Sandy Mesics, October 11, 2021

Dublin Core

Title

Sandy Mesics, October 11, 2021

Description

Sandy Mesics describes her childhood, growing up in Bethlehem, PA; her reflections on Bethlehem Steel, including her father’s employment with the company and working-class steel communities; and her experiences as young transwoman trying to find information in tabloids and books about other transgender people. She discusses her enrollment at Penn State as a physics and later a psychology major; her anti-Vietnam war activism; her gender dysphoria during college; and her journey toward gender affirmation with support from the Erickson Foundation and a doctor in Philadelphia.

Moving to Philadelphia after college because of the large LGBTQ community, Sandy started Image Magazine, worked with Transsexual Action Committee, the Radical Queens, and Eromin Center; in addition, she built a relationship with publishers of Female impersonator Magazine and ultimately worked with publishers to produce articles and publications for transgender readers, beginning 1974-1975. Sandy then describes using her work in publishing to gain employment with W.B. Saunders, a graphic arts company, and as an html coder. Toward the end of the interview, Sandy describes living in Miami, training to be a nurse, becoming a nurse midwife, and meeting her wife. The interview concludes with Sandy’s discussion of moving back to Bethlehem to care for her mother and finding a job at St. Luke’s, training others in maternal-newborn nursing.

Date

2021-10-11

Format

video

Identifier

LGBT-13

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Foltz, Mary

Interviewee

Mesics, Sandra (Sandy)

