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Jan Edwards was born on March 30, 1938 in Cleveland, the first of two daughters born to James Borgia, who was of Sicilian descent, and Jeanette Campbell, a red-headed Scotch-Irish woman. Jan’s sister Faye was born six years later while the Borgia family were living in Bay Village, a small town on Lake Erie. A born tomboy, Jan virtually lived outdoors, especially at the lake.

From an early age, Jan was a take-charge person, captaining street ball games and later serving as class and student council president. Because her mother was an invalid, Jan also took over the running of her family household, and became a second mother to her sister. During these years, she enjoyed being a spokesperson for others, a role she still values today.

As an undergraduate at the College of Wooster in Ohio, Jan majored in English and speech, with the intention of going into the ministry. She later changed her mind and became a teacher of English, theatre, history, music, psychology and women’s studies, as well as a school counselor in middle schools, high schools and colleges. She retired after a 42-year educational career in 2010.

In 1962, Jan married Jim Edwards, who had been a student of hers while she was a teaching assistant at the University of Illinois. Jim became an Air Force officer and pilot which eventually brought the couple to Fairfield, California. While there, Jan and Jim became parents to two children, Leah and Jay. Jim’s career flying fighters in Vietnam and Jan’s realization that she was a pacifist and a lesbian led to their divorce in 1975.

After a decade on her own, Jan began a 28-year relationship with a woman. At 75 years old, Jan left that relationship and struck out once again on her own. Looking back, she felt she had relinquished her prized voice in both her marriage and her long-term relationship. In what she describes as a strange twist of fate, Jan was subsequently diagnosed with a vocal tremor which makes it difficult for her to sing (a lifelong passion) and, at times, even to speak. “Note to self,” Jan says: “Don’t wait to speak.”

Today, Jan lives in Sonoma, California, where she is once again advocating for others as a hospice volunteer, and as chairperson of her church’s lay care ministry. Jan’s happiest times are spent with daughter Leah, son Jay and his husband Mason, and her granddog, Henri the Frenchie. Jan donned a bright orange blouse for her OUTWORDS interview, and when it came time to take her portrait afterwards, she joyfully hammed it up for the camera.
Jan Edwards: [00:00:00] was living on her own.
Mason Funk: Aha!
Jan Edwards: The couple across the street, the woman of the couple is the world's biggest busy buddy. She has absolutely no boundaries. I told this hospice team, I said I'm a little reluctant to go there because this person will be, first of all, hounding me about what I'm doing there but I said I can take care of that. The bigger issue is
Jan Edwards: [00:00:30] when I leave I can see her going over and asking the people. Hospice is supposed to be a private agreement.
Mason Funk: Right.
Jan Edwards: I can see her going over. Now, "Jan Edwards was here. I'm just curious about what is she doing there?" The volunteer coordinator had said, "Oh, I think you should go ahead anyway." This room full of about 18 other volunteers said, "Oh no."
Mason Funk: [00:01:00] Wow!
Jan Edwards: I lost my first patient through no fault of her own or my own. I haven't gotten the replacement yet.
Mason Funk: Oh, I see. I didn't realize you were doing that.
Jan Edwards: Yeah. I got fully trained. I'm good to go.
Mason Funk: Really? Oh, how exciting.
Jan Edwards: Yeah. I just completed it this spring. It's quite a training
Jan Edwards: [00:01:30] because you're dealing with the right brain emotional stuff but all of the HIPAA regulations which are just I can see why doctor's offices just -
Mason Funk: Just go crazy.
Jan Edwards: - tear their hair up.
Mason Funk: Yeah. We're starting?
Natalie Tsui: Yeah.
Mason Funk: All right-y. This is it.
Jan Edwards: I mean, I could be in -
Mason Funk: Yeah. Yeah.
Jan Edwards: Okay.
Mason Funk: Be Italian.
Jan Edwards: Yeah.
Mason Funk: This is how we start, which is to have you tell me your name as you would like to be identified on the screen and then actually spell it no matter how simple it is.
Jan Edwards: [00:02:00] Okay. Okay.
Mason Funk: You're going to talk to me and you're looking at the camera.
Jan Edwards: Okay. I'm not looking. I can't. I'm just talking to you. You want me to start now?
Mason Funk: Yes please.
Jan Edwards: Okay. I'm Jan, J-A-N. Edwards E-D-W-A-R-D-S.
Mason Funk: Okay. The other thing I'll mention is when I ask you a question imagine that an eventual viewer is not going to be able to hear my question so try to fold the question into your answer.
Mason Funk: [00:02:30] For example if I say to you, what was your birthdate and location?
Jan Edwards: Make sure that I say my birthday -
Mason Funk: Yeah, exactly. What were your birthdate and location?
Jan Edwards: My birthdate is March 30, 1938 and I was born in Cleveland, Ohio.
Mason Funk: Excellent. You're a quick study.
Jan Edwards: Forward source.
Mason Funk: [00:03:00] Okay. Do me a favor. This is always my first dish question to people which is just to have someone ... Tell me about your family. Tell me about what I call both the people who are in it and what was the family culture? What was a prize, what was looked down on?
Jan Edwards: This is my developmental family.
Mason Funk: Your family or [crosstalk] family.
Jan Edwards: [00:03:30] Okay. Okay. My family consisted of my mother, my dad, my sister who's six years younger than I. My mother had really desired a very feminine girly girl when she had a daughter. I was bombarded with dolls with which I never played, which annoyed her immensely.
Jan Edwards: [00:04:00] Fortunately, my sister six years later is indeed a girl and so she acquired her own play things and dolls. But my father realized that I had athletic capabilities and so he and I would toss every manner of ball around; softball, baseball, football. I didn't know that he thought that I was good at those things but I'd overhear him talking to friends and say,
Jan Edwards: [00:04:30] "Geez, you should see her throw a ball. She's a natural." That's how I found out that he values the tomboy self, the very person that my mother frankly disliked. My mother became quite ill when I was about 15 to the point of being hospitalized for a year at the time, occasionally.
Jan Edwards: [00:05:00] I took over not only the raising of my sister but I took over the running of the home complete with a shirt ironing, cooking and so forth as well as being in school. The house itself, the family unit, was not a peaceful one. I wondered even as a small child how it was my mother and my father got together because they were such very, very different people
Jan Edwards: [00:05:30] and didn't seem to enjoy each other's company. Very, very evident, and so neither my sister nor I felt comfortable inviting people to come to the house. We always met people either at their house or at school or in neutral territory. I didn't even know whether my parents felt it was important that I go to college. I did. I knew I was going to go in part
Jan Edwards: [00:06:00] because I loved learning, I loved being in school. Frankly, in part, so that I could get out of that house and family unit.
Mason Funk: Just out of curiosity -
Natalie Tsui: Can we pause for a second?
Mason Funk: Yup.
Natalie Tsui: I just want to make one tiny tweak.
Mason Funk: No.
Natalie Tsui: I swear, it's the last one.
Mason Funk: She says she's going to stop because she's She's just tweaking something.
Natalie Tsui: Her hair is just a little bit darker than yours so this doesn't really show up.
Mason Funk: Oh, I see.
Jan Edwards: A little bit darker than his.
Mason Funk: [00:06:30] But she has more hair than you-
Natalie Tsui: It's a lot. It's a lot little. It's a lot little [crosstalk].
Mason Funk: Also, I'm just going to take the chair-
Jan Edwards: Was that too lengthy in answer?
Mason Funk: No. That was great. That was perfect. What we're doing right now has nothing to do really with-
Jan Edwards: Right.
Mason Funk: It's just standard stuff.
Natalie Tsui: It's not you, it's me.
Jan Edwards: No. Listen, I admire detailed people and I can get pretty nit-picky at times myself.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah, I just want to separate you from the background a little bit so that it's up.
Mason Funk: [00:07:00] Okie dokie.
Jan Edwards: How is this what looks like a battery pack through here, upper ring? Is it mounted behind?
Mason Funk: It's mounted on ... There's two little stands right here. It's mounted on its own little stand.
Jan Edwards: I see.
Mason Funk: This is hanging off of this stand.
Jan Edwards: Why is it necessary to have the big -
Mason Funk: It softens it.
Jan Edwards: I see.
Mason Funk: We wanted to just provide a little more light inside your face but this little light is too harsh.
Jan Edwards: [00:07:30] Too intense.
Mason Funk: They just diffuse it. The so-called tricksters in trade.
Jan Edwards: I see.
Natalie Tsui: Just one second. Sorry, you were standing.
Mason Funk: Yeah. By the way, I did not tell Oh, I see. Okay. I did not tell you, you could do 15 more to eat.
Natalie Tsui: I know I don't.
Jan Edwards: One.
Mason Funk: Since I'm mad, I'm going to get a cookie. Do you want a cookie?
Natalie Tsui: Okay. You're like -
Jan Edwards: [00:08:00] There's a ginger gluten free and then there's a whole wheat dark chocolate.
Natalie Tsui: Okay.
Mason Funk: I'm going to get a couple for her.
Jan Edwards: Yeah. You should get some supplies for that end of the room.
Natalie Tsui: Okay. That looks nicer.
Mason Funk: Okay. Good.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah.
Mason Funk: I'm going to put the cookie plate right here.
Natalie Tsui: We're still rolling actually. I should probably cut. Okay, recording.
Mason Funk: [00:08:30] Okay. You said something that when you introduced Are you going to consciously refrain from mentioning Dad by name? Just so I know.
Jan Edwards: Probably.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Jan Edwards: Just because of how things ended up.
Mason Funk: Correct. Okay.
Jan Edwards: I don't mind naming others and I think it's very appropriate but, yeah.
Mason Funk: [00:09:00] Right, perfectly fine. You said something when you're introducing your relationship with her you said something like I think you said, "I thought I was in love with her." Maybe you used that as jumping off point to talk about how you experience that first connection. What it was like in the moment?
Jan Edwards: [00:09:30] When I first met this woman in 1985, I found her very compelling, very outgoing and personable and funny and up bright and she seemed very interested in me. I later found out that she knew that was a setup, a dating kind of thing. I didn't. I knew I was meeting a friend of this gentleman,
Jan Edwards: [00:10:00] but I didn't know it was for the purpose of fixing us up and she did. I think she came on sufficiently, dramatically that I couldn't miss it and I did. Shortly after I met her I thought, "I love this woman. I love this woman." I was also somewhat relieved that we did not live close together because that gave me a week at a time to consider
Jan Edwards: [00:10:30] where this relationship could go whereas had we lived closer together, we may have done something impulsive like moving in right away which frankly wasn't done that often in the '80s. People took their time a little more. But after a year of the Mostly weekend back and forth thing,
Jan Edwards: [00:11:00] I thought and she thought we should live together. She wanted me to move down on the South Bay but at that point, I was a school counselor and they had just put a hiatus on hiring counselors. She had many more public school credentials so she said. "I could probably get a job in your district," which she did.
