MADILYN STURGES: Today's date is February 16, 2020. I am Madilyn Sturges. This
is an oral history interview with Julie Derrick in Corvallis, Oregon, for the
OSU History 368 Lesbian and Gay Movements in Modern America Oral History
Project. Can you pronounce and spell your name?
JULIE DERRICK: My name's Julie Derrick. I'm looking at you, right?
JD: It's J-u-l-i-e D-e-r-r-i-c-k.
MS: Thank you. The first topic we're going to talk about is your family and
childhood. When and where were you born? Where did you grow up if it wasn't the
same place you were born?
JD: Right. I was born in Twin Falls, Idaho, which is in the southern part of the
state and then my dad worked on highway construction, so we moved around a lot
and then eventually he got into logging, so we settled up in the north central
part of the state in a town called Orofino. I grew up there. I went to college
at the University of Idaho in Moscow.
MS: Can you share a little bit about your family, what your parents did for
work, obviously logging and highway, and any siblings?
JD: Yeah. I had an older sister. She's eight years older than me. I have a
younger sister who's four years younger. We weren't happy but I'm really thick
with my mom and my sisters and I are very close. Dad was extremely abusive and
alcoholic and struggled to keep work and keep things flowing. My mom did manage
to separate and divorce when I was ten. That was pretty cool. She went to
secretarial school and got a job working for the Forest Service. My
grandparents, her parents, were really, really big in my growing up and we would
go stay with them for extended stretches. They always lived out in these super
00:02:00rugged Idaho places, like not in towns. I think the rural world really saved me,
you know. We grew up kind of wildish, but Mom's kind of proper, too. Our clothes
were always ironed and shit. Our hair was just right to her, whatever. That's
where I sprouted. My older sister had made it out and she went to college and I
remember her coming home when I was in high school and she had like the Rocky
Horror Picture Show soundtrack and ska music and new wave and she taught me to
dance and whip my hair and just made me feel like, hell, yeah. There's something
else. I was able to jet out of that scene. That's really the [gestures dialing
with clicking sound] version of it.
I didn't identify myself as queer, although I definitely had queer feelings and
00:03:00was just like no, I'm just going to use my brains and I was going to be an
intellectual. I wasn't going to marry some fucking logger and get beat up, you
know? Which was my extreme version of what my options were. Then when I got to
college I don't know, I still didn't really think of myself as queer. It was
more like punk. Just open minded. Keeping it to myself, I guess. I didn't
actually end up "coming out" and starting to really get into romantic
relationships with women until '92. Then just right away I got activated,
because there was a lot to protest. The OCA and the far right and then they were
00:04:00really vicious and really, really active and they were pretty sure they were
going to beat us down, you know? I don't know. I had worked really hard to get
to that point. I wasn't going to shut down. That was where we all kind of came
from [makes sprouting gesture]. Coming here was cool because I got to meet all
these kids from small town Oregon. We were all here in Corvallis for various
reasons and something really sparked with us. It was like, shit yeah. We have
each other now. We're not the only one of us in this little place. That's some
of the origin. What else?
MS: I know you talked about how your sister pretty much gave you hope that you
were going to get out of there, but was there any activities that you did
growing up that you enjoyed?
JD: Oh, yeah. I was really, I got really good grades. I was really into school.
They had a hard time finding stuff to keep me busy. I ended up getting into
yearbook and editing the yearbook and I had my little cadre of girlfriends. I
would just always, whatever class, I hated the sciences. I don't like chemistry
or math or biology. I'll just get, just find a way to do something else, like
become the teacher's assistant. It was so small town. It was so silly, but they
would just send me out doing like their personal errands in their cars during
school and I liked that. I was really into finding a different way to exist than
what was set there in front of me.
MS: Were you more outgoing or were you just like stick to the books, get out of there?
JD: Same person I am now. Slightly reserved, at times very animated. We started
partying and so we went out in the woods a lot. I don't know, just like a small
cohort of friends where you can really let loose with. That's kind of my
preference. I'm socially skilled, you know what I mean? [Laughs]
MS: You already talked about this a little bit, but when did you first come
across the queer community, the LGBTQ community? Was it just in the news or was
it from friends that were talking about things? How did that-Because I know it
took you a while before you were like: okay, I'll identify. How did that as a
teen, especially from a small town (I'm from a small town and I get that vibe).
00:07:00How did you go about that?
JD: Well, when I was in high school I had a job at the bakery. That was owned by
the parents of one of my close childhood friends and they just offered me this
job. It was so cool. It was such a great job. They hired this girl who was two
years older than me, Andi Stacey [phonetic], to be the weekend line cook. It was
like they would bake all these breads and do the cakes and all the donuts and
all that and then there was this little diner with the counter and the metal
milkshake things and stuff. She was from Valdez, Alaska, and she was butch. She
just never was like, I'm queer! But she never was not. You know what I mean? We
worked together for this stretch of time every Saturday and those were just like
my favorite days. I just was like, again, like a beacon. I was like, there's
00:08:00something about this that's really-I have a real affinity. I didn't really push
anything, push it, you know? I did get in touch with her later through social
media and told her that I had had this mad crush on her for years and it was
cool. She was like, oh that's cool. [Laughs]. Thanks. Then when I got in college
I had a lot of queer friends, but I've always been really drawn to lots of
different in people. It's really important, I feel, to be-and my town was so
narrow. I was like, anything that's like, I was just drawn to what's not this
main thing. I already know that main thing. That's been-I've been beat down by
that main thing, or whatever. I'm like, what else? What else?
MS: You get your hands in everything, take advantage of the fact that you didn't
have any [cough interrupts audio].
JD: Yeah. I started dating girls pretty quickly after I moved to Portland. A
couple, but I didn't really "come out" officially, but I was like, you know. It
takes time. Just different.
