Nanette Gartrell, MD and Diane (Dee) Mosbacher, MD, PhD are psychiatrists in love. Dee is also a filmmaker and social justice activist; and Nanette is also a researcher and writer whose 53 years of scientific investigations have contributed to the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ+ civil rights. Individually, they are formidable leaders, thinkers, and activists; as a team, they are a force of nature.
Within a few months of arriving at Stanford for her undergraduate degree, Nanette had fallen in love with a woman, come out as a lesbian, and made it her personal mission to remove the word “homosexuality” from the DSM. As a pre-med student at Stanford, her faculty mentor Dr. Keith Brodie encouraged her to do a special project on homosexuality because, as a lesbian, she’d bring a unique perspective to the research.
Meanwhile, while taking pre-med courses at George Washington University, Dee saw her first “real live lesbian” speak at a reproductive rights speak-out. The role modeling she saw there “threw open the closet door” for her.
In 1975, Nanette got an externship at the National Institute of Health in Washington, DC. She’d never been to the east coast, but a friend found her a spot in a lesbian collective household in DC, where she met Dee. They bonded over their research, their activism, and their mutual enjoyment of the TV show “Little House on the Prairie.” Nanette ignored the housemates’ warning that Dee was a “heartbreaker” — and rightly so – as the two women have now been together for 47 years.
From DC, Nanette became a psychiatric resident at Harvard. As the first out lesbian on the full-time Harvard Medical School faculty, she found herself in the position of trailblazer multiple times. She published a paper on homophobic stresses associated with being lesbian in The American Journal of Psychotherapy, likely the first paper of its kind to appear in that journal. And when the American Psychiatric Association blocked a groundbreaking curriculum based on a single sentence written by Nanette, “Homosexuality is a normal form of sexual expression,” she pulled out of the project. In solidarity, many of her colleagues follow suit.
Once Dee finished her PhD in social psychology, she went to medical school at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. As an out lesbian, Dee was often invited to speak at schools. She created a slideshow presentation called “Closets Are Health Hazards: Gay and Lesbian Physicians Come Out,” which was shown in med schools all over the country. In a way, the slideshow started Dee’s career as a filmmaker. She eventually directed and/or produced nine documentaries, including the Academy Award-nominated Straight from the Heart, about religious parents coming to terms with their children’s homosexuality.
In 1986, Nanette began a study of lesbian families. The study continues to this day, and has been cited internationally in litigation and legislation concerning equality in marriage, foster care, and adoption. The study’s findings played a critical role in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ affirmation of same-gender marriage. Nanette also spearheaded a 10-year project documenting sexual misconduct in physicians, which led to the creation of ethics codes and laws outlawing the sexual abuse of patients. For this work, Nanette was featured in a PBS “Frontline” documentary, My Doctor, My Lover.
Dee, among her many other descriptors, is also the daughter of Robert Mosbacher, who was George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Commerce from 1989-1992. Motivated by the virulent homophobia Dee witnessed at the 1992 Republican National Convention, she founded Woman Vision, a nonprofit promoting equality through educational media. She also served as San Mateo County’s Medical Director for Mental Health and Senior Psychiatrist at San Francisco’s Progress Foundation.
In 2004, Drs. Gartrell and Mosbacher raced to San Francisco City Hall and were married one hour after the first same-sex marriage ceremony was performed for Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, improvising with their pinky rings. When the Supreme Court of California annulled these marriages, the couple wed again the following year in Victoria, British Columbia.
Since sharing the stories of their careers and their relationship with OUTWORDS, Dee and Nanette have become close friends of the project, always at the ready to offer a word of encouragement and support. In this way, the strength and warmth of their personal bond has fortified OUTWORDS’ quest to ensure that stories like Nanette’s and Dee’s are preserved and shared for many generations to come.
Mason Funk: [00:00:00] All right. Nanette, and then Dee, why don't you just tell us your first and last names and spell them out?
Nanette Gartrell: Nanette Gartrell N-A-N-E-T-T-E G-A-R-T-R-E-L-L.
Mason Funk: Great. On what date and where were you born?
Dee Mosbacher: I was born in Santa Barbara, California on June 28th, 1949.
Mason Funk: Okie dokie. Dee, your turn.
