Glenda - Butch on Butch
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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride nz.com. [00:00:05] I grew up here in Lower House, I haven't lived here the whole time I've come back after living in Wellington City for quite a few years, I come from a very different kind of background, probably to lots of people. I was born in 1952. So things were fairly conservative in 1952. And my mom was a solo parent. So I was brought up with my mother and my grandmother. And I think that is probably a really an interesting view. I mean, eventually, I think my mother thought that was the reason I was lesbian. And I've not really, I don't really subscribe to that. But perhaps that might be the catalyst be and then I am, I [00:00:40] don't know. So you feel that your background of your mother being a solo parent and the 1950s, that was pretty unusual. [00:00:48] I think it was really unusual. She was a very interesting person, and that she wanted to have a child and she had a relationship with somebody who was married and decided to still go ahead and have a child, my mother was a very determined person. And when she decided she wanted to do something, she did it. And she was a very strong person. She had people like social welfare coming in suggesting that she gives me up for adoption, or when I was a twin h Lee and give us up for adoption. And she just told them weeks ago, and she was 29. So it wasn't like she was 15 or 16. So and then they just left her line, and she got on with it. My sister actually only lived a few days after we were born. But that was, yeah, I think that might have I always think that has something to do with it. You know, what does it like to be, you know, in a womb with another little being and then you come out and that little beings gone. I don't know what that means. But I always think these things probably all take a toll or, or help to build that sense. [00:01:49] So your grandmother was supportive of your mother's decision to have children [00:01:54] eventually. Eventually, my grandmother, also 1920s divorced, which was very unheard of she was in a very violent relationship. She had three children. And then she left that marriage. And then she hit my mother to somebody else. And my mother, he doesn't know who her father was. And so we have this really quite interesting, I think, little family thing going on. And and I think that was I think that there was an implication for how things panned out. Eventually, when my mother found out that I was lesbian. She was totally devastated even though she had chosen to live right outside of what way that most people live. But she really was up CCP autos. And I've always felt that I I'm perhaps and this is just me thinking about it, that I had the ability to bring her into the mainstream by becoming a mother in law by becoming a grandmother. And I didn't do it. That's just my vision of this. But so I sort of I think for me, these these family, things are really important and who I am. [00:02:59] Did you ever get to know your father, [00:03:02] I met my father on a few occasions. It's really interesting, because we look amazingly, he's dead now. But we looked amazingly like he had three children, other children, and I have a still have a older sister living and we met officially about 1213 years ago. And we have a really nice relationship. And we see each other regularly. And that's, that's really lovely. [00:03:28] And your mother's still alive. [00:03:30] My mother is still alive, she just about 292. And she's under risk time. And I found myself being her drug dealer delivering her cigarettes and her daily bottle of beer and putting bits on the horses for hear things I never thought I'd see myself doing. And I'm doing that. [00:03:47] I love that. I'd love to be there over one one day. [00:03:52] So you grew up in the hat. Did you go to local schools here? [00:03:56] Yes, I went to a number of primary schools. I went to non I intermediate. And I went to nano college, [00:04:03] and how was how was college for you? [00:04:07] Um, I don't think I was a fan. I mean, I was a good kid. I was a studious kid. But you know, I wasn't academically the sharpest knife in the drawer, I would say. And I always felt different. I mean, my identity. And I didn't have a word for it. I was aware from a very young age, perhaps even as young as five, that I was interested in other girls and not boys. So I think that was always a little bit different. And as you get older people notice more. And I think that set me apart a little bit. I think [00:04:40] maybe I was just a nude. I don't know, I certainly hang out with the nice nudes. [00:04:45] Did you have girlfriends when you were young? [00:04:48] My first I mean, I had girls from, you know, that I was in love with from probably, at least certainly 10 years old. I mean, you know, great patients all the time. That was very common. But is an actual relationship. I had my first relationship when I was still at high school just before I turned 18. Tell us about how that came about. But complicated, but I had some school friends over to stay. And I stayed up all night telling to pluck up the courage to