MS: When did you, how did you tell your mom or how did you tell your sisters?
Because you said that you didn't officially come out, so did you tell them, oh
this is my girlfriend? How did they react? Was there the small town push from
them or were they a little more accepting because it's you?
JD: Well, after we moved to Portland and I did officially decide this was
something that I had to pursue or die, you know, and I met this girl right away.
We started hanging out and then my mom had a visit over to Portland planned too,
and I was like, I was just so excited once I finally realized what was up. I was
00:10:00just so happy. I didn't feel isolated anymore, you know? I had people and we
were kissing and stuff. It was awesome [laughs]. I was just so excited and I
took my mom out to lunch and I was like, hey, this is what's going on. She
freaked out and was like, oh my God! What have I done? How could I have done
this? Your birth defect and all this shit that was just like, how did I cause
you to be so misshapen? At that time, I was like Jesus. Mom? I'm cool. It's all
good. This is great. You'll get used to it, you know? She did. She started to
like watch Oprah whenever Oprah would have something on there that was gay
positive. She started to pay more attention to how gay got referenced. She just
started to educate herself. Not that slowly. She came on pretty fast because
00:11:00we're close. It's like, that kind of shit is not going to be tearing me apart
from my mom.
At some point we were, my sisters it was easy. They're kind of like, good. Good
to know. We're really happy about this. It was no surprise. Then my younger
sister with her two little kids moved over to Portland out of a really bad
relationship from their dad. We just moved in together and we all were living as
a family and taking care of each other and stuff. There's always been a lot
going on. It's not just all about my identity, pursuing of that. I'm trying to
remember. My mom was over at one point. We used to have big gatherings a lot.
00:12:00All these people and mom had helped cook dinner. It was just all these queers
and she was like, wow. It was like a Thanksgiving or something. She was like,
why aren't all these people with their families? I was like, well, because
families didn't want them anymore. They kicked them out since they came out. I'm
like, isn't that awful? I'm like, what could I do that would make you like kick
me away from you? She was like, nothing! She just at that moment just embraced
her relationship as an elder parent to all of my friends, you know? It was
obviously pretty powerful to get there. She has always been brave. My mom's
brave. She sat in the living room with me while I home birthed my son. She's got
courage. We have that in common.
MS: That's cool.
JD: When she says, she still will pop out some homophobic shit sometimes but
then at the same time, she has fought for acceptance and equality within her
Lutheran church and she raises her voice. She's still lives in a small town
Idaho and she raises it up of like gay people are not child molesters. In fact,
my kids were molested by a straight, white man, you know? Stuff like that. Still
up. Sometimes she'll get mad at me because I'm not with a girl or a guy
consistently. It's like, what are you? You know? It's just you don't need to
know. Don't worry about it. She did meet Derrick. She got to know Derrick pretty
well while we were together.
MS: Besides your close family, what about your grandparents or anyone in the
00:14:00community? Did you ever go back to your hometown and you're like we should fix
stuff here? There's problems here?
JD: No [laughs].
MS: We'll have to assume [inaudible].
JD: No. I mean I go back and visit. There's a shoe cobbler in my hometown. This
town of 2,000 people has had a shoe repair shop there for like 60 years. I grew
up with that. I feel like it's part of what made it feel like, oh well, shoe
repairs are a really normal thing to do. People need that. I didn't know at the
time how rare that is. I still whenever I go back and I go and I hit up the
folks. I hit up the cobblers and go and hang out and talk about shoes and stuff
for a while. There's that. Other than that, no, I'm not going back to those
places. My sister just moved back because our folks are getting older now. We
were just talking on the phone before I came over here, and she's just like I
00:15:00want you to come out here. I'm like, mm-mm, nope [shakes head side to side]. Not
MS: Now we're going to go into college. Where did you, you already mentioned it
earlier, but where did you go for your undergraduate? What was your major? Why
did you choose that major?
JD: Okay. University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho. The campus is not dissimilar to
this, although it's smaller and more hill-y. But it's a really clean place. It
must have been built probably around the same time the buildings, a lot of them
look familiar to me from my time there. What did I do at first? I mean, I got
tracked into more like an engineering major by my high school counselor which
was just because you're smart, you're brainy so you should go do that. I just,
it was awful. I ended up choosing communications, because I kept up with the
00:16:00yearbook work at the newspaper and I worked at the yearbook and at the radio
station while I was in school. I stuck with the communications and history minor.
MS: What years were those?
JD: I graduated in '89. I stayed around Moscow a little bit longer. I was really
involved in our activism that we were doing was around the wars, the
U.S.-sponsored wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador. We were doing lots of work
around raising visibility around those issues and anti-racism work because Idaho
is the heart of the Aryan nations out here and they were really active then.
Those were the things that I was up to then. It wasn't so much of my own, I
mean, my own personal development was happening and stuff. I was married for a
00:17:00while and that didn't last at all. I was just mostly into dudes basically and
just kept this other stuff always just like, you know. It took me forever even
to get into shoe repair. It just kept sticking with me like [makes repetitive
chit sounds], you know? A lot of prompting from friends and stuff. Finally, I
was like, well I'd rather check that out. It seems like what I'm supposed to do.
It was kind of like that, my very slow process. Some people just pop out the
closet right away. It's really cool. It just wasn't my process.
MS: You did talk about the activism that you were involved in. When you came to
Corvallis, when did you come to Corvallis?
JD: I moved here in '95, so let's see. There was the coming out in '92. Then I
got involved with the Portland Lesbian Avengers pretty much right away and we
00:18:00would, our meetings were in this, it was like a bookstore collective that was in
southeast Portland. The OCA and the neo-Nazis would show up and stand outside
the space while were having our meetings taking pictures of us. They'd all hover
around while we were going in and out. It was real scare tactics they were
enacting. We were just like, oh I guess they're really threatened by a bunch of
dykes hanging out. There must be something to that. That's the spirit of the
Avengers that I always was drawn to. It was punk. It was a little in your face
but in like we're going to also make you laugh. We're going to be really hot.
