Reflections on decades of queer living and loving

Willow Yang/File

I am a 68-year-old dyke, a UC Berkeley staff retiree. I came out in New York City in 1971.

I could tell you:

  • About police raiding bars — beating, terrorizing and arresting queers, for fun.
  • About being so afraid of being recognized by a spectator that I wouldn’t attend the Pride March in New York City in 1972.
  • About my best friend, a 19-year-old boy, who was institutionalized and given shock treatments.
  • What my mother said when I told her I am a lesbian.
  • About my partner being disinvited to my brother’s wedding.
  • About doing too many drugs and drinking too much alcohol in an attempt to medicate myself against self-hatred.

But I’d rather tell you how I survived all those negatives. In 1976, I moved to San Francisco with my first love. S.F. gay life was far beyond its infancy.

  • I worked in the Castro at a wildly gay gift shop/art gallery/hair salon called Hot Flash of America.
  • We protested against Anita Bryant’s anti-gay campaign.
  • Women went to music festivals, and men went to Fire Island.
  • I worked in 2 collectives: the Old Wives’ Tales bookstore in San Francisco (“by, for and about women”) and an organic produce distribution company.
  • I married a woman, and we had a child in 1990. The marriage ended in true lesbian fashion (drama), but a child is forever, and mine is the best.
  • AIDS changed our queer world forever. It wiped out a generation of fabulous men — but it also brought gay men and lesbians together through joint efforts to fight for recognition and to help those afflicted.
  • We marched against violence against women.
  • We opened gay- and women-owned bookstores.
  • We created gay olympics.
  • We fell in love more openly.


Sim Kallan is a Berkeley community member and involved with the Pacific Center.