Audio Interview, Tilda Hunting, August 27, 2013

  • EVELYN BAILEY: Today's date is Tuesday, August 27,
  • and I'm sitting here with Tilda Hunting.
  • Tilda is an old friend, but, more than that, she
  • was born in Rochester and grew up in Rochester
  • through an era of time when gay lib was in process.
  • And so I'm asking her about her recollections of that time.
  • So I know you were born in Rochester,
  • and you went to school in Rochester, and you didn't--
  • you went to high school, but college was elsewhere.
  • Outside of Rochester.
  • TILDA HUNTING: That's right.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And were you--
  • I mean when did you first have any information
  • about homosexuality.
  • Was it something that your family talked about?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Are you kidding?
  • (laughter)
  • The strange thing is, going to the Columbia School
  • for Girls, which is where the museum is now,
  • there was nary a word mentioned about such a thing.
  • I now know that the two ladies who ran Columbia
  • at the time in the '50s and the '40s before that
  • were long-term partners, but nobody ever said anything.
  • And it didn't dawn on me.
  • I don't know about my classmates.
  • It was very strange.
  • The first time I remember the word homosexual was my mother,
  • referring to a guy, who happened to be the uncle of one
  • of my classmates, who ran a very exclusive and lovely
  • women's dress shop on Park Avenue,
  • the name of which I've been trying to remember and I cannot
  • remember it.
  • And she always referred to him as a 'homo."
  • She never said homosexual, she said "homo."
  • And of course there was a sort of slight negative tone.
  • But he was a lovely man, was always
  • the rejoinder, of course.
  • And I've also learned, like in the past maybe fifteen years,
  • that my maternal grandfather, so my mother's dad,
  • hired the first woman on a commercial art project
  • for his building, the Pennsylvania
  • capitol in Harrisburg, and her name was Violet Oakley,
  • and guess what?
  • She was a lesbian.
  • Although they may have not said that at the time.
  • And she lived in a communal situation known as the Red Rose
  • Girls around Philadelphia with three other very well-known
  • illustrators, who actually made their living doing that.
  • And now they've become quite an interesting subject.
  • But my mother never mentioned that.
  • Which I find significant, I think.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So when did you first
  • identify yourself as a lesbian?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, let's see.
  • I don't know about identifying myself.
  • In 1962-- so I would have been just twenty--
  • I went to see a film at the old fine art
  • cinema, which I don't think is there anymore, on Clinton.
  • And it was called The L-Shaped Room,
  • and it was with Leslie Caron when she was really young.
  • And the word lesbian--
  • or maybe it was dyke-- was actually in that film,
  • and I remember thinking, oh, what is that exactly?
  • And it sort of piqued my interest,
  • and then I forgot about it.
  • One time I actually got called a faggot.
  • I think the person couldn't see me.
  • It was in a snowstorm on the U of R campus.
  • The word was said not with an affirmative tone.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yes.
  • TILDA HUNTING: And I thought, what is that?
  • So I was pretty clueless around that age.
  • But I do remember The L-Shaped Room
  • and being very moved by the character in it who
  • was supposed to be an older lesbian.
  • And then, around the same time, I went--
  • I was down in the Rundel Library,
  • and I ran across a book.
  • How in the world I found this book--
  • I'm sure I was just browsing, and it
  • was called The Grapevine.
  • Do you know this book?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • TILDA HUNTING: It was by Jess Stearn,
  • and it was called The Secret Lesbian World,
  • and I remember I took it out, and I
  • sat right there in the library, and I read
  • practically the whole thing.
  • And I don't remember if I was brave enough to take it out.
  • But that-- that was an eye opener.
  • And that was, like, a couple of years later.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And what year are we--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, we're talking mid-'60s, like
  • '64 or '65.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: OK.
  • TILDA HUNTING: And you asked if I knew about Stonewall,
  • and I would say, by '69, of course, that--
  • I don't remember learning about Stonewall.
  • It seems like by then I was into feminism,
  • and I think I just sort of knew about it.
  • I don't remember the specific night of Stonewall
  • and the riot, but it seemed like it was just part of the lore
  • that I absorbed in those years-- the late '60s and early '70s.
  • So I was very active in NOW at that time.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Mm-hm.
  • Were your parents accepting of feminism?
  • Were they--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, it's interesting.
  • My mother went to Smith College, and you
  • would think that she would have been kind of a feminist,
  • but I would say only to a certain degree, maybe, she was.
  • I mean, I think that if she'd had
  • to get out of her very nice, upper-middle-class,
  • privileged life, she would have done that if she had to.
  • Like if she'd been married to an abusing man or something,
  • but she really never had to, quote, "work."
  • And I used to say things like, when I realized that Betty
  • Friedan and Gloria Steinem and these people all went to Smith,
  • I one time said to her, you know,
  • Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem went to Smith !
  • And her response was, we have more illustrious alumnae.
  • (laughter)
  • So I think she didn't identify with feminist goals.
  • She was very male-oriented.
  • My dad, I mean, when I became interested in interior
  • painting-- which I attribute, by the way, to Whitey LeBlanc,
  • because Whitey hired me the first time I ever did it,
  • really, for somebody else--
  • my dad was real proud of that.
  • Because he had his own business.
  • And he thought it was very cool that I was self-employed
  • and that I had business cards and all that stuff.
  • And my mother was, I think, mostly mystified.
  • So I would say that my mother, though, when she did
  • figure out that I was a lesbian--
  • I used to say this in my speaking engagements--
  • she did ask me.
  • Which I find somewhat unusual.
  • Because it seems like most people go through,
  • "Do I tell my parents, don't I tell my parents, when do I
  • do it?"
  • I did not tell them right away, and I never did tell my father,
  • because my mother didn't want me to.
  • She actually made me promise not to do it.
  • But she did ask me, and I think it
  • was because I had people like Carol Klone
  • and Maria Sistenko coming around on motorcycles,
  • she kind of figured out, gee, you know, that's probably--
  • my daughter must be hanging with these people.
  • And she asked me one night at dinner
  • when it was just the two of us, and she was not happy.
  • But she was supportive, and she told me
  • it was the worst thing that ever happened in our family.
  • And I said, now, just a minute.
  • I knew she was going to ask me, by the way,
  • I mean I just kind of knew--
  • sensed that she knew.
  • And this was before I had a partner, anything.
  • But I said, no, it's not the worst thing that
  • ever happened in our family.
  • I said, the worst thing that ever happened in our family
  • was I had a cousin who was raped in New Orleans
  • and was lucky to live.
  • I said, I think that was worse.
  • Really a lot worse.
  • And she said, yeah, but it's against the will of God.
  • And I said, well, I think God loves everybody.
  • And I'm very happy with it, mother.
  • And so, you know, she bought that.
  • But she was worried about discrimination.
  • And I tried to get across to her-- which I think I did--
  • that I really was OK with it.
  • Because by the time she asked me, I'd been out in my own life
  • a couple of years.
  • And when she met my first partner,
  • Libby Ford she admired Libby, because Libby
  • was a very staunch Catholic.
  • And she actually said, maybe you should--
  • she wanted me to go to church more,
  • and she said, maybe you should go to church with Libby.
  • And I said, well, that's interesting you say that,
  • because you've never been exactly pro-Catholic!
  • And she said--
  • (laughter)
  • She said, yes, but Libby is setting a good example.
  • And I said, well, indeed.
