June Lagmay was born in Yokohama, Japan and grew up in Historic Filipinotown in Los Angeles. In high school in 1968, she and Rita Romero met, fell in love and have been together ever since. In 1976 June graduated from UCLA and soon got involved in L.A.’s burgeoning gay and lesbian movement – beginning with Dignity L.A., the first gay and lesbian Catholic group, when it was still meeting in secret. She also worked at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center in Hollywood and interned for Mayor Tom Bradley’s first Liaison to the Gay Community.

Drawn to politics, June helped manage the campaign of Don Amador, the first openly gay man to run for City Council, and helped organize the first Sunset Junction Street Fair. Turning her attention to gays and lesbians of color, June became a founding member of Asian Pacific Lesbians and Gays, the first such organization in L.A., and served as its first Co-Chair. 

After working for Councilmember Peggy Stevenson and Assemblywoman Gloria Molina, in 1988 June became a legislative assistant in the L.A. City Clerk’s office at City Hall.  In 1994, she was asked by then-Mayor Richard Riordan to join his staff as Mayoral Legislative Coordinator. For the next 15 years June continued serving under subsequent L.A. Mayors James Hahn and Antonio Villaraigosa. Then in 2009, Mayor Villaraigosa appointed, and the L.A. City Council confirmed June as Los Angeles City Clerk, making her the first Asian-American and first LGBTQ person to hold this post. June directed the City Clerk’s support function to the L.A. City Council, and a dizzying array of Citywide municipal and special elections. During these years as well, June helped organize an LGBTQ organization for City employees at City Hall.

June retired in 2013 after 32 years with the City, and was promptly appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to the L.A. Municipal Elections Reform Commission, and by Gov. Jerry Brown as a California State Commissioner for the Voting Modernization Board. In 2014 she was honored by API (Asian and Pacific Islanders)-Equality L.A. for decades of human rights activism, and by the Los Angeles LGBT Heritage Month as a Legend and Leader in the LGBT Community.

June’s OUTWORDS interview was recorded in April 2017 at the home she and Rita share on a peaceful, tree-lined neighborhood east of downtown Los Angeles. June is a discreet, thoughtful woman who can also be quite funny – especially when talking about Rita, her peppery “partner in crime” for nearly a half-century. June and Rita proudly showed us one tiny photo they kept from their high school days, literally stuck to its glass frame. But they are proudest of their legal marriage in October 2008, just before the passage of Proposition 8.  Although in 2018 they will celebrate 10 years of “official” marriage, in reality, they are closing in upon 50 years together – a extraordinary milestone that only a select few LGBTQ couples are privileged to achieve.
Mason Funk: [00:00:00] Then I left for a bunch of years and I came back in my mid-30s.
June Lagmay: Left for where?
Mason Funk: I went to college at Stanford, so I headed north.
June Lagmay: Palo Alto.
Mason Funk: Then I went to Washington state.
June Lagmay: That's how you knew Vashon.
Mason Funk: Exactly, yeah, because I lived in Tacoma. We even had a few students and definitely one teacher who commuted every day to Tacoma from Vashon. That was so funny that you mentioned that. I was there for a couple of years
Mason Funk: [00:00:30] and then I decided to live on the East Coast. I moved all the way to Maine, Portland, Maine for about four years. At that time of my life I was all about traveling and seeing the country and then eventually seeing the world. When I was living in Portland, Maine, I went on vacation to Lisbon, Portugal.
June Lagmay: Neat.
Mason Funk: I met a guy on a train and I fell in love and I decided that was my destiny, so I moved to Lisbon, Portugal. The relationship actually didn't last at all, but I ended up staying for seven years.
June Lagmay: Oh gosh.
Mason Funk: [00:01:00] Yeah. Then at the end of that is when I came back to L.A., because I wanted to work in film and television and it was the logical thing to do. I still had family here. I have a love-hate relationship with my family.
June Lagmay: Don't we all?
Mason Funk: Part of moving back to L.A. was like, "Okay, I guess I can handle living in Los Angeles again." When I left L.A. as a teenager I thought I hated it. I thought it was boring. I thought it was uninteresting. I was a teenager. Then when I came back I moved. As opposed to living on the West Side, I moved to Hollywood. It was like having a whole new life-
June Lagmay: [00:01:30] That's true.
Mason Funk: ... in a place that I already knew. It was an interesting combination. I've been here ever since.
June Lagmay: Very good.
Kate Kunath: Mason, a couple things.
Mason Funk: Don't move my hands?
Kate Kunath: Just watch your hands.
Mason Funk: Watch my hands.
Kate Kunath: I have a question. I can't remember, were we changing focal lights between questions or anything like that?
Mason Funk: No. We can just punch in if it want to do edits. Are we speeding, ready to go?
Kate Kunath: Speeding.
Mason Funk: [00:02:00] Fantastic. Just start off by telling me and spelling for me your first and last names.
June Lagmay: June-
Mason Funk: One quick question. Kate, is this clock gonna be audible to us?
June Lagmay: I'll be glad to take it down.
Mason Funk: I think it might just-
Kate Kunath: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Let me just get it down.
June Lagmay: I'll put it in the other room.
Mason Funk: Yeah, just stash it in the next room [inaudible].
June Lagmay: Everything's making a noise.
Kate Kunath: [00:03:00] I can't hear it, but just looking at that fan [crosstalk].
June Lagmay: Let's turn that off, sure. Glad to.
Kate Kunath: Then these lights as well.
June Lagmay: Is this appearing by my head?
Kate Kunath: It can, actually. I wondered what that was. Yeah, I can see that a little bit.
June Lagmay: Let's move that.
Kate Kunath: How do we turn off these kitchen lights?
June Lagmay: Kitchen lights, yes, behind you.
Kate Kunath: Over here?
June Lagmay: Yes, there you go.
Kate Kunath: I'm just gonna close that door.
Mason Funk: [00:03:30] Careful with your hands.
June Lagmay: I'll get rid of this one too.
Mason Funk: How now, Kate, are we good?
Kate Kunath: Just gotta refocus.
Mason Funk: Of course you'll look at me, as opposed to the camera lens. You can just forget about the camera lens.
June Lagmay: [00:04:00] She's on Facebook if you want to look at her.
Mason Funk: It's interesting, as I-
Kate Kunath: Speeding.
Mason Funk: As I search for people from different communities, different ethnic and cultural communities, it's tricky finding especially Latino people
Mason Funk: [00:04:30] who have been really out and visible in the movement. They're there, but they're not necessarily as prominent or as easy to find. I'm happy to have that referral. [inaudible].
June Lagmay: She's just unique among peers. She and I, when we both worked at the then GCSC in Hollywood, we both liked to wear makeup and dresses, and back in those days that was anathema. You had to butch up.
June Lagmay: [00:05:00] We always were close to each other because we ... She's so glamorous now. She's so gorgeous. She takes really good care of herself. She's stunning. She's smart and savvy and experienced. Enough, but please look her up.
Mason Funk: Great, will do.
June Lagmay: Thank you.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, just start off-
Kate Kunath: Also, the air conditioner, or the fan module thing, can you just move that out of the way? Thanks.
Mason Funk: [00:05:30] There we go. Tell me your name and spell, please, your first and last.
June Lagmay: June, J-U-N-E, Lagmay, L-A-G-M-A-Y. A lot of times I and other people just bastardize it by saying "Lagmay" but Lagmay is actually a Filipino name. My mother's maiden name was Awano, so when I worked I went by June Awano Lagmay.
Mason Funk: Perfect. Tell me when and where you were born.
June Lagmay: [00:06:00] I was born June 14th, 1954, actually in Yokohama, Japan. My mom and dad met in Japan post World War II. He was an American soldier who then found employment as a civilian. My mom too was a soldier, but for the Japanese Army, and she found civilian employment. They met. He courted her. He came back to the U.S. to earn money to send for her.
June Lagmay: [00:06:30] I was born and then we all came over in a tramp steamer, arrived in San Francisco. There's a funny story my dad tells about my mom, that when he says, "My girl, my daughter, is gonna get an American education," she said, "I'm not going to America. You give me a little money. I'll open a tea shop here. Me and the girl will be fine." She hung on to the lamppost at the dock,
June Lagmay: [00:07:00] crying that she didn't want to leave. My poor mom, she never really completely adjusted to life in the U.S. She was already in her 30s when she immigrated, never spoke English very well. My dad was very insistent that the U.S. is where he came from and U.S. is where we were going and where I would be educated and where I would be raised.
