- April 22, 1970 -- the first Earth Day in history. I was running "unofficially" in the Earth Day Marathon in New York City. The 26.2-mile course was taking us several times around the carriage loop in Central Park. The issue was whether women would fall over dead if they ran 26.2 miles. AAU officials who sanctioned female sports were convinced that women would fall over dead. Our little group of "unofficial entries" in that race -- five or six women, as I remember -- were out to prove that officialdom was wrong.
- My growing sense of self as a woman was throwing me into growing conflict with the conservative and dominating man that I had married in 1957. He was already quite upset that I was involved in feminist organizing at the Reader's Digest, where I worked. We women were asking for outlandish things like equal pay.
- Stonewall had happened the year before. I had read about Stonewall in the New York Times and was committed to the idea that someday I too would do that scary thing called "coming out." Someday. My spouse wasn't going to be happy about that either.
- I didn't know any gay people who were (to use that new buzz-word) "out." There were a few women and men colleagues at work, and elsewhere in publishing, that I had my suspicions about. But we didn't discuss the subject, not even after several martinis. It was illegal to be gay in every state except Illinois.
- I also knew a few women and men in long-distance running whose sexual orientation vibed non-heterosexual. There had to be a story there. Especially about the men. Gay men weren't supposed to like sports. A new novel, maybe? But if I published that novel, I'd have to come out, and go through an ugly divorce. And lose my job.
Continued after the jump plus "NOW" photo and list.
- I was 34, stood 5' 6", weighed 120 pounds with my Adidas on, and loved wearing the sassy fashions of the early Seventies. Even when I was running in a race. In the photo, I was wearing purple tights and a striped mod jumpsuit. At the office, the editors rolled their eyes when I showed up for work in that shocking new garment called a pants suit.
- Recently I'd become national publicity director for the Road Runners Club of America, and was writing my first fiery editorials ...in magazines like Track & Field News and Runner's World. There was no such thing as the Internet. The word "blog" would not be heard for roughly 35 years yet.
- The couple hundred Earth Day runners had an array of political concerns -- from the Vietnam War to clean air in New York City. The National Guard massacre of protesting students at Kent State University was going to happen in two weeks. In just a week, President Nixon would announce that the U.S. was bombing Cambodia. Roe v. Wade wouldn't happen till 1973, so abortion was still illegal.
- Now and then, along the race course, some unfeeling spectators would yell the word "Dyke!" at me. I wondered how they could tell, since I hadn't revealed my big secret to the world.
- It was around 20 miles, and I was getting tired. But marathoning had already taught me that you can reach down and find more.
A year after this photo was published in Runner's World, women marathoners were officially scored by the AAU for the first time, in their own division of the New York City Marathon. The race was run over that same course in Central Park. The women's winner was Beth Bonner. I finished fourth. Nobody fell over dead.
- June 19, 2007. Back in New York City for the "Come Write History" fundraiser organized by DNC treasurer and gay author Andrew Tobias. Fellow novelists Ann Bannon and Carlos Mock hang out with me at the reception. We talk about how we've seen the civil-rights movement come and go since the 1970s.
- Thirty LGBT authors have gathered as special guests for this gala evening at the Waldorf Astoria. We are raising a million dollars...hoping to get Barack Obama elected President and a Dem majority elected to Congress.
- The feeling in the room is "you've come a long way, baby, but there's still a lot to do." Sodomy laws are gone, but there's still a lot of things to fight for. We are all nervously hopeful, but Obama's commitment to our cause is a little murky and nobody knows what the future will hold.
- New York City feels curiously familiar, yet curiously strange, after leaving the Digest in 1980 and many years spent living back in my native West. It would have been hard to imagine an event such as this in 1970.
- Earlier that year, I had just thrown my own hat in the political arena, by running for city council in West Hollywood, against incumbent Sal Guarriello. It would have been no big deal to be elected there -- LGBT people have owned WeHo since it became a city in 1984. I got 23 percent of the vote, and Guarriello got 40 percent. I'm still in shock after raising $40,000 for my campaign, only to see that Guarriello and his incumbent allies had nearly a quarter of a million bucks to beat me with.
- I am 71 and 5' 5", having shrunk an inch owing to a vertebra injured during a fall with a horse while show-jumping in the late 70s...after coming out in 1973 and getting more recklessly adventurous with sports. These days, running 26 miles is a distant memory. My sports are gardening and walking.
- The silver hair is a legacy from my mom. When I finally came out to her in 1973, she told me that she had known all along. I still like nice clothes, but these days my tastes are a bit more butch.
- I'm enjoying friendship with Ann Bannon, who was already writing lesbian novels when I was in Catholic college in New York in 1957. I remember her "Odd Girl Out" circulating clandestinely through the dormitory, when the Mothers of the Sacred Heart weren't looking.
- I get to speak Spanish with Carlos Mock, another friend, who had just published his "Papi Chulo," about gay men's struggles with Hispanic machismo. When I lived in Spain in the 1960s, you couldn't even mention Federico Garcia Lorca's name in public. Today Spain was way ahead of the U.S. now, having legalized gay marriage.
- Eight books and a lot of fiery editorials down the road, it seems like there is no end to the battles left to fight. People still celebrate Earth Day, but now it's about global warming and wholesale extinction of species. Young people have no idea what happened at Kent State, and they think Vietnam happened during the Roman Empire. I'm aware that I sound like my parents when I talk about "then."