In September 2003, I attended East Tennessee Pride at the World’s Fair Park. Although I did not see it, a friend told me that Out & About Nashville (the name of the paper then) had a presence at the event, and that they were looking for writers. At that time, I spent much of my day writing articles published either in various periodicals or on my own Web site.
The idea intrigued me, so I submitted what I called my “feminist resume” to Brent Meredith, the newspaper’s editor and creative director. I had spent much of the twelve years before 2003 blind and very sick due to an autoimmune disorder. A white cane for navigation and a sack full of medications went everywhere with me until in 1998 I began immunosuppressant therapy that gradually restored a bit of sight to my right eye. I then purchased a computer, newly outfitted with Windows 98 SE’s accessibility features, and I began reading and writing like a maniac, trying somehow to make up for lost time.
Having a few successes under my belt, I was keenly aware that I knew virtually nothing about journalism. My “feminist resume” did include a few entries about published articles, but it was chock full of my activist experience beginning with my 1978 membership in Women’s Place, a rape/domestic violence crisis and women’s health counseling collective in Missoula, Montana. The first experience I had with LGBT (sic) journalism came in that place as well. Assisting with distribution of the “Amazon Spirit” may not have been an impressive resume entry, but it was an experience that I carried with me throughout my life as a lesbian feminist activist. I saw the importance of that little publication. I saw how it could provide a lifeline of information to women who otherwise may have remained isolated. Yes, it was a little mimeographed newsletter, but it changed lives and offered hope.
Moving on through the 1980s, I found my life full with nursing studies, growing children, aging loved ones, and personal upheaval. I did have time to found Mountain Womyn’s (sic) Coalition, the second openly lesbian organization in East Tennessee. That organization made its debut producing Kate Clinton at a little community center in East Knoxville. We packed the house with more than 300 lesbians, hungry for connection to a culture that was the stuff of their dreams. As the organization moved forward, it became a social support group for womyn (sic) in the area for more than seven years.
While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing, I also served on the University of Tennessee’s Commission for Women as the undergraduate representative for two years. The Commission is primarily a group of UT women faculty and staff, allowing two seats for student representatives: graduate and undergraduate. It was a fulfilling way to continue to realize my commitment to women while racing through a life that seemed to be bursting at the seams.
Then the children grew up, the aged elder passed away, the partner left, I graduated from UT, and life proved once again that there is nothing constant except change. Dodging some bullets that came my way on both the personal and professional fronts, I began to move forward and see my way clear to once again advocate for women by joining with other local health care professionals to produce Knoxville’s first women’s health conference in 1989.
Then my vision decreased to the point that I could no longer work in nursing. Time stopped for me in many ways. Because of all these experiences, the opportunity that stood before me in September 2003 offered an avenue for a lot of pent-up creative juices. It held promise as a way to make contributions to my community, helping once again to do what I could to decrease the social isolation that is common in for many LGBT (sic) Tennesseans.
It has been a wonderful three years during which I have learned so much from Jerry Jones, our publisher, and Brent Meredith, our editor/creative director. Their patient tutelage has proven invaluable in moving me forward a bit in my journalistic skills. Their grounding in professional journalism is a gift for which I will forever be grateful.
They are also credited with introducing me to the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. Serving as the local chapter’s Vice President and attending the 2005 and 2006 conventions were, at the risk of sounding corny, life-changing experiences for me. The people I met, the information I gleaned, and the sense of being a part of something much larger than I realized has given me a vision for the future for East Tennessee. It is with that vision that I now say goodbye to my role as East Tennessee Bureau Chief. It is with that vision that I remain committed to bringing the news of our communities to the LGBT (sic) citizens in the place of my birth.
I am also grateful for Paul Balo, Ken Palmer, David Shuler, Tommy Higens, Dee Crum, James McKissic, Kenny Griffith, Ashe Smith, Layne Price, Rick Pimental-Habib, T. Nicole Sliger, Barbara Ehrgott, Michael Wilhoit, Hal Lee, Jennie Gritton, Julie Auer, Mark Hubbard, Mark Jones, Brian Varner, Nancy Mott, Sam Bays, Diana Cunningham, and all the people who have helped to bring the East Bureau news to Out & About Newspaper. Paul Balo, in particular, has given of his time, energy, and money in a way that can never be repaid.
As in the circle of life, birth and death are ever-present. In beginning the "Equality Herald," I am full of hope that we can someday bring a quality publication to our readers in the Eastern Grand Division. While we will be starting with a Web-only presence, the East Bureau staff and I have dreams to realize in preparing the way for a hard copy edition. These dedicated men and women have given of their time and resources in a way that I have not seen often in my journey on Earth. They are wonderful, talented, creative people, and I am pleased that they will join me in this new venture.
So, this is not a goodbye, but a transition to what will hopefully be a better place for all of us as we speak the truth to power by bringing the news to our community.