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Western Carolinian interview with founder of Lavender Bridges

  • hl-westerncarolinianclipping-1986-09-18-vol52-no07-09-02.jpg
  • In the September 18, 1986 issue of the Western Carolinian, Editor-in-chief Andrew Dawkins interviews Chris, the founder of Lavender Bridges. Lavender Bridges, an anonymously founded student organization open to all individuals, aimed to promote awareness of lesbian and gay lifestyle, provide lesbian and gay resources, and increase communication with all students and community members. The first organizational meeting took place October 10, 1985 and was officially recognized by the office of Student Development on December 13, 1985. The last mention of the group appeared in the October 10, 1991 issue of the Western Carolinian.
  • // I Think People Are Things by Andrew Dawkins Editor-in-Chief The following is a candid interview with the founder of Lavender Bridges. For obvious reasons her full name will not be used, save the first nanne Chris. WC:When did you first realize you were gay? CHRIS:I realized I was attracted to other individuals of the same gender when I was about 8 years old but I never perceived these attractons as sexual in nature. I was 25 before I acknowledged to myself and others that I was a lesbian. WC:What was your initial reaction to this discovery? CHRIS.I was raised in a very moral and religious home. I attended church, sang in the choir, and even accepted the Fundamentalist views and dedicated my life to Christ throughout my life. It was very easy to say at that point that I wasn't a lesbian-after all I thought that homosexuals were repulsively marred, didn't take baths, and instead of having loving relationships beat each other for arousal. I certainlydid notfit anyof those categories and so reassured myself that these fellings were unique and misunderstood. When I finally recognized that loving another woman in my way was equal to the normal reactions that other women had for men, I sighed in relief. I finally understood that gay people not only were capable of loving, healthy relationships but did actually seek them out and experience them. WC:What was the nitial reaction of your significant friends to this discovery (taking it for granted you shared it with them shortly afterwards)? CHRIS:My initial reaction was that I should tell those people who were, closest to me. I felt it was the Chris honest nature in me wanting people to be happy with me about growing up and recognizing my differences. Instead I was told by my minister that I had a demon and needed much prayer and deliverance. I was soon monitored for my honesty and other members of the church began reporting to the minister on who I had been with, how late I had been out, etc. Overnight I was ostracized from the "spiritual" group that I had known and transformed inot a terible demon possessed creature who was eventually excommunicated from the ranks of the "righteous" and dismissed as a spiritual enemy of the church. When my own mother finally asked the same question I expected the same treatment but all she said initially was "my daughter, I love you." And then she said "Have you prayed to God to change you?" My response was "Mom, I've lived my entire life trying to please God and Christ, you and those who said they knew what was right. I have discovered that others don't know all that is right but Christ does. If God is disgusted with me then God will have to let me know. I am no longer living my life to please others more than myself of God." WC:Why found Lavender Bridges? CHRIS.A major reason LB was founded was out of personal need to meet others who were lesbian and gay and to create a place where we could "come out" and talk and grow together. I also recognized that many gay people might be feeling isolated and quite alone here. In addition to that, I believe lesbians and Gay men have many needs and rights which are overlooked and often taken for granted by others. I wanted to provide an opportunity for thought, growth, and change. WC:Why the name Lavender Bridges? LB was originally intended to be a pseudonym for members of the organization to assume in the event that they wanted to speak up for gay people in the newspaper without endangering their campus careers. The color Lavender is an international symbol of gay pride and we wanted to let people know we are not ashamed of who we are (just cautious). We are also building bridges for understanding and communication with those who have a million myths and fears about gay people. wciwnar discoveries about yourself or others around you (in Cullowhee) have you made since you launched Lavender Bridges? CHRIS:I have come to view myself as others have seen me, that is, a very strong, knowledgable, spiritual, caring human being. Most of those who encountered in Cullowhee and know about me and my affiliation with Lavender Bridges have not only been receptive but have shown repeatedly a support and human caring that comes when fears and myths are dispelled. The minimal negativism and outright hostility I have personally encountered is representative of a minority group which is much smaller than the 600-700 gay people on this campus. WC:What's your philosophy on life? CHRIS:I have a strong value for life and the quality of it. I used to be afraid to take risks but I have learned that living is a process of trying and understanding the outcome and aplying that to the next attempt. I'm not saying that I'm not afraid even — I'm saying that the results are much more gratifying than the sitting still. I'd like to think that caring , listening, and giving your best is what really makes life a quality commodity. If most of us understood what that meant we could exceed a lot of the hatred and oppression that exists. WC:What motivates you? CHRIS:One of the most motivating things for me is seeing a task that needs to be attended to and doing something about it. I don't mind being asked to think on a question, and I find the more creative I am asked to become, the more motivated I become. WC: What's your response to those who say Gay men are sick/perverted etc.? CHRIS:I say that those individuals are predominantly fearful of something they don't understand. These people think they have never met a gay person, they are told by over-zealous judgemental moralist that there are few Gay men, and that they do not live among the good and healthy population. Gay people are everywhere — in church beside you, teaching in your classroom, members of your fraternities and sororities, some are your mother or father or minister, many sit beside you in classes everday and you could never know it! Once the human element is added to the picture, I find that fearful individuals become sensitive listeners. Once an individual becomes a sensitive listener then they can be given factual information and asked to make a responsible decision about their attitudes toward gay people. Many people have said to me- "hey, you're just another normal human being!" WCHow would you describe yourself? CHRIS:I am a happy, sane, highly sensitive and spiritual individual who enjoys the outdoors, jazz, delicious food and intense and fascinating conversations with people who are not preoccupied with being just like the "norm", f enjoy traveling, reading, waterfall exploring, and flying kites. I am a person pursuing a humanity- oriented career and believe that I have a great deal to offer my profession as well as humankind. Being a lesbian does not interfere with who I am and it has played a major role in my abilities for insight and sensitivity to those around me. I am a woman and a lesbian. They are interchangeable for me because I am not only a sexual entity; I also have political, social, intellectual, aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual components as well. I am not a lesbian because I chose to revolt »inst society's values; I am a gay ton because I chose to acknowledge that pa rt of me and to go on with my life, living it as fully and happily and with as much to offer as is humanly possible. WC.Who are some of the people you admire most, and why? CHRIS: Those who are willing to be unique and outstanding, who take risks when everyone else is satisfied to stay silent and still and follow the tried and true; those who show the need to survive (which some define as courage), and those who don't mind speaking from the heart without malice or judgement. Some people who fit these descriptions aren't even gay! Einstein, for example. Some who have advocated the gay life in one way or another, and whom I admire are: Rita Mae Brown (lesbian author), Martina Navratilova (fantastic amazon tennis pro), Rock Hudson (movie star with AIDS), and Harvey Milk (San Francisco's first openly gay elected official). Lavendar Bridges is a self- funded student organization which provides social and emotional support for the WCU lesbian/gay community. It is open to gay people, their friends, and supporters. It also provides information and presentations for those who have questions concerning gay lifestyle, or whoare family of lesbian/gay individuals. Lavendar Bridges will hold their FIRST open to the general campus "drop-in" on Wednesday, September 24 from 12 2 in the Catamount Room of the UC. They will provide free literature and answer questions for interested individuals. Lavendar Bridges will also hold a closed meeting for lesbians and gay men only, on Thursday, September 25 at 5 pm. Discretion is assured. For additional information on membership, presentations, newsletter subscription, etc. Write to: PO Box 2646 / Cullowhee NC 28723.