Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ “40th Anniversary Event” • 1st Wave 6th Street Women's Center: Interview with Lavina Tomer, Morning Waters, and Deborah Dobson

Dublin Core

Title

Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ “40th Anniversary Event” • 1st Wave 6th Street Women's Center: Interview with Lavina Tomer, Morning Waters, and Deborah Dobson

Subject

lesbian, Tucson, activism, history, feminists, 1970s, collectives, media

Description

Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ “40th Anniversary Event” • 1st Wave 6th Street Women's Center: Interview with Lavina Tomer, Morning Waters, and Deborah Dobson, 45:00

Southwest Feminists Reunite celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Southwest Feminist Festival Retreat held north of Tucson. That powerful experience in March 1973 and the dynamic creativity and political action that followed sparked feminists and lesbian feminists to reinvent their lives and organize for change over the next four decades. This collection consists of oral histories and digital scans of photographs from the past 40 years.

Creator

Jamie A. Lee, Project Director, Arizona Queer Archives
Anastasia Freyermuth, video producer

Source

MiniDV tapes recorded on Panasonic DVX-100A digital video camera

Publisher

Jamie A. Lee, Project Director, Arizona Queer Archives

Date

16 March 2013

Contributor

Southwest Feminists Reunite, Lavina Tomer, and Deborah Dobson

Rights

Rights given to the Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project and the Arizona Queer Archives

Relation

Southwest Feminists Reunite

Format

H.264 300Kbps streaming QuickTime movie, 320 x 240

1st Wave 6th Street Women’s Center: 45:00 and 97.3MB

Language

English

Type

MovingImage

Alternative Title

Interview with Lavina Tomer, Morning Waters, and Deborah Dobson

Date Available

12 December 2013

Date Created

16 March 2013

Rights Holder

Rights given to the Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project and the Arizona Queer Archives
Jamie A. Lee, Project Director, Arizona Queer Archives

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Jamie A. Lee

Interviewee

Lavina Tomer, Morning Waters, and Deborah Dobson

Location

Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, Tuscon, AZ

Transcription

Transcription by Courtney Martinez

Persons Interviewed:
Lavina Tomer, Morning Waters, Deborah Dobson


Interviewer:
Would you mind saying your name for the camera?

Lavina Tomer:
I’m Lavina Tomer

Morning Waters:
I’m Morning Waters

Deborah Dobson:
and I’m Deborah Dobson

Interviewer:
All right. So tell me how did you get involved in the feminist movement in Tucson?

Morning Waters:
Well my stories kind of unusual I think because I was living out on a Hippy Communion and got in medical trouble, I had had to come in to town and hitched a ride from University hospital over to fourth avenue and I was just sitting there with my backpack and my dog and a good bleeding foot that was wrapped up but not helping, and it was right in front of the food conspiracy when it was on fourth avenue and a woman coming out of there asked me if I needed a place to stay. And I said, “Yeah, I do” and she took me over to the sixth street women’s center, which was just a duplex in the University area. And the guys on the other side of the duplex were college drinking guys…

Deborah Dobson:
Yes they were…

Morning Waters:
And…so that’s how I ended up coming to the women’s center and learning about feminism. I think I had been a lesbian before that but I couldn’t quite deal with it until I had the feminist philosophy to make me feel it’s okay to be gay. And….I lived there for maybe….a year? We did a lot of calling out for pledges and we got a lot of calls in as the Women’s Center; a lot of people seemed to think it was a rape/crisis center which we really weren’t prepared for and had no training and thankfully, no experience. Uhm…but there were wonderful little events, it was the first time I ever looked at my cervix was at the Women’s Center; wasn’t real impressed but…

Group: (Laughs)

Morning Waters:
…Okay that’s what you look like…So that’s my story of how I got there and how I got involved with feminism.

Lavina Tomer:
What was your dog’s name?