  • So--
  • (laughter)
  • But anyway, I would say that my father kind of knew,
  • and certainly by the time I was with my now partner
  • of twenty-five years, Robin Yerkes he
  • definitely had figured it out.
  • And he also figured out my nephew,
  • who was a homosexual fellow.
  • And so I figured, hey, you know, he wasn't dumb.
  • It's just that we never talked about it.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Now, when you were,
  • quote, unquote, "coming out," were there resources
  • available to you?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, yeah, because I was awfully lucky,
  • I think.
  • I got involved with NOW.
  • So I really became a feminist around 1970 and '71.
  • And I really felt like I had sort of come home in a way,
  • that it was much more liberating.
  • I felt-- I had been questioning myself about a lot of things,
  • especially dating men, because I'd gotten really tired of it.
  • I'd dated quite a number of men, but I just never
  • could see myself in a long-term arrangement with a guy,
  • even though I'd met a lot of nice fellows and stuff.
  • When I was in NOW, at first I was really just sailing along
  • on the feminist rhetoric and loving it,
  • and I dropped out of the Junior League very promptly,
  • much to my mother's shock.
  • I said, no, this is not where I am.
  • This is where I'm going.
  • And I loved it.
  • And one day, the thing that got me, I think--
  • that provided a framework-- was that NOW had--
  • the word lesbian wasn't really talked
  • about in NOW meetings very much, when I was first in there.
  • But by about '72 or so, Rita Mae Brown
  • called it "the lavender menace," and I would say
  • that that's what was going on.
  • And all of a sudden we had a meeting one time
  • where there were five speakers, and two of them were--
  • they were all people flaunting convention.
  • And one of them was a woman coming out
  • of a marriage with great fear, but very determined to do so.
  • And that was a very interesting story.
  • And then the other was two young dykes
  • in Rochester, who were awesome.
  • They were very articulate, very charismatic.
  • And that was Diane Schonio and Joanne Nelson who I believe
  • were partners at the time.
  • And they just sat up there, and they talked about their life,
  • and it was like, wow.
  • First time I'd ever heard anybody talk about being gay.
  • And they wanted to start a women's center in Rochester,
  • and they wanted volunteers.
  • So I put up my hand, and there I was.
  • And they told me later, they said, we knew you were,
  • even before you knew you were.
  • So the first meeting was in the Universalist Church basement,
  • and I went.
  • And I was sort of scared about going,
  • but it was exciting, too, and that began.
  • So, through that, I met lots of women, and most of them
  • were young dykes.
  • And I got taken to the bars, particularly
  • the Riverview, which became like a second home and a club,
  • practically.
  • So I met a lot of people that way.
  • So I felt like it was easy to come out.
  • I really didn't have to somehow figure out how to meet people,
  • I guess.
  • And that was when the bars were pretty strong.
  • I mean, Riverview was really the center for women,
  • although there had been a couple others in lesser parts of town.
  • So it was very easy for me, and I just
  • had a great time for about five years
  • before I kind of settled down with Libby.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So share with me a little bit
  • about the first time you went to the Riverview.
  • Do you recall?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Aye yai yai.
  • No.
  • I don't recall the first time.
  • I recall being there many times, but I don't
  • think I recall the first time.
  • Isn't that strange?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: What was it like?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, there were--
  • Lou the bartender was fabulous.
  • A straight woman who kept secrets,
  • which was a good thing.
  • A lot of people talked to her about a lot of stuff.
  • Drinks were cheap.
  • I didn't drink beer, so I would usually
  • have something like a gin and tonic or something.
  • There was a lot of smoking and a lot of drinking.
  • I didn't do a lot of either.
  • I didn't smoke at all, but there was.
  • And I would say my memory of the bar in general
  • is that it was a lot of fun, but every once
  • in a while it got real dicey.
  • One time I was actually in a bar fight.
  • Carol Klone saved my tail, and Patti Evans
  • gave me great comfort.
  • They got me out of there in one piece!
  • And the bar fight wasn't something I started,
  • but it was easy to get caught up in stuff.
  • There was a lot of stuff going on.
  • There was a lot of angry young women.
  • There was also an older contingent-- older meaning
  • anybody over thirty-five, I'd say.
  • (laughter)
  • And there were some women that were in their forties,
  • and everybody kind of felt sorry for them in a way.
  • It was kind of sad.
  • Now that I look back on it, it was kind of ageist, I'm afraid,
  • but I feel a lot of people were.
  • And I was older than most, because I was thirty-one
  • and two when i came out.
  • Or thirty.
  • Thirty-one and two.
  • And I was hanging around with mostly younger women.
  • I wore saddle shoes to the bar a lot.
  • And people used to make fun of me,
  • but I think they thought it was funny.
  • I don't know if they thought it was funny
  • or if I was too preppy or something.
  • I took, for some reason, great pride in wearing
  • saddle shoes, because nobody else did. (laughter)
  • That's kind of stupid--
  • I don't know why.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Was there dancing?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Oh, yeah, there was a lot of dancing.
  • Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So there was a dance floor.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yeah, there was a rear dance floor,
  • and the bathroom on the far-- so to get to the bathroom you
  • had to go through the rear dance floor.
  • There was only one entrance in, in the bar room.
  • And there was kind of-- you could dance in the bar room,
  • but I think most people danced in the other room.
  • It wasn't very big.
  • There was a backyard, also.
  • In the summer it was used.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Do you recall it ever being raided?
  • TILDA HUNTING: No.
  • If it was, I wasn't there.
  • I don't think the women got that.
  • But maybe Lou paid off the Mafia, what do I know?
  • I mean, I don't know.
  • You know, I never thought about that at the time.
  • I'm sure if I'd been a guy in a guys' bar, that
  • would have been--
  • but I don't know if men's bars were raided
  • by that late in the '70s.
  • Because we used to go to Jim's, and that never happened,
  • and that was a men's bar.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Dick's--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: --was raided.
  • TILDA HUNTING: I forget where that was.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And Jim's was raided.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Was it?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yes.
  • TILDA HUNTING: In the '70s?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: In the '70s.
  • Whitey tells stories about Jim's being raided.
  • And it's also known that Dick's was raided, because Martha,
  • who was the bartender--
  • Martha Gruttadauria?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yeah.
  • Where was Dick's?
  • I can't remember.
  • I remember the--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Front Street.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Oh my god.
  • Well.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And then it went to Stone Street.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yeah, Front Street
  • was demolished somewhere around there, because I don't even
  • remember Front Street.
  • I mean, I know it existed, I just don't remember at all.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And then Dick's went to Stone Street.
  • TILDA HUNTING: I don't think I ever went into Dick's.
  • I do remember Jim's.
  • I remember my friend Tom Hackett who
  • was a guy that I actually dated before he came out, used to run
  • the AM/PM Club, at one point.
  • That was a men's bath on--
  • it was right near Jim's--
  • Clinton?
  • Or, I forget where Jim's was, but I
  • think it was on the same--
  • AM/PM Club.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: North Street?
  • TILDA HUNTING: North, maybe.
  • Yeah, North.
  • That's right.
  • He's somebody maybe you could talk to.
  • I forgot about him.
  • I'll give you his name later.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So I do know that Jim's and, you know,
  • Dick's, and many of the other bars--
  • the Avenue Pub--
  • TILDA HUNTING: The Riverview was really fun.
  • I mean, I found it fun.
  • I don't know if other people did.
  • mean It was strange, I never met anybody
  • that I actually dated, hardly at all, at the Riverview.
  • It seemed like the people I actually ended up
  • going out with were people I somehow met in other ways,
  • like through softball, for instance.
