MARCIA SUE HILL
3) City/state where you live currently:
Northern Illinois University (DeKalb), BS, 1981
Swiss precision job shop in Harwood Heights (bookkeeper 2001-present).
BTU Contracts Inc., Lincolnwood, Illinois (dispatched truck drivers in the cryogenic gas industry and
handled the ap/ar).
Palwaukee Bank (teller, bookkeeper, proof operator).
On the side, I’ve been an official for volleyball, basketball, softball, flag football, and dodge ball.
6) Did you serve in the U.S. military?
7) How do you describe your sexuality and your gender?
8) Do you have children and/or grandchildren?
9) If you are GLBT, please describe when you first “knew”:
When I first kissed a woman in the summer of 1979.
10) Who did you first “come out” to and when?
In 1982 I came out to my brother and his wife. I was doing laundry at his house in Wheeling; we were talking and my sister-in-law said, “Marcia, it’s okay if you prefer women.”
11) What troubles did you face as a GLBT person?
When I transferred back to NIU from Bradley University in Peoria, I had to live in the dormitory the first semester (January 1978). The women on the dorm floor found out I was majoring in PE and trying out for the softball team, and I had touched one of the women’s long hair. They all assumed I was gay and shied away from talking with me.
Apparently there was the stigma if you were a physical education major and played softball at one of the state universities; you had to be gay to want to do that. When I would ride the bus around campus, there were times that I saw people on my floor point to me and say something to the person they were standing next to.
When I was working at the bank, my supervisor pulled me aside and told me I had to dress more feminine – I needed to wear dress pants, not corduroy pants.
When playing volleyball for the Swan Club team at Brands Park in the early ‘80s, other teams found out we were a gay bar and started heckling us from the balcony. We just played harder to win on the volleyball court. Some of my teammates were teachers and they would not be a part of the team picture for fear of losing their jobs.
12) Did you have mentors in the Chicago GLBT community?
I looked up to Dolly, the owner of the Swan Club; Kathy Kelly my first volleyball coach for the Swan Club; and Sam Molinaro and Arthur Johnston when I joined the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA) board.
Dolly paid for her teams to play in Chicago Park District leagues – volleyball, basketball, and 16-inch softball. She also partially sponsored our Swan Club team when we played in the Northwest Suburban Women’s Volleyball League. There were five teams in each division and one night a month, we would play the other four teams two games apiece and officiate the other match.
Jimmy McKinzey could be considered a mentor – watching him run the Fall Classic all those years and also directing the North American Gay Volleyball Association (NAGVA) tournaments held in Chicago.
Sam Molinaro did so much to get the Gay Athletic Association (GAA), Metropolitan Sports Associatio (MSA), and Chicago MSA going. It’s hard to believe in 2008 it will be 30 years of organized gay sports in Chicago.
I am still impressed with the work Arthur Johnston has done in trying to get a level playing field for gays and lesbians. When we came on together to the MSA board in 1984, the work that he did. In 1985, he sponsored my women’s softball team, paid the sponsor fee, bought us t-shirts and pants, videotaped our games, showed them at the bar, took highlights, put it to music. He made our team feel welcome at Sidetrack. He also lead the charge for when MSA got into the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA), and supplied the uniforms for the two teams that went to Kansas City to play in their tournament to get out the new name of Metropolitan Sports Association. He had two guys from his men’s team coach the women’s team; they were a lot of fun. I remember Arthur cheering on the sidelines and sometimes running along side the runner heading home.
13) Involvement in organizations (GLBT and/or mainstream):
Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association/CMSA (board member and volunteer)
Women’s Sports Association/WSA (board member and volunteer)
Gay Games (volunteer)
North American Gay Volleyball Association/NAGVA (volunteer)
I’ve never had the money to be a donor; I have just donated my time and sports expertise as a player, manager, coach, scorekeeper, league commissioner, and/or umpire/official. I founded the CMSA women’s flag football league, and also did the legwork to start the golf league.
14) When you were coming out, what were your favorite Chicago GLBT bars?
When I was at NIU, we would use our fake IDs and drive in to Charlie’s on Golf Road in Niles. Early 1980s: Swan Club, Lady Bug, His 'n Hers, Augie and CK’s, and Sidetrack when it opened. I remember going into the Swan Club in the fall of 1981, Dolly having a jukebox, the pool table, the chalkboard to put your name on to play pool.
I remember going to Augie and CK’s where Charlie’s is now, having too much to drink and just walking to my car by myself and my friends came running out, screaming at me, you don’t walk to your car in this neighborhood by yourself, are you crazy? So from that day, we always used to go in pairs or threes to Augie’s for safety.
15) What were the key issues faced in the GLBT community when you first came out?
Prejudice, how there was a big stigma if you were gay, the AIDS epidemic, the Catholic Church, and people losing their teaching jobs when the Catholic schools found out they were gay.
16) What issues do you see as key in the GLBT community today?
It is still very political; there is still a lot of lobbying going on, and people can’t agree on the wording or the depth of legislation. Tolerance and civil unions – people who have been together don’t necessarily get their partner’s benefits or pensions. Having to have the right paperwork if you are sick in the hospital so that your partner can make your medical decisions and not your family.
17) How have AIDS and/or other health issues impacted your life personally?
I played volleyball and softball in the CMSA men’s league during the 1980s. In particular, I played for the Big Red’s men’s softball team. As I look back at the team picture, most of them have passed away from AIDS. Jimmy McKenzie, who ran the CMSA men’s volleyball league, has been living HIV-positive for almost 20 years.