Morning Waters:
Trucker

Lavina Tomer:
Trucker, ah, I couldn’t remember…

Morning Waters:
The reason my dog was originally named by my brother in the family, as Narc. N-A-R-C-. Well that was a problem cause I smoked a lot of pot and having a dog named Narc when I’m hitchhiking across the country just was a little rough at the time. So I renamed her after so much traveling as Trucker, cause she would jump into anything. I mean, I always made sure she went in first, cause when you’re hitchhiking…I mean…it didn’t seem as dangerous in the late sixties early seventies as it would be now…

Deborah Dobson:
…obviously now….yeah

Morning Waters:
And I got rides all the way from the east coast to Tucson..so…


Interviewer: How about you Deborah?

Deborah Dobson:
Well, I had been going to school at Kent state and was really horrified by everything there…and uh…I really witnessed the…I wasn’t there during the shootings but the aftermath and the abuse of government power was just so obvious and so horrifying. I ended up dropping out and following my brother to Tucson and the first feminist thing I tumbled across was the Female Unic by Germaine Grear, and that just way opened my eyes. I realized…uh…everything I thought I understood about my background was really different and uhm…so I started paying much more attention and wanting to be around people and I was also starting to realize that I was gay. At the time there was a Friday night coffee house at food co-op in their herb room that was sponsored by lesbian feminists and so I decided to go one night so I showed up and there in the herb-room was this little broken down couch and a couple of milk crates turned over that we sat on and Suzanne and Lynell were there and they were the ones that were toughing it out to be there every Friday night and there was one other woman who was in the Air Force from Davis Manthem and she was starting to go through her sex change process, she hadn’t yet you know but she was going to and I had no understanding of Trans issues at all at that point so that was very strange to me but the good thing that happened out of that event was they told me about the Feminist Festival and they told me about the Women’s Health Collective and the consciousness raising sessions and all of those things and I just gobbled it up, I plugged myself right in. And that’s how I got to the festival and after the festival there was such an explosion of energy in the community, a lot of which was focused around the fifth avenue house, which was amazing and wonderful and these poor women were trying to live there at the same time, so we realized that we needed another space for women to gather and to get together. And we had a lot of meeting, probably at Fifth Avenue…maybe other places I don’t remember. Uhm…but…by June of ’73 the Women’s Center opened up on sixth street and initially, Dash and I were the two people living there and the way the center was supported was people…there were like two bedrooms, three bedrooms something and women would live there and pay rent and then the community would also pay pledges and support the center financially that way. So initially it was Dash and me and not to long after that you showed up (points to Lavina Tomer).

Morning Waters:
I was there before her…

Lavina Tomer:
She was there before me

Deborah Dobson:
Oh, really? I remember when you came…

Lavina Tomer:
You and Dash shared a room..

Deborah Dobson:
We did…

Lavina Tomer:
So there was another room…who was

Deborah Dobson:
I don’t think anyone was in there…

Morning Waters:
Yes there was…

Lavina Tomer:
There was somebody in there

Morning Waters:
I first slept downstairs on the couch and then….she was a baby dyke…I don’t remember her name…

Lavina Tomer:
Daphne Singing Tree…

Deborah Dobson:
Might have been…

Lavina Tomer:
Remember her?

Deborah Dobson:
No, she wasn’t there long

Lavina Tomer:
She wasn’t there long. It might have been Daphne, although Daphne slept downstairs too. So she probably…but there was somebody up there but then you had an empty room and that’s how I came cause as I said in an earlier interview, I went to the library and I started to read books and I started to talk to my friend in Connecticut who was a feminist and I visited her and we did self exams, she was in a women’s health collective; and that was the first time I had ever seen my cervix and so I was fascinated by it all….it was very…I was just very interested and it meant something to me. And when I went to the Women’s Center, I met all these women and I was straight at the time and I was still married and I met all these incredible women and I wanted to leave me husband. So I worked; I was a house cleaner but I worked at a beauty parlor and I cleaned the beauty parlor and that day I had walked out on my husband, I packed my red suitcase and I remember wrapping up floss to put in my red suitcase and I called the Women’s Center all day long and it was busy all day long because I knew they had a room, I had a job, I could pay the rent. And I was just flipping out and I went down there and they--Dash said, “Oh God,” her name was dandelion at the time…the phone was off the hook all day long.

Morning Waters:
Ohhhhh….

