guess, wonderful things about the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund is in, I suppose, 1980, I was at an IWD, International Women’s Day march and it was held at King’s College Circle in U of T. And, of course, all of the women and men and, you know, people supporting IWD were standing in the crowd, and we were watching the stage, and on the second floor behind the stage came Francie and now I know her niece, and they hung the banner down and it said, “Lesbian Mothers Defense Fund.” And I just kind of had this incredible, like, “Oh, my God,” you know, “this is somebody that I can talk to or that I can be part of meeting and talking.” So, it was a really, really important, I guess, time to see that banner. And I think, you know, at the time, I was, you know, studying for a degree, you know, my kids were – my daughters were quite young, and I was just separating from my ex-husband. And so, there was a lot of stuff. And of course, I also was trying to figure out about my attraction to women and where that was going to go. So, it was an incredible banner to see.
Velvet: And as a kid, I mean, I remember being brought to all kinds of protests and parades and potlucks, and for me, there was this incredible sense of joy and love and pride because I think these folks were finding each other and finding ways to support each other. And the kids, we would just go and play. For us, there was this sense of just, we could be relaxed. There was no fear, we just played together and connected on this very kid-like level. I think that in my young experience as a kid growing up in this queer culture, I learned about the power of community. And I didn’t have a sense of just how dangerous everything was, but I got the sense of pride from being together with people and just being in that space where folks could come together and really support each other. So, I’m incredibly grateful to Francie and all of the people who helped to create that space in the LMDF.
Francie: Great stories.
Rachel: I’m going to come back to some of the things that you said. Francie, what would you like to tell us?
Francie: I have to talk about Wages for Housework a little, because it was a perspective that informed the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund, as well. There was the women’s liberation movement in – all over the world. And from the mid-70s on. And the Wages for Housework campaign developed its own perspective within that movement, a perspective that found the origin of women’s weakness in the fact that we globally did work that wasn’t recognized as work, and it wasn’t paid. And the fact that we were raising children, looking after men, doing – looking after elders at home for no money, made us dependent on men. And when we did take jobs outside the home, those jobs were underpaid because the work of caring itself is devalued and unrecognized. It’s not seen as work, it’s seen as part of our personality, you know.
So, I found that perspective extremely useful and humane, because it meant we were all in it. And instead of celebrating the position of a few women who could organize openly, independently, it looked for ways to connect with the women who were not yet able to do that and whose mobilization would elevate everybody. So, that’s very roughly what Wages for Housework was about. The strategy of the mainstream women’s movement was, get out of the home, get a paid job, and for most women, that amounted to getting a second job. The first one didn’t go away. Our strategy was to try to find – to try to get that work in the home recognized as work and then, to leverage the parts of that job that were paid to build on that so that women would have more money and therefore more choices, more independent. The lesbians within the Wages for Housework campaign were organized as a group called Wages Due, Wages Due lesbians, and we were part of a big campaign in Canada with the Wages for Housework campaign called the Family Allowance Campaign.
The Family Allowance, the Baby Bonus, Jeanne will remember, was given to every woman with children in her own name, and in many cases, it was the only money that a married woman would have that she could call her own, and it could go for the kids’ vitamins, could go for milk, it could go into her escape fund. And in 1978, the Canadian government proposed ending the Baby Bonus and turning it into a tax credit that would go to the breadwinner, the male. And we – all of us in Wages for Housework just spread out into public housing, shopping centres, everywhere, we got thousands and thousands of petition signatures to try to keep the Baby Bonus from being ended and turned into something else, de-indexed from the cost of living. And through that, we experienced this – the reality of the women’s movement being this massive iceberg underneath the tip of the iceberg. You know, we approached women as comrades and found that was the case.
And as lesbians, we began to think about the costs of wagelessness on gay women, and finding, logically, even though we were all single women, we were young, we were able to organize, we had time to do that, we weren’t afraid of being visible because we weren’t facing threats, we had low-paid jobs, but jobs, and – but we realized that for lesbian women, the cost of poverty was being trapped in marriages they couldn’t afford to leave, by the threat of losing custody, and then, when they did have jobs outside the home, they were low-paid “women’s jobs,” in quotes. You know, they were caretakers’ jobs or because, you know, I mean, they were working in long-term care, they were working in daycare centres, they were working in hospitals. And all of that, because it’s women’s work, underpaid. And we began to think about how to organize around that particular intersection of factors. And I wrote a little pamphlet, “Motherhood Lesbianism and Child Custody.”
That gave us the chance to mail it out to other women’s groups all over the country. We made a big deal of its publication and we went to the media, we talked on the CBC and cable television, all these things. It gave us a lever to get some media coverage and we began talking to outside the gay movement, outside the women’s movement, in media. And we started the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund at that point in 1978. I want to talk a little bit about the hostility we faced from the gay movement and the organized women’s movement at that point. It wasn’t uniform, you know, there were people who understood what we were saying and why. But there were basically – OK, I’ll talk first about the women’s liberation movement. In the late 1970s, there were basically two women’s movements in North America.
There was the women’s liberation movement, which was made up of mostly young, college educated, white, childless women, and there was the welfare rights movement, which was made up of Black women – Black women leading a movement of welfare mothers to try to get more money for themselves and their kids so they were – so they would be able to improve their lives. And the mainstream women’s movement had a lot of trouble coming to grips with women’s poverty, they did not see their way to throwing everything they had into supporting the welfare rights movement. And the welfare rights movement made huge headway, but it was weakened by that failure. Then there was the gay movement, which was very much male-led at that time.
This is still mid to late 70s. It was represented by men who celebrated their own sexuality. And – it’s really hard to articulate – for me to articulate this. But, you know, that was great, there was male sexuality, but it also … that perspective isolated them from the women’s movement and from the wider movement, and they jeopardized any support they had by also talking about their right to have relationships with young boys. That was the “Men Loving Boys Loving Men” article in The Body Politic at the time. I don’t know, Rachel, were you around for that?
Rachel: Yes, I’m sure I was [laughs]. In fact, I typed a manuscript for The Body Politic, so I’m sure I typed the whole back and forth on that, yeah.