  • Or through other people, for instance.
  • But it's strange, I don't remember really dating people
  • that I met at the Riverview.
  • That's why it felt more like a club to me.
  • But I'm sure many people went in there with the intention
  • of meeting people.
  • Which I did, but, I mean, I didn't go specifically
  • to meet somebody to go out with as much as--
  • it was just fun to--
  • It was so incredibly liberating to go out at, hey,
  • we used to go out at 9:00 or 10:00 at night, right?
  • I don't know how we did it, when you think about it.
  • But we used to go out at 9:00 or 10:00, and my mother,
  • when I was living at home at one point,
  • my mother would say, where are you going?
  • And I'd just say, out.
  • Well, you know, the old thing, what are you going to do?
  • And I'd say, oh, nothing.
  • And I'd take off.
  • Maybe that's why she figured out things.
  • There was several years when I did that, it seemed like.
  • Around the late '70s, I stopped going as much.
  • And certainly when I got with Libby,
  • we didn't go out like that as much at all.
  • But it was fun.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And when did you become involved politically?
  • Was that through NOW?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, I would say in NOW.
  • Yeah.
  • I went to lots of meetings with them.
  • And then after I met lesbians I went to a lot of GAGV meetings.
  • I would call my political involvement
  • more like a consciousness raising.
  • I mean, that's how it affected me.
  • And then
  • when I did go on to the Speakers' Bureau, which
  • was around the time Libby and I got together,
  • so that was around '78, I was on that about five years.
  • And Ramona Santorelli and Keith Hershberger and me
  • did a lot of speaking together.
  • And many other people, who I can't
  • seem to remember other names right now.
  • We went all over.
  • I mean, honestly, I'm sure they're still doing it,
  • because I see there's still a great speakers' bureau.
  • We went all the way from Corning to Geneseo
  • to Canandaigua to MCC to the U of R Medical School.
  • And it was great fun, and I felt like I really
  • wanted to do that.
  • I'm not sure just why, and I felt
  • that it was a bit risky, being that I was in my hometown.
  • Because nobody else-- well, I'm not sure
  • if Ramona's from Rochester.
  • I think she is, but a lot of the people that were active
  • weren't from Rochester, and a lot of them
  • have left Rochester since.
  • And for me to do that, I knew that when I did it
  • I was taking a risk in that I'd surely
  • find somebody who knew somebody, like in my family or something.
  • And, of course, that actually did happen,
  • but that was the risk that I took.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Where did you speak, primarily?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Everywhere but high schools.
  • Not so much in high schools, because they
  • were a little afraid to have gay people coming in to speak.
  • But we did a lot of colleges.
  • In Geneseo, community colleges.
  • Brockport, the U of R, and the U of R Medical School.
  • And I remember the medical school particularly,
  • because they asked the most pointed questions, the ones
  • that most people didn't want to ask.
  • And that was an interesting--
  • especially, that was with Ramona,
  • so that was particularly interesting.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Did you ever encounter any protests or--
  • I mean, you'd go to, say, like Geneseo.
  • Did you ever encounter--
  • TILDA HUNTING: No.
  • We'd speak to psychology classes,
  • usually, so it was all prearranged, of course.
  • And then they would send money to the Gay Alliance,
  • and that was their way of paying.
  • I don't remember any protests.
  • That's pretty amazing, actually.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I mean, even if you were--
  • TILDA HUNTING: I mean, I remember protests in the city,
  • like Take Back the Night stuff, and all that stuff,
  • but not at our speaking,
  • EVELYN BAILEY: But it's interesting that on a college
  • campus, even, there might not have been--
  • TILDA HUNTING: I know.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: --groups that would have had objection
  • to being gay.
  • TILDA HUNTING: And maybe there were.
  • Maybe some of those people were sitting in our class,
  • but I think that was the-- that's the art of speaking,
  • is that you try to make it so that they really get it
  • and it isn't sounding so scary, formidable.
  • And and I mean, now, in today's world,
  • we all know that practically everybody
  • either knows somebody gay or has somebody in their family.
  • And even a lot of conservatives have actually
  • crossed the line in some ways.
  • I don't know.
  • I don't remember, though, any--
  • I remember more protests in the '60s about long-haired men
  • and anti-war stuff than I do gay stuff.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • Were there colleges that you were
  • aware of that you would not be invited to speak at?
  • TILDA HUNTING: There were high schools
  • that said they were afraid to have us there.
  • I don't know which high schools.
  • It seems like we spoke at one school,
  • and I don't remember which one that is.
  • I do remember one high school engagement, I think.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Was that Tim Mains's?
  • In Greece?
  • TILDA HUNTING: No, it wasn't Tim's school.
  • No.
  • I don't honestly remember.
  • Maybe somebody else would.
  • But I don't remember--
  • I mean, we went where we were asked.
  • We didn't solicit speaking engagements.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: No, but there is a recognition
  • that certain schools would be more open to having you come
  • and asking you to come, versus other schools that--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Right, and that's an interesting question,
  • and I'm wondering if a school like the School for the Arts
  • or something like that would be more open.
  • Maybe it is today.
  • We never spoke there, that I remember,
  • but I would think that would be the kind of school that
  • would be more open.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: What about Nazareth College?
  • TILDA HUNTING: I think we spoke at Nazareth.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: St. John Fisher?
  • TILDA HUNTING: I know we spoke at St. John Fisher.
  • I remember doing that.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And MCC?
  • Monroe Community?
  • TILDA HUNTING: I also took a course at St. John Fisher.
  • I was just remembering this.
  • There was a woman in the community
  • named Brita Labillious who was Peg Meeker's
  • partner at the time.
  • And I had her come and speak, and the subject was on aging,
  • but it was on aging lesbians in this particular speaking
  • engagement.
  • And Breena did that, and that was cool.
  • The course was on aging in general,
  • but she spoke as an older gay woman.
  • That was in the '80s.
  • That was mid-'80s.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Now, you mentioned Take Back
  • the Night marches.
  • Tell me what those were about.
  • First of all, why the name?
  • Second of all--
  • TILDA HUNTING: I think it was the idea
  • to be able to go out at night without being afraid of being
  • raped or assaulted.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: As a woman?
  • TILDA HUNTING: As a woman.
  • Yeah.
  • I don't know where it originated, actually.
  • I know it was a nationwide thing.
  • And I'm trying to remember--
  • I wasn't as active in that as some,
  • but there was a time period, I think it was the early
  • '80s, where--
  • Well, I remember that, and I remember also
  • the "Smash Patriarchy" thing, which I think was in the '70s,
  • if I remember correctly, and there
  • were a lot of people that were involved in putting up signs
  • all over for both of those things.
  • But the Take Back the Night was more just
  • being able to claim the freedom to go out at night
  • and not feel afraid.
  • Now, I personally never really felt that way at night,
  • but the idea was, it was trying to attack rape and violence.
  • And making people aware of the fact that these exist.
  • It seems to me there was a big banner
  • that was pretty awesome in the way it was designed.
  • I'm trying to remember what it looked like.
  • It's like the "Smash Patriarchy" thing,
  • they would have these sheets that people would do designs
  • on and then pin them up and carry them in parades and stuff
  • like that.
  • It was sort of short lived.