Lavina Tomer:
So I said, “Well I wanna live here I can pay the rent,” so I got this little room upstairs and the bed was on the floor you know, little piece of foam on the floor, it was a cozy little room but before that…the reason I know somebody was upstairs I don’t know who it was, Morning Waters and I slept downstairs and we slept in that room at the same time, you were on the couch and I was on the floor.

Morning Waters:
Oh.

Lavina Tomer:
And I remember, I don’t know if you remember this, one night these dogs were barking, barking, barking and I woke up out of a deep sleep terrified and I jumped on top of Morning Waters…I just went up to her and I went to the couch and I was like “Oh” and it was very funny and then the upstairs was available and uhm…Living there was very different than going there for meetings and for the coffee house because you were really on for twenty-four hours, the phone rang, we were committed to answering it no matter what time, and there was a box that at that time Women Against Rape established and they had a little index box that had their names and phone numbers on it so that if a woman did call who wanted help after she was raped, we had somewhere to go, these women were committed to helping women who were raped. And also we were a center, we really were…women called there for all kinds of reasons. This was…initially we were filling, fulfilling a purpose for what the center was for which was a social place, a meeting place, a living space…

Morning Waters:
And a learning space….

Lavina Tomer:
Learning, information and referral and we had women who came there that we…like there was a woman named Spence….

Deborah Dobson:
She came later…

Lavina Tomer:
she came later but I was living there at the time…

Deborah Dobson:
Yeah, I was too…

Lavina Tomer:
And she was very mentally ill, she was…she had a psychotic break squared. So was so sick…

Morning Waters:
…and unmedicaded…

Lavina Tomer:
I mean she was so sick she would take a shower and come out with wet hair but she was dirty…she was so….I remember this cause my sister is mentally ill so I had experience with Psychotic breaks and I just never saw anything like Spence.

Deborah Dobson:
And we weren’t prepared to deal with anything like that we had no experience. That was true even before then though because like Lavina said we had so many different women calling with so many different needs, some had left their husbands and some were in crisis and others were just hitchhiking through and just needed a place to crash for the night and you never knew what the phone call or the person knocking at the door needed or what would happen….

Morning Waters:
But that was part of the fun part…

Deborah Dobson:
….We just kinda responded as we could we were certainly not professionals most of us…and that was a challenge but there wasn’t any resource of professionals and that all came later you know out of some of the needs that were identified in that Women’s Center.

Interviewer:
It’s interesting because when you hear about how organizations started the canvas and what is the need and then you know…it feels like you were just going organically and that time period that someone had mentioned earlier, that whole shifting of what the family was you know…how did all of that impacted the whole community and how you reacted and put a foundation up for the women?

Morning Waters:
You’re right about it being organic in that it was clearly ground based thinking and then action a collectivity was very strong at that point and everyone had a say and then you just kinda talk until you got to a consensus…

Lavina Tomer:
Still do….

Morning Waters:
Which is a wonderful way to do it.

Interviewer:
I’m hearing so much about collectives, was that a huge moment for that whole idea….in the early seventies?

Lavina Tomer:
Women’s Collectives…Yes.

Deborah Dobson:
There were collectives for everything…

Morning Waters:
I mean I was involved in a hippy collection…collective

Deborah Dobson:
There was Women’s Health Collective and you know collectives were a way progressive people organized…grouped together.

Lavina Tomer:
The Men’s Collective


Interviewer:
When did that start like the sixties, like with the anti-war movements?

Deborah Dobson:
Probably

Morning Waters:
Yeah

Lavina Tomer:
And civil rights movements and then it morphed because women broke away from there and we started…and I think that we women knew that organizing collectively whatever that meant to us whether it was living together or activism collectively that we were more empowered that we were more powerful, that we couldn’t do it alone and that we needed each others talents and gifts and that we all had a place and we all had a say, it was very important you know if didn’t matter what your education was or what your background was, if you were in that room and you had an interest then you had a say. It was very important that we were all empowered in that way.

Morning Waters:
And there was a lesbian separatist piece that came out of that, that really opened my eyes to language and that was one of the most dramatic things for me at the time was examining my language and how that impacted me uhm…and I went radically the other way. I had an Echang book at the time and I crossed through all the male names and you know…she who crosses the water will spawn…you know…I would kinda like to have that book back just to see…but it was a… the language issues just was so deep embedded in me that that change needed to be and still today feminist focused…my girlfriend isn’t that’s the only kind of problem; she’s just a lovely cowgirl dyke…

Lavina Tomer:
Sounds like fun…

Morning Waters:
Oh yeah, (laughs) how do you think I got this head injury twenty years ago?