Francie: Yeah, we agitated and won a women’s issue of The Body Politic to speak back to that, so that lesbian mothers could speak in defence of their children and challenge the right of gay men to interpret their relationships with younger boys the way they were. And –
Rachel: Francie, can I just interject for a second, because what you’re making me think about is – because I’ve read a little bit of what you’ve written about this, and the ways that as LGBTQ parents because – largely because of the custody cases that the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund was formed in relation to, we had to present certain images of ourselves, right? We had to be “normal,” right? We had to present as – in certain kinds of sort of mainstream ways, because the stakes were so high that people were, you know, at risk, and in many cases, did lose their children. And it seems like what you’re describing there is part of that, right? Is part of the ways that that article in The Body Politic made it difficult to do some of what had to be done in the courts. Does that –?
Francie: Yes, and I think, you know, I’m skipping ahead to question number nine, which is, you know –
Rachel: Go ahead, you can skip around.
Francie: – the meaning of what we did. One key thing that the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund did here and around the world, you know, where a similar organization spoke on behalf of lesbian mothers, was we’ve built a bridge between the gay movement and the rest of the world that didn’t exist before us because we didn’t just have to represent ourselves as normal, we could because we were – presented ourselves as parents to other parents and be understood as fighting for the benefit of our children, as mothers. And this A) this was a universal that we could articulate and nobody else could at the time, both the kids and the mothers. And it changed the future for gay men, for gay women, for the women’s liberation movement, for all of us, that this happened. It rearranged everybody’s thinking. You know, gay men could think about adopting children because of what we had done, and we put ground under their feet had not been there before, you know. You could think new thoughts because of the risks that people like Jeanne took. I think that’s probably all I needed to say.
Rachel: Can I ask you, Francie, to talk a little bit about some of your memories of those custody cases and what kinds of support, like, did the LMDF provide in terms of social, legal, financial, housing, all that? Like, what was the LMDF’s relationship to those custody cases? What are your memories of that?
Francie: First, there was the outreach we did, so that women could come to us from everywhere. And then, we would try to find the lawyers, where they were. If they needed help with finances, then we could offer a little bit of help. We organized dances, we sold paraphernalia, we donated money, we … and we had weekly potlucks where – is when they could share their stories, they could support each other emotionally, socially, psychologically. I think for the legal stuff, you need to talk to lawyers who actually fought these cases, like Charlie Campbell, Ellen Murray, I think you could learn a lot from them. We would throw our backs into helping women in any way we could, you know. But I think the biggest thing was that they didn’t feel alone, and that there was this possible future for people that opened out, that had not existed before, you know. Support – public events, we were as public as we could be, that was one thing that distinguished us from other lesbian groups, I think, is that we were hungry for media coverage.
And we would use any excuse to go to the CBC or The Star or The Globe or The Sun, you know, to say, “Do a story, do a story about this, because we want to go through you to reach all these other people.” And there was a kind of clubishness in a lot of groups that I knew about who liked being together with each other, but they didn’t conceive of a wider movement the same way we did, you know. The iceberg was out there. And – what else can I say about that?
Rachel: I know at the time, the arguments that were made in courts were, you know, lesbianism is immoral, disgusting, an abomination, bad for children, it’s horrible, bad and wrong for children to be raised in lesbian households. Do you think that the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund changed some of those attitudes? Those ideas.
Francie: Absolutely, yes. It was partly that women were poor and they couldn’t provide for their kids, their husbands would have, you know, be able to support them better than women. It was partly that they would corrupt, you know, corrupt the kids, they would – the kids would be subjected to harassment at school. There were all those arguments. But lawyers began – and judges began – to think outside that – outside the box that way. Charlie Campbell, great lawyer who handled the case of Mary-Anne Guitar who was the woman who gave the speech at – with a bag over her head at the IW – the anti Anita Bryant rally in 1978. Charlie Campbell talked about going to court in her case. The – Mary-Anne had been supporting her children for years because her husband threatened her with taking custody if she fought him.
But she did decide to take him to court. And on the day when she appeared in court with her lawyer and his lawyer, the father failed to appear, and the judge in that case was Rosalie Abella, who was later on the Supreme Court. And the – Charlie made his arguments, the father’s lawyer made his, saying that God looked – frowned on lesbian relationships and would, you know, definitely not approve of Mary-Anne being –given custody. And Rosalie Abella said, well, I don’t see God in the courtroom, so I’m giving custody to Mary-Anne. And that was, you know, it was a different time of day when that happened, so. Wonderful to see all you guys.
Rachel: Francie, thank you so much for joining us. It was a pleasure having you and an honour.
Francie: Thank you so much. And have a wonderful interview you guys, lovely to see you. Bye.
Jeanne: Bye, Francie.
Rachel: Alright, Velvet and Jeanne. I’m going to take you back now to your time in the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund. Can you tell us about the first meeting that you remember going to, and then, also, subsequent meetings? Where were they held? Who was there? Why were they there? And did children attend the meetings? Or what were the children doing? So, maybe Jean, you’d like to start.
Jeanne: OK, well, as Francie said, the potlucks were once a month, and they were in the afternoon and, you know, people would bring food to share. There were, you know, some children were there, but not necessarily everybody brought their children. We used to rotate the meetings because, you know, somebody would open their home and say, “Sure,” or, you know, next month go to Jeanne’s house and, you know, I would give people my number or my address. Yeah, and, you know, and because I had custody of my kids and … I would say I was careful about being open, but I mean, I was pretty safe in where I was. So, my kids were always present. There were other women’s children who joined. So, I actually attended a lot of the meetings because I really enjoyed being around other women who had children.
But we had them – you know, we had a lot of lesbian mothers who heard about our potlucks, and as Francie said, you know, we would go on radio, we would go on TV, I did a lot of TV interviews where I was blacked out, a lot of radio interviews with Francie. And I know that a lot of women who came to the LMDF, one, they were coming from quite far out of town, because there was just nobody in their community that was a lesbian mother. Or I remember a couple driving from Bracebridge to Toronto as a couple, you know. And I know that some women, like, there was a couple who were quite well-off and they lived in the Riverdale area and they had this swanky house, which was great. But one woman had a child. But in order to not risk any kind of conflict, the couple had separate bedrooms. So, this child had no idea they were – you know, they were not out to the child. So, I think the meetings were really an amazing sort of contact with some women.