Duration

01:46:09

OHMS Object Text

5.4 October 11th, 2021 Sandy Mesics, October 11, 2021 LGBT-13 01:46:09 LVLGBT Stories from LGBT Older Adults in the Lehigh Valley Muhlenberg College: Trexler Library Oral History Repository This oral history recording was sponsored in part by the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium, with generous support provided by a grant to Lafayette College from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Mesics, Sandra (Sandy) Foltz, Mary video/mov MesicsSandy_20211011_video.mp4 1:|19(2)|42(11)|57(2)|65(11)|78(1)|88(2)|99(6)|111(5)|122(12)|136(15)|149(3)|160(4)|171(7)|182(6)|196(3)|206(4)|217(8)|230(10)|244(17)|257(7)|269(2)|281(5)|292(10)|302(16)|316(1)|327(2)|337(5)|350(7)|361(6)|371(15)|382(15)|395(7)|406(6)|418(2)|428(10)|438(5)|449(11)|461(3)|472(6)|484(2)|494(16)|508(4)|520(6)|530(5)|544(1)|552(12)|565(7)|578(5)|586(11)|596(8)|607(8)|618(15)|631(1)|647(1)|657(10)|665(11)|676(9)|687(1)|700(2)|712(9)|724(5)|736(12)|748(9)|761(1)|773(12)|785(2)|796(3)|807(1)|818(12)|830(11)|843(7)|855(2)|865(16)|876(15)|886(11)|900(2)|910(8)|918(12)|930(2)|941(4)|953(2)|964(15)|976(9)|986(12)|1000(3)|1012(8)|1024(8)|1036(5)|1048(5)|1059(8)|1070(13)|1081(5)|1092(15)|1102(15)|1117(6)|1126(12)|1138(6)|1149(10)|1160(4)|1171(4)|1180(14)|1193(11)|1203(14)|1218(5)|1228(8)|1249(2) 0 https://youtu.be/tngiiTGigK8 YouTube video 0 Interview Introductions My name is Mary Foltz, and I’m here with Sandy Mesics to talk about her life and experiences in the Lehigh Valley and beyond, as a part of the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Oral History Project. Our project has funding from the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium, and Sandy and I are meeting on October 11, 2021. 141 Early Family Life in Bethlehem, PA Well, I guess to sum things up, I’m a baby boomer. You know, as you know from my birthdate, I fall into that generation. I was born here in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at St. Luke’s Hospital in 1952. My family at that time consisted of my mother, my father, and I have an older brother eight years older than myself. 347 Bethlehem Steel and the Evolution of the City but the Bethlehem Steel obviously was the main employer, and in some ways, it seemed like we were all connected to Bethlehem Steel, you know, either directly or indirectly. 622 Death of Father and Impact on Life My parents were always, well, to go into a little bit of detail, I did not have my father very long in my life. When I was 12 years old, we had a snowstorm, and it was a really bad January snowstorm, but we loved it because I didn’t have to go to school. 798 Childhood Gender Questioning SM: (laughs) Yeah. It’s going to be a short answer, because you know, being a Roman Catholic child growing up in a not major city in the 1950s and 1960s, I had no clue as to difference, biological differences between boys and girls. I mean, I knew what I looked like, I kind of looked like my brother. 928 Finding Trans Representation in Youth I think one of the earliest memories was finding a book by Christine Jorgensen you know, that talked about her change. And ironically, Christine Jorgensen, that news hit in 1952, the year I was born. 1230 College Experience Honestly, I really didn’t get a comprehensive picture of being trans until I went to college. And I went to Penn State, majored in Psychology, as it turned out, and Pattee Library had a wealth of journal articles and some books that were not available commonly to the public, and that’s where I really did my homework, so to speak. 1507 Gender Dysphoria in College My gender dysphoria was getting like you couldn’t believe, because there was no opportunity to slip off and dress the way I wanted to dress, or express myself the way I wanted to dress, which I had been doing since I was a little, little, kid. 1586 The Erickson Foundation There was an organization called the Erickson Foundation. And this was started by Reed Erickson, who was a transman, and he had come into some money because of his parents’ family business, and so he set up a foundation that was supposed to disseminate information for transsexuals in those days, and one of the services they provided was referral lists. 1646 Starting Hormones So, I wrote to them for referrals. And so, they wrote back and sent me a nice letter, and there were three referrals! Three physicians in Pennsylvania that might help me. 1744 Graduating and Moving to Philadelphia So, then I really had no future after college. You know, really, I always joke that having a bachelor’s degree in psychology kind of prepares you to ask people the important questions in life, and the important question being, “Would you like fries with that order?” And that’s exactly what my life was. 1910 Creating Image Magazine And that opportunity came when I started a magazine. And you know, talk about hubris. You know, my friend and I in Philadelphia decided that we wanted to start a magazine for trans folx. And, you know we knew a half a dozen trans folx by that time, but you know, I worked on the school newspaper, I was good at writing could do a rudimentary lay out, and so we established Image Magazine, and it was a quarterly, and it was a grassroots, I typed it at home, you know we sent it over to the printing place a couple blocks away, got it back, fold it, collate it, stapled, mailed it, and it started taking off a little bit, and so that’s sort of my entrance into the trans community and being an activist. 2067 LGBTQ+ Community at Penn State and HOPS Good question, thank you. Yeah, it, Penn State did have a gay bar in those days. It was called the My Oh My, and it was I think on College Avenue. However, I was not able to take advantage of that because I actually graduated from Penn State the day after my 21st birthday. 2224 LGBTQ+ Community in Philadelphia and Eromin So, transitioning over to Philadelphia was like “Ooh!” You know, all of a sudden you know I was meeting trans people in the streets! You know, striking up conversation, like we would see each other at Rittenhouse Square. And so, all of a sudden in Pennsylvania at that time in Philly, the group that I was most associated with was called Radical Queens. 2577 The United Transvestite Transexual Society and Working in Publishing And so, we all got our heads together, and Jack O’Brien, a cisgender male who was a former cartoonist, ran all these publications. And there were a slew of them, and some of them were pretty gross. 2858 The Importance of Erotic Imagery in LGBTQ+ Publications Could you talk a little bit about why erotic fiction, why erotic images really mattered in that time period? Why that was a focus, along with the self-help, along with the conferences, along with political discussion, I imagine. Why did that matter? 3109 Female Impersonator News It was called, and again, Female Impersonator News. And it was a tabloid publication, and a lot of, I should mention, a lot of what we did were personal ads, and you know, in those days, people trying to connect with each other, and you know, you got maybe a post office box and you placed an ad in a magazine like ours, you know maybe send a picture you described yourself, what you were looking for, and we would facilitate like forwarding mail, and that was a big part of what we did. 3263 The Impact of Trans Publications I think it was, I don’t know, just, I wasn’t prepared for the outpouring of letters that I got. You know, and so like we had, we always had letters to the editor that you know we would publish if we thought there was something helpful in there. 3626 Career Post-Image Magazine Yeah, so I parlayed what I learned about publication layout writing and everything and applied for a job at W.B. Saunders company in Philadelphia. And, W.B. Saunders was at that time, I think it still is, a large medical publishing company, and W.B. Saunders had one best seller in their whole career, and I think that was the Kinsey Report. 4144 Exploring Sexual Orientation Segueing into the other question, I always knew that I was attracted to women, even as a kid, and boy that was confusing. You know, so like I want to, you know I am a woman, I want to be a woman, but I love women, and you know, so that was really hard. 4341 Meeting and Dating Future Spouse My spouse and I met in 1985, in Miami. At that time, she was just graduating from the University of Miami’s master’s degree in Nurse Midwifery, and she at that time was exploring her own lesbianism. 4553 Navigating Lesbian Relationships as a Transwoman I had my first, what I would call serious relationship with a woman probably [01:16:00] in Philadelphia in 1978 or so, and we were together for four or five years, and so in that aspect, you know, one of the big discussions among trans people is entering a relationship, do I disclose my trans status? 4907 Moving Back to the Lehigh Valley Okay. So, that pretty much brings us up to the year 2000. And what is happening at that time is Sara is working in a clinic in Broward County, and is not real happy with her job situation. 5169 Relationship with Mother As I said, way in the background, even though my mom was born in the United State, she basically grew up in Hungary, and then moved back to the States. And she had basically the equivalent of a grade school education, I don’t think, she didn’t have high school. 5696 Evolution of the Leigh Valley cont. As I said, think the industries are, not to say industries, but the professions in like the learning institutions, the medical care brings a more professional kind of class of people. I’m sorry, I’m sounding elitist there, and I don’t mean that by any means, but it’s a place that’s culturally rich now, where it hadn’t been before. You know, we have world-class music. 5925 Hope for the Future and Closing Thoughts I think if anything, I am so hopeful for the future. When I see young non-binary kids not afraid to express their gender identity, not having to buy, you know, one or the other, you know, gender is everything in between, and that’s okay, it’s like wow! MovingImage Sandy Mesics describes her childhood, growing up in Bethlehem, PA ; her reflections on Bethlehem Steel, including her father’s employment with the company and working-class steel communities ; and her experiences as young transwoman trying to find information in tabloids and books about other transgender people. She discusses her enrollment at Penn State as a physics and later a psychology major ; her anti-Vietnam war activism ; her gender dysphoria during college ; and her journey toward gender affirmation with support from the Erickson Foundation and a doctor in Philadelphia. Moving to Philadelphia after college because of the large LGBTQ community, Sandy started Image Magazine, worked with Transsexual Action Committee, the Radical Queens, and Eromin Center ; in addition, she built a relationship with publishers of Female impersonator Magazine and ultimately worked with publishers to produce articles and publications for transgender readers, beginning 1974-1975. Sandy then describes using her work in publishing to gain employment with W.B. Saunders, a graphic arts company, and as an html coder. Toward the end of the interview, Sandy describes living in Miami, training to be a nurse, becoming a nurse midwife, and meeting her wife. The interview concludes with Sandy’s discussion of moving back to Bethlehem to care for her mother and finding a job at St. Luke’s, training others in maternal-newborn nursing. Sandy Mesics Interview October 11, 2021 MARY FOLTZ: My name is Mary Foltz, and I&#039 ; m here with Sandy Mesics to talk about her life and experiences in the Lehigh Valley and beyond, as a part of the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Oral History Project. Our project has funding from the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium, and Sandy and I are meeting on October 11, 2021. We&#039 ; re conducting this interview on Zoom, because there&#039 ; s still a pandemic going on, so we think this is the safest way to conduct interviews at this time. And I want to start by saying, Sandy! Thank you so much for being here with me today! SANDY MESICS:It&#039 ; s a pleasure, Mary. I&#039 ; m glad to be participating in this project. I hope I have something worthwhile to share with you. MF: Well, I&#039 ; m really looking forward to it. I want to start just by getting some basic information down. Would you be willing to state your full name, please, and spell it for us? SM: Sure. My full name is Sandra Mesics. M-E-S-I-C-S, although I prefer Sandy. MF: Thank you. And will you please share your birthdate? SM: Yes, March 23, 1952. MF: Thank you. And, I know I already shared with you a consent form, and you signed it, and then I signed it on my end, but I just want to review just a few items about consent. So, first, do you consent to this interview today? SM: I do. MF: Do you consent to having this interview being transcribed, digitized, and made publicly available online? SM: Yes. MF: Do you consent to the LGBT Archive using your interview for educational purposes in other formats, including articles or on websites, presentations, or other formats that might come along? SM: Yes. MF: And do you understand that you&#039 ; ll have 30 days after the electronic delivery of the transcript of this interview to identify parts you might want to delete, or you could withdraw the interview in its entirety if you wanted? SM: Yes, I do. MF: Great! Okay, thank you so much. So, we&#039 ; ll just go ahead and dive in. So, Sandy could you start by telling us a little bit about the early years of your life? SM: Well, I guess to sum things up, I&#039 ; m a baby boomer. You know, as you know from my birthdate, I fall into that generation. I was born here in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at St. Luke&#039 ; s Hospital in 1952. My family at that time consisted of my mother, my father, and I have an older brother eight years older than myself. So, I came along, and you know I guess the doctor in those days took a look at what was between my legs and assigned me as a male at birth. And I think it took a little while for me to realize that there was a real disconnect there, but you know, we can cover that in some detail. So, 1957, at that time we lived in Fountain Hill, my dad and mom basically, my dad was a Bethlehem Steel worker. He was a first generation American. Both grandparents on both sides of my family immigrated from Europe in