Sally Tatnall (b. 1937) grew up in Buffalo, New York, and moved to East Cleveland in the 1960s. She discusses developing her political consciousness through her involvement in civil rights activism in Cleveland. She discusses moving to Cleveland Heights, becoming an active feminist, and coming out as a radical lesbian feminist in the 1970s. Tatnall discusses becoming active in Cleveland Heights' East Side lesbian feminist communities and her role as as a founding member of the lesbian collective Hag House/Berkshire House. She also describes her involvement in lesbian feminist spaces, activism, and cultural production in Cleveland, including Oven Productions, the the Land Project, the Three of Cups, and the Womyn's Variety Show.
Sally Tatnall [00:00:28] Yes. My legal name is Shirley Tatnall—S-h-i-r-l-e-y T-a-t-n-a-l-l—but my mother always called me Sally, and so that's what I've gone by. A lot of people don't even know my name is Shirley—so Sally it is.
Riley Habyl [00:00:52] Where and when were you born, Sally?
Sally Tatnall [00:00:54] Batavia, New York [b.1937]. Grew up in Buffalo. Went to college at Alfred University, which is in Alfred, New York. I am a misplaced New Yorker. Statewide, not city.
Riley Habyl [00:01:14] When did you move to the Cleveland area?
Sally Tatnall [00:01:17] I moved in—. I believe it was 1970—with my husband at the time, and three kids.
Riley Habyl [00:01:33] To go back to your childhood a little bit—. Could you tell me a bit about your childhood and your family background?
Sally Tatnall [00:01:41] Okay. I—. My childhood—. I was the oldest of four girls. My mother was a schoolteacher, my father was a gambler. I mean, he was a good guy. I think he—. I think he was an original hippie, but he just—I don't know, he just somehow didn't work. And so raising four girls and two adults on a teacher's salary put us in a very low income bracket, and so I became aware of class issues early on. My mother was a teacher, and so she—she had access to something that I was able to take advantage of. In those days, State Teachers College—which is now SUNY of Buffalo [University at Buffalo SUNY]—the State Teachers College had a grammar school, you know, first to eighth grade on the campus where they did—where practice teachers practiced. And so I was able to join that group—very, very upper-class girls—and very soon I learned what they had access to, that I did not. And the issue of class has followed me through my life, and I've done a lot to try and raise the issue of class. It's something we don't want to talk about. That's something we—. People either get scared and nervous, or they just don't want to talk about it. So that's one of my ongoing soapboxes, struggles, etc., because class has a lot to do with how we communicate. Not in a good way. (laughs) enough?
Riley Habyl [00:03:50] Oh, absolutely, (unintelligible, crosstalk)—.
Sally Tatnall [00:03:50] Another thing that's important—. Another thing that's important in my childhood was that I had asthma. And in those days, you didn't know about doctors—they didn't know about allergies, so I was sick quite a bit. I guess—. Well, I guess that's all for now. Anything else about childhood? You know, I was a good girl. I did what I was told. I was smart, and my smartness got me through school because certainly my attendance didn't. And, you know, when I was growing up, I didn't know the word lesbian. I'd never heard of it. You know, here I am, this little white girl, you go to college—. And college was another thing, because as a teacher my mother was bent on having us go to college. But there wasn't—you know, financially, that was really out of sight—but (coughs) her girls all were able to either work—. We all—except the youngest girl—we all went to college, and my mother would just float one loan against the house against another and pay it back as she could. And we all worked going to college, so—. Yeah, so in terms of access, I do have a college education, but—I don't know how to put it. It doesn't make me middle-class, you know what I mean? Just because—. When you grow up poor, even if you have an education, you learn what you can expect, and what you expect is—stays with you your life. And people who can expect a lot continue to expect a lot. And people who expect a little continue to expect a little. So it's all based on expectations and it's a mess, especially when we proceed without having any real discussion about what that means. Enough for now? (laughs)
Riley Habyl [00:06:34] Sure. My next question was actually going to be about education, so—. What college—. What college was it that you went to?
Sally Tatnall [00:06:40] Alfred University, in Alfred, New York. And I was—. That's where I met my husband. He was the—. Alfred University is known for its ceramic engineer and ceramic art departments. It's really pretty well known a lot of places for that. You know I—(crosstalk)
Riley Habyl [00:07:07] Is that—. Yeah.
Sally Tatnall [00:07:09] I graduated from college, and got married, and started teaching school. Fifth grade (laughs).
Riley Habyl [00:07:21] Around what year was it that you got married, and what year was it that you started teaching?
Sally Tatnall [00:07:26] I graduated in 1960, and got married in 1960. Started teaching in 1960. It's interesting because we got married in August—toward the end of August, and I had to start teaching in September, so there wasn't much time. And at the time my husband was working at a brick-making factory in Darlington, Pennsylvania—very rural area outside of Pittsburgh. And so I—. I started teaching fifth grade, and the very first day—. It was funny, I remember this. The very first day, one of the kids asked me something personal. I don't even remember what the what the question was, but another kid in the class said, "She just got married last weekend!", and it was like—that was it, you know—nothing was secret in Darlington, Pennsylvania. Everybody knew everything. So that was—. I loved that class, that fifth grade age. They really don't know about boys and girls yet, you know? And they—. They're just inventive, and curious, and excited. Yeah, I liked it. Here's another little story about the olden days. The olden days were—. You know, I don't know. There are some ways in which we really have come ahead. It was during recess, and I was out there with the kids—and two of my students came running, "Mrs. Tatnall, Mrs. Tatnall, you gotta come, you gotta come,"—and I don't remember the guy's name—"so-and-so has Kenny!" So I followed the kids, and here's this big guy with a paddle ready to paddle this little kid. And I was—. You know, I wasn't as brave then as I am now, and I was shaking, but I said, "Stop! You do not beat my kids!"—and so he stopped, and I got Kenny away from that. And I think it was the start of my standing up for what I thought was right. I mean, I've done it in other ways, but that was that was one where I really just stood out and said, "Wait a minute, this is not going to happen."
Riley Habyl [00:10:21] Related to that—. Can you tell me a little bit about how you started to develop your political consciousness? I know that you spoke about raising your awareness of how class impacted your life—. How did you start developing your identity as far as—what you identified as, and the political causes that motivated you?
