Julie Andersen

As Interviewed by Simon Andersen, March 19, 2015

Julie V. Andersen: In Her Own Words

I know one of the first people first people I came out to was one of my college friends. We were at my house, we were in my room actually. I sat down on my bed and I was trying to tell her that I was gay, and it was really really hard because I had never told anybody. I was hemming and hawing and she finally looked at me and said “are you trying to tell me that you are gay!?” And I said yeah “I knew that I don't care!”

At my workplace if I talk about my significant other or my kids, by some people that is seen as a political statement or a religious statement. They see me as a lesbian not as a person with a family and kids. Whereas straight people can have a picture of their family on their desk some people be very offended if I had a picture of my girlfriend or wife on my desk.

I don't know that the discrimination has changed that much, especially in small towns throughout our country there are still gays and lesbians around the world who are beaten and killed for their sexual orientation. I just happen to have landed in a where people are not nearly as biased towards sexual orientation.

When my ex- partner and I decided to have kids, we made a commitment that we would be proud of ourselves, and proud of our family. Never pass that shame along. For the last 17 years that's been a real commitment I've made to myself.

I work in a smaller town, up in Pflugerville I have kids making comments in the hallways about each other or to each other. Gay is still a perfectly acceptable slur in a lot of people's minds. Hearing that word used in a derogatory way is sometimes still hurtful.

When I was in high school it was a very difficult time for me. In my senior year of high school I met a girl that I fell for. I wasn't even open about my identity at that point, but I got lots of ridiculing and and threats from some people who perceived me as gay, even though I didn't necessarily look or act gay at that time, whatever that means. I had everything from name calling to verbal harassment to a group chased me down the street one time threatening to hurt me.

I was working in a hospital in the late eighties and early nineties so the whole AIDS issue was, I would say very misunderstood at the beginning. And very much downplayed from a political viewpoint. In the hospital they have what they call universal precautions. for example if you have pneumonia if someone comes in your room you have to wear a mask. With AIDS and other blood pathogen diseases that stuff should be worn but nobody really understood it at the beginning , it was a lot of cover up. It went from being not very protected against, to being this horrible “gay disease” that we were all going to die from because we came in contact with someone that had it.

I wanted my kids to grow up knowing my family is normal and they were normal, it’s just a different variety of normal.

I have had a number of friends who were officers in the military. And who were booted from the military because it was found out that they were gay or lesbian. Which means they didn't receive any of their military benefits, their pensions, whatever comes with military service. They were dishonorably discharged.

Growing up, I did not know anyone in the media, or in my personal life who I knew was gay. In retrospect there were a couple of people who were, but it wasn't anything we ever talked about and wasn't anything that was ever openly discussed. I think it's certainly prevented me from coming out long after I knew that I was a lesbian, because that fear of acceptance, we all want to be loved, we all want to be valued and seen, and at that time so many families rejected their own children because they found out this information that they were gay or lesbian.

How do you think the gay rights movement is similar and different compared to the civil rights movement in the seventies?
I think some similarities are there is a tipping point where people just start to see it as a human's right issue its not race, its not sexuality, it's not gender, it's this is what is fair for all human beings, they should be treated equal . I think the piece that is harder is if you grow up as a black or Asian or Hispanic child you most of the time grow up in that family. So the culture that you grow up in is the black culture or the Hispanic culture, so you have that generational support, that you don't have as a gay or lesbian, most gays and lesbians don't have gay or lesbian parents.