tell one of them that I liked one of the others. And she said Oh, so do I. And and then she this woman then proceeded to, I suppose, pursue me and actually start a relationship with me. And it was it was all from her side at that point. So [00:05:35] that was how it all started. And how did it finish? [00:05:39] We were a relationship for five years, it wasn't an easy relationship. And in the end, I made the decision not to stay in it. And she made the decision eventually to go and get married and have children things. Yeah. [00:05:53] What What age were you then [00:05:55] when it finished? [00:05:58] I suppose bit 26 [00:06:01] you're living at home? [00:06:01] Or no, no, no, the first sort of year of the relationship. We lived at home. And then we sort of escaped and, and went and worked in hotels and lived out of home for a while. And then we went back. And then my girlfriend's mother found out and she called us over and asked us are you having a relationship and we see DS and she said, Well, you need to go into me, you need to go and tell your mother and I said, Look, my mom, I will tell my mother I'm going to but she's not ready to hear this yet. And this woman said you've got five minutes. So we lived across the road from each other. So I went over and told my mother in tears, which is not what you want to do. It would never been the way I would have approached it. And my mother really went to pieces after that. And eventually this woman apologized to me and she said that she shouldn't have done that. I mean from the point of view that this woman had eight children. My mother had one and it was really devastating and and it caused a terrible rift in my mother my relationship that went on for Well, I think it always been it's it's played a part and damaging it ongoing Lee but certainly for the next 10 years really bad. [00:07:06] So what did you do then once you hit this reveal to your to your mother, what you couldn't come home. So [00:07:16] I leave time I stayed with the school friend for a little while and was over the school holiday, sort of university holidays and things. And then my partner and I my girlfriend we moved out we went got a fled. And that was Yeah, things were rocky for a long time after there was with my mother. Did you know other lesbians in at that point, I didn't know someone we moved out. But it was interesting that this woman and I, you know, we were about what 18 at the state with this get together we go to Commons coffee land, because we know about Commons. But we don't know where you'd find anybody else. And we were sitting there and these two women came up to us and they were little bit drunk. And they said Oh, you like him up message was a you Libyans, we said yes. And they said, Oh, so away. And we'll come back this time next week. And we'll take you to a gay bar. And we thought now they won't come that drunk, they won't never remember. But they did. And one of those moments was tricky. [00:08:13] So I'll always be very grateful. I've already told you that I'll very grateful for your for it. [00:08:18] What sort of view was it? [00:08:20] Maybe 7071. [00:08:23] So tell us a bit about Commons coffee lounge, hell It was [00:08:27] so common was a very well known, perhaps notorious drag queen and Wellington and she had a number of businesses. She had a strip club and button she had this coffee lounge, which was under the street and I think the Salvation Army sort of deal now pretty much sets on this space with us. But this was and it was a coffee lounge. To me it was just a coffee lounge and run by a wonderful drag queens and we would go there and be totally fascinated and look at them. And and we used to go all the time. And they were very good to us. I was quite another No, not naive, but innocent. But I taught people pretty much at face value. My understanding is there were other things going on in their building. And I sort of knew about that, but I just saw them as these amazing beings really. And other ones. I've got to know turkey on the other woman and we used to go there quite regularly and you'd walk in there and they don't Hello, girl. How are you and you know, you want this was great and and people straight people used to go there a lot and sort of almost be there sort of being tourists. But we always felt that that was we were safe. And I remember one night I was with a group of women and this guy grabbed me and he pulled a suspect as punch me in the face because he thought I was a gay man. And I said, and I cringe now a little bit and I as he was about to bring us first into my face. I said what do you usually hurt women do you and his drop down his mouth fell open and into very large drag queens swooped on him and took him outside and he didn't come back. I love them for that. [00:09:58] Where else did you go is lesbians in town in the 70s [00:10:02] and the Royal Oak hotel. So there were a number of bars in there. And the one that I used to drink and was the tip and bar. So the bar was largely it was mixture lesbian and gay, lesbian and gay men, and probably largely white collar workers in the sense of teachers, nurses, office workers, things like that. And then there were a few other bars