We're going to be having a good time together. That energy was really, I was
ripe for it. I think the times were ripe for it as well.
I met Derrick at an action. He lived here but he was always coming up because
his sister lived in Portland and he started doing Avenger stuff. Everybody was
after that guy. He's so hot. Finally I was like, that one's for me. We hooked
up. He lived here. We did a lot of back and forth-ing. He actually got a job in
north Idaho fighting fires and I had been up in southeast Alaska on a fishing
boat working and I came back from that and with my dog I hitchhiked from Seattle
over to north Idaho. We were playing this mystery game. No cell phones, of
course, at that time. I didn't reside any particular place when I was in Alaska.
00:20:00He didn't reside any particular place in Idaho. The Forest Service bunkhouse for
a while and rooming with this one person for a while, but I was like I'm not
going to tell you when I'm leaving but I'm going to find you. He was like, I'm
not going to tell you where I am. Find me. I did [laughs]. That was cool. We
were just out as fuck. This is north Idaho. It's very, very, it's extreme there.
Idaho, if you're ever curious look it up. I can't even exaggerate how fucked
that place is. Also, my home, you know? Those trees and those rivers that I grew
up in. I'm like, so I'm there. I'm like I'm from here. I'm queer. What's the
00:21:00big-I'm like, this is my Idaho, too. This is my home, too. Derrick is like so
into the woods and trees and forest. That's his spot. We were like, but we're
not going to-we're not cloaking. I don't know. I was just like, logger boots.
Vintage slips. It was the '90s, you know? Just roaming around this small town
with my like logger socks. You might as well play it up, I guess, if you're just
going to-we're visible anyway, so you might as well be like really just own it.
We spent a summer up there. It was kinda nuts, but we were safe, ultimately
safe. We left. I remember we went over to Spokane to go dancing one night. You
00:22:00had to find out about queer things. You had to do research to find out. It was
word-of-mouth. We got word of this place, this basement under a bar that was
like the queers would go there. I was like, yeah, let's go dancing. We drove
over to Spokane from Wallace, or wherever he was. No, it was Kellogg, danced and
then when we got out it was like all the fucking drunk rednecks would line up
outside the queer bar and be wasted and just hanging out just to like fuck with
people as we were leaving the bar. Everybody. Everybody has their own ways of
skirting that. It was just wild times, wild times. Really forges your sense of-I
mean, we brought all of that to the Avengers. All of that life experience of
00:23:00just being out and being wild and being demanding a certain, and taking chances.
All of that, but it was like, we couldn't not. We couldn't not be that visible.
We were not going to hide it. I don't know if you all have ever been in love,
deep, deep love, but it makes you really strong.
MS: Yeah. You guys went around the northwest and then you ended up in Corvallis.
The Lesbian Avengers, this one, is based in Corvallis, right?
JD: Yes. I was affiliated up there but after that whole summer, that whole epic
thing we did, we were pretty much wanted to be together all the time. I was
00:24:00coming down here a lot, but we were both like, no, long distance is cool. We
always had an open relationship. I guess they call it "non-monogamy" at the
time. I don't know if it still is, so we liked the space. Eventually it was like
no, we need to mmm. In '95, in the fall, I moved down here. Before that, even,
through his school, his education here, he got a job in Honduras for a summer
doing ecotourism stuff where he worked for this ecotourist company that would
take people out whitewater rafting and stuff in Honduras. I went down there and
spent a month with him and definitely we were way more toned down, as far as not
all the other shit I was telling you about Idaho. That was me owning my own
right to be who I want to be in my home. Still, we were denied lodging because
00:25:00we were two females traveling together like we were. Derrick's always been like
at that time was like what the fuck are you? Is this a man? Is this a woman? Is
this a man? There wasn't the language. It was just really different times. We
traveled down there, too. Yeah, you had to go far to find the queers in
Tegucigalpa. He of course found the queers. Very much a magnet. We have been
through a bunch of stuff like that. Then I moved here. Then kind of straight
away he was already friends with Boky and Ana and Carla and Jodi and stuff. Just
something, it was like [makes collecting gesture]. Something just needed to happen.
MS: Which is pretty cool, because Corvallis, it seems, it's always felt kind of
separated. It's like it's its own place, especially like OSU, even finding
people so easily when you're all together and you're roughly in the same age groups.
MS: In this question, we found these photos of is this like the documented first
time that you guys were all together?
JD: Yes. This was it. This was our origin day.
MS: How did it come together? Was it just word-of-mouth that you like, oh we're
going to meet up. We're doing what Portland's doing, what New York is doing?
Come to this house?
JD: Yeah, Boky Vidic in this picture had been talking with Derrick about all the
00:27:00hassles she was getting for being queer in the athletics department. She was
playing basketball for OSU and was just getting a raft of shit and they were
talking about it. We were like, well we should do something about that. He and I
already had Lesbian Avenger experience from Portland and I can't remember if
Heidi had some Avenger experience or not, too. Since it just was like the word
got around. I think that we flyered. I think the reason this is on this page is
that we flyered. We just, our handpicked first group, like Bryan and Derrick
were roommates then. I lived in that house as well. Jodi and Carla [phonetic]
were together and always lived together. Heidi was in the dorms. Ana lived,
00:28:00that's Ana, she lived out with her partner, Lisa, in a school bus someplace out
that way. Diane lived somewhere in town. Yeah, we just were like-
MS: It was hand-picked. You were just like these people are active and they're
angry and they want to do something.
