I’m pretty sure the central-Maine town I grew up in was modestly hospitable to lesbians and other women who didn’t fit neatly into a heterosexual mold.
There were the two close friends who worked in Newberry’s.
The egg lady who made deliveries smoking a pipe.
And the Page sisters in Burlingon I visited with my grandfather.
In hindsight it didn’t seem to matter if these and so many other women I knew were lesbians or fell somewhere else on the LBGTQIA+ spectrum.
Rugged Little Town
Lincoln is carved from a forest of white pines and birches.
Many of the 13, grey-blue lakes that dot the landscape are framed in pink quartz and granite.
It’s much closer to Canada than any major American city.
And it is still the place my heart calls home.
It’s a rugged little town whose sole industry, making paper, closed down as reading became digitized and competitors in China and Finland prevailed.
Overt femininity peaked for many of us in the experimental years of high school.
Perhaps it tapered as the practicalities of living in a remote part of the state took over.
Where snow gets deep and stays.
And summers are breathtaking but require a certain no-nonsense approach to black flies and mosquitoes.
Yet it seemed as long as you were white, Christian (though not necessarily practicing), Republican (as evidenced by not declaring to be a Democrat), a hunter or recipient of the hunt (as my mother was with the necks of deer for mincemeat canning), you were accepted.
My decade of influence was the 1960s.
Lesbianism and other lifestyles weren’t talked about, but in hindsight they sure seemed to be accepted.
Especially if you were a lone woman or part of a quiet, female couple.
Anti-discrimination in Wyoming and Maine
The second-ever Pride Week just ended in Laramie, Wyoming, the town my husband and I have lived in for the past 11 months.
It’s where Matthew Shepard attended college and was brutally murdered 20 years ago by being beat up, tied up, and left for dead at the base of a fence.
Laramie now has a city ordinance – the only such one in the state – that prohibits “discrimination of any person based upon his or her actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.”
Unlike Maine, Wyoming doesn’t yet have state-wide protection laws.
Women’s Alternative Lifestyles in Lincoln
I have to wonder how the women who chose alternative-lifestyles managed in Lincoln back then.
How did they deal with inheritances, hospital visits, and the whole next-of-kin thing?
And more generally, how much of who they were did they have to keep secret?
Still, I don’t recall — even once — anyone making a face or a fuss over how someone else chose to live.
And this was a time before precedence, formal laws, ordinances or activists for equal rights having much of a voice.
It may simply have been a case of getting along with one another.
Through my eyes it was a matriarchal community, starting with my grandmother, then my mother and her strong, funny friends.
And might that be part of the answer?
When not goaded to separation by hateful media and cruel religious takes on right and wrong, could it be that people naturally accept one another?
Even act kindly?
Maybe as time has passed and Maine continues to elect centrist, independently-minded, female leaders, Lincoln’s ease with people just as they are continues to grow.
I know my own has.
Read about Lincoln, Maine
Learn about aging LBGTQIA+ in Maine. “AARP Maine/SAGE Maine: Statewide GLBT Aging Project Report,” by Jane Margesson, March 22, 2013.
Learn about SAGE: Advocacy and services for LGBTQ elders
Support Wyoming Equality.
Learn about EQMaine – Equality Maine
Learn about non-discrimination in Maine
Read about Wyoming’s Safe Zone, free online trainings for LBGTQIA allies.
• • •
Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com
“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”1 — C. West