the early 1900s to seek a better life. And so, my dad was the first generation born here in America, as well as my mother. My mother was born in Northhampton, but then immigrated back to Europe, and basically my mom grew up in Hungary, and didn&#039 ; t get back to the United States until I think the 1930s at that time, and then settled here. My mom at that time when I was born was a domestic servant. She worked for one of the vice presidents of Bethlehem Steel, and her job was to cook meals, do the shopping, and in those days, the steel executives had quite a staff of domestic workers, and my mom was one of them. My older brother I mentioned is eight years older than myself, he&#039 ; s still alive and living in Florida, and we do keep in touch occasionally, although we never really had a close relationship. Both parents were, I was raised a Roman Catholic, and in those days Bethlehem, particularly on the South Side had a lot of ethnic churches, a lot of Roman Catholic churches. And a lot of them are still standing, although they&#039 ; re pretty much defunct right now. And we were members of St. Joseph&#039 ; s Roman Catholic Church on Fifth Street, which was a Windish church, which Windish, it&#039 ; s hard to explain, but it&#039 ; s some kind of amalgam of Hungarian and Slovak backgrounds. All that European, Eastern European mix that used to get jumbled up every time they had a war over there. And so, that was the milieu in which I was born and raised. Subsequently, we moved to the North side of Bethlehem, where my mom and dad actually built the house I grew up in. So, as a little kid I remember carrying around hammers and drinking lemonade on the building site, and it was a family affair. So, I can tell you that Bethlehem in the early 1960s was a booming place, an industrial center. It&#039 ; s hard to conceive of it anymore, but the Bethlehem Steel obviously was the main employer, and in some ways, it seemed like we were all connected to Bethlehem Steel, you know, either directly or indirectly. The steel company pretty much ran 24/7, 365. It never shut down. And as I look back, I can still hear the sounds of the steel running at night. I can still see the glow on the horizon from the blast furnaces. It had this orange glow most of the time, smoke spewing into the air, and on a really humid day where the wind was out of the East, you got the wonderful aroma of the Coke Works outside of Hellertown, which was a sulfuric smell. So, you know, in many ways, Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley has really improved as far as a quality-of-life thing, even though we kind of miss the industry. I really don&#039 ; t miss the noise, the smoke, and the pollution. And you know, the steel provided a great living for a lot of steel workers like my dad, who had a high school education, and could go right to work in the steel, he had a trade, and there were good benefits thanks to the union, and they were able to raise kids, and they were able to keep a roof over our heads, and keep us clothed and fed, and actually my brother was the first one in our family to go to college. And you know, I followed along eight years later, and they were very proud of that achievement. So, I&#039 ; m digressing. Put me back on track, Mary. MF: I don&#039 ; t think you&#039 ; re digressing at all. That description of what it was like to live in Bethlehem with the steel works was amazing, and you&#039 ; re really capturing both how central the steel was to the economy, how it benefited laborers, but then the environmental costs of having the steel works at the center. SM: Yeah, the Bethlehem Steel that, a lot of the folks that worked there that are still walking around, you know, they&#039 ; re blaming everybody else on the demise of Bethlehem Steel, and truly it was multi-factored. You know, the company failed to invest in newer technology to compete with Europe and Japan, but by the same token, the union kind of drove some deals that made it very hard for the steel to make money. So, I honestly think it was everybody&#039 ; s fault, and it was almost inevitable that the steel would have a demise, and I think that was the amazing thing. Because when I left the Lehigh Valley in 1969 to go to college, the steel was running full blast. When I moved back to the Lehigh Valley as an older adult, back in the year 2000, it was gone. And but yet the Lehigh Valley survived, and I think is thriving, because of other smaller businesses that have moved into the area. We&#039 ; ve become an educational mecca, with all the colleges, and universities. Certainly, a healthcare mecca, which we didn&#039 ; t have back then, so I am thrilled at the course that the Lehigh Valley has taken, and it thrives. And a lot of us could not have imagined that happening, you know, if the steel had gone away. MF: So, the steel was central to your family, in terms of you know, keeping a roof over your head, as you shared. What was it like to be in a steel family as a young child? SM: (laughs) The steel was a close-knit community in some ways, you know. You know, my dad worked there, my uncle worked there, and other relatives. And for instance, when my dad was building our house, it wasn&#039 ; t unusual for him to get his buddies from the crew that he worked with to help put the roof on the house. And there was always a buddy that could fix your car, or replace your brakes, or there was always somebody, you know, so it was kind of, those guys had this like kind of a knit community. And they helped each other a lot, and they were always working on projects for each other. So, that was really kind of interesting, and I think we miss that to a certain extent these days. I don&#039 ; t think we have that sense of tight community. My parents were always, well, to go into a little bit of detail, I did not have my father very long in my life. When I was 12 years old, we had a snowstorm, and it was a really bad January snowstorm, but we loved it because I didn&#039 ; t have to go to school. And for whatever reason, my dad was either not working that day, or couldn&#039 ; t get into work or whatever, and so we had a nice day together, but then we went out to shovel snow, and my dad came in with chest pains, and you know, he a neighbor-- a neighbor, not an ambulance, a neighbor took him to the hospital, and he never came home. So, that was kind of a sudden shock to all of us that we had lost this you know, my father. And it took kind of a long time to get over that. So, when, just before my dad died and my brother started going to college, my mom started working for Just Born as a candy packer. And so, Just Born is still around, and thriving in the Lehigh Valley, and so my mom became a line worker at Just Born, and so my brother was away at college at that time. He was in his late teens/early twenties, and so we had living in my house myself, my mother, and my paternal grandmother, which was like a really interesting dynamic, but a lot of the day-to-day running of the house, maintenance of the house, mowing the lawns and everything, kind of fell to me because there was nobody else to do it. So, for myself personally, it was like almost growing up overnight. You know, you kind of like left this sheltered childhood thing and all of a sudden you had responsibilities. And then, you know, life was still okay but a little precarious. There wasn&#039 ; t always money to do things, but we made do, and we did very well. You know, it kind of pulled the rest of us tighter together. So many years ago, and I still sort of get emotional about talking about that. Nobody expects, you know, your dad to go out the door and never come back the door again, so. MF: Wow. Thank you for sharing that, that story. It sounds to me like you know, following your father&#039 ; s death, you really became a figure in the family that was expected to do maintenance, kind of labor around the house, and this led me to think a little bit about, or wonder about how your family understood gender when you were a child. Would you be willing to explore that a bit? SM: Yeah. It&#039 ; s going to be a short answer, because you know, being a Roman Catholic child growing up in a not major city in the 1950s and 1960s, I had no clue as to difference, biological differences between boys and girls. I mean, I knew what I looked like, I kind of looked like my brother. I didn&#039 ; t know what girls looked like, I didn&#039 ; t, you know, but I just knew that there, you know-- One of my earliest memories is thinking to myself, and I must have been about four years old, and seeing little girls around me and going &quot ; when do I get to join that team?&quot ; You know? I always assumed that there would come a time in my life, early on, where I would be able to be like picked for that team, like you were picked for a basketball team. You know, you&#039 ; d stand in a line, and I want to be on the girls&#039 ; team because that&#039 ; s where I belong, and it just never happened. And so, I had no clue as to like gender differences. My mom, you know, with basically less than a high school education wasn&#039 ; t able to talk to me about that. She didn&#039 ; t understand. And so, I was kind of lost, and I had to sort of figure things out by myself, and I knew that there was this major disconnect, and when I was about five years old, it dawned on me that I was never going to get that chance to choose, and I was never going to get the chance to choose and I was never going to develop in that direction, and what do I do now? And so like, the rest of the time into my teens that&#039 ; s what I was trying to figure out. It&#039 ; s like, am I stuck this way? Do I have to lead my life in this gender and be totally unhappy? Is there any way that you know after the fact that I can switch genders? Which at that time might as well have been talking about, you know, walking on Mars, because you know, there wasn&#039 ; t. There was no information. And then gradually, gradually I started to connect with things, and I think one of the earliest memories was finding a book by Christine Jorgensen you know, that talked about her change. And ironically, Christine Jorgensen, that news hit in 1952, the year I was born. And so, I have a wonderful story, talk about full circle, is I got to meet Christine and have a discussion with her when she was older in life and just told her how her story gave me life and hope. But anyway, I started finding out about that probably in my early teens, and then the little lightbulb went on and said, there are other people like myself. I&#039 ; m not alone. But even that, you thought to yourself, well maybe there&#039 ; s a half a dozen people like myself, maybe, in the world. And so, that was how it kind of evolved. And then gradually in my high school years, there were these things called tabloids, and there were dozens of them. And so, their idea was like splashy news stories. Titillating kind of things, and they were all The National Examiner, the National Enquirer, the Insider. It was trash journalism at its best. And they kind of like hooked on to trans people very early on, and would splash these pictures on the front page about &quot ; Can you believe this is a man?&quot ; With a picture of a lovely woman on the cover. And my eyes kind of bugged out when I started seeing this stuff, and so every Sunday morning after church we would make a trip to the store, and we&#039 ; d buy the Philadelphia Enquirer, and the Allentown Chronicle, whatever, and I would find these tabloids and kind of stash them in between the papers and kind of steal them. So here&#039 ; s an admission, you know, I hope they don&#039 ; t come after me, but I would be able to do that and then get them home and kind of take them out right away before anybody else could see them, and like pore over these newspapers and this stuff. And it was like a desperate attempt to kind of glean some information about you know, there are other people like me, how are they managing their lives? How do they do this? And so, you know it took a while, but then gradually I started putting the pieces together. And then in the late 1960s I ran across Harry Benjamin&#039 ; s book, The Transexual Phenomenon. And obviously that was a real game changer, and it was a game changer for the whole trans community. I mean, how many of us were saved by that book? Bring me back on track, Mary. (laughs) MF: You&#039 ; re on track. We&#039 ; re just going to go wherever you want to go. Can I ask, did you hear about Christine Jorgensen from the tabloids, or you said, &quot ; I found something about her.&quot ; Where were you finding information beyond the tabloids? Was there a place in the Lehigh Valley, or? SM:Yeah, so I think the Christine Jorgensen book when I found it was already out in paperback, and I think I found it at a department store in probably one of the defunct department-- like Almart or one of the stores that no longer exists, and they would have like little things you could buy record albums, and you could buy books, and you know, dinnerware and stuff like that. And I spotted this on the shelf, and somehow at the age of 11 or 12 I had the courage, screwed up the courage, to take this book, with my hand shaking, and go to the counter and pay for it, which was like &quot ; Ehh! They&#039 ; re going to think I&#039 ; m weird.