Sally Tatnall [00:10:44] Yes, it's very simple. It bec—. Early on in my life, I became aware of whether or not something was fair, and that has pushed me—I'm 85 now—that has pushed me for 85 years—"Is this fair?" And so it began with—well, with the school thing. With just, you know, saying what I thought. It became very, very present. We moved to Cleveland. My first baby was born in Pennsylvania—you know, in the hospital close to Darlington—and then we moved to Cleveland. And I, I got very involved in the Civil Rights movement which was happening in the sixties—and very, very aware of how race interferes in our—you know, in our culture. How unfair it is. You know, it really just started out being, "What's unfair?", and then being pretty—pretty verbal about that. Or, you know, there was another thing in—. Okay, now we're in Cleveland. There was this hippie coffeehouse type thing, and it was getting a lot of flak from the police. And so a bunch of us went to—. What do you call it? A zoning meeting to protest how this hippie coffeehouse was being treated. And there was also racial overtones, so I– (laughs) you know, I didn't know what I was doing, but—. So we get all these black and white mothers, and so we go and we traded babies. So all the white mothers had black babies, and all the black mothers had white babies, and we went in there and we protested. We said, "This is not fair. This is not okay. You've got to stop this harassment." So anyway, at that time I lived in East Cleveland and it was a very integrated city. So it wasn't difficult to, you know, have—have everybody be together. I wish we were now.
Riley Habyl [00:13:34] What year was it that you moved from Pennsylvania to East Cleveland?
Sally Tatnall [00:13:41] '70. 1970. Wait—. No, no, no, no—no. From Pennsylvania to East Cleveland—. Well, it must have been '60-something, because Amy [Tatnall, Shirley's daughter] was born in East Cleveland and she was born in '63, so—. What did you ask me before when I said '70?
Riley Habyl [00:14:18] When—when it was that you moved from Pennsylvania to East Cleveland.
Sally Tatnall [00:14:23] Okay, that was wrong. It was around 1962, because I just had had a baby, and he was like five months old when we moved to Cleveland. So I don't know. You'll have to go back and correct that, but—. (laughs)
Riley Habyl [00:14:39] That's fine. How did you make the move from being aware of racial injustice to getting involved with activism? Like, you mentioned your activism with the school board—. How did you move from an awareness to doing something about it?
Sally Tatnall [00:15:01] Well, I've always done something about it. I—. I became more vocal in the Civil Rights movement. I think that's where I sort of got rid of some of my fear of. And I was very quiet until the sixties. You know, I'd say what I thought, but I wasn't—. I didn't say a lot. But the civil rights movement really opened my mouth to start talking about inequities and these horrible things that were wrong. And being active in the Civil Rights movement, so—. Do want me to go into to feminism now? Because it's a lot.
Riley Habyl [00:15:53] Whatever you'd like to talk about.
Sally Tatnall [00:15:54] Oh, okay, And so—. Oh, I know what happened. We were in East Cleveland with the three kids. Then we had this move to New Jersey and we were there for a few years—and we came back to Cleveland in 1970. That's where the 19—when we moved into the Berkshire house. Yeah, that's what it was. So anyway, okay. Oh, no—. What was I saying? Oh, my move to feminism. Okay, so here—. Here I'm still, "This is not fair. This is not fair," with class and race being my focuses. And there's a lot of overlap in terms of working class and poor relating to black people. So I was able to see what was real for them because sometimes it was real for me too, you know, in terms of—what access did you have—you know, what—what resources did you have. That sort of thing. But anyway, so here I am in—. Now I'm in Cleveland Heights, and a friend of mine and I—. They were having this Women's Liberation Conference at Case Western Reserve University. And this was 19—. This is when I first was there, so it had to be 1970. Okay, so anyway—. So we decided to go. And not—. I didn't know about feminism. I didn't know anything. I did not know a thing. I didn't think I was oppressed, except in terms of class. you know, it's like, "I didn't know about that." I knew a lot about what wasn't fair, but—. (Sally's phone rings) Oops, that's my phone in the background.
Riley Habyl [00:18:14] No worries.
Sally Tatnall [00:18:17] So anyway—. We went to this conference and there was this workshop called Consciousness Raising. Well, neither one of us had ever heard of that, so we decided to go. Well, consciousness raising is an amazing tool. It really is. It educated so many women so fast. And the idea of consciousness raising was: so we'd pick a topic—let's take health care—and everybody at—. All the women in the group would talk about their experience of health care, and as we went around the room, you know, people would say, "Oh, I felt I felt like a kid. I don't think they listened to me. I felt like I didn't matter. They talk to me in ways I wasn't quite sure of." You know, all that kind of stuff. And being along with the doctor—some women reported being afraid with male doctors. And as we all talked, things that we previously had thought only belonged to us individually—all of a sudden it was like, wait a minute, there's a pattern here. There's a big pattern here. This is how doctors are trained to treat women. This is how their staff is trained to treat women. So we began to really understand sexism. And for me, it was like, okay, now—. Now we're in my movement. You know, just everything became so clear of the immense structures in American culture that hone people to be who they're supposed to be. And I'll tell you—it's so well done that we don't escape. We might get a few things—. You know, we might understand a few things—but we are products of the patriarchy and of hierarchy, and that—. I'm writing a book right now. Title of it is Why Women Don't Get Along, and it has a lot to do with how we participate in hierarchy with each other. And it's a mess. I'll tell you, it's a mess. Hopefully, well I—. I don't have to talk about that right now. Okay, go ahead. (laughs) you know—. (crosstalk)
Riley Habyl [00:21:08] You could talk about it— (crosstalk, unintelligible)
Sally Tatnall [00:21:09] (laughs) No, that's not where—. That's the timeline I'm in. I'm in just starting being aware of radical feminism. And for a year, I wrote—. I read every single thing I could get ahold of, all those old authors, you know. T. Grace Atkinson. Well, Robin Morgan is still doing some—. There were—. There were so many. I'm having a problem with a cough, so just ignore it. I'm blocking on a lot of names, but what was coming out was pure gold. It really was. Have you done any, you know, reading the old feminist stuff? Do you do you write any feminist stuff?
Riley Habyl [00:22:01] I do. Not a ton—. Not a ton of old stuff, but there's a decent amount that I've read. Still a lot to read, absolutely (laughs).
Sally Tatnall [00:22:11] (laughs) Well, it was just—. It was like all of a sudden, I was a person. You know? And I could—. I could be who I wanted to be. Now, it was going to be hard, but at least I could stand up for myself, and I had the backing of women around me. You know, when women organize we are mighty. So much prevents us from organizing together, and that's really a shame. But anyway, so I just—. You know, I read everything. My husband read everything, he—. In fact, it's interesting because he was the first person to say, "You know what? I think you're"—. What were they calling it back then? Something-lesbian, meaning you—women were important to you. There's a phrase—.
Riley Habyl [00:23:16] Um—.
Sally Tatnall [00:23:16] Go ahead. Do you know?
Riley Habyl [00:23:20] Oh, I'm sorry—. Would it be "political lesbian"?
Sally Tatnall [00:23:23] Yeah—.
Riley Habyl [00:23:23] Is that the term?
