Michael Rueben Lowe was born on April 18, 1947 in Port Angeles, Washington. His father was Native American, so he spent his early childhood with his grandmother in Sequim learning about his family’s Alaska Native heritage through making rugs and gardening with her. She relayed a story from his infancy indicating how he expresses both genders, which later informed his two spirit identity. His family moved to Port Gamble when he was 5 years old, and, a year later, his father developed prostate cancer and tragically shot himself in front of Michael and his 3 siblings. Promptly after, his mother married Michael’s cousin, who lived next door, and then moved the family to Suquamish.
There were many Native families in town that Michael grew up around. Michael’s cousin bootlegged alcohol to support the family, so all the children would sleep together in a room surrounded by alcohol they would help make. As Michael grew uncomfortable sharing a bedroom with his siblings when he got older, he moved to the living room, where many adults would come and go throughout the night. In that room, he ended up having his first sexual experiences. Michael feels these early experiences were positive, even though the first was at age 7 with a male adult and then at age 9 with an aunt. From 12-18, he had a secret sexual relationship with a family friend called Uncle Ken.
Meanwhile, Michael dated a girl in high school and got married to her. Just as he graduated, he was drafted and sent to Germany in 1965. He had some romantic experiences with other German men, but kept quiet about them and returned home to his wife and had 2 kids with her. After they got divorced about 7 years later, well aware that he was tired of being in the closet, he attended a gay meeting in Seattle but felt very uncomfortable as the queer community was entirely new to him.
He decided to move to Portland in 1970, where he walked right into a gay bar and was hired on the spot to be cook and bartender. He spent some time bouncing back and forth between unsuccessful relationships with men and women, but eventually entered a 19 year long relationship with another man. During that relationship, he came out to his family as gay, who accepted his then-partner. Unfortunately, the relationship was abusive — further, his then-partner forced him to stay closeted and prohibited him from practicing any Native American rituals at home. After he left the relationship, he met his partner, Dale, a few years later in 1999 during a pool game. They went on one date, moved together to Eugene, and have been inseparable ever since.
Michael and Dale were married through a Native American ceremony. They first explored the leather scene together. Then, they both became drag queens, with Michael as Rhoda Gravel and Dale as Lady Bloomingdale. Rhoda became a regular at the annual Hult Center benefit shows to help the HIV alliance raise money. Rhoda also performed for multiple women’s spaces, raising money for causes ranging from battery and abuse survivors to mammogram funding. 5 years later, Dale and then Michael fell very ill with cancer. They cared for one another during this time, moved back into the Sequim tribe area, and both recovered much of their health back as they became more active with tribe functions and started working again.
Now, the couple remains very involved in the tribe community — Dale regularly sings and drums in tribal ceremonies, and Michael mentors youth in both tribal culture and general life skills. Micahel is also an active minister, having done 43 weddings including many same-sex marriages. Around Sequim, he is lovingly known as “Uncle Mike” as he continues to live each day determined to serve the Native and queer communities around him.