Mason Funk: [00:07:30] Wow. That is interesting. Your father, was he also of Asian descent.
June Lagmay: My dad is what in Filipino we say a mestizo, half white, half Filipino.
Mason Funk: What part of the country had he grown up in?
June Lagmay: Brooklyn, New York. Born and young age in Brooklyn, New York. Then when his father died, his mother shipped the whole family, all the kids to relatives here in California, mostly in the farming community in Central California.
June Lagmay: [00:08:00] My dad has memories of what we call uncles, male elders in the Filipino community, that picked in the fields. I'm so happy now that they're recognizing that Filipino Americans were a big part of Cesar Chavez's original movement. That's another little piece of history that's becoming rectified.
Mason Funk: [00:08:30] Great. You've told a little bit about your mother and your father. Did you have other siblings? Who else eventually made up your family?
June Lagmay: I only have one younger brother, four years younger than me. He's a fisherman. He's employed by Pierpoint Landing, sports fishing in Long Beach. That's his whole life and occupation is sports fishing.
Mason Funk: [00:09:00] Great. You mentioned to me in your questionnaire that one of the things I ought to ask you about was your Catholic education. Talk to me about that world that you were raised in, what it was like, what the values were, your family values, the Catholic values, how that was all of a piece.
June Lagmay: The more I think about it, I believe it really played a very important part in developing my character, but it was-
Mason Funk: Do me a favor. Start by telling me what you're talking about. Don't say "it." "The more I think about it ... "
June Lagmay: [00:09:30] The more I think about it, the fact that I had a Catholic education becomes apparent to me how important that was in developing my character, but I think it's important to note it's not the traditional Catholic education, but the particular time that it happened. It was '68 to '72, a time of great change, where the church was changing, nuns were changing their habits,
June Lagmay: [00:10:00] thoughts were expanding, that it wasn't proselytizing the world, but how to get along with other religions, other races. I remember very profoundly concepts like being a soldier for Christ. See, I don't take that literally to mean that I have to go out and be a martyr or convert people to Catholicism, but to have a fight in you, to stand firm,
June Lagmay: [00:10:30] and if somebody says you're going to do something wrong or something hurtful, that you stand your ground and say no. A lot of examples that were apparent to me during those times were nuns that spoke openly in class about questioning the system, questioning the war, because Vietnam was raging at the time,
June Lagmay: [00:11:00] bringing in films that were not G-rated and discussing them. All this questioning and experiencing new things, dangerous things, fringe things, and still operating within the borders of the Catholic church, I think it just affected me very much. I'm not a practicing Catholic anymore. I have a lot of issues with the church.
June Lagmay: [00:11:30] Although I think the current pope is a good sign of good changes and things to come, it'll take forever. I never thought I'd see marriage equality in my lifetime, so who knows? Maybe in the next five, 10 years we'll see some changes on that front.
Mason Funk: What would be the changes in the Catholic church that to you would signify, wow, there's a new day coming within the Catholic church? What would they [crosstalk]?
June Lagmay: [00:12:00] The major things of course, allowing priests the option to get married, not just ... What the pope is proposing now is at least opening the door. He says if you're already married you can become a priest. I would eventually like to see priests given the option to be celibate or not. Women priests, of course that's on the table too, and complete affirmation and acceptance of LGBT people.
June Lagmay: [00:12:30] I think by the time I pass from the earth, we will be a lot closer to that than we have in centuries before that.
Mason Funk: Wow. Great. What did you take away from that experience of being you said within the borders of the Catholic church, but also seeing change occurring inside the institution? What lessons did you take away from witnessing that as a young person?
June Lagmay: [00:13:00] I think-
Mason Funk: Try to include my question.
June Lagmay: I think again, the experience of growing up Catholic was not that different or complemented the fact that I was also Asian American and that I was growing into a gay identity because I fell in love with my partner in high school. What I mean by that is working to change the system from within the system. An example of that is, in my early 20s
June Lagmay: [00:13:30] there was a gay Catholic group called Dignity. I think they're still operating. It was so much in secret at that time that we were meeting in a mortuary in Hollywood, and it was a big secret. It was a codeword. It was very much like the early Christians in the catacombs or having the prayer services in secret. The priests that were involved with it, you knew not to tell the diocese.
June Lagmay: [00:14:00] They were risking everything by doing this. I guess what I'm trying to say is, working within the system, working within Dignity to help change the Catholic church, working within the Asian American community structure, working from the inside out, and trying to do it in, I'm not gonna say a Catholic way or a Christian way, but a altruistic way, and doing it in an Asian way,
June Lagmay: [00:14:30] which is in many ways less confrontative, more patient, more chipping away at stone over a period of time, always respectful, but that was the only way I knew how to do things. I think having a Catholic education, being Asian American, and just being the type of person that I am
June Lagmay: [00:15:00] who has less fear I think than most people, willing to take chances more, put myself out in harm's way, but I respected people that did stuff like that. I respected Christian activists. I respected Asian activists who put themselves out there. I said, "I want to be like that. I want to honor that. I want to try and be like that."
Mason Funk: [00:15:30] That's really interesting. You said that the Asian way of being patient, drop drop drop approach, as opposed to just demanding change overnight. Can you expand a bit more on the values that you were raised with, what they are, and how you incorporated them in your activism to make an activism that fits you?
June Lagmay: [00:16:00] Among ourselves, Asians, we tease each other and say, "Oh yeah, you're being passive aggressive again," or, "Oh yeah, that's such an Asian way to do it." I guess the way to explain it is I'll give you an example. Rita's family had a nephew-in-law, and we overheard him saying something really ugly like,
June Lagmay: [00:16:30] "Oh yeah, he's a faggot," or something like that, and the ears prick up. There's a couple ways I suppose I could've handled it. I could've chewed him out right on the floor. I could've not said anything and just folded in and just said, "I'll find another time." How I handled it is I went up to him by himself, quietly, and I said, "That thing that you said, do you really mean that Rita and I should not be coming over the house anymore?"
June Lagmay: [00:17:00] just really politely. He was flustered, "Of course I didn't mean anything like that." I think if you put people, open their eyes, but you don't have to do it in a screaming way. You have to do it in a way that really makes them turn the mirror in on themselves. I think that's the only way that change happens. I think that's why the movement succeeded so well in the last five,
June Lagmay: [00:17:30] 10 years is people just came out where they were, beauty parlor, nursery, supermarket, post office, just wherever they were, and people said, "I know so-and-so, he's not so bad," or, "The neighbors down the street, they're nice people." That's the only way it happened. That's really the only way I believe it happened.
Mason Funk: That's great. Great. Thank you for sharing that. Now speaking of Rita, tell us about how you met, where you met, and give us a little history of your relationship.
June Lagmay: [00:18:00] Rita and I attended the same high school. It no longer exists, but at the time it was called Our Lady of Loretto, L-O-R-E-T-T-O, Catholic Girls School, on Lake Street, very close to Tommy's Hamburgers in the Echo Park area of L.A. I was such a good Asian girl. I played the piano.
June Lagmay: [00:18:30] I was best in my class. I got all As. I was teacher's pet. Rita, they used to call her Rita Bandita. She was naughty. She snuck cigarettes. She was moody. She played the guitar. I think our oppositeness just attracted so much. I never met anybody as deep and internal as she was.
June Lagmay: [00:19:00] I got on her nerves because I was so good and because I was so predictable. We were mutually attracted and repelled at the same time. Eventually we became very, very, very good friends, always at each other's houses, long nights on the telephone. Then a couple years later, about in senior year, it became physical, and it was intense.
June Lagmay: [00:19:30] It was nice, because the school, again, because of the changing time ... It was not normal for girls to be walking up and down the halls hand in hand. It was just they honored intense feeling at the school. Now if they had known about Rita and me, I'm sure we would've been kicked out.