Sally Tatnall [00:23:23] Thank you, thank you (laughs). He said to me, "I think you're a political lesbian." And I—. You know, it just rolled off my back. Sure, I am, you know? So I began to be very active. I joined—. I—. Oh, before that, I had been part—. A very good friend of mine had started the Cleveland Free Clinic, and so I—. I would go—. I was one of the intake people, you know, and abortion counseling was being done there. And here's an example of, like, my activism. So I was—. I was being an intake worker, and I'd look around. Now, the Cleveland Free Clinic—in its beginning days—was very hippie, very male. Very male. And I started looking around and thinking, "I don't want women who want abortion counseling to come here. This is horrible." And so what we did was we (unintelligible)—. We got—. We used my telephone number, my house telephone number for women to call and make appointments for abortion counseling. And we had—. There were a group of, I think eight of us—eight feminist women at that time, not lesbians—who decided that we were going to set up this counseling service—Cleveland's Women's Counseling—and so we did. And part of Cleveland Women's Counseling was we were referring women to New York City and Buffalo, New York for abortions. And so we decided—. Four of us made a trip to New York and we had this interview—like this packet, five pages of, you know, 11-by-8" questions that we would ask at each of these clinics. So we went. We did all that research, and then we came home and we published—you know, we put it all together. And at that time, there was—. The Free Clinic was doing it, the Cleveland Women's Counseling was doing it, Planned Parenthood was doing it, and Clergy Consultation was doing it, and so we got all—. We got all the information, all the outlets, you know, or the organizations that were doing abortion counseling and referral. Part of that we also put together a conference that we were going to have, and it was going to include all of the agencies in Cleveland. You know, the health agencies, the—. Not only physical health, but mental health agencies, the public health, the—. Oh, um-um-um, the Salvation Army, the—I don't know, a whole bunch—and all in the, you know, United Way or whatever that is. We were going to have this conference. Well—. It got stopped by the Catholic Church. For what—however it happened, the Catholic Church stepped in and said they weren't going to—. However it happened, it was kaput. So, as part of that though, there had—. There was this man who came from Boston, where there was an abortion clinic, and he got together with one of the women in Cleveland Women's Counseling and started talking with her about having an abortion clinic in Cleveland. Now, this is pre-Roe v. Wade, but right on the cusp, you know? It was like it was going to happen, and what did we want to do about it? So my—. My first actual involvement in really getting something like getting an institution going was around abortion. And so we started—. I was one of the founders of Preterm, which is still going on. We—. I don't know, we just—. It was very important, and we did a lot in terms of, not only abortion counseling but birth control and—. I don't know, we just did a lot. Another thing that I got involved in with my dear friend, Nikki Stern was—. I don't know if you've heard of the Dinner Party. I—.
Riley Habyl [00:28:48] (Riley nods)
Sally Tatnall [00:28:49] Okay, you do know that. Okay—. We heard about it early on, and some of the—. At this point—. Oh, at this point I was a lesbian now. You know, I met this woman—. I didn't know, and—. I don't want to deal a lot—put a lot of attention on having a female partner because that is such a small part for me. You know, it's still, "What is fair?" I call myself a radical feminist lesbian, and I—. Well, anyway, so—. So anyway, we and—. And another woman and myself had opened a women's bar [the Three of Cups] on Buckeye Road [12418 Buckeye Rd.], and so there was there were a lot of things going on at the time. And a very good friend of mine sort of fronted the—. A friend of a friend bought the building so that we could have the bar and nobody would throw us out. So we had this bar—women's bar. And here's one of the things—. And we had a hospitality committee at the women's bar [the Three of Cups] so that when new women came in, they get introduced. You know, I mean, we were doing it the way women do stuff, you know, which is very different. I'm sorry, it's just different. So when we heard about the Dinner Party, several women from Cle—lesbians from Cleveland—went to California to work on it. And so when it got done, there was a film that was made about the making of the [Judy Chicago's] Dinner Party. And so Nikki [Stern] and I traveled around. We had this little traveling show, and we'd show this film and we'd just talk, you know. And so when it came time for the Dinner Party to start traveling, we said, "Well, of course it has to come to Cleveland." And by this time, Nikki [Stern] had really sort of gotten to know Judy Chicago, and so that was that was the first really big thing that I got involved in that was—that required a lot more than just, you know, working in Cleveland. And a group in Akron partnered with us, so we brought the Dinner Party to Cleveland. It was wonderful. It was amazing. It was here for three months. Thousands of people saw it. I just—. It was mind-blowing to me. The first time I saw the Dinner party, though—. I have to backtrack a minute. I was—. I was taking a vacation. I used to do a lot of camping—driving and camping—and so I was taking a road trip vacation going cross-country, and I heard that the Dinner Party had opened in Houston. In Houston, Texas. And so my goal was to get to Houston, to start off my plan. And I got there and it was closed. The museum, or whatever the building was—was closed. I was heartbroken. I didn't know what I was going to do. Well, there was this old guy—it turned out he was a caretaker—and he let me in. And so, in the silence and sort of darkened area—I got to see the dinner party. I—. I can't. To this day, I don't think I've had the feeling that I had seeing that. I mean, it—. It just culminated everything that women are, that women can do, you know? I don't know, I—. It was amazing, and I was so grateful to him that I got to see it. So anyway—. So we got the Dinner Party going. We raised a lot of money. I remember saying, "Well, no more bake sales for me. Now we got we got bigger—. We got bigger issues." And so out of the funds that we raised, we started the Women's Foundation—the Cleveland Women's Foundation—and that went on for several years. Several years, actually. Meanwhile—. And this—. These were not really specifically lesbian oriented things, but tons of lesbians were involved. Meanwhile, on the lesbian front, I—. I was involved with a woman, and my husband said, "You need to leave, I can't—. I am not going to deal with this anymore." And he was right. I mean, when I think back, I don't know if I'd have put up with it for even a minute. But anyway, I—. But I—. And I left the kids with him. You know, I did—. I wasn't really a teacher. I'd only taught couple of years in Pennsylvania, and so I didn't—. I wasn't certified, or whatever you have to be. So my first job was teaching driving (laughs). What—. What a hoot (laughs). In all of my "Ha-ha-ha," I walk in and I'd say, "I'm only going to teach women." Well, they were thrilled, because there's a whole population of women whose husbands have died—who've never learned to drive—that want to learn to drive. So I was teaching these women, so I had a captive audience. I've since—. I've since met women that I taught to drive, you know, and a couple of them have said, how—. How you know, hearing about me and Talking (unintelligible) really changed their lives. But anyway—. Well, anyway, it was just a hoot, that's all. I remember one woman who—. Am I—. Is this kind of stuff you want?
Riley Habyl [00:36:05] Yeah—. Mhm.
