Lynn Daniel: Full Interview
Interview by Ray Larman
17th July 2019
RL: This is Ray Larman for West Yorkshire Queer Stories. It’s the 17th of July 2019 and I’m here with Lynn who is going to introduce herself.
LD: Hello, I’m Lynn Daniel. I’m 59 years old. I was born in Leeds St James’ and I’ve always lived in Leeds, and I’ve only been out as a lesbian since the 1st of June 1987. So I’ve got a whole life history that’s before that, so yeah.
RL: Do you want to say a little bit about your childhood years in Leeds then?
LD: I come from a very working-class family in East End Park [Leeds] and being a lesbian wasn’t something that I knew about. I’d heard or, maybe within the family talking about women who wanted to be men. And I’d seen people, women on the bus – cos we didn’t have a car when I was young – who were dressed in suits, so that’s what I accepted as being a lesbian. So, for me, being a lesbian, I didn’t even associate with because I’ve always wanted to be a woman, I’ve always dreamed and fantasised about women, but I thought that was normal. Because in those days, it’s not like today, you didn’t, you talked to your friends, but you only talked about what you knew, so you didn’t explore what you didn’t know. So, I don’t remember anybody who was lesbian at school, and I went to a grammar school – I went to Parklands, which was an all-girls school, when I was, after passing my 11-plus, which was a surprise to pass and to go there. So, it was, there was, it was all girls, which was great, but there was a lot of… yeah, it was me learning about myself through that whole process. At 13 I was diagnosed with diabetes, so that made me separate and different and that in itself, and because I’ve got no fingers on my left hand, I’ve never felt like I was the same as everybody else, so I was used to that feeling, that was normal to me. And I tried to fit in as best I could. I always liked flat, comfortable shoes but I did try having things with heels on and I hated them. So, I’m not a stereotypical female as in looking and dressing like that, but it’s very much, it’s just noticing how things change over years, yeah, there’s always big differences.
RL: So, were you aware of… I dunno, kind of lesbians in, in books maybe that you might come across, or films or something?
LD: No, no, no I wasn’t. We, I think I was about eight before we got a TV, and my mum monitored that. But I was always a feminist. I’ve got two younger brothers, and I could see that I was expected to do the ironing and they weren’t. I wasn’t allowed to learn to cycle and they could. It was my mum’s perception of keeping me safe. So, I always felt that actually women should be doing just the same as men, if not better. So, yeah, that goes back as far as I can remember. And maybe that’s because I’m an eldest child, and… I know I never liked my mum, I didn’t get on with my mum as a child in any shape or form, but I did get on really well with my dad, and my dad was tall and strong and clear, and he was just a lovely, lovely man – because he’s dead now, he died 24 years ago, but I, I didn’t like how my mum behaved and how she was, so it took me ‘til being in my 30s before I could accept my mum. It took my dad to die before I could accept my mum and be alright with my mum. So, it’s interesting are those family dynamics.
RL: So, what happened after school, what did you go on to do after that?
LD: I was – because I’d had problems with my diabetes, I spent a lot of time in hospital. And then I, so I missed a lot of schooling. When you were coming up to doing O-, it was O-Levels in those days, and GCSEs, and so I had to repeat the whole of that year at school, which made me realise – I thought maybe being a nurse or something like that would be good for me, but they wouldn’t accept me because of my hand. So, how things have changed. Well, I can’t say they wouldn’t accept me, they didn’t definitely say no, but they didn’t encourage me to apply. And I, I left school with four O-Levels and so did, got a job, I got a full-time job working as an accounts technician. And I always remember having to conform and wear skirts and tights, and I always had to look smart for work. But I didn’t like the attitude of the men trying to touch you and, it was, it was horrible, and chasing you round the filing cabinet rooms and away trying to, trying to provoke you in some respects, and that wasn’t, I stood up, ‘no, no I’m not doing that’. So, after I’d been there for 18 months, so I’d have been – was I 18, 19, I might’ve been 19 then – I applied for another job and I went to work for the Department of Health and Social Security, as it was then. And that, and that felt like it was making a difference. And actually not – seeing it and how it was then, working and supporting and encouraging people, making sure that their applications went through. And I worked there for 11 and a half years and it was – trying to get promoted when you don’t quite fit in.
So, I went through a whole process with people I worked with. I went from being single to meeting John, who I’d later married, getting married to him, and then leaving him four years later and coming out as a lesbian. And, in that timeframe, I got involved with politics – I was looking for something, and I didn’t know what I was looking for. I knew I was different, but I didn’t quite know what that was about, and I got involved in the local trades union, so then I went to Militant and SWP meetings. So, my learning and growing at that point was enormous, and it was very much a case of, I got involved in Greenpeace and CND and it was getting involved with the North Leeds Peace Group, I had a friend in the group who was a number of years older than me, Bron, who’s no longer around – a straight woman – she said, ‘would you like to go down to Greenham?’ And, and I’d never thought that was a possibility, I thought that was something for other people to do.
RL: Is this early ‘80s then? When is this?
LD: So, this was… between ’85 and ’86 and, so it was – Greenham had been going on a while, but I’d only come across the North Leeds Peace Group at that point, and WONT, Women Opposed to Nuclear Threat, I came across them, and, it was – there was a lot of activity, political activity in Leeds at that point. So, I went down to Greenham with Bron and, all of a sudden, I was meeting women who were just like me. And it was like, I always say it was like being hit over the head with a mallet and gaining clarity, that’s what I am, after all this time. But I’d been married – I was married, we had a mortgage, so how do you fit the two together?
I always remember saying to work, ‘I am going down to Greenham’, I wanted to be part, at the beginning or sometime in December, we had a, you cut the fencing down and you went in as a big group and – as a big demonstration – so I said that’s what I wanted to do, me and Bron had agreed it. And we wanted to not pay our fines, and then have it brought back up to Leeds, the court process, cos it was in, in Newbury, and then go to prison for a week. That’s what our plan was, so I got checked out at work, and they said cos it was for ethical reasons, as long as I didn’t do criminal damage, I could then use my holidays to go to prison [laughs] It’s, it’s quite ludicrous when you think about it, in’t it? [laughs] So, I checked it all out first, and then in the December – cos I was going on a monthly basis; I was going for a weekend every month. There was a busload of women that went down and I connected with those – well, the majority of them were all lesbians – and it was lovely to hear what they were saying and how they were being, and so I could, I had somewhere to talk and explore how I was feeling and what was going on for me. And that was so useful, I mean, some of the women are still around, some aren’t, unfortunately, but it’s, as you get older that’s what happens. And we move around the country.
So, I got involved with the Nuclear Free Independent Pacific Group, so I campaigned outside the American embassy. So, this was all sort of ‘80s to late ‘80s. So, we went into Greenham Common, we cut the fencing down. I remember having a second-hand – cos it was December it was cold, and we were camping and so, I think we were at, we might’ve been at Blue Gate – Gate or Green Gate. I, there were different politics at different gates down at Greenham. And I, it’s interesting cos the food stuff – I became vegetarian in 1984, and I then, in later years, became vegan, and that – so when people talk about veganism now, I think, ‘oh I did it years ago’ [laughs] It’s really interesting, cos they think they’ve invent- reinvented the wheel don’t they? [laughs] in some respects. So, going down to Greenham was a real eye-opener because I was hearing things that I’d never heard before.
RL: Like what?