Lavina Tomer:
Cowboy?

Morning Waters:
Well we were rough housing and I zigged this way and she zigged that way and I fell and hit my head…

Lavina Tomer:
Yikes…

Morning Waters:
…really bad…

Lavina Tomer:
The thing I remember about the sixth street Women’s Center also is that uhm…I remember getting this phone call…I was married twenty-two or twenty-three I had driven myself across the United States from Connecticut to come and be here with this man who I was in love with and my sister and her family live here. And just driving across the United States at twenty-two by myself was a powerful thing to do. But I was lonely, my self esteem was really whacked out for a lot of different reasons, I wasn’t happy in the marriage and I got a phone call from Debbie Holmosky and she said, “Lavina, could you be on the phones at the Women’s Center from this time to this time, we need help?” and I said, “Yeah.” And I hung up the phone and I burst into tears because somebody thought I could do something like that…you know that somebody asked me to help in some way…and there I was…I mean that hooked me into the Women’s Center some more so I knew more about how it was operating and I was on the phones and answering the phones and I got more comfortable with all of these lesbians around me; I had been exposed to lesbians before as a kid, they lived next door or I worked with them, But I had been around the kind of lesbians…they were lesbian feminists and they were women who were examining language, examining class, examining all kinds of things that never crossed my mind. It was as if I were…I’d never gone to college and it was as if that were my college education was living in that situation, meeting the women, having the women value my opinion, value the work I was willing to do. All of that, it made all the difference in terms of my identity and my self-esteem and how I could be in the world and what I wanted to do and what I didn’t want to do in the world.

Morning Waters:
I remember when you first came out to me when we were both back east and Ezra pond or sanctuary or park or whatever it was…

Lavina Tomer:
In West Chester?

Morning Waters:
Yes

Lavina Tomer:
In New York.

Morning Waters:
Right over the border from Connecticut…it was like

Lavina Tomer:
She was there for some reason and I was home visiting

Morning Waters:
So was I, my parents still lived in the area. And we were walking through this absolutely gorgeous area and Lavina says to me, “You know, I think I’m a lesbian,” out of nowhere, I mean it was not even close to what we were talking about. I remember I was so shocked…

Deborah Dobson:
You’re the same way today…

Lavina Tomer:
Uh-huh

Morning Waters:
So am I….but it was so amazingly freeing to hear her say this out loud in this beautiful setting and it’s not like we were the only ones there I mean there were other people walking around. And I just, I felt like blossoming for her it was so exciting to hear her say this. That was a great visit we had.

Lavina Tomer:
Yeah…it was.

Deborah Dobson:
There were a lot of women coming out at that time. Uhm…after the Feminist Festival we all kind of fall in love with the women from…who had arrived from New Mexico and uhm…in the next several months there were a whole lot of us that came out all at once; that had it’s own energy too cause it was always like is she with her or is she with…

Morning Waters:
Who’s sleeping with who?

Deborah Dobson:
and then the Friday night Lesbian feminist coffee house continued then at the Women’s Center and with many, many more women…

Lavina Tomer:
Lots…

Deborah Dobson:
And the dancing…

Morning Waters:
There was barely room…

Deborah Dobson:
It was a tiny house and we packed it

Lavina Tomer:
We danced our hearts out…

Morning Waters:
It was a town house…a double town house…


Deborah Dobson:
It was a great space and I remember Dash trying to get us all healthy and she would buy…she had one of these fancy juicers and she would go to the co-op and she’d buy forty or fifty pound bags of carrots…remember? And she would shove’em up under the counter in the kitchen and she’d be making this carrot juice and handing it out to us right and left…

Morning Waters:
And sprouts…

Deborah Dobson:
And sprouts

Lavina Tomer:
Carrot and garlic juice…that’s good carrot and garlic juice, carrot and celery juice, She was very…she was definitely an mentor about diet oh and fasting and emmemas and remember all that stuff we got into it, wheat grass and we got into it but we started a….that was a good thing because we started to take really good care of ourselves….herbs…

Morning Waters:
When Dash is sober she is awesome…she’s a goddess…

Deborah Dobson:
Yeah, and she’s been sober now for several years…

Morning Waters:
Good, I’m glad to hear that.