Dee Mosbacher: Okay. Dee Mosbacher. D-E-E,
Dee Mosbacher: [00:00:30] Mosbacher, M-O-S-B-A-C-H-E-R. I was born on January 13th in Houston, Texas
Mason Funk: And what year?
Dee Mosbacher: 1949
Mason Funk: You're born the same year?
Nanette Gartrell: Yeah.
Nanette Gartrell: We're 49ers.
Mason Funk: You said, January 13th. You were?
Nanette Gartrell: June 28th.
Mason Funk: Okay. So about six months.
Nanette Gartrell: Stonewall decided to happen on my birthday.
Dee Mosbacher: A unique celebration.
Nanette Gartrell: Which means that every time there's a pride parade in San Francisco, pretend it's a Nanettes birthday celebration.
Mason Funk: [00:01:00] I looked over your stories and the conversations we had, I decided to sort of start at your coming out stories. And then eventually we'll double back again, a little bit of family history, but I thought you both have coming out stories and it was before you met. So let me start with you, Nanette. I think you came out when you went away to college.
Nanette Gartrell: I did.
Mason Funk: Could you tell us that story?
Nanette Gartrell: [00:01:30] Well first of all, I knew that I was a lesbian from the time I was three years old. I was completely aware of the fact that my attractions were to my peers and then they grew up with me. When I arrived at Stanford, where I went as an undergraduate, I wouldn't have anticipated that within two months I would fall in love with another woman, come out as a lesbian and find myself
Nanette Gartrell: [00:02:00] basically face to face with the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which at that point defined me as mentally ill; or considered by the criminal justice system, a criminal; or by the faith community, a sinner. But I was determined not to let that definition rule my life.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:02:30] Therefore, I decided that we needed accurate research about healthy, happy, high functioning, LGBTQ people of whom I considered myself one. Because of my coming out and coming to the realization that we didn't really have data that could help us wrench the word homosexuality out of the DSM, I set about starting to do that.
Mason Funk: [00:03:00] When you say you came face to face with the DSM, what do you mean by that?
Nanette Gartrell: Well, I had already planned to be a psychiatrist. I'd planned a career in psychiatry, so I was very interested in psychiatry. I came from a family where my parents were psychologically challenged, emotionally challenged. So I was very interested in learning how I could be helpful to people and also understand more about what their challenges were.
Mason Funk: [00:03:30] Gotcha. Okay. Good, great introduction. Thank you. Dee?
Mason Funk: Tell me about your coming out.
Dee Mosbacher: Well I came out in Washington, DC. I went to Pitzer college and was there for a couple of years before I had to go home to Houston to help take care of my mom who had leukemia.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:04:00] After she died, I moved to DC and I became active in the anti-war movement and in what we used to call the pro-abortion movement, it's now called pro-choice. I felt like I was fighting the good fight. I was actually a member of the Socialist Workers Party and doing a lot of political work. It was a very rich time,
Dee Mosbacher: [00:04:30] I was really, in a lot of ways, enjoying myself. But I was in a lot of turmoil about my sexual orientation, because all I had read, like Nanette said, what I had read was that you were sick, you were a sinner or you were a criminal. I didn't feel like I was any of those things, nor did I want to be any of those things. I was really, really, sort of, riled up inside, not knowing what to do.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:05:00] I was taking pre-med courses at George Washington University. One day, I saw a poster that advertised a pro-abortion speak out and there were three speakers that were advertised, a lawyer, a doctor, and a lesbian. Well, Id never seen a real live lesbian, so I got myself to that speak out
Dee Mosbacher: [00:05:30] and I saw three very articulate women. I didn't figure out until months afterwards that they were all three lesbians, and that was it. I threw open the closet door and I jumped out. That was really it for me. It really taught me the importance of knowing somebody who is. Sort of having a real role model, and that stayed with me until I started making films.
Mason Funk: [00:06:00] Great. Another great introduction. Thank you so much. Okay. Roughly speaking, for the rest of the time, I'm going to be sort of bouncing back and forth. Although eventually I'm going to ask you how you met.
Dee Mosbacher: Oh, yes. Nanettes got good story about that.
