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…


Photo courtesy of the author

65-Year-Old Leprechaun Seeks Sex With Any Female

Al and I first met when I walked into the open door at Summit pump station. He was kneeling on the concrete floor painting one of the pump motors that supply water to the city of San Francisco. When he saw my figure standing in the doorway he jumped back, like I was there to assault him. That gave me a little jolt of power — that a man might be startled by me.

Yeah, I thought to myself, I’m a big strong woman and men flinch at the sight of my form. But there was a safety issue. The…


A gay woman in the trades tells it like it is

courtesy of author

“I don’t get it,” I said. “Why would you want to be a woman? We are discriminated against. The men we work with hate us. We get paid less. Why choose that?”

Jesus thought for a moment. “When I get in the shower and look down at my penis, I hate it. I feel like it shouldn’t be there.”

We were standing out in the corporation yard, away from our coworkers in the shops.

Jesus and I had worked together at the San Francisco Water Department for a couple of years and I was glad we’d become close enough for…


How Do You Say Goodbye?

Photo credit: author

Joe is talking about death. “I don’t know how to say goodbye,” he says.

I look up from the electrical outlet I’m installing, bending a piece of half-inch pipe.

“Say you have a good friend who’s dying,” he continues. “How so you say goodbye?”

I’m suspicious. These men think because I’m female I’ll mother them. I’ll listen to their problems. Let them cry on my shoulder. Tell them everything’s alright. I resent the emotional drain on me. What do I get in return? They wouldn’t listen to my problems, and I wouldn’t trust their intuition anyhow. Besides, I wouldn’t risk…

Molly Martin

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

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store