in the building that had entirely different populations of people. [00:10:30] And that's really hoaxes [00:10:31] now. Yes, yeah. So that was quite an amazing it was a place you would talk Don't go Don't go there. Don't go there. Of course you went there was very exciting. And Friday and Saturday nights particularly. And what would happen is that they'll be circulation of saying all this will be a party somewhere. And after that we all went off to this party. And that was sort of life for for a number of years. And I can remember getting dressed up to go there. I think it was mainly actually Friday nights that we went there. So you know, it's this was an opportunity to get all dressed up, hop on the bus. I can remember this particular time living in Caracas, I get on the bus and go down there. And I mean, I I was quite flamboyant, and looked quite different. And I think that a lot of women in particular who drank in that bar, even if they liked me were quite uncomfortable about how I looked [00:11:21] at how did you look? [00:11:23] I certainly would say I would cross dressed. But in a very well, for example, there was a means out of as a shop and willing to call Vance Bolivians. And I went there and I got the most wonderful crunch. Now I haven't got a photo of this cheery read knit Safari suit. Mm hmm. And I had a wonderful life shirt with a touchable life's ruffles at the cuffs and down the front. And at that stage, I, I suppose I i that i got picked up by the police and thrown out for being under age there. I mean, I would have stood out anyway. And I must have been 20 because the drinking age was 21 in so yeah, terrible. So I went shopping thing. But I thought I looked wonderful. I certainly stood out. [00:12:19] Did you get harassed at all publicly? [00:12:22] I'm not involved, as I say in Commons nearly getting beaten up, but will because if they thought I was a gay men, and there were a number of occasions walking down the street we gave me and approached me because they thought I was a young gay man. Just because of how I looked. You know, I was so prone to wear lace and, and it was very interesting. The first queer people really that I knew were drag queens. And I developed a persona, which was I can't describe it is totally queer. So I when I walked by minced, and when I talked I flipped my wrist around and so it's no wonder and worldwide war that people often taught me for a game in. And it was just that was the identity I talker. And I was seemed quite natural for me. [00:13:06] So you were hanging out with drag queens and lesbians in gaming. Socially? The mix? [00:13:13] Pretty much Yeah, although things like often are party, some of them will mix, but often they will lesbian. You know, lesbian and gay men had separate parties, but they were definitely mixed parties. Yeah. [00:13:23] So that was in the 70s. Were you working or university in the early 70s? I was at Teachers College, [00:13:30] at Teachers College. So it seemed to work, okay. I mean, you had to be a little bit discreet, I suppose going at going to work and things because in those days, when I was at Teachers College, for example, when you went to have a teaching section, women were not allowed to wear trousers unless it was a trouser suit. And the guys would get same time if they didn't have a tie on. So it was quite strict really. So yeah, but still managed to get through, [00:13:54] right? Is it as a child and a young woman will you more likely to be wearing trousers in Solon didn't dresses, [00:14:03] a mixture. In fact, in my early teenage years of 15 and 16, I, I used to, you know, when I went to the pictures and things, I had slingbacks shoes, and I had my hair teased, and I used to have his spray in my bag. But at home, I would often be cross dressed. So I don't know. I mean, I think my my natural attire has always been towards what you would say a butcher style, even if it was with lice and things. But that was definitely I always had that some leaning. But but at certain periods, I didn't care about wearing dresses and things I did wear them. I didn't hate them. But once I got to a certain point, I suppose when I came out, then after that, I don't think I ever wore a dress seriously. [00:14:48] So did you get involved in the feminist movement in the 70s? [00:14:52] Eventually, I found it really quite interesting, because I can remember when it all started to happen. I can remember being accosted by women and saying to me while you were shooting tie and things like that, and I got really, really angry about that. And for a while that was a really a No, no. And then eventually, I suppose when I got involved in more feminist things, many of the feminist women instead of put shirts and all things lesbians data pushes and tires on it kind of became I don't know, what it became with it became call or whether it became this is a symbol or something, I don't know. But at the very beginning, I certainly I did feel sit upon I remember writing an article, a story, actually, a little story for circle magazine said it was called something I can't be lesbian. Because I, you know, looking at what was being said, at least been was I felt I didn't fit most of those