Dyke baiting in the trades

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October 24, 1983
“Pacific Heights woman strangled.”

I take in the headline, then realize with horror the woman is Sue Lawrence, a fellow electrician. By evening after a day full of questions from men at work, I am terrified at the prospect of my own victimization. Sandy’s gone to class and I think about how that “nude body face down on the bed” could be mine. What if like in some Agatha Christie plot, the murderer is after all the female electricians in the city? Could I be next? In the shower, a most vulnerable state especially with my head…

You could say that she died at the hands of the white man too

The posse didn’t wait to start shooting as they drove their horses down into the wash where the Indians slept in their camp. The reward had been promised whether they were brought in dead or alive. It was easier to kill them all.

On a cold February day in the Nevada hinterlands, a battle raged for three hours, pitting 13 Indians with few guns and little ammunition against 19 well-armed vigilantes. The women defended themselves and their children with spears and arrows. The little children threw rocks at the invaders.

One of the whites was killed as he advanced when…

My night as a nun in the Castro

Photo credit: author. All rights reserved.

When sing-along movies became a big thing in the early 2000s, they sold out little-used movie houses. People in theme costumes waited with their kids in long lines all over the country. In San Francisco the place to sing along with musicals was and still is the Castro Theater, a 1920s-era movie theater in the heart of the gay district. What could be better than flaunting your clever musical costume on Castro Street?

It helped if you knew all the words to all the songs. My girlfriend Barb, a survivor of Catholic schools whose first love had always been nuns…

A little San Francisco gay history for Pride month

A Black Wonder Woman is on the other side of the van. Photo from author

My first close-up encounter with drag queens took place in a Tenderloin bar when I worked as an electrician with Wonder Woman Electric in the late 1970s.

An all-female collective of electricians, we did mostly residential work. But our regular commercial accounts included some of the multitude of San Francisco’s gay bars. Each of the bars catered to a particular subculture in the larger gay community. Lesbians had a few bars and coffee houses. But bars for gay men proliferated. …

That time my college roommate made the BAR

Castro neighborhood of San Francisco. Photo by author

“Gay Man Stabbed in Heart Survives,” read the front-page headline in the BAR, a gay newspaper I picked up while strolling Castro Street.

Then I looked at the picture. It was my old college roommate Larry Johl. I recognized him immediately from his long very blond hair. As students at Washington State University we had lived together in the Rosa Luxemburg Collective in Pullman, a little town near the Idaho border. (Rosa Luxemburg, whose giant portrait we painted on our dining room wall, was a Polish revolutionary socialist theoretician who was assassinated in 1919 — our hero.)

That was in…

How a gas stove set fire to secrets

Photo by By vladimir licensed from Adobe Stock.

At 71, my father, Carroll, has been single for three years.

“What’s it like?” I ask. “Do you think it’s different from single at 30, or 40?” I’m in a relationship at the moment, but considering the impermanence of modern lesbian relationships, this is information I intend to store for the future.

He looks at the sky and smooths his gray mustache. “Probably not.”

We sit on the deck of his tiny trailer in a run-down resort in the California desert near the town of Needles. We are drinking vodka and grapefruit juice, perhaps a bit too fast. Vodka is his drink, not mine. He likes whiskey, he says, but his…

On Harvey Milk, lesbians in the trades, and coming out

“Come on you can tell me,” says Bobby. “Are you gay?”

Bobby is a machinist who usually works in the machine shop but today he is helping me change light fixtures in the warehouse at the corporation yard. I’m the only electrician and sometimes I need a helper. There was no laborer available and I am up on a 16-foot ladder.

The song by the Police, Every Breath You Take, is playing on the boom box Bobby carries around with him.

“This sounds like a song about stalking,” I say. “It’s a threat.”

“Hmm, I never thought about it that…

What does a nonconforming, revolutionary lesbian wear to a heterosexual wedding?

Photo by ColeKenTurner (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

“Jesus Christ, it’s 1979. Why do they need to get married? They’ve been living together for five years. No one in the family disapproves. Why do people feel compelled to have the state sanction their relationships?”

Don let me rave. Neither of us could answer these rhetorical questions. He couldn’t have been any less enthusiastic about our brother Tim’s wedding than I was. We knew neither of us would ever have a family wedding with all the attendant fussing, well-wishing, presents and cultural sanction, not that either of us would want one.

“You don’t suppose there’s any way we can…

Singing our hearts out

In the 80s, when she was still drinking and cocaine was plentiful, Pat and I used to frequent piano bars in San Francisco.

The Mint on Market Street near the Castro was our favorite, a magical showcase where every night was a surprise. The piano player was a bearded mustachioed man who nevertheless enunciated so clearly that I could watch his lips and learn the words as he sang. Pat already knew the words to the songs in the Great American Songbook. She was seven years older than I, a generational difference in her mind. I had come of age…

Molly Martin

I’m a long-time tradeswoman activist and retired electrician/electrical inspector in San Francisco.

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