Oral history interview with Maryl A. Kerley

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Meryl Kerley shares her experience as part of the Washington, DC lesbian scene in the 1960s and beyond. Her family moved to the greater DC area in 1959, and when she graduated high school in 1966 she immediately began working in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a clerk. After reading an article in the Washington Star that gave a hotline number for a gay community center, Meryl decided to take a chance and call it. She then began going to lesbian house parties, and soon after divorced her husband. Outside of house parties, Meryl talks about going to lesbian bars like Phase 1 and Club Madame. While these places came with an increased risk of retaliation and violence, they were nonetheless an integral part of the lesbian community. Meryl was also involved in a sexuality task force and lesbian potlucks, but most of her early activism concerned the Gay Women’s Alternative (GWA). The GWA was a group that was very involved in education and networking within the lesbian community. The Washington, DC branch met every Wednesday and occasionally hosted dances or open houses. Meryl did a lot of work organizing events and keeping members informed by doing things like managing supplies, distributing fliers, and helping to manage mailing lists. Meryl also recounts her experiences as a gay woman within HUD and her part in HUD GLOBE in the 1990s. HUD GLOBE is the LGBT group at HUD, and it is still active today. Looking back on the years, Meryl recounts some of the lost spaces she misses the most, such as Lammas Books. She also recalls some of the intersectionality, or lack thereof, within the LGBT community. She talks about issues with male dominated LGBT spaces, as well as issues with trying to cultivate racial and ethnic diversity.

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Original Format

Yes, recording available

Citation

“Oral history interview with Maryl A. Kerley,” Rainbow History Project Digital Collections, accessed July 22, 2024, https://archives.rainbowhistory.org/items/show/1243.

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