Some women didn’t come all the time, and some women became, you know, quite regulars, and we would take on parts of, you know, what we call the steering committee, kind of, like, to divvy up the workload. Yeah, you know, to do interviews, to write the Grapevine, to organize dances, you know, to do public speaking, to, you know, all kinds of things. So, we would kind of sit there – we also had steer committee meetings outside of the potluck. So, those were sort of, you know, this was, like, OK, we would get together and – at somebody’s house, we’d have an agenda, we would go through it, it was a pretty formal meeting. At the potluck, it was more – very loose meeting to tell you what was up, what was going on, and then, it was more social. Like, it was more of a, you know, women getting to know other women, and just, you know, maybe you have to say, like, you know, this is, like, 1980, that’s, like, a really long time, you know.
People didn’t just say – they just didn’t say, you know, “I’m a lesbian mom,” there were so many risks. But it’s like Velvet said, you know, pride day, IWD, all those kinds of things, you know, when we marched under the banner, and the kids were present, you know, they were having a blast, right? You know, they were – I don’t know, they were making as much noise and chanting doing all kinds of things. So, in that sense, it was kind of fun for them and for us. And, yeah. So, you know, there – you know, in the meetings, I think my first meeting, I didn’t take the kids, but that was just – I think I had a sitter that day. Otherwise, I would have taken them. But yeah, so …
Rachel: OK, thank you. Velvet, what are your memories of the meetings?
Velvet: I mean, so, it sounds like there was a lot of business that was happening upstairs. I remember a lot of basements, basements and, like, parks or yards. I mean, I think when you bring kids together, all they want to do is connect and play. And like my mom said, these were kids that lived in different parts of the city or the province, so, they’re not kids we would see day to day. But we would see them at these potlucks, so we would start to build relationships with them. And we would see them at events, because like my mom said, we had a banner, an LMDF banner, and that was sort of a gathering place for kids. So, I remember kids just playing together. I said in my introduction, sort of an ease, sort of feeling relaxed.
So, the meetings were fun. There was a lot of food. I don’t remember, you know, formal activities being organized or conversations about our families, although they might have happened informally. But it was really just time to kind of be ourselves. And when I reflect on different experiences I had as a kid, there were times where I was very aware that it didn’t feel safe to come out as being a kid with a lesbian mom. And so, the LMDF potlucks and pride day were really important because we could relax. And we weren’t looking over our shoulder necessarily, and there was this sense of pride in being able to be out and loud and celebrate our family, because the contrast was, everywhere else we went, there was a lot of silence.
Which created shame and confusion. And there was also, you know, I think this awareness that the parents were meeting upstairs because there was this fear that women could lose custody of their kids. So, even though I’m not sure how I was processing that on a conscious level, I mean, that was the reason why we were together. So, there was an awareness that some families might lose their kids because of who they loved. And we also knew that that was incredibly unfair. And here were women who were coming together to fight back. So, there was also this sense of hope and what Francie said, a sense of possibilities, because when we were together, we felt strong. And we felt like we could protect each other, we could support each other, and we could do amazing things together.
Rachel: That was actually going to be my question to you, because you had talked about that feeling of safety in those meetings, and I assumed that was in contrast to other places. And was that particularly school or, like, when you think about those places where it was not OK to be the kid of a lesbian, what were some of those places?
Velvet: Yeah, I mean, I think for kids, school is their whole world. So, school was definitely a place where you noticed the erasure or the absence or the silence surrounding LGBTQ families. So, it wasn’t being talked about as part of the curriculum, there wasn’t a lot of representation or visibility, and then, there were also, you know, there was a culture of homophobia or transphobia. So, bullying, teasing. So, we were hyper-aware of, you know, as kids, sort of of what we heard, what we saw, and especially how adults responded. And so, I’d say, school didn’t always feel like a safe place. I know there were times when I got older where my mom actually said, “Don’t tell people that I’m a lesbian because I might lose my job,” so there were very real consequences.
And then, I think there’s just sort of media, the stories that we share, what are the dominant narratives, which I’ve now come to know as heteronormative, right? Stories about families that have one father, one mother. And so, I think kids are picking up on stories that exclude them and that include them. And when I was a kid, there were very few stories that included families that looked like ours. And in fact, there was a lot of negativity that made our family life feel a little bit confusing, because it didn’t feel unsafe, it didn’t feel dangerous, it didn’t feel like anything we had should be ashamed of. It was really our family and it was full of love and pride.
Rachel: Like, one statistic that’s always stayed in my mind is that in those custody cases of the 70s and 80s, you know, lesbians who went to court were – 88% of the time would lose the cases. And I know that that meant that lots of people chose not to go to court because the courts were not friendly. But – and Francie started talking about it, but I wondered if either of you would like to add anything more about those ideas that were circulating at the time about, like, what were the prevailing attitudes in various parts of the culture about lesbian parenting. Jeanne. You’re on mute.
Jeanne: OK, can you hear me now?
Velvet: Yeah.
Jeanne: OK, I guess I do know some women who did lose custody of their kids. And I know that one family, actually, the father wanted the son, he didn’t want the girl, but he wanted the son. So, you know, the mother had to kind of make the choice and say, “OK, well, you know, in terms of not having to go into court to fight the whole battle, compromise and my son can live with you and you can have custody of my son.” Fortunately, she was allowed to visit her son or visit – have visits with her son, but, you know, that was a big compromise. I know one of the women, she did lose custody and it was really unfortunate because she had a psychological assessment done and the psychologist who kind of assessed her felt that she just wasn’t appropriate to be a parent. And so, that assessment completely, you know, assisted her husband get custody. And it really – when I reflect back on her, it really started – it started a downward spiral for her. I mean, you know, she started – she basically fell apart emotionally and just – it was just really incredibly sad to see it. It didn’t – it took about a year or two until the father actually decided that, you know, she could visit with her children.
You know, there were other women who actually did not even try to gain custody. There were some women who, you know, would leave and, yeah, they would actually go for a fight or, you know, or the father really was not interested in custody so much as getting back at the ex-wife or ex-partner. So, yeah, so, there were a lot of women and a lot of high stakes. And, you know, things were just, yeah, it was really dangerous. Like, it was very dangerous. You know, not only could you lose your children, you could lose your job, you could lose your housing, you could lose all kinds of things. And, you know, I think when I forwarded Mary-Anne’s speech to you, you know, not only was there this, you know, backlash against, you know, gay parents in the 70s and 80s, but, you know, there’s, like, Anita Bryant’s crusade to save the children, like, and painting all kinds of gay people as pedophiles, which is not that.