LD: About politics around the world. Things that were going on. Different people’s perspectives of women’s lives, which opened up a whole raft of thinking for me and gave me the opportunity to read a whole raft of different books and think differently. And because I’d been a working-class kid, I’d always been brought up with the beliefs that my mum and dad had and the family and that community had. And I never fitted with it. So, I could understand why I didn’t at that point. So, although I’d been to a girls’ school, feminism wasn’t part of it. It wasn’t discussed, it wasn’t talked about. So, I just felt there was a big missing. I didn’t particularly like school anyway.
RL: What were the books you started to read then?
LD: Trying to think which some of the earliest ones… Well, I remember when I came, when I came out as a lesbian, on the 1st of June 1987, I started reading and finding where the books were in the book stores and going to the university cos it had a good lib – not a library, a bookshop, so finding – and I liked the, the crime books, the lesbian stories – so, I did lesbian stories – so, all – oh I can try to think of the names of some of the books. Stella Duffy and – there’s a whole raft of different ones. And I always remember – I just loved it, I soaked it in cos it was giving you a different perspective on things. And even though it was fantasy, it was really good to read. And then, I didn’t come across – well I came across some of the feminist literature, but it was more, it wasn’t until I went and did my degree, which was, I was 30, nearly 31, so – I’m jumping around in timeframes, I’m sorry [laughs].
So, going down to Greenham made a huge difference, meeting other lesbians with politics and being, and hearing things from a different, and questioning, being able to take things in and then – cos there wasn’t the Internet in those days. Y’know, going down to your local library, you didn’t find the books that you wanted and so getting information, people’d lend you dog-eared copies of things. So, I had to be careful, particularly while still living with John, that I didn’t have any of that literature with me, because I didn’t want him to see it. It was, it was frowned upon, and I think it was frowned upon in society as a whole, not just by my family members or my husband.
So, we got arrested, we went into Greenham. I had this, I remember this big second-hand green duffel coat and a bottle of Lucozade in a pocket in case my blood glucose dropped and, we went through the whole – we were arrested. We went through the whole process, and then we got court dates. So, we had to go back in the January, I had to go to court in Newbury so, what was suggested was we went in our most smartest female gear because then it made it look like we were ordinary members of the public who were doing something because we believed in it. So, it brings politics from a different slant. So, I had a dress, and I wore that, and shoes and tights and – I’ve never worn them since [laughs] so that was good, good to do, go to court. And we were fined – the fines weren’t enormous, I think they were £15, and we knew it would be referred back to Leeds.
Well, I also remember – cos I was still going down to Greenham on a monthly basis – there was conflict at home with my husband because, he thought it was quite amusing when I first started going down, but it was very much a case of, he was designing surveillance for Faslane in Scotland – cos that’s who he worked for, a company that did that, he was an electrical, electronic engineer – he may still be, I’ve not seen him since the late 1980s – but very much that was in conflict with me bringing home big pieces of fencing and leaving it in the garden [laughs] So, yeah, there was a lot of conflict going on. And he knew I’d been to court, he knew that I wanted to go to prison, he knew what I’d organised. But then, it must’ve been, it might’ve been February – we were expecting the court dates to come back up to Leeds and Bron got her court date and I never got a letter.
So, I always remember the day going down to the Town Hall to find out, well where’s my letter, why haven’t I got a court date? And they told me, ‘well, it’s been paid, your fine has been paid’. And I was furious! Absolutely furious. And sometimes when I’m angry, I go fairly quiet. And it, so it’s – so I came out of the Town Hall and, in front of the Art Gallery was a lot of pro-lifers with leaflets and there was a guy came up to me with a pro-life leaflet and I just vented my anger on him. And he just kept walking back and back and back right to the Art Gallery. And I couldn’t tell you what I said, but it was very political, it was just all the stuff I believed and men and patriarchy and the likes. So, he looked, he went quite pale-looking [laughs] I think he, he wasn’t used to [laughs] to that sort of thing. I went back to work and I rang John quietly and the office, the whole office went quiet. And I said, y’know, my fine’s been paid, I’m furious, absolutely furious, and he said, ‘well, I didn’t want you to go to prison’. I said, ‘that was my choice – you’ve taken my choice away from me’. And it also meant Bron had to go to prison on her own, and maybe they wouldn’t’ve put us together, it wouldn’t’ve mattered, but it was, it was that leaving another woman vulnerable that I didn’t agree with. I mean, Bron was married and had children and the likes, she might’ve been in, I’m trying to think how old she’d’ve been, she mighta been in her late 40s or 50s, and she was an artist, did some amazing artwork, and – so yes.
So the, it made me decide, actually I can’t be here anymore with him. But then it’s, well how do you, how do you move out? I didn’t – my income went into the household income, I didn’t have a huge income. I was only an admin officer in, in the Department of Health and Social Security, so it was almost like, working out a plan as to what I could do. And one of my union friends offer- said her sister who lived with her in Scargill Grange – it’s an interesting name isn’t it? – was going to the Bahamas to live, she’d got a job out there. So, she said she’d have a spare room, so I could move in with her. So, the date was set for the 1st of June, and I gave him two weeks’ notice that I was leaving him and packed my stuff up and – so that was, another friend from work who was a lesbian helped me, helped me to move. Cos I didn’t have transport. I drove, but he had the car in his name. And, all I took was tat; I didn’t take anything of any use, because I didn’t really have anything. So, I took it and stored it in the flat, the top floor of Scargill Grange and I’m scared of heights, or I was at that point, so I didn’t dare look out the windows, cos the windows went right to the floor [laughs] It’s interesting, the things you remember, and the images.
And I think I’d been there maybe a week and she said, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do this’. She says, ‘you can store your stuff here’, but she says, ‘I can’t have you being a lesbian here’. So, I could be a lesbian, but if friends came or anybody else, she couldn’t do me, couldn’t do with me being active, actively as a, as a lesbian, which is interesting. It’s like the church isn’t it, the Catholic church – you can be a gay man as long as you’re not active.
RL: So, she didn’t want you bringing friends or just anyone round?
LD: Anybody – anyone back. So, it was then, well what do I do? So, I didn’t stay there at all. I then became homeless and moved around people’s floor space who would let me stay. So that was, that wasn’t a nice experience. I had that for about three months. And I applied to the, one of the housing associations, I think it was Leeds and Yorkshire, and they eventually gave me – and I was still working during the whole of this time – and I got a back-to-back house in the Bayswaters on the unsunny side of the street, and somebody had painted it in brick-red paint [laughs] so it was – and it still had a bit of net curtain up at the window, with two pins in either side, and – so, I’d no furniture. I bought an inflatable mattress to sleep on, and I’d made friends with somebody called Vicky down at Greenham and she wanted to come up and live in Leeds with me. So, that’s fine, y’know, she did that.