Sally Tatnall [00:36:06] Oh (laughs). These little stories. Women who—. You know, I go to these like, little areas, you know, and just stay in the neighborhood, you know, drive, drive, drive around. I always started in a supermarket parking lot, or one of the big parking lots and—. This one woman was driving and she goes up on the lawn and, as a matter of fact, puts her foot on the accelerator. Well, I'm sitting here with my—. The drive—. The driving instructor has a break, that's all we have. So I have my foot on the brake as hard as I can hold it, and saying to her, "Take your foot off the accelerator! Off the accelerator!", so she was—. She was in another space, she was so scared. But anyway, there were there were tons of stories like that. We—. In—. I don't remember the exact day, it was in the seventies—. We started the Womyn's Variety Show. Went on for 45 years. I mean, it was fabulous, fabulous, fabulous. We—. It was a Variety Show, you know, not a talent thing. So we did all kinds of takeoffs and TV programs, spoofs, skits—. I mean, it was fabulous. And at its—. At its high point, there were over a thousand women who came to the [Womyn's] Variety Show. So, you know, women, women—. It's different today. I don't know what the women do today. I'd love to interview you, actually, because there doesn't seem to be an organizing push for what women need. And I don't know, it's—. It's so scattered around and—. Anyway, okay. Well, anyway. So we started the [Womyn's] Variety Show. I was very big on collectives, and so I really wanted to live collectively. I think it's the only way for women. You know, it's economically sound, you don't have to—. You know, I've heard people say, "Well, then you all think alike." No, we don't. But we all share the dishes, so you don't have to do them every day. I mean, it just makes so much sense. And there are so many old women—old lesbians today—living all alone. It just—. Women would never have devised the nuclear family ever—ever, ever, ever, ever. Would never have done it. There's lots of other things I think about what women would or would not have done. But what else? We had so much going on. Well, do you have another question that'll maybe start me thinking about it?
Riley Habyl [00:39:28] Sure. If you don't mind—. If we could circle back to how you found out about—. And I know that you mentioned that lesbianism wasn't something that you were aware of when you were growing up.
Sally Tatnall [00:39:40] Yeah.
Riley Habyl [00:39:41] Was that something that you found out about after you became involved with feminism living in Cleveland?
Sally Tatnall [00:39:46] Yes. By that time, I s—. There was sort of—. Back in my brain, there was a word, lesbian, but I still didn't really know. In fact, today I'm very much in awe of the women who are my age who knew, and who acted on it, and what they had to go through, you know. So, yeah. We didn't—. You know, sex was forbidden when I was growing up. Sex meant you could get pregnant, and so you were terrified. So it wasn't about what it is today. And partly, I think that was better, but partly no. I'd rather have us know what's happening today. I continue to be a very strong advocate on reproductive justice. Very strong. And I use that word—which was really coined by black feminists—because it does require more than just an abortion or a birth control or having a baby. It requires a lot more, and I think that they have expanded the definition of reproduction. You know, rightfully so. I have a whole list of organizations that I could send you that we started—. Or when I say we, I'm talking about sort of a close-knit group in Cleveland—but there were lots of other women who were involved, you know what I mean? Of course, the Rape Crisis Center, the battered women's shelters, abortion, divorce equity. Those are like mainstream organizations. Then we had a women's bookstore, we had a women's gym, we had a women's building. Oh, there were five of us who put on a conference in the early eighties on radical thought for women. Over 300 women came to that, and I mean, it was amazing. Some of the real radical thinkers—. It was fabulous, it was just fabulous. Oh, okay. What else? I've always—. I've always tried to be—. Always tried to take my belief system into whatever I did. So it was easy to work in an abortion clinic. And after I left the abortion clinic, a very, very—another very good friend of mine—. You know, that was another thing. Friends got you places friends. You know, we—. We paid attention, and we helped each other out. You know, and somebody I wouldn't know would come up and say, "Hey, here, I want you to know this"—and it would be important. You know, it just—. It was different, and I—. I miss those days, and I'm a little sad for today because things seem so separate, and—. Whatever. Anyway. Now, what was I going to say? We did a lot of stuff. I can send you a list of the different organizations. Oh, I know what—. I was talking about work life. So a friend of mine was a doctor—. Oh, here's another little story. She wanted to apply—. She already had a college education, and I think her master's degree in something, and—public health, maybe—and she wanted to be a doctor, so she applied to Case Western Reserve. And she was refused because she was too old. She was 27. And in those days, apparently 27 was too old. So we mobilized. We sent a letter to Case Western Reserve with 40 women signing it, and they turned it around and accepted her and said "If 40 women can agree, we better listen." I mean, that's what we heard back. So anyway, she had—. She had finished her—. She was a doctor—. She became a doctor—a medical doctor, family practice—and started to work at a center on the near West Side. And so she'd been at—. And I wanted to go as a patient, but she said no, they—. It was territory bound, you know, it was just for a certain territory on the West side, which was an underserved population. So, okay, so I can't go. So—. I don't know, years—. Some years—not a lot, but maybe five years—I leave after her. You know, being—. I was at Preterm for ten years. So after that, I left and I was looking, but I wasn't looking. I knew I had to get a job, but I didn't know what. So because here I am still, you know, I'm a college graduate. That's it. I don't have any skills in terms of how people look at wanting people to work. Except for all I did at Preterm—which was a lot. But anyway, so Barbara [Toeppen]—. Her name is Barbara [Toeppen]. Barbara said, "Well, why don't you come and work for me? We need somebody to do billing." And so I said, "Ah, right up my alley." So I go to—. Neighborhood Family practice is the name of the of the thing, and so I go there and they needed something—someone for billing was right. Every time I'd open up a new drawer there'd be tons of bills to be sent, and so I got that all cleared up then. And, actually—. So here's what I want to say about my politics directing my work life. I found out about something that the federal government has called the federally qualified health centers. And so I made an application, because what happens with the federally qualified health centers—. You make out a report that's based on the cost of service to the uninsured, or to Medicaid, and so they pay you that rate, which is well above what Medicaid pays, you know, if you're just billing straight Medicaid. So I made an application, and at the time they weren't making new federally qualified health centers, but they said we could be a lookalike. Which always tickled me because I was like, "Oh, there you go, Sally, making waves. They can't take ya so they'll make you a lookalike." Because it was an underserved area. It was a lot of poverty and, you know—and it wasn't fair. That's all I knew. It wasn't fair, and we need to figure this out. And Medicaid wasn't being fair, you know, they were paying pennies on the dollar. So anyway, we became a lookalike—and then within a couple of years we became a full-fledged federally qualified health center. Now there—. I believe there are five Neighborhood Family Practice locations on the West Side. It's always been a wonderful organization. Barbara Toeppen was the first medical director, and then Ann Reichsman took over when she left—and we've always had excellent doctors. I mean, it—it's just it's been a great place to get medical care. So then I retired from there. I retired for about five years, and at the end of that time, I realized, "Sally, you're not going to make it. You don't have enough money." So I went back to work—and worked until I was 80, actually. I started out working at—. It was a referral from Preterm. It was somebody—a friend who was working at Preterm who knew I was looking, and so she connected me with the job, and then I went—. After I worked there for a while, I went back to Preterm and did billing. Haha! No, I—. Actually, I did the intake process because I could step right into it—because, you know, I knew. And the only thing that had changed, which was—which was a male—I can't tell you a negative enough word—that you can no longer have an abortion in one day. It had to take two days. How stupid is that—how male interfering is that—that you had to have a two-day process? It was never that way when we started. From the day we started, they have hacked away at abortion—at the abortion issue—until finally they negated Roe v. Wade. You know, I don't think—. I know that there are a lot of women who don't agree with me, but I don't understand how they can't see how men control us and what we're able to do. A friend, Alix Dobkins, says, "It's not all men, but it's always men." And it's true, you know. Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Riley Habyl [00:51:22] I do—
Sally Tatnall [00:51:23] Okay, good.