You know, it’s just not that. And that’s why I felt very strongly that, you know, people should not be judged. Like, parenting and sexuality is not – it’s not the same. It’s like, you know, you can love your child, raise your child very fairly with love and all that, and you can have, like, a lesbian relationship. They should not be, you know, cause and effect, kind of thing.
Rachel: And we’re going to let Velvet speak, and I’m going to come back also to Mary-Anne’s speech, because it’s come up a couple of times, and we need to tell people what it is. Yeah, go ahead Velvet.
Velvet: So, mom, I appreciate that what my mom is describing are the ways that this discrimination against LGBTQ folks was really systemic, right? And so, we had a medical system, you know, institutionalizing or kind of creating this sense of a disorder, right? So, the psychological assessment saying that the parent was unfit to raise her child, I think is an example of how homophobia was kind of institutionalized and continues to be. Barriers, I think Francie did an amazing job talking about the impact of capitalism and the barriers that women specifically face in not being able to earn the same amount of money to care for their families or to make choices, and sometimes staying in relationships that are harmful or violent. And then, the other piece I think is religion.
I mean, in this, you know, we have examples from the 70s and 80s, but I was at pride day two years ago and you always find a group of people who are sort of protesting and talking about how the choices that we’re making in our lives are somehow immoral. So, I think that was something we kept coming up against, too, and continue to sort of fight, around, you know, love makes a family and, yeah, anyways, and that all people should feel entitled to love and make the choices that they want to make.
Rachel: Do either of you remember derails of the legal arguments, like, the legal arguments that were made against lesbian parents, but also the legal arguments that were used by lesbian mothers in their defence? Velvet, you were probably too young.
Jeanne: I remember one of the – for example, that psychological result. It was – this psychologist in her ending statement, right, like, obviously, like Velvet’s analysis is correct, women were not earning as much as men, women were not, you know, and women were leaving the matrimonial home. So, you know, they were at risk of, you know, were they able to find another place to bring their children to? But this psychologist basically said that this lesbian mother was rushing, to and fro, right? Because she would drive to where her kids were living in another city, drive them back to her home, and then, I don’t know, maybe after their visit, drive them back. And this psychologist kind of felt like this was detrimental to the child, because mom was rushing to and fro. Like, this just – it was just ridiculous, because – anyway, it just, you know, so that report was used against her in court. And I know a family, they really didn’t want to risk their child being taken away. So, they just kind of compromised and … yeah.
But we did have, you know, we had the names of some quite good lawyers in Toronto that were very supportive of lesbian mothers and felt very strongly that, you know, that they would represent guys quite well. When we published Grapevine, we would often publish sometimes, you know, positive stories. Like, one time, in the Grapevine, there was this front page story of these two lesbian grandmothers in Vancouver winning custody, you know, and stuff like that. So, and Grapevine had, like, a mailing list of about 1,500 people and organizations and stuff. So, that was – but –
Rachel: Can you talk a little bit more about the Grapevine? I know it was the newsletter of the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund, talk about how it was produced, what was in it, what were your aims with it.
Jeanne: Well, we produced a really, really good looking newsletter. It was quite – I think – it would have six to eight pages. Francie, working from Now Magazine, had it, like, just perfect. Like, she edited every typo and everything like that. She was amazing. And we would write stories. Like, one time, you know, one of the stories was this BC grandmother winning custody, the other ones were, like, you know, we would have stories, like, for example, we got funding from the gay community appeal, so we did a road trip to various places in Ontario to do public speaking or radio interviews. So, we had that as front page. You know, we would also have, you know, things that other women would contribute to it, like, you know, whatever, like, recipes or tips or whatever. And then, we would have things like … just news, like, upcoming news, news about the gay community, new about what’s happening.
We also had – my friend actually, Velvet, one of her aunties, Shelley, she actually put together a children’s page. So, kids could now contribute to it. And so, we would always make sure that there was, you know, some stuff at the back, which was the children’s page. And I do remember my daughter Jolene, she actually has this big picture of herself with a big smile on her face, it was just this really colourful drawing that she did, I think she was about six. And it just says, “This is me looking pretty,” and she signed her name, right? [Laughs] So, I thought, you know, but I just thought, you know, and I got pictures in the kids page of Velvet sitting next to somebody else on pride day. You know, so the – I think the Grapevine was a very good tool in terms of bringing political news, bringing, you know, just a sort of connection with people. Like, we sent this Grapevine to people all over North America. So, it was very popular, and it was very – it was a very, very well-written article and articles, yeah.
Velvet: I noticed this morning when I was looking at the Rise Up archive page that there is documentation of the Grapevines. So, folks who are interested in checking out different editions, I think you can find them there. They’ve been preserved, which is great.
Rachel: Yeah. I guess what I’m really wanting people to understand is how unfriendly the environment was to lesbian moms at this time, because when you read some of those transcripts of custody cases, it was things like, you know, if you lived communally, that was used against you. Like you say, if, you know, you’re running from job to job, that’s used against you, right? If you – your lack of money is used against you. But also, people who hid their lesbianism more, like the example you gave Jeanne where the women had separate bedrooms, right, if you have – the more – the less lesbian you looked, the more heterosexual you appeared, the more likely you were to keep your children, I think. I think that’s true. So, again, I’m just wondering if you have recollections of that environment, the environment within which the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund was operating. Which was a very – it was very scary in some ways, I think.
Jeanne: Yes, it was very scary. And a lot of, you know, a lot of the women that even ventured into our potlucks, you know, they would be, you know, they would never have brought their child along. They would, you know, they never even, as you said, they appeared very heterosexual. You know, they lived in separate places and all that stuff. You know, I remember we had this bar, the Cameo, which was only open Fridays and Saturdays, and it was, like, my God, it was, like, on the backstreet, no lamp. And these women, somebody told me on the – in our group – had never danced together. You know, they’d never sort of had that opportunity because, well, you know, there was just too much at risk.