It wasn’t – it was interesting because I need, I felt I needed to look after me and what I then started to do was look after other people. And just noticing that, it’s sometimes it’s a pattern that can emerge, particularly for women, when y’know, if you’re needing to be saved by yourself, actually you try your best to save everybody else, so it’s just seeing that. And we were over the road, directly opposite Leeds Animation Workshop. So, I don’t know if you know about Leeds Animation Workshop? And so there was Jane Bradshaw and Terry and Joey Dunn did a lot of work there. So, in the summer, we’d sit on the doorstep and chat, across the road. So, it was, and they knew other lesbians that I knew through going down to Greenham, so I’d connect up with people, and it was just seeing another side of the world that I didn’t know about. And I always remember that… there was other people – we were right in the middle of the street. So, I could – it’s a pity you can’t see inside my head [laughs]
So there was a junction, and then another part, and then Bobby’s, an Indian takeaway at the bottom – so this is the 1980s, there wasn’t a lot, that much Asian food around at that point. And it was people who had maybe bought something newer, might be second-hand but newer, from down the road, would pass furniture up the road to us. And at one point – cos we had no furniture when we moved in – it took maybe four, five months to gain anything. And, so the furniture’d come to us and what we didn’t need’d get passed on to other people. So, it’s… sort of socially, it was really good to do. So, whether they were straight or lesbian, it didn’t matter. But they were supportive. Cos they had nothing, like we had nothing. So, you’d lend to each other and you’d give to each other. That doesn’t happen very much these days – before the days of food banks. But we had a working woman diagonally opposite, down the street, and she’d often have men braying on her door during the middle of the night and we’d open our windows and shout at them, tell them to piss off or whatever [laughs] So, you were quite protective of each other, which is maybe, I don’t know, maybe that happens or doesn’t happen now, I don’t know, but that was as it was at that time.
RL: So, it sounds like you’d found a community.
LD: Oh yes, yes. And it was, there was the lesbian community, and then there was the wider local community, who were disadvantaged and (I’ve got a tickle [coughs]). And while I was living there, I always remember because we were mixing with lesbians who were, who had a lot of lesbian politics, it’s, it was about learning about some of those things that you’d not experienced before. So, there was some [unclear] politics around at the time, which was very much in the, with the trade unions. So, if you think about it, the context of that time was all the stuff going on in South Africa, so you didn’t buy anything from South Africa. But there was other politics around the world.
So, a lesbian friend came round and I said, ‘well I don’t know what I should and shouldn’t have’ and she went through my cupboards and told me what I should have and what I shouldn’t have in my cupboards, what I should be eating and what I shouldn’t be eating. So, that was, that was a bit scary. But it was a learning process. So, there used to be a health food shop near the Grand Theatre – I can’t remember what it was called. So, you’d go there, and some of them were people who worked there who could tell what was the, what was the right things to eat and to have.
RL: So, can you remember much about what was the right thing to have and what wasn’t?
LD: Having… Marmite not Bovril. So being very clearly with your vegetarianism or looking at what are the contents of food. Well, there were, things often weren’t on the labels in those days so you’d be directed to what was the best products to have, and some of those I still use. So, having your Ecover stuff I’ve used for 30-odd years. Somebody in the health food shop, the refill station in Chapel Allerton the other day, said to me, a young woman, she said, ‘oh you don’t need to buy that, you can have white vinegar and lemon juice and spray, put it in a spray’. I thought, ‘I’ve been doing this longer than you have’ – I just smiled and said thank you [laughs] But it is – those sorts of things have been going on a long time. And it was that community that sort of was part of it. So, it was all the green stuff, as well as the hard-line politics around lesbians and feminism. And separatism.
RL: Yeah, can you say about that?
LD: Well, I remember being part of a group called DCCP, Dyke Challenge Cup Promotion, who did events at the Astoria – I mean, the Astoria’s a block of flats now. But I always remember the talking about who we would allow into events… The politics at the time, and I can’t remember exactly when it was timeframe-wise, but there was a lot of politic, political issue around sadomasochism and not allowing women who were wearing dog collars or chains to come into the events that we were running and for it to be a safe space. And then we’d have to have somebody on the door managing that, and all our advertising had to be really clear that went out. I used to, cos I – at that point, I went to university when I, in 1990, so it was in the early ‘90s, and it was very much a case of… I got involved with DCCP at the time. I was very active, doing a whole raft of stuff.
So, I’d go out to events across Leeds, taking information, going to Checkpoint. So, we went to Checkpoint every Friday night cos Checkpoint was in Bradford and there was politics around that, and it was very much a case of safe space for women to be. Particularly, y’know, not just women generally, but lesbians, for lesbians to be, because there wasn’t always places where you could be. And there was two – there was at least two sections of lesbians. So, if you think about it, we used to identify what we’d class as ‘town dykes’, women who’d go to the pubs in Leeds and I, on reflection, it was probably the educated ones became the feminist ones, though that’s not always the case, but the town ones were quite happy to mix with the gay men, but we didn’t want to mix with the gay men, we wanted to put our energy into other women and just have safe women’s space rather than mixed stuff. So, the town dykes’d go and mix with the men in Leeds, the gay men in Leeds, but we, we didn’t do that; we went to Checkpoint or we had women-only events, Todmorden, so Tod Disco still exists, still goes on as it has for a lot of years, so it was – it was either the late ‘80s, probably when I came out we were going there – I don’t know if the music’s changed, but I’m sure some things have changed [laughs] But going, cos you supported it, that was there on a monthly basis. And it felt like there was lots of energy around women doing stuff.
So, there was the food politics, there was the separatism politics, there was the S/M politics. So, the not wearing lipstick – even how you walked. You, it, it felt like, to me, I’m quite a pear-shape, so I walk with a bit of a wiggle, and I was told very clearly, that was not the way to walk. I had to walk – and I remember trying to practice up and down walking to see if I could not wiggle, because it wasn’t seen as being politically correct to do that, or maybe that was just my interpretation from it. And it depended who you spoke to. Lesbians tended to be quite androgynous at the time. So, they were quite slim, wear jeans. You could, and walk in a really relaxed way. Well, I tried it and I couldn’t do it and – I was always disappointed with myself. You had your hair as short as you possibly could, and my hair was grade one round the bottom and two on the top, and you had flat tops and I had a big spikey bit at the front, which I had dyed, so it was almost like, it felt like you had to be politically out there, you had to really push the boundaries. You challenged everybody and everything. Or that was maybe just me at that point, but it felt like a lot of us were doing that.
We were going down to Pride every year and – in London – and having t-shirts with all sorts of slogans on. I remember in ’92 going with two friends to the Michigan Women’s Music Festival in the States and that was a real eye-opener. I went to do a community studies degree in 1990 – I left the Department of Health and Social Security – and it was very much a case of, I wanted to do my thesis on something related to lesbians and whether the politics affected what they did in their sexual practice because of all the S&M stuff that was going on at the time. And was it a case of we did things differently or not? So, I thought, I’ll go to Michigan, I’ll talk to all the separatists – well I was terrified [laughs] who are these, they appear to be like this bruising y’know women, and it was like, no I was too scared to go [laughs] I was a real wuss in the whole of things [laughs]
RL: So, you didn’t talk to them?
LD: I didn’t talk to them. So, I talked to women when I came back who were maybe self-defining as separatist. But, if you think, separatist only meant, or it meant to me, that it was where you put your energy, and you put your energy into other women, into lesbians, not into the wider community and into men, so having male family members was quite hard and difficult for some. And me having two brothers, who were fine, but just not putting my energy into them in maybe ways that I would’ve done and putting my energy into a whole range of different lesbians and lesbian activity. So you supported each other. It felt like, and maybe that was an age thing, there were lots of lesbians who were coming out as being sexually abused and that was maybe to do with being in their late 20s or 30s, cos sometimes sexual abuse can lay dormant, as in you don’t want to acknowledge or you don’t remember it until that point, and then it comes out. And I remember thinking, I’m the only one here who hasn’t been sexually abused, because it felt like every woman I knew, every lesbian I knew had had some sexual abuse when they were younger.
