today more than any other day
i think of you
the knowledge of your death has brought back so many memories
everyone talks about how deep the loss of you is for individuals and a community. why is that? you are not lost. infact, since learning about your stroke and inevitable death, you have been very much present in my life. but i do know that there is a deep chasm in a community that greatly depended upon you, counted on you, expected you to always, always be there. perhaps death is the only place you will find rest….
it was just a usual day of using facebook to distract myself from any of a number of projects i am working on. facebook is funny. usually within the time span of just a mere 10 seconds, i can go from laughing at some cat video to enraged over some gross injustice and back to some kind of benign version of whatever. this time it was like a punch in the heart. an old friend had died or was going to die. she had a stroke with little hope for recovery. i got a text on saturday that indeed she did pass.
as i kicked myself for not getting in touch with her last time i passed through town, my mind raced with the huge void that would be created in the community, and for her son. and the impact she had on my life. then i heard her laugh and say “what?! its cool! just be cool”. i don’t think i ever got to thank her for the inspiration, for her belief in our community, for the chance for me to build some skills and well just so much that amazing people in our lives do when they shake shit up for us.
it was the early-mid 90s when parker first walked into the lgb student group that the person i was dating at the time and myself kind of ran/organized. it was a group that welcomed all the people looking for a place to get involved, or just find their cohorts. she would come in her “work drag” as an accountant for an oil and gas company. it is a very specialized kind of accounting and that kind of creative attention to detail is what made her so good with all that she did.
quickly she got involved in other areas of the “gay” community of wichita. then during pride of 1994 i think, the pride guide got kind of dumped in her lap. then she started talking about turning the guide into a monthly paper for the gay and lesbian community of wichita and all of kansas.
i don’t know how many beers and tots we shared as she talked herself into it, and all of us into playing our parts. none of us could say no to parker. i offered to take pics since i had been a photojournalist in one of my lives. catherine was going to write. our friends who owned the bookstore contributed. from the beginning, there were regular columns.
great. could you go ahead and write the article/review….i’ve got to be at this other thing.
i don’t write
it’s cool. just write up something. oh and if you are going that direction could you drop off a bundle of papers?
knowing what parker was up against trying to start a new press when others were shutting down or cutting back, how could any of us say no.
but wichita was ready, we were hungry for community. we were ready for pride events to be out of the bars and into the streets and riverside park and old town.
people started taking chances.
together we all got a community center started.
there was an informal speakers group and a way for teachers, nurses, and others to reach out and hear stories, to tell stories that opened doors for so many. none of us had emails then. all our contacts were our home phones. catherine and i had an answering machine that had 2 or 3 options to leave messages. one for us personally and the others for the groups we were involved in. many messages were people just looking for a group, some group, any group they could participate in. others were looking to be educated or find ways to educate their co-workers. maybe they were in the closest or had lost a loved one to hiv related issues or suicide. families trying to hold on. if your name was in a byline for the liberty press, you got a call.
i don’t know all the places we went. i know i was in a couple high schools, 2 local universities in (one catholic), a small baptist college in nebraska for diversity week, and a hospital north of wichita, and a bunch of groups around town.
we held dances for youth. i was the social coordinator at the community center and my focus was to have a place for youth to go so that they didn’t have to always jump the fence by the pool at the bar to find their people and be themselves for a few hours, or who they thought they were supposed to be.
parker and the liberty press was the center of it all.
i remember one events that parker and i were both at. somehow the pansy division was playing at kirby’s beer store. a place we had sat on the roof on hot summer days with a pitcher of warm beer and parker would put on patsy cline. this night it was packed! it was hot, sweaty and sticky. parker kept talking to me about whatever we were trying to get done next. i was in shock that i was actually in wichita kansas with the pansy division’s sweat flying my way! catherine, my partner at the time, was somewhere near. every once in a while some guy would hand parker and i a couple of fresh beers. we didn’t really think much about it. this happened often enough. whoever was closest to the bar would get the round and people would pass them through the crowded bar until they got to the intended people.
catherine came over and gave me a kiss goodbye, she was either going home to prepare for class, or maybe the bi group she got started, or something. soon this guy, a drunk white straight guy entered our conversation –
so all those beers were a waste huh
oh shit. those were from you?! thanks so much.
no no that’s fine. i just realized that those guys on stage-they are gay?
