My life began differently than many –
I was the unplanned pregnancy of an unwed teenager. She did the best thing for me (and the hardest thing for her) – she carried me to term and placed me for adoption. Actually, it wasn’t that ordinary – seems like my life just isn’t so ordinary! I was spoken for prior to birth – not something that happened often in 1947 I found out.
My adoptive parents found out that a young woman who had attended the Bible college in Oregon that they had graduated from had a baby she had to give up. They had not been able to get pregnant, so they were excited to take me. But then they did get pregnant, so they had to decide if they wanted to still take me. They did, so they ended up with two babies seven months apart.
I was born in Oregon in 1948, but before I was born my parents had to move to California for my dad to take a new job teaching in San Jose. My mom had a hard pregnancy so she couldn’t go to Oregon to get me, nor could my dad leave his new job. So my aunt from Washington picked me up in Oregon and delivered me to my parents in California. How’s that for a normal start to life?!
In San Jose, my mom was pregnant and dealing with a newborn. Then she had her newborn and dealt with me at 7 months old! After my sister was born, I was raised as a twin, sort of, but I am not a twin born to the same mother at the same time.
There’s a lot to tell – but you can read some of it in the book Torn Apart. I was a tomboy. I was ignorant of what I was – a lesbian – until my late 20’s. I had a hard time with lots of things. I came out finally and then continued to have a hard time with lots of things.
I lost my mom in 1992 to cancer and it was very hard for me. Several years later I found my birth mother through an odd series of events. She didn’t want to meet me. That was hard to hear…
Then I lost my dad in 2003. That was very hard for me. Then when I was 56, I met my birth father, who never knew I existed until then. He had lost contact with the love of his life, his fiancée, my birth mother, and had moved on with his life and had a family and then lost his wife and daughter.
Judy and her birth father Don Everest
When I met him in 2004 I became the oldest of 11 children in 4 families. That’s not ordinary! And I will never meet my three half-siblings I understand my birth mother had with her husband. I will never meet my half-sister who died at age 44, the daughter of my birth father and his first wife.
A year later, I met Karin. My “new” folks were nervous that if it didn’t work out I would be hurt and they said they would be hurting right along with me. That’s not the way it works out for many lesbians and gay men! But things did work out and Karin and I have a great relationship with Mom and Dad Everest and the whole gang in Oregon, as well as my sister Joan in California and my niece Kate and her partner Mark and the whole family in several other places too.
My family is not based on blood relations – I never met any blood relatives until I was 56. Family is of the heart and from the heart – and folks in the LGBT community probably know that better than others.
Over the years I have tried to get people to understand what LGBT folks need – the same rights and privileges as the rest of society. It’s that simple and that complex. When I worked for years on this I never knew about same-sex binational couples. I’m embarrassed to say that now.
But when I was first coming out, I knew it was wrong for people in my church and town to say I wasn’t worth equal rights, that I was a sinner, a pedophile, a pervert, all the things they were saying. And those that were saying it were part of my family. That was hard to take. My cousin – a prominent minister in the area – was a leader in the early anti-gay political movement in my hometown and region. That hurt a lot!
My first breakup hurt a lot! My partner left me for our friend, a married woman, after we had been together more than five years.
Being a single lesbian for the first time after that breakup was hard – luckily there was an LGBT center in San Jose and I found it and then was brave enough to go to a group I had heard about for slightly older lesbians. That saved my life!
I socialized and got involved with another partner. After we had been together more than five years she left me because she decided she wasn’t a lesbian and didn’t want to be seen with me because people would think we were a lesbian couple…that hurt a lot and was very confusing to me!
I got involved with another partner. But after more than 10 years together and 2 years of couple counseling (how lesbian!) I terminated the relationship because her focus was less on us and more on her projects and family. That hurt but I was more able to deal with relationships by then.
Friends urged me to date – just date and see what that was like. I tried and of course either I wanted to commit and she didn’t, or vice versa. That was hard for me!
I had finally decided to NOT date and NOT be in a relationship. Of course I tried a new online site a friend told me about and that’s when Karin popped into my life – literally and figuratively…
Much of the rest you can read in the book or on the blog. Because of Karin I am in the situation I need help with. Because of Karin I have written Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law. Because of Karin I now have family in Europe and Florida.
Because of Karin I have experienced Findhorn and Findhorn Press and Scotland and England and France and Spain and The Queen Mary and Egypt and much more.
Because of Karin I will be out of the county more – maybe permanently – because I cannot sponsor her for U.S. immigration until the law changes.
So you have pretty much caught up with me…
A more formal brief bio about me would read like this:
Judy Rickard is a lifelong lesbian, U.S. citizen and nearly lifelong resident of California. Judy has worked for civil rights and LGBT rights since she single-handedly challenged the leader of anti-gay activities in her town as she was coming out in 1973. She served as a board member for an LGBT political action committee in the San Francisco South Bay Area for 15 years.
Judy has worked with mayors and clergy and university presidents on diversity committees and special task forces, among other civil rights activities. She has worked with political candidates and elected officials to educate them on LGBT issues and has worked to elected numerous openly-gay or supportive candidates for local, county, state and national offices.
Judy and Karin’s story is not over – and their challenges are not over. In fact, writing this book and making it public may make it impossible for Judy and Karin to be together in America. But their dedication to the cause galvanized them and they want to help fix a system that discriminates against lesbians and gay men from America who fall in love with lesbians and gay men from other countries. They have met wonderful people on this journey and they are committed to help!