RL: So, women were talking about it, they were –
LD: Women were starting to talk about it and support each other. And maybe it was just the women that I knew. So, going back a stage, I was living in the Bayswaters, and I was there for… I can’t remember how many years now, maybe two or three years, and then somebody suggested that I apply to go to Tangram Housing Co-op. So, I moved, I applied and was accepted into Tangram Housing Co-op. And there were lots of different lesbians who I hadn’t connected with before, who lived there.
RL: So, was it all-lesbian?
LD: No. No. I lived in a house that was all-lesbian at that time in a women-only house, but there was a whole raft – there was some gay men and a lot of lesbians, and some straight families, but they were all of the same ethics and politics so that made a big difference. But there were a number of lesbian couples and individual lesbians that I met, and some of those are still my friends today. Y’know, it’s 30-odd years since. It’s interesting – I’m not friends with people from school, I’m friends with people from Tangram, cos for me, that was my growing, that was my learning.
RL: So, what were the ethics and the politics at Tangram?
LD: That you… put women first. That you… you worked collectively, you talked, and sometimes we went round in circles [laughs]
RL: Is that like house meetings?
LD: House meetings… we had a monthly meeting for the whole of the co-op and people were expected to attend, which we did, and you had to be involved in different aspects of the groups that existed. So, like there was the secretarial group that take minutes. I was, I became maintenance convener and worked with a worker to organise a whole raft of stuff to be done. But it was very much about collectively agreeing. So, if somebody didn’t agree, then we may not do stuff and so we all had to have input into everything that was going on. And so you had to respect everybody’s diversity and different viewpoints. So, that’s a whole different learning to being told as a kid, you do things in this way and there’s no discussion. So, it’s, it was learning how to be with people and respect people and have, hear things you didn’t particularly want to hear. So, there was issues around a tree being cut, cut down between two properties. And the lesbians on one side loved the tree, but the guy, or the couple in the next thought it overshadowed what they were growing in their garden, cos it was on Bankside Street, and they spent years discussing it and discussing it, could we have it trimmed? No, no, he didn’t want to, they didn’t want it to be touched; he wanted it – and one day – I can’t remember if I was still living there at the time – he chopped it down. They were out during the day and he went and chopped it down. So, can you imagine? [laughs] Sometimes the smallest of things become enormous. So, yeah, there was all sorts of different ideas and viewpoints.
So, as well as the food politics, the green miles, where you bought things from, supporting local businesses that had the right ethics. Not buying things from the big supermarkets, doing [unclear] orders – there was a whole raft of stuff. Wharf Street Café, so some worked there and some did… So, at that time there was maybe some, some of the – not just the lesbians who were doing training. So, I were doing my degree and it was from getting a cleaning job when I was working at the Department of Health and Social Security it was, the woman I was seeing at the time, Janet, she encouraged me, she says, ‘oh come and work with me’, y’know, she was part-time cleaning, she was studying to go to university so I, I went and did cleaning work. And, we were at the dental hospital and that, it’s really interesting, that gave me the confidence to believe I could do something different to what I’d been doing. And so, she encouraged me then to apply to go to university.
RL: To Leeds University?
LD: To – no, it was looking at what I wanted to do and the only course that I could feel comfortable with was community development, community – generic community studies at Ilkley, which was part of Bradford University. And I applied and I had an interview and there were a lot of mature students there, so I went there. And that was absolutely phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal. So, I did, I did feminism, I did women’s studies, criminology, I did sociology, psychology, I did all sorts of stuff. And I could relate what I was doing in the lesbian community, and having gone down to Greenham, to the theoretical stuff that I was then reading. And I’ve still got a lot of the books, they’re hidden at the back of the bookcase but – it’s almost like I don’t wanna part with some aspects of that. Y’know, thinking about women and abortions and how women get into their place in society and why women contains and be how they are with other women. So, not just as lesbians, but how we – say, for example, female doctors can sometimes be hard-line and worse than the male doctors because patria-, how they respond to patriarchy, or it was in those days, was very much they had to be better than anybody else. So, then they might not actually be nice to women because it was about trying to fit in with men. So, just looking at it from a whole different standpoint to where you’d imagine it would be. So yeah, looking at those things and discussing those things and having beliefs around those things, and probably because I had my diabetes and I had my right kidney removed when I was, and my appendix removed when I was 21, I’d had experience within the NHS, so when I was reading books telling me about the politics relating to stuff I could, I could understand it, I could see where it was coming from.
RL: I’m gonna pause it there […] Could you say a little bit more about separatism, that you were talking about before, like how did that work, practically?
LD: So, the practicalities of it varied depending on who you were. So, for me, I had, didn’t have as much contact with my dad and my brothers, cos they were in Leeds. It was easier for some women cos they lived a long way away from their family members. So, for some they were even in, their families were in different countries. There were a lot of women from New Zealand and American women who were maybe not, were separatist and – so they didn’t have to have contact with family. So, it worked – it was also about how you managed things. If you drove, you didn’t have to come into contact with anybody else. You didn’t have to go on the bus, you didn’t have to meet people, so you could really clearly define your own space and you’d choose your shops where you shopped and things that you did. But it was primarily about your social areas where you’d go. And, so that’s why a lot of women prefer to go to women-only stuff.
So, think about your holidays. You might go to, you might go to WIT, is it Women in Tune? In Wales. You’d have, go to Horton, the Women’s Centre. There was a lot of women that were connected with Horton, either managing it or working there, or because it was women-only space, so you’d very clearly define where you wanted to go and who you wanted to be around. And all my social activities were around lesbians. So, I didn’t do anything that wasn’t lesbian-orientated. And, I’d choose when I’d go to the supermarket and buy my stuff, but actually I’d interact maybe going to a counter that had women serving. So it was, it was thinking about – I wasn’t as bothered about interacting with some of the men, as some of the separatists were. But it was very much about where we put our energy. So, all our energy’d be going out to events like at Tod or in Halifax, there were various things going on in Halifax and in Bradford.
Now, the women in Bradford were different to the women in Leeds. Some were very similar, and some were different. But I always remember, oh Yvonne, who used to run Checkpoint. Now, she’d wear clothing, she had long hair and liked listening to rock music. So, she wasn’t into feminism in the same way, she wasn’t into separatism in the same way, but she was into women-only stuff, but she didn’t maybe have the same, quite the same politics – she had politics, and really strong politics, but hers were slightly different. And I think the music made a difference, y’know, some’d only listen to lesbian music and some would listen to hard-line rock music.
RL: So, when you say lesbian music, like who do you mean, which performers?
LD: Well, it was k.d. lang. Who else? [laughs] These, there’s the women in Halifax who did the music for Gentleman Jack, and I can’t remember what she’s called… [O’Hooley and Tidow]
RL: I know who you mean.
LD: But there’s, there was ones around that we’d go and listen to and hear and there’s probably a whole raft of others.
RL: What about, what about issues to do with race in Leeds and Bradford?