Jan Edwards: [00:11:30] She liked Napa and I liked Napa, I'd always wanted to live over there. We decided on Napa. A little more than a year to the date, we moved in together in a house that we jointly purchased in Napa.
Mason Funk: Now, I want to backtrack a little bit because during the years from when your marriage ended, the 10-year period. Do you feel like you were holding yourself back from serious involvements with others partly
Mason Funk: [00:12:00] because your kids were still living at home? Was there a conscious choice like, "Look, I'm going to raise my kids. I'm going to support them through working but my personal life, I'm going to put it a little bit on the backburner." Or was it just that you weren't meeting someone that you really want to get involved with or some other person?
Jan Edwards: Why did I put my life on hold for 10 years, again, for several reasons I'm sure part of it was that the children were still at home
Jan Edwards: [00:12:30] and their father was not, he was living out of the country at that point. I was working full time so it didn't really leave me a lot of time to date. Also, I quite frankly wasn't sure what I was looking for. Am I looking to meet a different kind of man,
Jan Edwards: [00:13:00] probably none military? Am I looking to meet a woman? Where would that happen? If I started dating women or lived with a woman in the town where I was known as a married woman, a mother of these children, how would I navigate that? It just seemed frankly, confusing and I didn't have the energy for it.
Jan Edwards: [00:13:30] I just put it on a back burner. I didn't feel resentful about it at that point. It's just frankly the easier thing to do.
Mason Funk: Okay. Good. What were you hearing? I mean, by this point of course, The Women's Movement was full steam ahead. In the '70s, all kinds of great lesbians, women's cooperatives,
Mason Funk: [00:14:00] separatist but to a certain extent, I wonder, you were in Fairfield maybe 50-60 miles from San Francisco. How did all of that cultural tumult around women and women bursting out of the closet and creating collectives and communes. What was your awareness of that and how did you see that?
Jan Edwards: My primary awareness was through reading magazines.
Mason Funk: [00:14:30] Do me a favor. Tell me what you're talking about when you say you're -
Jan Edwards: Oh, that's right. My primary awareness of The Women's Movement and lesbians coming out and being proud of who they were in the '70s and '80s, I appreciated that but mostly by reading magazines or seeing things on television. I had great admiration for Ellen DeGeneres
Jan Edwards: [00:15:00] and thought she was taking a huge risk which at that time, in fact, it was risky. But I didn't identify with it. I didn't identify with it personally and living in Fairfield, there was none of that. Again, we were pretty much inundated with military personnel, their wives and their families and that was just not a part of that military culture.
Jan Edwards: [00:15:30] Now, I was not connected with the military. In fact, I had to stop leading the Women's Officer's Wives Choral Group as soon as Jim retired from the military but I didn't have that much to do with anything in the city or in the military. I was kind of in a no woman's land at that point. Going back to work fulltime and raising children
Jan Edwards: [00:16:00] and dealing with the neighbors in a good way and it just was not a part of my experience at that point. Later on after I was with the woman, we moved to Napa and we embraced all things; lesbian parties, the city, the clubs the whole thing. Then it was like poof! Wow! Okay.
Jan Edwards: [00:16:30] This is the life. This is it. This now defines me.
Mason Funk: Interesting the way you phrase that because some people might have said that slightly differently like, "Aha! This is my tribe. These are the people I'm meant to be." But you didn't say that. You said, "This is now who defines me."
Jan Edwards: Our life even as we were together -
Mason Funk: [00:17:00] When you say our, who?
Jan Edwards: Okay. The woman with whom I lived for 28 total years and I had, what I would call brief encounters with other lesbians. We would be invited to an occasional party, for example. But because she did not like to entertain people in the home,
Jan Edwards: [00:17:30] I was not free to bring people in so that frankly, we did not, in my opinion, have a solid group of lesbian or gay supporters. We went to individual events as it was convenient or as we were invited but I would be surprised if anybody ...
Jan Edwards: [00:18:00] If they thought of that culture at that time, at gay culture would say, "Oh, yeah. Jan so and so are definitely a part of the gay life here in Napa or even Fairfield."
Mason Funk: It was more like you would dip in and out -
Jan Edwards: Yeah.
Mason Funk: - with the most part of your lives were just under yourselves?
Jan Edwards: Yes, yes. I certainly can't answer for her but that's certainly my take on how it felt.
Mason Funk: [00:18:30] How did you see your relationship and relationship to, and I know this is a little bit of a fraught topic, but in relationship to your kids? I named her but you don't need to.
Jan Edwards: [00:19:00] My longtime partner began a relationship with my children that seemed to me to be very inclusive and fun. She and my son shared a birthday, out of all the days of the year. We sometimes had a collective birthday cake. I think frankly, I've built that up in my mind to be a real connecting point
Jan Edwards: [00:19:30] and that this feeling of embracing my children, she had no children, would evolve into this new family unit, the two women and the children. Over a period of time, it became very obvious that she was not comfortable with the amount of time that I wanted to spend with my children.
Jan Edwards: [00:20:00] That when they were visiting us, there were very, very stringent conditions placed upon when they could arrive, when they must depart, what meals they could have with us, what meals they couldn't, how late they stayed up or whether they were noisy or whether they flush the toilet in the middle of the night.
Jan Edwards: [00:20:30] That became very uncomfortable for them and for me. I opted to let that continue for way, way, way too long. When Leah and Jay, my children were adults,
Jan Edwards: [00:21:00] those conditions were still placed around them. I participated in the relationship that allowed there to be a framing around when they could come and when not. All the while, she tried to convince me that they were adults. That they didn't need me in their life that
Jan Edwards: [00:21:30] what kid wants their parents butting in and if they wanted to see me more, they would make more of an effort to see me and I knew that that was not true because I felt that they were participatory when they could be and there was an opening for them to be.
Jan Edwards: [00:22:00] It finally got to the point in the last couple of Christmases when and one The final Christmas that I spent with her, when my son and his husband and my daughter were invited to our house for approximately a two-hour period that would encompass brunch from,
Jan Edwards: [00:22:30] as I recall 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. All of the conversation that was directed to various people at the table became absorbed by my then partner. Interestingly, I vowed at that point, that that really was the beginning of my departure.
Jan Edwards: [00:23:00] I vowed at that point there would never ever be a Christmas like that again. Only to find out that my husband or my son and his husband had determined the same thing. I have not had that discussion with my daughter but I assumed she probably would be very much on board with that.
Jan Edwards: [00:23:30] That very thing that created a separation or at least a lack of closeness between my children and me for way too long a period was the impetus finally to my leaving, walking out.
Mason Funk: [00:24:00] Okay. We're going to go back and cover a little territory because I'm curious, it strikes me as such a kind of a classic It's an existential dilemma that you were in. You had your children, you had this partner.
Mason Funk: [00:24:30] I mean, talk about a rock at a hard place in way. I know that you probably, as you said very clearly, it went on way, way, way too long and hold yourself responsible of that to a degree but it was also kind of a classic woman's tale of -
Jan Edwards: Staying too long or -
Mason Funk: [00:25:00] Actually, that's interesting that you say that. Okay. I was going to say it's a classic women's tale of family versus individuality or autonomy. Maybe it became also a classic woman's tale of staying too long. How do you frame that? I guess, if you were look at your story from the outside, how do you see your story as mediating? How do you see yourself in some ways as a character in a story mediating these very strong impulses and demands on you?
Jan Edwards: [00:25:30] I see the story of my trying to mediate between my children and my partner as a story that is really antithetical to me. Normally, when I feel so strongly about something, as in my defense of young children that continues today, I would have gone on such sufficient record that the relationship
Jan Edwards: [00:26:00] with the partner would have been long over and should have been. I thought that I could still make it work despite all evidence to the contrary from all of the characters. I still thought if I could manipulate things differently,
Jan Edwards: [00:26:30] create a scenario in which magically people embrace each other and this could work out, that there might be a chance that I could have both my children back in my life and also have this partnership that had been very important.
Jan Edwards: [00:27:00] Now having said that there were also other factors in the relationship that were growing and stretching very thin. It wasn't just my children but for me it polarized around my children because they are so important. The other issues didn't even compare. Had I let them rise to the surface
Jan Edwards: [00:27:30] with issue around Leah and Jay, then I could have much earlier said, "Hey, I'm out of here." but because I didn't let them come up, that is the reason why some of these pivotal situations around my children became so, so vital that there was absolutely no looking back.
Jan Edwards: [00:28:00] It was one of the strongest feelings I had in my life, that God awful Christmas brunch. That, "Wait a minute here. I am not going to be able to have a relationship with my children. It has come to that, that's where it is and that is not okay."
Jan Edwards: [00:28:30] Between moments of wafting, I, probably six months later, realized that I needed to leave and I did.
Mason Funk: Now, along the way your son came out to you.
Jan Edwards: Yes, yes.
Mason Funk: [00:29:00] Actually, back tracking. I've never asked you this before but when Did you ever have any inkling and I'm guessing the answers yes but I don't want you to speak for you. Before your son came out to you, when you're raising your son and your daughter and he was 6, and he was 10, and he was 12, and he was 16. Did you ever cross your mind, "My son might be gay?"
Jan Edwards: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It crossed my mind that my son might be gay
Jan Edwards: [00:29:30] and it certainly crossed the mind of many of my friends, both male and female particularly my gay male friends. They would often say. "Jan, Jay is gay. Has he come out to you yet?" But again, different time period and he was still in high school at that time. I said, "Well, no. He has never addressed it all."
Jan Edwards: [00:30:00] I did say. "Yeah. It has occurred me that he could be gay." The conversation usually didn't go much beyond that. Later when Jay was in his 20s Yeah, Jay was in his 20s. He came to me one day and he said, "Mom, I need to tell you something." Mind you, I had not come out to him yet either
Jan Edwards: [00:30:30] although we were living together. A person and I sleeping in the same bed, and I'm sure he knew that we were a couple. But he said, I remember, he said, "I am a homosexual." Which was sweet and I said, "You are?" He said yes and I said, "And I am too."
Jan Edwards: [00:31:00] That's how we told each other. Then he didn't stay long after that, he was on his way into San Francisco. At that point, he had not brought any man home with him. Sometime after that, he brought a young man home with him.
Jan Edwards: [00:31:30] I remember asking Jay about the person and say, "What was he like?" Jay said, "He's just like me." I didn't know what that meant except that obviously he was gay too and in some ways he was very much like Jay. A charming guy, very personable and they seem very happy together. That's how we confirmed with each other who we were.
