In 2009 Tacoma Lesbian Concern celebrated 30 years
as the oldest, continuously operating lesbian organization serving the south
Puget Sound. We're proud of all we've done, all the womyn we've met and supported,
all the community service and educating we've performed, and the large family
of womyn we've created. Oh yeah, and the potlucks, parties, dances, camping
trips, holiday get-togethers, dinners out, picnics, retreats, etc., and, the
approximately 2400 Newsletters we've published since 1979. Here is our herstory:
The story goes that Ardythe's sister, Emma (whose name wasn't Emma at that time), moved here in the late '70's, and soon asked her sister where all the local lesbians gathered in Tacoma. Ardythe responded that she thought she was the only one here. "Balderdash!" said Emma. (Or something to that effect. It was 30 years ago, you know) as she proceeded to blanket Tacoma with a flyer that told of a meeting to be held at Ardythe's house. It was a parchment paper with BIG bold fancy purple letters which read "Lesbian Concern" surrounded by fancy swirls. Twenty-seven women showed up at that 1st meeting! We had country womyn, hippy womyn, professionals, young womyn and older womyn. We had womyn who wanted arm patches, those that wanted badges and/or official carrying cards.
Then or soon after we added, "Tacoma" and became TLC. We organized into a group with a President, VP, Secretary and Treasurer and had meetings at member's houses or the IMPRINTS Bookstore. We voted in a logo (we're currently on our third logo). We've been through many phases as an organization. We were "just a club" for the first 5 years and that suited us fine for then; we did potlucks and rap groups and some educational presentations. Then we spent a lot of time and angst around becoming a non-profit (501c3) and finally achieved our 501c3 status in the early 90's. A couple of times in the middle 10 years we had several meetings around what kind of group TLC was/is and what our Mission Statement is. We've always defined ourselves as a Social, Support, and Educational group. We've been an open resource to the community for at least the past 15 years. Now we think we know who we are. Currently we have a Board with President, VP, Secretary, Treasurer, and three members at large. The Board meets about every other month to run "the business" of TLC. TLCers pay dues, read their monthly newsletters, and have a lot of fun socializing with each other. We have planning meetings with our board meetings where we decide what we're going to do for the next couple of months; those that come to the meeting get to decide, and those who don't get to wish they would have. There are now some traditional events that we do every year.
We've been a resource in the national publication, "Lesbian Connection" since about '85, and have blurbs in all the major national travel guides including "Places of Interest to Women: and "Fodor's". We've gotten calls from across the country asking about the climate for lesbians considering moving here and about events for lesbians vacationing or visiting here. We are listed in various gay and lesbian publications throughout the Pacific Northwest. Some of our members had TLC's phone line as their home number for many years; taking calls from womyn who were seeking support in coming out, looking for a place to join other lesbian womyn socially or womyn seeking community resources. Today, TLC has it's own dedicated phone line that shares with callers our upcoming events. We've sponsored members to attend the NGLTF community building conference and a national lesbian conference in Atlanta.
We've done community service events as a group, like complete room renovations at YWCA (twice), buying and delivering meals to less fortunate lesbians and their families at Thanksgiving and Christmas and being a part of painting with the "Paint Tacoma Beautiful" group. More recently, we have reached out to local youth at PLU and OASIS with Christmas potlucks.
We've had a monthly newsletter since the beginning. It, too, has gone through many incarnations. It's been a single sheet of typewritten paper that told of TLC events, editorialized, and highlighted various members. Nowadays it contains TLC events, events of the larger community, resources, advertising, and is carried on our web page. We even had one woman, Marcia, who came to her first TLC meeting and volunteered to do the newsletter; she did a fantastic job for over a year. Today, we share our newsletter with neighboring publications and offer gift subscriptions. You'll find a stack of our newsletters on the resource table of the Rainbow Center, Tacoma's G/L/B/T Resource Center.