Mason Funk: But first of all, I'm going to track with you as you kind of move into your lives and your careers. So, Nanette, you already alluded to this,
Mason Funk: [00:06:30] but when and how did you decide you were going to essentially devote your career to research and education about LGBTQ people?
Nanette Gartrell: Well, I entered Stanford as a pre-med student and I was taking pre-med courses. I'm[1] a psychiatrist, I've been in practice for more than, I don't know,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:07:00] 35 years, 40 years or something, as a clinician. But I rarely encountered people who did not feel as though there was something wrong with them, back then, if they were LGBTQ. I never felt that way, I just felt that it was who I was from the time I was three and I had no regrets about it. My perspective was that the world really needed to change to accommodate us
Nanette Gartrell: [00:07:30] rather than I needed to change to accommodate the world. I was very fortunate that Human Biology was invented when I was at Stanford. It's now all over the country, a very popular major, and even more fortunate that one of the requirements was that all of us in Human Biology needed to do a special project with a faculty member. I chose a faculty member whose name was Dr. Keith Brodie, who had just come from NIH,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:08:00] who was a young assistant professor in psychiatry, and asked him if I could do research with him. He said Yes,that he would be delighted to have me do a project, or projects with him. And he asked what I wanted to study. He said, You can study anything. You can study homosexuality, you can study this, you can study that, you can ... I thought, homosexuality? I mean, that's what we called it back then. We weren't using all the terms we use now.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:08:30] I was just shocked that that was an option. I said I would love to study homosexuality, and he said, Fantastic, are you gay? I said, I am. He said, That's even more fantastic because you'll have a perspective that you can bring to this research that other people might not have. So he became my mentor. He sponsored my early research.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:09:00] Later, I mean, I didn't know at the time, nor did he, that he would go on to become president of the American Psychiatric Association, and president of Duke University. He became a very prominent person in the field. But he helped initiate the whole process of teaching me how to do research. My goal had been to do research--to show that we could be healthy, happy, high functioning individuals--
Nanette Gartrell: [00:09:30] and have that research, if possible, contribute to getting homosexuality out of the DSM. Now, I don't know if you'd like me to tell that part of the story now.
Mason Funk: Well get there. But I do have one follow-up question. In the field of psychiatry, this is my devil's advocate brain working, do some people say, well, since you're homosexual, you are not qualified to do research on homosexuals because you're bias.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:10:00] Oh, yes. That question comes up a lot-- are you biased in doing research on LGBTQ people because you happen to be one? Well, parents do research on children all the time and they have children. I mean, we all do research on everything. The point of learning how to do really high quality scientific research is to learn how to remove bias in the process of doing it.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:10:30] I was taught by the very best, and I'm really fortunate that I was.
Mason Funk: So your results are unimpeachable.
Nanette Gartrell: To be published in the New England Journal of Medicinewould indicate that people think that our results are unimpeachable.
Mason Funk: Awesome. Now, Keith Brodie was obviously one very important figure, and another very important figure was Dr. Robert Spitzer.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:11:00] He certainly was.
Mason Funk: First of all, just give you an overview, who was Dr. Robert Spitzer?
