Lynn Dugan attended Catholic grammar and high schools in New York City. With a lesbian friend, she visited lesbian bars where rigid “butch” or “fem” roles prevailed. She came of age just after the Stonewall Riots of 1969, later befriending some of the participants, as she became part of a community that looked after and protected each other from attacks, some of which she describes. She notes the comradery of men and women in the early gay rights movement, and the accessibility of many future celebrities entertaining in the gay baths and bars. She was mentored by an older gay man, Jimmy Alan Newcomer and she created a marriage ceremony with a woman opera singer at St. Peter’s MCC Church in 1981. She witnessed the start of the AIDS crisis and the work of many women and activists such as Larry Kramer. Professionally, she held jobs in management and sales, drove a taxi, and had her own greeting card company. In some jobs, she had to hide her sexuality. She visited Colorado often before moving to Boulder ca. 1993, participating in the LGBTQ community there. While attending a Pride parade in Columbia SC, she met political activist Charlie Smith, who invited her to Charleston, SC; she moved there soon after and began her involvement in the community, founding the Charleston Social Club, which offered opportunities to many isolated and closeted women. One of the programs, Lezz Fest, produced on the club’s tenth anniversary closed off part of North Charleston and drew 1,000 participants. Dugan was the prime mover in establishing the first Pride Festival in the lowcountry. She and a cadre of friends staged fundraisers for the event which the City of Charleston wanted to sideline. The city of North Charleston, however, including Mayor R. Keith Summey, who served as grand marshal of the parade, supported it, despite the criticism of many local churches. The Charleston Pride Organization event took place on May 15, 2010, and its impact, and that of the evening event held on the Citadel campus, is described in detail by Dugan. In response to questions, she comments on African American participation in the community and ends the interview with suggestions of other issues that LGBTQ community could address, such as the care of its older citizens, a task in which she is involved.
At a “Unity in the Community” Forum sponsored by the Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA), Reverend Robert Arrington answers questions posed to him by female impersonator/performer Symone N. O’Bishop and members of the audience. After introductions by emcee Regina Duggins (aka Gina Mocha), Arrington speaks of his personal life, conditions in the lowcountry, and the development and evolution of his open and affirming Charleston Unity Fellowship Church. He describes growing up in Durham, NC, and living in Rochester, NY, before moving to Charleston, a place he finds not as progressive or easy to live as elsewhere. He mentions a dysfunctional childhood, being misdiagnosed with learning disabilities, and recalls various phases of his life, including being married to woman, being a female impersonator, being HIV positive for thirty years, and the love he now shares with his husband, stating that they were the first “out” African American gay male couple in the area to have a house built for them by Habitat for Humanity. Most of the interview, however, focuses on the growth of his church, his plans for it, and the need to be completely transparent in all aspects of one’s life, including one’s spiritual life. He and O’Bishop discuss the behavior of some closeted LGBTQ church goers, who hide their sexual and emotional lives to worship under ministers who preach against homosexuality. The only “out” African American minister in the area, Arrington describes his church as Pentecostal-related and its policy of accepting every one of every sexual orientation, identification and race. He responds to an HIV-positive transgender woman of color asking how to find a loving relationship; he and the interviewer also discuss sexually irresponsible behavior and strategies for finding a life partner. Prompted by other queries from the audience, Reverend Arrington agrees that there is a need for more coordination with his church and the community it represents with other agencies in the area. An audience member comments further that there must be a new attitude regarding such participation: instead of asking to be included, one must demand that inclusion. The interview ends with Chase Glenn of AFFA and others describing programs and initiatives of related interest in the area. A call for action results with applause at the comment that this forum may mark a new direction for one of Charleston’s marginalized communities.