&quot ; So, I found that out. And then there were, in those days, there were newsstands all throughout Bethlehem, and my favorite one was on, I think it was on New Street, and it was Sherry&#039 ; s News Stand. And again, you could go in the front, and they had all the newspapers lined up, but in the back corner, they had Playboy, Penthouse, they had you know the &quot ; adult magazines&quot ; and I ran across a copy of Female Impersonator Magazine. And irony of irony, I would actually become the editor of that magazine in a few years. So, yes. I found that also when I was a teenager, and I don&#039 ; t know if I figured out a way to steal that, because I&#039 ; m pretty sure he probably wouldn&#039 ; t have sold it to me if you know I wasn&#039 ; t old enough to read that kind of stuff. But so, there were newsstands, occasionally you&#039 ; d find things in stores, grocery stores would have the tabloids. There was nothing in the library, believe me, I looked, in those days, and that was of no help at all. So, you kind of, it was a pre-internet age and there wasn&#039 ; t that flood of information. There was no information superhighway in those days, but you kind of gleaned what you could. Honestly, I really didn&#039 ; t get a comprehensive picture of being trans until I went to college. And I went to Penn State, majored in Psychology, as it turned out, and Pattee Library had a wealth of journal articles and some books that were not available commonly to the public, and that&#039 ; s where I really did my homework, so to speak. MF: Tell me a little bit about moving to Penn State. So, what made you choose Penn State, and what was your experience like in college? SM: Okay. Good question, thank you. I was a science nerd in high school, and you know, going back a little bit, so I went to a parochial Roman Catholic grade school grades one to eight, and then my mother, to her credit, thought that the education that I was getting there wasn&#039 ; t on par with what I could get in the public education, and so in ninth grade I went to Northeast Middle School, which at that time was Northeast Junior High School, and then Liberty High School which, I mean you know, the big public high school in Bethlehem. All during that time I had developed a passion and an interest in astronomy, which you know, carries through to this day. I was a member of the Lehigh Valley Amateur Astronomical Society as a kid, and I am a member today again. So, at any rate, I went to Penn State because, number one, we could afford it. Number two, we could afford it. Number three, we could afford it. I benefited, you can say benefit is the right word, I benefited from social security survivor benefits because my father was, had died at such an early age. So, between scholarships, state aid, and my own working during the summer times, I was basically able to graduate from college without a dollar of debt, which, you know, who can do that these days? Nobody can do that. So anyway, I went to Penn State basically because I was admitted there, and it was close by, relatively, and we could afford it. We could swing it as a family. So anyways, I started out as a physics major and so Penn State in those days was culture shock for me, coming from the Lehigh Valley. I mean, I was thrown in with I think the student body then was maybe 26,000, something like that. I was living in a dorm. Living independently, which I loved. And tossed into this milieu of learning, which was like awesome, but it was also, 1969 was also the time when we had lots of things happen. You know, you had Woodstock that summer, we had man walking on the moon, but more important we had Vietnam. And I was eligible for the draft. And so, the only reason I was able to stay out of Vietnam was if I could stay in college. Because there were student deferments at that time. The selective service at that time was very racist, and very classist. If you were a poor black kid from an inner city, you went to Vietnam. You were drafted. If you were white and could get yourself into some kind of college, you were deferred until college was over. So, you know, there was inherent racism built into that whole system, and classism. It was horrible. So, you know, I spent more time my first two years in college being an activist in anti-Vietnam War protests, campus protests. I worked with the Peace Coalition. I met people like Abbie Hoffman, you know, not Abbie Hoffman, but some of the Chicago Seven: Dave Dellinger, William Kuntsler, Rennie Davis, so I was in this very much mode of let&#039 ; s end the war in Vietnam. My studies kind of suffered as a result, and I didn&#039 ; t last as a physics major very long. I think I made it maybe two or three semesters, and then I changed my major to psychology. And you know, a lot of us go into psychology because we have our own demons to work on, and certainly that was true in my case. So, at Penn State for the first two years, I lived on campus. My gender dysphoria was getting like you couldn&#039 ; t believe, because there was no opportunity to slip off and dress the way I wanted to dress, or express myself the way I wanted to dress, which I had been doing since I was a little, little, kid. And all of a sudden in this men&#039 ; s dorm, you know, I was kind of lost. It was a really bad time. So, my third and fourth year I moved off campus into an apartment, where I had a little bit more personal freedom. And so, it was the first time I actually was able to go out in public as Sandy and just kind of blend into things, because it was a big enough community that I could kind of get lost there. So, I did, eventually I graduated from Penn State. I wrote most of my psychology papers in the day what we call &quot ; transvestism&quot ; and &quot ; transsexualism.&quot ; We didn&#039 ; t have the term transgender yet, that came along a little bit later. And so, that was my experience at Penn State. My senior year at Penn State, which was in 1972 I believe, 72, 73, the dysphoria, my gender dysphoria got so bad that I finally sought out professional help. There was an organization called the Erickson Foundation. And this was started by Reed Erickson, who was a transman, and he had come into some money because of his parents&#039 ; family business, and so he set up a foundation that was supposed to disseminate information for transsexuals in those days, and one of the services they provided was referral lists. And so, again, pre-internet days, where do I go to get help? He would, his group would compile lists of doctors that were doing some form of trans care in the day. The only place we really knew about, everybody kind of knew about what Johns Hopkins was doing. You know, with the first Gender Identity Clinic, and I think Stanford on the West Coast started up at the same time. But other than that, there really was not much information out there, and Johns Hopkins actually treated very few patients, you know in the long run. They, it was a small program. But again, I digress. So, I wrote to them for referrals. And so, they wrote back and sent me a nice letter, and there were three referrals! Three physicians in Pennsylvania that might help me. Two were in Pittsburgh, and one was in Philadelphia, and I lived more close to the Philadelphia side, so I drove from Penn State to Philadelphia, met the physician who was a Doctor of Osteopathy Family Physician. Had a little street corner practice in South Philly, in the Italian area, and he got into this whole thing because one of the kids in the neighborhood was trans, came to him and &quot ; I need help with hormones,&quot ; and he started treating trans people. And it grew and grew and grew, and I think by the time I got to him, he probably had about 300 trans patients in Philly. So, he was the trans doctor in Philly. And so, he could not believe that I had driven I guess, what is it? 180 or 200 miles to see him for treatment. I was 20 years old. And he did a quick interview, we talked for about 45 minutes, and he started me on hormone treatments. And so, by the time I graduated from Penn State in 1973, I&#039 ; d been on hormones for about six months, changes were starting to happen, and the minute those changes started to happen, this sense of calm kind of came over me that I can&#039 ; t describe. And so, the last few months of my college experience were awesome. And so, that was the story. So, then I really had no future after college. You know, really, I always joke that having a bachelor&#039 ; s degree in psychology kind of prepares you to ask people the important questions in life, and the important question being, &quot ; Would you like fries with that order?&quot ; And that&#039 ; s exactly what my life was. So, you know, the one good thing was by the time I graduated from college, they had ended the draft and Vietnam was winding down, so I dodged, literally dodged a bullet there, and so tossing a coin in the air, I moved to Philadelphia. It was a place where my doctor was, it was a place that was big enough that I could disappear and you know get the help I need, hopefully find a job that I needed, and transition in anonymity. Because this would have not flown in the Lehigh Valley at the time. Getting back to the Lehigh Valley, it was still kind of a, I don&#039 ; t know, provincial place. You know, growing up I didn&#039 ; t even know if there was a gay bar in the Lehigh Valley in the time I was here. I didn&#039 ; t know other gay people ; I certainly didn&#039 ; t know another trans person in the Lehigh Valley. It wasn&#039 ; t here. But in Philadelphia, you know, Stonewall there was a burgeoning gay community, it was getting very political, which was kind of cool, and so you know, there were resources for me there. So, even though it was kind of difficult, I only knew like one or two people that lived in Philly, but kind of got myself established, worked all kinds of odd jobs at first. My favorite one being at the time was, I made sandwiches in a gourmet deli in Downtown Philly, and I take pride in the fact that the place that I worked for, voted Best Hoagie in Philadelphia in 1973, which is no small accomplishment. And I got to make those hoagies every day. I mean it was, they did an amazing lunch business, and they actually put quality stuff in their sandwiches, but that was, again I digress, but you know, this is what you have to do to kind of like put food on the table and do your best. And in those days in Philly, I was sort of spending half my time in my male role, and half the time in my female role, trying to sort things out, and of course you know, if you&#039 ; re going to transition, you have to completely transition, so I was looking for a way to ditch the old identity and just be Sandy full time. And that opportunity came when I started a magazine. And you know, talk about hubris. You know, my friend and I in Philadelphia decided that we wanted to start a magazine for trans folx. And, you know we knew a half a dozen trans folx by that time, but you know, I worked on the school newspaper, I was good at writing could do a rudimentary lay out, and so we established Image Magazine, and it was a quarterly, and it was a grassroots, I typed it at home, you know we sent it over to the printing place a couple blocks away, got it back, fold it, collate it, stapled, mailed it, and it started taking off a little bit, and so that&#039 ; s sort of my entrance into the trans community and being an activist. So, we had articles from people all over the world, we published stuff that correspondence in England, and I got involved with the Transsexual Action Organization, which was, they were trying to establish chapters in major cities, they had started in Miami. Angela Douglas, who&#039 ; s a very controversial and fascinating person, if you ever get a chance to research this person, wow. She was obviously schizophrenic but managed to be a pretty ground-breaking trans activist. SO, for all the good and the bad, she accomplished something, but she was mean as a whoo! I probably shouldn&#039 ; t say that because, well, you know, Angela is gone and she&#039 ; s not likely to, but had I said this and if Angela was still alive, you could be sure she would find a way to kick my ass, so. Yeah. She was that way. She threatened everybody, so. And so, Mary I&#039 ; m digressing again. Bring me back to home. MF: You&#039 ; re not digressing because this is all just fabulous. I have so many different questions that are popping around in my mind, and I&#039 ; m wondering about this relationship between the community at Penn State, and then what you found in Philly, because you did say at Penn State that you were able, once you moved off campus, to really embrace Sandy, and so, was there a community there? What was the relationship between trans people and the gay community? And then, how did that small kind of State College area differ from what you found in Philly? SM: Good question, thank you. Yeah, it, Penn State did have a gay bar in those days. It was called the My Oh My, and it was I think on College Avenue. However, I was not able to take advantage of that because I actually graduated from Penn State the day after my 21st birthday. So, you know, I knew it was there, but I couldn&#039 ; t get in. And in those days, you know, given that it&#039 ; s a college town, they carded pretty universally, because they had a lot to lose. So, if you were under 21, you didn&#039 ; t get into a bar. So, I did not have that perspective, although I knew there were gay people around. I knew maybe about three or four gay and trans people at Penn State, but we were not a close-knit group in any means, and as a side story, when I was at Penn State, I worked for the Daily Collegian. I was a reporter for the daily student newspaper, and at that time they assigned me to cover the first homophile at Penn State. In those days they used the homophile terminology, and it was, homophiles of Penn State were HOPS. They were trying to get a charter from the administration at Penn State to organize, have meeting space, and be a recognized organization, and Penn State was having none of it. I know. And this was 1972, 1973, and I actually kept some of the articles I wrote about it. So, finally I think HOPS appealed to the Graduate Student Association, that was much more progressive, and they were able to do an end-around, but I think you can google that early history of Homophiles at Penn State and get a really clear picture of how hard it was. And you know, we&#039 ; re talking about, &#039 ; 72 is like three years past Stonewall, gay liberation was just starting to kind of get is wings, but again, Penn State you know, all said and done at that time, it was still a pretty conservative place. You know, you had a lot of agriculture majors, a lot of engineering majors, a lot of folks from the central parts of Pennsylvania, and so it was like this melting pot, but it was by no means a bastion of liberal thought. Although you had it, it wasn&#039 ; t pervasive. So, transitioning over to Philadelphia was like &quot ; Ooh!