June Lagmay: [00:20:00] What I mean to say is, exploration of deep feeling was very much encouraged. After high school, I did go on to college. Rita went to work. A couple years later we got back together and we started living together, and that's pretty much our history is that we started discovering things like Dignity, things like Asian/Pacific Lesbians and Gays,
June Lagmay: [00:20:30] things like people who were prominent in the community, Morris Kight and Reverend Troy Perry and Ivy Bottini, but we did it as a couple. That was I think very different then a lot of friends that we had that did it as single people. We experienced it as a couple. Our private life, our family life came first. It was always important that we always cooked dinner,
June Lagmay: [00:21:00] we went out and had a regular life to go to events, Disneyland, taking care of our parents. In addition to doing all this stuff that I have a great fondness for, we were very hard at work establishing ourself as a couple, and that we meant to travel through life together, through thick and thin. We always knew that from the beginning.
Mason Funk: [00:21:30] How did you eventually reveal the nature of your relationship to your family?
June Lagmay: We actually had to-
Mason Funk: Start by saying "Rita and I."
June Lagmay: Rita and I worked very hard on building the sacredness of our relationship. In the early days that meant that we withdrew a little bit from our families so that we could become a very strong couple.
June Lagmay: [00:22:00] Rita's family will say Rita disappeared for a few years. As we then became more comfortable in our 20s and 30s, we brought our families back into our lives, became very close. Rita's sisters and brother have always known that I was around. We never actually sat them down and said, "Here's the situation,"
June Lagmay: [00:22:30] but we knew that they had it figured out. As far as my parents, what's interesting is it wasn't until actually 2008 when we had that brief window of opportunity to get married before Prop 8 was voted on that I actually took the step of going to my father, my mom had already passed by then, and saying, "We have a legal opportunity to get married, and dad, we're gonna do it at the house. Will you come?"
June Lagmay: [00:23:00] It was amazing. Actually, we only wanted to go up to the hall of supervisors and sign the papers, but once word trickled out, every cousin of mine called and said they wanted to be there, and every one of Rita's relatives called and said that they wanted to be there. This little service that we thought would be the two of us and a witness and then maybe four people and maybe six people,
June Lagmay: [00:23:30] eventually we ended up having a ceremony at the house with everybody. I told everyone honestly at that time, "I'm so proud of all of you that came, and believe me, nobody has a harder time wrapping their head about this than Rita and I, because we lived for so many years not believing it would ever be legitimized."
Mason Funk: [00:24:00] That's great. That's great. Among the people you mentioned as having been influential in your life was Morris Kight. Tell us who Morris Kight was and why he was important to you.
June Lagmay: Morris Kight to me is in many ways a true elder or father of the gay movement. I knew him in his later years. He was already elderly. Morris held court from his house in Hollywood.
June Lagmay: [00:24:30] He also served on many city and county commissions. He was a lot of early politicians' first encounter of an openly gay person and had a great deal of influence, people like Peggy Stevenson, who was councilwoman, and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, they knew Morris and of his work. Why I admired Morris so much is he's the one that opened his house
June Lagmay: [00:25:00] to those of us that were gay Asian, trying to start a way of being together. He invited us to his house and said, "You can use my house for your meetings if you like." He's the one that said, "Do not let the European community tell you how to organize yourselves. You've gotta do it yourselves." He had an Asian lover at the time, so that he had a great personal investment in it.
June Lagmay: [00:25:30] When I was so young, I was maybe only 24, 25, Morris paid me the greatest compliment. He called me an intellectual. To me he was like Martin Luther King. To be told that at such a young age, it was like, "I gotta measure up. He has faith in me." He has since passed,
June Lagmay: [00:26:00] but I hope that people understand what an influence he had on the community. This was again just about the pre Harvey Milk time. L.A. was so restless in coming together, but he was such a very important part of that.
Mason Funk: What was L.A. like in those years? We're perhaps talking about say the mid to late '60s, maybe late '60s, early '70s?
June Lagmay: Late '60s, early '70s.
Mason Funk: [00:26:30] I don't know if you have any memories of, for example, the incident at The Black Cat at the end of '66 and the protests that occurred there in '67.
June Lagmay: I know of it, yeah.
Mason Funk: Maybe not talking so much about that specifically, but what was L.A. like both ... You say it was so restless, so around LGBT rights and visibility, and then specifically as an Asian LGBT person ... Let's just do these one at a time. What was L.A. like at that time for LGBT people?
June Lagmay: [00:27:00] To me, I felt the gay movement in L.A. through Silver Lake, because at the time, one of my early jobs was assistant to a candidate for city council named Don Amador. Don was the first gay man in L.A. that ever ran for a city council position. He established a campaign office in Silver Lake. Through that,
June Lagmay: [00:27:30] I got exposed to the first stirrings of the organization at the Sunset Junction Fair community, the dynamics of gentrification in Silver Lake and some of the tensions that arose from the existing Hispanic community that weren't that pleased with that gentrification. That actually was the whole reason that Sunset Junction Street Fair was organized
June Lagmay: [00:28:00] was to ease those tensions between the burgeoning gay movement that started to exist in the Silver Lake area and the existing community. My perception was through that. Then later, Don did not win the city council, but eventually the person he was going to upset, who was then Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson, the opposition,
June Lagmay: [00:28:30] she contacted me and said she had seen my work and would I consider joining her on her staff, so I did. I became her Silver Lake field representative. Again, I got very knowledgeable about the community, about the different community organizations in Silver Lake, the different bookstore,
June Lagmay: [00:29:00] the first openings of Thai restaurants in the area, every year at the Sunset Junction Street Fair. Then that was about the time that I and my dear friend Paul Chen, through Morris's guidance, one of the first co-chairs of Asian/Pacific Lesbians and Gays, we started meeting in Paul's apartment.
June Lagmay: [00:29:30] That was very important, because the people that I met in APLG were just the most loving, powerful, strong people that I'd ever met. There were not a lot of women in the organization at the beginning, and it always bothered me, because there was a little bit of paranoia I think between lesbians and gay men at that time. I think it's okay
June Lagmay: [00:30:00] because I think lesbians needed to have their own space to create their own identity. They didn't want to be lumped in with the guys. I have always loved being around gay men. I think a lot of my humor has been formed by hanging around too much with gay men. They are my very dear friends and my brothers in APLG. People in APLG like Tak Yamamoto,
June Lagmay: [00:30:30] who has since passed, oh what a leader he was. He was with the Japanese American Community Center, JACL. He changed hearts and minds more than anybody I can think of, from within the organization. He would not hide who he was. It was like, "You have to accept it or not, but this is who I am."
June Lagmay: [00:31:00] It was very interesting, because you could do what you wanted. There was space for everybody. If you wanted to be a separatist lesbian, you could. If you wanted to hang out with the guys, you could. If you wanted to wear jeans, you could. If you wanted to wear a dress and makeup, you could. It was just a wonderful experiment, and everything was just pushing against each other. There was a great deal of energy.
Mason Funk: [00:31:30] I had an idea, let me run it by you and see if it's accurate, that because you all shared your Asian identity, you all had that in common, that that made it possible for you to have other things not in common, but the Asian maybe served as a type of a glue. When you say you could be a separatist lesbian or you could hang out with gay guys or you could wear jeans or you could wear a dress, because you were all Asian, is that what made it okay? Did that hold you together, or am I completely making stuff up?
June Lagmay: [00:32:00] I think you understood the gay Asian community in all its differentness because there were some members who were FOB, fresh off the boat, who hardly spoke any English. Some were so deeply closeted that it was painful for them to even be alive.
June Lagmay: [00:32:30] Some like Tak were much more advanced in their activism and open and out. You couldn't say that you had a great deal in common with all aspects of the Asian community because it's not homogenous. You could be Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Southeast Asian, Indian, male or female, transgender.
June Lagmay: [00:33:00] I think it was more encouraging your own personality rather than being homogenous, because there is no such thing as ... There are so many different kinds of Asians. There are so many different styles of Asians. It's like saying what people say now, "Don't just say the black community or the Hispanic community."
June Lagmay: [00:33:30] Cubans and Mexicans and Costa Ricans, they're not all the same. The only thing that we understood is that we had been oppressed upon and that we all like rice. How that oppression took effect and how we dealt with it, there were as many ways of dealing with it as there were types of people.
Mason Funk: What was the value then of having a group called ... I'm sorry, what was the name of the group?