LD: There was lots of questions around race and looking at how we could encompass women of colour, as it was called at that time, cos it was saying that using the term ‘black’ we didn’t do we used colour, but then it moved on to defining where you were from, or not defining anywhere. Particularly for South Asian women, they had to hide from their own communities, and it was really, really difficult. They had a really hard time of being out there as a lesbian, even if they politically wanted to be, you had to hide, you had to move towns or cities, because you could get beaten up, you could get, you could get murdered, which we know of still exists today. But it’s… us all learning the right, correct language to use, to be open-minded and listen and accepting what they were saying. So, there was a whole section of different lesbians, some that collectively joined together to support each other and some that came as part of the groups and it’s, it was about us having the openness and listening and questioning what we were doing, we were constantly questioning what we’re doing, and how we could do things differently or improve things.
And Bradford was different, because Bradford had more… BME women, at that time, or women of colour and the variations were enormous, y’know if you were an African woman or an African-Caribbean woman, they’re different, they’re very, very different. And just listening to, they just wanted to hear their own music, they wanted to see their, their have literature that was about them, having poetry that was about them. So, there was a rise in the whole raft of, of everything changed.
RL: Were there different groups forming then –
LD: Different, different groups were forming and they may not have been very big, but then when we collectively came together, which we did, I know that DCCP attempted to do things. We had an event each year where – I can’t remember what we called it – The Talent Show [laughs] simple. And women used to come and sing and play. And some of the co-ops – if you think about it, there’s a housing co-op, Firelight I think it’s, was called, up at Woodhouse, and that was very much a women-only co-op and some of the – although it was women-only it wasn’t lesbian-only, so there was flats in there where men weren’t allowed to enter the property at all. Look, I know, in Tangram we had women roofers came and put a new roof on the women’s house, because that’s what we stipulated needed to happen. So, thinking about your contractors and everything that you did, looking at women doing that. I’m trying to think, what they were called… It might’ve been Amazon Nails.
RL: I think I’ve heard of that.
LD: Yes. And I know one of them was doing straw bale building. And, so yes if you think about where we came from and how we shift, how things shifted and changed, and I still know women who were feminist and separatist who mix as little as they can with men
RL: Today? Still? Right.
LD: Today, yeah. I, I shifted because, well I moved here, and I left Tangram. It was back in the day when you could – I’ve been here 23 years, but I was living in a one bedroom flat and there was, Kerry moved in with me, and we had five cats and a dog, in a one bedroom flat and two lesbians and that worth of stuff. So, I remember the woman in the flat underneath used to say, ‘I’m frightened it’s gonna fall through’. So, it was in the days you could – I got a bank loan to, to cover the deposit, cos I said I was going to buy a car and they gave me a bank loan so I used that as the deposit for the house and – but there was politics around that. You shouldn’t buy property, you should – so, there was a whole, yeah, there was politics about absolutely everything. And discussions about absolutely everything. And I’m sure it still goes on. I’m just not part of that anymore.
RL: So, how does that feel, not being part of it?
LD: It feels like I don’t know what’s going on. And what, last, last year I think it was, they were interviewing somebody to do – I don’t know what, it might’ve been similar to yourself, at MESMAC – and I remember – I volunteered myself, oh yeah I’m quite happy to come and be – cos I, I was made redundant two years ago from the NHS. And I went down on the morning they were doing the interviewing, and I can’t remember the woman’s name – she lives in Chapel Allerton – but she challenged and questioned me on, ‘well who thinks you can do this? Do you know the language? Do you know’ – so it’s that hasn’t changed. And that was around in those days, and actually it’s still around now with particular people challenging that you don’t know what’s right and what you need to be doing. And actually, I said, ‘it’s fine, I can go home’. She said there’s enough of us, fine I’ll go home, so that’s what I did, cos I thought I don’t need to have that these days. I may not know all the politically correct language around transgender people but actually, I know who I am, and I’m integrity with who I am. So, there is very much a them and us situation, I think still, and it’s if you’re, you’re part of that – does that make sense?
RL: Yeah, I think I know what you mean.
LD: And so I may not mix with those types anymore, because I mix with those that are from Tangram. I still mix primarily with lesbians. My social circuit, social circle is all lesbians or dogs. So, we go to Tail Waggers Dog Training but there’s quite a number of lesbians in there so [laughs] so I may not sing, but we do doggy stuff, and we do the dog display teams [laughs] But it’s just noticing how things shift and change, and actually, I think I was surprised at the conversation I had with the woman last year and it was like, I didn’t know, I couldn’t, I learnt – couldn’t you tell me what’s appropriate or not, but there didn’t feel like there was a willingness to share. It’s, and sometimes it just comes down to power. People who think they’ve got a little bit more power actually, and then you can feel powerless at the side of it and I don’t wanna play those games. So, whereas we all used to meet in social areas, I don’t think that happen, that doesn’t happen because we don’t have Checkpoint, we don’t have events that happen in Leeds like they used to. And there’s the mixed events that, Gay Abandon events. So it yeah, it’s just how things have shifted and changed.
RL: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
LD: Oh, there’s so much cos I’ve jumped around all over the place. It was, for me it was a wonderful experience going to university and studying because, being in my 30s and reading about feminism and lesbianism and seeing where the academic stuff came from, was not necessarily where I’d come from, but giving me the opportunity to learn and to have a better understanding. But because I had been part of the – I was part of the lesbian community, I could see things and hear things and I could relate what was going on in practice to what I was learning academically. So, that for me, was fantastic. It was – I could all of a sudden feel like actually I can be recognised for what I know, and rather than what I don’t know. And when we were having discussions in groups, some of them, the men were like [laughs] I’d very clearly give where it came from from a feminist lesbian perspective when they were, some of the younger ones maybe had, didn’t have an understanding, so could talk about patriarchy in a different way. So, to me, it filled all the boxes and fitted stuff for me.
But when I look at lesbians, I see very much that there’s a lot of educated lesbians around. So, when I first came out as a lesbian, I didn’t meet necessarily a lot of educated ones. They then became educated; a lot were always working. There seemed to be a lot of stuff around doing the types of work that you needed to do, and I -working for the DHSS as you can imagine was not seen as a good [laughs] y’know I got a lot of criticism for that. But it was, women then went on to have jobs – a lot did volunteer work or worked in co-ops. Suma – a lot of lesbians worked at Suma. Then some of them moved on to… ordinary jobs. So, some became solicitors and lawyers and social workers and came into the system, which maybe they weren’t part of before. So, they may have criticised the systems before, but the only way to change a system is to get in there and do what you can within it and seeing that as an opportunity, and that make, and that can make a big difference. A lot of them, some became lecturers at universities and all sorts of things.
But… I think there still is a difference between the academics, those who’ve been through education, and those that haven’t been through education for, they may have chosen not to – or maybe it just wasn’t for them, y’know and working, struggling at working doing a job in a factory or in a shop or whatever and trying to make everything fit. So, yeah. And a lot went on to do women’s aid stuff and working to support and encourage women. I remember when Voluntary Action Leeds was at the, near the university, and it was like two rooms above what is now a… a pub. So, how things shift and change. Y’know, I, I was on the management committee of Women’s Health Matters, I was invited to be on there, and I did that for a number of years. So, putting my energy into women I think in what, a lot of these women could potentially be lesbians in the future or are lesbians now, cos there’s loads of lesbians that didn’t come out ‘til they were older because they had kids and families and a whole raft of stuff. So, recognising that actually society is much wider than we realise.
I worked for a period of time for the YWCA, the Young Women’s Christian Association. They were so homophobic. Absolutely, totally. Because it came from, from where it came from, I think, as much as anything. But working with homeless young women and giving them the opportunities to grow and develop and be who they wanted to be and just seeing how they were as 14 year olds looking after mums who had mental health problems and the likes and how, they had kids primarily because all they wanted was somebody to hold them and to love them and as a result of that then they’d end up pregnant and, so choices are not always as clear cut for some of us as maybe we think it is.