things. [00:15:46] What were they saying at least a month? [00:15:47] Well, certainly not wearing a shirt and tie. You know, certainly not. And, and I suppose in those early days, some of that stereotype of the sort of more, not everybody, but there was a sort of slightly Earth Mother local long dresses and, and things like that. And it certainly was not me. No, but I mean, I think fashion for one of a better word did change within the lesbian feminist community. And I think we, we all change. [00:16:15] So you went from teachers college to, to what [00:16:18] I went teaching, I taught for a couple of years, and then I went overseas for a year, then I came back and taught for another year and a half, and then I gave gave it away and decided that I want to do something else. And then that time, that must have been the late 70s. And there were lots of interesting things happening I was living in the arrow Valley had a little cottage in the Yarra Valley. And there were lots of other lesbians living in the valley, late 70s, early 80s. And it was very exciting time, I had a year off where I didn't work for a year. And that was the most marvelous time of people just dropping in four cups of tea and lots of discussion happening. And it was always something on dances across ways or this or that it was it was an incredibly exciting time in some really amazing things that people did, I think, [00:17:06] what was some of the things that were making an excitement was that the status some of the night at refuge, and those sort of movement, that movement started around that then [00:17:16] there was stuff like, for example, there was the government PP schemes for workers. And I was lucky enough to get two of those I got one where I worked as a volunteer coordinator for the woman's refuge, which was really nice. I learned a lot from there and really enjoyed working with people, I was sort of trying to coordinate volunteers. And I also did a bit of work on putting together a children's sort of playroom at the refuge. And then the other one was, I had a job for the got a job PP for the National Gay Rights Coalition, which ended up with me, painting a room purple, and a building where they hit their offices and making a beginning at sorting documents and papers, which would later become logins. I don't know that I was so good at that bit of it, to be very honest, but But certainly, it became a drop and center and lots of people came and talked. And that was exciting. [00:18:15] Introduce that getting involved in the homosexual Law Reform activities. [00:18:20] I did. I think I'm someone I hate meetings, and I'm just not good at them. And not, you know, like, people, I really respect all those people who sit there and they write all sorts of things to seem to Parliament and go, Okay, I just can't do that. It's just not me. I, my preference would be and I did some of it was to go and talk to groups of people, whether it was a church group, or whatever it was to, I've always believed putting a personal face to things. So one of the things that I did was to write a letter and send it to everybody I could think of that I knew, explaining that, you know, there was a petition going around trying to sign to stop this law being changed. And that when they read that, and when they were considering what they were going to do, they needed to understand that they knew at least one queer person and that was me. And I sent those out to people I talked with people I knew even my ex girlfriend's parents, I seems to lots of people. And that is a sort of thing. I had some fun one day down a Lampton key where the people had the petition. So I waited quietly in line, and when I got there, I grabbed several sheets of them, and then I stuck them down my trousers. And the two people who were doing the petition a man and a woman, they grabbed me and they just about broke my arms at twisted my arm run it hapa big, it was very, very Christian of them. And, and then they called the police and the police did that I had to give it back. And I warned them that they didn't if they touched me on hit them for soap because I'd stuff into my dresses, and I got it out and I tore it to pieces before I gave it back to them. So those sorts of things felt felt good to do but but the thing around, I've always done that I was involved earlier also in gay liberation. And I went out I can remember that we went to the police college, we went to other groups to talk to them. And I've always thought that that was a really valuable thing to do. I somehow doesn't always work but uh, but a one to one or a group to group where, you know, you're steering it, and you're telling your story. Even if it only fits one person, it's worth it. Totally with it. So that's more that's always been my more my way of doing things rather than, you know, writing things or I gave a few did a few speeches there during the homestretch. Lori for one of the big matches, I spoke at that. So you know, but for me, it's always I like it to be pretty personal. Yeah. [00:20:49] So I know that you started performing at some point. And this when when we when we get him on stage and entertaining the lesbians. [00:20:59] I know got on stage