Lavina Tomer:
She used to say…uh…God this was so funny…she was walking outside and she hit her knee on the door and she said, “Oh Goddess,” and she looked at me and she just cracked up laughing, it was so hysterical, “Oh Goddess that hurt,”

Group: Laughs

Morning Waters:
Do you remember that little area that we kinda claimed with Bamboo fencing…just that little outside area…


Lavina Tomer:
Oh yeah…

Morning Waters:
Women would come all day long, women would come by and we’d sit there and visit and smoke…

Interviewer: What was the address?

Deborah Dobson:
912 east Sixth Street…it’s still there, the building’s still there…

Lavina Tomer:
I go by it and you know it was very interesting because across the street was Casa Del Los Niño’s which was just starting and maybe was a year or so old and then up the street from there was Southern Arizona Mental Health Center (SAMHC) and then…

Morning Waters:
Which we began to work with….

Lavina Tomer:
Yes…

Morning Waters:
Because we were having so many disturbed women

Lavina Tomer:
Yes and we’d call on them to…we had women who were using those… feminists women who were feminists not necessarily lesbians but feminists who were utilizing the services and we tried to be advocates and learned a lot about what that meant. There was also a thing called the Brewster Center and it was right up the street, and it was a home for unwed mothers and then it morphed into a women’s…they used the name Brewster Center for a domestic violence shelter and I don’t know whether one shut down or how or if it just morphed from one thing to another…

Interviewer: Is that were Emerge came from also?

Lavina Tomer:
Uh-huh

Interviewer: Okay

Lavina Tomer:
Emerge came from Tucson Centers for Women and Children which you will learn about and meet the woman who ran the very first one and Brewster Center which came after TCWC. And uhm…I loved meeting women at the coffee house. Women would come and this made me laugh, I was quite innocent but it made me laugh…they would come in and they would say, “Well I’m here, I’m studying at the University and I’m here for linguistics of lesbian community,” and I would be like, “Okay,” …

Morning Waters:
Usually we speak English…

Lavina Tomer:
Right…the linguistics…

Interviewer: Was it Cunninglingustics?

Lavina Tomer:
Yeah…cunning linguistics…very good very good! Then they…uhm…of course they came out you know but that’s what sort of got them in the door and we did some outreach we let different places know but not a whole lot, it was a lot of word of mouth.

Deborah Dobson:
Word of mouth mostly.

Lavina Tomer:
And you know people that went to the University, people that were just here in Tucson was really word of mouth that brought…

Deborah Dobson:
The food Co-op people..

Lavina Tomer:
Oh yes, the food Co-op, yes and we would have posters at the food Co-op

Interviewer: Did you guys start the food Co-op too?

Group: No

Deborah Dobson:
That was there earlier, that was there at least in 1972 because when I came to visit my brother the first time it was here…

Lavina Tomer:
It was here when I came in ’72 in the spring.

Morning Waters:
Originally it was really…you put your order in and then they go buy it and then you get it. By the time I had gotten into Tucson, it was already more of a market place but with bulk items…

Lavina Tomer:
Yeah…and no refrigeration, everything was like in boxes and you just came in and you bought…but they were always…always open to us.

Deborah Dobson:
They were very radical in a way…very radical


Morning Waters:
Food Conspiracy…

Deborah Dobson:
A lot of different other radical groups at the time you know that would pass through there or you know….and they were very generous, they kept a lot of space open in their monthly newsletter for these different groups and I’ve got some of them that I’m going to be sharing with the group. There’s one that I have that they offered about half of it to women’s issues…

Lavina Tomer:
That’s really amazing….

Deborah Dobson:
…about women’s rape and women’s self-defense and women’s health stuff…you know…they were a great support in the community.


Morning Waters:
Do you remember when they did open a little place up in Mount Limon?