JD: No. We were just, that's who we were running around with. These were our
friends. Yeah, we were like fired up and yeah. We should do some stuff. It's
also, like what else are you going to do? You got to do stuff. There was lots of
opportunities. It was like, that's not fair. It's not right. You shouldn't be
treating people like that in athletics. That's what that picture, was the instigation.
MS: Can you describe, and you did some really good name-drop getting everyone
involved, can you describe the feeling besides just you talked about the
00:29:00basketball thing was really getting everyone, but when everyone gathered
together was it just like, yes. We're going to do this? Was it like that?
JD: Yeah, it was definitely. We were excited. I think we were trying to remember
who it was but I feel like a couple of the Portland Avengers did come down and
talk about some of the actions they had done. We had read Sarah Schulman and we
kind of had a framework of how the organization was going. We were just going to
apply it to our own. We knew our situation was unique in it being so rural. It's
very small. It starts small.
MS: You were living in this house. Did your house become kind of like a, oh the
door's open for any of you guys if you need to come in and drop by? Or was it
00:30:00just for the meetings that you would? I just had that, so when you were talking
I was like oh, my God.
JD: Yeah. I think that's what a lot of us found, was relating that sense of
having come out of whatever towns. Not all of-I mean, Ana's from New York. Some
of us are from really small towns. Carla was from New Orleans. But just that
sense of whatever you're going through you feel so isolated. Having the hate
group continue to get things up on the ballot, where people were just literally
like being invited to go vote about our basic human rights was just like, you
have to band together. I just, isolation is deadly. I mean, I had personally
like a friend community that was devastated by HIV and AIDS up in Seattle, where
00:31:00I was really tight with a bunch of people who I had met in college in Idaho.
There was some really specific things to like what I felt was my own personal
communities in addition to always having an awareness of like, I'm not the only.
It's not that self-centered. There was always other stuff of course. The term
now is "intersectionality," right? That's what I always have felt was just the
right way to exist. It was fun to be like, wow, we're going to prioritize this.
The humor of the Lesbian Avengers was really captivating to me. It was very
clever. We thought we were very clever.
MS: You were an elementary teacher during your years, so when you came to
00:32:00Corvallis, you got a job at one of the elementary schools here?
JD: No, I got a job at the Corvallis Montessori School. I'm trying to think what
led to that? What was I doing in Portland? I had gone to Portland State to get a
master's degree in English. I wanted to be a lit teacher. I taught freshman
writing classes there, and that's when I first got really active, because that
was literally during "No on 9," which was like no public institution would be
allowed to sanction any form of open homosexuality, right? They wanted that to
be statewide. I mean I had a job there. I was a TA for the English department
and it just was really personal. Plus, I had my first girlfriend. I met this
whole group of people. My Portland friends were like theater. They formed an
00:33:00independent radical theater company. That was their main thing. They weren't
necessarily-there was some overlap with the Avengers, but I didn't come to be an
identity Lesbian Avengers until I moved down here. Does that answer your question?
MS: I just was curious what the overlap of "No on 9" and all of that and like
the fact that Lesbian Avengers, one of their biggest things was the rainbow
curriculum, as I said before, and just like being an elementary school theater
and you're like I'm here. You don't want me to be here. All of that.
JD: You know, I just really needed a job and somehow I heard about the Corvallis
Montessori school and I had never worked in an elementary school before, but I
had been working as a teaching assistant. I can do, I can get a job no matter
00:34:00what, but I was like I want a square job. I wanted a regular job that's going to
have predictable hours, I don't want to work restaurant anymore, especially not
in a college town. Yeah, I just went there and I used my own relationship with
my family as having helped my sister raise her kids for the previous few years
combined with other educational background and stuff. It seemed like a good fit.
I was in a liberal, basically liberal tiny private school. They were always
completely supportive. That's an iconic picture of me and Derrick that was on
the front page of the newspaper with us eating fire with our arms linked. The
school director put that up in the school on the bulletin board. He's like,
we're so proud of you. He got a little push back from parents but it didn't
touch me at all. I didn't hear about it until a year later. He just fielded it.
00:35:00It was great. His daughter came out and joined the Avengers, too. I remember
when she came out he pulled me aside and was like, um... no, it wasn't even
that. it was I had cut myself making a theater piece for the kids or something
and he was dragging me to the ER and he was like, "my daughter, [inaudible],
just came out. Do you have any thoughts." I was like, just love her. Tell her
you love her all the time. It's all good. You're lucky that she decided to talk
MS: Yeah. You're like, look after her.
JD: I know [laughs]. I felt completely supported there. I mean, the kids were
great. That was a really good work experience. I liked that.
MS: Yeah, we were going to ask more of like how did you manage the interaction
between your activism and your professionalism, but it seems like you had a
really good support system?
JD: Mm-hmm [yes].
MS: That's really cool.
JD: I used to have this sticker on my bike that said, I fuck to cum not to
conceive. They made me take that off. They made me cover that up while I had my
bike parked on the school grounds. That was the only thing that Bruce ever told
me was not appropriate. That's the picture.
MS: Now we're going to talk more directly about the Lesbian Avengers. The first
question is: what has being a Lesbian Avenger taught you? Be as broad, be as
specific as you want.
JD: What has it taught me?
MS: Yeah. From when you first joined to now that you like reflect back and
you're like, oh that specific moment. That was something.
JD: I mean, I think when you're motivated by love and you have the opportunity
to be really solid with people, you should take that opportunity. because you
00:37:00don't know. They say like tomorrow's promised to no one. You never fucking know.
You should just do the most you can, the most good you can and I already knew
that as a basic value that the Lesbian Avengers really were like, yeah. This is
exactly true. We should always do the most you possibly can with the energy and
resources you're given and make more. Just make places better. Make things
better. The Lesbian Avengers, I feel like that's what we did. We were sexy. We
had fun. I was, at the time of life when I had a lot of energy for that. We all
did. I guess just to recognize magic when you're in its presence, go for it.