much earlier than there it was in high school. The first time I ever I used to do this thing there's lots of people do and lots of the people that Drake kings does, you know, you're you've got your radio going or your record player going and you've got your hairbrush, and you've got the mirror and you're prancing around singing into the hairbrush? Well, I used to do that. And then when I was at high school, and I can't remember what year it was, what whether I was wasn't my third for me and possibly fourth, possibly first, and we had a talent contest, and I decided I was going to do this. My mother really was concerned about and I think she was concerned that I might get a really hard time but I did it and people loved it. [00:21:36] What did you do? I think [00:21:38] I'm the first one I did a couple of first one was Georgie fame, Bonnie and Clyde. So I was dressed up like a gangster and I had a plastic machine gun and things like that. And the other one I did was a Billington booty from bow. So my mother bought me a title suit and top head and I did that. I'm trying to think I can't remember who's saying it now. But anyway, it was a woman. It wasn't a man singing it. Actually. [00:22:04] So you were singing along to it. [00:22:06] lip synching? Yeah, absolutely. And people loved it. I was quite surprised. But yeah, [00:22:11] what was some of your other personas [00:22:14] I can remember doing a Beatles one, but it was just me doing it. I did. I did one of those that was a bit more unusual. So and I I later went on to do gene Pitney, but I don't think I ever did that at school, but, but I wanted to do things that were a bit more expressive, and a bit more queer even before I hit the words for it. But I somehow knew to be very careful. So I think Bonnie, and Clyde was kind of a weird little song, you know, it was exciting and people being shot. And, you know, and Billington, Bertie was Julie Andrews, his voice that wasn't a male voice. So I think people sort of did look a little bit sideways, but I kind of got away with it. But they weren't the songs that I really wanted to do not really. [00:22:59] So when you were with the drag queens, and obviously, they would be doing some performances today that inspire you to do more. [00:23:08] I thought about it. I mean, when my first girlfriend and I leave time, we went and lived in Oakland. And we used to go to this drag queen show called Mojos, which was on Queen Street. And I have to say they were some of the most amazingly talented and beautiful people on that show. And I used to think about that is that I could do that, I'd like to do that. And when I was in Wellington, I knew that stuff happened at Carmen's balcony club. But my problem was, I knew that there was a lot of stuff that came along with that sort of performance, you know, I just understood that the world that it was happening in was probably not the world I wanted to live in. I think that was part of what you know, would have stopped me perhaps pursuing finding out I wasn't the sort of person that wanted to be in a nightclub, you know, to two or three in the morning doing that sort of stuff. I just, yeah, I just didn't have the not personality, but it just wasn't who I was. So I don't think it was ever possibility, for example, to become a career or anything like this is say, with the drag queens did. Yeah, I think that life would have been too hard for me. [00:24:16] So I think a lot of people listening may have heard or seen you being gene Putney were some of the places that you would have been doing that performance. [00:24:26] And that was quite interesting, too. And lesbian and the lesbian clubs and, and it was sometimes controversial. And I'm just trying to remember the one performance that I did. I kind of remember where the club was. Now, it wasn't the Wigan street club, it was somewhere down Courtney place. And I think there was a club that was a for a while, but not not long, long. And some people sort of said they just didn't understand it. Other people not that, you know, and I mean, it is a really weird thing for lesbians to isn't that I mean, you know, we dress up as as as male characters, and we lip sync to male voices, or sometimes we do female, but often to male voices. And, and, and some women just love it. And I sometimes get very confused by this. Not sure what that means. But I've decided not to worry about that. But but but it is, but some people watching it got very confused by it. They didn't understand what this was about, why would we be doing this? [00:25:26] Today? Over time, people sort of got used to it and that they would see you at various things doing this and maybe understand a little bit better. [00:25:35] Yeah, I think I think so. It was very interesting when I was was actually with the drag kings and we went on our show to Melbourne, I contacted somebody that used to live here that lived in Melbourne and told her that we were coming and that we were doing the show and I got back this very rude email from becoming to see something like that. [00:25:54] Okay, okay. [00:25:58] Because the JK, [00:26:01] I think we've been going a couple of years. And we kept hearing from people who are your, your