Nanette Gartrell: Dr. Robert Spitzer was an analyst, a psychoanalyst at Columbia who was a prominent person in the American Psychiatric Association. He was in charge of the subcommittee responsible for deciding whether homosexuality stayed in the DSM or was going to be removed.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:11:30] Keith Brodie was chair of the Program Committee of the 1973 annual American Psychiatric Association meeting, and he allowed Spitzer to do a symposium on this very topic of whether it should be retained or not. A number of advocates--LGBTQ advocates--showed up at that meeting to try to lobby him and explain to him why homosexuality was different from other mental disorders,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:12:00] and they, and some closeted psychiatrists, managed to have him eventually understand that it was different in the sense that it did not cause subjective distress, and it did not impair functioning. That is very different from what constitutes a mental disorder. So in a series of events related to that, and his realization of that, it was taken out of the DSM.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:12:30] Edition two was in existence at that time, however, the third edition wasn't published until seven years later, he still made sure that there were pathological references to homosexuality in the DSM III and all pathological references were not removed from the DSM until 1987, when we were already at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Most people think it [homosexuality] was gone in 73, that was not the case. Moreover, psychiatrists all over the country
Nanette Gartrell: [00:13:00] who were not exposed to healthy, happy high functioning, LGBTQ people were opposed to the change, and Spitzer himself, it turned out, had lots of very homophobic stereotypes, and I learned this firsthand. When I was applying to psychiatric residency, I applied to Duke, Harvard and Columbia. I went to my interview at Columbia. I met with the chair of the program, he said, You're a shoe in. We want you,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:13:30] you've done research. You've published. Back then, that was a rarity, now it's common. You'd be perfect for this program. My last interview, I walked into the room and it was Robert Spitzer sitting there. He looked at my research and he said, You must be a lesbian. I said, Yes. He said, Are you the butch or the femme? And asked all these very inappropriate questions about my sexuality,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:14:00] which I responded to saying, I am here to talk about the psychiatric residency. I'm not here to talk about my personal life, and I don't feel that these questions are appropriate. I'm very happy with my life. I'm very comfortable with who I am and I'm interested in a psychiatric residency. That's why I'm here. Within a few weeks, I got a letter of rejection from Columbia. Keith Brodie talked to the chair --
Nanette Gartrell: [00:14:30] Keith had gone to Columbia, so he knew him -- he said, Hey, whats the deal? Nanette let me know that you had wanted her in the program. And he [the chair] said, Well Dr. Spitzer said she has a problem with her lesbianism because she doesn't think it's a problem. Fortunately, I had already been accepted at Harvard, so my career didn't suffer as a result. However, Robert Spitzer continued to advocate conversion therapy until 2012.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:15:00] He recanted it shortly before he died. I mean, my career wasn't damaged, but there have been countless numbers of individuals whose lives have been damaged and destroyed, or who lost their lives, because they underwent conversion therapy that he was an advocate of for most of his life.
Mason Funk: [00:15:30] Wow! Now for background, you've alluded to it, but the DSM, just give us like a two sentence summary. I sometimes call it the Bible of [inaudible], but maybe you can just explain, just in case we need to [inaudible], what is the DSM?
Nanette Gartrell: The DSM is a manual of all the psychiatric diagnoses that currently exist. It's modified and edited over time. It's evolved over time. It's had some very great biases along the lines of homosexuality.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:16:00] They've had very great biases related to women over time. And over time, these biases slowly, slowly have been removed. It's not perfect. It's never been perfect, but diagnoses of really serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia, these are all listed in there and they all have code numbers and the code numbers relate to the degree of severity and so on, and the symptomatology. As you said,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:16:30] it's the psychiatric Bible of diagnoses that we use. We also have another one for medicine, it's called the ICD-9, which gives all the diagnoses for every medical condition in the world.
Mason Funk: Okay. Awesome. You guys are great speakers. Good storytellers. Thank you so much. We're in a good place because as I sometimes say to people who do this, your stories have a beginning, a middle and end. Other people not so much. [inaudible]
Mason Funk: [00:17:00] Okay. Dee, we're going to switch back to you now. Of course, now you haven't met yet, but you're on your own path, and you also have decided to go to medical school and become a psychiatrist. Tell me how that happened. And in your own turn, how did you decide also that you wanted to focus on homosexuality and reducing homophobia?
Dee Mosbacher: [00:17:30] Well, the chronology is a bit different.
