Diana & Erin- Art and Justice
Diana the short haired cutie, (she/her/hers) and Erin, the long-locked goddess, (she/her/hers) and I met and interviewed over the Summer in Washington D.C. Since then, exciting things have happened for this couple! Erin was working at Planned Parenthood, but she is now the National Organizing Director at NextGen America in San Francisco California! Cheers to your both in all of you new and exciting transitions!
How do you identify?
Diana - Gay or lesbian.
Erin - Lesbian or queer. Honestly, we’re kind of basic lesbians.
D - Like super basic. We camp. We go to ball games. We drive a Subaru.
Tell me a little about yourselves.
E - I work for Planned Parenthood, and I run my own pottery business, Queer As Clay. I started organizing when I was in college, but also before then. I started organizing in reproductive rights work because of my mom. She has always been my guiding star and as I’ve watched her survive, I know I was meant to empower others to thrive in my community.
D - I have an undergraduate degree in Theatre from Auburn and a graduate degree in Arts Management from American University. I think I misunderstood the job market and the pressure on young people. It’s been challenging for me to find work in my field, but that’s really forced me to reflect on what it is that I want to do; how I want to make an impact on the world. For the last year or so, I’ve been really interested in the anthropological side of art, particularly for museums and large institutions.
Erin, tell me about your advocacy career.
When it got time to make decisions about school and life, I went to art school. I studied Illustration and Ceramics. I really wanted to bring art to young people and teach folks how they can use art for healing and better your community and world. But my second year of school, everything changed. I started working with a community organization that worked with young girls and felt like there was more for me to do in this world, and I began taking policy classes and dropped my art classes.
Diana, tell me about your interest in art and theater.
My interests stem back to childhood. I grew up in a very art-centered house. My father played the piano, both of my parents sang. Almost everyone in my family plays an instrument.
When I think back to dancing, or playing in the band, or even getting my degree in Theatre, I think what drew me in was my desire for community. The Arts gave me a community and an outlet to escape my world. I could go to a world created by Bach or Sondheim. I could escape and come back in when my world was quieter...safer.
So how did you two meet?
D - We met on Tinder, actually. 3 years ago, this September.
E - I think Tinder is for the queers, especially lesbian women. We have a lot of friends who have met on Tinder.
D - Yeah. We don't have the privilege of walking into a bar and walking up to someone and having the statistics in our favor. Anyways, it’s a very dramatic story, so get ready.
Tell me this dramatic story!
D - The date was September 26th, we matched up and we started chatting. Erin had joined tinder to make friends. I naturally did not join Tinder to meet friends. So there we are to begin with. So I’m interested enough for the both of us and Erin is just completely disinterested playing hard-to-get.
E - I wasn’t intending to!
D - I’m like full throttle trying to talk to her. And she's just, not. So we keep talking and I find out she is leaving for two months to go to North Carolina for the election. At that point, I'm like, nice knowing ya!
E - At this point, I feel bad for leaving so I offer that we could still meet up after the election.
D - I didn’t think she was serious. So she leaves. I thought it was going to fizzle out, but we slowly started talking all day and skyping all night.
So then what happens?
D - So we decided to go out on a real date when Erin gets back. That’s when the drama begins. Out of nowhere, I get a call from my dad as he’s experiencing extreme discomfort and symptoms similar to a heart attack - pains and shortness of breath. This was all due to aortic valve stenosis. Which is fancy medical language for the narrowing of the aortic valve. After talking to his doctor, I made the decision to pick up and leave. Within hours, I booked a flight to Florida and arrived in time for my dad to have open heart surgery. Naturally, that’s when Erin came back and once more, we’re in different states while I’m having a family crisis.
E - But I stayed with her through that and when her dad got better she comes back up and we had our first date. We met up at Bus Boys and Poets in DC on 14th. We had dinner, drinks, and ended the night with a stop in the bookstore to pick out each other a book. My pick was Inside the Money Machine by Minnie Bruce Pratt and Diana’s was Top Dog Under Dog. And that’s our first date story.
What was your coming out process like?
D - I don’t think I can pinpoint a moment. While one of my sisters is gay, my family can be pretty micro-aggressively homophobic. For my whole life, my family just assumed. But it was a bridge I wanted to cross when I met the person I was going to marry. I knew it was going to be emotional. For my dad, in particular.
Erin was my way of coming out. And while it was emotional, my dad loves Erin. They couldn't disagree more politically but they get along just fine. I also think it's easier because of the person Erin is.
E - Prior to our relationship, I had come out to my family years earlier. My mom is a very progressive woman, “free to be you and me” kind of thing. Growing up she would tell me “I don't care who you love, a boy or a girl. I love you for you.” But coming out felt scary to me.
How are you families now?
E - My siblings are younger. When I started talking to Diana, I had just come out of a long-term relationship. I was anxious about introducing her to them. I was very protective of them and I wasn’t ready to admit that I liked her. One day my little sister kept asking me who I was messaging. When I refused to tell her, she read Diana’s name but couldn’t pronounce it. She kept running around the house saying, “Erin likes, D I A N A.” She helped me realize I didn’t have much to worry about. She was my test run, now everyone knows and loves Diana.
D - And my family loves her too. Although we have to come out to my grandma every time. She keeps forgetting and she’ll see my ring and ask who my husband is. And I have to remind her, “No grandma, I have a wife. Her name is Erin.” She’ll stop and look at me, then say, “Good for you!”
Tell me about your wedding
E - I’ll tell this one. We’ll see how well I do. Diana is the storyteller in our relationship.
Once we had both proposed to one another, we started discussing the wedding. I was under the impression of us having a small wedding. Maybe 20-70 people at most. The wedding is about us and I wanted to keep it simple and cheap.
D - But for me, my family is 75 people. There are just so many people. A small wedding wasn’t possible.
E - We kept talking and it seemed like we were at a crossroads. Small wedding vs. large wedding. Finally, it just clicked. What if we had a wedding and didn’t invite anyone! Diana and I started talking about a private ceremony just between the two of us focused on our commitment to one another. We wanted to pick a place that was special to us. So we chose a national park, and now we go hiking back there on our anniversary each year.
While the ceremony was about us living in the moment, we wanted to still be able to share it with our friends and loved ones. So we hired one of our friends, Shari, to take photos and videos. All in total we had four people there. Our friend who performed the wedding, our friend who took photos, Diana, and myself. It was our wedding.
Do you have any coming out advice?
E - Personally, we’ve been exploring how to support one of my younger sisters who wants to kiss girls and even has a girlfriend! The advice I offer her is to do what feels good for her. I tell her to listen to her heart and her head. We've been teaching her it's ok to pursue something if she's interested in it, but it’s also ok to walk away from it. In her own time, she’s accepted herself. To this day, she still doesn't care how she identifies. She’s simply herself.
D - For a lot of my life, I felt like it was my battle to fight in the South. I think a lot of Southern queer folks feel the need to represent the LGBTQIA community in an “easy to digest for straight folks” kind of way. Recently I’ve realized that it’s not my job to educate people that I have a right to exist. So my advice to fellow queer folks, especially those in the South, is that you don’t have to hurry your timeline or change yourself to make someone else more comfortable. You have a right to exist. You have a right to live your life exactly as you want to, safely. If an environment is toxic, you don’t have to stay. If your family is toxic, you don’t have to be around them. There’s a reason you put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.