June Lagmay: [00:34:00] Asian/Pacific Lesbians and Gays.
Mason Funk: Asian/Pacific Lesbians and Gays.
June Lagmay: So as not to disappear.
Mason Funk: Just start fresh and say, "The value of having this group is ... "
June Lagmay: The value of having an organization like APLG, Asian/Pacific Lesbians and Gays, was to not disappear and was to make it evident in the burgeoning gay movement that it wasn't necessarily a white-only movement, and to ...
June Lagmay: [00:34:30] For myself, my mom grew up very modest. She didn't have a great education. When she migrated here to the United States, she took a job in a sweatshop, in a factory. I have to honor her. I think all the people in the organization, they honored their moms and dads, their aunts and uncles, their grandparents, as humble or prominent positions that they had, whether they were teachers and scientists or housemaids.
June Lagmay: [00:35:00] It was important that we say, "We are here. Don't look at me and think that I'm a soccer mom, and don't think that the Christopher Street Parade, that it's a gay white male phenomenon. It's not." Many Asians needed a place to be safe,
June Lagmay: [00:35:30] because a lot of them were severely closeted and in a great deal of pain. Beyond a couple of bars that gay Asian men liked to hang out, there was no other place, so APLG was a safe place for them to be themselves and to have some social life and maybe make a contribution back. We would go to Nisei Week and open a booth. That was ballsy back in those days.
Mason Funk: [00:36:00] Tell me about that. What was Nisei Week? Tell me about the decision to be there, open the booth.
June Lagmay: Nisei Week is a decades-old fair festival event in Los Angeles that celebrates the second-generation-born Japanese Americans in Little Tokyo, consists of parades and ondo dancing. Women get up in their kimonos and dance down the street and then there's a festival and a fair.
June Lagmay: [00:36:30] One year APLG said, "Let's open a ... " I don't know if it was a goldfish booth or a teriyaki booth. I think it was a teriyaki booth. It was through people like, again, Tak, because he had people who were sympathetic to him in the Asian community. It was like, "We can't say no to our gay brothers and sisters. If they want to open a booth, they're welcome to open a booth." It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun to just push boundaries.
Mason Funk: [00:37:00] What was fun about that? Incorporate my question into your answer.
June Lagmay: What was fun about it is that-
Mason Funk: I'm sorry, what was fun about pushing boundaries?
June Lagmay: What is fun about pushing boundaries is being naughty I think.
Mason Funk: Oops. One more time.
June Lagmay: [00:37:30] I think an essential part of personality among my gay peers during that time is a sense of naughtiness, being naughty, like doing the booth, and then the guys would amp it up by swishing extra hard, because it was something they could get away with. It was fun. It was a way of say, "Dammit, we're here and we're queer, and so what?"
June Lagmay: [00:38:00] I think that that sense of playfulness, of naughtiness, but always ready to step back into propriety, it was a little dance. It's hard to explain, but I think that kept us energized, is a lot of us had jobs that we couldn't be very prominent in,
June Lagmay: [00:38:30] so when we could be playful, we would take advantage of it.
Mason Funk: That's great. Kate, real quick, I notice the background changing in terms of light. How are we doing?
Kate Kunath: I can make an adjustment and then I'm also gonna change a card.
Mason Funk: I have a sense of questions that I should not ignore, because I tend to get into conversation. Talk about your career.
Mason Funk: [00:39:00] You mentioned the dance between being either not super out or quietly out at work or not, and then you had your personal life. Tell us just to begin with, what was your career? Give us an overview of your career.
June Lagmay: My career, one of my early positions was, as I said, assistant to the candidate Don Amador was one of the first gay candidates running for city office. Don and Harvey Milk were very close. They had this plan
June Lagmay: [00:39:30] that Harvey would win a gay seat in San Francisco and Don would win a gay seat in Los Angeles and then they would submit the two cities. Also, Harvey had a lesbian assistant named Anne who he was very, very dependent on, and Don would like to call me his Anne. When Don didn't win, I was picked up by Peggy Stevenson, so that was my first city job.
June Lagmay: [00:40:00] I was a council field aide for a few years. She ran against Mike Woo and lost. That terminated my city employment for that time, so I went to work for a year for Gloria Molina. She was a county supervisor at the time. No, I misspeak. She was an assemblywoman at the time. I served her for a year, but I missed the city.
June Lagmay: [00:40:30] One day I said, "You know what though? I'm not going to lose my job this time. I'm gonna get a civil service job and I'll have some protection." I came back in the city as a management analyst, and I got a really awful job in personnel, which I hated, but I said, "Something else will open up maybe in legislation," because I loved legislation, and it did. There was a job in the city clerk's office that opened up, and I did that for about six, seven years, and I loved it.
June Lagmay: [00:41:00] Then the city clerk at that time went to the mayor at that time, who was Richard Riordan, and said, "You're from private industry. You don't have a lot of experience in government work. I really think you need somebody who understands legislation to work on your staff," so that the amount of legislation that passed between the council and the mayor can be coordinated. That's how I joined the mayor's staff.
June Lagmay: [00:41:30] Jumping backward a little bit, I did serve an internship under Mayor Tom Bradley. That was the first internship that I served. That's how I met Don. That's what I was talking about, leaping off and not having fear, because I just went up to City Hall one day and I met Don Amador and I said, "I hear your Mayor Bradley's gay liaison. That's pretty radical. May I come and volunteer for you?" That started everything in my life about politics and City Hall.
June Lagmay: [00:42:00] I interned under Mayor Bradley for a while. Then after the city clerk's, working in city council and assembly office, coming back to City Hall and city clerk, I worked in Mayor Riordan's office for seven years. Then he was turned out, and Mayor Hahn took office and he picked me up. I worked for him for his whole first term. Then he was beaten by Antonio Villaraigosa,
June Lagmay: [00:42:30] who picked me up, and I worked for Antonio for eight years. All during that time, in the very early years, I felt like I wanted to push that boundary. I just had a very I guess aggressive personality. I didn't want to be a typical meek Asian.
June Lagmay: [00:43:00] I wanted to do the job that I was given my way. My way. I remember when I was a low-level position in the city clerk's office, the management at that time, because the gay movement was very much at City Hall and there were hearings and discussions at city council, I would say, "Can I have permission to go and testify?" "Are you sure you want to do that, June? It's one thing to have a personal life.
June Lagmay: [00:43:30] If you do this, everybody will know and you can't ever take it back." I said, "I don't see the harm in any of that. That's fine with me." When I was the mayor's legislative aide, I was always very open. It became easier and easier, because mayors at that time started hiring more and more gay staff, so I wasn't always the only one.
June Lagmay: [00:44:00] I always remembered, "If I stay closeted, I disrespect my partner. It doesn't matter what happens to me, but I must not do that." People at City Hall started to know, "Yeah, June has a partner, and her name is Rita Romero, and they've been together for X amount of years and they have a home life and they've got dogs. You have to honor that."
June Lagmay: [00:44:30] I remember when the council finally made the decision to grant domestic partner benefits. At the time, that was before there was domestic partner benefits, so if Rita got sick, there was no way I could provide for her. Zev was my hero at the time, because he was chair of the council's budget committee and they had the decision whether or not to do it. I remember approaching him and saying, "Councilman, you should know, I'm your assistant on the budget committee, and I'm a gay woman,
June Lagmay: [00:45:00] and we really need this, because if my partner gets sick, there's no way that she can be taken care of. It may not be the fiscally wise thing to do, but it is the right thing to do." Zev told me years later that that very much affected him, and as well as other gay people, I'm not crediting myself with being the only one, but that the surplus of evidence was that you can't deny people their rights.
June Lagmay: [00:45:30] If married couples at City Hall had a right for their spouses to be covered, domestic partners did as well. Then it was just a chain of events. Jackie Goldberg became on the council. She championed gay and lesbian rights at City Hall. By the time I was done with being an assistant in someone else's office and I had the opportunity to compete to be a general manager for the city,
June Lagmay: [00:46:00] to become the city clerk of the city of Los Angeles, I was very open about that. It was very important that as an example, I should be known as a city general manager who was out, who had a partner, who was one of many things, who loved legislation, who liked rock music, whatever, and happened to be lesbian. At the time,
June Lagmay: [00:46:30] Bill Roosevelt was still alive, and he was on the council. I was instrumental with other people in organizing other city employees who were gay to make their own organization. It was just everybody, from other general managers down to field workers. I thought it was important that gay people in City Hall have a voice, so I continued my advocacy there.