Deborah Dobson:
Oh they did…they had a little co-op up there…it was a little tiny little thing

Morning Waters:
Because Dash was living there and Joanne was living there and do you remember a guy named Twenty-Two Love from there…

Lavina Tomer:
No

Morning Waters:
…he was creepy…

Deborah Dobson:
There was another guy up there who was a woodcutter though who he was really nice and he was part of it. I can’t remember his name.

Morning Waters:
It was a nice group up there.

Lavina Tomer:
I worked at the Co-op…I worked with Veronica Angel who worked at the co-op at the time and these very hippy, hippy men uh…who were lovely guys, some of them quite heterosexist but still really, really nice men. And uhm…we were a good collective…our co-op you know. That’s were I met a lot of women also and I would tell them about…it was nice to have…that was a gateway…and women would ask, “Do you know where,” “Do you know where,” “I need this,” you know and I was able to say yeah we have a resource I mean that sixth street Women’s Center was a really important resource…


Morning Waters:
Yes…It was amazing…



Lavina Tomer:
….for one it separated fifth avenue, they could go on with their lives and their collective, their mission, what their vision for themselves was and we could have this resource in our community that was well used…very well used.

Deborah Dobson:
Very well used.

Morning Waters:
Yes…in all kinds of ways.

Deborah Dobson:
It was in all kinds of ways. And we also continued really learning cause this was all still new to us, I mean we were all…you know…in the first few months of out coming out and our becoming feminists and all this stuff and we were constantly learning. I remember women coming through…yes they were the ones who tentatively come in and say…you know…”Is this a coffee house,” and then they’d come out eventually you know…but there were also women who would show up they’d been dykes for years and or they had been political radicals for years and they would come through and they would talk about it, expanding our linguistics because you know they would have all this understanding that they had developed over time and we were just kind of soaking it up you know.

Morning Waters:
I felt like a sponge, just absorbing so much in such a wide variety in such a short amount of time. And as Deb said, every day was different, I mean every time you answered the phone you had no idea what was gonna happen. You know you kinda had to be just a deeply caring person…was kinda the criteria for…

Lavina Tomer:
Living there…

Group: Yeah.

Interviewer:
How is it that everything became concentrated like Fifth Avenue, fourth, Sixth Street?


Deborah Dobson:
Fourth avenue was kinda the Height Ash berry of Tucson…

Lavina Tomer:
In a very small way…

Deborah Dobson:
That’s were all the hippies and the hippie café, the bookstore, the (inaudible) bookstore, the food co-op…

Morning Waters:
Antigone…

Deborah Dobson:
…Delectable was there…before I came to Tucson, it was already there. And then, I don’t know how Fifth Avenue ended up getting their house; you probably have that in your other stories.

Morning Waters:
Uhm Anne Yellet and her husband bought it.

Deborah Dobson:
Uh, Okay. And it just happened to be right next to Fourth Avenue and you know…we all started renting places…it was a little kinda vortex in Tucson. If you wanted to be part of this action, you probably wanted to live nearby because we didn’t, a lot of us didn’t have cars, we rode our bikes everywhere, we walked you know…

Lavina Tomer:
And I….I don’t know but finding the sixth street house, I know it wasn’t expensive.

Deborah Dobson:
I think that was another criteria…

Lavina Tomer:
And it was close by to a lot of people who were the stronger activists at the time and it was convenient and there it was. It was a very good location…

Morning Waters:
Yeah…It was a central location…


Lavina Tomer:
There was parking in the back…lots of parking in the back…it was…that sixth street center became a Women’s Center for DV victims and then it was a women’s and children’s center and so…

Morning Waters:
It progressed…

Lavina Tomer:
…Part of that, part of what happened that I am just remembering now is that sixth street center was open to all women and when we changed and it became like more institutional…it was the rape crisis and the DV shelter…there was nothing for lesbians and I was very upset. I was angry that here we had this resource…it was just a lesbian coffee house and a place for us to be activists but it went away and that was really sad. And uh…it got…a coffee house did get established again but many years later, actually we had it right here in the Unitarian Church but that woman is local so we’ll do more on that later. Uh…but that was part of it, even though it was a powerful thing for it to change into something that had…was more resources for women it left lesbians out. And it was interesting because a lot of lesbians were who started that…

Morning Waters:
That’s the ironic point…

Lavina Tomer:
Yeah it was…but you know I noticed that and very strongly and was very angry about that.