  • I don't remember Take Back the Night as that long
  • a movement, but two or three years.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And was that a part of--
  • TILDA HUNTING: It wasn't really affiliated with the Gay
  • Alliance, I don't think.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: No, but was that a part
  • of the movement in which primarily women went
  • into bookstores and--
  • Chick told me about an experience,
  • they all went into porn places with the idea of throwing up,
  • and then--
  • TILDA HUNTING: They probably got thrown out, right?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Well, no, they couldn't do it on on-call.
  • They couldn't make themselves throw up on-call, and so--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Oh, I see.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: They went in, and they left, and after they left,
  • they threw up.
  • But it was also the black velvet paint thing--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Oh, and "Fly United"
  • was another ad that they would attack.
  • The United Airlines was "Fly United,"
  • and the airlines had put out a series of very sexist, you
  • know, snappy-looking young women with good-looking guys,
  • but the inference was, fly United
  • and you'll have a great experience,
  • and it wasn't really about the airline.
  • And then there was a movie called The Chainsaw Murders,
  • which I remember also, that people protested downtown.
  • It was being shown at that time.
  • This was a very violent movie, which
  • I think is still out there on some channels.
  • Yeah, there was a lot of that kind of stuff.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Was that NOW-organized?
  • TILDA HUNTING: I think some of it was NOW.
  • Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Or, at least feminist- organized.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yeah, well, NOW is, of course,
  • seen as a very middle-class organization.
  • I mean, I realized that after I was in it a while.
  • I thought it was a really radical thing
  • to be in NOW, because for me it was.
  • But then after a while I realized a lot of people
  • thought NOW was just a middle-class--
  • white middle class--
  • organization.
  • And it kind of was, in a way.
  • Definitely.
  • On the other hand, they certainly
  • challenged a lot of concepts and suppositions, I would say.
  • But for me, in a way, it was my way of coming out,
  • but once I really came out as a lesbian,
  • then I think I became less active in NOW
  • and more into, well, for a while,
  • just having fun and going out with different people,
  • and hanging--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And the Speakers' Bureau.
  • TILDA HUNTING: --going to the bar, and then
  • the speakers' bureau a little bit later.
  • That was really more in the late '70s that I got into that.
  • The period between about between about '73 and '78
  • was when I really met lots of people
  • and really had fun and, you know,
  • wasn't settled down at all.
  • And had my heart broken, as well, but, you know.
  • I had fun.
  • Met lots of women.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Were you involved at all with the Lesbian
  • Resource Center?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yeah, now, where was that?
  • Was that at the U of R?
  • Was that the thing--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: No, it was at the Alliance.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, yeah.
  • Yes.
  • Well, I mean--
  • I'm trying to remember what they did that was
  • different from the GAGV.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: It was the GAGV, but I mean,
  • there was the Lesbian Resource Center,
  • and then there was the men's group.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yes, I was.
  • I mean, yes, I guess it was the LRC.
  • That's right.
  • I'd forgotten about that.
  • Gosh.
  • Yeah, there were a lot of meetings.
  • We had speakers in that.
  • I remember, actually, a wonderful meeting
  • of visiting German lesbians.
  • I don't know who they were visiting,
  • but they came and spoke, a couple of women,
  • and that was really interesting.
  • Yes, I trod those stairs many times, up and down.
  • And also at that time there was a wonderful resource,
  • I don't know if it was through the Alliance or the LRC,
  • of people like Jane Irwin who used to monitor the phones,
  • so that when people called in with questions,
  • there would be somebody to talk to them.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: That was the hotline.
  • TILDA HUNTING: The hotline.
  • Yeah, right.
  • I never did that, but Jane did it, I know, and others.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And where was the Gay Alliance at that point?
  • Where was it located?
  • TILDA HUNTING: On Monroe Avenue, where the co-op is.
  • Is it still there?
  • I'm not sure.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: No.
  • TILDA HUNTING: No.
  • I mean, I know the Alliance isn't there,
  • but it is the co-op still there?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: The co-op still is there.
  • Yeah.
  • TILDA HUNTING: 713, wasn't it, Monroe?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • And how did one enter the Alliance?
  • TILDA HUNTING: There was a side, rear stairwell
  • on the left when you were looking at the building.
  • That's where you went in.
  • Now, I think you could go in the regular, main entrance
  • and up the stairs.
  • I'm trying to remember if that linked up to it.
  • I think it did.
  • Susan Soleil had a book bindery there.
  • I don't know if she's still there.
  • I can't remember if you could get through from that entrance.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah, you could.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yeah, I thought so.
  • There was a photography thing that was there.
  • I don't know if it's still there.
  • Photography darkroom.
  • There was a lot going on, I mean there was
  • a pottery thing in the bottom.
  • And then there was a grocery store, originally,
  • and then it became other things.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: But the sign, Gay Alliance, was on the back.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yeah.
  • Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Down the alley.
  • TILDA HUNTING: And Susan Plunkett
  • had a restaurant there in the bottom at one time.
  • It wasn't called Snake Sisters.
  • It was her other restaurant.
  • I can't remember what it was called.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Jazzberry's?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Jazzberry's, of course.
  • Yeah.
  • And that's where Ramona slid down the fire pole at a dance.
  • It was the funniest thing ever.
  • But Susan Plunkett really raised everybody's consciousness
  • about food.
  • I would say that.
  • Not so much feminist, exactly, but, you
  • know that was another interesting thing going on,
  • the whole food movement, at that time.
  • You know, I certainly never had things like falafels, and much
  • garlic, and all the things that we all are familiar with now.
  • Couscous.
  • I didn't know any of that stuff.
  • I was raised on a WASPy white diet, pretty much.
  • (laughter)
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Oh, Tilda.
  • (laughter)
  • Do you recall any experiences in which you
  • either were discriminated against
  • or observed others being--
  • because you were gay.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Oh, not--
  • it was more because I'm a woman than because I was gay,
  • I would say.
  • Um, well, let me think about that.
  • Let's see.
  • I once spoke on a radio show with--
  • I can't even remember who I spoke with
  • and why we were on this radio show.
  • And It was about feminism, it wasn't about being a lesbian.
  • And one of the people on the show was--
  • what's her name?
  • Maggie something.
  • She's the county executive.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Maggie Brooks.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Maggie Brooks.
  • She was young and unformed, then.
  • And I sensed that she and I didn't hit it off at all.
  • And I just sensed this real distancing.
  • I mean, I just felt like--
  • I didn't know if it was the feminist part,
  • or maybe she knew I was gay, or what.
  • I could be wrong, but that's what I felt.
  • But, generally, no.
  • I mean, maybe I was in a cloud or something,
  • but I was very lucky in that my family, when they did find out,
  • basically accepted me.
  • And I've felt that way about most people ever since.
  • It still amazes me, actually, to meet people who do accept.
  • I guess I'm not young enough that I just
  • take it for granted like maybe the young women do today.
  • I would say that I'm still--
  • like, Robin's sister-in-law just took me in as the family.
  • You know, there was no question.
  • And that kind of amazed me.
  • I mean, she should, but it just was very affirming.
  • And of course they all know that we're gay,
  • and we just got married this July after twenty-five years,
  • so that's been pretty affirming, even
  • from my conservative brother.
  • And I have other people in my family, especially
  • the younger ones, who've all been fine with it.
  • And then my oldest sister-in-law also, who's 80 years old,
  • just feels like it was a given.
  • So people don't seem--
  • I think people are much more sophisticated than that maybe
  • even I give them credit for.
  • I think the most negative thing that ever happened to me really
  • was just because I was a woman.
  • It happened in a job interview way back.
  • And that was a very sexist interview
  • in the advertising industry.
