LYNN M. HULL
La Porte, Indiana
3) City/state where you live currently:
University of Illinois
Washburn Trade school
Machinist – retirement/disability
Founder of not-for-profit Employment Advocacy and Research Network (EARN), an organization designed to help women with employment problems from a new angle.
6) Did you serve in the U.S. military?
7) How do you describe your sexuality and your gender?
Wombyn-born-womyn and lesbian-feminist separatist
8) Do you have children and/or grandchildren?
I have two daughters and two grandchildren (twins, one of each sex)
9) If you are GLBT, please describe when you first “knew”:
I probably knew in a very unspecific way that I had a "proclivity" for wimmin when I was about 10 years old, while I was "pretend" galloping home from school fantasizing about saving women in distress. Of course, I always got wounded, and always got the "womyn."
10) Who did you first “come out” to and what year?
I first came out to my cousin Manya when we were in our freshman year of high school. It was 1962. She lived in California, and we never met in person, or even talked to each other, until her family came to visit us in 1962. But we were fast friends years before we met because we had corresponded weekly with very long, long letters.
She was active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and had protested many times for equality. Even though both sets of our parents were racist, somehow we found that view to be abhorrent.
Our radicalness did not end with questioning a racist society; we found this country's war mongering in Vietnam to be unacceptable too. So, it didn't seem a far leap to throw into the mix of our sharing the fact that I loved wimmin.
11) What troubles did you face as a GLBT person?
At the time that I was "coming out" to be the person that I am, I didn't know of any sources to find others like myself. So I pretty much went through high school having crushes on this or that girl, but was never able to share those feelings with any of them, because I was scared to death that my family would disown me, or I didn't think I could take rejection and/or disgust from the object of my affection. So I basically kept my thoughts and feelings to myself.
Since I have been out for over 40 years, many negative things have happened, so I'll just pick out a few: In the late ‘70s I had a Dyke party. I had handcrafted a six-foot tall labrys out of a 2x4 for the handle. I stood it up against the building to let Dykes know where the party was. Later that night, when I was walking guests out, we noticed that the six-foot 2x4 was broken into four pieces and left lying in front of my building. We wondered what about that symbol was so threatening to the neighbors that they had to go to the trouble of breaking it.
Several other incidents happened at that same address. In one instance, the fireman who lived next door and owned a vicious large German shepherd was sitting on his front porch with this dog, while my children left to go to school. At the time, they were only seven and nine years old. As they passed his steps, he yelled at the dog to attack them. At that command, the dog lunged toward my daughters and started to viciously bark. They screamed and ran back into our apartment. I had to call the police, but of course, nothing was done.
Another incident at this address: My best friend, Rhonda Craven of Mountain Moving Coffeehouse, was over visiting and then she and my daughters were riding bikes in the alley behind our house. That same neighbor, the fireman, called my landlord, Alberto Gonzalez, and told him that I had a black person over and he was afraid that she would try to steal things from his garage. Another time, this same fireman called my landlord to tell him that "unnatural acts" were going on in my apartment and that I should be evicted. Thankfully, my landlord, who was Mexican, told me that he understood discrimination and that I should just ignore that neighbor.
12) Did you have mentors in the Chicago GLBT community?
Mimi Lewin, Jackie Anderson, Sarah Hoagland, Jeffner Allen, Sydney Spinster, and Elaine Stocker.
13) Involvement in organizations (GLBT and/ormainstream):
Employment Advocacy and Research Network/EARN (founder)
Lesbian mothers supports groups (founder)
Anti-pornography group (founder)
Slideshow, A Civil Rights Approach to Pornography (founder)
Chicago Women In Trades (board member)
Berwyn United Neighborhood Gay and Lesbian Organization/BUNGALO (board member)
Wimmin's Studies Teaching Collective (board member)
Chicago Wimmin's Liberation Union (board member)
Metis Press (volunteer)
DuPage Women Against Rape (volunteer)
14) When you were coming out, what were your favorite GLBT bars in Chicago?
Ladybug (1978-?) and Déjà Vu
15) What were the key issues faced in the GLBT community when you first came out?
Lesbians with children and lesbian separatism.
16) What issues do you see as key in the GLBT community today?
Feminism and S/M.
17) How have AIDS and/or other health issues impacted your life personally?
Breast cancer has impacted my life because my best friend, Mimi Lewin, died from it. I had always pictured her and I growing old together, and still pulling capers like spray painting the Lincoln Park underpass with "Pornography is the theory, rape is the practice," or spray painting stop signs with the word "Rape."
18) How would you describe the “diversity” within the Chicago GLBT community?
I believe that all of these issues are almost as much a part of the GLBT community as it is in society as a whole. In "mixed" groups, I have found many gay men to be as oppressive to the lesbians in the group as straight men are to wimmin in society.