&quot ; You know, all of a sudden you know I was meeting trans people in the streets! You know, striking up conversation, like we would see each other at Rittenhouse Square. And so, all of a sudden in Pennsylvania at that time in Philly, the group that I was most associated with was called Radical Queens. And Radical Queens was really, really progressive. In fact, they were like into destroying the patriarchy and starting to view gender as non-binary before it was like cool to look at it that way, and so they were really kind of ahead of the curve. They did some, and I think Tommi Avicolli Mecca is still around. I think he lives in the Bay Area, but he was a driving force in that, and you know, I learned a lot from Tommi in the Radical Queens in Philly. We tried starting the first, it was called the Eromin Center in Philly, which was supposed to be like the first sit-in space, providing some level of services to the LBGT community. Eromin standing for Erotic Minority, E-R-O-M-I-N, and so that was kind of like the predecessor of the William Way Center, and the predecessor of the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia. It was the fledgling efforts that we had made in the 70s to do something for health and such. So, it wasn&#039 ; t until you know I was in a large urban environment that I was able to actually blossom a little bit, and you know, tap into resources, and create resources. So, that was the fun part. MF: When you get to Philly, are you part of Radical Queens first before you start the publication? Or is it, is this all kind of happening at the same time? SM: (laughs) Yeah, I honestly can&#039 ; t remember. To my 69-year-old mind, it all kind of happened at the same time, although you know, had you asked me 20 years ago, I might have said, &quot ; Well this happened first, and this happened second.&quot ; But it basically was kind of all, the connections, the synapses were happening so quickly, and so it was a great time to be an activist. Now, again, you know, Philadelphia, we think of it in you know 21st Century terms as a very liberal city, but you have to remember, when I lived there, the Chief of Police was Frank Rizzo, who later became Mayor, and he was not LBGT friendly. I mean, in Philadelphia while they tolerated it, you had to be very careful, because every time for instance, every time he&#039 ; d run for office or you know, something was coming down, they&#039 ; d raid the gay bars. And you know, it was just, so it was dicey. And I tell people, when I tell this to younger people, they just can&#039 ; t, they can&#039 ; t put their minds around this, but when I lived in Philadelphia, every time I went out the front door as Sandy, I was breaking the law. There were impersonation laws still on the books, so that if some random cop pointed to me on the street and I couldn&#039 ; t produce ID that was in line with my presentation, I got taken in. And it did happen, it did happen. I came close a couple times, but fortunately I never ended up in jail, but you could be arrested for just expressing your true gender, and you know, I can&#039 ; t begin to like impress upon young people how dicey that was in the day, and what a head trip it, you know, it played with you, you know. You had to kind of like scope out every move you were going to make, where you were going to go, who you were going to be with, and just sort of you were always on guard. You were always, you know, it was not great. And again, groups were advocating to change that kind of law, and you know we were flaunting it in some cases, so you know, I think eventually you know, they saw that that was really stupid. We all carried, those of us that were on hormones, we all carried like these little carry letters from our doctors saying this is why we were dressing this way and everything, they had no legal bearing, but you know it was like a little, I don&#039 ; t know, gave you a little sense of false security I suppose. I kept mine for a long time, I think I might still have it somewhere. Yeah, yeah. So. Again, so in Philly all this was sort of happening at the same time, I was making connections, I was getting out, you know, you had things happening socially and, in the media, you know the Rocky Horror Picture Show, you had Pink Flamingos. The first trans person I ever met was Elizabeth Coffey from that movie. I don&#039 ; t know if any of you remember the famous scene-- yes, yes, I won&#039 ; t describe it here because this is probably a family audience but let us just say that Elizabeth was pre-operative at the time, and kind of showed it. And so, she was a delightful, delightful person, and we became pretty good friends in Philadelphia. She had moved there after the movie came out and wow, she was just absolutely gorgeous, and had her head screwed on straight, and just gave me sage advice, and you know, I can&#039 ; t thank her enough. So, my magazine sort of came to the attention of Female Impersonator Magazine, and they were like the big ones, and they were trying to organize something called The United Transvestite Transexual Society. UTTS. And so, we all got our heads together, and Jack O&#039 ; Brien, a cisgender male who was a former cartoonist, ran all these publications. And there were a slew of them, and some of them were pretty gross. And so, he offered me at first the use of his facilities to type-set, do camera work, and actually make my publication look a little more professional, and I on the other hand would write for him and do some photography and go out into the field, and cover some events in the day, and so we sort of, that kind of melded into like, &quot ; Hey, why don&#039 ; t you come work for me full time, and we&#039 ; ll put out all these publications together?&quot ; And so, that happened in like the late 70s, 74, 75. It gave me the opportunity to be Sandy 24/7. Qualified for surgery, and all that, and so that was like really how I kind of came on to the national scene as an editor and publisher of trans material at the time. MF: Can you talk a little bit about, what were you covering in the early years of that publication? What were the big articles, you know, what were the topics that really mattered to you as an editor and writer, and other writers that you were publishing? SM: There was a lot of self-help stuff. And I have to say, our bias in those days was mostly trans-women. Was basically, the trans-men started to emerge, but frankly our focus in those early days was mostly trans-women. So, a lot of self-help. How to do make up. How to, you know, what are the best hair removal methods. We started publishing lists of providers that you know would help people. Erotic fiction. I always said that you know my real forte was writing erotic fiction that could be read with one hand. Yeah. And so, a lot of that. The events that we would cover were things like drag balls, you know, which precede our, what is it called now? Culture... Drag culture... Ballroom culture, that&#039 ; s it. We covered the early drag balls, and those were kind of interesting. We covered occasionally conferences. There were early conferences, you know like the one in Massachusetts with Ariadne Kane, and this emerging kind of you know, serious discussion about transitions. We covered that sort of thing. I was covering Mardi Gras. I covered the first Fantasia Fair in Cape Cod. So, there was a lot to cover, and what I couldn&#039 ; t cover, we got people to send us stuff from like what was going on in the West Coast, and so it was just like gathering steam, and we were getting everything out there, it was amazing. So, I was kept kind of busy and you know, some of the stuff that I shot was like R-rated, sex, I would call it that. You know, we had strict guidelines as to what we could photograph and what we couldn&#039 ; t. You know, nudity was absolutely okay, but you couldn&#039 ; t have anything going into anything else, so that was a red flag no no, so we kind of like worked within those confines. And looking back on it, honestly, I&#039 ; m kind of like, I cringe a little bit, because the quality is pretty crude by today&#039 ; s standards, but it was eye-opening in the day, and it was kind of like earth-shattering. Oh! Things like movie reviews, you know, I mentioned a couple movies. We did that. There was Dog Day Afternoon came out, we reviewed that. We tried to get an interview with the woman Liz whose story it was based on. I think we did. Book reviews. You name it. We covered it if we could find out about it. MF: I think as you were talking about you know the import of erotic fiction, the import of images, and yeah, they&#039 ; re in the 70s, but who cares about the crudeness of the technology, it&#039 ; s like, these are really important things to be publishing, they&#039 ; re important images to capture. Could you talk a little bit about why erotic fiction, why erotic images really mattered in that time period? Why that was a focus, along with the self-help, along with the conferences, along with political discussion, I imagine. Why did that matter? SM: Yeah, it mattered because we produced, it was kind of like a two-pronged thing, okay? So, we produced the magazines and the books, but we didn&#039 ; t distribute most of them. For that we went to Star Distributors in New York. Star Distributors was run by Italian families. And so, they sort of controlled the high-end printing presses and then distribution to adult bookstores, and through their mail order sales. And so, while we would produce content, if they decided not to distribute it, you know, so in order for them to get it into the stores to sell, you had to have the erotic content. So, they didn&#039 ; t mind that we packed it with other information at the time, so that was okay, the editorial content. And we always kind of did a fine line there. We always included something, because, not to digress even further, but at that time the Supreme Court handed down a decision regarding what was pornography and what was not pornography, and for instance that&#039 ; s why we didn&#039 ; t show actual penetrative sex, or anything like that. But the caveat was that as long as it had quote-unquote &quot ; redeeming social value,&quot ; it wasn&#039 ; t pornography. And so, my job in part, was to provide the content that was meaningful social content: self-help, articles you know, and so that&#039 ; s how we had this meld of material. Now that being said, we did put out some stuff that was like not erotic, and basically more self-help and stuff, but we distributed that ourselves through mail order, because we didn&#039 ; t have restrictions in those days, and so you know, that&#039 ; s kind of how we maneuvered that whole thing. It was all about, and again, in the days before the internet and the days before desktop publishing, whoever had the printing presses and the means to distribute, called the shots. MF: That makes sense. I was thinking about, so there were, sort of the printing presses dictated some of the content. I was thinking about when I first saw, as a young lesbian, the On Our Back publication, how important that was to me as a reader. I wasn&#039 ; t thinking about, you know, like how other LGBTQ publications might have used erotic content based on you know what the publisher was requiring. But from a reader&#039 ; s perspective, I feel like those publications were ground-breaking, in a way because you just didn&#039 ; t see it anywhere. Even for myself, in the 90s, that&#039 ; s when I came out, was in the 90s, you know I just had no representation of the kind of eroticism that I was envisioning in my own head, so there&#039 ; s something so powerful about those publications to me as a reader, and I cannot wait to look at them, Sandy. I can&#039 ; t wait to kind of go into the archives and see some of the publications you were involved with. SM: Yeah, our biggest breakthrough was we actually did a newspaper, and it came out on an infrequent basis, but actually more frequent than anything else we did. It was called, and again, Female Impersonator News. And it was a tabloid publication, and a lot of, I should mention, a lot of what we did were personal ads, and you know, in those days, people trying to connect with each other, and you know, you got maybe a post office box and you placed an ad in a magazine like ours, you know maybe send a picture you described yourself, what you were looking for, and we would facilitate like forwarding mail, and that was a big part of what we did. And you know, we made money from that because, you know, it wasn&#039 ; t a lot of money, but it was like this steady little trickle of income, and so almost every publication we ever did had a personal ad section in it. And again, you know, I think it was you know, of course people trying to find each other for sex, but it was also building of a community that you know, that&#039 ; s what we were doing. And by the way, On Our Backs is one of the finest lesbian publications. I used to hang out at the bookstore waiting for the next issue to come out. I read that, you know, that was like, &quot ; Whoo!&quot ; Yes. Enjoyed that tremendously. That was a ground-breaking lesbian publication. They were not afraid to show erotic content in (inaudible). MF: Mm-hmm, yeah. Definitely. Well, I wonder if-- I felt the same way about that publication. (inaudible) right now. I wonder if you could, just reflecting back now, on the import of your work in publishing, in various formats, and in various roles, what do you, when you look back, what do you think were the major contributions of those publications? SM: Hmm. MF: I mean, I have some idea, but I&#039 ; m just interested in you thinking about how, why did they matter? And I want, if you feel too humble, because you are so humble, you know you could just think about that publishing era, because there were other publications, other editors and writers that you were connecting with too, and like you were a part of that. What was the import of that kind of publishing arm that was both catering to trans communities, but also engaging in sharing information, medical information, the kind of self-help that you already talked about, and there&#039 ; s a political undertone there too, you know.SM: I, huh. I think it was, I don&#039 ; t know, just, I wasn&#039 ; t prepared for the outpouring of letters that I got. You know, and so like we had, we always had letters to the editor that you know we would publish if we thought there was something helpful in there. Certainly, we&#039 ; d publish them if they were complimentary because you know we all like to be patted on the back and so you know, we loved the letters that say, &quot ; I love your publication! Can you come out more often,&quot ; blah blah blah. But what weren&#039 ; t published were the heart-breaking ones, and I made it sort of like my personal mission to respond to them. And I got a lot of support from the folks at Neptune Productions that gave me the time and the space to respond to a lot. And you know, it was heart-breaking to read some of them, and some of them were very gratifying, and a lot of them were looking for help. And so, after a while, the flip side of the coin is you can get burned out from doing this. And after almost about a decade I think, I got tired of, you know, I got tired of being a &quot ; professional transexual.