Mason Funk: [00:32:00] It occurs to me maybe you thought that with him coming out to you that that would be the glue that sealed this vision you had of a new happy family, so to speak?
Jan Edwards: [00:32:30] There probably was a feeling on my part that since we have been open with each other and had this identification with each other and also with my partner that the happy family that I had sought for so long could be created out of that just because there was another level of alliance, another level of identification, another level of perceived closeness.
Jan Edwards: [00:33:00] I think I also thought that my partner at that time would also embrace him more knowing that he was gay. Again, for a person who often thinks in very complicated terms, there are some critical areas of my life and periods where I get incredibly simplistic and I move from A to Z without too much thought and that was one of them.
Mason Funk: [00:33:30] Let me check my list of questions and see if I have skipped over anything important and I still have a few more I know that I want to ask. This is a broad question but looking back and knowing that you were genuinely in love with your husband
Mason Funk: [00:34:00] and knowing that you've been genuinely in love with a woman at least on one occasion in each if not more, how do you view your sexuality as a whole? Do you think you are bisexual? How do you view it? Some people view it as a choice like frankly, like it's a political statement as much as it is an ingrained preference.
Mason Funk: [00:34:30] Other people say, "No, it's not political about it. It's just who you are," et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. How do you view your history now that you're quite a bit older?
Jan Edwards: Quite a bit older. I view my journey in terms of sexual identification very clearly at this point. At the points when I was in the area of
Jan Edwards: [00:35:00] either conflict or back and forth, I didn't have any clarity at all. I identify myself very clearly as a lesbian. There were certainly times in my life when without conscious identification, I behaved as a bisexual but I think even then, my preference was certainly My orientation was certainly as a lesbian.
Jan Edwards: [00:35:30] I just, for a variety of social and practical reasons and I think the fact that for this long segment of time I wasn't dating, it didn't have to be even questioned. I didn't question it either but I am a lesbian.
Mason Funk: [00:36:00] Buzz this morning he was talking about the so-called Silent Generation that I think you can probably relate to. He's just one year younger than you when people When you just didn't talk about X, Y and Z. We joked about how now we've gone to the time when you talked about everything under the sun.
Jan Edwards: Yes.
Mason Funk: But you said that because we all internalize so much repression of things including our sexuality that sometimes it feels like the best we can do is to get to the point where we tolerate our sexuality as supposed to saying,
Mason Funk: [00:36:30] "I'm not only a lesbian or a guy man and that's not only okay but that's actually really cool. That helps make me who I am and helps determine my values and so on." Is that something that has happened for you with time? I know that's a long winded question.
Jan Edwards: You're talking about the embracing ones true self?
Mason Funk: [00:37:00] Yeah and maybe even saying it as let's say, a gift that you bring, for example, as a lesbian?
Jan Edwards: In my current life, I don't have or I don't perceive that I have much opportunity to be an out lesbian. It's not that I'm a closet lesbian
Jan Edwards: [00:37:30] but the majority of the people with whom I associate know that I am a lesbian but they themselves, the large number of them, are heterosexual. Consequently, it sounds strange, but it doesn't come up much. I am very glad to be who I am
Jan Edwards: [00:38:00] and a big part of who I am is a lesbian. It's not the only part and it's not my primary identification with most people. Now, obviously if I've been invited to a gay/lesbian party, it's probably 95% of my identification.
Jan Edwards: [00:38:30] I'm not sure I see anything terrifically "cool" about being an old lesbian but there's certainly no deterrent.
Mason Funk: Great. Now, I want to go back a little bit more because I genuinely find it incredibly brave that at the age of 75 or 76, I'm not sure which.
Jan Edwards: [00:39:00] Seventy five.
Mason Funk: Seventy five, that you said, "Better late than never. Maybe I should have done this five years ago, maybe I should have done 10 years ago, that doesn't mean I can't still do it and you basically made a plan and left. A lot of people, including myself, would find that story very, very brave. At the 75, you left this life you had known for 30 years and inspiration has stuck on you.
Mason Funk: [00:39:30] What made it impossible for you to do that and let us know what you're talking about? Let us know what you're talking about.
Jan Edwards: Okay. At the age of 75, after being in a relationship for 28 years, that had become very negative and frankly abusive.
Jan Edwards: [00:40:00] I knew deep in my bones that if I were ever to be free, I needed to run to the hills. That's essentially what I did. I waited until my partner was going to be away from the house for a couple of hours. We lived on the third floor of a building that had my car in the basement.
Jan Edwards: [00:40:30] I didn't want to take the elevator because I knew that neighbors would see and question. I loaded some clothes in black garbage bags and snuck down the stairwell of a fire escape and shelved things in my vehicle and got in the car, scared, really frightened. I had become frightened of this woman
Jan Edwards: [00:41:00] and drove to within about six blocks of the property where we lived but where she wouldn't see me when she drove back. I called my daughter and told her what I had done and asked her if I could stay with her for a while. She lives in a very, very tiny place in San Francisco. She said, "Well, maybe for a week."
Jan Edwards: [00:41:30] Anything seemed respite. She said, "Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I got to hang up. I'll call you right back." She called back and she said, "Dad," that was my former husband, "is going to be gone to his place. He's travelling but he said you could stay there." This was a place I'd never seen. I hadn't really seen Jim for quite a long time.
Jan Edwards: [00:42:00] I met her train and we drove to his house. I unloaded my black plastic bags, which was all I had with me at the time and I moved in there. I stayed by myself for a while and then he came home. We stayed there probably a month together, ended up being better friends than we have been in 47 years.
Jan Edwards: [00:42:30] But the deep knowing that if I were to ever have any chance at all of a free life which will include my children on our terms not on her terms,
Jan Edwards: [00:43:00] that I had to go then. I had to go then. I was in therapy at the time. The therapist certainly had been advocating that I needed to extricate myself from the relationship but she also knew the level of abuse that had come into the relationship and the extreme negativism.
Jan Edwards: [00:43:30] She also realized it wasn't just a matter of sitting down and having a conversation which I have tried to have and had tried to include the partner in couple's counseling and none of that worked. I tried three counselors because my partner didn't like the sound of them.
Jan Edwards: [00:44:00] Finally with the third person I thought, "I'm going to stay with this person. I need the help of this person," which of course irritated my partner and another level of irritation set in. I could hear her voice, the therapist's voice saying, " Jan, you need to have a plan.
Jan Edwards: [00:44:30] You need to have a plan." We had briefly discussed how would this work? When is she gone? The partner wanted me to go along with her even on things that didn't pertain to me at all like card playing, for example. I talked my way out of having to go play or watch her play cards
Jan Edwards: [00:45:00] that day under some ruse, lie. I simply wasn't there when she returned.
Mason Funk: How did it feel to have it come to that, where you had to basically run for the hills?
Jan Edwards: [00:45:30] I have never felt more desperate in my life. It felt like my life depended on it. I can't imagine being more frightened or needing to do something extreme than if somebody had entered my home with a weapon and was about to shoot me. It was on that level. It was so extreme.
Jan Edwards: [00:46:00] It took all my energy and probably a lot of my, hopefully temporary, a lot of my intellect. I could not keep a straight thought in my mind. It was just verbal garbage, just verbal garbage. My children came to my rescue. My daughter stayed with me for several days
Jan Edwards: [00:46:30] with the caveat that I not talk about my partner or where we lived or anything about it. Three days after my son, the psychotherapist, arrived. He wanted to talk about all of it. He was also able to tell me how he had been made to feel during this long, controlled, period. Very difficult to hear but very important to hear and for him to say.
Jan Edwards: [00:47:00] I have not regretted ... I have been gone now in July, it'll be four years. I don't regret any of it even though my former partner keeps trying to keep me connected in a variety of ways I have not been and will not be.
Mason Funk: Jay told me she recently wanted you to go on a cruise with her or a trip with her.
Jan Edwards: [00:47:30] In 2018 and 2019, she wants me to travel with her. I finally had to write back and because she kept texting, emailing and phoning, I'm saying, "I have no intention of travelling with you." I said, "And furthermore, it's " I didn't say it's improper. That would have been too judgmental.
Jan Edwards: [00:48:00] I said, "Furthermore, it's very uncomfortable with you being partnered to even project such a thought." She wrote back and said, "Well, actually it was Karen who suggested that I contact you because she does not have the kind of money to support the regent travel." Here's what I speculate happened. I speculate that she proposed travel to this woman
Jan Edwards: [00:48:30] and the woman probably said, "I can't afford to do that. Why don't you just contact Jan and travel with her in a fit of pique?" She used that as the impetus to ... It indicates many things certainly. Let's just say that we did not end up on the same page at all.
Mason Funk: [00:49:00] Okay. You'll have a chance to review your transcripts by the way and strike any names as you like to strike.
Jan Edwards: Okay, that came in there.
Mason Funk: Yeah. It just came out in the end. Let me see. Let me find your Let's see. Okay, back up here. We're almost done here.
Natalie Tsui: I just want to see There's a light that's been creeping from the outside. I'm trying to -
Mason Funk: [00:49:30] Okay.
Natalie Tsui: - figure out where it's coming from. Where's that light coming from? Before it was fine but pitch is right. Is it out there?
Jan Edwards: I think it's right off the edge of the lamp and it takes to the outside.
Natalie Tsui: This one?
Jan Edwards: Yeah, I think so.
Natalie Tsui: Maybe it's this?
Jan Edwards: I don't know.
Natalie Tsui: It's just bright -
Jan Edwards: Maybe it's coming from -
Natalie Tsui: [00:50:00] - in this uncomfortable area.
Jan Edwards: What's it doing? Am I -
Natalie Tsui: It's on your breast.
Mason Funk: I see.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah. I think we just need to track it back.
Mason Funk: It's coming
Natalie Tsui: It's coming from here?
Mason Funk: No, it's coming from here.
Natalie Tsui: No, it's here. Here. You're just -
Mason Funk: Are you sure? No, look at this.
Natalie Tsui: Wait. Yeah, it's coming from here.
Jan Edwards: For heaven's sake.
Mason Funk: Yeah, it's coming right through the little gap.
Jan Edwards: [00:50:30] You want me to reposition the chair?
Natalie Tsui: Maybe if we just turn the chair a little bit
Jan Edwards: Which way I might -
Natalie Tsui: Yeah, that way. No, it's still there.
Mason Funk: Nope, still there. It's exactly where
Jan Edwards: Am I going to go?
Natalie Tsui: That's a stubborn little piece of
Mason Funk: It's coming [crosstalk] -
Jan Edwards: Yeah. When you have 14 windows and 650 square feet ...
Mason Funk: That's a lot of windows. It's right here.