I was lucky that I got through to 27, but I know people who at 14 and 15 felt like they were lesbians and didn’t quite know where to go with it and how you, you then, who you connect and mix with. There’s maybe more opportunities now with all the social media stuff, but that can also, there’s a negative side to that too. So, it’s just things may be better in some respects, but they can be harder in others.
RL: Shall I stop there? Thank you
[Break in recording]
RL: This is Ray Larman for West Yorkshire Queer Stories. It is the 23rd of July 2019. I’m with Lynn Daniel and this is part two of the interview (so, you don’t have to introduce yourself this time). So, Lynn, we were gonna talk a little bit about kind of relationships and how things weren’t, how monogamy wasn’t always seen as kind of a great thing?
LD: Yes. Well, there was, it was the time maybe, as much as anything. We went – there was a lot of monogamy, but it was serial monogamy, so women would go from one relationship straight into another, and then there was non-monogamy. So, it was very much a case of having one, wanting to have more than one relationship at the same time and maybe how you balanced all of that. I found it really hard with, cos I had relationships with women who were non-monogamous, or defined themselves as such. Because I, I struggled with… the whole process of sharing somebody with somebody else, who was maybe more important, and I think it was where I was at at that time. So, I wasn’t very good at non-monogamy, but I know there was lots of women who were experimenting as much as anything with different types of relationship. And seeing it as being different to patriarchal relationships, so it was very much the politics as well. So, if you think about patriarchal relationships, they tend to be all monogamous and marriage and being just with one person. So, non-monogamy went against that, so it was looking at different ways of being. And I know women often went to the Horton Women’s Centre, so they’d, there’d maybe be a few going and, not necessarily having relationships with each other, but it was very, very much a case of, there was a number of women who were having a go at – doing things differently, going against convention as much as anything.
RL: So, was this – are we talking about the 1980s at this point, when was this?
LD: So, this were probably the late ‘80s going into the ‘90s. So, very much going into the ‘90s. So, I think it was, if you think I only came out in 1987, it was the back end of that time, going well into the 1990s, and it probably went along with all the other things that were changing. So, with all the S/M coming out and the changes in how lesbians defined themselves. So, from being lesbians who wanted to have short hair and look like lesbians to lesbians who wanted to look like they were feminine and couldn’t be perceived as being lesbians. So, there was a whole raft of different, difference going on at the same time. And there was maybe a mix between all of those.
RL: So, you were talking about being monogamous and struggling with that more kind of experimental way of being –
LD: Yes. Well, it wasn’t just monogamy, it was serial monogamy. So, at the time, cos I did it. You’d have one relationship, then you’d meet somebody else who you fancied more, and you’d split up from them and you’d move on to another one. So, you were lucky to have breathing space sometimes, between each relationship, and you just moved from one to another, and that seemed to be the norm. And, yeah, if you split up with somebody, they may go off with somebody else, and you then would be looking for a new partner. So, it were yeah, it was, that was the norm for that time.
RL: Would you remain friends with ex-partners?
LD: Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Cos it depended on what happened at that point. It’s really interesting cos I’m… I can’t say I’m particularly good friends with any of my ex-partners. And I don’t know if that’s just, you move on to a new relationship, and your focus of attention goes there, rather – and they moved on to another relationship and their focus of attention goes elsewhere. So, yes, you might see them out and about. You might see them at Tod Disco or one of the women’s events, so you’d see them that way, but you wouldn’t necessarily always remain friends. But that may have just been me. Cos I know some have remained really good friends. But maybe they were more the close separatist group, so they would, they would – the ones I’m thinking of are really quite still friendly with some of the ones that they’ve been, had relationships with – and sometimes quite long relationships. So, I don’t want to mention people’s names, but there was a small grouping that lived in the Outer Hebrides, on the Isle of Lewis, and I connected with one of them and then we split up and she’s now mar- it’s act- it’s interesting how many now have got married. So, those that were really against the whole patriarchal system in the 1990s may now have got married.
RL: To another woman?
LD: To another woman – not to a man, to another woman. So, they could’ve got civilly partnered or they could’ve got married, and some of those changes I think have come around as much about their property and pensions and finances and thinking about the future. (That’s the dog walker).
RL: Okay, let’s pause there. So, could you tell me a little bit about where you were kind of getting your ideas from, like about lesbian feminism, so books or newspapers or y’know, whatever?
LD: Yeah. At the time, most of the literature was coming from America. So, there was a whole range of different things. There was Off Our Backs, which is, was, I think that was more of an anarchist feminist separatist magazine. But there was, I’ve got an image in my mind of, cos there was the Pink Paper, but that was very much more gay men orientated, but there was very definite lesbian separatist and feminist magazines. There was a whole range that was around. And it was all hard copy because that was the time. And your hands’d be covered in print from reading them, I do remember. You’d often have to send for things, or there’d be – the university, the university bookshop would sell a whole range of magazines. So, it was looking, it was asking others what they thought of and what was good. And that was the only way you’d get to know what was going on. And in those, there’d be articles about a whole range of different things that were happening in other countries and other places.
RL: Were you in any, any women’s groups?
LD: The only ones I was part of was Dyke Challenge Cup promotions, so we were putting on events. And, it was about the feminism overlapped with a whole, lots of social activities as well. So, it was nec- I don’t remember being part of anything that was just around… feminist lesbian ideas or separatist ideas. There was stuff that went on, but it wasn’t necessarily just, if you think about Leeds at the time was very politically active, there was all sorts of things going on. And there was splinters between different groups. So, you might be, you might know the women in one group, but actually you might not necessarily go – she says waving her arms around in the air, which I do [laughs] I’m really sorry about that. But it’s – I can see it as geographic.
I don’t know if you’ve made connections with – if you think about, at that time, there wasn’t a lot of women who’d had children, and then later, there became more women that had children. And some were part of, when I think about the different housing co-ops that existed, so there was factions within. There was also, cos you may not’ve been around at that time, there was a housing co-op in Headingley that was a big house and, cos I always remember, it was about the parties that went on in different places and the ages of different women and the connections for a whole range of different reasons. Cos I know they became, there was, a healing group that was meeting in, in Tangram, and they were all lesbian, and I – I was invited to join. I thought, ‘healing, what’s this all about?’ Cos I had no concept, in any shape or form. And I joined and learnt a whole raft of stuff that I’d never even thought about. So yes, it depended on women’s ages and what they’d experienced and what they connected with.
RL: So, what were you learning in the healing group, was it like a counselling group?
LD: Well it was – no it wasn’t necessarily, it was looking at, we did body painting, releasing, looking at – one of the women who was part of it was a woman called Rosie Foster, who’s no longer around, but she as a homeopath. And so we were looking – there was a lot of women that were coming out as having experienced… violence as children and they’d been sexually abused when they were younger, so it was more connected with that, and that yes, so there was a whole raft of different women of different ages who had a whole range of different, lots of issues. So, yeah. That’s gone off onto somewhere else hasn’t it, again?
RL: Well, I’m gonna take you somewhere else now. You mentioned lesbian line dancing last week –
LD: Oh lesbian – yeah yeah.
RL: I need to hear about this.