Interviewer:
Has that been one of the main challenges that you know when you think about the feminist movement and the lesbian feminist movement is that once it becomes institutionalized that it kind of eliminates the difference?

Lavina Tomer:
Well I’ve found that to be true, I mean that was certainly an issue for me.




Deborah Dobson:
That’s certainly effected the ERA stuff that was going on because you know I think Betty Friedan finally accepted the lesbians in Houston the same time that Fila Schfley was in Houston saying, “Across town…you know what they’re doing?”

Morning Waters:
They’re not growing oranges…

Deborah Dobson:
It really was now a mixed straight and gay organization at the time, sorta mainstream in it’s way and so you know there was this backlash so I think a lot of straight feminists you know took what they could get and divide it…I don’t know, I don’t know that first hand but that’s what it felt like.

Lavina Tomer:
Yeah, there was a real shift; I mean many years later when I was being battered by a lesbian, I wasn’t sure where I could go…where I would really be able to get the help I needed. And that was one of the things that motivated me to do some of the activism that I did around LGBT resources for domestic violence and anti-violence. Uhm…because those places and it’s still true…they will…you don’t know. In my opinion they do not let enough of us know that they’re available to lesbians. I know the rape crisis center is and I know that they do some but it’s not a big public thing you know…they don’t say…in our brochure… “and we serve people of all colors, all languages and lesbians.” You know…they don’t do that. And that…I…why not? I think now the…Emerge has a little…is much more open than any of the other ones were but I still have issue with that because how do we know that it’s a safe place? We have to know, we have to see the word lesbian…that’s my opinion. Uhm…but that…my strength and my passion about resources for lesbians comes from that sixth street women’s resource center because we had resources then. We were serving all women and uhm…

Deborah Dobson:
On a shoe string but…

Lavina Tomer:
On a shoe string…

Morning Waters:
And a lot of volunteers…

Lavina Tomer:
And very…some of us without any experience or skills but that was a resource…that we lost. And then it went and scattered here and there, that’s why I love Wingspan because it’s there. It’s there for the LGBT community and if lesbians want something specific, we can do something specific…

Morning Waters:
It’s interesting now though that I’m getting older and thinking about retirement issues and where to move to because I’m not happy on the east coast. Looking at lesbian feminist communities for sixty plus, fifty-five plus…whatever, and finding that one of the reasons I had gone into the field of aging as a profession was to make sure there were more resources available when I needed them. And there are a few lesbian retirement places, most are in city settings though rather than you know a more natural environment which is what I would want.

Deborah Dobson:
I think the experience that we’re going to have as we move into these aging resources is going to be the same experience we had when we moved into those other institutions when we were younger.

Lavina Tomer:
We have to get closeted.

Deborah Dobson:
…and that is we had to walk in and say, “Okay look I’m a lesbian, how are we going to deal with this?” You know…how are you going to take care of the things that are specific to my needs because of my being a lesbian that are different than a straight communities and it’s going to be the same fight all over again because you know, I’ve been taking care of my parents and my partners parents and we’ve been in and out of again centers and hospitals and what not and we can still see that there’s no place for lesbians or gay men and so I think it’s going to be…even with all the progress that’s been made…and it’s amazing to us that we are where we are now you know but uhm…I think we’ll still be doing it.

Morning Waters:
Reinventing what we need…

Deborah Dobson:
Yeah, it might not be quite as difficult in the sense that there’s a much, much broader community acceptance of gays and lesbians and trans that…

Morning Waters:
Please even President Obama said he’s in favor of gay marriage…

Deborah Dobson:
So it will be different but we’ll have to go and establish institutions again.

Lavina Tomer:
Yeah and like at Wingspan they have this senior pride program and they collaborate with the Pima Council on Aging and they are at least trying to educate and work with institutions so okay now you know you might have lesbians in your population or gay men in your population. How will you treat them? What resources do they need? Do you have that available? Do you have at least that information available?

Deborah Dobson:
Does medical staff understand?