Dee Mosbacher: After I met Nanette and we fell in love, I ended up going back to California for her to finish medical school. She got into Harvard, as she said, and I came with her to Boston. While she was doing her residency, I was getting my PhD in social psychology.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:18:00] Part way along the line, because I actually studied schizophrenia, that was what my area of focus was, I studied the different models, the different ways of thinking about schizophrenia. Partly because I actually ended up focusing on the medical model, I decided to go to medical school. After Nanette finished her residency,
Dee Mosbacher: [00:18:30] I got into Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Since I had what was later diagnosed as ... I was ADHD as a kid, because I was beating up on people and doing all sorts of crazy stuff, and ADD when I was an adult. My concentration was not good at all, so I decided that even though I'd been really out before that, I decided to go back in the closet
Dee Mosbacher: [00:19:00] and try to keep my head above water in this very conservative Houston [medical] school. But I really couldn't stay in the closet because a friend of mine, Gary, had a note pinned to his locker door that said, kill the queers. It was already apparent that there were obvious
Dee Mosbacher: [00:19:30] and not-so-obvious manifestations of homophobia at Baylor, so I decided I had to become an activist again. I joined the American Medical Student Association and became a trustee. I was invited to speak at a lot of different schools because I was an out lesbian. And as I said, I was trying to keep my head above water at Baylor.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:20:00] I decided to make a slide tape presentation called Closets Are Health Hazards: Gay and Lesbian Physicians Come Out. It was subsequently used in medical schools all over the country to tell the story, to inform people about aspects of homophobia from the perspective of gay and lesbian -- back then it was gay and lesbian --
Dee Mosbacher: [00:20:30] physicians and medical students and so forth. [This slide show] could go places I could not go because as I said, I was really busy in medical school. It really showed that it was very efficient in two ways. One,
Dee Mosbacher: [00:21:00] it gave people community-- other closeted lesbian and gay folks-- so that they could feel that they weren't alone. Two, it gave straight people real LGBT folks so that they could see them. That, sort of, started my career as a filmmaker.
Nanette Gartrell: And you should also say, I mean, people probably don't know what a slide tape presentation is, what year it is?
Dee Mosbacher: [00:21:30] That was back in the mimeo days. Well, I went to medical school in 79, it was 1980 that I made the slide tape presentation. It was a long time ago, and it was the carousel, and maybe people don't know what that is. It was a tape, a coordinated tape and slide show.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:22:00] For those days, obviously, extremely low tech, but it got the job done back then.
Nanette Gartrell: The recording went along with the slides and then it's a little beep advanced.
Mason Funk: So you have to literally sit there and wait for the beep?
Dee Mosbacher: No, it was that automatic, but yeah,
Mason Funk: Like you said, A, it could be where you were not, and, B, replicated and duplicated.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:22:30] Exactly, right. Exactly.
Mason Funk: Okay. So we jumped past when you two met, because by now you had already met, is that correct?
Nanette Gartrell: Right. Oh, yes. We'd already been together for quite a while.
Mason Funk: Okay. So now we have to go backwards in time a little. Where and when were you? When and where did you meet?
Nanette Gartrell: [00:23:00] Well, I had the good fortune, when I was a medical student,
Nanette Gartrell: to meet a very prominent lesbian activist in DC, who had lots and lots of friends. In my senior year in medical school, I obtained a clerkship (or an externship) at National Institutes of Health. It was sort of a big deal
Nanette Gartrell: [00:23:30] that I got to go work in neurology at NIH. Aside from my overseas experience at Stanford, I'd never been out of California, so I was really excited because I really wanted to go to the East Coast and see other parts of the world and the country. I contacted her and I said, I'm going to be coming to work at NIH. Do you know of any place that I could live? She found me a place in a lesbian collective household, it was 1975,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:24:00] and they had somebody moving out and I could move in. I drove my little VW bug across the country to DC and moved in. I was told when I got there that one of the roommates was in Houston visiting her family. In fact, she was coming back the next day and could I please go to the airport to pick her up?
Nanette Gartrell: [00:24:30] Of course, that was when you could go to the plane, but nevertheless, what does she look like? How is she going to know who I am? Nobody called her to say somebody is coming, who looks like this or whatever. In order to have me identify her, they pulled out a Willie Tyson record album, one of the early women in the Women's Music world.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:25:00] There was a picture on this record album of the Lammas lesbian softball team on the album. Dee was the manager for the team and they [my new roommates] said, This is Dee. Nevertheless, I didn't start work yet, so I drove to the airport and I stood by the plane. People came off, and I had, again, no idea who she was, but all of a sudden a woman came off the plane,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:25:30] a young woman with frosted blonde hair with a tennis racket under her arm. And I thought, well, maybe, because you're carrying a tennis racket. I said, Dee? And this beautiful smile emerged. She said, Yes. I said, Im Nanette, I'm your new roommate. We always say to people that we moved in together before we'd even met. That's a fairly unique way of coming together.
Mason Funk: [00:26:00] Apart from the beautiful smile and this tennis racket and the frosted hair, what were you struck with, maybe in that first few minutes?