fan, your fan club, say, if you know, you've got to get glitter involved, which does gene Pitney. She's been doing it since, you know, long before you ever got on stage. And and I think you joined the drag kings for about a year. [00:26:20] I did. And that was a wonderful worry, time. For me, we were having a bit of a laugh earlier about aging process. And I was what early 50s, then I'm felt really old Pete with everybody else. And actually was quite hard keeping up to say, but it was such a neat opportunity. I mean, I'd always been a solo performer performed by myself. And in some ways, that's easier. And so it was a pretty hard learning curve to learn how to do all the steps with everybody else. That was really hard. But it was a wonderful opportunity. And I just felt that [00:26:51] you don't get those kind of opportunities very often. So I decided I needed to say yes, finally. And it was was this thing today. [00:26:59] We were wrapped in way. And I think I was remembering that at the time you will we all knew that you're around 50. And we just thought it was incredible. This 50 year old would be getting on stage with us. And now I've turned 50 of course I don't think I'm half as nimble as you are on stage. Do you do any performing now at all? [00:27:21] No, not really. I would never say never again. But probably not. I don't I don't know. You know, I haven't given away all my costumes stuff. But but but probably not sometimes that you have to know when to stop as well. [00:27:39] No, but it could be embarrassing. You know, you know, at least come visit people do it could be a worry. [00:27:46] We'll take that on board. Thanks, Linda. Linda, you're involved in the butcher Butch photo exhibition. And we took your photo of the cross the road and the church, Pat opposite the National Library. And you're wearing a gorgeous suit at the time, can you I think that's a special suit for you. Can you talk about that? [00:28:10] It's the jacket and the waist code from an Indian wedding suit. And I bought that from a little shop in New Town, I couldn't buy the trousers because it's not working for them. But I wanted to I had an occasion to go to and I wanted something that I could relate to. But something I didn't want to we're in an ordinary means three piece suit or something that was not how I any more than just don't want I want to wear there was a stage in my life where that's all I wanted. But that's not what I want. Now, I like something a little bit different. And I looked and looked and couldn't find anything. And then I found this and I thought yeah, that's what I want. And so I really, I don't have a lot of opportunities to wear it. But I wanted to wear it because I think it reflects in a formal sense of me getting dressed up, I think that's pretty much where I am at the moment. I like that it's not so far away from from the red Safari suit and the Lacy shirt. I mean, it's totally different. It's a lot better. But it but it's that's that's a part of me. And I think that I talked about it and what I wrote to say, you know, there are sort of on again, off again, sort of relationship with this term bottom, what does it mean? But you know, I've always really had my hair cut really short. I love ties, I love cufflinks I have done for years. And I and I think this is important. I only feel comfortable wearing earrings and bracelets when men and gaming in particular started with and probably in the 90s or something like that. So something going on there something to do with character. And, and this is there's always been this little queer part of my character, you know, you know, I said, I used to walk around and I left and I had a little flipping wrist, I don't have that anymore. But there is a little bit of that residue, that's Lyft. And I'm told if I get very excited, or I get really involved in something that I do to start to have a little less spend, sometimes my wrist flips and people laugh at me. So I feel like there's a little there's a little something the I've always thought of myself really isn't a feminist lesbian. Because, you know, the term budget conjures up whole lots of things. And even some of the other women who have taught will have heard the interviews and things you know, they talk about their sporting careers and fabulous things like that. I hated sports. You know, I couldn't a lot of the things that you might think stereotypically are about being bought. Well, I'm sorry person be very disappointed with me. Absolutely. I mean, I'm the one you know, if we have visitors, I'm the one that's rushing around wanting to tidy the house. I'm the one today that went in the garden and got a flowers and put it on because I was having a visitor you know, and I'll be the one that tidy is the cushions and things so that's it's an interesting little thing. I have no interest in sport whatsoever. fx anything you know, so I I still don't really understand what Butch means. [00:31:07] Why did you want to be in the exhibition? [00:31:11] Well, when I heard that you were wanting people to identify who identified as bought in some way when I thought about it, I thought when I do in my way
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