  • And that was one of the things that raised my consciousness,
  • I think, about feminism, without really realizing it
  • at the time.
  • But other than that, I really haven't felt
  • a whole lot of discrimination.
  • I can't say I'm not unaware that some people probably aren't--
  • I think even my sister-in-law, the one who died,
  • Jane, had very mixed feelings about me,
  • because we were roommates way back when I was coming out,
  • and that was a dicey situation.
  • And I feel like Jane had very mixed feelings
  • about the whole subject.
  • And she loved me, and she loved Robin,
  • but I don't think she was altogether comfortable with it.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: When you look back on your time in Rochester
  • from, oh, middle school to the time when you left,
  • which was in the '80s--
  • TILDA HUNTING: I left in early '88.
  • January of '88, I left to return to college in New Hampshire.
  • So, yeah, that's what I left.
  • With every intention of going back, but in essence
  • I have not lived there since then.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So in that span of time,
  • were there, to you, noticeable differences in how lesbians,
  • how gay men were--
  • TILDA HUNTING: You mean between when I first came out
  • and when I left?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: --were treated?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Uh.
  • That is a hard question to answer.
  • I think it was more in my perception of what
  • was happening in myself than that maybe it was--
  • I mean, I still think that it must
  • be-- that it is still a process to come out,
  • no matter how old you are.
  • Otherwise, why do we still talk about coming out?
  • I felt from the minute I realized I was gay,
  • and walked the beach on Lake Ontario
  • to think about it, that this is where I should be,
  • finally, after years of wondering
  • what was going on in my life.
  • And I never really looked back to regret it.
  • I didn't feel that--
  • Huh.
  • I don't know.
  • Actually, it's a very interesting question.
  • I really have to think about that.
  • I do have friends, even now, one of them in Rochester,
  • who I will not name, who aren't really comfortable with being
  • too gay, you might say.
  • But most of the people that I've met, I think,
  • since the late '80s, mid-'80s, are pretty sure that's what
  • they're all about.
  • So I don't know if it's different for younger lesbians
  • today.
  • I would think that it would be.
  • But you still hear stories of people
  • having to deal with their families and their religion.
  • I don't think it's ever totally easy,
  • but it does seem like we're much more accepted.
  • At least, I think so, and I hope so.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So when you left Rochester
  • to go back to college, it was to Smith, right?
  • TILDA HUNTING: No.
  • No, it was to Colby-Sawyer in New Hampshire,
  • my old two-year school that I'd gone to originally.
  • I thought about going to Smith.
  • That's interesting.
  • Because my mother went there, and I
  • wanted to go as what they called an Ada Comstock Scholar,
  • but they told me I had too much college.
  • I'm not sure if that was really the reason.
  • And then I later went back to Colby-Sawyer
  • because, A, I got in, and B, I suddenly came into some money
  • from the sale of our family business, and I thought,
  • it's now or never.
  • I'm never going to get this chance again.
  • I wasn't with LIbby anymore, and my mother had died,
  • and my father had put himself in The Friendly Home,
  • and it just seemed like the time.
  • The house on Clover Street had sold.
  • And it just seemed like the right thing to do.
  • Wait a minute, what did you ask?
  • There was something else I was going to say.
  • Oh, I forgot.
  • Sorry.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: No, what I asked was--
  • you left go back to college.
  • When you made that decision, you were out.
  • TILDA HUNTING: I was out.
  • But on campus, not really.
  • I had been back to Colby in mid-'70s, after I came out.
  • And I was an RA.
  • I had actually worked at the college for one year, which
  • was an interesting experience, and I was an RA,
  • so I was actually in my old dorm.
  • And I was a part-time student.
  • And I was definitely not out then, even though I was out.
  • And even though I'm sure some people figured it out.
  • Because I had to deal with students.
  • But I had been through such trauma in Rochester,
  • with the ups and downs of all the stuff that was going
  • on in the mid-'70s, that I was relieved to get out and be
  • on some lovely, beautiful campus.
  • Unlike when I went back in '88.
  • Yeah, I was definitely out by then, of course,
  • and all my friends were in Rochester,
  • and I was quite lonesome, actually, for a while.
  • And I spent the whole first semester not really relating
  • to anybody except classwork and stuff on campus.
  • And along about May, I said, there's
  • got to be some action around here.
  • It certainly isn't in New London, New Hampshire.
  • Because New London was the kind of town where if you--
  • most things are tolerated, but just don't
  • make a big thing of it.
  • Don't march down the street.
  • So, of course, I thought, Boston.
  • The home of the bean and the cod.
  • And so I went to see the AIDS quilt in Boston,
  • and then I later went to Gay Pride,
  • and actually that's where I met Robin.
  • And then, for the rest of the next year,
  • Robin and I had a long-distance relationship
  • in the days when every minute on the phone cost a lot of money.
  • Kind of a long distance relationship.
  • I mean, she was down in Boston and I was up in New Hampshire.
  • But after I graduated we finally got together
  • and lived in Boston for a couple of years,
  • and then we moved out to Western Mass.
  • But, yes, I was out.
  • By then, it didn't much matter, because I
  • wasn't dealing with other students-- just myself.
  • My landlady figured out we were gay,
  • and she wasn't happy about it, but--
  • she was definitely not happy about it,
  • but, anyway, that's a whole other story.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So when you came back to school,
  • my assumption is that you had a much more difficult time
  • getting back into that, um--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Groove?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: --groove.
  • Because of--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, if it comes to statistics, yes.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Your age and your--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, actually, no.
  • Just in statistics, which you helped me with, but,
  • basically, no, I loved being back.
  • It actually wasn't that hard.
  • It was hard to be as disciplined as I needed to be, yes.
  • But I was quite determined to finish, unlike before,
  • and I wasn't going to waste the money I was now spending.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And when you met Robin,
  • it was through the Daughters of Bilitis?
  • TILDA HUNTING: No.
  • Well, there was a link.
  • The woman who introduced Robin and me
  • had known Robin through DOB in Boston.
  • They used to be in Cambridge.
  • Yeah.
  • I don't know if that's still going.
  • And she introduced us at Gay Pride out on the Common
  • with of thousands of other people.
  • Not only us-- there was a lot of people I got introduced to,
  • sort of in one few minutes.
  • And she had known Robin through going to DOB.
  • And Robin had gone to DOB with the express desire
  • to try to meet some people, because she was out
  • of her long-term marriage, but she
  • had had a rough first relationship with someone else,
  • and she was kind of lost about how to do it.
  • She was actually living with a straight friend, who actually
  • said to her things like, you must get out,
  • you must meet people, and you should go there,
  • and you should do this.
  • And so she took herself to those places.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Did you go to Pride
  • when you were in Rochester?
  • TILDA HUNTING: No, that's why I went this year.
  • I'd never been to a Pride.
  • I think they started after I left, didn't they?
  • Although Keith told me--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um, '88, I think, was the first march,
  • but the picnic had been going on for years.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yes, I definitely went to the picnic.
  • But I don't remember a Gay Pride until I just went back
  • this year for the first time.
  • It was fun.
  • The picnic, yes.
  • Long-term tradition, as you know.
  • (laughter)
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • Was there--
  • TILDA HUNTING: That's what's so wonderful about Rochester,
  • I mean, really.
  • It has more going on for a small city,
  • I mean relatively small city, than a lot of big cities,
  • I think.
  • It's amazing.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Did you experience,
  • when you went to the picnic, a sense of pride?
  • Were you happy about--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Oh, yeah.