Nanette Gartrell: She was so beautiful and she was so charming and she was so friendly. I was so excited to be at the hub of lesbian political activism in the country.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:26:30] I mean, that's where the Furies collective had been. Some of the friends we had were members of that collective. It just was such a vibrant time and Dee was such a thoughtful and committed political activist. I was somewhat intimidated by all of the [political] work that she had done so far.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:27:00] Because I mean, being a socialist, I thought, wow, that's really out there. I left my Republican roots at the door of my dorm at Stanford, but still, a socialist, that was like pushing the envelope for me.And I just loved the conversations that we had. We fell in love quite rapidly from that moment on.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:27:30] I remember listening, watching, sitting on the couch in Washington, DC, watching [shows like] Little House on the Prairie
Dee Mosbacher: and just dying, laughing, I mean, just laughing together, and just laughing the whole summer long. I mean, I think that's something that happens when the floodgates open, in terms of falling in love, there's so much laughter. We laughed the whole way through the summer.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:28:00] And then the Little House on the Prairie part actually ended up being pretty funny
Nanette Gartrell: because Dee had bought a TV for the house, so I was really excited that we had a color TV and I was the first person home on one occasion. I thought, oh, maybe I can watch Little House on the Prairie,or whatever it was called, or The Waltons or something. I turned on the TV and I heard the key in the lock and I thought,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:28:30] Oh my God, this will be so politically incorrect. I turned off the TV, I ran upstairs, and then I heard the sound of the same show Id been watching on the TV. I went rushing down and it was Dee. Like, oh my God, I'm in heaven. That was before we got involved.
Mason Funk: Okay. Dee from your perspective, what was the first moment like for you? You came off this plane and you presumably know someone's going to pick you up, right?
Dee Mosbacher: Yes. I mean, and I was a little bit surprised and slightly discombobulated.
Mason Funk: [00:29:00] Do me a favor, just back up a couple of steps so that we know you're coming up.
Dee Mosbacher: Oh, okay. I'm arriving from Houston and, I guess, with a tennis racket under my arm, I forgot that part, but I just saw this really very attractive person, and I think I'd been warned maybe that someone else was gonna pick me up, somebody that I didn't know.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:29:30] I just admired so much about Nanette from the very beginning, admired what she had done and what she was doing there. That summer, I think you were looking at testosterone levels for lesbians, and I just got so excited about her research and everything, and I just fell hard.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:30:00] I mean, I just fell in love. The feeling, I remember, is just that feeling of laughing together at the same thing, with each other and just feeling turned on and then eventually getting rid of other romantic attachments [i.e. other relationships so we could focus on each other.]
Nanette Gartrell: She, more than I.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:30:30] You had one, but it was pretty long-term, and I had been messing around quite a bit earlier in my ...
Nanette Gartrell: I was warned by our housemates that Dee was a major heartbreaker in DC., and not to count on anything. Actually, initially when we became involved, I thought, well, she breaks everyone's heart, so mine's next. But here we are 46 years later.
Dee Mosbacher: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Very sweet. I love that story. Was this a Dulles, just for the record, the airport?
Dee Mosbacher: [00:31:00] National. Fortunately, National, but before it became Reagan.
Mason Funk: Alrighty. I had one quick question. We interviewed an amazing woman in DC named Loraine Hutchins. Do you remember that name at all?
Dee Mosbacher: I don't.
Mason Funk: She's a bisexual activist. [Crosstalk] I just loved her stories, like someone stole a printing press.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:31:30] Yeah. Yeah. So yes. I'm sure that ... yeah.
Dee Mosbacher: Have you interviewed Ginny Berson?
Mason Funk: Yes, we have.
Dee Mosbacher: Oh, good. That's what I thought you said, you had. That's great.
Mason Funk: I personally did not interview her.
Nanette Gartrell: But she was a member of the Furies Collective.
Mason Funk: I love those stories. Okay. So now we're going to switch back to Nanette, and I guess my chronology is a little confused
Mason Funk: [00:32:00] because you went to Baylor, you did a residency at Harvard. Yeah.
Dee Mosbacher: I went to Baylor
Mason Funk: [inaudible]
Dee Mosbacher: After she had finished her residency.
