“We’re here, we’re queer and we’d like to say hello.”
That’s the phrase from a 1990s pamphlet from an LGBTQ activist group, but many in Juneau’s community are still timidly waiting in 2013 for the right time to say hi.
“I really think that a lot of people in Juneau don’t want to think about gay people or gayness or gay issues, but we’re never going to have equality unless we just put it out there,” Juneau resident Ricky Tagaban said in a recent interview. “There are plenty of queer people here, whether they identify as gay or bi or trans or fluid or if they don’t even identify, they don’t even think about it, they just are. We need a TMI convention.”
For purposes of inclusivity, queer is an umbrella term being used by many for the broad spectrum of variance in sex, sexuality and gender. Often heard is LGBT or LGBTQ, though some argue it should be LGBTQI or other variations — “The community is not just LGBT, it’s LGBTQ, A, I, P — a whole bunch of things.” Juneau college student and community activist Rei Radford said — and at some point the acronym can become unwieldy. So, what do all these letters stand for?
• Lesbian is a word to describe a woman who has significant sexual or romantic attractions to other women, or who identifies as a member of the lesbian community.
Maureen “Mo” Longworth and Lin Davis are a Juneau couple who married unofficially in California in 1990, officially in 2008, and were granted a civil union in Vermont — none of these are recognized in Alaska. The couple met in Oakland in the late ‘80s, walking their old dogs in the same neighborhood. Both were in relationships with other people at the time, Mo with a man, Lin with a woman. But as their friendship blossomed, they eventually discovered they were in love. Romantic love. Hearing them talk about meeting and falling in love is like watching the scenes from When Harry Met Sally with the couples describing their love stories. Lin is a retired State of Alaska employee and Mo is a physician.
Marguerite Lauri Crawford and Kimberly Hubbard Crawford are another Juneau couple. They met three years ago and were married almost a year ago here in Juneau. Their marriage is not recognized in Alaska. They are both employees of the State of Alaska.
Sara Boesser is an LGBT activist who has worked for the City and Borough of Juneau and has marched on Washington for gay rights. Boesser has written a book “Silent Lives: How High a Price,” a 193-page exploration of the challenge a sexual minority faces when attempting to pass as heterosexual, and helped organize SEAGLA in the 1980s.
• Gay is a term to describe a man who has significant sexual or romantic attractions to other men, or who identifies as a member of the gay community.
Edmar Carrillo is currently a University of Alaska Anchorage art student, he grew up in Juneau and graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School. He is currently in a relationship.
Richard Carter is a University of Alaska Southeast art student and the president of the university Gay Straight Alliance. He’s originally from Palmer and is currently in a relationship. He’s involved in the University’s Safe Zone trainings and is involved in a number of other on-campus organizations.
Devyn Reece moved to Juneau recently from Colorado. He is a State of Alaska employee and on the board of the Alaska Aids Assistance Association (Four A’s) and the City and Borough of Juneau Human Rights Commission. When it comes to sexuality it’s pretty straight forward, but when it comes to gender, he likes to play a little. Devyn was inspired a year ago to compete in the Femme Fatale amateur drag show, he enjoys putting on a persona and performing, but he still identifies as male and doesn’t have a desire to be female.
Ricky Tagaban was born and raised in Juneau, has attended the University of Alaska Southeast and has been involved in GSAs at the high school and university level. His studies focused on Tlingit language and culture and he has been learning Chilkat weaving, an art traditionally not done by men.
• Bisexuality is a term to describe a person, male or female, who has significant sexual or romantic attractions to both males and females, or someone who identifies as part of this community.
One of the founding members of PFLAG, Marsha Buck, said both her daughters are bisexual; one is partnered with a woman, the other married to a man.
“I’m bisexual and I want you to start a PFLAG chapter,” Buck recalls her daughter saying, “That’s how she came out.”
• Transgender is an umbrella term for individuals whose gender identity does not match with that assigned for their physical sex.
Radford is a University of Alaska Southeast student who identifies as male. He is Vice President of the GSA and has attended a summit for LGBT youth in Anchorage. Rei has no interest in getting surgery and is content with living as male while still having female anatomy. A question that comes up often for Rei is what sex partner he is interested in — sexuality is separate from gender identity.
