Dating Negotiations in the 90s
I met her as part of a couple, Anne + Judy. They were both in the first class of women to break into the San Francisco Police Department after several years of pressure from the feminist community to integrate women.
There were two sides to this story. Some feminists thought cops were unredeemable and that women should never be cops. They said women would take on the racist and repressive world view of the police; they would be sullied by the job. I was an electrician and one of those working to get more women into nontraditional jobs. I thought women deserved access to those jobs and I even suspected that women might change the culture in the PD if given the chance.
Kissing lesbians was a thing I did in June–Gay Month
Work life was tough for those first women, and they were on the front lines of the feminist movement to desegregate the workplace. They took the most shit from their male coworkers and bosses, who were almost all white back then in the 1970s. Men of color had been kept out too and the efforts of us activists to enforce affirmative action laws included all minority classes.
Being in a relationship with another woman navigating the same sexist workplace was probably a main reason Judy and Anne both stayed in the PD and made good careers. My lovers, too, were women in the trades, the only people who really understood what I was going through at work. They provided the support I needed to survive on the construction site.
I knew Judy better than Anne. She was a feminist and out on the job as a lesbian. One time when I ran into her working the gay parade, I threw my arms around her and planted a big kiss on her lips. Yeah, you’re not supposed to do that to cops when they’re working. But kissing lesbians was a thing I always did in June–gay month. I was just so happy to be out in San Francisco, I had to pass around my good cheer.
I got to know Anne better in the early 90s after she and Judy had broken up. We had a mutual friend, a mystery writer, who used us both for expert background. (What kind of electric shock will kill a person? How would a killer behave in this situation?) I think the mystery writer was hoping there would be a spark of attraction when she introduced us. She confided to me that Anne was in a secret ongoing affair with a closeted columnist who wrote for the local paper. The columnist was also in a long-term relationship with a lover who did not know about Anne.
Are you following me here?
Lesbian relationships were tangled in that era as we thrilled to new freedoms and experimented with new models. Anne was the Other Woman and I was admonished not to tell anyone. I had practiced nonmonogamy zealously but eventually came to see that being the other woman, especially if you’re in love, spells heartache. I sympathized mutely. It can’t have been easy for her.
I had never tried to romance a cop
We bonded over the internet. I had a new 512K Mac and I wanted to learn to use email. Anne, who used the internet to research crimes and criminals, set me up on AOL. It was dial up. You had to understand acronyms like POP, HTTP and some other things like hardware and software. They all confused the hell out of me, never a tech wizard. I remember receiving my very first email message from Anne. She didn’t say anything sexy, but it was exciting, world changing!
Was there an attraction? Well, sure. Anne was handsome, with shoulder-length dark hair and a muscular physique. She was handy. She had remodeled the Victorian house she owned in the Dogpatch neighborhood. I was impressed, and horny. But I had never romanced a cop. A veteran of protest marches, anti-war and anti-racism campaigns, I had been on the other side of many police barricades. I did not believe all cops were pigs as many did, but my generation of activists will never forget COINTELPRO, the police killing of Fred Hampton and so many others. Not to mention the attacks by the SFPD on our gay and lesbian bars and gathering places.
I was thinking about how I would undress her when she saw the stack of mail on my desk.
By that time I knew Anne well enough to know that we disagreed politically on just about everything. I figured she was one of those women who find it easier to not rock the boat and who identify with their male coworkers in order to survive on the job. Or maybe she’d been brought up in the 50s during the McCarthy era to hate communists. But, I reasoned, we didn’t have to talk politics. Maybe we could just have sex.
I managed to get Anne over to my house to help with AOL and I made lunch. An opening salvo. I imagined us moving into the bedroom after lunch.
I was thinking about how I would undress her when she saw the stack of mail on my desk. Right on top was a newsletter from the Committees of Correspondence, a democratic socialist group I was a member of.
“Are you a communist?” she asked, looking up.
She seemed surprised, but at that time I thought that most lesbians were leftists at least, if not communists. My friends and I were activists trying to rid the world of imperialism, racism and police violence. It wasn’t that weird.
“Well, yes,” I said. “Communist with a small c.”
“I could never be with a communist,” she sputtered.
“But,” I said, “you wouldn’t have to BE with me. We could just have sex.”
The look of horror on her face conjured the pain of the long-term other-woman relationship that I wasn’t supposed to know about. And probably she really did hate communists. She was a cop first and a lesbian second.
My disappointment didn’t last long. It never would have worked out. I hoped Anne would find the right woman, and I wondered if she would tell that woman about her own secret affair with the columnist. I never found out.