June Lagmay: [00:47:00] Like I said, if I went to other city clerk seminars or stuff, I never hid it. If people asked me, they had to ask me, or they would say, "What is your family life like?" then I would tell them. It was important because I had so much respect for the relationship that I had with Rita that I could not.
June Lagmay: [00:47:30] It was such a wonderful opportunity to say, "Somebody made it to this level of government and it's no big deal, and it must be treated in a natural way and in a supportive way." Again, I think marriage equality came about because people came out where they were, and I was just one of many drops that came out and just added to that rainfall.
Mason Funk: [00:48:00] Was it unusual for these mayors to get defeated or turned out and then the next one to keep you on?
June Lagmay: Very.
Mason Funk: Talk to me about that.
June Lagmay: I knew my work. I knew my work.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor. Let's frame this first. Frame it in the context so we know what the overall [inaudible].
June Lagmay: It is very unusual when a new mayor takes his administration over to keep anybody from the old administration.
June Lagmay: [00:48:30] Generally that's true. I was fortunate because, A, I knew my job really, really well, from all the experience. Every year that I worked on the mayor's staff, I became more and more experienced in understanding and interpreting the city's constitution, which we call our charter, the city's ad code and municipal code, the council rules, came up against all kinds of situations
June Lagmay: [00:49:00] where you had to puzzle through it, like with an attorney's mind, that when the new mayor would come into office, I was lucky that other people spoke for me and said, "If you want to succeed in this job, you better keep June, because she will always advise you accurately, fairly. She'll tell you the truth." I was very proud of that, that I would speak truth to power,
June Lagmay: [00:49:30] that if the mayor said he wanted to do something and it was not according to code, I would say, "This is wrong. There are ways that we can address your issue, but you've gotta go through the rules, this way. Here, let me show you how to do it." I was lucky that people spoke to Riordan and got me that job, and then when Riordan was turned out, they spoke to Hahn and said, "You really need to keep this person on,"
June Lagmay: [00:50:00] same thing with Villaraigosa. I was lucky I was one of very few people that made it through all the multiple administrations.
Mason Funk: Do any particular anecdotes come to mind about ... This is part of L.A. history. I feel like it's an opportunity that we shouldn't miss to have you just tell us about these different mayors and how they were different from each other, regardless of their politics,
Mason Funk: [00:50:30] just anecdotes that come to mind for Mayor Riordan, Mayor Hahn, Mayor Villaraigosa, three pretty big figures in L.A. history.
June Lagmay: Mayor Bradley, starting with Mayor Bradley, set the bar, of course, because of his length of tenancy in the office before term limits came into play, and because he developed the type of L.A. coalition
June Lagmay: [00:51:00] that was successful in getting him a black man elected to office. People will I think forever talk about the Bradley coalition and how important it was. When the L.A. Riots happened, I remember the talk being around City Hall that it really broke his heart. It broke him as a person. He could not believe that the animals
June Lagmay: [00:51:30] had been shoved underground and showed itself in such a terrible way. Moving on to Mayor Riordan, it was very plainly felt among the City Hall family that this was an outsider, that he's a businessman coming in to try and run L.A. as a business. He was not shy about saying, "I don't know that much about government,
June Lagmay: [00:52:00] and I don't care to. I know how to run a business and I intend to run it this way." He was a kind man. He really, truly wanted the best for the city. He tried to do some things
June Lagmay: [00:52:30] that ended up making quite a earthquake through City Hall. I think it was during Riordan that we had the change of the charter. We reviewed the charter and made some major changes for the 21st century. It was the next mayor, Hahn, who had to face the fight of San Fernando Valley seceding from L.A.
June Lagmay: [00:53:00] Mayor Hahn, when he came onboard, the city welcomed the idea of a lifetime city career employee taking office. He had some challenges because of succession and because of not nominating Bernard Parks to another term as chief.
June Lagmay: [00:53:30] I think he will admit that he felt in his heart he needed to do that, but I think it cost him the election. Mayor Villaraigosa came in with a great deal of energy, a great deal of pride that not since the early days of the city and even the state of California had a Hispanic won the office.
June Lagmay: [00:54:00] He had a very, very large staff and tried very hard to accomplish many things at once, but very intelligent man, very ambitious, and would not say, "Don't tell me no, it can't be done." Each one had a little bit of a different personality, but they were all honorable men, and I enjoyed my time working with each of them.
Mason Funk: [00:54:30] That's great. Thank you for those reflections. You touched on this, but let's talk a bit more about it. You mentioned that you practiced what you called activist principles during your tenure as city clerk. I wonder what you mean by that. Frame my question in your answer.
June Lagmay: [00:55:00] I don't know why this thought came into my mind, but okay. To practice activist principles means to try and go outside the box, being ballsy or daring or playful or flirty or unexpected.
June Lagmay: [00:55:30] I will give you an example that's analogous. When I served as city clerk, that was the financial crisis that we haven't seen since the Depression. Every department in the city was facing horrible, drastic layoffs and cuts. My department was facing a 30% cut.
June Lagmay: [00:56:00] We had hiring freezes and there was no money to go around. One of the jobs at the city clerk's office is to staff the standing committees of the city council. The city council has, say, a budget committee or a personnel committee, one of the city clerk staff would actually set up the meeting, take the notes, make sure it got televised, put down in history, etc etc. I'm getting to my point.
June Lagmay: [00:56:30] They were cutting the staff so severely that people were taking on, instead of two or three committees worth of work, four, five, and six. It was ridiculous. Now what I decided I would do, which may or may not have been a mistake, but I felt I had to make a statement, is I said, "I will start staffing committees."
June Lagmay: [00:57:00] It was unheard of that a general manager would take on the job of one of my employees, but I felt it was important, again, not to disappear, so that the city mothers and fathers could see this is what the lack of money is doing, is that in order for city business to happen, I have to actually clean a toilet, I have to actually put on earphones and staff a committee, I actually have to type up meeting notes. I think
June Lagmay: [00:57:30] I was admired by some and poopooed by others. to answer your question, I think that's an activist stand. I think that's saying, "Don't be quiet. Don't be shy. If they're going to do this, have some pride. Protect your people. Show the man that this is the consequence of what your cuts are." I did it without fanfare.
June Lagmay: [00:58:00] I did it without calling attention to myself. Just the fact that I was showing up doing these things was enough. I guess what I'm trying to say is it's important that I am always supportive of the Asian community, because I want to honor my mom. It's important that I not disappear as a gay woman, in order to honor Rita.
June Lagmay: [00:58:30] It's important that when people organize, whether it be for African American rights or Hispanic rights or women's rights, that those are my friends and those are people that I honor, so that is a good thing to attach to, and it's all interconnected, to be ... I think a lot of that was wonderfully shown in the street demonstrations
June Lagmay: [00:59:00] that happened after the Trump election. People were out there with signs, the gamut. It wasn't just protesting or affirming one thing. It was all, what is that new word they're using now, intersectionality. It was a wonderful thing to see. I think everybody can practice activism. I think it's just refusing to disappear. Just refuse to disappear. Do not go quietly. Scream and yell, or make a joke. That's important.
Mason Funk: [00:59:30] I love that because as you say, I love the list you gave, you can be flirty, playful, ballsy, as you said just now, humorous, that there's many different forms that activism in a way can take.
June Lagmay: I believe in that very strongly. I believe in that very strongly. Can I tell you something else too I wanted to bring up during this conversation,
June Lagmay: [01:00:00] is about how you had asked what is the greatest change that has happened in the LGBT community, and I said definitely marriage equality and the acceptance of and normalization of gay people in the media and in the fabric of everyday life.Rita's older sister, who I love dearly,
June Lagmay: [01:00:30] is a very wise, a very loving, and a very powerful woman. She said something very extraordinary to me some months ago. She belongs to a book club. They read a book and then they discuss it later and they discuss issues of the day, social issues, whatever. Somehow it came up in that discussion about marriage equality. One of the people in the book club said to Anita, "How are we gonna address this problem?" or something to the effect of,
June Lagmay: [01:01:00] "How do we deal with this?" or, "What do you think about this?" whatever. Anita said, and I'm so proud of her, she goes, "Oh it's very simple. My generation has to die out, because the young people, they don't care about that anymore. It's a hangover, a hanging on issue with people of my age and my generation. When my generation is gone, there will be no more problem." That was one of the most intense articulations,
June Lagmay: [01:01:30] and this is from somebody that I love very dearly. In some ways it is true, but it all speaks to the chipping away at the stone and how wonderful it will be in 50 to 100 years from now.