Natalie Tsui: Wait, why is it over here though?
Mason Funk: Wait, let me see. Let me find it.
Natalie Tsui: [00:51:00] It's good. It's right above you got to lift your head up. There. It was on your ear so towards your ear. Towards your ear -
Mason Funk: There it is. It's right there.
Natalie Tsui: Where is it?
Mason Funk: This
Jan Edwards: That top one.
Mason Funk: This one right here.
Natalie Tsui: This one? Yeah.
Jan Edwards: Yeah. It's separated slightly differently, isn't it?
Natalie Tsui: Is it still there?
Mason Funk: That mightve done it. That did it.
Natalie Tsui: Yes.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Natalie Tsui: Okay. That was [crosstalk].
Jan Edwards: Gosh, you guys are so good.
Mason Funk: That's my Natalie.
Jan Edwards: I'm telling you. You better give her a permanent -.
Mason Funk: That's why I pay her big bucks.
Jan Edwards: -position.
Natalie Tsui: [00:51:30] Although there's still light, but it's a lot more faint than other one.
Mason Funk: Okay. It'll be okay.
Natalie Tsui: We're still rolling by the way.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Natalie Tsui: Okay. Three, two, one again.
Mason Funk: Okay. It's reading?
Natalie Tsui: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Okay. I actually want to go back and just ask, out of curiosity, you said you wondered to yourself
Mason Funk: [00:52:00] and your sister might have lost and wondered. Why your parents were even together. Did you ever get an answer to that question directly from your parents? Did you ever get a sense of what had caused them to get together in the first place?
Jan Edwards: I never ever got any explanation as to how my parents got together. I know where they got together. My father was playing softball
Jan Edwards: [00:52:30] and my aunt dragged my mother along. It may have been with the intention of introducing my mother to my father. That's about as clear an answer as I ever got. From that point on, I'm not sure they were clear why they got together. My father was about four years younger than my mother. My mother at the time was a very light-skinned, red-headed woman.
Jan Edwards: [00:53:00] I guess, it could have been perceived as attractive. My father was fairly dark, Sicilian. There could have been an opposites attract thing. My sense is they just really didn't know each other very well at all. I don't know how long they dated before they were married.
Mason Funk: [00:53:30] Tell us a little bit Because I know this from our conversations about your dad's Italian background and the community of Italian-Americans that existed there where you grew up.
Jan Edwards: In Cleveland there was a very large community of Italians. I think they had some very interesting connections with perhaps the Mafia.
Jan Edwards: [00:54:00] They entertained each other quite a bit. You only went to Luigi's Restaurant or you only visited certain houses of people that you considered to be family or La Familia. When I later married and was not aware of the tradition. My father was a man of few words, did not brief me. All of his Italian friends were walking
Jan Edwards: [00:54:30] through the reception line, they were sticking bills down the top of my dress. I'm thinking -
Natalie Tsui: You're rubbing at the microphone.
Jan Edwards: I'm sorry.
Natalie Tsui: I'm sorry about that.
Mason Funk: Back that up a little bit.
Jan Edwards: Okay.
Mason Funk: Your father didn't brief you ahead of time -
Jan Edwards: Okay. My father didn't brief me ahead of time that one of the Italian customs at marriages was for these Italian gentlemen to put bills,
Jan Edwards: [00:55:00] money down the bride's dress. The line was quite long. The dress got quite full and never got off loaded until I took the dress off. My then husband and I were able to live for over half a year on the money that we made on the dress collection.
Mason Funk: Wow, that's awesome.
Jan Edwards: Yeah.
Mason Funk: I didn't know that's -
Jan Edwards: It was funny.
Mason Funk: [00:55:30] By the way, every once in a while, I noticed you might be tempted to include Natalie within the story by looking at her as you're talking but in this case, we have to [crosstalk].
Jan Edwards: She does not exist.
Mason Funk: She does not exist. We're going to invisibilize her.
Jan Edwards: I do tend to do that when people are present, yeah.
Mason Funk: Yeah, I could tell. That's the polite thing to do under normal circumstances.
Jan Edwards: Yep.
Mason Funk: [00:56:00] Tell me about overhearing your father being proud of you. Just tell me that story's a standalone thing and any details you remember about hearing what he would say, who he said it to, what he said.
Jan Edwards: My father as I indicated was a man of very words -
Mason Funk: Actually, do me a favor. This is another rule. Pretend that you haven't told me -
Jan Edwards: Haven't indicated, that's right because you have editing privileges.
Mason Funk: Correct.
Jan Edwards: [00:56:30] Okay. My father was a man of very few words to me, certainly to my mother, to my sister. He was a little more sociable when he was out with other couples. I never really knew how my dad saw me. I knew how my mother did, the tomboy that she would have preferred to be a girly girl. I didn't know really how my father felt about me at all
Jan Edwards: [00:57:00] because he never said. I guess I thought that he enjoyed my playing music. I sang, I played the clarinet. He came to the performances. That's how I figured out that he both approved and perhaps even supported my doing that. Again, he never said, "Boy,
Jan Edwards: [00:57:30] you're really playing well. That was a beautiful song." There was none of that. When I later played a semi-pro softball and George Steinbrenner was my coach, I thought my father would probably be at least one of the people to comment on that. He never ever commented. I said, "Well, dad what do you think? I'm -
Natalie Tsui: [00:58:00] I'm sorry to interrupt. Every single time you shift, it shakes the tripod. She was telling a real good ... You were telling a great story and I was like I'm shaking all the time.
Mason Funk: Okay. All right.
Natalie Tsui: She was telling a really good portion You were telling a great story and I was just like, "It's shaking all the time."
Mason Funk: Okay. Right.
Jan Edwards: Are you shaking or you're shaking?
Mason Funk: I am shaking.
Natalie Tsui: Because he's very close and it's carpet. They're connected.
Mason Funk: Yeah, so I have to sit still also. Okay. Back we go.
Jan Edwards: Okay.
Mason Funk: I promise we'll get this little [inaudible].
Jan Edwards: Starting with my father again?
Mason Funk: [00:58:30] Yeah. Maybe shortened.
Jan Edwards: Okay.
Mason Funk: Maybe not the reference to how he would come to your concerts, things like that, we're zeroing on how you learned that he was actually proud of you for having those endeavors.
Jan Edwards: Okay. All right. Since my father never told me directly that he was supportive of me specifically music and athletics, I didn't really know how he felt but I would overhear him telling a neighbor,
Jan Edwards: [00:59:00] "Boy, you should have seen Jan at first base. I mean she was amazing. She nailed it. Nothing got by her." Or if it was a musical concert he would say, "It was really pretty. She plays beautifully or she sings beautifully. You ought to hear her." I don't know that he knew that I overheard him and therefore
Jan Edwards: [00:59:30] that was a reason not to say it to me directly. He wasn't, I guess, a direct person. If he happened to overhear something, he may or may not own up to it. During those days, I didn't confront him with what he had said, good or bad. Later on, probably around the time I was going to college I would just flat out ask him, "Well, dad, does that mean you liked it?"
Jan Edwards: [01:00:00] He would, "Well, it was good. Yeah, I mean it was pretty good. Yeah, it was good." It was so hard for him to say, "Gosh, I'm proud of you" or, "That was an amazing play," or, "I'm so glad I got to see you do that." Everything was simply overheard. Of course, my mother didn't comment. Sometimes neighbors,
Jan Edwards: [01:00:30] we have fairly close neighbors would say what my father had said to them but never, never did he say anything that had to do with pride or appreciation.
Mason Funk: Interesting. Okay, that's good. I get a real picture of him. Just in the culture, it sounds like maybe it was also partly cultural.
Jan Edwards: I think it was, yeah. I think that Italians,
Jan Edwards: [01:01:00] Sicilian men are used to talking to each other. I later reflected that they didn't talk to many women at all. Maybe it wasn't unusual that he didn't talk to my mother very much or even to me or to my sister, or to my aunt, or many female members of our family. We happen to have an abundance. He had five sisters and a bossy mother.
Jan Edwards: [01:01:30] I think you're right. I think that was just something that he had learned and was comfortable with.
Mason Funk: Great. Okay. Now, you said your parents didn't necessarily make it known that they wanted you or care in either away if you went after college but you wanted to go. Where do you feel the inspiration came for you to want to go to college and learn? How did you come by that?
Jan Edwards: [01:02:00] Even though I lived in a very small village, there was a very high level of academic concentration within the schools, within the teaching staff. It was a preferred place to teach because it was a lovely little suburb right on Lake Erie just outside of Cleveland. It just was ingrained in me
Jan Edwards: [01:02:30] as soon as I started going to elementary school that teachers would talk about going to college and had a certain mystery about it that sounded fun to me, something adventuresome and away from the little town where everybody knew everybody. Everybody was in everybody's business
Jan Edwards: [01:03:00] which I feel has some bearing on why I never addressed anything about whether or not I could be lesbian. It just never even was on the radar. There were so many assumptions made and the issue is that people knew everything about each other. They talked about it. We had the party line phones, four people on the party.
Jan Edwards: [01:03:30] What you didn't know just by listening to people out on your sidewalk, you'd overhear on the four-party phone line. I knew a lot about my neighbor so I figured they knew a lot about me too.
Mason Funk: Tell us briefly about this idea that there was somehow this unspoken code developed that on green on Thursdays ... Fridge.
Natalie Tsui: [01:04:00] [inaudible] refrigerator. Do you mind if we turn it off?
Jan Edwards: You probably have to unplug it. That's okay. Yeah, go ahead.
Mason Funk: It's making a lot of noise.
Jan Edwards: Yeah. I forgot about it. It's an old
Mason Funk: You mentioned among people you want to talk about, Veda and Kathy .
Jan Edwards: Yes. Veda and Kathy are lesbian friends of mine whom I've met through the church to which I belong. They have been partnered
Jan Edwards: [01:04:30] and ultimately married for 40 years. They so embraced their relationship, their marriage. They have included me in the pride parades ever since I moved up to Sonoma. We have a group within our church called the Ladies and Gents for Gay Rights. They're basically straight women who perform a camp routine.
Jan Edwards: [01:05:00] I don't perform with them obviously but I carry banners. Veda and Kathy carry married such and such a line, been together 40 years and they take me with them. We're like a mini lesbian posse along with these straight women and men who are advocating for the rights of both people.
Jan Edwards: [01:05:30] Currently, Veda has cancer. People really rallied around but their optimism, their appreciation, their loyalty to each other, the richness of their marriage is so profound to me.
Jan Edwards: [01:06:00] If I have any wishes about what I might have experienced, it's exemplified. If I had had a portion with either relationship, either being married to a man for 13 years or being with a woman for 28. If I had had a portion of that kind of love and commitment, I would love to have had that.