“I got this question a lot, actually, when I came out that I was transgendered,” Rei said. “I must have been dating a man at the time... people were like, “So, are you gay?” and I was like, “I don’t think so.” I mean, I think gay implies that I would only date men, and I’ve dated women. Pansexual seems to fit, the acknowledgement that there are more than two sexes seems to work for me. I don’t really care about the sex of the person, it’s more about personality. And maybe a lot of that comes from my situation, why would I ever discriminate against someone based on sex when that’s been my entire life?”
• Queer is a term that was once considered derogatory but has been largely reclaimed as an inclusive term for people in the sexual minority community.
• Questioning describes individuals who are still exploring sexuality and gender and haven’t settled on where in the spectrum they identify.
• Intersex is a term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the traditional definitions of male and female types.
“Some people can have just the genes, and even though they’re born male or female, they’ll feel like they’re in the wrong body and that they should be the opposite sex, and then it goes all the way up to having both genders at the same time, to where people can have partial genders. That means they can be born, that a male could be born with female organs inside of him...” Sonja Haselton explained.
Sonja has three chromosomes, XXY, which is known as Klinefelter syndrome. Sonja lived a portion of her life as a man and served in the military as a man, before transitioning to live as a woman. Sonja described experiencing changes in her physical appearance and build that were not a result of introducing outside hormones. Sonja lives as a woman, but sometimes the state gets in the way.
“Where I’m from, California, you can have your name changed and all that, and your sex changed on your IDs and on your drivers license and the government will do it for the Social Security Card, but they won’t in California change the birth certificate until you physically have the operation,” Haselton said. “That’s wrong because I’ve known other people that by the Harry Benjamin Standards, they can’t physically get the operation, there’s something blocking it — AIDS, diseases, other health issues — for some reason they cannot get the operation, it could even be for money, but they can’t do it, and they’ll have their name changed, but as far as the state of california and the federal government, they’ll always be considered male, or considered female...”
The Harry Benjamin Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People are non-binding protocols outlining the usual treatment for individuals who wish to undergo hormonal or surgical transition to the other sex. Clinicians’ decisions regarding patients’ treatment are often influenced by this standard of care.
Intersex is not that uncommon, Buck said, one in a couple thousand, but it is not frequently talked about.
Buck sees a lot of progress in acceptance of homosexuality and even said she sees rapid progress in acceptance of transgender issues, “I think the next forefront is intersex, because people understand intersex folks hardly at all. I would put an ‘I’ along with the ‘Q’.”
Buck said in the past doctors have kept quiet when presented with ambiguous genitalia, chosen a sex and performed surgery on infants. It isn’t until later, when sexuality and gender identity becomes more apparent, that intersex individuals might find they identify differently than the gender and sex they’ve been assigned.
Ally is a term to refer to straight individuals who are supportive of the queer community. Allies are important to the community as well. It could also refer to advocates.
Marsha Buck is an ally and an advocate, she is still active in PFLAG and the Pride Chorus. Mildred Boesser, Sara’s mother, is an ally and advocate as well, as is her husband, Mark Boesser. Mildred and Mark were also co-founders of PFLAG in the ‘90s and when House Bill 139, adding sexuality and gender identity and expression to be protected from discrimination, received a hearing near the end of session, people like Mildred, who lives at Fireweed Place with her husband, showed up ready to testify.
Kathee Hayes said her daughter came out when she was a sophomore in high school, and though she experienced a range of emotions, she said she would always love and support her daughter. Kathee said she’s “not a rootin’ tootin’ activist of anything,” but the soft-spoken State of Alaska retiree is an ally and wanted it known that she’d be happy to talk to any parents having difficulty with a child coming out.
These people, neighbors and friends, people Juneauites probably run into at the store on a Saturday, are members of Juneau’s LGBT, LGBTQ, A, I, P — or many other alphabet soup of acronyms — community. In this series you can read their stories of discovering themselves, of coming out, falling in love, being told they can’t love who they love, that they can’t marry who they love, of fighting for rights; of physical assault and bullying; of familial and community support; and of always hoping that someday is just around the corner.
Part I: ONLINE at www.juneauempire.com
Early struggles of sex, sexuality, gender and identity
The many faces of the LGBTQ community, and the many acronyms that attempt to define its members
Learn about the struggle for marriage equality
Learn about the struggle for other rights and privileges
Learn about LGBTQ organizations and events.