Cedar Chest and the Center for Non-White Lesbians, Early 1990s
In 1994, Janice Vaughn founded Cedar Chest, a social and educational group for lesbians of African descent. Later Vaughn also founded the Center for Non-White Lesbians. Both groups remained active until the end of the decade. In this audio clip, Jaye Vaughn speaks about how the intersection of homophobia and racism made it more difficult for black women to be publicly out as lesbians and how that affected her outreach for Cedar Chest.
Transcript Inside the black community was some really hard homophobia crossover with church and religion. In the white community, people have always wanted you to be what they wanted you to be. What they wanted that black woman to be, you needed to be that. And I’m one of those ones that went to UNC and it was one percent black when I went there. So I was used to it, but in the hiring process, you had to have very few strikes going in, so that was one of the strikes, so nobody was going to show that, because if you were trying to go up the corporate ladder the last thing you were going to be was a lesbian. And they would let a white lesbian move up but that’s not what they wanted you to be, black woman. I don’t want you to be that, so we didn't take that chance. People didn’t take that chance.
I wasn’t out at my job. I was just out in the community. If my job happened to see me, then so be it. But most of the time, nobody paid any attention to what I was doing, because I wasn’t the CEO. So, um, I had a little card and I got eye contact and I had a pretty good gaydar. (laughs) If I got eye contact, grocery store, anywhere, I gave the woman the card. I had my phone available, a phone line in my house available for women to call. The card said who I was, women of color group, so if they dropped in they’d be ok with that and they had good gaydar, too. (laughs) and so that’s what I would do besides people who came and told their friends. And then after that I did a mailing in a secured envelope and I told them, “It won’t have a return address on there, it’s going to have your address up in the return address and it’s going to do that.” And I would send things out to people. And people showed up from all over the state, outside of the state actually.