Mason Funk: Do you have any concerns that the clock could get turned back? People have expressed that with this new administration
Mason Funk: [01:02:00] and potentially new Supreme Court justices, that in reality, some of the rights that we've won could actually be-
June Lagmay: Absolutely.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that.
June Lagmay: I absolutely am afraid with the new White House administration and the possibility of seating of more conservative judges on the Supreme Court, that we are already in the process of turning back.
June Lagmay: [01:02:30] You and I spoke of the removal of LGBT people from the National Registry of Aging Americans. It's already happening. We have to resist. Whether it's people constantly contacting their elected representatives, that has to happen, but it's not enough,
June Lagmay: [01:03:00] because right now the prominent party is not going to do anything about this folly of a presidency. It's going to be up to the people marching in the streets. It's going to be up to local and state governments to take a stand, which I think L.A. is doing and I think California is doing. It's gonna take the wisdom of the existing court system, superior, etc, to keep a check on.
June Lagmay: [01:03:30] I personally am very convinced that there will be a straw that breaks the camel's back. I think we will see the presidency changed. It cannot go on at the rate that it is without some sort of explosion. I'm just wondering what's taking so long actually.
June Lagmay: [01:04:00] Yeah, we need to be afraid and we need to not take things for granted. Everybody needs to be an activist, whether it's calling their representative or marching in the street or educating their coworkers. It is very easy to slip back. Absolutely. Absolutely. The African American community has to do that all the time. It looks like progress is made, and sadly, it isn't.
Mason Funk: [01:04:30] Let's talk about some people that you wanted to talk about. You talked about Paul Chen. Do you want to talk a bit more about who Paul Chen was and why he was important from your point of view?
June Lagmay: Paul Chen-
Mason Funk: [crosstalk].
June Lagmay: ... has a great story-
Mason Funk: Sorry, start one more time clean.
June Lagmay: People in my life that have had a profound influence on me in my younger years, one is a dear friend named Paul Chen. Paul has a great story
June Lagmay: [01:05:00] that he remembers better than I do, that he and I saw each other at the Gay Community Services Center. It was the Gay Community Services Center then, before the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center. We saw each other and we just ran up to each other and hugged each other, because it was like, "Oh my god, there's another Asian person here." Paul has a personality that is very much like mine. He's out there. He's outrageous. He's open. He's funny. He's disrespectful.
June Lagmay: [01:05:30] He's a flirt. He was just very easy to become friends with. It was because of Paul that we decided to put our concerns to work and we put down the roots for the first APLG meeting. Paul is wonderful because he too honors the Chinese elders in his family.
June Lagmay: [01:06:00] As much as they can be difficult and hurting, he would not be who he is if he did not completely embrace what that means. Paul has had an interesting life. He raises show dogs. His partner, Chris Gaynor, is very active now in passing down the Vietnam experience,
June Lagmay: [01:06:30] and has been honored in Time Magazine as one of the people that kept photo journals during the time and their being shown. Paul made me feel very comfortable. He was about as close to a brother or a sister that I could ever want. Even though we don't see each other often, we communicate by email, and we just adore each other's company very much.
Mason Funk: [01:07:00] I look forward to meeting him.
June Lagmay: I hope you do. I hope you do.
Mason Funk: Oh definitely, one way or another, be we go all over the place. Maybe this year.
June Lagmay: I hope so.
Mason Funk: Tell me about Jeanne Cordova.
June Lagmay: Jeanne Cordova, I admired her very much, because she had such a strong sense of certainty in herself
June Lagmay: [01:07:30] and she did a big thing in that day by creating the first Gay Yellow Pages. That was a BFD, it was, to actually have numbers in a directory all in one easy-to-carry volume. She was disrespectful. She was naughty. We were never very close friends, but I admired her from afar. I admired the work that she did. She had a quiet way about her.
June Lagmay: [01:08:00] I just admired her very much. One of what we would call the unsung heroes, because there were a lot of people during that time that would constantly get the awards or would be honored at ceremonies and stuff. She was a worker.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor. Tell me who you're talking about.
June Lagmay: I'm talking about Jeanne Cordova. She was a worker. She was not in it for any status or promotion for herself.
June Lagmay: [01:08:30] She really believed in protecting and, what's the word I'm looking for, emboldening the community, empowering the community. I think that's what I admire about the people that I named for you, that they were workers, that they were the ones that spent the money out of their own pocket or stayed up late at night or took in somebody from the bus stop that needed a place.
June Lagmay: [01:09:00] That's what we did for each other. If somebody was not as well off or was in need, they took care of you. They were as altruistic and virtuous persons as I ever met.
Mason Funk: Wow. That's great. I'm sure that the next two individuals, Ivy Bottini and Troy Perry fit into those.
June Lagmay: Exactly.
Mason Funk: Let's talk about Ivy, please.
June Lagmay: Ivy I admired so much-
Mason Funk: Give me her full name.
June Lagmay: [01:09:30] Ivy Bottini I admired so much, because she was already an elder at the time that I came to know her. I was so impressed by the fact, because at that time there were no elder people. It was all young. She had been working already for years, unbeknownst to us, in her way. To look at her and see all the years of experience that she has had,
June Lagmay: [01:10:00] the sights she must've seen, working on newsletters and so forth in the 1950s, in the 1950s, in that choking, repressed time. Reverend Troy Perry, again, wonderful, hearty, embracing personality, organizer of the first out gay church, the Metropolitan Community Church.
June Lagmay: [01:10:30] I admired him so much for being truly Christlike in saying you can be fully gay and you can fully love God and accept God in your life. To be able to meld those two realities when even today we still have conversion going on was such an important job.
June Lagmay: [01:11:00] These are just people who were workers, who I admired very much, who did their work without fanfare or without thanks, and hard. It was hard work. It was hard work. I admire that. I admire hard work. I think that's the measure of a character of a person.
Mason Funk: Tell me more about that. I love the little list you gave of people who would pay out of their own pocket, who would stay up late at night.
Mason Funk: [01:11:30] Tell me about the role of hard work that we in these days may not appreciate in those early days of building a community. People take a community for granted. They didn't exist. Tell me what that was like or what you witnessed.
June Lagmay: I witnessed extreme generosity of both financial resource and spirit among people
June Lagmay: [01:12:00] that I dealt with in the LGBT community during those years, '70s, '80s, the coming of AIDS and the scrambling in the community to rally, to raise money, to raise awareness, to take care of each other, to visit in the hospital,
June Lagmay: [01:12:30] because for a lot of people whose families had rejected them, then your circle of friends became your family. I think that's very important to remember, that the strength of friendships during this time approached blood bonds. Yes, friends would take turns visiting
June Lagmay: [01:13:00] an ailing colleague dying of AIDS in the hospital. They would take food. They would raise money. Rita and I, when I worked at the Center, sometimes a young couple came in from the bus stop, from some bohunk city in Missouri or Kansas or something, and they needed a night to stay and we would house them for a night.
June Lagmay: [01:13:30] I don't think I would do that now, but I guess when you're young and you're trusting and it's like, "They have no place else to stay and they need a meal and they need a friend." I think we were much more innocent at the time, and willing to give what little we had again, whether it was money or time or work. Now is different.
June Lagmay: [01:14:00] Now everybody is into building status, building a portfolio, because we've been lucky enough to gain acceptance in the world such that we can pursue those. At that time nobody had anything. It was like we were all monks in the monastery together. We made cheese together and we sang together and we shared fellowship together. I know that sounds nave, but in many ways that's how it felt.
Mason Funk: [01:14:30] I love that comparison between the early church and the early gay community. No one's ever used that before. Would you care to just draw out that comparison a bit more? A lot of our listeners won't even know what the early church was like.