And I do know, you know, attimes, you know, lesbian mothers were considered, you know, not an appropriate parent because they didn’t have good morals, or they, you know, they were not hiding their affection for their partner, or, you know, they were not making enough money, or they were not, you know, the home that they provided was not adequate enough, you know, or something. And it was all – and it really, really – it was just so much to … like, it was just a blacklist, a blacklisting moms. Like, just made them – and, you know, made the Defence Fund feel like it was actually that, a defence fund, right? Like, we ended up having to protect ourselves, protect other women, and, yeah, and I’m not sure if – well, the question number five about in the early 80s, and I wanted to speak to this, is that in the lesbian movement itself in the 80s, many lesbian women felt that women in the 70s and 80s who had children were not real lesbians, because they had had relations with men.
And there was also another thing that was just horrendous, a lot of women, be they lesbians or – felt that women who had male children was something else against them. And when you look at the history of the Michigan women’s folk festival, you know, male children – and I guess I can understand it, because a lot of the women were, you know, nude – but male children were put in a camp separately from the lesbian – like, from the Michigan festival. So, you know, so, I know that for me I felt that that was a choice that they made, but I was not going to go there and enjoy anything because I thought, you know, first of all, it’s not a woman that determines the sex of a child, and secondly, it’s a child. You know, it’s a child. And to say that, you know, like, the lesbian community is saying that women who are mothers are not lesbians, well, I just think to myself, I think, well, what are these women who are “mothers and lesbians” risking? They’re risking losing their children to come out as a lesbian woman, and yet, we’re not getting the support until much later. But we weren’t getting the support of the rest of the lesbian community.
Velvet: It sounds like – so my mom is speaking to some of the barriers, that’s what you were asking about, Rachel, that lesbian moms faced in terms of custody battles, but what’s also interesting to note is that there were barriers within the women’s movement, as well as the queer movement, that weren’t uplifting or supporting lesbian moms. So, it really felt like there were multiple barriers that had to be overcome. And your statistic is quite, you know, disturbing about how many women did lose custody of their children, so.
Jeanne: I could certainly believe this 88%. I mean, you know, just by the women who were coming to our potlucks, you know, that they, you know, they were afraid, they were afraid. You know, and, you know, they would just – yeah, I could certainly understand that.
Rachel: Yeah, well, and I think like you said, people knew the courts were so dangerous as places to go as lesbian parents that people made all kinds of compromises it sounds like in order to avoid the courts.
Jeanne: They did, they did. And it’s true, as well, I ended up, you know, I ended up having a wonderful, wonderful – my daughter just had a wonderful childhood in terms of, you know, we had two other women who were, you know, the children’s aunts, and they still are referred to as their aunts. And, you know, we shared a home, we shared a house, you know, so, there were three lesbian woman and there was two kids. And, you know, sometimes it was, you know, people would be thinking, “Oh, are you all kind of co-parenting?” and stuff. And I don’t think we thought of it so formally, you know, like, “Oh, yes, well, we are co-parenting,” but it was, like, one of the women dropped off the kids at school every morning, because she drove to her university every morning. You know, and sometimes, if, for example, the kids, one of the kids or one of the kids, was sick, we’d take turns staying home from work, because you’d lose a day’s pay, right?
So, one of us would stay home and watch the kids, the other one the next day would stay home and watch the kids, and the other one would stay home from university, and it would go like that. So, but, you know, the thing is, I know that we also were fortunate that we lived in a co-op where … being different was OK, was OK, it was, like, you know, of course there were some people who would always have an opinion to say that it’s wrong, and I found it really grating because they would not just say it’s wrong, but it’s, like, morally wrong or religiously wrong or something, you know. It was this sort of higher power saying that it was wrong, which was just – you know, when I think of all of the, you know, abuses again children and, you know, about all the statistics about heterosexual abuse, like, it just, you know, to come around and say, “Well, it’s against God’s will to have a gay mother or a gay father.”
Velvet: So, can I just come back to one thing that mom said, and then I’m happy to return to the questions? But that idea of chosen family is really important, and certainly, the LMDF helped to create that, where we were different families coming together out of protection and survival and necessity. And then, those women who we weren’t necessarily biologically related to, but because part of our chosen family, and I think that another barrier or consequence to being out with young children at that time is that people were often rejected or punished by their biological families. So, we know that a lot of lesbian moms and a lot of queer folk were looking for family support, because they couldn’t find it in their biological family. So, that concept for a chosen family I think is really understood by the queer community, and one that I think the LMDF helped to create kind of within the members who dropped in.
Rachel: Yeah. How did the organization raise money? Because I assume that part of what you were doing was raising money to assist women with court cases. So, how did you raise money?
Jeanne: Well, we had a number of things. First of all, we would handle our own dances and, you know, we would – I mean, we would contact women’s groups to help us staff, that kind of thing. Like, the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre was extremely helpful to us in terms of banding together and, you know, helping us sometimes with childcare if we were going to a big meeting or things like that. But often, too, we would have – hold these dances and we would have them at the 519 probably three, three times a year, maybe four. We could raise about $1,500 after everything was covered. And, you know, keep in mind that that’s in the 80s, 1980, ’81, ’82, ’83, that’s a lot of money. And then also, too, there was a huge gay community dance committee, and in the 70s and 80s, it held its dances at the Masonic temple across from Canadian Tire.
Huge, three-storeys. And we would send some of us, like, myself, I would be the rep for our group, to a gay community dance committee meeting, and we would agree to provide members of our organization to, say, staff the bars, staff security, do two-hour shifts. If it was later in the evenings, say, from 1:00 to 4:00, we would get double the credit of a shift. And, you know, we had on the tickets, we had all of the organizations that were involved. Members or people who were coming to enjoy the dance would tick off where they wanted their money of ticket to go to, which organization. And then, every sort of six months, the gay dance committee would then pick an organization, like, say, for example, on a march dance – and these dances were held every month, and they’re, like, you know, you’re talking about 3,000 gay people dancing on three floors. It was a phenomenal experience.
And, you know, I’d be sitting there taking tickets or I’d be pouring drinks, which was just, you know, wine and beer, so it wasn’t that complicated. And we would have a lot of money from there, you know. So, for example, if we were picked as the main organization, then all of those tickets that weren’t marked would go directly to us, and then, a huge percentage of the proceeds would also go to us. So, we would get quite a bit of money, but also, too, people who would come to those dances on other days would often mark our group. And so, their ticket proceeds would go to us. And then, there was another organization called the gay community appeal, and we used to ask for – for what we would do, then, is we would actually go to people’s private homes and they would have, like, a potluck or whatever, we would present the gay community appeal, what the gay community appeal does who it funds, all that stuff, are you interested in, you know, donating to the appeal. And then, you know, once all the funding is gathered, then, for example, different groups write different proposals to the appeal.