  • Yes, and I've been to the picnic even since I left Rochester
  • a couple other times.
  • This year, it wasn't as easy because I didn't see
  • very many people I knew at all.
  • But, in days of yore, yes, I've run into lots of people I know.
  • Yeah.
  • Of course.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And was the same feeling
  • present in Boston at Pride?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, I was with some people I knew,
  • but it wasn't--
  • it was more like being, also, in New York's Gay Pride--
  • you're in awe of the hugeness of it.
  • And it was really fun, because we were living in Boston
  • when we did it.
  • And we went with our English friends, you may remember,
  • who were lots of fun to be with anyway.
  • So, yes, it was a lot of fun, but I wouldn't say it was--
  • it wasn't as personable as Rochester.
  • But it was certainly awesome.
  • The Boston one, I really enjoy, and the New York Prides, I've
  • been to, I think, two--
  • oh, wait a minute, maybe three.
  • Because I went to New York's Pride really early,
  • like 1970 or '71.
  • That was awesome, because it was so new.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Just after Stonewall.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yeah, just after Stonewall.
  • Not '69, but I think '70 or '71.
  • I can't remember which one it was.
  • That was awesome, because it was so new,
  • and everybody was just euphoric.
  • But later-- I don't know when.
  • Maybe twelve years ago or so, we went to a New York Gay Pride,
  • and I found it problematical, a little bit, because there were
  • floats like The Man/Boy Love Association,
  • which I don't really like.
  • But, you know, it's New York.
  • There's. everything.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • So, again, you left Boston.
  • 1988, you went to Colby-Sawyer.
  • And then this is 25 years later.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yeah, that's right.
  • Amazing.
  • Hard to believe.
  • The great thing is I still have Rochester friends.
  • And I've tried to keep them going.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: If you can, talk to me a little bit
  • about the issue of fear, in the gay community, to be out.
  • Is there a difference between, let's say,
  • Rochester and Boston and New York?
  • Is it--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, it was harder for me
  • in Rochester, because it's my home town.
  • I didn't really care, when I'm elsewhere.
  • At least in Boston.
  • I should clarify that, because in Boston,
  • we were living in Jamaica Plain in a building,
  • and I'm sure you remember, a wonderful building,
  • and it happened to have other gay people in it.
  • How about that?
  • And I had a dog then, and, you know, when you have a dog,
  • you meet everybody else who has a dog.
  • So you get out and about, and so I met an amazing number
  • of people within that couple of years
  • that I only was in Boston, comparatively.
  • Whereas, out here, it's semi-rural--
  • some people would say rural, totally rural.
  • But there's more rural areas--
  • and I would say that I am not actually as out.
  • I mean, I'm not politically active the way I used to be.
  • But I have brought Robin to things, and I think--
  • I'm on two boards here, historical societies.
  • One, I'm totally out.
  • Somebody outed me, actually, before I even
  • joined the board, somehow.
  • Which was OK.
  • It turned out to be fine.
  • And everybody else is straight on the board.
  • And here I'm newly on the Conway Historical board.
  • And I'm not really out, but since I brought Robin
  • to the little picnic we had not long ago,
  • probably people will figure it out if they haven't already.
  • So it's kind of like that.
  • I just-- and people know, of course,
  • like the town clerk knows that we live here together.
  • And there's many-- actually quite
  • a number of couples that are homosexual and lesbian
  • in these little towns out here.
  • We are everywhere.
  • Really.
  • And there's lots of people that have moved to this area that
  • are from bigger cities.
  • Lots of New Yorkers, as in New York City-ers.
  • So I don't know.
  • You know, it just feels like, well, we
  • went and got a marriage license a couple of months ago,
  • and we were the eighth marriage in Deerfield.
  • We got our license, actually, in Deerfield.
  • The eighth marriage of the year in Deerfield,
  • and probably the first gay one, I'm surmising, actually,
  • because the clerk was a little nervous-- one clerk.
  • But, you know, she did what she had to do.
  • But I felt that she was a little nervous.
  • We weren't sure if she was homophobic, or just nervous,
  • or what.
  • But you know.
  • This is what's going to happen.
  • And my hope for what needs to happen in this country
  • as far as gay politics goes is that every single state that
  • doesn't have gay marriage needs to fall and make
  • gay marriage, now that we have DOMA, you know, falling.
  • That's what I expect will happen.
  • I don't know if it will all happen.
  • I doubt it will all happen in my lifetime.
  • But I think, one by one, it's like dominoes.
  • They're just going to--
  • people are going to challenge the existing
  • rules and petty stuff that's still going on.
  • And I think one by one.
  • I mean, it's happening in Pennsylvania now,
  • and I think it's going to happen more and more.
  • Which I think is great.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Did you want, when you were coming up,
  • and, even in the beginning of your relationship with Robin,
  • did you want or think about getting married?
  • TILDA HUNTING: No.
  • No.
  • No, no I did not.
  • (laughter)
  • In fact, I've never been able to see myself married.
  • And Robin, who was married to a man for twenty-two years, when
  • I first knew her, she was like, I'm never
  • getting married again.
  • I'm never going to mow the lawn again.
  • I've done that.
  • I've done the marriage thing.
  • I'm never going to have a house, because I've done that.
  • I really don't care.
  • I'd rather have a condo.
  • Blah, blah, blah.
  • So now we have a house.
  • I mow the lawn, because I said, oh,
  • that's OK I'll mow the lawn.
  • But she did want to get married.
  • The last ten years, since it's been legal in Massachusetts,
  • she's mentioned it several times.
  • And I was like, well, I would stall, usually,
  • by saying, basically, that, what difference does it make?
  • It's just a piece of paper.
  • We don't have federal benefits.
  • And that was true.
  • But after the fall of DOMA, my new hero is Edie Windsor.
  • Really, how could I not?
  • And also, because Robin has had some health issues,
  • it was more important to her, I think.
  • And so when I actually said--
  • she said something like, I know you're never going to marry me,
  • or something like that.
  • And I said, well, actually, I'm thinking about it.
  • And she almost fell over.
  • We were standing out on the porch.
  • She said, what?
  • You would?
  • And I said, well, I'm thinking about it.
  • And then about a week later, I said, yeah, let's do it.
  • Let's just do it.
  • And we were going down to the Cape,
  • and we were with two good friends, and we just did it.
  • We got our license, went down there to Provincetown,
  • did the ceremony, found an officiant,
  • who was a wonderful woman.
  • She was a justice of the peace.
  • And now we're going to have a big party
  • in a couple of months.
  • But we didn't really have even Robin's son there.
  • It was just really small, quick, hot.
  • It was very hot outside.
  • And it was great.
  • And it doesn't feel so odd.
  • It feel like it should feel odd, but it doesn't really
  • feel so odd.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Well, it--
  • nothing has changed.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, but we do have legal rights
  • that we didn't used to have.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Well, yes.
  • But in your day-to-day life and in your day-to-day relationship
  • with each other--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, she's still,
  • like, I can't believe we did this.
  • She's more amazed, still, I think, than I--
  • once I decided to do it, I'm one of those people,
  • once I decide to do something, I just go for it.
  • Whereas she had been so used to me
  • stalling that she really couldn't believe it.
  • But nobody-- the amazing thing is,
  • including all the straight people that we've
  • dealt with, which are many, nobody's
  • surprised, particularly.
  • In fact, people have said, well, isn't it about time?
  • You know, nobody's very shocked.
  • Nobody's shocked at all, actually.