Nanette Gartrell: We came together in 1975 in DC. After NIH, I graduated medical school. We both went up to Boston together. Dee worked on her PhD, I was doing my residency at Harvard. Then she decided to get into medical school.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:32:30] I actually tried to talk her out of going to medical school because it wasn't really an enjoyable time for me, and I didn't really understand why she really needed to put herself through all that suffering, but nevertheless, she got into Baylor and I stayed at Harvard on the faculty for the next many years.
Mason Funk: Okay. So you live like dual ...
Nanette Gartrell: For the four years she was in medical school and actually, and it turned out to be three because she came to Boston for her last year and did a bunch of externships in Boston. But we commuted for those four years.
Mason Funk: [00:33:00] Okay. Good clarity. Now talking about you at Harvard and your residency, you did a fellowship, an APA fellowship, and that you talked about the curriculum and the one sentence. So could you tell us basically the story of your years there at Harvard as you joined the faculty as an out lesbian?
Nanette Gartrell: [00:33:30] I was out when I went to Harvard as a psychiatric resident. In my second year, I received an honorary fellowship that led to an appointment at the national level of the American Psychiatric Association to a task force that was assigned the responsibility of creating a curriculum on the psychology of women and men. What a topic, right?
Nanette Gartrell: [00:34:00] It's like the whole world. We recruited a bunch of very prominent feminist psychiatrists to work with us, and everybody was assigned different chapters. I volunteered to do a couple chapters, one of which was the sexuality chapter. Once this curriculum was completed a couple of years later, it was submitted to the APA leadership for their approval. This big, huge volume, all these chapters, all these big muckety mucks and me.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:34:30] They blocked it based on a single sentence written by me, Homosexuality is a normal form of sexual expression. This was 1980. 1973, homosexuality had been taken out of the DSM, and they just wouldn't allow it [the curriculum] to go forward. I don't know where I got the chutzpah to take this kind of stand. Well, I'll just say actually it was Dee. I was already involved with Dee,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:35:00] and Dee always, always, always has said, she'll always have my back, and she always has. But I said, I'm pulling my sections from the curriculum and I'm pulling out. A number of the very prominent feminist psychiatrists saw that it was a really unethical thing that the APA was doing, and it didn't make sense based on where we were in the evolution of
Nanette Gartrell: [00:35:30] understanding that we're healthy, healthy, happy, high functioning [LGBTQ] people, so they pulled their sections as well, and it was killed.
Mason Funk: Who was this curriculum intended for?
Nanette Gartrell: This curriculum was intended for medical students, residency training all over the country. It was going to be a national educational curriculum
Nanette Gartrell: [00:36:00] on the psychology of women and men. It was supposed to be a very big deal. Didn't happen. Whole thing fell apart. If they just left that sentence in there, it would have been fine.
Mason Funk: Just break it down. I mean, I don't know if there's any additional details, but just one sentence, homosexuality is a normal form of sexual expression. Was the word normal, was that the deal breaker?
Nanette Gartrell: [00:36:30] I suspect. I suspect that the word normal is what killed it for those who were opposed to it.
Mason Funk: It was the idea that this is your reality, its what we're living, but we can't put it in writing.
Nanette Gartrell: You can't put it in writing. We can't be that affirmative. I mean, I knew it was affirmative, but I believe that's where it should be.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:37:00] That's where we were. I certainly had many, many, many experiences which demonstrated otherwise, but nevertheless I was going to move us forward.
Mason Funk: Just tell us that you were ... I mean, it's basically me telling you what to say, but you were the first out lesbian faculty member at Harvard.
Nanette Gartrell: I was the first out lesbian on the full-time Harvard Medical School faculty. Yes.
Mason Funk: [00:37:30] Okay, good. That's good to have that on the record. Now, when did Dr. Richard Socarides come into the picture?