Jan Edwards: [01:06:30] It's nothing I think about frequently at all. It doesn't hold me back. I don't find myself wishfully looking at them and thinking there go I. It's just something that I have huge respect for.
Mason Funk: At this stage in your life, what do you hope for in a way of a new relationship,
Mason Funk: [01:07:00] potentially? How do you see yourself? Are you dating? Do you want to date? How do you see yourself as a sexual being and an erotic being at this stage in your life?
Jan Edwards: Not very. Not very sexual, not very erotic at all but I frankly don't see myself being partnered again.
Jan Edwards: [01:07:30] What I still would like is a close pal, a pal. I just can't come up with a better word. A woman, probably gay, who is just available, a woman who calls when I get home from a trip and say, "Tell me all about it," or, " Let me bring over a sandwich. I want to hear about your adventures."
Jan Edwards: [01:08:00] Some close person that would just check in and for whom I would do the same. Whether or not we became lovers, whether that was even a part of a relationship, at least at this point in time, does not seem germane. I would love to have that. I have good friends but I would like to have
Jan Edwards: [01:08:30] that special person who just was aware of my comings and goings, cared deeply about them, cared deeply about the people I care deeply about. No, I have not done dating. I have looked at a couple of sites. I don't feel that they're for me. I don't quite frankly feel they're very honest.
Jan Edwards: [01:09:00] It doesn't feel like a very honest way to get to know people and hanging out in a predominantly straight community as I do on the likelihood of my meeting a lesbian is at my age and given that many people are already partnered does not seem very likely. It's not sad for me. It's okay. It's quite okay.
Mason Funk: [01:09:30] Okay, great. I think I'm going to give Natalie a chance, I always do, to ask any questions she may have. I think my last question is just going to be a basic ... What do you feel we haven't covered? Is there anything that you really want to talk about?
Jan Edwards: [01:10:00] I can't think of anything that we haven't talked about. I didn't really, even though I filled out your questionnaire, I didn't really feel I had an agenda. I didn't feel that you specifically had an affixed agenda. I don't know. I mean I'm certainly game to answer anything either of you has to ask
Jan Edwards: [01:10:30] but I don't feel I have unfinished business. In fact, since this is really the first time I've ever discussed, really discussed my history, my evolution. It seems like it's a pretty extensive exposure.
Mason Funk: [01:11:00] Yeah. Yeah. Natalie, do you have any questions?
Natalie Tsui: Well, I have, yeah. I have one which is okay so you had to really struggle with your identity for so many years. But you had a son that came up relatively early in his life. Do you feel What are your feelings about that? I think you talked both of you coming out at the same time but can you talk about
Natalie Tsui: [01:11:30] how your relationship might have evolved or how you feel? Like do you feel like I think that's similar to my previous question but in a different way or like the last interviewee, but do you feel a sense of legacy that you've like
Jan Edwards: You mean that this gathering today is the type of legacy or if my son is it?
Natalie Tsui: Yeah, like your son is like a gay legacy.
Jan Edwards: Oh.
Natalie Tsui: I don't know how to describe it.
Jan Edwards: Interesting.
Mason Funk: [01:12:00] You'll answer that to me as if I was the one
Jan Edwards: Yeah. Yeah.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah. Just continue to ignore me.
Jan Edwards: I don't believe it ever occurred to me that my son specifically benefited from my being lesbian. Certainly prior to his coming out to me, if anything, it may have impeded him
Jan Edwards: [01:12:30] since I hadn't addressed the issue with him, my issue with him. I don't know that. I've never asked him that I feel incredibly proud. He's one of the few people I can't talk about without crying but I feel incredibly proud of Jay.
Jan Edwards: [01:13:00] Whether he had been gay or straight, I don't think it has any bearing on that. I will say, he has been much more courageous than I. I dare say he probably would've been more courageous even had he been my age and in other words a peer of mine rather than a son of mine.
Jan Edwards: [01:13:30] I just think he's braver than I am.
Mason Funk: Well, he must get it from somewhere. Do you have another question or a follow-up?
Jan Edwards: Or did I even answer your question.
Natalie Tsui: I think that answered it. I guess I'll do have a follow- up but you still have your four questions?
Mason Funk: Yeah, I have like a final four.
Natalie Tsui: [01:14:00] Yeah, I think it's the question that you usually ask.
Mason Funk: Okay. All right.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah.
Mason Funk: I have the same four questions for every interview at the end. Number one is if someone comes to you to any channel who chooses you to say, you know I'm thinking about coming out, whatever that might mean to that person in his or her life. From your experience, what simple pieces of advice or guidance or wisdom would you share with that person?
Jan Edwards: [01:14:30] I think if anyone is considering coming out that they look first and carefully at a very close and supportive individual and share that information first. Get the emotional support. Get the affirmation that they are still
Jan Edwards: [01:15:00] the person they were before the announcement. I think that's so important and what I'm seeing and what I experienced when I was working in high schools was that young people then and some now just kind of crash out into the world and encounter things that they may not need to encounter.
Jan Edwards: [01:15:30] Battles that they may not need to fight right away and by themselves. I guess my advice is by all means be who you are, say who you are, gain some support in doing that. If you can do it within your family, I think it's wonderful. If you can do it beyond your family and with close friends or organizations, even more so
Jan Edwards: [01:16:00] but I would say be cautious about just flying out into the world announcing that you're gay and expecting to be warmly embraced just because the times have changed.
Mason Funk: Great. Great. Second question, when you look to the future,
Mason Funk: [01:16:30] what are you hope for ... What gives you hope for the future? I've asked this question so many times that I can never find a better way to rephrase it. I just
Jan Edwards: First of all, I am a very hopeful person. If I had not had hope, I would still been in an abusive relationship or nonfunctioning.
Jan Edwards: [01:17:00] To quote Dickinson, "Hope is the thing with feathers." It's a very individualized personal but very active condition. The things that give me hope are when people against all odds take a stand,
Jan Edwards: [01:17:30] believe they can make a difference. Act as if they can make a difference and do so.
Mason Funk: Great. Why is it important to you to tell your story?
Jan Edwards: [01:18:00] I have never told this story. The importance is that at age 79, I own my story. People don't have to wonder and piecemeal and create fragments and suppositions and bewilderment and unasked questions. Hopefully, they've been answered to the best of my ability.
Jan Edwards: [01:18:30] The project that I have believed in, do believe in so important, never saw myself as a part of it but realized I am.
Mason Funk: [01:19:00] You sure are. My last question, you already kind of answered a little bit but my last question is always what do you see is the importance of a project like OUTWORDS?
Jan Edwards: Oh, first of all you, again, it's so courageous to take it on and if we who have not seen or found a venue to tell our story, our forever indebted to you for creating the archive.
Jan Edwards: [01:19:30] Archives encapsulate so much more beyond themselves and they provide support, knowledge, wisdom, truth, that's what you're doing.
Natalie Tsui: Wait, before you say done, I just want to say, I want to request that that last part be repeated.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Natalie Tsui: [01:20:00] I know, yeah, there's like a glare that comes off of this light
Jan Edwards: You want me to tilt? Oh, you want me to take my glasses off?
Mason Funk: Yeah.
Natalie Tsui: I mean your glasses are on so if you just look right at Mason.
Mason Funk: Yeah.
Jan Edwards: Okay.
Natalie Tsui: It's just when you look up in that direction it catches. We can't see your eye like removes. Then one thing else, I hope I'm not overstepping.
Jan Edwards: Please go.
Natalie Tsui: If you could say, instead of saying you, say OUTWORDS.
Jan Edwards: Ah.
Natalie Tsui: [01:20:30] Because that might be very useful for-
Jan Edwards: Oh. Okay.
Mason Funk: Well, people have said you before.
Natalie Tsui: Okay.
Mason Funk: But nevertheless, we can just do a second take, basically it's just a take two. Say something another version of that but just say instead of saying you, say OUTWORDS, it's worth doing.
Jan Edwards: Sure. Okay.
Mason Funk: Then just keep your eye, keep your gaze more or less right on me. In other words, don't let your eyes wander off because of that light, because that light then bounces off your glasses. Ready for all of those instructions? Are you ready to go now?
Jan Edwards: We'll see.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Jan Edwards: [01:21:00] Okay. To me, the importance of OUTWORDS, is that it captures the many stories that have been like mine untold or the many people who have been set aside and not given due respect and OUTWORDS gives full respect to all of us
Jan Edwards: [01:21:30] with all of our differences, with all of our truths, with all of our stories, and it will remain. So thank you.
Natalie Tsui: I hate to say this, but during it, it kept on drifting into your eyes. It's when you tilt your head up towards that
Jan Edwards: See, I mean I think that's when I get emotional my head moves.
Mason Funk: Yeah.
Natalie Tsui: [01:22:00] Yeah. Right there, right now, your head it's tilting. The thing is reflecting.
Jan Edwards: It's doing a bad head?
Natalie Tsui: If you go up again further, that's when it's really bad and if you turn towards your left, that's when it's like [crosstalk].
Jan Edwards: I should keep my head more steady down and avert the left?
Natalie Tsui: Yeah.
Jan Edwards: Okay.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah, I think it's the light outside actually because it was really a big issue and it's kind of greenish tint but it's been steadily encroaching.
Jan Edwards: Okay.
Mason Funk: Yeah.
Jan Edwards: [01:22:30] Pretty soon I'll have my chin on my knees. Woman, will that be happy? Okay. What was the original question? Was it the importance of
Mason Funk: What's the importance of the project like OUTWORDS?
Jan Edwards: Okay. To me the importance of OUTWORDS is that most of us, well let me speak for myself, probably would not have had occasion to tell my whole story.
Jan Edwards: [01:23:00] There are people who know fragments, little pieces, suppositions about me but I don't believe anyone else has ever heard the whole of me and OUTWORDS does that. It takes my truth, other's truths, our stories who we are
Jan Edwards: [01:23:30] and keeps it safe for other people to hear and see, maybe learn from and embraces us. I'm very grateful to OUTWORDS for that.
Natalie Tsui: I'm sorry to ask for that.
Mason Funk: Thank you. No, that's good.
Jan Edwards: No.
Mason Funk: We have three versions. Yeah.
Jan Edwards: Yeah.
Natalie Tsui: That will be usable up there.
Jan Edwards: [01:24:00] No, listen, I totally defer to experts in every area and you certainly are one.
Natalie Tsui: Oh. I need to get room tone.
Mason Funk: Yeah. We got to do one more thing. This is just technical. We have to do 30 seconds.
Natalie Tsui: Okay.
Mason Funk: I think you were saying that there was this unspoken in the village there was a lot of emphasis on learning but I think you got on from that a little bit.