However, perhaps even more appalling is to find lesbians in these groups to be oppressive because they have adopted male hierarchical ways. As a feminist, I have tried to live my life in a nonhierarchical and inclusive way.
I have expected, perhaps naïvely, that modern feminist, women's, and GLBT groups would be behaving more progressively along these lines. I am not saying that they haven't progressed at all, but I can easily say I am very disappointed at the snail's pace.
Of course, I have tried to make some of these groups more aware of these deficits, but in most cases my opinion wasn't well received. Consequently, I couldn't stay involved with these groups, because I detested that the general societal values of exclusion and hierarchy have infiltrated into the groups that I hoped would have better standards.
19) If you consider yourself a “political” activist, how do you define this?
I consider myself to be a political activist, although I think that my definition of "political" is different than most people would define it. I believe it to be a political act just to live as a lesbian. It seems that many people see the term "political" to be as simple as Republican or Democrat or Independent. If one looks at the politics of today, there doesn't seem to be a lot of difference between a Republican or a Democrat.
Where once I would have gladly and excitedly voted for a woman, Ferraro or Schroeder, now we have Hillary. Each day I hear a sound byte from her, I cringe... more... and more. Obama was looking good in the beginning, but now he is backpedaling more and more like a politician. "Politician" – the dirtiest word in American English today! I don't see any politician today as a political activist. If I did, I'd probably vote for them in a heart beat.
I try to be politically active in my everyday, moment-to-moment activities; I try to be an example of how I want the world to be; occasionally, I will feel forced to spell it out in a more animated way.
Currently, I am challenging the legal system and the legislature in appealing a work-related wrong. I have started a not-for-profit to investigate, expose, and right discrimination against working women, especially for women in the trades... usually, these women are lesbians, women assumed to be lesbians, or just women who want to steal men's well-paying jobs. I am approaching this formidable task via experimental and non-litigational methods.
20) Describe what you feel your personal legacy is to the Chicago GLBT community.
Of course, like any good lesbian, I have volunteered. But probably one of the best ways was in blazing the way for lesbians who chose to keep their children not to be discriminated against by other lesbians during a time when child raising was considered detrimental to a woman's self-determination.
When Mimi Lewin and I started lesbian mothers support groups and wrote articles about the value of and problems faced by lesbian mothers, we never envisioned that the day would come when lesbians would actually be choosing to become mothers, and especially, mothers of male children, because turkey-baster babies usually were male.
Mimi was the mother of two sons, and I was the mother of two daughters. While I felt some discrimination because I chose to keep my daughters after I divorced, Mimi, who had males, was a victim of more blatant discrimination. For instance, I frequently brought my daughters to Mountain Moving Coffeehouse and was elated that my daughters could be exposed to an environment of safety with women. Mimi, on the other hand, never brought her sons because she felt they might be objects of derision.
I still remember an issue brought up at Mountain Moving Coffeehouse about whether or not male children should be allowed to attend the Michigan Women's Music Festival. Mind you, besides being a lesbian mother of daughters, I was a separatist. It was a dilemma to look at the many faces this issue brought up: loyalty to a friend who had, by the luck of the draw, birthed male children; separatist ideology that males were inherently bad; feminist philosophy that by virtue of being able to bear children, a female was saddled with overwhelming childcare responsibilities (that diminished her right to a full life without such shackles) knowledge of these particular young male children as being innocent of the sins of the fathers; knowledge that my friend, Mimi, was well aware of the patriarchal system and had already conjured up a well thought out unconventional way to raise these males; to name just a few.
I think another way that Mimi and I contributed was to try to demonstrate the (a) "PHALLUS-Y" and detriment of pornography from a civil rights viewpoint, and (b) S/M and how these myths about sexuality impacts women in general, and lesbians in particular.
There were numerous other things I participated in, like Metis Press (all lesbian-made books) and the Wimmin's Studies Teaching Collective at the University of Illinois (and constantly fighting with a Socialist Marxist professor about the validation methods of teaching about lesbians as a lifestyle), and when I think back on all of these things, I don't know how I was able to do all this plus raise two daughters, put myself to school, learn a trade, have relationships, play softball, have fun, and still have time to sleep.
21) This project is also about “defining moments.” Please discuss some of those in your life.
I think one of the first defining moments in my life had to do with discovering I couldn't join Little League because I was a girl. I was better than the boys in playing league ball. I was the only girl in the neighborhood, and when the guys and I got together to play, I was always the first one chosen. ( It was ironic that when I played softball in school gym class because I was shy and no one knew me very well, the girls always picked me last. But whatever team I was on usually always won because I hit a lot of homers and was an excellent outfielder. )
Since this experience, I have been very sensitive to the "unfairness" of life. It has been a theme in my life, and the drive for many things, including discrimination of all kinds.
22) Additional comments and memories.
Penny Wilson and her Feminist Women's Giveaway. See also the piece she wrote called, "The Woman Centered Economy."