Lin Davis and Maureen “Mo” Longworth made their mark in Juneau.
In Mayor Bill Overstreet Park, one of the bricks near the whale statue bears the inscription, “Love-Peace Mo+Lin with ∞ Gratitude.” The block was a gift from Longworth to her wife.
“I didn’t tell her I had gotten it, and we were here walking, and I showed it to her to make a present of it, and we cried,” Longworth said in an interview with the Empire while pointing out the brick.
Davis said she expects more tears today when she and her wife will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards at the annual Pride Picnic for their decades of advocacy.
“I think it probably gives us both tears,” Longworth said. “It is very special. It’s something I didn’t expect, but now that we’re older. There’s a way that you feel older, you kind of feel like you’re on the homestretch, and it feels nice. It feels like you’re regarded as someone with elder wisdom, and that’s really touching.”
They said they would not be receiving awards if it wasn’t for the support of a loving Juneau community.
Davis, 76, and Longworth, 68, said they had each always been proponents of equality but championing the cause of LGBTQ+ rights didn’t become a “life project” for them until they met in the 1980s.
At the time, the two were neighbors living in the San Francisco Bay area. Longworth was in her medical residency and Davis was preparing to go to Washington, D.C. for a peaceful protest.
“I couldn’t believe it when she told me she was going to go to Washington, D.C. intentionally to get arrested for gay rights,” Longworth said. “Just the thought of that terrified me. I think right then, she was just my hero.”
The praise drew a demure response from Davis, who said as an extreme introvert, it was easier for her to be involved in organized protests than to make statements in other ways.
“We have a mutual dance,” Davis said. ([Mo) comes up with things that I just think are absolutely too scary or too much work.”
32 years of advocacy, 27 years in Juneau
Davis and Longworth moved to Juneau after they visited during in the fall of 1992 and were immediately smitten by the capital city.
Since then, they have consistently been visible and vocal backers of LGBTQ rights whether that’s meant marching in parades, lobbying for domestic partnership rights or celebrating the legality of gay marriage.
Longworth said she’s most proud of her current advocacy effort. In mid-October, a play she wrote, “Blue Ticket,” will run for more than two weeks at McPhetres Hall.
The show is based on interviews with more than 50 people and depicts a time in the ’60s when gay and bisexual men were quietly sent away.
“This is stuff they probably still won’t teach in schools, but it feels great to be able to use a vehicle like a romantic thriller, fiction to tell the story,” Longworth said.
Davis said being arrested in front of the U.S. Supreme Court is still her favorite effort.
“I was part of a group of Bay Area people, who were mostly attorneys, and the name of our group was Queer and Present Danger,” Davis said. “At that point, there’d been a lot of civil disobedience actions, so you know to notify the police, and they were there with batons ready. Some people did get beaten, but we just went and sat on the steps and looked up at Lady Justice, and they hauled us into buses.”
Longworth and Davis said it can be tiring being married to someone deeply invested in a cause who feels called to action, but they couldn’t imagine it another way. They do try to plot some down time, too.
They’re toying with the idea of truly taking next year off, but within five minutes of sharing the thought, Davis and Longworth were already backtracking.
“We’re always following our hearts,” Longworth said. “That’s what we do, and that’s why we probably won’t take the year off next year. We can’t sit still and let this world annihilate people and their rights.”
Pride in her work
Davis and Longworth won’t be the only award winners at the picnic.
Margie Thomson, coordinator for counseling, health and disability services, will be receiving the Mildred Boesser Equal Rights Award for her work with a transgender support group.
“I am totally humbled,” Thomson said. “It’s just quite an honor.”
The award is annually given to a community member who advocates for LGBTQ rights. Boesser, who died in 2015 was a longtime advocate in Juneau.
Thomson’s support group has been meeting for the past two years, but its roots stretch back a bit further.
“It started about five years ago,” Thomson said. “My first student came to me and was in the process of transitioning. They asked if I’d come along on the journey and help. So we counseled, and I assisted with some letters for hormone therapy.”
That led to Thomson attending the Gender Odyssey international conference for four consecutive years and actively trying to learn to be more gender affirming and assist people.
She said knowing the disproportionate number of transgender people who attempt suicide or suffer a violent attack makes the work feel especially important.
Transgender women are 1.6 times more likely to experience physical violence, 1.6 times more likely to experience sexual violence and 1.4 times more likely to experience hate violence in public places, according to the National Coalition of Anit-Violence Programs.
More than 41 percent of adolescents who do not identify as exclusively male or female reported attempting suicide in an American Academy of Pediatrics study published in 2018.
Thomson said the support group has grown in a rewarding ways over the years. What started as a group of 18 to 22 year olds has blossomed into a community of 35 people between the ages of 12 and 50.
”We’ve thought of separating into two different groups, but everyone seems to appreciate learning about the other perspective and sharing strengths and all sorts of things,” Thomson said. “It’s awesome to see people be their authentic selves and share support and get support and have the courage to present as themselves, even coming to the meeting. Sometimes it’s the first time someone has presented outside of their home as the gender they identify with, and that takes a lot of courage. It’s wonderful.”
Know & Go
What: Pride Picnic
When: Sunday, June 23, noon-4 p.m.
Where: Savikko Park Shelter No. 2
Admission: Free and open to the public.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.