00:38:00Don't be afraid. That's probably what the Lesbian Avengers. I mean, eating fire!
C'mon. Have you ever done it?
JD: You got to face it. That was critical.
MS: Yeah. That was actually one of the questions-can you talk about swallowing
fire? We have basic knowledge of the swallowing fire based on what happened, but
when you did it, can you describe the feeling? The power you felt?
JD: Well, I can teach you how to do it.
JD: You know.
MS: Okay, off camera [laughs]. Can you describe it? More the feeling. When you
were doing it, was it, like you felt you were physically taking back the power.
JD: I'm never been crazy about the chant. You know-"We take the fire within us.
00:39:00We take it and make it. The fire will not consume us." I'm not big on the chant,
but the spirit of that makes sense to me. I was never the biggest lover of fire
eating. Some people would make these giant ass torches and just be able to like
dig it. It wasn't competitive, but it was like it makes you feel big because
you're doing something that has a purpose expressed within the organization. I
know at this very moment there could be Avengers eating fire, too, in like
Massachusetts or Texas or someplace and that's cool, that you're part of a
bigger organism that all uses this one thing to express this one feeling of just
don't be afraid.
You have to do things. You can teach yourself as much as possible and you're
00:40:00taking a risk at the same time. But don't be afraid of it. That's what it feels
like when you're like, I'm afraid. I'm afraid. What if I burn myself? What if I
fuck up? What if I put it out too early? Don't be afraid. You're going to fuck
up. You're going to. Sometimes you're going to fuck up but don't' be afraid.
That's the feeling of like, and then when you go through that you and get
yourself all through it and you've done it, you're like: yeah. Cool. And you did
it. And you did this too. And you did this too. It was a brilliant device to
unify the Lesbian Avengers across the board. It's brilliant. It said everything.
MS: Then we'll go back to-any moments that you are particularly proud of that
the Avengers did. This can be whether that you actually interacted with or just
broadly. Like, you felt the fire thing was amazing that they connected.
JD: That's one. That was brilliant. I think maybe the action that we did here
that I feel, one that stands out that I feel super good about having done was
when Roxanne and Michelle were murdered and the guy just claimed it as a hate
crime down in Medford. I never even met them but I felt like I lost my aunties.
It felt really close. Really close. Here I am with this like boy-girl person and
we're like intertwined. We all go everywhere together. We're all obviously queer
00:42:00and it's like, yeah, there could be somebody out there that wants to pick you
off, that would really like the opportunity to fuck up a queer. Where I am now,
I'm like I know my neighborhood. I'm all like, I'm all good. Even when I go out
in the forest, I don't fear that I'm going to get gay bashed. I don't fear that
right now in my life. It felt really different to me then just as awareness that
like, wow. That was fucked up. We were all really touched by that. So, for me, I
love that action so much.
The day-long vigil that we did on the MU quad. We taught so many people to eat
fire. We ate so much fire that day. We taught so many people to do it, but we
would make them interact with us. It's not like, woo! We're going to show
anybody. Just come one, come all. It's not a fucking side show. It's a vigil.
00:43:00If you want to, you're curious. Come on. We'll talk to you. We won't bite unless
you're mean. That was really potent because it was important. Hate crimes were
so on the rise during that time. The OCA was just giving people the latitude to
do all kinds of nasty shit, not just to queers. Hate crimes across the board. I
don't even know where we got the research on this. I was more like fresh out of
academia at the time. A lot of people in the group were students. Heidi she went
on to be a lawyer. That girl could research. She could find information. It was
probably Heidi that pulled that together. We did this really lovely in
remembrance. It was powerful. It lasted super long. I felt like we really
reached people in a different way than sometimes we did. It was a little more
00:44:00somber. It was just different style. I like that we always kept variety in our
actions. We didn't get into one set thing-"Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Homophobia has got
to go!" I would have participated in a lot of those actions to be sure. That
just wasn't our style of what we were going to do. It's going to a lot more
unruly, sort of. That's what stands out.
MS: You felt like you could reach people more because you did it for so-you did
the full day thing?
JD: Well, it was kind of a turn, I think, in my opinion for some of the people,
some of the older, more conservative, still out lesbians who were in town. They
weren't quite sure, maybe felt a little alienated or a little bit protective of
what they had fought so hard to create and were just kind of like let's keep it
smooth. We were like, yeah but it's not smooth. Already it's not smooth. Let's
00:45:00just quit lying about it, but also trying to be compassionate toward like... but
I think on that day some of the older women came through and were like, this is
really beautiful, you guys. There was a heart, it felt more of an action for our
own queer community but in public, too. We taught people to eat fire who were
like, this is really special. Barb did that! She did it! Prudence did it!
MS: The difference between like the louder activists versus the people that are
like in the side, oh I've created this bubble for me. Getting those people to
come out and stand alongside?
JD: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Our own community can be some of the hardest people to win as
allies. You can get into a lot of internal debate about tactics and approaches
00:46:00and ahhh! Why a bomb? You know, kind of thing. But we eventually I felt like
really, I mean, I won't try to overstate, but I feel like we actually brought
the community together in new ways that hadn't been present before. Derrick is a
genius. He really is. He was here on campus for five years and he pretty much
built the organization that was, I don't know what you would call it now, but it
was the LGBA. Then it was the LGBTA. In the student resources consistently
intersecting different kinds of oppression and uniting people because it's not
like you're black or queer. There's a lot of queer black people. You know what I
mean? There's a lot of overlap and like we made, well the other favorite action
I was thinking about when I was walking around today was a combined action with
00:47:00MEChA, who we got connected with I think because Derrick had gotten to be
friends with these three brothers. We called them los boys, but they were from
Peru and had moved up here at some point and we all just got really tight. They
would always have these parties where people were dancing and they'd invite us.