Lavina Tomer:
Yeah, that kind of stuff. I feel like what we did in the time period in the seventies we…I remember when the women’s studies program started and now you know we have an LGBT studies program, I mean that’s phenomenal at the U of A. We have a gender and women’s study program. We have an LGBT center at the …you know none of that stuff was there. We had a…there was a women’s center at the University but uhm….

Morning Waters:
But it was so dramatically different than what we were doing.

Lavina Tomer:
What the University?

Morning Waters:
The center on campus…

Lavina Tomer:
Well sure because it was supporting students and what they were doing and what they needed and all that but still…

Morning Waters:
Right…

Lavina Tomer:
It was there…

Deborah Dobson:
At least it was there…

Morning Waters:
Yeah

Lavina Tomer:
And they could have us as a resource you know if women wanted something else they knew we existed. And they were so helpful…they were really a good collaborator. But you know, that sixth street center and all of these other things…that was one heart. There were many hearts in Tucson to the movement here but the sixth street center was one heart that….and outgrowth…in the community.

Morning Waters:
It’s so exciting to think that in the forty years how much change really has happened…yes we need more, there’s no doubt about it…


Lavina Tomer:
It’s amazing…

Morning Waters:
But it’s wonderfully reaffirming that the work we were doing then has carried on and morphed into you know different groups and yet the connections we made back then were vital.

Lavina Tomer:
uh-huh, not just to us at that time…

Morning Waters:
No, but for the community at large

Lavina Tomer:
and resonated…it resonated you know

Morning Waters:
Yes…that’s a good word

Deborah Dobson:
We were each ambassadors we went on in the rest of our lives you know I would go into work places and come out and you know I was the first out lesbian people knew and that was strange. I would come out to a doctor or some other person I encountered in my everyday living and you know I kind of made it my private mission to be a really ordinary person that people could say Oh you know she’s not a crazy…you know it doesn’t make her strange. You know she’s still got Tupperware in her lunchbox she’s just like everybody else…you know…but I know my one life…my one insignificant life is multiplied statistically by every woman that came through that center having gone out into her own life and had some kind of effect of spreading that change, spreading that awareness you know having people encounter us and go, “oh, I can relate to these people” so that was really important.

Morning Waters:
I live in a fifty-five plus community at this point and we are the only gay couple in there but we’re both very nice people and so our neighbors have recognized that we’re more nice than we are gay and…
Deborah Dobson:
But that’s true…

Morning Waters:
And that’s how it’s worked out for us very comfortably that I don’t know what nasty gays do or…

Lavina Tomer:
Yeah right…


Morning Waters:
you know how they function in the world…just nasty people that happen to be gay but…

Interviewer:
Well as we’re nearing the two o’clock hour is there any last thing you think people should know about this sixth street women’s center?

Deborah Dobson:
It was fun. It was hard. It was energetic. It was loving. It was a great challenge and…


Morning Waters:
A wonderful experience…

Deborah Dobson:
A really great experience

Lavina Tomer:
Yes all of that.

Interviewer: Would you do it all over again?

Group: Oh yes…you betcha, absolutely…oh yes

Lavina Tomer:
Yeah…that was…it was really something

Deborah Dobson:
and more probably because we go into with the kind of awareness we have now you know…wow…

Morning Waters:
It would be broader based than it even was…

Deborah Dobson:
It’d be huge yeah…

Lavina Tomer:
Yeah…it was so important…it was an important time

Morning Waters:
It was wonderful times…and the friends that we made…here we are forty years later

Lavina Tomer:
There coming from all over the country and Canada to revisit

Deborah Dobson:
That dynamic that energy

Morning Waters:
It was a momentous time…

Lavina Tomer:
The energy of each other … and I’m moved by that…very moved by that

Interviewer:
That’s awesome…

Group:
Thank you…


[End of transcript]

Files

Citation

Jamie A. Lee, Project Director, Arizona Queer Archives Anastasia Freyermuth, video producer, “Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ “40th Anniversary Event” • 1st Wave 6th Street Women's Center: Interview with Lavina Tomer, Morning Waters, and Deborah Dobson,” Arizona Queer Archives, accessed September 22, 2018, http://azqueerarchives.org/items/show/16.