Besides the many hiding, confused or ashamed people there were the ones also back in the Communist era who lived their non-straight private life as naturally as possible. Andrea managed to separate her professional and private life and she believed in the truth with such confidence that being out wasn’t a question to her. Today’s interview is with her.
In 2008 Labrisz Lesbian Association started a lesbian herstory project, making interviews with lesbians above 45 in order to create the basis of an archive and an edited volume. "Secret Years", a documentary based on 11 interviews was shown in the 2009 LIFT Festival, the volume of interviews with a similar title was published in 2011 with 16 lesbian life histories. The five more interviews with women who already lived their adult and lesbian life (accepting themselves and trying to find relationships, communities) back in the Socialist era, are only in the book. We are now sharing the stories of these five women.
Mária Takács: And when did you feel that – if it happened at all – that turning towards women was developing into a definitive orientation or interest? Did you have this switch of sorts during your second relationship?
Andrea: I think I did, because the beginning phase of the second one was quite stormy… I was around twenty-one or twenty-two, and these nice gay boy acquaintances of mine wanted to fix me up with a girl. Or rather the other girl expressed her strong desire to find a girlfriend. Our friends were really into this matter, and I think we managed to get together for the third go. We had always got stuck somewhere halfway, mostly I did, it didn’t work out. Then one day it happened at one of the boys’ places. We met there in person, the boys withdrew politely to give us some private space, and, if I remember well, it turned into a nine-month long relationship. Exclusively. I mean I didn’t have any relationships with men meanwhile.
MT: Did something change in you then?
A: Well, yes. This was her influence, I think, because she had this orientation from the start, and she still has it. She didn’t swing both ways, and lived it out with all her might, so, of course, it rubbed off on me, as well. It wasn’t a boring relationship. So this world opened more wide before me then...
MT: Did it cause any conflicts or struggle for you?
A: No, not at all. Not even for a moment. I’m a curious type, I’m open to get involved in anything, so probably that’s how I got into this, as well. So far my whole life has turned the way I wanted it. I have tried everything I have wanted to, but what I don’t want to I wouldn’t try for love or money.
MT: Did this second relationship engage you in lesbian socializing, as well; did your world open up in this sense, too?
A: It did. In this sense, too. Some of my then girlfriend’s co-workers, acquaintances and friends knew about her identity, so we had these close friends’ get-togethers.
MT: How much were you out in front of your larger environment in this period?
A: I always come out with everything, I’ve never had any reservations.
MT: Didn’t you have any bad experiences in your environment, before or around 1990?
A: No. I’ve never sensed this. Why would I have? The thing is not written on my forehead.
MT: But what if it had got out?
A: Only those could have found out to whom I revealed myself. I was neither hiding it, nor showing it off. I thought – and I still think – that everybody has a private life and a public life. Private life is a private matter, it’s in the name, and I don’t usually wear any outer signs that could reveal this. I like girlie T-shirts, but these could be worn by anybody, it doesn’t have any particular meaning. I don’t attach signs on me – I’ve put this one on for the sake of the film shooting, because I like it very much, it’s beautiful. (She shows her labrys axe shaped pendant.) I’ve never behaved flagrantly.
MT: But there can be situations where private and public life overlap, when one has to consider what to say or not to say.
A: Do you refer to situations where the topic comes up in a mixed company, and whether I fall silent, or ...?
MT: Or when you are in a semi-private company, do you say that you were here or there with your girlfriend?
A: If that’s the case, my girlfriend and what we do together is none of their business. If it’s necessary I explain that you should form a negative opinion about something or someone only if you know the person and his/her life well, but even then you shouldn’t necessarily do that, or if you do so, you should refer to your own life rather. I have always reacted very sensitively to expressing negative attitudes towards any minorities.
MT: Did you have a stable job in this period where the question of coming out would come up?
A: No. This somehow has never been a problem for me. Now I’m smiling because I recall that many times I went on sick leave for my girlfriend’s sake, since I preferred her to the job… and sometimes it was touch and go whether I could keep my job or not.
MT: What kind of jobs did you have?
A: I had all sorts... from manual work through office manager to bookkeeping jobs – without any qualification in them. I got into positions where I could learn a lot. I had workplaces where I could play hookey, and there were workplaces where I couldn’t. So it happened that I was fired, but if we got indulgent in our love life, I rather put the job behind, and usually it was worth doing it.
If you are interested in the life stories of these 16 women, you can access the volume of interviews "Secret Years" here.
To contact Labrisz Lesbian Association, you can write them here: firstname.lastname@example.org