well, that is a giant penis on the bass player’s shirt
oh, yeah, now i see it. well have a nice night.
you too, can i buy you a beer?
no no. i think i am going home.
the conversation was on the side that was difficult for parker to hear so when i explained the conversation, she busted out laughing…whaaaaat? that is awesome.
soon catherine and i left wichita for syracuse for her to continue her studies. and we promptly broke up. i stayed involved a little with queer activism, but the more i identifies as queer, the harder it was for me to be involved in gay and lesbian issues. i had become vegan and got involved in more wide-ranging issues that would later be called intersectional. plus all the resources (time and money) started going into marriage equality, and i just couldn’t abide. it was leaving so many people behind. they said they would win this fight and come back….p.s. they never come back. youth suicide rates are out of control and continue to climb.
a couple years later i moved to the kansas city area. parker and vinnie had started a kansas city edition of the liberty press. one day i was chatting with kristi. i was stopping in wichita on my way to solo camping in colorado and try to figure out what was next. restaurant management suuuuucked for me.
why don’t you edit the kc issue? its too much for us to keep going back and forth
they were trying to get pregnant and time was ticking…literally. kansas was passing a law to keep single women (i.e. lesbians) from access to fertility clinics and insemination processes.
now, one of my many favorite things about parker was we could fight, and argue about all kinds of different things, but there was never a grudge. probably because even with different opinions or ideas about things, we knew each of us was coming from a caring place.
i remember trying to write about the attacks on planned parenthood and women’s health clinics that provided abortion.
kim, not all lesbians are pro-choice
ugh, how could that be? then i would remember those republican gays when i lived in dallas.ugh, why can’t they see the connection of control of peoples’ bodies?
but there was one place i told parker no
we were going to have all our writers and contributors participate in kansas city’s pride parade, but i was not going to wave or carry or be near a flipping rainbow flag. i did not search high and low to have non-sweatshop shoes and clothes just to carry a dang sweatshop rainbow flag anything. i was holding my ground.
no problem what do you want to do
and the i can’t even write straight shirts were born.
i don’t know how many of mine i gave away or traded. a few at post rugby hot tub parties.
eventually, they made the wise decision to shut down the kansas city issue. it was doing well, but pulling on the main paper.
they got pregnant and had jack. i went into massage therapy. our groups disbanded as we got involved in other things, but not parker. she kept it going. she touched so many people and so many generations.
i remember one visit to wichita, parker had me come and drop in on a youth group she and vinnie got started after catherine and i left. years later i was watching two of those young people singing on stage at a club in lawerence, one of them i worked with. just recently i learned about a trans-identified youth that my niece played softball with who found support with kristi.
there are so many good stories of kristi. she was always rooting for the oppressed, maybe its her, confusing to me, fascination with disney animation. she loves disney. even her dog gizmo, a little Pomeranian, had a special disney pillow he humped non-stop it seemed. whatever it was, she seemed to believe things would work out, if you worked hard enough and listened deep enough, the answers would come.
she never stopped, she rarely took a break. the only vacation i know of that wasn’t related to some lesbian or gay event was when she got to take jack to disney world. she was so excited to get to do this.
maybe this is why she died so young. (she is just a few months younger than me. a stroke at 49-damn). it would take death to make her stop and rest, but i doubt it. i don’t believe in heaven or hell or whatever, but wherever her spirit is, she is probably sitting with a group of people and trying to find a way to meet the needs of all the other spirits there, laughing and telling everyone to just be cool.
i am no longer in touch with any of those people that i was deeply intertwined with at that time. i didn’t lose them, we just went other ways. i almost reached out to a couple of them when i learned of parker’s death but it felt like an empty gesture; me reaching out to share stories with people who were there and understand or feed the memories. truth is, that is not where i get my support these days. i turned to my current family by blood or bond and fresh mountain air. for me parker’s death does not feel like a void, and why should it. there is no loss, parker will always have a place in my heart, a vast number of memories, and continues to impact my life.
p.s i use the lesbian, gay community because that is what wichita was at that point, and i feel still is. it never really took on a queer community attitude. catherine was shunned often for identifying as bisexual. i was questioned and pushed for being in a relationship with someone who identified as bi. the only place for the trans folks in the community at the time was our organization at the university. the community very much pushed for assimilation and acceptance/tolerance. i can’t speak to where it is now.