LD: So, Anne Dawson and Sophie Ackroyd – so, Anne Dawson lived on Meanwood Road and – I can’t remember how it all got started and connected. But I know, I have a friend, Jess, who when we were at Michigan, she went to the Women’s Music Festival, she’d get up early on a morning, and Jackie did as well, and they’d go to the line dancing classes. And there were women from Texas or wherever who were teaching lesbian line dancing. And I always remember they’d be topless often doing the line dancing at the – it was, it were, oh it was great fun. So, Jess and Jackie always did the line dancing. I’m not very coordinated. And, so when it came over here, they brought it back with them and – I can’t remember if, Jess worked with Sophie Ackroyd – well, Sophie died quite a number of years ago, of cancer – but she was really up for doing the line dancing.
So, there were different groupings and there’d be classes and there’d be events where it was line dancing, but it was very much of that time with the music of the time. So, if you think about k.d. lang and – I’m trying to think – there was Indigo Girls, lesbian who were, lesbian music that was around, and around it just fitted really, really well. So, the Primrose, the Primrose Pub on Meanwood Road was where women’d meet up and… so there’d be part of a whole social network that was around line dancing, but also about playing pool. So the – it used to be the Roscoe Pub, and there was the old Roscoe and then there was the new Roscoe, and women’d connect and w- and meet around those things and the line dancing came out of that.
RL: What would you wear for the line dancing?
LD: Ooo well, you’d have your cowboy boots and you, you’d always wear your jeans and your shirt, your tartan shirt – you might have a hat. And sometimes like, in Anne Dawson’s kitchen we’d do line dancing. So, there was all sorts of things that yeah, looking at, it was just fun. It was fun and playful and just having a nice time. It’s quite a long time since Anne Dawson moved to, to live in Canada, but she’s still connected with the lesbians over here, so I’m thinking when would that have been? So, we went to Michigan in 1992 and I – Anne was visiting… Canada at that same time, so she’d be in Vancouver. Now, Vancouver and Seattle, where we first went when we went to America – well it might be a couple of hundred miles apart, but she came down to meet with us and then I think she moved either the year after or two years after, so it was all of that timeframe. It was probably a couple of years after that she moved.
RL: So, so this would be like kinda the early ‘90s for the line dancing?
LD: Yeah. ‘92/’93/’94. And then she went to Canada.
RL: So, you mentioned the US, and you said – and we were talking about separatism last time and there was the Women’s Land in, was it Oregon?
LD: Oregon, yes.
RL: Yeah, could you say about that?
LD: Yeah, we met a woman there – I can’t remember how we found out about it. So, whether we heard while we were at Michigan, or whether we’d planned to go there before, we – that’s, yeah, maybe I’m’ just a bit too old now to remember everything clearly, as the timeline. But we went to, we met a woman called [name?] and we met others who were living on Women’s Land. And I think maybe because I was one – if you think about, if you wanted to know about anything there as no Google, there was no YouTube stuff, it was very much in the magazines and the papers – and that’s what we read, that’s what we looked at to find where we wanted to go and where we wanted to be.
We wanted to travel down Oreg- through Oregon, but we resourced and found the Women’s Land, and I can’t remember what it was actually – I think it was just called Oregon Women’s Land, but we met a woman there called [name?] who’d been there a long time. So, it was a lovely, a lovely space, a lovely place, but it was very, it was separatist, and women could go and stay – I always remember the toilets, it didn’t have internal toilets, it had a compost toilet and it had material hanging round, so if you needed to go it was – which of course women always do – it was very much… yeah, it was very outdoors.
RL: So, when you say Women’s Land, do you mean they bought it?
LD: They bought it.
RL: And it was only women who were allowed –
LD: Only women that were allowed there.
RL: So, could you just turn up?
LD: Well, I can’t remember that we’d booked or whether we just went, and yes you could just turn up. But you had to be a lesbian and you had to be a woman living as a lesbian and having no male children. So, you couldn’t take male children. Cos that was one of the things that was being discussed very much at the time. Cos if lesbians were having children then having male children made quite a difficulty as to where they could be. So, there was a whole ra- cos I, I never had children, so it wasn’t an issue for me, but it was an issue for some women.
RL: Did you see friends sort of working through those issues, with male children?
LD: I’m trying to think of who – I always remember a woman who’d had, who I’d had a relationship with, Vicky, Vicky Simpson, and I think she died a year or so ago, and she had a relationship with a woman called Mel who had a male child, but it also made a difference as to the co-ops that you lived in if you had male children, because if they were separatist it depended whether they would allow it. So, there were lots of political conversations going on in different places.
RL: That sounds very difficult.
LD: It was. I think it, I think it was just exploring and looking and change is constantly happening. As we get older and we want things, and there was no reason why lesbians couldn’t have children. And some lesbians may have had children while they were married, and then they came out later and they had children. And, I can’t remember clearly as to whether you had a greater chance of having a male child if you… did, had the… I’m trying to think of the words and the names. So, if you got… a sample and did it yourself and got yourself pregnant – which there was a lot of that going on at that time – I can’t remember if you had a greater chance of having a male child rather than a female child. And I don’t know the biology and the possibilities, but there was lots of conversations and lots, but because I wasn’t interested in children I didn’t get involved in that.
RL: Can we just go back to Oregon again, what else was actually on, on the land?
LD: Well, they were growing stuff. There was lots of separatist information. If you stayed there you had to be part of what was going on, you had to clean or be involved in what was happening. It was quite a quiet time when we were there, but I think there was various influxes of women. So, it was a little bit like Horton. So, if you think about Horton Women’s Centre, in this country, women go and work there and other women come and visit, and the Women’s Land was pretty similar. So, some women lived there, some women didn’t want to be part and connected to anybody else, but then there was also women who were coming to visit.
RL: And were they trying to be self-sufficient in terms of food?
LD: Yes, very much self-sufficiency, so growing things and yeah.
RL: And was everyone living in one building or were they kind of separate houses?
LD: I can’t remember, if there was a lot of, there might have been like caravans or units and there was a big building that we could stay in. There was a house – it’s making me think that I need to have a conversation with Jess, cos Jess was very good at recording stuff, and I haven’t done. And just, so that they might have different ideas – I can’t remember even how long we stayed there for, but we were there for a period of time, and I can’t remember how many women we connected with who were potentially there.
RL: And what was the impact on you?
LD: Well, it was just – y’know when you’ve read about stuff and the concept and it just seemed very normal and very natural, but I don’t know if I’d necessarily want to do that. But I knew other women who’d been. So, the woman, [name?], had had a relationship with a woman that I knew from Nottingham. So, it made the world quite small and it also showed how we’d connected from, in different countries. It was just amazing and fascinating. And the fact that you could know people that were somewhere totally different, who had the same ideas.
RL: Did you ever see when you were there how… how the land was kind of policed – I don’t think police is the right word, but like what would – what would happen if a man, y’know, came up to the house or?
LD: Well, it was very rural and men didn’t come anywhere near and it was very clear as to, it had signs as you came on saying what it was and how they didn’t connect with anywhere else. It was very clear was the signage on the outside of what it was. So, it didn’t, I don’t remember it saying that it was lesbian land, but it was very much women’s land. And it was very clear, clearly signed and signposted.
RL: And was it like Michigan with a no trans woman policy?
LD: There wasn’t trans women around. And I don’t think tran – I can’t remember trans women being discussed, it was almost before trans women. That was something that happened a lot of years later, and if it was being discussed I don’t remember seeing or knowing about it.