June Lagmay: [01:15:00] Wow. The early Christian church, based on the teachings and writings about Jesus Christ, was first of all very low-impact and low-key. People would just meet at each other's houses. They're finding out now, historically, that women had a really big role in the transmission of the good news of Jesus Christ,
June Lagmay: [01:15:30] as well as martyrdom and so forth. I guess what I'm saying is Christianity as an early movement and the LGBT community as an early movement, as you say, had many similarities, in that they started in people's homes, they started out of a generosity of spirit. It was selfless. It was, "My brothers and sisters come before me." It was, "What is the greater good?
June Lagmay: [01:16:00] What is right and just in society? What is simple is better than what is complicated. What is direct is better than obtuse. Put your money where your mouth is. Be ready to put yourself in harm's way for another or for the good of the larger society."
June Lagmay: [01:16:30] Although Christianity went on to take on this great mantle of bureaucracy, i.e. the Vatican and dogma and catechism, what it really comes down is the people and the affection and the need to take care of each other and to survive and love and respect.
Mason Funk: [01:17:00] That's great. That's a great comparison. I'm gonna ask Reverend Troy Perry about that.
June Lagmay: Please do.
Mason Funk: I see him on Wednesday.
June Lagmay: How wonderful. I hope he remembers me.
Mason Funk: He probably will. In fact, I'm sure he will. We're gonna start shifting towards finishing up. Another thing you mentioned is that you're having a good time as you get older, seeing your identities I guess shift, mature, evolve,
Mason Funk: [01:17:30] your identities as a woman, as an Asian woman, as a lesbian woman, potentially as a Catholic woman, I'm not sure.
June Lagmay: A spiritual woman.
Mason Funk: A spiritual woman. I'm just curious to know, as you get older, how do you see your identity or identities shifting?
June Lagmay: How I see my identities shifting as I get older, as I told you, I find it very interesting. Aging-
Mason Funk: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm not sure if this is gonna be helpful or confusing to you, but as you're talking you tend to look off in this direction.
June Lagmay: [01:18:00] Do I?
Mason Funk: Yeah. If you could try to remember to bring your gaze back toward, just occasionally. Start again.
June Lagmay: We were talking about as I get older the shifting of my various identities as an aging woman, as an aging lesbian, as an aging Asian person, as an aging spiritual person.
June Lagmay: Having retired, first thing that is very obvious is that a lot of the stress, work-related stress
June Lagmay: [01:18:30] and the need to compartmentalize my life into work and non-work has gone, so I'm a lot more relaxed. Time for me to do what I want for myself, travel, devote time to Rita, who had to sacrifice a lot when I worked late or worked weekends. I promised her she would have all my time and attention, and I'm trying to give that to her.
June Lagmay: [01:19:00] I also find growing older to be very interesting because I find now that I'm forgetting things more than I used to, putting things in strange places. The body has more aches and pains. It's a matter of accepting limitations and the ongoing limitations of the physical body. Now that I'm off of work I find that my role as caretaker to my surviving father,
June Lagmay: [01:19:30] my mom passed, but my father is elderly, so I take on a great deal of time and energy to make sure that he's okay. That is my job. That is my responsibility as the older daughter. I'm not gonna have him with me forever, so I want to make sure that he and I have no regrets as far as the time that we share together while he is still on this earth. That's a great deal.
June Lagmay: [01:20:00] As a spiritual person and staying concurrent with the world events, finding I'm voraciously eating news at a ever-increasing rate. CNN and MSNBC is on TV all the time during the day, constantly checking my computer for what's new in the world.
June Lagmay: [01:20:30] I am no longer what I do, which is what I was when I was working or when I was involved in a lot of activist activities. I have to rethink what it is that I am, if not what I do. I'm trying to discover myself, as trying to be kind and spend time with my immediate family and friends,
June Lagmay: [01:21:00] trying to find space to develop myself, whether it's learning a new language or trying to take up on the piano again, trying to be at peace with the fact that as every year passes I may have less physical ability, but I want to continue to have a very rich inner life and a sense of humor, because we all take things too damn seriously.
Mason Funk: [01:21:30] That's great. That's great. Thank you for that. This may seem like a strange question, especially because you said that being Asian isn't just one thing. There's many different nationalities and many different ways of being Asian. For you, how do you think, in a general way, being Asian and being lesbian have danced together and informed these two parts of your identity? Is that a question that-
June Lagmay: [01:22:00] Yeah, it's a good question, and it's not easy to answer. I didn't even think of myself as Asian until college, because I was raised in a Hispanic neighborhood and went to a Hispanic girls school. I remember answering the phone at my parents' house one time, and my mom, when she was a live, would tell me, "My friends are asking,
June Lagmay: [01:22:30] Who's the Spanish person in your house?'" I guess I must've spoken with a little lilt in my accent or something. It wasn't until college that I, because there were a lot of Asians at UCLA, and I was the only one of two Asians in my whole high school. I felt I was Hispanic. I ate Mexican food. I picked up the slang. I loved the music scene from the Hispanic point of view.
June Lagmay: [01:23:00] I went to college and I noticed a lot of Asian people, and I started writing poetry for Pacific Ties, which was a Asian newspaper on campus. Also, it started to bother me when people would say stupid things to me like, "Oh you're Asian, you must be very submissive," or, "I hear that Asian women are shaped differently down there. Is it true?" or
June Lagmay: [01:23:30] just these stupid stereotypes about Asian women being submissive and disappearing. My mom was not a submissive type. When she married my dad, my dad said she was about the biggest surprise in his life, because she grew up in a tough time. She's from Yokohama, which is a port town, so they're used to foreigners. They stand their own ground and they carry their own weight.
June Lagmay: [01:24:00] It really started to bother me when people would say really racist stuff about Asians. They meant them to be nice, because Asians are the good minority, right? They would mean, "Oh, you never get in trouble. You always play the piano, keep your head down. You walk behind people." That just started getting on my nerves more and more. I would actually act out the opposite,
June Lagmay: [01:24:30] so I would be louder or I would be in their face or I would be sarcastic or something, just to say, "You don't know anything about me and you should not be confident in saying that all Asian people are the same." Being around gay men helped me so much develop that sense of humor that was stand your ground.
Mason Funk: [01:25:00] First of all, I think that's interesting in and of itself, that gay men taught you a way of standing your ground.
June Lagmay: I have to say it's so. I have to say it's so.
Mason Funk: Tell me more about that. Do you remember any specific incidence of a type of humor or a display of humor, a ballsy humor, that you remember going, "I'm gonna be like that," or, "I like that."
June Lagmay: [01:25:30] I think it was just the pattern of, "Oh girl," or, "Miss thing," or just that focus, that stand your ground, "I'm here." I'm not explaining myself very well. It was the pattern of my gay male friends.
June Lagmay: [01:26:00] The musicality of it was wonderful. It was so pulsing with life. Being around people who were not gay was so quiet and so boring. The life-affirmingness of that kind of banter and the self-confidence of it
June Lagmay: [01:26:30] and the out-maneuvering, out-dissing each other, gamesmanship of it was very attractive to me.
Mason Funk: I notice there was a little bit of a [inaudible] went away. There was a lawnmower, but they question disappeared, so we're good. This is a new question. I've never asked anybody this. Of course today's, you're the first interview of 2017. I don't know if you know that.
June Lagmay: Really?
Mason Funk: It's the very first interview for this year. A question I've never asked before is, do you have any regrets?
June Lagmay: [01:27:00] No. No. I don't have any regrets, because everything I've done and said and happened to me goes into the stew and the flavor of who I am. I'm very glad to be who I am. My dad and I have conversations. He goes, "You know I almost married so-and-so and you wouldn't have been here." We have a good laugh. I'm very grateful to have had an opportunity to occupy space and time in this world, so no, I don't have any regrets.
Mason Funk: [01:27:30] That's great.
June Lagmay: May I take a break.
Mason Funk: Yes, absolutely.
June Lagmay: I need to use the restroom.
Mason Funk: You want to swap cards?
Kate Kunath: Yeah. Can I maybe use your computerless if you're using ...