So, then, we would basically write, you know, we need money because we have three court cases coming up, can you spare – and we’d pick a number out of the hat, can you spare $1,500? And then, divvy it up, give $500 to each of the women So, and I just have to say that given that it was the early 80s too, you know, ’84, ’85, we were starting to wind down, probably ’84, all of the organizations were volunteers, right? So, that is a very, very significant and powerful thing in the lesbian and gay communities. All of those groups, even ours, were all volunteers. Nobody was getting paid. So, you know, people who organized the dance committees, people who organized our dances, our gay – the gay community appeal, it was all staffed by volunteers. So, you know, you can look at the gay archives and all of those groups when they started, you know, I don’t – they’re all volunteer people.
Rachel: I remember those in-home meetings that the gay and lesbian community appeal would come and do a slide show, right? [Laughs] And raise money in people’s living rooms, and for really important projects, yeah. I want to come back to – because it’s come up a couple of times, the – Mary-Anne and Marry-Anne’s speech, and I think it was an anti-Anita Bryant demonstration, is my understanding, in 1978. So, could you talk a bit more about that? Like, what was the demonstration about, but particularly, talk about Mary-Anne’s speech and the significance of it.
Jeanne: OK, don’t think I have a copy of her speech, but I do know – I wasn’t present there, but I do know that she actually, you know, she came on the stage with a hood over her head. Very bluntly saying, you know, that I am – I have to wear this because I’m protecting my children from harassment, from, you know, bullying, from all of these things. Anita Bryant at the time, in the late 70s, had this major crusade in North America about saving the children and feeling that all gay people were pedophiles and, you know, that we’re going to seduce children and all that. So, you know, Mary-Anne took the stage and said quite bluntly that, you know, she was a lesbian mother, she had to wear this hood to protect her children, not just from harassment, but also from the courts, because they would think that she was flaunting her lesbianism, and, you know, she was making a show of herself and that would be detrimental to her children’s mental health.
She talked about the fact that, you know, she’s not asking for permission to have sex on Yonge Street or, you know, she doesn’t want to seduce a child, she would never want any child to be seduces or molested, And, you know, and she talks about – she just talks about the fact that, you know, it’s very difficult for gay mothers – I mean, for lesbian mothers, too, because, you know, to say – for example, to your boss, I don’t want to go to a social event at work because I’m a lesbian, I’m not comfortable. Because you risk losing your job. I don’t want – I want to rent an apartment with my partner, we’re lesbians, no, we’re not sisters, we’re lesbian, right? No, because then you’ll have all these questions, why, don’t you have a husband? Don’t you have a friend? Like, you know, so, she was putting that out, as well. And she was pointing out the things, like, you know, on the loss of a job, the loss of housing.
Also, having her partner, Flo, named as a beneficiary of her insurance without answering a million questions. See, this was, like, the day long before same-sex marriages, like, long before all that stuff. So, and then, one of the things that still just makes me just really, really tearful is when her final, you know, and she talks of that, being a lesbian mother is very, very difficult, because you could have your children one day, and then, the next day, you don’t have your children. And she talks about saying to Anita Bryant, you know, God forgive you, you know, never mind this God wants to save this anti-crusade, but, you know, God forgive you as a mom.
Velvet: Yeah, so, one of the things that stands out for me at the beginning of the speech is that she talks about when she left her relationship, she was actually threatened. So, she was told – so,, she was told that if she made any attempt to seek custody, that she would be prevented from ever seeing them again. And so, when she left her husband, she was also forced to leave her children, and it sounds like it took her some time before she learned that that was in fact not true, and that she was able to obtain legal custody. So, part of it is that, you know, people were living under threat, but there was also a lack of information in terms of what the rights were. And so, I think that the statement of her wearing a bag over her head was very powerful because it sent a message without even saying anything about how lesbian parents might feel.
Rachel: Hopefully we can print the text of her speech, hopefully we can include it on the Rise Up website.
Jeanne: Yeah, we can, yeah. Yeah.
Rachel: And was the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund, was it a national group? Were you connected with people in other cities that were doing similar organizing?
Jeanne: Well, it wasn’t necessarily national. In Seattle, the US, they had the National Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund, and years later, it was, like, in 1983, I went to Seattle and I met the two women that were the National Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund, and they showed me a filing cabinet, and that was the organization, you know. Calgary later on formed a group, but I don’t know how long it lasted or whatever. And I know that Montreal was also trying to form a group, and that was more – I’m not sure if it was bilingual or more French speaking, but of course, in the Grapevines, we did have, you know, articles on those groups and how they are forming and stuff.
Rachel: What about Vancouver? WAS there a group in Vancouver?
Jeanne: I’m not really sure, really, I’m not sure. But I know that, you know, given – there may have been a group in Vancouver. We weren’t really a lot in touch with them. I do know that there was this amazing couple of lesbians who were riding their bikes across Canada to raise funds for lesbian moms. And, you know, when they came to Toronto, it was, like, just, like, a big party, we were so glad to see them. Yeah, and they, you know, and it was really kind of – it was quite nice. And I guess they did, you know, raise quite a bit of money. But, yeah, and they just – and it was funny, because they would just sort of, like, I mean, they were so free, like, I just thought to myself, I thought, wow, you’re so free, like, they would drive to one community, get to know the lesbian organizations, somebody would put them up in their home, very relaxed. And I remember that Velvet and – my daughter Velvet and Jolene, we – myself and Francie and the two cyclists, we went to Centre Island and they played for hours with my daughters, you know. They just had such a good time.
Rachel: Were they riding bicycles or motorcycles?
Jeanne: Bicycles. Yeah, yeah. And so, you can imagine how good shape they were in [laughs]. But, yeah, so, you know, like, I think really, I’m not sure if we sort of had an organization that was – we certainly didn’t have a Canada wide organization, and I think, you know, the work that we were doing was mostly in Ontario.
Rachel: You talked earlier about some of the tensions in terms of support for the LMDF from the women’s movement, from the gay movement, like, who were your supporters? Like, what groups did you feel really came out as allies for you?