&quot ; And so, by the late 1980s I had gotten a legitimate job. You know, all this publishing that I did in the trans community was great. It paid minimally, I was able to meet my immediate expenses, but I saw that it was not a future. And so, I think probably by 1978 I was working a full-time job, and then doing this on the side. And so, I kind of, I&#039 ; m digressing again. So, the impact is the early days of the, we were a part of the overall early days of the Gay Liberation Movement, and I call it that because that&#039 ; s initially what we called it. And trans folx have always had an uneasy kind of relationship with the LBGT thing, you know. And you know, Mary you&#039 ; re a scholar of this, there are other peoples that are scholars of this early thing, and so I&#039 ; m only talking from my perspective, personally. You know, when we came out, it was supposed to be Gay Liberation, and it was an umbrella term that was supposed to include everybody. And as we started to do this work, it started to faction. And you know, the lesbians said, &quot ; Well, we&#039 ; re not gay, we&#039 ; re lesbians and our issues are unique, because they&#039 ; re wrapped around gender as well as being gay, and it&#039 ; s, you know--&quot ; Then it became gay and lesbian. And then you know, then the bisexuals kind of came in at some point and say you know, &quot ; How about us? You know, we have our own unique needs,&quot ; and so you had LBG, L-G-B, and so the letters got a little bit longer. And then trans kind of got in there even though trans people were part of the early Gay Liberation Movement, and actually spear-headed a lot of it, but then we were added on as a T on the end, and I always thought that was kind of like not an easy fit, because L-G-B kind of like talked about sexual preference, at least in my gestalt. So, they had that in common. But trans said nothing about you know sexual preference. It talked more about gender identity than anything, I suppose. And so, I always thought that was kind of an interesting but not great fit. And you know, those, there were early fights where the trans folx were kicked out of gay organizations, and you know trans folx were kicked out of the lesbian community, a lot of in-fighting. A lot of scrambling for our own turf, and so that part to me was very disheartening. And I think was partially the impetus for me to kind of like, by the 90s I was done. Especially when Janice Raymond published that horrible book called, yeah, The Transsexual Empire? I mean, I wanted to crawl under a rock and just say, &quot ; I&#039 ; m not coming out ever again to anybody,&quot ; and that&#039 ; s basically how I led my life for the next 20 years. You know? And I, and you know, we had discussions off-line where in the 1990s, late 19080s/1990s it was okay for me to tell my coworkers that I was a lesbian, but I never discussed the T thing with them, because it just wasn&#039 ; t you know there yet. So, I, you know, I don&#039 ; t know what my accomplishments were. Some people have said that you know I&#039 ; m responsible for the term &quot ; transgender.&quot ; I don&#039 ; t take credit for that. I know we published it early on, but I think Ariadne Kane was the person who actually coined the term rather than Virginia Prince, but you know, I&#039 ; m not going to get into that argument. Certainly, I was part of the people that made it widely used, let&#039 ; s put it that way, through the publications. And I thought it was a great term, because it took the word &quot ; sex&quot ; out of it, and you know, there&#039 ; s a lot to be said for that. So, in my early years, I was a transsexual, but now I&#039 ; m a transgender person. MF: You had started to kind of go into you moved out of publishing, Raymond&#039 ; s book comes out, that&#039 ; s kind of the end for you, but there were tensions before-hand, and burn out, frankly, from all of the emotional labor that goes into that. What happens with your career once you kind of, you take some of these publishing experiences, and then you take flight into a different you know, stage of your work life? SM: Yeah, so I parlayed what I learned about publication layout writing and everything and applied for a job at W.B. Saunders company in Philadelphia. And, W.B. Saunders was at that time, I think it still is, a large medical publishing company, and W.B. Saunders had one best seller in their whole career, and I think that was the Kinsey Report. Other than that, it was you know, a multitude of medical journals and books. And so, I became a proofreader. At first, I was a layout person, and then shortly after that I became a proofreader. I did that for a few years. And so, you know, people tell me about, you know, was it harder or easier to transition in those days. I think the one good thing about those days was that without the internet, it was easier to hide yourself. And so, I put down Neptune Productions and Image Magazine on my resume, but I guarantee you nobody checked that, you know? And it was just, you know, there were no large databases where they could look up Sandy Mesics and see her social media profile and everything. So, in that respect it was easier to kind of like maneuver your way through life, and I took every advantage of that. So, I work for W.B. Saunders for a few years, and then had an opportunity to work for a graphic arts company that produced books for various publishers at that time, and so I became what was called a markup person. And basically, what that is in today&#039 ; s terms is like an html coder. So, you know, in the early days of type setting, it wasn&#039 ; t what you see is what you get, you had to code everything in order to get the right font, point size, and things like that. I loved that work, and I did that work for quite a few years, eventually moving from a company in New Jersey to a graphic arts company in Miami. And so, you know, I wanted an adventure in my life, I didn&#039 ; t have a significant other at the time, and so I took a job in Miami, and it was interesting. And so, that took me into the 80s and 90s, and then what happened at that time was the internet, personal computer, desktop publishing, and it wasn&#039 ; t soon before I could see the end of my profession. You could see it almost like a headlight coming straight at you, you know that within a few years, this is going to be gone. It&#039 ; s all going to be gone. And then, coincidentally at the same time, AIDS was starting to hit our community, especially in Miami, and so I felt kind of helpless when my friends were starting to get sick. I couldn&#039 ; t do anything for them, and the other thing that happened at the time was I met the acquaintance of my now spouse, and her colleagues who were all registered nurses, and certified nurse midwives and I said, &quot ; Do you think I could do this work? You think?&quot ; You know, and they said, &quot ; Yeah, you know, you&#039 ; d probably be pretty good at it.&quot ; And so, I went back to school. And I, in 1992 I graduated from Barry University which is a small Catholic school in Miami Shores, Florida with a bachelor&#039 ; s degree in nursing. A BSN. And, ironically, even though I did get my nursing degree, I never actually gave HIV care. It was peripheral to what I did. I occasionally did it, but it wasn&#039 ; t the focus of my career. And then I became a nurse, and even at that point occasionally I would write for publications, and at that time I was writing sometimes under a pseudonym, but sometimes under my real name, I was writing for like the Transsexual Voice, I was writing for Empathy Press in Seattle. If I had something to say. And I really enjoyed it that way, because I wasn&#039 ; t writing under deadlines, I wasn&#039 ; t trying to produce tons of content. If I had something to say that I thought was useful, I&#039 ; d submit it, and more often than not it was published, and that&#039 ; s how, you know I think I finally stopped getting published around 92, 93. And then became pretty much a professional nurse, and then eventually a certified nurse midwife. MF: I love that description of like, &quot ; Oh, then I could do it when I really wanted to say something and take my time and really craft that piece.&quot ; You, I want to hear more about what the move into nursing meant for you, as a worker, how did you experience that career in nursing? So, I want to go there first, but then you&#039 ; ve also mentioned your spouse, and maybe we can do a little discussion of some personal life which we haven&#039 ; t talked about yet. But tell me a little bit about why nursing, and what the career really meant for you. SM: You know, nursing I truly believe, after all you know, it&#039 ; s a cliché, but you know but nursing is basically a calling. And I had considered it briefly sometime in the 1970s and went, &quot ; Oh no, there&#039 ; s no way I can do that. Just no way.&quot ; But revisiting it as a more mature woman, I was 40 years old, I had some life skills, some organizational skills, and then the timing was right, because I had the tool kit to be able to do that. I couldn&#039 ; t have done that at age 21, and I certainly admire the students that I taught that had their crap together at age 21 to be able to do this, because I certainly didn&#039 ; t. So, it&#039 ; s honestly the best professional move I made in my career. Nursing has been fulfilling on so many levels. You know, I can&#039 ; t begin to describe you know the personal fulfillment I got from just doing my job. Helping babies come into the world, you know, helping tragedies sometimes as a result. Being able to educate young nurses, and being able to you know, administer a school that is the oldest nursing school in the United States, to be the director of that school for 15 years, and produce thousands of talented young people that are entering the workforce, that will have an impact on health care for the next generation, it&#039 ; s like wow! I mean, it&#039 ; s overwhelming. That really is the fulfillment, you know. I kind of lost the rest of the thought. Interestingly enough, for me, entering the nursing career was, nursing is still largely women. And I had never worked in an almost all-female environment before, and so at 40 years old, entering this environment, you know, I was very kind of like attuned to like, okay, let me get the lay of the land here and how this works. And unfortunately, what I really, I came away with, was that women can be really mean to each other sometimes, and I didn&#039 ; t expect that. You know, I expected like this sisterhood, and we all pull together, and it&#039 ; s like, holy crap! You guys are nasty! And so, I had to kind of like wrap my head around that for a while, and you know, the theory is that you know women are generally, at that time at least, I don&#039 ; t want to make any broad generalizations, but like, when people are put in powerless situations, and certainly nursing is not like at the top of the power chain, there&#039 ; s a lot of in-fighting. And so, you could actually see that, and you know honestly, to be honest with you, I think nursing as a profession would benefit from more gender diversity. More men, more gender-diverse people. And I think that&#039 ; s happening, I think that&#039 ; s happening and I think it&#039 ; s to the benefit of the profession, honestly. It&#039 ; s going to push us forward, I think, because you know, I wasn&#039 ; t too impressed with you know what I saw at first. It was kind of disheartening. I guess I expect too much from women. You know, my psychologist always said that I kind of idealized them in some ways. So, yeah. Segueing into the other question, I always knew that I was attracted to women, even as a kid, and boy that was confusing. You know, so like I want to, you know I am a woman, I want to be a woman, but I love women, and you know, so that was really hard. And you know, I will credit the fact that I had a psychiatrist in our gender identity program in Philadelphia that really tuned into my naivety about that. I was, I think I was 22 or 23 years old when I entered therapy, as part of the gender, you know you had to do, you know I had to do I think a minimum of six months to a year of psychoanalysis in those days, and I was blessed with really a great psychiatrist. He knew that I was kind of sexually naïve at the time. I had had minimal experiences with women and no experiences with guys at that time, and he says, &quot ; You just need to explore this.