It was so fun to just be in, excuse me, community with people and they wouldn't.
Our dance parties were like, topless. That was our private space to be like
really comfortable. There wasn't-but we did food together.
Anyways, we decided to do an action around Mom's Weekend. It was visibility
around brown people on campus and queer people on campus. Because the event just
00:48:00felt so narrowly focused on this one picture of who is here. It didn't feel
realistic. We, I don't remember whose house it was, but we mixed up a big pot of
wheat paste on the stove and followed a recipe or whatever. Because whatever, it
was probably Heidi, had an anarchist cookbook or something. We went around in
the middle of the night and we pasted these flyers that we had made for both of
us and we put them both together at every spot all over. It was like, hehe.
We're out in the middle of the night. This is so cool. We're doing this. We're
wheat pasting. We're all together. The Latino guys and the queers and we're like
allies doing this thing that we decided to do together. That was actually really
00:49:00fun. It was cool. Then you go around until they all get torn down but you can
walk by the places where you know they are and put one in a little secret place
so you can see it. That was a good action in my mind.
MS: Is there any, did you feel unsafe as a Lesbian Avenger while in Corvallis
and on campus since you were part of so many public events that were obviously
being photographed for all the newspapers, both Corvallis and OSU? Were there
any times where you were like, oh this is not. I don't want to be a part of this
part? Or did you just feel unsafe? How did you counteract, like did you guys
group together and make something where everyone was safe during possible times
where other people were coming on to protest against you?
JD: I mean once in a while there would be some people that would mess with you a
little bit. People here, I mean I don't know why. I don't know what level of
00:50:00privilege that came into for me personally, but I didn't ever feel. Maybe it was
my age, being a little bit older than most of the guys. Growing up, we're like
frat boys ain't got shit. I'm like, fuck you guys. I never felt personally
like-and also I didn't go. I won't go certain places. I'm not going to get drunk
and go walk home at 2:00 in the morning, which is never a reason for a person to
get assaulted in any way. You should be able to do that if you want to. I just,
I'm like, certain little terrains I'm not going to cross. Actually when I did
come here, when I first got here, I had a job housekeeping. Or maybe it was
during one of the summers when the school was closed down and you had to pick up
other things. Housekeeping for the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, which was my
00:51:00sorority in college at U of I. It was so funny, because I would be in there
scrubbing their fucking barf out of the toilets. I'd be like, I'm an AGD, too.
It was hilarious. You could end up like me [laughs]. But I was happy.
Safety-wise, we mostly stuck together. I would get really, really nervous about
Derrick. I was really, really protective, because he was so singular and so out
but so, and he would walk and go around places and stuff a lot alone. I would be
like, okay. It's 2:00 a.m. that's cool. Yeah. I know you got a death threat on
the phone answering machine. That shit's weird. There were times when I feared
for his safety more than my own. He would go, like we hitchhiked a lot because
00:52:00we didn't have a car but we still had a lot of friends in Portland. He'd go into
some restroom, like a public restroom, and he would just be in there forever.
I'm standing outside and I'm smoking a cigarette, smoked a cigarette, smoked a
cigarette and like somebody's fucking killing him in there. I just know it.
Because he would use the men's room. That's where he belonged more than the
ladies room. He would come out and he'd be like, nah I was just taking up some
extra space grooming my eyebrows or whatever just to take up the space. I mean,
if cellphones now you would just text. There were definitely times when I was
like, oh shit. We did the self-defense workshop. We did stuff like that to make
ourselves feel stronger and get some actual, what would you call it? Actually
00:53:00skills or whatever, where you would try and practice it and think on your feet
MS: Were there, so when someone was like I want to go here, you would like group
up and be like okay you two go together? Or was it just when there was certain
moments where it's like, oh this ballot is happening so we should be a little
more on edge when we go places?
JD: Oh, no. I don't remember it being that formalized.
JD: I remember it being more informal.
MS: You were just like, Derrick, I swear to God. Tell me where you're going!
JD: We went to China D[elight] when we first got into town today, because that's
where we always used to go get lunch. We had lunch there. He did the same thing.
He went in the bathroom and was in there for like ever. I'm just reading the
newspaper. At this point I'm not worried. But, yeah, he's still very long, lots
of grooming [laughs].
MS: The next question I have is while you were here did you see Oregon State
University trying to shift its views on any LGBT things based on what you guys
JD: I feel like we made some difference within athletics. I feel like Derrick
would probably speak more specifically to that. We definitely made a lot of ties
and, again, I would say more like the people who were on campus made ties with
people like the Black Student Union, like what we were doing with MEChA, sort of
raising each other's awareness of each other and forming more. I think we
generated solidarity. I don't know. We stirred up a lot of shit and brought
things up and so I guess eventually something must have settled because you guys
have like resources now. You have more dedicated resources specifically in the
00:55:00fact that there's this course that you guys are all taking and stuff like that.
I believe that our time was part of that.
MS: Yeah and the fact that we have a Pride Center now.
JD: So, yeah.
MS: I feel like that wouldn't have existed during that time, but it was
definitely-there's a lot of history that's based in that.
JD: I think that all of our visibility stuff really did bring up. And then
there's people inside the institution following up on those things that get
brought up and keep pushing them through. As far as specific changings in the
administration and policy, I guess I just look at what you have now and what
wasn't here then. I feel like we were part of that getting better.
MS: How do you think the Lesbian Avengers played its part with the third wave
feminist movement of the '90s?