Riley Habyl [00:51:24] —proudly so.
Sally Tatnall [00:51:30] So okay, so my—. So I worked up until—. I don't know. I worked a lot. I continued to work, but somewhere in the early 2000s, I got involved with OLOC—Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. It's a national organization. Now, actually, it's an international community of lesbian elders. Still OLOC—Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. But the hashtag is "An international community of lesbian elders." And we do a lot. We do a lot. We have chapters—we have about six or seven chapters around the country. We do a lot of Zoom [virtual group meetings]. So many old women are isolated and need connection, you know, and one of the ways they can get it is through Zoom, so we do a lot of Zoom programing. We have a lot of support groups, we're—. We're giving—. We're doing a in-person gathering in November in Tempe, Arizona this year. I don't know—. I just keep going. You know, I'm the Energizer bunny, doing what I think is important—. What I think is fair, you know? Is that so hard? It's that's a thing, you know. It's so much easier to be fair. It's so much easier to be nice. You know, some things we—. Ah, I don't know. Well, what else? Imagine—.
Riley Habyl [00:53:39] Yeah. If you don't mind, I would love to circle back to the early 1970s when you were talking about first becoming involved with the lesbian feminist community in Cleveland. Could you sort of describe what the lesbian or lesbian feminist community in Cleveland was like at the time?
Sally Tatnall [00:53:58] Well. Yes. It was—. It was doing stuff. It was building the Women's Building [Project]. It was building the [Womyn's] Variety Show. It was building the bookstore. It was building organizations, you know—. Groups. We had a lot—. We had a group called SOAR [Stop Oppression and Racism]. What does SOAR stand for? Now I'm forgetting—. It had to do with anti-racism work. That's where I was going to look on my computer because there are so many organizations, and I am not sure. I want to look at a few things here. We—. We were just out to do whatever we felt was important, you know—. Important for women. And I can't find what I'm trying to find right now. The seventies—. Who else have you—? Did you get a hold of Debra [Hirshberg] or Jamie [Hecker]?
Riley Habyl [00:55:39] Yes.
Sally Tatnall [00:55:42] They all lived with us—. I mean, they were all part of the collective of Hag House. The seventies—. All I know is it was great. We had collective housing. I mean, we had—. There were a few sort of—group housing. The—. Our house, the Berkshire house [2953 Berkshire Rd.] was—and we called it Hag House, but a lot of people referred to it as Berkshire house—did a lot of meetings, did a lot of parties on—. I remember after a [Womyn's] Variety Show one year we had—. We had the party at our house, and there were over a hundred women there, and we said, you know, "The house can't hold this many." I mean, we—. Berkshire house is a large house in Cleveland Heights, and so, you know, it could handle a lot, but a hundred women were all over. So that was—. That was an impetus for getting the Civic to—. We rented a big space in the Civic. I don't know if you know about the Civic [3130 Mayfield Rd.], but—. Do you know, on Mayfield Road? Where are you located, Riley?
Riley Habyl [00:57:15] Right now, I live in North Ridgeville, which is about 30 minutes—what is it? West of Cleveland?
Sally Tatnall [00:57:22] Yeah.
Riley Habyl [00:57:24] Yeah. Grew up in West Park [Cleveland], but live in [North] Ridgeville.
Sally Tatnall [00:57:26] Okay. Well, the—. The women's—. So as a part of the Civic, we had the [Womyn's] Variety Shows there, and then we had the parties there. So I'm telling you, 500 women would be at a party, you know, or more. When we had huge attendance, I remember somebody said it was a thousand, and somebody else said, "No, we only ever got to 800." Well, I'm not sure, because it was a lot. So the party would just be right after the [Womyn's] Variety Show. And we would start figuring out the [Womyn's] Variety Show like, in November. We'd be at it all winter. And originally, the Variety Show would be held in February because it gave us stuff to do during the winter. But then because of, you know—. After decades, we shifted it to April for, for—. Mainly for weather reasons. So we had the women's—. We had the women's gym at the Civic. We had—. I don't know, we had groups. We had support groups. We had. Oh, also in the seventies—. We started the women's land collective. So that was a whole other thing about having land in Pennsylvania where women could go—and we also would do a feminist girls' camp there each summer. It's so much. I really want to find—. Hmm. I'm sort of half looking here, but—.
Riley Habyl [00:59:24] No worries.
Sally Tatnall [00:59:24] And, you know, and most of us still are involved in some way. However, not all—aren't—. I mean, women who are all together now are doing different things—. Like, you know, some are very active in all kinds of different things. But we still, you know—. And a lot have moved. A Lot of women have moved out of Cleveland, which is too bad, but—. I think I know a dozen people in Tucson and another dozen in California, I mean, all—that did all their work here—have now gone someplace else, to—. I don't know, for weather I guess. I don't know. What else in the seventies? We—. We had so many organizations. I do want to find it and send it to you because I don't know—. Can we talk—? Whoops. Well, I can't find it right now. Can I talk a little bit now about my politics with regard to trans [transgender]?
Riley Habyl [01:01:05] Sure. We can talk about whatever you'd like to talk about.
Sally Tatnall [01:01:06] Is that allowed?
Riley Habyl [01:01:09] Hm?
Sally Tatnall [01:01:09] Well, you know, there's a huge—. There's a huge fight going on between lesbian women. And I am sorry about it because, number one, I believe that everybody should be able to be who they want to be. Absolutely. I believe everyone should be protected under the law. Absolutely. That doesn't make a trans [transgender] women like me. It just doesn't. And where I think it gets confused is that the trans—. I don't call it the trans if I can get away with it. I call it genderism, just another oppression that we are being subjected to. Some of it—. I don't know many trans people. But when I was more involved in, you know, I used to do stuff at the LGBT [Community] Center. When I was more involved, like, the trans [transgender] women wouldn't think of coming to the Womyn's Variety Show. I mean, it just—. That's not where they were, you know? So I—. I have grown up in sort of a way in which trans women knew they were different. You know, I mean—. And it isn't that they shouldn't have what they need. That is not the issue. So here we go now with the genderism sort of thinking. Not only does it say trans women are women, it has managed to change the language. It has—you know, how women refer to themselves. It has been able to change laws. It has been able to grow worldwide. Now, my question is—. Trans people are like .02% of the population. Tell me when .02% of the population has ever accomplished what genderism have—has accomplished? It is men with money who hate women. And that's not, that's not new. That is not new. And so now we're seeing things that—this is all part of genderism—that trans women are more oppressed than women. That theme carries itself. You know, it's—. (sneezes) Women have never, never received the support that trans women are receiving now. This is not about trans [transgender] men. Trans men, as far as I understand, are not allowed in the Cleveland baths, which are male. They—. In some countries—. I forget which countries specifically, and I want to say something like—somewhere, maybe it's India or may—. I don't know. I don't know, but they will change the birth certificate for males—but not for females. For males who transition to female, but not for females who transition to men. You know, so there's a huge discrepancy. And my understanding—. Okay, are you a lesbian, by the way?