There are many men who I played softball or volleyball that are gone. There are gaps in trying to remember who did what, went to what tournament, who was on which team. Eddie Layton who worked at Sidetrack, Ralph Nehrenz who officiated volleyball, Phil Knight from NAGVA.
18) How would you describe the “diversity” within the Chicago GLBT community?
I believe as the years go on, our community is becoming more diverse. The members in their 20s look at the world so much differently than those of us in our 40s or 50s. They have grown up knowing Martina [Navritilova], Billie Jean [King], and Ellen [DeGeneres] are gay, as opposed to those of us who grew up with Rock Hudson being married along with other people who hid behind marriages. The world was more Methodists/Lutherans vs the Catholics; now it is Jews, Muslims, Catholics, etc.
The electronic age of e-mails, instant messages, text messaging – our newer members expect everything electronically, and the older members still like snail mail and phone calls. There are more people in CMSA where English is their second language.
There are many people with tattoos and body piercings – at sporting events we keep having to remind them to take off their jewelry in order to play.
The language people use when talking… How we handle ourselves in public. The younger members do a lot more in public, the older members are more reserved, do not necessarily show their affection in public. To the older members, sportsmanship and respect is very important, to the younger people, they just want to kick someone’s butt while playing. Older person will say great hit, younger person will say that was f***ing awesome.
I think every day we are becoming more diverse, and Chicago is a melting pot for our community. There are many people who grew up in small towns or on farms who now live in Chicago/suburbs. There is still the problem that men make more money and can spend more than women. Our organization accepts anybody, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender. I hear “you go girl” in the open league all of the time.
19) Describe what you feel your personal legacy is to the Chicago GLBT community.
My personal legacy has been to help keep the gay sports leagues going. Even though my college degree was in education, I never taught. While student teaching, I realized that not everybody had the passion for sports that I had – many people were forced to take PE because it was a requirement. In CMSA, people join our organization because they choose to, want to.
I have realized in the past several months that I have become several women’s mentor; they look up to me and want to follow what I do.
I enjoyed playing sports but I get more of a thrill being able to officiate a game, to see people improve their skills as the season goes on. Many people don’t realize everything it takes to put together a league, from finding and securing a facility at convenient times, arranging the officials, balancing the schedule so teams play at different times, on different fields, recording the scores, updating the standings, etc.
Back in the ‘80s, it was more of who did not have the chance to play in high school; now it is those who want to play sports for the social aspect and get away from the video games and text messaging. There is a woman on Thursday night softball who is playing for the first time since eighth grade. Today, they want to drink while playing, or at least once the last out is made.
20) This project is also about “defining moments.” Please discuss some of those in your life.
Growing up on a farm, sports were my outlet. I was able to play vb, bb, and softball in high school. My mom was very controlling on who we dated in high school. She would either not tell me somebody called or she would intercept letters in the mail. My mom always thought that I should have come out of college with my MRS degree not a BS degree. She didn’t really want me to play sports – she wanted me to become a cheerleader or pom pom girl like my sister. We made most of our clothes growing up and I was limited in what I could sew or buy.
When I went to Bradley University, I made the vb and bb teams as a walk-on player. There were only two or three scholarships between the two sports. I had played against a woman named Mary from Barrington in high school, and at freshman orientation we choose to become roommates because we were both interested in sports. Every morning, she would get a phone call; I would hear her say “I love you” and then hang up.
About six weeks into the semester, I get pulled into the residential advisor’s room and Mary says she is gay and wants the room to herself. So I had to move to a different dorm and had to say “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for moving. At that time, we could not say Mary was gay, but Mary was the first gay person I knew.
That spring I practiced softball with the Pekin Lettes. I went back to Peoria for a softball tournament and was staying with one of the other players. Marge Eckhoff asked if I wanted to go dancing that night, I said sure, and the next thing I know we are walking up to the Club Peorian, the gay bar in Peoria, I walk in and see my college coach, her girlfriend, several teammates, and other people from the ICC and ISU teams.
In the summer of 1979, I was playing on a fast pitch softball team from DeKalb in the Aurora Women’s league. Another team asked me to play with them in a tournament in Galena. I drove out there, and after the game we went back to a teammate’s cabin on Apple River, and it was then that I realized that I had been invited to be someone’s date for that weekend, everybody else was paired up. That was the first time I kissed a woman.
That fall at NIU, I was the student trainer for the women’s bb team and I started dating the bb manager because she had found out I had played with the one softball team. My mom couldn’t figure out why I wanted to be back at my apartment during Christmas break.
Another impact on my life was when I started dating a police officer. Being a police officer you can be very closeted, because most males on the police force did not want women and sometimes if you called for back up, they took their sweet time coming to help. She did not want her phone number listed in the papers, so she strongly recommended that I give up running flag fb and not being on the board. She was afraid people would put together that I was her girlfriend, and she didn’t want to be hassled at work. There were some times that I could not answer the phone at home for fear they would figure out that she was living with another woman. I was not listed as her emergency contact – she had to list her sister as the first one to call in case of an emergency. There were certain parties that she had to go by herself. When playing on softball teams, I had to hide she was a police officer. There were several BBQs that we went to and she had to leave because people were doing drugs and she didn’t want to be a witness to that, or she couldn’t be around people smoking pot for fear second-hand smoke would cause a positive drug test. When she got a couple of special awards for rescuing people from a fire or for her undercover work, I had to miss the awards ceremony because I wasn’t “family.” When she had back surgery, we had to lie and say I was her sister for me to get into her room.