&quot ; SO, you know, with his encouragement, you know, I started to explore my sexuality, and I started to explore experiences with both genders, and you know, those were the days where things were much simpler. It was pre-HIV days. You know, if you were not cautious, you know, you might have to go get a shot of penicillin to clear up something, you know. So, you know, it was a lot easier in those days, and as a result, a lot of us were more promiscuous you know probably than we should have been, in retrospect. But so, like he made me explore that aspect of my personality, I think he wanted to be sure that I wasn&#039 ; t gay and you know just couldn&#039 ; t accept the fact that I was gay, and was trying to (inaudible) being gay by becoming you know a different gender, and of course that didn&#039 ; t happen. I remember telling him, you know, at one of our first visits, you know, I&#039 ; m attracted to women, and I don&#039 ; t see that changing after surgery. And to his credit, he didn&#039 ; t throw me out of the office, he just said, &quot ; Let&#039 ; s explore that,&quot ; and we did, we worked on it. And so, he would send us to conscious raising groups, back when women had conscious raising groups, back then he&#039 ; d send us to that. You know, he was really, really progressive, and I came out at the other end basically unchanged. I can say that probably my experiences made me a little bit more bisexual, but definitely a preference for women. In my serious relationships in life, almost exclusively been with women. I&#039 ; ve been with my current spouse now for 30 years. Yeah. (laughs) We were one of the first same-gender couples in Pennsylvania to get a marriage license. I think-- not like the first dozen, I think we were within the first 100 or 150, so. You know, I&#039 ; m kind of proud of that. And so, that covers most of what you asked me, I think. What did I leave out? MF: Would you be willing to tell me how you fell in love? How you met and what your story is there when you met your spouse? SM: Yeah, sure! My spouse and I met in 1985, in Miami. At that time, she was just graduating from the University of Miami&#039 ; s master&#039 ; s degree in Nurse Midwifery, and she at that time was exploring her own lesbianism. She had just, she was just emerging from a marriage, and was finally, finally I guess starting to learn her truth, and so we met, and we were friends. I had a different partner at the time, and she was just exploring being a lesbian, and coming out, with a couple kids, and trying to navigate a new job, and a new role as a nurse midwife, and so we stayed friends. So, we were friends from about 1985 to 1991, and by that time I had ended my relationship, and she had ended her first couple relationships with women. And we just sat down one night, and you know, we acknowledged the fact that we were attracted to each other. We had known each other for about six years at that point. We were both single at the same time, finally, and do we risk having a really good friendship for having a relationship? And that was the big discussion. You know, it&#039 ; s like, we&#039 ; re such good friends, are we going to screw this up? Because we don&#039 ; t want to screw that up. And so, we decided to embark on this, so I wish I could tell you that it was passionate, sudden, and the heavens opened, and the angels sang and the whole nine yards, but it was really a very rational (laughs) discussion that you know, you know, we acknowledged this, that we had this for each other, but you know, should we do this? And so, and I&#039 ; ve never regretted it, and so. And then, ironically, a few years later when I entered the master&#039 ; s program at University of Miami, Sara, my spouse, was my instructor for one of my nurse midwifery courses. And we had already discussed this with the Dean, and the Dean was aware of our relationship, and we took very good steps to be sure that there were no improprieties. Sara could teach me, but she couldn&#039 ; t grade any of my work, and so that&#039 ; s how it worked out, so the rest is history. MF: So, can I ask a quest-- this is a fantastic story. Rational love story, but I can see all over your face that there was also a lot of passion and love there, as you transitioned from friends to, it&#039 ; s a fabulous story. Could you talk a little bit about, before-- I do want to move through your married life, and then how you come back to the Lehigh Valley, but I want to just-- with your spouse-- I want to put that on hold for a minute, and just ask you, what was it like to be a lesbian and a transwoman? Either, even while you were meeting your spouse, or while you were dating. What was that like to be part of a lesbian community at that time period in Miami, or even up in Philly? What was that like for you as a transwoman? SM: I had my first, what I would call serious relationship with a woman probably in Philadelphia in 1978 or so, and we were together for four or five years, and so in that aspect, you know, one of the big discussions among trans people is entering a relationship, do I disclose my trans status? And I think, I think it&#039 ; s a little bit easier maybe now than it was then, and that was really, where do you sort of disclose the fact that you&#039 ; re trans to a potential partner? And you know, I wrestled with that myself, because you know, as part of my work with my psychiatrist, I dated some men, and I did not disclose that until, you know, maybe there was intimacy on the scene. And then at that point, we had to have The Talk. Sometimes that went well, and sometimes it didn&#039 ; t go well, and you know as well as I do, that sometimes for people that talk ends in violence, and so the stakes are very high, and you&#039 ; re very careful about you know, who you disclose to, at least in those days. I can&#039 ; t speak to the situation nowadays. I suspect it&#039 ; s similar. I guess, I guess I was lucky in that the women that I was attracted to and had relationships with accepted that part of me. It was weird, I can remember (laughs) there&#039 ; s a joke in the lesbian community that you may have heard of. It&#039 ; s, &quot ; What do lesbians bring on the first date?&quot ; &quot ; A U-Haul.&quot ; Yup. I met my partner, my first partner of 4 years, my first night in a women&#039 ; s bar in Philadelphia. Yeah. I was, you know, first of all I was dressed inappropriately. I&#039 ; d come from work, it was a great bar, it was called The Upstairs, and it was like in Philly on the waterfront, by the Delaware River, and you know, it was a beautiful place. Great dance floor. Music. The whole nine yards. All women. Loved it, loved it. My first night there, she came over and asked me to dance, and asked, you know we had drinks, and you know so we started dating, and you know, I don&#039 ; t remember exactly when I disclosed, but it was pretty early on, and so again. That was a four-year relationship, it confirmed everything I always thought about my sexuality. We still stay in touch. So, then again, I went through a period where you know I was just like running amuck, sexually. And so, it was, you know, (laughs) I always say that, you know, trans people you&#039 ; re given, you&#039 ; re finally given the set of organs that you should have had, and you know, you&#039 ; ve got these hormones coursing through your body, and so what do all transwomen do? Is like, once they start this journey, they start dressing totally inappropriately for their age. You know, the spike heels to go to the Wegman&#039 ; s store, and the whole nine yards, and I did all of that. You know, and so you&#039 ; re trying this out, you&#039 ; re basically an adolescent in an adult body for a while, and you know, all kinds of weird stuff happens. So, after that relationship ended, I dated around for a few years. Nothing was happening, that&#039 ; s when I moved to Miami. I had again took up with another partner who was lesbian, ten years younger than me. That was kind of culture shock. Again, not an issue for her. I will tell you an interesting story about that relationship, when I met her, she had long blond hair, really attractive, nice, you know. I introduced her at one point to a trans guy that was my friend from Philadelphia, he came down the visit, and Jason came to see us, and my partner at that time, Sally, was like, the eyes went, and so the next thing, he goes back home, she comes home with a short butch haircut, and she starts wearing polo shirts, and it&#039 ; s like &quot ; Wait a minute!&quot ; So, I can&#039 ; t tell you how unsettling that was for a trans person all of a sudden understand that the person that you&#039 ; re with is exploring a transition. That blindsided me, and so like, kind of like every bad deed that I ever did in my life sort of came home and hit me in the face at the same time, and I&#039 ; m going, &quot ; How do I wrap myself around this? How many times has a person like myself put another person in that position?&quot ; It&#039 ; s kind of like, well, you know, eventually she kind of like kind of tabled that transition idea. We broke up. But all during that time I was friends with Sara, my current spouse, so Sara knew my past, my background, everything like that, so that was not something that we had to hack out upon starting the relationship. So, did I answer your question properly, or? I&#039 ; m (inaudible) something. MF: Yeah, you did. You did. So, tell me a little bit about, you&#039 ; re in Miami, you&#039 ; re dating Sara, your career is moving along in nursing. Then what happens (laughs)? What&#039 ; s the next part of your life there? SM: Okay. So, that pretty much brings us up to the year 2000. And what is happening at that time is Sara is working in a clinic in Broward County, and is not real happy with her job situation. They&#039 ; re asking them to do a lot with a little, and you know, a lot of pressure. The practice, the OBGYN practice that I was working in, was breaking up. We had I think five OBGYNs at that time and myself, and they were all feuding with each other, and you know, they were splitting off and breaking up the practice, and all of a sudden, I was finding myself without a job. And so, coincidentally at that same time, my mom who had stayed in Bethlehem, was now in her 80s, and was starting to have some serious health issues. And so, even though I promised myself way back in 1969 that I would never come back to the Lehigh Valley, yeah. I relocated here first. So, I took a job for one year doing locum tenens work, which is like a traveling nurse, a traveling nurse midwife, and I was able to get assignments in Baltimore, Philly, and Northern Virginia. And so, I was traveling about, doing that, trying to figure out how to support my mom, and what the next steps were. Sara was remaining in Florida, so for about a year, we were kind of separated by this until we could sort it all out. So, my mom wasn&#039 ; t getting any better, so we made the decision to relocate to Bethlehem to support her. So, Sara quit her job, and moved up here, and I was already here. I had found a house, we bought a house, and then a job opened up at St. Luke&#039 ; s for an instructor in maternal-newborn nursing. And so, I took the job, and Sara eventually found a job at that time with the Visiting Nurses Association, and so we sort of settled down. And the timing was impeccable, because we settled around 2000, 2001, and my mom died in 2002, and we were able to give her a great, great quality of life for her last two years. I mean, she just blossomed. You know, we brought her to our house and had Thanksgiving, we spent, I would go to work every day and drop my Jack Russell terrier off, and she&#039 ; d babysit the dog all day long, and it added to her life, it added to my life. I had a wonderful relationship with my mom for the last couple years of her life. Don&#039 ; t regret it for a second. And I was holding her hand when she passed away in her own bed, at home, with the care of home nurses. So, at that time, we sort of thought we would stay in the Lehigh Valley and see my mom through this final illness, and then we would go to California to take care of Sara&#039 ; s mom who was also ailing at that time, but what happened was Sara&#039 ; s mom decided to die before we could make that trip happen, that move happen, and so we stayed here. We stayed in the Lehigh Valley because we both had jobs we liked, and as we said early on in this long conversation, the Lehigh Valley had become a different place, a more accepting place, a kind of nice quality of life for us. Sara was really burned out from the Miami experience, and I was getting there pretty quickly. The crime was pretty bad, and congestion was terrible. And so, that&#039 ; s why we&#039 ; re back here, and that&#039 ; s why we stayed. And now we have grandkids that have moved to this area to be close to us, so you know, we&#039 ; ve come full circle. MF: Tell me a little bit about, you said that your relationship with your mother at the end of her life was wonderful. And clearly, because you and Sara could be there, and provide excellent quality of life for her for the last two years, I mean what a beautiful gift for a daughter to give. Can you talk a little bit about that relationship and its evolution throughout your life with your mom? SM: As I said, way in the background, even though my mom was born in the United State, she basically grew up in Hungary, and then moved back to the States. And she had basically the equivalent of a grade school education, I don&#039 ; t think, she didn&#039 ; t have high school. And so, when she came back to the United States, it was like, learning English for her was like, she had to learn it all over, because she left at such an early age, that I don&#039 ; t think it was established. So, my mom could read and write at a basic level, she could manage herself through reading a newspaper or something like that, but you know, would never read a book. I don&#039 ; t think my mom ever read a book. So, she struggled to write checks and handle things and you know, that&#039 ; s where we provided that kind of support the best we could. When I was very young, I mean, I cross-dressed in front of my mom, and you know, she was concerned at the point I think in high school (laughs) when I was doing it, she was concerned for me. And you know, she was not condescending, she wasn&#039 ; t angry with me for doing it, but she thought I needed help. And she said, &quot ; You know, if you continue doing this, I think we need to take you to the family doctor.&quot ; And like, I was a teenager, and I already knew what that meant in those days. What we were afraid of was you know, being transgender, transsexual, whatever have you, in those days was a pathology. And even the most enlightened doctors would probably send you to a psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist would probably order electroshock treatments. And that scared the bejeezus out of me. You know, it was like there was no way I was going to discuss this with a family doctor, so basically my cross-dressing went under cover, and mom didn&#039 ; t see it ever again, although it never stopped. And so, we sort of like pushed that under the table, and but, by the time I started hormones, she could see that something was changing, even though I hadn&#039 ; t discussed it with her. And so, my plan was to tell her right before my surgery, which probably in retrospect is a bad thing, you know? So, like, remember, I was 22, 23 years old, and you know didn&#039 ; t always make the best life decisions at those times. So, what happened was, I was, I had finished my time with the psychiatrist in Philadelphia, was coming back to see my mom, you know I&#039 ; d come back weekends, I actually there was a train that would take you from Philly to Bethlehem in those days, I&#039 ; d ride the train every once in a while. I&#039 ; d come and see her, but we never talked about that until I got the clearance for surgery, and I actually had a surgery date scheduled that was about, I don&#039 ; t know, maybe a month out. And so, I thought to myself, okay, I&#039 ; m going to have to have this discussion with my mom. Well, what ensued was, 14 days before my scheduled surgery, I came down with Hepatitis B. Yup. And I&#039 ; ve written about this experience, so you&#039 ; re going from somebody who has been on hormones for a couple years, I had completed my psychiatric workup, everybody said yes, you&#039 ; re ready for the surgery, you know, go meet the surgeon, okay, did that, had the date set. I had some misgivings about it, believe it or not. I didn&#039 ; t hit it off with the surgeon. I thought he was cold, I thought he was, you know, I didn&#039 ; t know why he was doing this because it didn&#039 ; t seem he was doing it for any compassion for the patient, so despite that, it was, okay, you know, I&#039 ; m going to go through with this, and you know, I&#039 ; m not sure about this guy, but whatever. And then I got sick, and because of the sickness, I had to go off hormones for a year. No alcohol for a year. No surgery for a year. And the worst part of it was, I had to have help recovering, because I was pretty sick. They didn&#039 ; t hospitalize me, but you know, I was... And so, I went back home to mom. And I was, like I said, I was about 22, 23 years old, and she took care of me while I was sick, and I recovered, and that&#039 ; s when we started having discussions about what I was doing with my life. And her first comment was, &quot ; I knew it!