Riley Habyl [01:05:24] I'm not. I—(audio glitches)—identify as a bisexual woman.
Sally Tatnall [01:05:27] Oh, okay. No, that's fine. But I hear that the young people don't even want to identify as lesbian anymore because of how badly we've been shown. I mean—. And what happens is—. So there's this—. There is—. There really is a fight, and it's all in the name of trans. Trans are not—. Yes, there are some trans people who are out to get the TERFs [Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists]. There are some trans people who are going to want to hurt women, but that's not the trans way. And the women that I know that are supportive of trans either have a grandson, or a granddaughter, or a friend who is trans—and they don't want them to be, you know, oppressed. Well, of course they don't. And so in OLOC [Old Lesbians Organizing for Change], for example. And we have—. We're trying to maintain the fence (laughs). We are divided on the issue, with vigorous opinions on both sides, and so our sort of policy is: we don't invite and we don't reject. Trying to maintain, you know, who we are, and it has done some—. The—. Genderism has done so much damage to women, and specifically to lesbians. It's almost like lesbians are targeted because we really have so little to do with men. I mean, I wrote this article that—. "I don't hate men, they're irrelevant to me," and they put it in the Cleveland—. You know, what do you call it? What's the newspaper that comes out—. The Cleveland Spark? Isn't it Spark? The LGBT [Community] Center paper? Anyway—.
Riley Habyl [01:07:57] Yes—
Sally Tatnall [01:07:58] It's just—. My focus is on women and, you know—. And we need so much more than we are granted, and yet we're fighting about trans. And it is about the trans women who are—. Who are really invading lesbian spaces, have been—. Have been for decades, but it's really gotten so much worse. So I just I just wanted to say for me, it's more of the same. It just isn't fair, you know. It isn't fair that I can't talk about my body the way I understand it. You know, my female body, I—. I don't think it's fair. I'm a mother, and a grandmother, and a great grandmother, and I take pride in that. I'm not a birthing body. It just—. It just gets to the point where—. I don't know, a little bit of lunacy, I think (laughs). Anything more about the seventies? I just don't—. You know, there was so much going on. We were we were doing conferences. I mentioned the Radical Thought [Conference] for women because it was national. But we did—. We did radical feminist and feminist lesbian conferences—three or four of them—you know, during the seventies and eighties. We did a lot. We just did a lot. SOAR—Stopping Oppression And Racism. That's what SOAR was. Is there anything you're curious about? And you can make me go back. Whatever you want. I'm easy. (laughs)
Riley Habyl [01:10:22] I would love to actually talk more with you about both Berkshire House and the—the Land Project, specifically.
Sally Tatnall [01:10:30] Oh, yeah. Okay—.
Riley Habyl [01:10:31] Yeah—
Sally Tatnall [01:10:31] The Berkshire House. Five women—. At one point, before it became an actual collective, there were 11 women living in the Berkshire house. You know, it just was a place for women. So then we get to be a collective. We became really committed to having this collective and—. We just did stuff. I mean, so—. So much came out of that collective, and we would do—. We would—. We made up our own holidays, and we'd give celebrations for our made-up holidays. We—. I don't know. Almost anything you mentioned had something to do with the Berkshire house (laughs).
Riley Habyl [01:11:37] How did, er—. How and when did the collective at Berkshire house come into being?
Sally Tatnall [01:11:46] Well, I'd always been talking about, you know, wanting to have a real collective living thing—not just women individually living—and so we talked a lot about it and eventually Debra [Hirshberg] and Jamie [Hecker], whose names I've given you, and a woman named—. Wait. Debra [Hirshberg], Jamie [Hecker], Pam [Markley], me, and somebody else. Oh. Oh, I'm blocking. I can't believe this. Anyway, there were five of us and we met—. We met for several months about what it would be like, what we'd do, you know, well, what we were about, what we wanted to accomplish. And then the actual physical location became—. Before we had the women's building it became a place where everything happened. We did not—. We did not use the Lesbian Gay [Community] Center because it was very male. Very male, male identified. And I also want to say there were a ton of lesbians who were not feminists. They all came to the [Womyn's] Variety Show, though (laughs). So we you know, we met and decided what we were going to do. And I think we lasted about—. I want to say we lasted like seven or eight years. But then, you know, couples had to do what they had to do—and other people had to do what they had to do, and—and so it was back to renting rooms. It was my house. It was the house that I got through the divorce settlement. So it went back to renting rooms. The Land Project—same thing. You know, it was a different time. Women would sit around and say, "Let's do a show," and we'd do it. "Let's get some land. We need some land where we can be free and bay at the moon if we want to." So we pooled our resources and we got it, and we made it so that people didn't have to have a lot of money to belong. You know, it was very—. There was a lot of class awareness. And we did a lot on the land with regard to opening it up for people—. For women to come and camp, to have various gatherings there. We did a lot of—. Like we built a medicine wheel, and we have work around the medicine wheel. We—. We built a pond so we could swim. You know, it was just it was women getting together that—. This was what was happening. It was women getting together and saying, "Okay, what do we need? What do we want? Let's just go get it." And after—. After 20 years, the patriarchy took over again. The Land Project is still in existence, and newer women are coming to it. The Berkshire House is not—I had to sell it. So much—. That's why I really want to find this paper, because there was so much going on that isn't in existence anymore. And my one of my comments is: the only thing from the seventies that still exists are the organizations that clean up after men—rape, battering, you know, abortion, et cetera. That's the only stuff that's left, and it's really a shame that we couldn't sustain it. And the reason we couldn't sustain it is the backlash from patriarchy that started in the late eighties. Actually, probably the middle eighties. And we kept going though, you know, but you could see how—. I don't know. And funders didn't help. Funders never helped women. They would come in to any organization—. I don't care where it is, you write a grant and right away the funders say, "okay, well, what is your mission? What does your board look like? What is your, you know, staff?" I mean, they had criteria, and if you didn't meet the funding criteria you could—you wouldn't get money. You know, everything is so male identified, you don't even realize it. And especially when you're talking about money. Oh my God. Money supports the status quo—and that's just a truth, And it hasn't changed. And I, for one, am appalled at how—. How little has really changed and. How women—. You know, we changed advertising. We got women out of the bathrooms cleaning their toilets. Well, now they're back in the bathrooms, cleaning their toilets, you know. Oh, I give full credit to women's liberation for getting the whole health care advocacy program—for being able to have a person with you when you go into a doctor's office. That is straight out of the women's movement, and it still exists. We did that. Are you impressed?