RL: Oh, I was gonna ask you about, going back to parties, you mentioned quite a lot of parties and… so, so were the lesbians you were kind of hanging around with, were they more like to go to sort of house parties or bars and clubs?
LD: There was, probably it was more house parties and… because there wasn’t always the places to go that were bars and clubs, so like I think I may have mentioned, it depended where you lived in the country and what was available and it was very much a case of you went to… and maybe it was also connected with the, when I think back… a lot of women lived communally, so in housing co-ops, and I remember in Headingley there was a women’s house and – I only remember going to the parties, but there was a whole, that was almost like a collective and there were women of a whole range of different backgrounds and different ideas that lived there.
RL: Was there a name for the collective?
LD: I can’t remember. It probably did have a name, but whether I wrote any of that down at the time. If you think about the magazines and the newspapers and the information and how that was shared, there was the Northern Star and there was the – that’s one of the things I do remember about how information was shared, but I can’t remember what we called a lot of it. And there’s probably lots of lesbians and women around who are part, you’ve said, the ones that have been around and, but it’s yeah, I can’t remember all of that and I wish I could. I wish I could.
RL: But what were the parties like?
LD: Oh, they were always good.
RL: What went on at the parties?
LD: Well, it was about the music and it was about the dancing, and it was maybe – I can’t remember it being around drugs, but it was about enjoying and having… information and sharing that information and where they came from.
RL: I want to go back to something cos I feel I haven’t maybe quite asked enough questions about it, but when you were saying about male children, can you explain in a bit more detail kind of what seemed to be the issues around male children?
LD: Oh, there were lots of information, and lots of discussion about the politics of it. And if women had male children that they’d had from before and they came together and they connected, if you think about that time, it was very much a case of the politics around male children and how they coped and managed. I didn’t have male children, I wasn’t interested in male children, so it didn’t really have an impact on me, but if you already had male children and you connected with other women then it was very much a case of, it would have an impact.
RL: So, what were people’s particular concerns?
LD: If women had – I can always remember women who felt that they didn’t want to be around male children, and yet some women had already had male children and because that had been part of their life, so it wasn’t something that had an impact for me, but it did have an impact for a lot of women.
RL: Was it about the children at a particular age? Or just about them being male children?
LD: There was… younger children and, if – because if you’d already had a child and you wanted to bring it somewhere. So, for example, like Horton Women’s Centre, then it made a real difficulty… And the ages of the children…
RL: So, what, what would be the difficulties?
LD: I can always remember they didn’t want to have male children coming to events and places.
RL: What did they think the male children would do?
LD: It, there was a lot of debates and discussions around it and what they would allow and what they wouldn’t allow happening at that time. And I don’t remember being a part of that because I didn’t want to be around that.
RL: Okay. We were gonna talk a little bit about health and disability, and you’d mentioned about kinda women’s spaces needing to be accessible but also hidden. Can you say a bit about that?
LD: Well, as much as I can remember of that time, it was a case of – because I have impairments, I don’t have any fingers on my left hand and I have diabetes, but there was lots of discussion around the… around the issues. And, I remember they was being more openly discussed when we were in America and also in this country, so if you had a whole range of issues around… very much a case of – I can’t remember how it came about or who talked about it but there was lots of very much, very different discussions. So, for example, at the discussions around, in this country, around all the – and I can’t remember how we collectively talked about it, it feels like there were lots of very issue – difficulties and issues that were talked about around the politics around it. And some of it was in London, and some of it was in… Nottingham and different places where the politics were discussed around – and I can’t remember all the – I wish I could remember more clearly about it.
RL: So, was there a, was there a focus on trying to engage with people, with women who had disabilities and kinda make sure that events were open to them, was that part of the discussions?
LD: Feminism, and separatism, and the issues around those were very – I’m trying to think of the language that was used, because language was very much part of it as well. And I wish I could remember more about it. But I do remember there was lots of conversations and politics about it. There’s was loads of stuff, yeah.
RL: Did you ever go to any conferences, kind of women’s conferences or lesbian conferences?
LD: There was lots of conferences, there was huge numbers –
RL: Can you remember any in particular?
LD: I’m trying to think… cos a lot of it was in London and Birmingham, and I’m trying to think where else, cos there was collectives that had, so yeah there was loads of differences and difficulties around all those issues. But there was very much – and if, and maybe some of it came out from… the separatism stuff that existed of, yeah, there was loads and loads of political issues and difficulties that were around. And there were maybe stuff that I didn’t know, or scared to know [laughs]. There was lots of political… yeah, there was lots and lots of different issues and difficulties.
RL: Was there an issue of… not saying the right thing or feeling like you didn’t know enough about a topic?
LD: Yeah, yeah. Oh, definitely. Definitely.
RL: So, where you aware of different sort of factions developing with different views?
LD: Yes. And you don’t know what you don’t know, until you ask the questions.
RL: So what, so what sort of different groups were forming in Leeds then, what were the kind of divisions?
LD: … Well, there was very much a case of… separatism and… oh, I can’t remember all the different issues and difficulties that existed and I probably have – there was lots of different difficulties and issues around it, and who talked about it and who was allowed to talk and who wasn’t, cos it wasn’t just about the separatism and… but it was, yeah, there were lots. It wasn’t just a case about the names and the language that you looked and… yeah
RL: So, what d’you mean –
LD: Yeah, I’ve got images in my head – yeah, I can’t remember everything.
RL: That’s fine. What did you mean when you said, something just then about, about who was allowed to talk about certain things?
LD: Well if you think about, it was the language and the issues, and the length of women’s hair, and the politics around it.
RL: So, that could be one issue, just the length of your hair?
LD: Yeah. And what you looked like and… There was lots of different issues and language and, yeah.
RL: What was that like then on a daily basis? Sort of negotiating all of that?
LD: There was the politics. There was the… connections around… not just about women’s hair length and politics, but there was a whole range of issues and difficulties that existed, and I didn’t know about everything. And I know very much it was a case of… yeah, there was, there was all sorts of issues that I didn’t know about everything, and I think it depended very clearly about the politics of what you wanted to be included or not included with, and… it was, it was quite a difficult, difficult time. So…
RL: How do you feel things have changed then, for lesbians?
LD: Well, I think, it depended on your issues and what you wanted to be. If you think it wasn’t just the male and female but there might be a whole range of issues and the politics connected… and I can’t remember all the conversations that I used to have with people, and sometimes I think, ‘my goodness, what did I, didn’t know’ y’know [laughs] it’s, it really takes you into all sorts of different issues and difficulties.
RL: Okay. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
LD: I don’t think so [laughs] It makes me think about all sorts of things that I struggled with and… it’s fascinating what you don’t know and what you learn and yeah. It’s just, yeah, how things shift and change.
RL: What have you seen shift and change then, d’you think?
LD: Well there’s all the issues and language and separatism and yeah. There’s loads and loads and loads of issues and difficulties and just about language, but if you think about animals or food and what you can eat, and what you can’t eat. And who believes in what issues. Oh, when you think about it, it gets worse and harder and it’s just like, ‘oh my goodness’, you know, where do we go?! [laughs] Cos, I know it feels very much like not just about where you live and what you look like, it gets harder and harder sometimes.
RL: People clashing with each other?
LD: People clashing, yeah.
RL: Okay, let’s leave it there. Thank you very much.