JD: Well, I mean we were extremely sex positive and education positive around
different kinds of sex in relationships and bringing that up. That feels really
good to me that we did, that was just like our thing. Chicks like to fuck. You
know what I mean? There's a certain sense of agency that I think was in that
time. I can only speak to my own experience, really. I don't know, I mean we
read a lot and I don't know exactly how to answer that [laughs].
MS: It's alright. Have you seen-
JD: We advanced the cause. I'll say that. We advanced the cause.
MS: Well, you were doing really cool with the intersectionality of being like
there are queer people of color. There's different forms of all this that
interconnect and it's not just one side of your identity. You were doing pretty well.
JD: The youth group was not a specific Lesbian Avenger action, but I don't even
know. Somebody was doing a queer out and about and they met at the Methodist
Church over here and somebody couldn't keep facilitating. They asked Derrick and
I if we would take over facilitation. We were like, cool. That's great. Yes,
let's do it. That was solid. That was strong as far as like young people. We did
end up doing some actions with young people. There were like highschoolers who
were in the Avengers. Derrick just had a message from somebody who was part of
00:58:00that youth group who actually wrote him a thing that was like, this is what you
meant to me at that time when I was just this shy, 16-year-old from Scio or
something, to where it's come now. You make a difference. But you don't always
MS: have you seen activism that is similar to the activism the Lesbian Avengers
did in more recent years?
JD: I think there's been a lot of really, really, really, really good and
important direct-action style activism around climate justice. That stands out
to me specifically.
MS: Do you have an examples that-?
JD: Yeah. I like the British, the name of the group is escaping [me]-Extinction
00:59:00Rebellion. Those guys. It's like theatrical where they'll like stop traffic with
the use of big signage and puppets and also coordinated through social media.
You can do more small actions in a place. That's really interesting to me.
That's what just comes to mind.
MS: You've actually talked about this a couple times throughout this-what do you
think made the Lesbian Avengers stand out compared to other activist groups in
the '90s and how about the Oregon chapter? Or the Corvallis/Portland chapters?
What stood out that you're like oh, I think this is what made us so unique to
JD: We're probably not that different from a lot of Avenger chapters because of
the spontaneity and the brazenness. We were being, I think one thing that has
always made us feel a little different or has emphasized our uniqueness, or
whatever, is that we're doing it in a small town. You're not doing this in New
York City or Boston or like even in Portland where the actions would be bigger.
The meetings were bigger. There was just more anonymity and also more people. We
were like very, very visible and very known. As a small town organization, who
still exhibits all the same actions, you know what I mean? The same methods?
01:01:00Same approach. We're all doing the shit the same way. I think we got into trans
stuff in a way that I didn't see happening. I definitely did not see it
happening in Portland and I think it was less happening across the board. We
were really focused and that's one of the things that we did get changed, was to
get Benton County to create inclusive language around protection for trans
people, too. That was always a big, I mean we were like a Lesbian Avenger issue
is, we have a pretty inclusive definition of what I would call a Lesbian Avenger
issue. I think we were unique in that.
MS: What about the Lesbian Avengers overall compared to other activist groups of
JD: During that time?
MS: Was it just the exaggeration and the playfulness that maybe made it more
accessible for people to look at and interact with?
JD: To me, the first thing that stands out is the sex. We were really, very
pro-sex and it was out there. Part of our claiming of who we were was to be
really frank about it and enjoy that and stuff. I was also in the Labor Movement
during that time doing union organizing and getting trained into that. I love
labor actions with big puppets and all the people in the same identifying
outfits. I love solidarity. All old-school union action or picket line, I still
find that really stirring. That's just old school. I know I was paying attention
01:03:00to that. The WTO. I went to the WTO in the '90s. I've always been a Lesbian
Avenger. I still feel like I am. But it wasn't like an "Avenger Action." It was
this other event that I'm being myself went to as myself, but as part of this. I
mean, that was a level of activism that I had never seen before being around
that many people and walking down Seattle streets were the things were like
smoking. Windows were smashed. I had never been in something like that on that
scale. That stands out as a '90s experience of activism. I went to stuff out
like Save the Bull Run Watershed, which is where Portland gets its water and
01:04:00smaller actions, like migrant worker actions at the garden burger place where
they were making them out by Woodburn. I don't know that they do that, they
manufacture them anymore. Anyways, have friends that were really involved with
PCUN. We would go to a lot of actions and I like all, I like so many different
kinds of actions. There's so many. We staged the, I was hired by the SCIO union.
There was some anti-union ballot measures that were coming up. They hired me to
do a paid signature gatherer thing to go get. I managed a little team of
signature gatherers and they would tell me where to go.
One of the places where we spent a lot of time was out in front of the Walmart
01:05:00in Lebanon. There was also this old dude sitting there every day, this OCA dude,
hating on gay marriage. That was their issue that they were trying to get on the
ballot at the time was to make it so gays could never, a threat to the
institution of marriage, or whatever. The overlap, then, I was like hm, I'm out
here every day doing this union thing. Let's also do an Avenger action. We did
the clown wedding. That's all in the content, where it wasn't like a gay wedding
but a clown wedding and we're all gay. We did it right in front of him so nobody
could get to him and stuff. That was fun. They were doing their form of activism
in the '90s. Those fuckers. They were so thorough [laughs]. They would be
everywhere. The small town part of that feels really important to me as far as
01:06:00our flavor of Avenger actions, the flavor of our chapter I should say.
MS: Are you still active in any movements, the Lesbian Avengers, or anything
like that? Any union things that you are involved in? I know they have marches
up in Portland often.
JD: Yeah, no I haven't been to an action, like a march, in years. It's been a
while. Now I like, I volunteered at KBOO Community Radio for a while organizing
an association of cobblers, because my trade means so much and I think it's
really viable but we should be banded together about it and like out. I think I
might be the only queer female cobbler shop owner around. I'd like to meet the
rest. Just being out and just doing, now I'm more in the like doing the equity
01:07:00work, continually just doing the equity work around privilege and whiteness and
raising a teenager. My son is 16 and he's black. And he's dating and thinking
about college. I think that's where it is right now.