Riley Habyl [01:18:58] Absolutely. There is so much more going on than I could even imagine, which is, again, why it's so incredibly important to be speaking to you about this right now, and to be documenting this history. Especially because a lot of those places don't exist in the present. (crosstalk)
Sally Tatnall [01:19:15] Exactly. Exactly, they don't. We had an organization—. I don't remember the name of it [Gold Flower Defense Fund], but we had an organization that raised money for lawyers, for women who had killed their husbands, who were batterers. Because in those days the women got prosecuted, and so we said, "Wait a minute," they're saying, "This isn't fair. She's been beaten for years, she finally gets—. You know, does it, and—." Yeah. Yeah, so we would raise money for lawyers. Whatever came up, you know. Whatever came up, we had an idea, and either we liked it or we didn't. And if we didn't like the idea, we changed it or we did something about it.
Riley Habyl [01:20:16] When you think about the—the efflorescence of women's organizing in lesbian feminist organizing in the seventies and eighties—. At what point do you think that things started to change to—. I'm sort of thinking about how a lot of those organizations don't exist in the present when they're, you know, when that (connection drops briefly)—when it was happening in the seventies and eighties. At what point do you think that the decline of organizing started? (crosstalk)
Sally Tatnall [01:20:49] I know exactly—. I know exactly. Okay, so here's feminism. And this is what happened—. And I've written about this. I've documented it. And this is primarily white women. The white women's liberation movement is very different from black liberation. It just is, and I can go into that at another time, but—. Women started getting into support groups. They started into Alcoholics Anonymous, you know, Overeaters Anonymous. I'm okay, you're okay. Going to therapy. It became a huge power—empowerment movement. And that's what we have today—personal identity. Personal identity takes precedence over common goals, and it's dangerous. It's very dangerous. Personal empowerment is not social change. You know, it isn't. It may enable you to be more active, but it's not—. Personal empowerment is not social change. And when I talk about this, which I do, it's also—. Has to do with when I'm writing because our personal identities are ruining us—are ruining our ability to be together. It is a mess. And our person—. Well, anyway. This has to do with the book I'm writing, but—. As long as we hang on to our personal identities, we're hanging on to the hierarchy. The only personal identity that is not based in hierarchy is being female. This is genetic. We are female, and there are certain things we do. There's certain things we don't do—but there are certain things we do, and men don't get to do them. Of course, I have tons more to say about that, but, you know—. I think that the personal empowerment—. You know, women went back to school, women got into the support groups, women, you know, started running for office. I mean, there was a lot of stuff that was happening that came out of the women's liberation movement. And primarily—. It was for black women, too. I don't mean to say they weren't doing that, of course they were, but—. Just quickly, white women's feminist liberation is generally about issues of personal empowerment. Black liberation—feminism—is about community need. Very different approaches. You know, and I'm not saying that one that they don't overlap occasionally, but pretty much that is how it plays out, and—. And we have—. And personally, I am desperate to get back to community need organizing because—. Well, like I said, personal empowerment is not social change. And I am about social change. In personal identities there's a hierarchy for everybody, you know. In the hierarchy of sex, I'm female—there's male—so I'm one down. In the hierarchy of race—I'm white, now I'm up—black is down. In the hierarchy of education, well, I'm sort of in the middle, you know? But when a PhD talks to me, I know she thinks I don't know as much as her. But I think she thinks that. So it's not—. Our personal identities don't bring us together unless we're in the same boat. You know, I should teach this stuff, actually. There's just so much, Riley. So much. I'm really glad you're doing this because—. I don't know, it just gives me a chance to remember who I am, because I get caught up—. I get caught up in doing stuff for OLOC [Old Lesbians Organizing for Change], I get caught—. I live with my daughter, granddaughter, and great granddaughter. Now the great granddaughter moved—. Now I'm with a great granddaughter and a great grandson, so there's a lot that I—you know, in my life that's going on. So I really like to have a time when I think—and remember what I think, and why I do what I do. It's a nice gift. Thank you.
Riley Habyl [01:26:07] And thank you so much again for speaking with me. Speaking of that—. What do you, er—. What would you say are some of the major lasting legacies of the movements and activism that happened in the seventies?
Sally Tatnall [01:26:31] Well, it's pretty much—. It's pretty much what happened with the Civil Rights movement. You know, specific goals moved the movement. When it started getting, you know, like—. Maybe it is only around because it cleans up after men, but we have an abortion clinic, you know, we have a Rape Crisis Center. We have a battered women's shelter, we have legal defense. Not enough, but we have some. Stuff that's still working is related a lot to patriarchy and male behavior. You know, do I want that to be the legacy? No, I want me to be the legacy. And I'm not just saying me as an individual. I'm talking about me as a woman who thinks and exert her independence and desires. That's—. Well, that sounds a little bit too personal. But you know, as long as we're worried about our personal identity we're not going to get the job done. We outnumber men. What is wrong with us? (laughs) Do you ever ask yourself that question? (Riley laughs) I mean, we outnumber the suckers. How come we have to listen to them? (laughs) oh, you got me started, Riley. (Iaughs) Oh—.
Riley Habyl [01:28:07] Do you think that there has been—. Do you think that the shift (audio issue) from focusing on structural change to individual issues is at all to do with the de-emphasis on collective organizing?
Sally Tatnall [01:28:23] Yes, definitely. There's still collective organizing, but a lot of personal I.D.—. You know, identities come into it whereas like—. The abortion people, okay. Lesbians might not want to put a lot of energy into that because they don't think it is you know, they don't think they need it. A lie, but they think they don't need it. Or—. Organizing has become very specific in many ways, so—. And specific in terms, as I said, of issues for personal empowerment. You know, we need to—. I believe we need to learn a lot from black feminist organizing because it is community need-based. You know, I mean—. The example I gave with reproductive justice. It's not just about getting an abortion or birth control, it's a package. And so, you know, why are we just naming abortion when we should be talking about reproductive justice, the whole package? If every woman could get behind that, do you think for a minute Roe v. Wade would stand? We'd get those suckers out of there, and we would reform in the Supreme Court. Or get—what's his face, [Joe] Biden—to add some justices. You know, he—. He's doing a hard job, and I know that, but he—. He's got to be stronger, that's all. Although I can't say I appreciate Democrats a lot these days. But anyway, you know, with their woke selves—. I'm woke. I am woke. I'll tell you what woke is, so—. Oh—(laughs).
Riley Habyl [01:30:45] I'm just checking through my notes here. I see that it's 1:36 p.m. right now, and I don't want to keep you too, too long. So if it's all right with you—. (crosstalk) Yeah.