Our first dance "Top o' the Town" took place in 1981 at the Shriner's Hall in Tacoma. This was one of the first lesbian dances EVER in the South Puget Sound area. We had over 300 womyn show up and were overwhelmed with the response. TLC made a lot of money on that event. Across the hall from our dance was a wedding reception. The bride and her entourage just couldn't help themselves and crossed the straight/lesbian barrier to come dance with us. A while after, some of the men at the reception also crossed over to dance with themselves and the women from their party. For the next few years the annual dance was our main money-making event. We really worked to decorate for these dances with disco balls, fog, art works, flowers and balloons. The TLC dance did a one-time stint at the Am Vets Hall (that was an experience!), moved to Halo Hall on Canyon Road for a few years before ending up at the Mountaineers Club for several years. At Halo Hall we had a young lesbian named Donna E who brought all her own equipment and DJ'd for us for a couple years so she could become well-known. She sure did! We stopped having annual dances four years ago. We had successfully pioneered and in the 90s there were finally enough lesbian dances around the Sound that TLCers and other lesbians can trip the light fantastic a few times a week.
First parties and potlucks all took place at Ardy's, with some pretty intense rap groups at other locations. She made over her garage into a recreation room for us. We had wonderful times there with talent shows, small dances, New Years and other holiday parties, and meetings. Back then (pre-Desert Hearts) we did some VCR movies but there wasn't much to choose from. Therese and Isabelle, and Children's Hour were pretty much it. Ten years later we were still using Ardy's place for get-togethers and educational programs, i.e. the (safe) sex classes!
The first Garage Sale was held at Mary and Teresa's in Milton. We didn't have a lot of people come to buy but we (first TLCers) were all pretty young then and many had a girlfriend or two and there was a lot of kissy-face going on. We bought a lot of the garage sale items for ourselves so ended up making some money. We've had a garage sale every year since then and have always used member's homes. It's become a fun event for TLCers but a bitch to clean up.
TLC has gone on a camping trip almost every year since 1985. That first camping trip was a doozy. Seventeen of us traveled the San Juan Island's ferry to Moran State Park on Orcas Island. We found a couple of camping spaces close together. We had a wonderful time but ran afoul of a homophobic Park Ranger simply by being the womyn we are. The second night we sang around the campfire (with the ranger watching in the background and waiting for us to "screw up" somehow). Joy was there with her camping guitar (as she is every year) leading us in song and teaching us "proper"songs like, "Leaping Lesbians". Around 11 PM, the ranger decided we were singing too loud and making too much noise, so he told us we were to leave the park. Now here we are in the pitch black of midnight on an island from which the last ferry departed hours ago. He would not hear any arguments so out we go, packing our stuff by the light of our car headlights, down to the ferry dock where we slept on the only ground available: a steep hill. After this experience we wrote to the Governor, Booth Gardner, and to the Parks Dept. We got several apologies. We also got an experience the 17 of us will never forget. TLC goes camping every year at a large group site. We get more new womyn every year. We've honed a few traditions over the years like a Saturday night camp potluck and hours of singing around the campfire.
For many years we went on winter retreats and a summer retreats renting whole facilities at either the ocean or the mountains. Picture 25 womyn sleeping in a multi-room chalet and all eating our meals together in a huge dining room. Picture 25 womyn, some in sleeping rooms, some sleeping on the floor everywhere, 20 of them around the table playing Pictionary and periodically collapsing on the floor in laughter. Picture 17 womyn staying at a big rock cabin at Iron Springs back in the woods from the ocean, one bathroom, yes, one bathroom and a terrible storm outside with trees falling in the road before us. Picture not-so-young-anymore lesbians falling down a snowy hill in their snow saucers. Picture 15 lesbians going to the local lounge show and taking over the straight dance floor.
We have what are now traditional get-togethers. For years we had an Easter celebration and hid eggs at Diane and Pat's, but for 10 years we had Easeovernox, an egg-hunting celebration of Passover, Spring Equinox, and Easter. And we had many a Thanksgiving together out at Gloria and Donna's and Christmas Parties at Rosedale with "Ornryment Exchanges" around the holiday season. We did an annual 4th of July picnic, camping trip, and Halloween Parties up until a couple of years ago, and still plan a dinner out at a restaurant once a month to celebrate the birthdays of that month. Ft. Flagler is a favorite annual retreat in February. Our newest recurring event is the monthly Womynrock dances, earning donations for local lesbian non-profits. TLC was a part of the Seattle Gay Pride March, but now is involved in our own city's Tacoma Pride Festival.
We store our archives at the Washington State History Museum, and our members founded the Oral History Project there.
We've made life-long friendships. Some of us met and fell in love at TLC; some of us twice or three times. Many of us have gotten a lot older and love the constantly changing face of TLC with the young lesbians and newly out womyn.