Jan Edwards: I did. I should have stayed with that.
Mason Funk: No, no, no. It was just a question. Where you got the idea?
Jan Edwards: [01:24:30] Yeah. It came primarily, the idea of going to college or going beyond high school started very, very early in the elementary grades. I remember clearly Mrs. Harrison, Ms. Loomis, Ms. Ranny, my primary teachers, talking about college, and they talked about it in glowing terms. It seemed almost like an amusement park.
Jan Edwards: [01:25:00] I had it in my mind as abstractly as it was at that age, I was going to college. Then as I moved up through junior high in high school, there wasn't even a question. We had I think only one counselor to go around but she spent a lot of time talking about college, 96% of my 120 person graduating class went to college
Jan Edwards: [01:25:30] and there were no community or junior colleges. These were all four year schools. I don't know certainly that everyone graduated but we all went and it was unusual if somebody did not go.
Mason Funk: Was there anybody you mentioned those teachers Sorry, I got to find my way back. Oh damn it. Every time I've fallen chest down it takes me
Jan Edwards: Swirls to a different
Mason Funk: [01:26:00] Where do I want to be? Oh, here we go. Was there anybody that you think of as, you mentioned those teachers but who was in some way a particular mentor to you kind of intellectually? There may or may not have been but I mean someone who sparked or appreciated or encouraged you to dig deeper, go further intellectually?
Jan Edwards: [01:26:30] A teacher who really pushed me intellectually was my senior English teacher, a very severe woman who many people feared. I feared her at first. But there was a kind of connection that she had I had in which I realized that she saw something special in me and kept trying to provoke me into doing more than I was doing.
Jan Edwards: [01:27:00] Not in a mean way but in a very determined manner. Toward the end of my senior year, she called me and she said, "You know, I really wondered about you," and I said, "What's that?" She said, "Well, you were doing so many things in the school. You were president of this and president of that and involved here and there," and she said,
Jan Edwards: [01:27:30] "I thought you just sort of throw fragments of yourself all over the school and that would be that." She said, "But you didn't. You really worked hard at what you did especially academically." She said, "I congratulate you." I thought I was getting the Pulitzer Prize. It just was so ... Knowing how demanding she had been, and being a person
Jan Edwards: [01:28:00] whom I perceived as not shown any favoritism or singling people out in any way, to get that degree of compliment from her was an earthshaking moment to that point.
Mason Funk: Wow, that's a great story. Now, I remember also I was going to ask you about this Thursday's green
Jan Edwards: Oh the green.
Mason Funk: Connection.
Jan Edwards: Yeah. Yeah.
Mason Funk: [01:28:30] How did you Do you remember becoming aware for the first time or how did you know that there was this thing were if you wore green on Thursday, that means you are a queer. We're talking about the 1950s here.
Jan Edwards: Yes, we are.
Mason Funk: Set that up for me like in the 1950s.
Jan Edwards: Okay, during the 1950s, I graduated from high school in '56. During the '50s, if someone, anyone first of all wore green on Thursday, even by accident,
Jan Edwards: [01:29:00] even if you were a girl scout, you were called a fairy. We weren't quite sure what that was but it wasn't a good thing to be. Now, I mean obviously later through high school we understood what it was. There were two boys in my class who I felt were very effeminate and they had the courage to wear green on Thursday
Jan Edwards: [01:29:30] so that when somebody said, oh so and so, you're a fairy. Even then and boy it was risky. The one boy in particular would say, "Yes, I am." I thought, my gosh people are risking so much because this culture in Cleveland which still is very sports-oriented.
Jan Edwards: [01:30:00] You had to be a macho guy and all the guys played multiple sports and prided themselves on that, lifted weights and these two guys did not and specifically on Thursday they wore green and said, "Yes, we're fairies." I just remembered being impressed with their courage
Jan Edwards: [01:30:30] and thinking, wow I wonder if Id ever have the courage to stand out and admit to something that wasn't along the popular cultural chain.
Mason Funk: Wow. Do you think you were having that question about yourself specifically with relation to your own sexuality or just kind of as a general character question?
Jan Edwards: [01:31:00] At that time, the question of would I have the courage had to do very much just with myself as a person. Frankly, it never occurred to me that I was anything but a tomboy, an athlete who often played on boys' teams. It never occurred to me that I was lesbian. I dated popular boys many times for a year or two years at a time.
Jan Edwards: [01:31:30] It sounds a little clueless but you got to remember, we're in the '50s and there were high expectations, behavioral expectations for boys and girls and then my situation was compounded by the acute disapproval of my mother. I think I just did owe myself to even consider the prospect.
Mason Funk: [01:32:00] Do you remember hearing any there was a thing about queers wearing green on Thursdays and you admire the guys who were willing to [crosstalk] anyway, do you remember people talking or saying things about queer people or fags or dykes or whatever slurs they have might have tossed around? Were you taking any messages?
Jan Edwards: I wasn't taking in any message from myself. I found all of the terms, all of the terms, very repugnant.
Jan Edwards: [01:32:30] I was one of those people, still am not in this category but still am somebody who will stand up and say, "Yeah, that's not a nice name for somebody," or "I wish you wouldn't call Peter a fairy." I took that piece of kind of defending them but again did not identify with any of that language applied to myself.
Mason Funk: [01:33:00] Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay. Great. You went through your college years and you mentioned in your questionnaire that you wanted something beyond what a young woman typically would accomplish or have after college which should be a job as essentially a teacher or a secretary. You wanted to keep going. You went to graduate school.
Jan Edwards: [01:33:30] Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mason Funk: Tell us about that. Well, I guess I'm trying to get out of this is you went to graduate school and then you met your husband.
Jan Edwards: Moving up to that?
Mason Funk: Yeah. Yeah.
Jan Edwards: Okay. Yeah. At the time that I went to college, the expectations for female college graduates were in teaching or in nursing. I was able to get a teaching credential in the four years of undergraduate school.
Jan Edwards: [01:34:00] Many times people came right out of this four-year college and went immediately into the classroom. Although my student teaching had been very interesting, I didn't want to do that. I wanted to go to graduate school. I think again that was twofold because I didn't want to go into teaching high school at that time. I had an opportunity. I was given an assistantship at Boston College
Jan Edwards: [01:34:30] and it got to me within a couple of weeks of my going to Boston and I hadn't heard final confirmation of when I was expected. I called the gentleman who had given me the assistantship, was told that he was no longer with Boston College and that any correspondence that he had made with prospective teaching assistants had disappeared. In other words, I was not expected at Boston College.
Jan Edwards: [01:35:00] I was teaching, I mean I was working in the community where I had gone to college, undergraduate and went running up to the head of my department and I said, "You've got to help me. I can't go home. I don't want to go home. I don't have a teaching job. I want to be a teaching assistant in college." He called around and got me a position that somebody did not accept at the University of Illinois, quite a difference from Boston College.
Jan Edwards: [01:35:30] While I was there in my first teaching assignment which was an 8:00 a.m. speech 101 class, there was a young man, quite attractive but who was not complying with my requirements to be an equally good listener and critic as a speaker and he was very critical in negative ways towards the other students in the classroom.
Jan Edwards: [01:36:00] I asked him to please come to office hours because we have to clear up this whole thing. He came and he was a bit of a smartass and I said, "Let me understand. Now, you do need this class to graduate, don't you?" He said, "Yeah. Put it off to my final semester but I need to get this class I said, "Let me tell you clearly that if you continue the way you're doing so in class,
Jan Edwards: [01:36:30] you're going to fail this class and you won't get your degree." "What's the matter?" I explained to him about the whole issue of criticism and how fair it had to be and how kind it had to be. Shortly thereafter, he came to my office and asked if he could take me out and I said, "No. I'm not dating any students in my class." He said, "Well, after you've posted the grades and everything is all finished with the semester, can I ask you out?" I said, "Well you can ask."
Jan Edwards: [01:37:00] Sure enough as I was posting the grades, he's over my shoulder and he said, "Well, now will you go out with me?" He's a year younger than I am and I said, "Yeah. I'll go out with you." He's the man that later became my husband.
Mason Funk: I love it. I never knew that it's very Jim Edwards.
Jan Edwards: Very Jim Edwards. Yeah.
Mason Funk: That's a cool story.
Jan Edwards: Yeah.
Mason Funk: [01:37:30] What do you think made you, I mean you had just kind of taken the task over his sort of unruly obnoxious behavior in the classroom then you call him in to give him a little bit of a come to Jesus conversation and he asked you out and you say yes. What was the Why did you say yes to him?
Jan Edwards: I said yes to going out with him because of several factors: one, I was very curious about him.
Jan Edwards: [01:38:00] I did find him attractive but I think the most compelling thing was that he had totally complied, totally bought into the whole element of listening well and being very, very fair in the kinds of comments that you make to people for purposes of their improvement. I was impressed. I was impressed by that. I think those were the reasons that I went out the first time.
Jan Edwards: [01:38:30] Thereafter, I was actually dating him and another person, who was a grad student in chemistry, very different person from Jim. Jim was much more interesting. There were many different levels to him. He could be very serious. He took great interest in theatre, which was a part of my master's program.
Jan Edwards: [01:39:00] It seemed to be a genuine interest. I mean, he would read plays before we went to see them and he would ask really good questions about them and I found that interesting. He would look me in the eye and ask questions. He would look me in the eye and give answers. I liked him. I sincerely liked him at that time in my life.
Mason Funk: [01:39:30] I wonder also if I mean I know where Jim comes from and he comes from Central Illinois, from a farming community. I wonder if there was some part of that background that was also appealing to you being different, maybe representing slightly different values than what you've grown up with.
Jan Edwards: I supposed I also found him interesting
Mason Funk: Wait, wait, wait, refer to him as like the man who I would eventually marry.
Jan Edwards: Okay. Yeah.
Mason Funk: When I met my future husband
Jan Edwards: Okay. The man whom I would eventually marry did come from a farm background
Jan Edwards: [01:40:00] and lived fairly close to the university. He also was deeply engaged in aviation, learned to fly when he was 16 years old and so many of his speeches had to do with aviation and I think I found compelling again the fact that someone so young could be so enthusiastic
Jan Edwards: [01:40:30] about something that he had to scrimp and save and work for in order to accomplish and that he had huge goals around aviation that most people I met did not have. People that I graduated high school have had no clue about what would become of us and here was a man who was determined and dedicated
Jan Edwards: [01:41:00] and pursuing and studying and very purposely, I found that quite attractive. Yes, he was very different from anybody I dated in high school. The people with whom I grew up were upper middle class, some of them wealthy. His family was not poor but certainly much lower middle class. I was taken to meet his parents,
Jan Edwards: [01:41:30] his sister, his grandmother who lived with them and they all seemed very accepting of me, very different from my actual home including his grandmother, who was picky about everybody who came through there and I think what we had in common was a real appreciation of education. She went back to school in her 50s after she had sent four children through college as a single parent.
