An Easter audio tidbit from the VFC Archive. Bonnie Stewart, Pittsford, VT village librarian, recounts the incident that caused her son Liam to reconsider the Easter Bunny. Warning: Contains Easter Bunny Spoiler.
[Editor’s Note: Guest Blogger Madeleine Winterfalcon describes her project, Voices of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Movement]
Voices of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Movement
By Madeleine Winterfalcon
I have always been interested in recording and documenting the culture and events of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities. From the early 1980s, when I first came out as a lesbian, I attended concerts, workshops and lectures with my camera and recorded lesbian culture. In the beginning, it was to combat the invisibility imposed on us – to show that we were making an impact on our world. It was also my goal to show how much we had to offer the larger community and that people who said we were irrelevant and had nothing to offer the world were wrong. It then grew to become a way to create images of our lives that would remain after we were gone.
As my passion for documenting the history of the lesbian and gay communities of which I have been a part continued to evolve, I added oral historian to my repertoire. In my master’s program in American and New England Studies at the University of Southern Maine, I focused on lesbian and gay history and developed my interviewing skills. As part of my desire to share different parts of our culture with both the LGBT community and with the wider community, I produced and was the host of a talk show called Queertalk on radio station WMPG for three years. This eclectic program addressed issues of interest to the LGBT community.
After graduation, my first major oral history project began with interviews of people who had been active in the gay rights movements in Maine in the 1970s. At that time there was a radical, vibrant and very active LGBT presence all over the state, but particularly in the Portland area. There were dances; Maine Lesbian/Feminist, a group created by lesbians that met all over the state; Mainely Gay, a newsletter published by and for the community; the first gay bar in Maine, Roland’s Tavern and later the Phoenix; and the first of 25 annual symposia that addressed issues and topics for the LGBT community. These interviews are now housed at the Jean Beyer Sampson Center for Diversity at the University of Southern Maine.
I was very involved in helping to pass the LGBT civil rights law in Maine. When it finally passed after 28 years, there was a lot of energy to work toward marriage. I became involved in this work until I moved to Vermont where I have continued to work on this issue, because I have come to believe that this institution doesn’t need to replicate patriarchal forms but can be used for our own purposes and in our own ways. The most important aspect, however, as I am aging, are the legal protections offered to my spouse and me by marriage. I, along with many other people, spent time at local organizing meetings and went to the State House in Montpelier a number of times to talk with legislators concerning a cause about which I had become quite passionate. When the marriage equality bill was passed and the governor’s veto was overridden, I was totally thrilled and amazed. My next thought was that the many personal stories I had heard during the campaign shouldn’t be lost.
In order to identify participants for this project, the Vermont Freedom to Marry folks were good enough to post my call for interviewees on their listserv. I also asked some of my co-workers at Middlebury College if they would be willing to be interviewed and they are included in this project. Respondents covered the gamut from pro-marriage to anti-marriage, gay and lesbian singles and couples and allies.
Everyone had important and interesting things to say about their experiences inside or outside of the marriage movement. I invite you to listen to the interviewees tell you their stories in their own words.
April 7, 2011 marks the second-year anniversary of the passage into law of the Marriage Equity Act legalizing same-sex marriage in the state of Vermont. In collaboration with researcher Madeleine Winterfalcon, each Thursday for the next 15 weeks the Vermont Folklife Center will present audio segments from her project, Voices of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Movement on our Tumblr blog. The first segment will be available on Thursday April 7, 2011. Stay tuned for details.