&quot ; You know, yeah. &quot ; I knew this hadn&#039 ; t gone away.&quot ; You know, and so, yeah, that&#039 ; s true, and so she was very concerned about, you know, I would have to have surgery, was I doing the right thing, had I really thought it through. You know, the usual things a mom would be concerned about. But she was never non supportive of me, and she told me that unconditionally this didn&#039 ; t matter, you know, she still loved me, that in her way of putting it, she said, &quot ; I wouldn&#039 ; t love you any less if you were diabetic, I wouldn&#039 ; t love you any less if, you know, you had asthma or anything. Why would this change anything?&quot ; And so, it didn&#039 ; t. And so, she was supportive, and eventually I was able to recover, and but it was one of the lowest points in my life, and you know, I had considered suicide many times in my life, that was certainly one of them. I can&#039 ; t imagine, I can&#039 ; t begin to tell you, you know, number one you&#039 ; re ill, number two you&#039 ; re coming off hormones. And you know, all that good work and changes started to reverse, and you know, it was horrible, and then finally, you know, I was able to get back on track. But the good part of this is things always happen for a reason, and in that year that I was kind of like recovering from this, I found a different surgeon, and I found a surgeon in New York City, his name was Dr. David Wesser, he&#039 ; s passed away since then, and the thing that I liked about Dr. Wesser was that he had a technique that created a clitoris. Which wasn&#039 ; t necessarily what you got in those days with anybody else. And so, you know, hoping to remain as a, be as authentic as possible and at least have some semblance of a sex life, I went with him, and I never regretted that decision, and he truly was a compassionate human being. So, a few months after the surgery, I took my mom by the hand and took her in the bathroom, we had the grand reveal, she was like amazed and you know, she took me out shopping for clothes! And, so, you know, I think my mom probably, while she was, she was very accepting of me, I think she still had confusion to the end of her days about why it was that I stayed with women, but she was not opposed to that, and in fact she loved Sara to death, and you know, she told me to take care of her, and she told Sara to take care of me, and so we&#039 ; ve done that, and you know, she, I couldn&#039 ; t have asked for a better mom. MF: She sounds wonderful. A really special mom. SM: Hey, could she bake! Ah. She wasn&#039 ; t a great cook, but boy could she bake. MF: Well, and I bet, in terms of like all of the good kind of Hungarian, Windish, you know for that Windish church, I bet she baked a lot of wonderful pastries. SM: A lot of kiffles. Tons of kiffles. MF: Well, I&#039 ; m wondering what it&#039 ; s like for you now to be in the Lehigh Valley, and you said it&#039 ; s changed a lot. What&#039 ; s changed here for you? What makes the Lehigh Valley a place where you and Sara can live happily at this point in your lives? SM: As I said, think the industries are, not to say industries, but the professions in like the learning institutions, the medical care brings a more professional kind of class of people. I&#039 ; m sorry, I&#039 ; m sounding elitist there, and I don&#039 ; t mean that by any means, but it&#039 ; s a place that&#039 ; s culturally rich now, where it hadn&#039 ; t been before. You know, we have world-class music. You know, if you&#039 ; re not getting culturally fulfilled in the Lehigh Valley, you&#039 ; re not trying, you&#039 ; re hiding. And that&#039 ; s part of what I enjoy about it. We enjoy movies, we enjoy theater. You know, we&#039 ; ll enjoy being able to do those things again. You know, we enjoy reading, and so we enjoy intellectual stimulation. We&#039 ; re both involved in the life of our faith community, and so, that&#039 ; s all there. You know, the crime isn&#039 ; t horrible in the Lehigh Valley. You know, we do have our issues, but it&#039 ; s not like an urban center like Miami. So, there&#039 ; s that. So, there are things to do, there&#039 ; s a quality of life. I do believe it&#039 ; s getting a little bit kind of congested, and honestly, I&#039 ; m not crazy about all the trucking hubs going in all over the place. I think that&#039 ; s kind of impacting our quality of life a little bit, but certainly as you view life as a senior, you know you&#039 ; re looking at things like, what is my support as I get older? You know, and we do have good medical and social supports in this Lehigh Valley right now. As far as LGBT in the Lehigh Valley, it&#039 ; s come a long way. When I was growing up here, I didn&#039 ; t know any gay or trans people. You know, I knew a couple in high school, not trans people, but gay people in high school, but it was all very hush-hush. You didn&#039 ; t talk about it. You know, and that&#039 ; s changed. You have groups like Renaissance that have arisen, the Bradbury-Sullivan Center, and so you know, it&#039 ; s a good place to be gay, the Lehigh Valley. Or be gender-variant or something. I mean there are, I assume there are better places, but taken as a whole, it&#039 ; s not so bad. MF: Yeah, I totally, we moved here in 2009, and even since 2009 I&#039 ; ve noticed changes in the Lehigh Valley in terms of community center and a variety of different groups. Yeah. Well, we&#039 ; re getting towards the end of our time, and so I want to give you an opportunity to, is there something we missed that you feel, Sandy, like, &quot ; Oh, I really wanted to share this,&quot ; or &quot ; this is something that I want people to know about my life.&quot ; Did we miss anything? SM: You know, I really don&#039 ; t think so. It&#039 ; s been a long, strange journey for me, and I get kind of embarrassed when people say, you know, &quot ; You&#039 ; re a pioneer!&quot ; And it&#039 ; s like you know, no, not really. I mean, there were people before me, and you know, they laid the groundwork, but I think we&#039 ; re all building for each other, eventually, and you know I was proud to play my little part in this, in advancing the community, so. I think if anything, I am so hopeful for the future. When I see young non-binary kids not afraid to express their gender identity, not having to buy, you know, one or the other, you know, gender is everything in between, and that&#039 ; s okay, it&#039 ; s like wow! When I see, when I see the advances that we&#039 ; ve made in treating transgender issues, and gender issues, in adolescence, you know, it gives me hope that these kids won&#039 ; t have to go through the wrong adolescence, which is devastating. Devastating. That gives me hope. I know there&#039 ; s a lot of push-back now about, you know, the ethics of doing this, but I think once that cat is out of the bag, and I think it is, they&#039 ; ll work out the details about the ethics. This will be not an issue. I know, you know, if anything, the last few years have taught me is that our political system is a lot more fragile than I thought it was growing up, you know, and I thought, I thought the United States had weathered some pretty significant storms in its day, but I was not prepared for 2016, 2020. And so, I think, I think that&#039 ; s the issue of our day, even more than COVID. You know, where is the United States going as a nation? And I think why I think about that is how it goes will have an impact on trans people, and LBGT people as well. I&#039 ; m watching what&#039 ; s going on in Texas as we speak, you know. Everybody getting on the bandwagon about these you know, anti-abortion, anti-choice things, and I&#039 ; m very much for choice, and that distresses me a lot. You know, I remember vaguely what it was like before Roe vs. Wade, and even with Roe vs. Wade, as a nurse, I took care of patients that had botched self-induced abortions, just because they didn&#039 ; t have access to care, and that concerns me a lot. So, I think it&#039 ; s a mixed bag, but I&#039 ; m an eternal optimist I think, you know, and I think we will prevail in the long run, and we&#039 ; ll work it out. And you know, I&#039 ; m not done advocating just yet. So. I think that&#039 ; s all I had to add. MF: Well, I&#039 ; m going to think about this interview probably for the next month and thereafter. This has been amazing. Sandy, thank you so much for speaking with me today. I wanted to end the interview, maybe this will be a strange way to end it, but just to ask you know, all of your work on the publications, have you found an archive home for that? Is there someplace where that material can be accessed? SM: I don&#039 ; t have a lot of it. You know, I had kept a collection of my work and eventually threw it out thinking there was no value to it. Yeah. I have a little bit of it, I&#039 ; m trying to catalogue it now, and I&#039 ; m hoping to donate it to an archive somewhere, so if you have good suggestions, I&#039 ; m open to that. You can find a little tiny bit of it on the Digital Transgender Archives. Yeah, there&#039 ; s a little bit there. If you google my name, a few things show up in that context, but I do, you know, now that I&#039 ; m finally pretty much retired, the next part of what I&#039 ; m hoping to accomplish is to catalogue that stuff and get it to somebody who wants to do something with it. I did send a little bit of stuff to a trans archive in Houston, and honestly, you know, I don&#039 ; t even have any print copies of Image anymore. You know, I have digital copies, but that&#039 ; s about it. But you know I hope to actually preserve that. I have a lot of negatives from drag balls and things like that that I covered during the days that I hope will get a home somewhere. MF: Yeah, I mean, those are I think the Digital Archives that you mentioned are really important. There are ways that, since your materials I think are so important, that you can donate them to a specific home, a trans archive that you really care about, but you could also say, &quot ; I&#039 ; d also like these materials, or copies of them, to be at William Way.&quot ; Because they have incredible archives, and you are certainly so important to Philadelphia&#039 ; s history. You could certainly have copies put at our archives here in the Lehigh Valley, you&#039 ; re from here. I even think the Lesbian Herstory&#039 ; s Archive would love your material. SM: (laughs) MF: So, you could think about, &quot ; Where is the place that I want to have the physical materials?&quot ; And you could work out a contract that says, &quot ; Okay, you get the physical materials, but I want them to be digitally available at other places, maybe even Miami, in communities that I really contributed to,&quot ; so that those communities also have access to a real for-mother in publishing and you know, and someone who is really important to multiple regions. I always think about, for me regional archives matter because it&#039 ; s important to know that someone like Sandy Mesics came from the Lehigh Valley, and contributed really in important ways to publishing, to trans communities in Philadelphia, and those publications kind of move out everywhere. You are so humble, but that really matters. That you were a nurse, that you were, you know all of these ways that your archives can be connected to those communities that you really impacted, I think would be very powerful, and of course I would love to see-- I have not seen the publications that you put out, I&#039 ; d love to see them. SM: We will, we&#039 ; ll arrange that somehow. MF: Okay, that would be fabulous. Well, I will then-- that was a weird way to kind of move to the ending, I apologize, Sandy. I just think like, I want to see these negatives of your photographs and read your early articles. But I&#039 ; ll end by saying this. I just feel so honored to have had the opportunity to talk with you today. It is a true privilege. I&#039 ; m just sitting in gratitude, so thank you so much. SM: Thank you, Mary. I am astounded that you have an interest in this and thank you for letting me ramble on for so long, and I hope somewhere down the line some researcher finds something of interest in here. MF: I know they will. I know they will. SM: (laughs) MF: All right, I&#039 ; m just going to pause the record and then you and I can close out together. Thanks again, Sandy. Copyright for this oral history recording is held by the interview subject. video This oral history is made available with a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0). The public can access and share the interview for educational, research, and other noncommercial purposes as long as they identify the original source. 0

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“Sandy Mesics, October 11, 2021,” Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive Oral History Repository, accessed April 19, 2024, https://trexlerworks.muhlenberg.edu/lgbt_oralhistory/items/show/58.