Jan Edwards: [01:42:00] I was totally intrigued by the family.
Mason Funk: That's great. I love this. I've got a family history of this.
Jan Edwards: I know.
Mason Funk: How are you doing over there, Natalie? Doing good?
Natalie Tsui: Oh yeah. I'm just taking off my hat.
Mason Funk: Okay. All right. Do you want a cookie?
Jan Edwards: How about your water? What did you ever do about your water?
Natalie Tsui: Oh, I don't know. I'll find it in a second.
Jan Edwards: Okay.
Mason Funk: [01:42:30] You mentioned a minute ago, I'm backtracking but I have a question here. Why do you think you started or why do you think from an early age you were someone who had a natural inclination to speak out for say someone who you felt was being treated unfairly or who was being bullied or who was having names calling. I mean where do you think that came from?
Jan Edwards: [01:43:00] I'm not sure where my defense of others began. I really am not. I know that my teachers at a very early age grew to expect that perhaps even if somebody was being picked on, they would send me over to tell them that it was all right or send off the bully or that person that was giving them a hard time.
Jan Edwards: [01:43:30] It became possibly a connection with the teacher that was valuable to me. But it also became something that felt very natural and very comfortable and even as a very young kid, very important, just very important.
Natalie Tsui: Oh sorry.
Mason Funk: Yeah, we had a siren happening over there. Just back up to say just became very natural even as a young kid, it became very natural that again.
Natalie Tsui: [01:44:00] Sorry. It's still there.
Mason Funk: Oh okay. She hears more through her headphones than you and I. It's like
Jan Edwards: Well, my hearing is not
Mason Funk: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Natalie Tsui: It is gone. Wait. Okay it's gone.
Jan Edwards: It became very natural, very early on even in early elementary school that my feeling of needing to defend people
Jan Edwards: [01:44:30] probably stimulated by my teachers who would see somebody who is upset and send me over to see if I could make them feel better, see if I could stop the bullying or whatever had occurred that made them unhappy and it gave me a connection with the teacher but it also supplied something in myself that made me feel good about being me.
Jan Edwards: [01:45:00] That continued. I have that feeling today.
Mason Funk: Excellent. Okay. When you met and you married Jim and as far as you could tell at that point, did you feel like your life was kind of following the path that you wanted it to follow? Make sure you phrase, include my question in your answer.
Jan Edwards: [01:45:30] When I married Jim, I think I thought I was following the path that was a natural path, that I wanted more significantly I think I hadn't considered anything else. Again, in the late '50s, if you went to college, you usually met someone, you married someone,
Jan Edwards: [01:46:00] you had children, you became a wife and mother. That was the expectations. Having said that, there were certainly times prior to the actual marriage, the wedding if you will, where I had some second thoughts. I thought they were second thoughts about Jim. I, in retrospect, think they were probably second thoughts
Jan Edwards: [01:46:30] about getting married. I think, at least at that point, I probably would have been more comfortable. The university spoke to me about the possibility of staying on and getting more classes and later perhaps getting my PhD there and becoming a member of staff. That had a lot of appeal to me. But I felt like I was in almost too deep at that point.
Jan Edwards: [01:47:00] I felt like I had given my word that I would get married to Jim. I had given my word that, yes, that's what I wanted to do and that was fine and in fact we didn't even wait until I had completed that master's degree. I still had another semester left to go. He had another semester of undergraduate school.
Jan Edwards: [01:47:30] I really dislike the term fell into but we fell into this now were married,, now well get an apartment, now we'll complete our schooling and then we'll go to the next step.
Mason Funk: Did you have any idea at that time that going to the next step that the choices you would make as a couple would begin to be more and more determined by his career path than your own?
Jan Edwards: [01:48:00] No. I never realistically considered that his plans would dictate my plans. I was so nave. I thought we would consider together where we would live, where we would work, how we would divide equally our time and he often said to me when that became a false picture,
Jan Edwards: [01:48:30] "Well, you knew when you married me that I was going to become a pilot, that I was going to join the military, that I wanted to fly fighters, that we would have to move around." Frankly I knew nothing of that nor do I remember any conversation about that. There were brief segments that as they occurred, we would converse about them, although they would fait accompli.
Jan Edwards: [01:49:00] They were done. Okay. Now, we're leaving here and we're going to Oklahoma where Jim is going through pilot training. Okay. Then we would leave there and then we got re-stationed back at Travis Air Force Base in California. Okay. I who had been a pretty assertive person became
Jan Edwards: [01:49:30] not exactly a tag long but there were certainly aspects of that having no choice in the issue. This was the scenario. This is what we will follow. This is what the government says we will do.
Mason Funk: Wow. Great. Okay. Now, we're going to jump forward a little bit but Jim,
Mason Funk: [01:50:00] as you mentioned, he became a fighter pilot. He said he wanted to go into the military and eventually he ends up going off to fly in Vietnam as a fighter pilot. I wonder what it was like as a piece of American kind of cultural history for you and what you observed and what you remember of say that period in the '60s, maybe like mid to late '60s when your husband is in the military, he's a fighter pilot in Vietnam and you are aware that all around you people are starting to question this war
Mason Funk: [01:50:30] and I don't know if you felt kind of caught in the middle but I wonder what that was like for you and what was happening around you at that time? Just as like I say sort of snapshot at the time of American history.
Jan Edwards: Right. Now, during the late '60s when Jim and almost every other man in our circle was in Vietnam. All of the wives were left at home, some had small children
Jan Edwards: [01:51:00] and we had activities out of the Air Force Base for officers' wives specifically. We had a chorale group which I conducted. Some people had card groups. We had luncheons galore. We had wine parties. We had officers' wives night at the bar at the O'Club and most of the people just assumed
Jan Edwards: [01:51:30] that we were all doing our civic duty. The only time that I realized how challenged I was, was I was in the middle of a church service, it happened to be a Presbyterian Church in the late '60s and the minister came out with an edict from the National Church that said anyone who is in any way supportive
Jan Edwards: [01:52:00] of the war in Vietnam can no longer be in good standing in the Presbyterian Church USA. I have realized at that time that I was probably a pacifist. Nonetheless, my husband whom I supported was flying in Vietnam. I stood up in the middle of the church, walked out of the Presbyterian Church and never returned, which was huge,
Jan Edwards: [01:52:30] since I've been raised in the Presbyterian Church. I had spent my entire life there. But it caused me to question, severely, What do I do? What can I do at this point? Yes, all of us were very aware that if people knew that your husband, particularly flying fighters, that was a huge category, was in Vietnam dropping bombs, laying napalm,
Jan Edwards: [01:53:00] you were ostracized from various groups, certainly peace groups and other civilian groups that were very anti-war. If you weren't overtly ostracized
Mason Funk: Oops, hold that thought.
Natalie Tsui: Oh, it's the mailman.
Mason Funk: Yeah.
Jan Edwards: I saw him coming.
Mason Funk: You saw him coming?
Jan Edwards: Yeah.
Mason Funk: You can just literally back up to and if you weren't overtly ostracized. Why don't you back up two sentences, if you were ostracized by peace groups.
Jan Edwards: [01:53:30] Right. During the war, the wives, particularly of pilots who were flying in Vietnam were ostracized specifically from peace groups but also from any group that was not specifically military granted there were a lot of the military personnel in the towns near Travis. That wasn't always an issue.
Jan Edwards: [01:54:00] But what it did was it caused me to question. I couldn't any longer just kind of put the whole thing aside and say, "Well, this is what I signed on for." I was constantly questioning. What choices do I have? I loved my husband. I was appalled by what he was doing or what he was told to do.
Jan Edwards: [01:54:30] It created a real dilemma for him as well as for me.
Mason Funk: You were going to say the sentence right where the mailman walked up, you were going to say, and if you weren't ostracized
Jan Edwards: If you weren't overtly ostracized, you felt a huge separation from the civilian population. The civilian population in the towns they were primarily store people,
Jan Edwards: [01:55:00] store clerks, a lot of church people and school, people in schools, my children's teachers. "Oh, will Mr. So and So be coming today for the conference?" "Well, no. He's uhm" Then one of the children would say, "My dad's a pilot. He's in Vietnam. He's flying fires."
Jan Edwards: [01:55:30] You could see the teachers even kind of, okay, next question or just kind of pretend like that was not even asked.
Mason Funk: Wow. That's intense. That brings us to the year that you carried my husband in your tummy for nine months, 1968 which has to go down as one of the most tumultuous tragic years in our country's history.
Jan Edwards: [01:56:00] Right.
Mason Funk: I've always just wondered what it was like? Jay was born in September but literally between December and September all these assassinations and arrives into the democratic event.
Jan Edwards: Right.
Mason Funk: What do you remember of that? Being pregnant at the same time that the country in some ways is falling apart this seems?
Jan Edwards: Well, first of all, I was shocked on two levels regarding my pregnancy with my son.
Jan Edwards: [01:56:30] The first level was because my husband was in Vietnam, I was no longer on birth control pills, with which I had had
Natalie Tsui: Sorry to interrupt. You were touching the microphone again.
Jan Edwards: Oh geez. I'm so sorry.
Natalie Tsui: You just start that over again.
Jan Edwards: Okay. I was frankly .
Mason Funk: Oops, hold on.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah, squeaky car.
Mason Funk: Squeaky breaks.
Natalie Tsui: Can we just attach it again because
Jan Edwards: I'm sorry.
Natalie Tsui: [01:57:00] [crosstalk] we can hear it a little.
Jan Edwards: You did such a good job that I don't even notice.
Natalie Tsui: Oh it's okay. I'm just going to [inaudible] on. Actually, that's okay. Yeah, it just needs to be reattached. There.
Jan Edwards: Okay.
Mason Funk: I think it will work. I think .
Natalie Tsui: Oh even just the shot will work too but there's a fair amount of street noise.
Mason Funk: Oh no, I was going to rephrase her. I was going to tell her how to begin her answer, which is something that
Mason Funk: [01:57:30] maybe give us a tiny, like maybe start the story by saying something like in early 1968 and I discovered I was pregnant and I was shocked for two reasons. That might be a good way to Is that accurate?
Jan Edwards: Yeah. No, that's accurate. What we've bypassed
Mason Funk: Oh.
Jan Edwards: Is that whole segment of how I became sexually involved with women as did many other officers' wives.
Mason Funk: Oh okay.
Jan Edwards: [01:58:00] I don't know whether ... Do you want that piece? I mean because it's very germane to
Mason Funk: Absolutely.