  • And especially younger-- I mean, all the young people.
  • My family, anybody under fifty, practically, is pretty cool,
  • at least the ones we know.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Did you ever think, in your lifetime
  • that you would see marriage become a possibility?
  • TILDA HUNTING: No, because I never thought of it
  • as something I even would want.
  • Because, you know-- look at the role models.
  • I mean, I had great parents, but the role model
  • was, the wife was kind of secondary.
  • And I have to say, this is probably a class thing,
  • as much.
  • I didn't grow up with working women, very much, around.
  • Because I did come from a lot of privilege.
  • And I think that if I'd had a working mother,
  • it would have been quite a different role model that way.
  • I mean, everybody my age and younger is working.
  • Or most people.
  • But I must say that it's something--
  • even when I was really young and still dating men,
  • I just thought of marriage as something-- oh,
  • I'm not sure I'll ever go there.
  • I did have a crisis when I was about twenty-five.
  • I actually did have a sort of crisis about,
  • oh dear, I'm twenty-five and I'm not married.
  • And I actually was really--
  • I suddenly got very upset about that in my own head.
  • I was working at the U of R, and I took myself
  • to a male therapist, as it turns out, there, that I could go to.
  • And we just talked about, well, you know,
  • life can exist without marriage.
  • And there are other options.
  • And I had no idea I might even possibly be gay.
  • It wasn't even related to that.
  • It was just related to, you can still
  • be worth something not be married.
  • Which was interesting, because I didn't used to feel that way,
  • but there was something about turning your mid-twenties.
  • I was like, all my friends were married or getting married.
  • Most of my high school class had gotten married,
  • stuff like that, so.
  • You get to that end of your twenties,
  • and you sort of wonder, geez, what is life all about?
  • I consider, looking back, the twenties,
  • were my hardest decade of all.
  • And my mother used to say, what is your problem?
  • These are your golden years.
  • And I'd say, oh, but I don't know
  • what I'm doing with my life, and I don't have a goal,
  • and I don't know what I want to do.
  • And she was just mystified by it.
  • She just couldn't imagine.
  • And the thirties, which much more exciting.
  • Really a great decade.
  • The forties were hard because there was so much change
  • in my life, but thirties were, in my book,
  • the best decade ever.
  • For me.
  • I don't know if it's true for everybody, of course.
  • So (laughs)
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Tilda, who are your heroes or heroines?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Heroes or heroines.
  • Yeah, you asked me about that.
  • I have to refer to my notes, because I've
  • forgotten some of them.
  • I have too many notes.
  • Well, the first one that came to my mind
  • was somebody you've probably never heard of,
  • Mary Breckinridge.
  • And Mary Breckinridge was a very old woman
  • when I was working in the southeastern part
  • of the Kentucky Mountains in '61 and '63.
  • I spent two summers down there with a thing
  • called the Frontier Nursing Service, which was
  • a rural health organization.
  • Mary Breckenridge was about eighty-five, sharp as a tack,
  • and had started this thing in the '20s.
  • Very interesting woman.
  • Not a college graduate, but she had read a lot.
  • And so she's one of my heroes, I think.
  • And I have to say Gloria Steinem is one of my major heroes,
  • because there was such a great thing that I went to
  • just before I came out.
  • I think it was one of the major things that
  • got me into feminist mode.
  • She came to Rochester and spoke with a woman named
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is a black woman who
  • was head of the EEOC.
  • Powerhouse, both of them.
  • So Steinem was, like, young.
  • You know, she was in her thirties.
  • And I'll just never forget-- this was like an evening.
  • It was just so awesome.
  • And some men in the audience tried
  • to bait them in various ways.
  • It was really interesting how they handled it--
  • very coolly.
  • And I was just fascinated.
  • And ever since, I've seen her many times since.
  • And she's just one of my heroes, because she was always
  • so articulate, and of course she's
  • one of the favorites around here,
  • because she is a Smith graduate also.
  • And I guess another hero has to be Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth
  • Cady Stanton, because of what they did for the women's vote.
  • Which I take very seriously, about voting.
  • I never ever try to miss a vote.
  • Even a local vote.
  • That's one thing my mother was very big on--
  • making sure you vote.
  • And my other hero would be--
  • I guess these are all women, aren't they?
  • I'm sure I have some male heroes,
  • but nobody came to mind.
  • My other hero was a teacher I had at Colby-Sawyer,
  • who was just a wonderful person, Ann Page Stecker, who
  • was really a wonderful teacher and very encouraging,
  • and gave me really good marks, so I particularly liked her.
  • (laughter) So yeah, I guess those were my heroes.
  • There's so many wonderful people,
  • though, it's hard to choose.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: What are you most proud of in your life?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yeah, I saw that question.
  • I didn't find an answer.
  • What am I most proud of?
  • Does it have to be an accomplishment, or what?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Anything that--
  • TILDA HUNTING: I think I'm proud that I think I do
  • really good work when I paint.
  • And I'm not just talking about painting,
  • I'm talking about all the work that
  • goes into before you paint, which is usually a lot of prep.
  • That's one thing.
  • Initially, when I went back to college,
  • I thought, I'm going to give up painting.
  • I mean, I'm going back to college,
  • and why would I want to continue painting?
  • But I fell back into it because--
  • I'm not sure why.
  • I guess because it's what I know, and I really do enjoy it.
  • I'm still doing it.
  • Not as much, but still.
  • So that would be, I think, number one.
  • And I probably should say I'm proud to have
  • an ongoing, long relationship.
  • It's been pretty easy, really.
  • Not too bad.
  • Robin and I, even though we're very different in some ways,
  • basically we really get along quite well.
  • I'm proud that she gave up smoking, finally.
  • But that's her thing, not me.
  • But that was really an excellent thing.
  • You know, we've built a pretty good life.
  • I had a good life before I knew her, too, so.
  • I feel-- I'm proud of my friends.
  • I think I value my friends a lot.
  • What else?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Are you proud to be a lesbian?
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, you know, I saw that.
  • And I'm not sure proud is the exact word I'd use.
  • Proud.
  • I'm happy to be a lesbian.
  • This feels more like what it feels like for me.
  • It's just who I am.
  • I guess I'm proud of it.
  • I'm-- proud seems, I don't know why that strikes me
  • as a strange word to say in that context.
  • It just felt like, when I realized I was, this was like,
  • a comfortable place to be, and I finally
  • got some answers to many things that I used
  • to wonder about all the time.
  • So I'm certainly proud of it, but I
  • don't feel arrogant about it.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: What would you say to a young woman--
  • eighteen-, nineteen-, twenty-year-old,
  • who was just coming out?
  • What advice, or what suggestion, or what--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yeah.
  • Well, you know, I can't imagine knowing that young that you
  • might be gay, because that didn't happen to me,
  • but I know it's happening to all the young people
  • today, or so many of them.
  • They're much more experimental today, I think.
  • I think I'd say--
  • it would depend a little bit on how they are about it.
  • If they're in angst about it, or worried
  • about their family, which probably
  • is a very common thing, I guess I
  • would say everybody has their own way of coming out,
  • and you shouldn't feel that you have
  • to do anything, or handle it any way unless it
  • makes you feel comfortable.
  • And it's a process, like I said before.
  • I think you know when it feels right.
  • If you're being forced to come out in a way that--
  • I remember there used to be a lot of talk about--
  • maybe still is-- there was always this pull of, be out.
  • How are we going to get people to be out,
  • and how is the world going to know gay people if we're not
  • all out?