Sally Tatnall [01:30:52] That's fine. Whatever you want, I'm yours, because this is a wonderful opportunity. It really is, and I am so appreciative.
Riley Habyl [01:31:07] I'm just looking through my list of questions here really quickly—.
Sally Tatnall [01:31:15] I will find—
Riley Habyl [01:31:34] One thing that I was also wondering about, too—. So I know that you've mentioned that you didn't have a strong connection to, say, the gay male community in the seventies and eighties, and they weren't really involved with the lesbian feminist community either.
Sally Tatnall [01:31:53] Right— (crosstalk)
Riley Habyl [01:31:54] Did that change at all during the AIDS crisis in the eighties?
Sally Tatnall [01:31:59] I'll tell you the way it changed. Not for me. Not for the women that lesbian feminist that I knew. But a lot of lesbians did take care of a lot of gay men during that time. I know that that was a very—that was a big move. You know, this has to do with what I'm writing. Men and women are different. Men—. There is a genetic code. Men are really more to get stuff done. Women are more relational. How is it going among, with—you know? That's—. A woman has a genetic code that says, you know, you need to take care of somebody outside of yourself. I mean, that's, like, blatant. We have the babies. Who's going to take care of them? We have to. So it becomes a relational emergence into the society. That's not how men are. I mean, it—. It's like—. It's not all men, but it's always men. Men—. I have to say, I always laugh when women talk about getting married and how—how they need to change their husbands. It's like, women get married and then they want their husbands to be women. They want their husbands to remember their birth date, remember their anniversary, you know, do relational stuff that men—. They just aren't equipped to. It's not their fault, you know? (laughs) So, anyway. Did I answer your question?
Riley Habyl [01:33:53] (problem with audio) Outside of your involvement with Old Lesbians Organizing for Change—OLOC—are you still involved in any lesbian community organizations, or groups, or anything of that sort in the Cleveland area? Currently, I mean.
Sally Tatnall [01:34:21] We had an OLOC [Old Lesbians Organizing for Change] chapter in Cleveland for a while, but it really—. And it was pretty well attended, but nobody wanted to take it over, and I really—. I couldn't keep going. That's another thing. Lack of leadership among women. (unintelligible) I don't know if their personal empowerment didn't get up to that place, but—but it's true. There is—. There's a lack of independent leadership, and by that I mean the kind that we focused on in the seventies and eighties. Not running for office. Not more—. Not being in a support group. Not—. It's about groups. Groups that exist—. One of the things that we did in the seventies was to rotate, rotate the leadership, or the facilitation, of groups. And it was important that all women knew they could do this. I don't see that happening now. And it's sort of a shame because every woman has the ability to be in a group of women and get them talking. It's easy to get women talking, you know. You just have to bring an item, an agenda item, and off we'll go. But—. But so many women don't, and I don't know why. I mean, maybe it's because the patriarchy has come back double strong to tell us we're nothing, but—. I don't know. I—. I don't go to the [LGBT Community] Center now, and one of the reasons—. And I'm not even sure that this is true, but at one point I was going to the [LGBT Community] Center for different things, and then I was thinking about having a group, but I believe that I couldn't have it be just women. You know, just women born. And so I—. I didn't—. I didn't do it. I wanted to have a group of younger women because of what I hear in terms of how they—. How they're not feeling supported, and they don't want to call themselves lesbian or—. Or they don't feel like they can be who they are. But I don't know, I felt like I couldn't ask at the [LGBT Community] Center that it be just [cisgender] women. And that's me. I could have found out. I know Phyllis Harris very well. I could find out, but I have so much on my plate that at the time that I was thinking about it, I didn't follow up. I do know that Karen Williams has had a couple of groups there that have actually turned out to be just women. But, you know, I don't know. I don't know. Are you familiar with the [LGBT Community] Center at all? Well, maybe not because you're bisexual (laughs). How do you feel? Do you feel supported?
Riley Habyl [01:38:10] It's, it's a little complicated, I suppose. As a young person coming out at a time when there's—. I mean, there's the [LGBT Center] downtown, but there's not all the—. There's not the same sense of community when I came out and when I began to understand my identity as there were when you came out, for instance.
Sally Tatnall [01:38:33] Yeah, well, you know. Okay, here's personal identity. I don't think who you sleep with should have anything to do with your politics. You know, people–. Why does that identify somebody? You know, my politics are for everybody, and it focuses on women. I'm not going to take legal away from anybody. I'm not going to take housing or food away from anybody. But I'm not going to let you take it away from women either. That is so clear to me. Then there is a whole discussion among lesbians. "Who's a lesbian? Who's a real lesbian? Are you a lifelong lesbian?" I mean it's—. To me, it's bullshit. I'll just say that. That who you want to sleep with—or who you feel you have physical affinity with—that's your business. It shouldn't have anything to do with where you stand on a picket line to, you know, or what organization you want to move forward. We just, it's a—. That's again—. That's the personal empowerment crap. You know, "Let's get all the bisexuals together so we can say what we want." Well, you know, you're a woman. You're still a woman. Come to my team any time. (both laugh) Now that's me. A lot of people don't agree with me, and that's okay, because I know I'm right. I know I'm smart. This is all going to be on recording, isn't it? I think—. I think I should tell what shouldn't be in the recording. (laughs)
Riley Habyl [01:40:37] Sally, I think I've reached—. I've gotten through most of my questions. But before we end the recording, is there anything else that you'd like to share or forgot to mention?
Sally Tatnall [01:40:46] (laughs) I can't imagine. I think I said a lot.
Riley Habyl [01:40:52] Fantastic. I do have one final question. What is a message that you would like others to hear about your experiences, or knowledge that you would want others to know about people with experiences like yours?
Sally Tatnall [01:41:10] Well, I've said it a lot, but—. "Be against what is unfair," is my hallmark. And don't worry so much about your personal identity. It's really rather irrelevant if you're going to fight for what's fair. Yeah, I think that's pretty much it.
Riley Habyl [01:41:36] Fantastic. Thank you so much.
Sally Tatnall [01:41:38] Oh, you're so welcome. You have a great day. I am going to try and find this. I have your email, so I'm going to try and find this and send it to you. Just—. (crosstalk)
Riley Habyl [01:41:49] I'll keep a look out for it.
Sally Tatnall [01:41:50] Okay. Have a great day, Riley.
Riley Habyl [01:41:54] Thank you so much for speaking with me, Sally.
Sally Tatnall [01:41:56] Oh, yeah. Bye-bye.
Riley Habyl [01:41:58] Take care, thank you.
This collection features oral history interviews with LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Same-Gender Loving) community members, leaders, and activists in the greater Cleveland area. Interviews explore the history of Cleveland’s LGBTQ+ communities, groups, organizations, places, and spaces both past and present. Interviews in this collection were conducted by Riley Habyl, a graduate student at Cleveland State University Department of History, beginning in the summer of 2023.…