I want to proudly (not shamelessly) announce the upcoming birth of my book! Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars and Theology Before Stonewall will be published by Acumen Press, fall 2013 (October). However, it will not have the cover that is on the book as it is advertised now. I had problems with this cover as it depicts gay contemporary women in a country setting, not pre-Stonewall women in an urban setting, or identity. The photo below is the proposed (and accepted) new cover image, designed by my wife Kimberly Esslinger. And while we don’t know if the book cover will look exactly like this, the publishers are excited about this cover choice image.
I realized as I advocated for another cover that my book is my baby. As I sought out another image and worked to negotiate and obtain the rights for it, I realized how protective I was of my book/my baby. I am giving birth to the projects I’ve stored inside myself—I, who never gave birth to biological children, give birth now to this book. I want to have this baby and I want to protect it and set it free to do its work in the world; nurture it and cheer it on as it sets forth to do great things; hold it close and watch it fly.
It is a 1961 San Antonio gay bar, the Acme Bar. Carolyn Weathers is in pictured in the bar. Carolyn is one of the few people to actually take images from gay bars in the pre-Stonewall era, and archive them, i.e. save them. These photos are extremely rare and I’m so happy that I can use one to grace the cover of my book.
So…here to celebrate with you is the dedication and the preface of my book.
Thank you for celebrating with me!
To all of the gay women who came before me, cleared the path for me, and walked the path with me…butch, femme, kiki, androgynous, lesbian and transgender… who dared to walk into a gay women’s bar and acknowledge themselves and their community and made a community for me… to walk into
To my mother– Joanne Marie (Curtin) Cartier– a woman who came of age in the 1950s
To my informants, notably those who passed before this book was completed, and especially:
Virginia “Ginny” Borders, Heather Hamm, Elsie Solay and Stella Miller
May the stories collected herein encourage many more stories.
“I would stay on the phone…that was my lifeline.” —Myrna
“I came out as gay in 1945—the year that the war ended,” Myrna Kurland told me from her home high in the Hollywood Hills of California. “I was dating a softball player that I met at the gay bar. I met her at Mona’s or else it was the Paper Pony. My first night in a gay bar was—freedom. I had a gay male friend and he took me there.”
Myrna was in the gay bars for eight years. She showed me her “treasure from the 40s”—a gold softball on a necklace chain from her first lover—inscribed with the initials from the professional softball league to which women belonged while the men were in the war. “We went to the bar all the time. My entire social life was there—there was no other place.” However, that night she first went to the bar—something else happened. Her father died that night. And she blamed herself, even though she knew that was irrational. She couldn’t get over it. Also she told me that, “I’m Jewish and we lost so many people in the Holocaust. I felt it was my duty to have children. There was no other way to have children in the 50s without getting married to a man. I married someone I disliked—that’s what I felt I deserved because I was gay and I felt so guilty.” She married a psychiatrist—someone to whom she would never be able to tell her secret. Her husband’s practice was very involved in actively trying to change the sexuality/sexual deviancy of his clients—as would be almost any psychiatrist’s practice at the time. If her sexual past and preference had been known to him in all likelihood she would have lost her children.
This brief story came as I was packing up my things, and although we had been speaking for about three hours, this was in response to my final question, “Is there any last thing you want to say about what the bars meant to you?” I meant when she actually went to the bars in the forties—not knowing there was another story. She told me a story about when she did not actually go to the bars, but when she made sure the bars were still there—when she was married.
Informant: Well, I had insomnia. I used to phone up all the gay bars, just to hear them answer the phone….Just to hear the noise, oh yes….
Interviewer: So you would call and just be on the phone?
Informant: No, I would just hear the noise and the laughter in the background.
I just wanted to be there.
Interviewer: … it helped you just to know it was out there?
Interviewer: …that’s a really special story.
Informant: Yeah, oh God…
The book is already available for pre-order and as soon as there are 250 hardcover orders—it will come out in paperback! So, if you are able, buying it in hardcover now and you will be helping students be able to buy the paperback book later :) Also, hear interview with Carolyn Weathers here.
Photos used with permission:
Carolyn Weathers and ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives/Carolyn
Marie Cartier is a teacher, poet, writer, healer, artist, and scholar. She holds a BA in Communications from the University of New Hampshire; an MA in English/Poetry from Colorado State University; an MFA in Theatre Arts (Playwriting) from UCLA; an MFA in Film and TV (Screenwriting) from UCLA; and an MFA in Visual Art (Painting/Sculpture) from Claremont Graduate University. She is also a first degree black belt in karate, Shorin-Ryu Shi-Do-Kan Kobayashi style. Ms. Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.