MS: You've also mentioned a couple times about, but what do you do now? Could
you talk about your job and how it feels to be the only queer female cobbler in
Portland? Is this in Portland? Or closer?
JD: I mean, there's only two female shoe repair show, female-owned shoe repair
shops in Portland. I know for sure Chris is not queer. There's that.
MS: How long have you been doing this?
JD: Fifteen years now. Yeah. I had to leave the Labor Union Organization. It was
just too abusive of an organization as far as how they'd break down people's
spirits. I had to leave them. Then I got into another kind of community
organizing through a non-profit where I was working in the schools to help
develop parent leadership and stuff like that for bettering the quality of their
kids' education. My son when he was one and Derrick was with us in the car, too,
we got into a car wreck. We got rear-ended by a commercial dump truck and it
totaled my car. We were in Salem. I had to stop working for a few months while I
healed up from that. During that time I was like, okay, my son's two. I pay
somebody to spend so much time with him that I don't get to spend. It just was a
real call to awareness about life. My friends who'd been like hey you've been
01:09:00talking about shoes for fucking ever! Are you going to do it or not? I was like,
yeah, I should do it. People chipped in and took care of Arthur and made it
really possible for me to start doing that work. That's what I do. Running a
business is just a whole other thing. Also, becoming a base in the community. I
do my equity work. Everybody has shoes, but my shop is the spot. It's the spot
in Portland if you're queer, JD does your shoes. You know what I mean? This is
where you go because it's just for one, it's our community. We need to just keep
it in the community or whatever.
Then that's not the only community where that's the case. I work really hard on
that to be a leader in my community and to be recognized as a person who's like,
01:10:00it's chill. We got this. If we have problems we're going to work it out. It's
good. Come on. You're welcome here. The dog doesn't bite. All that stuff. It's
really a big deal [laughs].
MS: This is one of the last questions. Can you talk more about your son and how
have you taught him to be involved in social justice? How have you taught him
about the Lesbian Avengers and your own history of activism and have you gone,
is he interested in any of that?
JD: I mean, he's always been a solid ally. He's always been if the little trans
kid, the kids all the way along through his schooling, he's always been a really
solid ally for gay kids and trans kids and he's got deep emotional intelligence.
01:11:00Derrick is his father figure, basically. He's just been raised. Derrick teaches
in the schools. He teaches healthy relationships, they call it. It used to be
more like sex ed. Arthur's just been educated about really practical stuff and
emo stuff just from the get-and we've lived, our home group is really varied.
Arthur's been raised in queer and native people and forest defenders and cop
watchers and just a whole mix of people. I feel like he's got a pretty good
template for whatever he wants to do. He's definitely not out there in the
01:12:00street with signs or any of that shit. He's very private. Not like that. We'll
see. You never know what's going to happen. Something can happen to activate you
and you're like okay. This feels familiar.
MS: Get to college.
JD: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
MS: The last question I have is actually I wanted you to read your bio that you
wrote in this and tell me if you still identify with it and just what are your thoughts?
JD: Oh, that's fun.
MS: I thought it'd be cool, because I enjoyed it so I wanted you to look at it.
JD: I'm not sure that I wrote this myself. I'm not sure who wrote all the-
MS: Could you read it out loud and then-
JD: [Laughs] Well, okay. Yeah we just named ourselves by a first name, which is
just-we didn't expect anybody else to read it but us. So, we're like, hehe,
we're hilarious. [Starts reading] Julie, by day even-tempered elementary school
01:13:00teacher, the bleach-blonde in old dresses and big boots. By night, super
gorgeous, trampy pornographer with a hot thing for tight dresses, high heels and
mean butch boys. [interviewer whistles]. Yeah [clicks tongue in response]. I
can't wear high heels anymore, but I always have fabulous shoes. It's really
important to me. I still love tight clothes. I got all the color and bleach out
of my hair finally and my hair is really healthy. I'm just going to let it gray
naturally. It's starting to silver up a little bit and I like that. I own that.
No more bleach. The vintage dresses, man, they aren't stretchy enough [laughs].
I can't do it anymore [laughs]. I would say I'm still relatively even-tempered.
01:14:00Pornographer-I used to write. I would write porn, like lesbian erotica or
whatever, shit. I don't really write that anymore [laughs]. And mean butch boys,
always. Always and forever.
MS: Oh, great. Thank you. Is there anything else that you'd like to talk about?
JD: Well, if anything you ever want to ask just go ahead and ask. I mean, did
you see anything else in the book that struck your imagination?
MS: It's in the other one, which we don't have. But you did a lot of collage
work and I thought that was really amazing. I love collage. I think that was a
JD: Yeah, this is the second one, right? The first one is my favorite of the
two, but yeah. I would say if you go, you guys can YouTube the shit out of this
now. Go look up some DIY fire eating and try it. It's so empowering. It really
01:15:00is. It's very empowering. Yeah. My niece and nephew that I was living with when
I first got into the bigger part of this Avenger stuff, we used to host, my
sister and I, Sunday brunch every week. All the queers would come over. Some of
those folks were in the Portland Avengers and eating fire. We did a fire eating
workshop in our front yard. That's what they got to see growing up. Arthur
missed the fire eating WTO era of his mother [laughs]. You know, it's not as
hard as you think. It's really empowering. Do you guys have a tight-knit
community down here? What's it like to be queer in Corvallis these days.
MS: [Takes deep breath] I don't know if that's for the camera.
JD: Yeah, we can be done. Do you want to be done?
MS: That was great. Thank you. That was really cool.