Jan Edwards: Later that thing. Okay.
Mason Funk: We'll get back to Jay to the
Jan Edwards: Okay, yeah.
Mason Funk: Now tell us, I think you had mentioned that while Jim was away, I wasn't sure what period it was in but not just you but I didn't even know about the other officers wives.
Jan Edwards: Up until the time that Jim left for Vietnam, he was the only man that I had had sex with.
Jan Edwards: [01:58:30] I had only dated men until that point. After he had gone to Vietnam, frankly, I got seduced by a woman, another officer's wife and I was shocked. I literally had to go out to the base hospital and get some tranquilizers.
Jan Edwards: [01:59:00] I was flabbergasted. Now, mind you, I was probably 27 or 28 years old at that point. That relationship continued for just a short while because her husband
Jan Edwards: [01:59:30] had not gone to Vietnam and was coming back and forth from the base to home. During that process though, she informed me that this was quite common, that many of the wives got together while their husbands were gone, that this was nothing to be dismayed or shocked or anything other than normal military absence behavior.
Jan Edwards: [02:00:00] Even though I was with her on several occasions, I remained puzzled, engaged but puzzled and never quite comfortable with the whole thing. I was cheating.
Jan Edwards: [02:00:30] I was cheating on my husband first and it was puzzling to me since I have never had any experience with a woman at all. I broke off that relationship and I broke it off prior to going on R&R in Hawaii with Jim. That was common behavior about halfway through the tour. You land, you met your husband, you had this week, you came back. Everything was very happy.
Jan Edwards: [02:01:00] Well, Jim was, he later admitted in a state of battle fatigue and he was not in a good mood at all. I hardly recognized him. At one point, he said, "I don't think I even want to be married to you and so why don't you go home and talk to an attorney." Prior to the end of the week, I went home and I talked to an attorney. I didn't make any filings because he went back to Vietnam
Jan Edwards: [02:01:30] but I had my ducks in a row. I had my attorney lined up. Jim, the perfect Air Force Officer who never did anything wrong, went AWOL right before Christmas of that same year. Because I was not in any birth control because I wasn't going to be around my husband, I got pregnant.
Jan Edwards: [02:02:00] I knew day two of his being home, I was pregnant. That recommitted me to the idea of this is my marriage. This is my family. We have a 2-year-old daughter soon to be 3 and this was our happy family. But over the course of the next five or six years,
Jan Edwards: [02:02:30] Jim and I grew very, very separate. He found more to do with aviation. If it wasn't flying for the Air Force, there were private planes that he was working on flying. I was working part-time for various school districts and raising the kids. We just grew very, very separate. Ultimately,
Jan Edwards: [02:03:00] in 1975, we divorced for the subsequent 10 years, I hardly dated at all. When I dated, I usually dated men. I was convinced that the incidents with the officer's wife was a coincidence, a freak of nature, something the war brought on
Jan Edwards: [02:03:30] but I would also occasionally date women and it was at that point that I thought I am much more comfortable with women. I just am. But
Mason Funk: I'll cut you for a second.
Jan Edwards: Sure.
Mason Funk: Because we're kind of covering a lot of territories.
Jan Edwards: Okay, yeah. A new territory maybe.
Mason Funk: Yeah, I'm sure. I don't want to go over with more details.
Jan Edwards: Sure.
Mason Funk: But I wanted to ask you, just going back to the moment of that first relationship with a woman, the officer's wife,
Mason Funk: [02:04:00] you may have sort of already answered this but how was it in your experience sexually, how was it in comparison to the relationship you had with Jim? Was it something like, this is a clich. Oh my God, I preferred women all along or was it or some other version probably not that one, like how was it, how did you, just the experience of it
Mason Funk: [02:04:30] was it palpably different? Was it a revelation? Was it just, how was it?
Jan Edwards: Yeah. My first experience with a woman, officer's wife, was uniquely different than with men, with my husband. It was both much more satisfying, sexually satisfying but it also had this element of
Jan Edwards: [02:05:00] probable guilt connected with it, the two of them fighting each other. Now, for the most part the guilt element of that relationship, that specific relationship dissipated until it became evident that if I were going to recommit myself to my husband and to our family, especially when I was pregnant, that I just had to be set aside.
Jan Edwards: [02:05:30] For a long time, it just went unexplored.
Mason Funk: Okay. Good. Good. Okay. Now, let's talk about 1968, just as unique moment in time when again a piece of cultural history and you're carrying a child and these things are all happening around. What was that like? What do you remember?
Jan Edwards: [02:06:00] 1968 was a cataclysmic year in our country and I've felt a lot of that myself because I was also teaching at the same time. I had a lot of the students who were still moving into the war and I had a lot of families that were being impacted by the war. When I realized I was pregnant and that the baby's father was still in Vietnam
Jan Edwards: [02:06:30] and that the war had no signs whatsoever of cooling down on the contrary, there was a significant [inaudible] of the buildup. I was scared stiff. I thought, what is going to become now the three of us. How are we going to possibly manage? This child and at that time we didn't know the sex of the child. This child is never going to know his or her father.
Jan Edwards: [02:07:00] The little girl, my daughter, what would she remember of her father? Myself, who would he be, if he comes back. If he comes back, what would he be like? That this sudden dream of things that are moving along, this is kind of the way things happened during the '60s and '50s, just came to a crashing halt.
Jan Edwards: [02:07:30] Everything was just changed. Scary.
Mason Funk: Wow. Okay. Thank you. That was gripping and it kind of fulfills what I might have imagined but it's good to hear it firsthand. You said, I think you've explained pretty clearly what pulled you into the part and eventually led to your divorce in '75 and then you were saying
Mason Funk: [02:08:00] that for about the 10-year period after that, you said you dated mostly men but some women? Can you Let me move my shoes because for some reason I want to move them. Just tell me about that period of it in more detail.
Jan Edwards: Well, first of all the divorce really was twofold. One, yes, I was attracted to women and secondly there was quite a bit of dishonesty on Jim's part in the relationship.
Jan Edwards: [02:08:30] We had lost, I would say we had lost regard for each other and that combination, my part and his part and the loss of regard, didn't constitute a marriage at all. Yeah, for the next 10 years, I barely dated at all. The kids were still at home. I had to go back to work full time.
Jan Edwards: [02:09:00] I occasionally was asked out many times. Neighbors or friends would fix me up mostly with men. Nothing specifically came of that. We'd maybe go out once or twice. I didn't have any strong feeling about them one way or the other and I would occasionally go out with a woman, often an officer's wife.
Jan Edwards: [02:09:30] The second woman with whom I became involved was an officer's wife. She did indeed seduce me. I didn't see it coming at all. Again, I didn't fight her off. I did, I stayed surprised. Both of these women went back to and remained for quite some time with their husbands. I thought that was different.
Jan Edwards: [02:10:00] I never really questioned either of them and I don't understand exactly what's happening with you or with me. Yet, I had better identification skills. I would have said I was bisexual but at that time, bisexual to me and to most other adults with whom I conversed and looked back and now
Jan Edwards: [02:10:30] thought that meant you couldn't decide. It didn't mean that it was a preference at the time. It meant you remain conflicted. Make up your mind. Are you going to be with men or are you going to be with women? Make up your mind and it's pretty much what I was saying to myself. Finally, 10 years later in 1985, some gay friends of mine,
Jan Edwards: [02:11:00] men, introduced me to a woman whom they also knew. I didn't know but whom they also knew and they invited us to dinner at their home. We just clicked, the woman and I, we just clicked. We had an instant attraction to each other. At this point, I was, I considered myself a lesbian that were not all of the conflicts
Jan Edwards: [02:11:30] that had occurred prior to this. I was 47-year-old and I thought I was in love. I found her compelling. I found her attractive. We shared many interests and she didn't live nearby. She lived in the South Bay. We commuted on weekends to each other's homes and then in '86 the year
Jan Edwards: [02:12:00] that my son graduated, we decided to buy a home together in Napa where we lived for 25 years.
Mason Funk: I'm going to pause you there.
Jan Edwards: Aha.
Mason Funk: Because I don't know if you're going to keep going but I want to go back a little bit. What about Chris?
Jan Edwards: Chris is a woman whom I met through Solano College. Chris is a woman whom my family had thought, perhaps still do,
Jan Edwards: [02:12:30] even though I've tried to explain that we were sexually involved. We were not. She was a lesbian who was very ill. She had multiple myeloma and spent most of the time, the period of time where I knew her, a period of time when I was doing stage directing at a community college and she was doing musical direction. We worked on a lot of productions together.
Jan Edwards: [02:13:00] She was a person who came and went in my children's life frankly until she became so dependent. I have sort of a caregiver syndrome attached to me and she became very, very dependent on me for caregiving. She had no family and no family that lived in the area.
Jan Edwards: [02:13:30] She spent a lot of time with our family. She went to Florida with us and I realized that, sounds harsh, but I realized that my only hope of disconnecting from her, both because of her dependency and also because she resented the amount of time that I wanted to spend with my children, a reoccurring theme I might add,
Jan Edwards: [02:14:00] when she came to Florida with us and admitted that in this warmer climate, she felt better. I thought if I can find a way to get her attached to Florida, then she will not be coming back and filtering into our family unit. Let me rephrase that, I would not be allowing her to come into the family unit
Jan Edwards: [02:14:30] and take up a lot of my time and it worked. She found a home there that she liked. She closed out her beautiful home in Green Valley. She moved to Florida and formed a whole new group of friends, her health improved significantly, although ultimately she died there of the disease.
Jan Edwards: [02:15:00] I saw her occasionally just on a visit to my parents or to my aunts. I would go over, visit her, go out to dinner. Catch up. She took the place of a person that I later found out from I think both my daughter and my son that they felt that I have been sexually involved with her
Jan Edwards: [02:15:30] and I hadn't and to be perfectly honest about this, had she been more physically able, frankly not nauseated all the time, we probably would have had sex. In that sense, whatever people perceived there's a kind of truth to that.
Mason Funk: [02:16:00] Okay. Good. I just wanted to make sure we covered it. I was definitely under the impression that she was kind of like your first serious relationship with a woman.
Jan Edwards: No.
Mason Funk: Okay. You had gotten to the point in 1985 when you met and then eventually moved with her to Napa and let me just check my notes and sort of see
Natalie Tsui: Oh is this a good time? There's about 15 minutes left on this card so maybe we can pause.
Mason Funk: I was thinking we can maybe like take a stretch or take a-
Natalie Tsui: [02:16:30] Okay. Room tone.
Natalie Tsui: [02:17:00] Okay. That's good. Thank you.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Natalie Tsui
Date: May 10, 2017
Location: Home of Jan Edwards, Sonoma, CA