Jeanne: Well, I think, really what happened was, you know, there were groups that came out, like, later on. You know, Toronto Rape Crisis Centre was really supportive, there was the Oshawa Rape Crisis Centre that was supportive … you know, I think two – later on, in the 80s, like, later on, there was gay fathers and lesbian mothers sort of did some stuff together, as well. You know, I mean, there were a lot more women sort of got used to, you know, got used to the fact that, first of all, women who have relationships with men are – and if they decide to come out, yeah, they are lesbian women. And they held back because of that. Also, too, the … I think it was just coming out, like, I just remember, you know, some, say, some lesbian groups were just – I guess it just has their – they were quite strict about what was a real lesbian and what wasn’t a real lesbian.
And it didn’t quite make sense, really, because, you know, it just, yeah, it didn’t make sense in terms of, you know, women and men and whatever, they’re so different, everybody’s so different and individual, how can you say, “OK, this group, because they have children, are not real lesbians,” you know? But at the time, when we started getting to know – getting to be known better, a lot of – a lot more women, a lot more younger women, and, you know, like, even after the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund closed, or, you know, shut down, there were a lot more women who wanted to have children and, you know, then there were women who would just have, like, very casual affairs with somebody, lie, you know, just pick up a guy, have an affair, get pregnant, goodbye, you know. And, you know, what are you going to – and that’s how they had their children. But then, there was also children – I mean, there was also mothers who had artificial insemination.
And, you know, they were children whose … parents were either, like, two gay men and two lesbian women, and they became a family with their children. So, you know, I think as things – as the lesbian movement and feminist movement got used to the fact that lesbian mothers, you know, were real lesbians, that, you know, this was, you know, to say that you are not a real lesbian and to look at the fact that what you’re putting at stake to say that you’re a lesbian and to have somebody say to you, “Well, you’re not real,” is really insulting, you know. It’s just – but I think, you know, you have to understand now that the movement to be a parent, the movement to have children, I mean, I actually maybe 20 years ago, I worked with a couple who were able to adopt their children from CAS. Like, this would, you know, this would never have happened in the 80s.
Rachel Just a little aside, because I think you’re describing, like, really, the 90s was really a turning point, because I know – I interviewed a woman who lost her children, a lesbian who lost her children, in 1994, as late as 1994, right? But in 1997, we started the Dykes Planning Tykes course, right? So, there was this – the 90s things really shifted, I think, away from that, you know, that almost automatic loss of custody into that, what you’re describing, is that real sense of, we want to have kids within our queer identities, right? Velvet, you wanted to say something, I think.
Velvet: Well, I just want to return to the, like, just – when we come back to the relevance of the LMDF and sort of what it looks like today for queer families, so I just want to, yeah, just – when we come back to the end, we can talk about sort of where we are now.
Rachel: OK.
Jeanne: I mean, I understand that, you know, certainly, you know, people could lose custody, like, you know, people could lose custody even right now, depending on how a custody case is put together, how a custody case – who’s the lawyers fighting for it, and all that kind of stuff. Like, what is the mom struggling with? Like, does the mom struggle with any sort of mental health issue? Does the mom struggle with any kind of, you know, poverty, right? Like, where is she on the line of being – not being able to give as much as an ex-husband towards raising the children, you know? You can still lose your custody based on that, those factors. So, I guess I speak about Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund in the 80s because that’s where I was there, but I do realize that, you know, women were coming forward and having children and it was quite a source of pride, and it was kind of a, like, it was really good that we – the community was starting to say, “Yeah, let’s have children, let’s have families, let’s enjoy, you know, being a parent, you know, and enjoy being a part of a child’s life.” It’s something that is a really – it’s a real positive thing.
Rachel: So, tell me about the ending, like, when the – because you’ve referred a few times that sort of the organization making a decision to fold. So, can you talk about how that came to be?
Jeanne: Well, I think it just came to be because, you know, we were a small steering committee, and we had been involved quite intensely over a number of years, you know. So, there was people – like, there was, like, a treasurer, there was a – two of us sort of leading the groups in terms of potlucks, in terms of organizing things, coming up with, you know, can we actually put together a dance? Do we actually have enough people to actually do those things? So, I think also too, just people moving on with their lives and, you know, and I mean, I was with the Defence Fund since 1980, and we sort of folded in 1985, this is the last Grapevine we gave out at gay pride day in 1985. And I know a lot of people were kind of surprised, but it was – I think it was just a decision that we made because we just … you know, we were tired, and we also, you know, I think we just realized that it was a really hard thing to keep going.
And, you know, when I talk to Francie and stuff like that, even about this interview, and we talk about what really, really great work that we did as an organization and as, you know, there’s, like, maybe five or six of us on a steering committee, and organizing everything from Grapevines to dances to staffing the gay community dance committee to going on a road show to, you know, Kingston and Brockville and doing all of these living room speeches or radio shows or TV shows and just, you know, talking about lesbian – you know, like, it was just so hard. Like, I remember one time [laughs] being on the radio, on this family show, and we were talking about the lesbian mothers as a family, as a family organization, and people were calling in to the show and were saying, “I think you guys are horrible, I think you should be punished by God,” and I remember getting so pissed off at this one woman who just went on and on and on at how disgusted she was that we were on the radio. And I finally just said, “Well, why don’t you turn your dial off?” And I just sort of lost it, right? I just thought – so, you know, I mean, even those things, like, you know, it takes a lot of energy and – but, you know, it’s just –
Velvet: I mean, it sounds like people got tired. I mean, I think any activist will tell you that this work is exhausting, and that it’s hard to build movements that are sustainable, and you’ve talked, mom, about how this was all volunteer driven, right? So, and it was one of many jobs that you had. So, my sense is that there wasn’t, like, a big moment of drama or conflict or something that tore the LMDF apart, I think it just kind of, like, quietly closed because people needed to rest. And maybe, yeah, so, I think that’s my sense of what I’m hearing from the stories.
Rachel: Do you remember that, Velvet? Do you remember it closing?
Velvet: I don’t, I don’t. I’m sure there was a party, and I’m sure there was dancing, and I’m sure there was a potluck.
Rachel: I think maybe the LMDF originated the lesbian potluck [laughs].