  • Which is a really good argument.
  • But, on the other hand, everybody
  • has their own timetable about things,
  • and I think it all depends on how you were raised
  • and how much of a conflict it might be for some people.
  • I mean, I see these kids around here, courting.
  • There's loads of-- especially young lesbians in our area,
  • supposedly.
  • There's an acronym called LUGs, Lesbian Until Graduation,
  • that seems to be operating, sometimes.
  • And I have met recently, actually,
  • two people who've told me that--
  • one I know very well, since I went to high school with her--
  • who have told me that they actually had lesbian
  • experiences, but then they went back
  • to some guy, or their husband, or whatever.
  • But I've also known women who loved their husband
  • and have become lesbians, so.
  • I just think the best advice is maybe no advice.
  • Just to be there for--
  • I mean, that's why hotlines and good friends
  • are really helpful.
  • Because I think it's important for anybody,
  • but especially probably young people, to have people
  • they can talk to.
  • What blows my mind when I think about young people having
  • trouble is realizing that their parents are younger
  • than we are, and realizing that, oh, god,
  • they must not be as liberal as you'd think if the kid is
  • having so much trouble.
  • But, on the other hand, I think lots of parents are liberal,
  • but when it comes to their own child, it's different.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I agree.
  • I agree.
  • TILDA HUNTING: So it's very hard to give one
  • to answer to something like that.
  • It's a very personal decision, and sometimes when
  • I see the young kids in the Gay Pride parades
  • and they're really flaunting themselves,
  • men or women, I wonder, you know,
  • do they really feel this comfortable?
  • Are they really so sure?
  • But maybe they are.
  • I don't know that many young people,
  • so I'm probably not the best person to ask.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Well, I can share with you
  • from my interactions with young people through the Alliance
  • and in some of the students I tutor,
  • they are much freer in expression.
  • And many of them are much more passionate
  • about being who they are and being able to express that.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, that's cool.
  • I mean, isn't that, in a way, what we worked for?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yes.
  • It is.
  • TILDA HUNTING: In one way--
  • I said this to somebody who was a Mt.
  • Holyoke professor, who's now in her eighties, around here.
  • I said, don't you sometimes want the young people
  • to get down on their knees and thank you for all you've done?
  • Because this woman has been a very active feminist and really
  • out lesbian professor since the '60s.
  • And she said, you've got to be kidding.
  • Young people aren't going to get down on their knees
  • and be thankful.
  • No, I want them to just be who they are.
  • And somebody asked Gloria Steinem essentially
  • that same question, and she said essentially the same kind
  • of answer.
  • That you don't expect--
  • the young people--
  • I mean, part of me wants to say, you should be glad.
  • Do you appreciate how much the rest of us
  • were out there doing speaking engagements or working
  • in politics so that you, at twenty-five
  • and you want to be an attorney, that you can actually do it?
  • Because when I was twenty-five, not too many women really
  • thought they could do whatever they wanted to do, I think.
  • Although I do have a classmate who's an attorney.
  • And some women were really motivated and goal-oriented
  • and very intelligent, but I have to say, it is what we want.
  • But sometimes you kind of wish they'd be more appreciative.
  • But I guess it's not in the nature of young people
  • to really be appreciative.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: They don't have history.
  • TILDA HUNTING: They don't have history.
  • That's a worry, too, because nobody's
  • writing letters anymore.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: They don't have their own history, really,
  • and they don't have an understanding.
  • I mean, look at look at the fact that we teach American history.
  • Shouldn't everyone know about the Revolutionary War,
  • and shouldn't everyone--
  • TILDA HUNTING: You know what, immigrants
  • know more than a lot of us know, because they've
  • had to learn it.
  • Yes, they should, but they don't.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: The early pioneers certainly
  • broke the ground for the rest of us who came after them.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Well, Robin's daughter-in-law, for instance,
  • is an interesting example.
  • She's thirty-six.
  • She's an attorney in New York City, grew up Long Island.
  • She'd never heard of Gloria Steinem.
  • Even Chris, her husband, was really shocked.
  • And then I ran that by some other people,
  • and they weren't that surprised.
  • Because Gloria Steinem hasn't been
  • on the cover of magazines, really,
  • in the last twenty-five years.
  • I mean, she's out there in the news, but--
  • Anyway, she didn't know.
  • And that just blew my mind.
  • I just couldn't believe it.
  • And she actually doesn't know lots of things
  • that I would think would be taken for granted.
  • Now, she knows a lot more about the law than I do, for sure.
  • But her attitude is that she had no problem becoming
  • what she wanted to be, I think.
  • And she did have a very encouraging dad, which
  • is important, too.
  • And the same thing with my niece, who's the same age--
  • is very much, I'm going to do what I want to do.
  • You know, I'm not going to--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Well, in 1970, 1971 sodomy laws were still
  • in effect in New York state.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yeah, that's right.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And they weren't repealed until '79, '80,
  • maybe even a little later.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yes, I remember that.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: When you look, or when you--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Is that music getting recorded?
  • I just realized I have a record on out there
  • that I forgot about.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: It'll be OK.
  • TILDA HUNTING: I hope so.
  • I forgot to turn it off.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: When you look at the breadth of our journey
  • as the gay community, what's the next step?
  • What do we still need--
  • TILDA HUNTING: On a local level, or national, are you thinking?
  • Because on national is what I said,
  • to get the states to fall with gay marriage.
  • And I don't think everybody has to get married.
  • I just think it ought to be a choice.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: But there are also bisexual, transgender,
  • transsexuals.
  • I mean--
  • TILDA HUNTING: See, now I don't know, really, any transsexuals.
  • And I don't quite--
  • I get it intellectually.
  • I don't get it emotionally so well.
  • And that's a whole other part of the movement that's definitely
  • come up much more in the last ten years, I'd say,
  • wouldn't you?
  • I think.
  • I mean, they were out there, but certainly more vocal.
  • I don't know what I think about that.
  • I really don't know what I think about that, because I
  • don't know anybody personally.
  • I do think anybody ought to be able to be what they want
  • to be, but when it comes to Bradley Manning wanting
  • to be a woman, should we be using our tax dollars
  • to enable him to do that?
  • I don't really think so.
  • For instance.
  • But that's a different story.
  • But that's one of the things that's come up.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I think the fellow who's imprisoned
  • who wants to--
  • be-- change sexes is different than the person who is not
  • in prison who really is not comfortable with who they are
  • in their own skin and wants to be--
  • TILDA HUNTING: I guess you have to really want
  • that to go through that, because it's
  • got to be an arduous process.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: But also there's the whole issue of gender.
  • And gender does not imply sex change.
  • Gender is dressing or appearing to be more male or female.
  • Of course, the stereotype of dress--
  • you know, the dress where you have a skirt and-- you know,
  • a dress--
  • TILDA HUNTING: That's one area where
  • I guess women have had more leeway than men,
  • when you think about it.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: --is less stereotypical today, certainly,
  • than it was twenty-five years ago.
  • But, in certain professions, it is almost a requirement.
  • A woman attorney walking into a courtroom, is there more--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Has to wear a skirt?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: No.
  • Wears a pantsuit.
  • Wears-- looks, appears to be her male counterpart,
  • in order to carry the same--
  • TILDA HUNTING: Yeah.
  • Is that true?
  • Really?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I don't know.
  • TILDA HUNTING: I didn't know that.
  • I don't know, either.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I don't know.
  • TILDA HUNTING: Interesting.
  • Yeah.