Mason Funk: ... somebody came to you and said, "I'm thinking about coming out," whatever that meant to that person, what suggestions or guidance would you offer that person?
June Lagmay: [01:28:00] If somebody came to me and said, "I want to come out. Give me some advice," I'd definitely have to have some context, taking into account how old the person is, the nature of the familial relationships, religion. I'm going to assume it's somebody I know, I'm not gonna assume it's a stranger, and that I have some insight into those parameters.
June Lagmay: [01:28:30] I would definitely not say, "You should come out like this." I would pick that person's brain and say, "How have you been thinking about doing it? What are some scenarios you've played out in your brain that work?" and then have that person tell me some scenarios that they have previewed,
June Lagmay: [01:29:00] give a little input, whether I think some are stronger than others. I would ask, "Can I be a support and help for you? Do you want me to be ready in case things blow up, to give some insight to your parents or your work circle, or not? Because either one's fine."
June Lagmay: [01:29:30] Maybe they might want to do a mock role play to practice it. I always believed in doing that for people that I'd try to help with interviews. Might as well go through it through that venue. Coming out.
June Lagmay: [01:30:00] Then speaking with them all the way through to the final end of where that action could lead, "Let's talk about what things could happen if you go route A. This'll happen. That'll happen. Maybe something even else will happen," and making sure they understand that it could flip-flop.
June Lagmay: [01:30:30] They might expect total catastrophe and it might turn out very well, and vice versa. Making sure that they understand that by standing their ground, it may end up in a conclusion that they weren't expecting, and to in their heart be ready to say, "I didn't expect this, but it's happening, and I will power my way through it." I would say that that way.
Mason Funk: [01:31:00] That's great. That's great. What is your hope for the future?
June Lagmay: My hope for the future is, I think the LGBT movement is on a good path, very, very good path, having achieved marriage equality is huge, but as we spoke before, to be vigilant,
June Lagmay: [01:31:30] because the pendulum swings the other direction. We cannot afford to lose any ground that we have. If that means taking to the streets or petitioning our legislative leaders or speaking out in our communities and in our media, whatever it takes, everyone has a share in the glory, everyone has a responsibility to keep the engine going.
June Lagmay: [01:32:00] My hope though is that the other supporting societal organizations, such as organized religion, such as the conservative political parties, wake up and smell the coffee. The LGBT people I think are on a good path, just have to be vigilant. It's the other support organizations that need a lot of work.
June Lagmay: [01:32:30] I am hoping, like I said, to see some major changes in organized religion, not just Catholicism, but the Protestantism and Judaism and all the rest, that they take more of a leap forward than they have been, because religion apparently is a great deal important to many people. In some cases it is your whole identity.
June Lagmay: [01:33:00] Whether you are religious or agnostic, you have to respect that these are institutions that have been around a long time and they need a lot of work.
Mason Funk: That's really interesting when you think about the whole scenario that these religions, the main religions of the world, when you think about the idea they could be advancing a positive agenda for LGBTQ people as opposed to being the resistors, it'd just create such a different scenario.
June Lagmay: [01:33:30] It would, yeah.
Mason Funk: It's just amazing how much things could shift. Why is it important to you personally to tell your story?
June Lagmay: Because I've been so lucky.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor. Incorporate my question in your answer. "It's important to me ... "
June Lagmay: It's important to me to tell my story because I've been so lucky. I've been lucky to have a good education, to have a social circle
June Lagmay: [01:34:00] that formed me and loved me and empowered me, and I owe it to them. It's like that song, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, about not cutting my hair. I owe it to somebody. We're all so interconnected. There are people that I will never know that will get something out of this interview, from Troy Perry's interview, something that will cause a genetic change in the brain.
June Lagmay: [01:34:30] I feel it's important to tell my story for my mother, for my partner Rita, for my family, for my gay family, for people that have not had a voice, that I not disappear, that I left a spot somewhere in the firmament.
Mason Funk: [01:35:00] Great. Then what is the importance to you of a project like OUTWORDS, which is-
June Lagmay: It's tremendous. When I first heard, for example, about Spielberg's efforts to document the Holocaust victims, it's like, "Why didn't somebody think of this before?" What you're doing is a work for the ages. It's so important. We've lost so many leaders already. You'll never get a chance to interview Morris, you'll never get a chance to interview Harvey Milk,
June Lagmay: [01:35:30] and the dozens and dozens of others that were so important. Get on the carousel now and start interviewing them, old, young, and in between. Get them down for history, because we have a history, and it's still being made, and it's still fluid. By doing what you're doing, you're affecting the history of our making ourselves, so I salute you. Please continue. The best of luck to you.
Mason Funk: [01:36:00] Thank you. I have one more question that's been on my mind. This is not one of the scripted questions. When you talked about those early days of the gay and lesbian movement, how you'd give someone some money or take them in for a night, you said by comparison, today we're all concerned with our investment portfolios, so to speak. I just want to go back to that, because it struck me,
Mason Funk: [01:36:30] I guess the idea that as you gain you lose, you change. I wonder if there's anything more you'd want to say about how we've changed, the difference today as compared to, say, 30, 40 years ago, when you were a young activist or when you were just coming into your own. What have we gained and maybe what have we lost? Maybe can we get back what we've lost or should we just let it go?
June Lagmay: [01:37:00] As far as what the community has gained and lost in its development since the beginning, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, it's inevitable that every generation will experience it their own way. It's inevitable that the elders will always look at the young and shake their head and say,
June Lagmay: [01:37:30] "Oh they have no idea how hard it was for us and how easy it is for them now." It's all relative though. The millennials probably think they have it very hard, and the ones that come after them will think the same thing. I was very moved and very impressed by, again, the street demonstrations after the Trump administration came in, when I saw the scale
June Lagmay: [01:38:00] and the breadth of diversity and the intersectionality of what was out there. I think I, as Anne Frank said, I do believe that people are really good at heart. I have faith that the human spirit will find its way to be generous, to work hard, to be altruistic.
June Lagmay: [01:38:30] It may be in a different way than I knew it. I do see over-mediazation as a tripping point. Social media I keep at arm's length. I know a lot of people find it an improvement and a boon, but I am fearful that it's going to take away some of our humanity and some of our kindness
June Lagmay: [01:39:00] and some of our innocence. I would like to always keep an eye on that. I think that people will find when it is necessary for them to be kind and generous. We see it every day, the random acts of kindness, the reaching into the pocket. I think as long as there are human beings, we will see that.
June Lagmay: [01:39:30] I think we just have to encourage it in each other and light a fire under it and speak out when we see the opposite being performed, because the worst thing to do is to say nothing.
Mason Funk: That was good timing. That car started. That was perfect. Let me just wait for them to pull out. Really I promise you I have just one last question, which is just basically to say is there anything that you feel like we haven't covered?
June Lagmay: [01:40:00] I think you should talk to Rita a little bit.
Mason Funk: What I want to do is I want to schedule a separate interview for that, because I feel like she's got a whole bunch of stories of her own, and it would be a shame to just do five, 10 minutes. If that's okay with you guys, now that I know where you live.
June Lagmay: Literally, yeah.
Mason Funk: One of the nice things about being based in L.A. is I can do plenty of L.A. interviews and it's not a big deal. I can just get the camera out and come over. When I schedule another round of interviews
Mason Funk: [01:40:30] I will be in touch, because I would love to hear Rita. You said she has a very different perspective. As far as you go, anything else you want to add for the record?
June Lagmay: I feel embarrassed by going on and on with all this talking. I have not done a fraction of what other people have done. Honestly, the people that you have on your list, the people that you've talked to already, the people you're going to talk to, they have far more impressive stories than I do.
June Lagmay: [01:41:00] I just am grateful to be, like I said, a drop in the rainfall, a bit of water that helped chip away the rock. I have much more faith and much more admiration of people that gave greatly more sacrifice than I ever did. Thank you for the opportunity for me,
June Lagmay: [01:41:30] but there are so many people that deserve this chance to tell their story so much more than I, honestly.
Mason Funk: Thank you. We will definitely aspire to get to those people.
June Lagmay: Please do.
Mason Funk: That's our goal. We can cut. You should feel free to send me names ...

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Kate Kunath
Date: April 03, 2017
Location: Home of June Lagmay, Los Angeles, CA