Jeanne: I have to mention, too, because Francie actually mentioned the Baby Bonus, and I have to say this, because women, even though they didn’t know we were the LMDF, used to come to the Cameo, which was this lesbian bar, and I’m telling you, there was this woman named Rosie, and she took the money at the door, and she had baseball bat by her – she was a tough, tough lady. And the police would come and they’d get some money, cross the palm, and then they’d go off, but the Friday after the Baby Bonus came out, we would reserve a table for about 25 women. And Friday night, 25 women, all over, from Hamilton, Bracebridge, Sudbury, Niagara Falls, St. Catherine’s, Toronto, everywhere, and we would be – we’d get there at 9:00, and we’d be dancing, and it was so much fun. Of course, you know, and then, other women who weren’t quite sure what kind of an organization or group we were, would kind of be there thinking, “God, these women are having a blast,” you know. Like, “Holy cow,” right? And it was kind of an idea we came up with. Like, to say, “Listen, you know, women like to socialize at potlucks, but, like, let’s get out there and have some drinks, and party.” And so –
Rachel: Was there much dating that went on in the LMDF? Of each other.
Jeanne: There was some, yeah. Yeah, there was some, yeah. But, you know, for sure, there was some, and – but it was kind of, like, I mean, I just wanted to mention that about the Baby Bonus thing, because I thought it was something that we also did to support, you know, to support other women, and to, you know, it was, like, a social thing. And it was a lot of fun. Yeah, so, but I also wanted to mention, because it talks about what are the issues that I’m addressing from the 1980s and is it still relevant for today. And I want to stress, for sure, that if you’re living in a small community or if you are not in an urban community or out, you do have a risk of losing your children. You do have a risk of homophobia and transphobia and all that kind of stuff being directed at you. It’s – I guess it’s easier to be out as a lesbian family in a larger community or a larger urban setting, or somewhere where it’s more safe to be an alternative family. I know that suppose you were in a really, really small community, it may be difficult to be out as a lesbian mom or a lesbian family. And so, I think that as you said, somebody lost custody in the mid 90s, I think, you know, this could even happen today, you know.
Rachel: I would add to that, also, I think that trans people right now have – maybe are having something of a similar experience to lesbians in the 70s and 80s now in terms of the risk of, you know, custody cases being fought by very angry spouses.
Velvet: I think we know that there’s more work to do, even in the queer movement. Like, we know the pride parade was shut down a few years ago by Black Lives Matter Toronto, because there was – there needs to be a recognition that this movement is not always inclusive of all bodies. And that we have more work to do to make sure that we are, you know, being as inclusive as possible, especially including trans families and racialized and Indigenous two-spirit families, there’s more work for all of us to do. And one of the things I’ve learned from growing up in a queer culture, is the importance of self-reflection and a critical lens, and asking critical questions about whose voices do we hear? Whose voices are excluded? And just one of the things I wanted to share at the end is that I’ve had many friends grow up to become out, queer, lesbian, people who wanted to start families.
And many people who’ve taken your Dykes Planning Tykes course. But it’s been interesting to be on the other end of their experience, where I become part of the chosen family as an “aunt,” and where we are raising these kids together. And one of the things I’ve learned is that even though we’ve come a long way and that there was significant work done in the 70s and 80s and 90s, that up until, you know, 2016, families were still struggling to be recognized as legal guardians of kids. And so, I wanted to acknowledge that, you know, at the time that my best friends had kids, one of the parents wasn’t legally acknowledges as a parent unless they adopted. But since 2016, the legislation that All Families Are Equal Act, that is now recognizing the intention of people who want to have families and recognizing the role of different adults in those kids’ lives. So, you know, there’s still work to do, but we’ve come a long way, and it’s because of the hard work of folks like the LMDF and – yeah, just extremely grateful for that.
Rachel: Yeah. Yeah. Jeanne, would you – do you have any – not necessarily closing words, I mean, the last question I have here is, you know, looking from where we are today in 2020, what do you think might be the most interesting about the story of the LMDF for activists and researchers right now, right? Like, what’s important? What’s significant? What’s interesting? I mean, I know I find it fascinating, this history, and I want to thank you and all the women from the LMDF because it was extremely important work.
Jeanne: Well, I think for myself, I think what I want to bring forward to people who are researching and, you know, maybe looking over the archives regarding the LMDF, is to just, you know, understand that in the 80s, when women were coming to our group, were coming out as lesbian mothers, were fighting for their children, and sometimes losing their children or having to give up their children, that it took immense courage of each and every one of them. And it took immense commitment to be an activist at that time and to actually, you know, as Velvet said, to actually put maybe 20 hours a week into the LMDF, like, at least. And I want people to understand, too, that within the queer culture of the 80s and early 90s, those jobs and tasks were all volunteer. Like, you know, nobody was getting a salary. So, this was a commitment of everybody saying, “OK, I’m going to do this, or I’m going to do this.”
And so, to look back on the years of the LMDF and, you know, all of the things that we accomplished, and how hard we tried to, you know, make women who were making decisions, whatever those decisions were, whether they were going to leave their children, whether they felt that they didn’t want to get involved with a custody battle because they were frightened, you know, or all of those things, that that – whatever their decision was, took immense courage. And I think when you acknowledge that and you look at the background that we have, like, that the archives have, I hope women who become, like who are researchers or want to look at the history, can actually see that that is intertwined in the whole movement of the LMDF.
Velvet: I think you said that really well, mom. I think, also, I hope the learning is that we need to be moving forward really intention and really intersectional in our analysis. So, hearing Francie tell stories about this divide in the early days of the women’s movement and knowing that, you know, there were these struggles within movements, that sounds – it’s just so disappointing, right? If we could see the ways that our struggles are connected, if we could turn our energy and focus and attention onto systemic change, I think that would benefit all people. And we really need to look to people that are most affected and ask, what do you need? How can I support you? How can I stand in solidarity? We need to listen, we need to believe them, and we need to follow their lead. So, I think that those are some of the lessons that I’ve learned from hearing the story of the LMDF, just in terms of how we can do better moving forward.
Rachel: OK, well, that might be a place to end, unless either of you – there’s still opportunity if you have other things to add, important points, important memories.
Velvet: No, I think that was full.
Jeanne: Yeah, that was full, yeah.
Rachel: OK, well, thank you so much to both of you for taking this time. And as I say, thank you to the – to you, Jeanne, and to all the women of the LMDF.