Nanette Gartrell: Well also, this is an illustration of why I knew that we weren't done with this battle. I mean, we still have many battles ahead of us, but 1980, I was presenting at the American Psychiatric Association annual convention,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:38:00] I presented a paper on homophobic stresses associated with being lesbian. The paper, then I submitted to the American Journal of Psychotherapy for publication, possible publication. They accepted it only on the condition that the opponents could be represented, the opposing view could be represented, and they chose Dr. Charles Socarides,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:38:30] a well-known, lifelong homophobe, to write the opposing opinion. It wasn't an opinion. Mine was actually based on clinical data, and his was an opinion in which he said that lesbians engaged in perverse acts and that we were severely impaired in our psychosocial functioning and that risked depopulating the earth
Nanette Gartrell: [00:39:00] if we chose not to procreate, and that this was a terrible, terrible potential problem. I was, at least, allowed a couple-sentence counter in which I said he cited no data on lesbians to support his claims. That it really seemed as though we were at much greater risk of overpopulation than under population. [He asserted that]
Nanette Gartrell: [00:39:30] we were pushing the possibility of the death of the species by our non-procreational existence.
Mason Funk: Which was the journal that decided that your research findings needed an opposing point of view?
Nanette Gartrell: American Journal of Psychotherapy
Mason Funk: What were they up to? Like, what was their thing? I mean, put yourself in their place. Why would they have decided
Mason Funk: [00:40:00] that your article that you submitted that you'd done research, why would they decide that somehow we now need ...?
Nanette Gartrell: Well, actually the radical thing for them was to publish my paper. We were not at a stage where it was customary for them. It was probably the first paper ever, on this kind of topic, that appeared in that journal, and therefore they were balancing
Nanette Gartrell: [00:40:30] whether they could move ahead with that. I'm sure that there were individuals on the editorial board who said, just like we have forever seen on TV, You can't have this side if you don't present that side. It was the same principle back then.
Mason Funk: So in a weird way, was it actually quite brave of them to publish your article?
Nanette Gartrell: Probably so, probably so. I love that I had the last word. And really, he looked like an idiot with his commentary.
Mason Funk: [00:41:00] But he was a very, very, very influential figure.
Nanette Gartrell: Charles Socarides was another individual who, throughout his life till his death, was a proponent of conversion therapy. Again, just destroying lives ... I mean, conversion therapy has been in existence for 120 years, and people are still being forced to undergo conversion therapy.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:41:30] Lives are being ruined and have been ruined and lives have been lost as a result of the terrible torture that the various forms of conversion therapy have taken over the decades. He was a proponent of it. He was a really destructive human being for our LGBTQ community.
Dee Mosbacher: And as I'm sure you know, his son was an out gay man
Dee Mosbacher: [00:42:00] who was very brave under the circumstances, and I think was in the Clinton administration, I believe.
Mason Funk: These figures, they're larger than life, in some ways. And as you say, therefore, they could do outsized destruction because they are so prominent, they were so influential. So Dee, let's switch back to you, catch up with you,
Mason Funk: [00:42:30] especially, I want to talk about another side of your life, which is your dad and his involvement as a well-known Republican ally of George H.W. Bush. Tell us that story, tell us who your dad was and how eventually you being an out lesbian, and your dad's career began to kind of like come together. Actually, maybe this is the moment when we can have you go back. Maybe we'll have you go back now, tell us about your family.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:43:00] Well, my grandfather, Pop as we called him, was a true rags-to-riches story. He was a second generation Jewish boy who had to quit school in eighth grade because his father had lost his job as a butcher. He started selling newspapers in New York.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:43:30] He lived in the tenement housing in New York, which we've actually visited because it's now a museum. Really rough living, really rough living, they were very poor. Pop quit school.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:44:00] Pop used to say, I just had an eight-grade education. He quit school when he was 13 and started selling newspapers on Wall Street. He was so quick that he sort of caught the game, got the game of the stock market, and he became a runner.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:44:30] In just a couple of years, he became a runner. Back then, the runners used to be outside, and the stock market folks used to sit in windows. He used to go all through the winter where he had to stuff newspapers in his coat to stay warm enough, and through the sweltering summers. He continued to advance, by the time he was 21 years old, he was a millionaire. Which, to me, is phenomenal.
Mason Funk: [00:45:00] How did [inaudible] deliver newspapers?
Dee Mosbacher: He was delivering actually newspapers about the economy, and he read them and he started trying to understand the stock market, and he [eventually] did understand the stock market. He [began to] invest, and he [became very successful] by the time he was 21. It was just really, really a phenomenal story.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:45:30] My father is obviously third-generation and he went down to Houston with Pop's help to start an oil and gas company in Houston, that's where I was born, and that's where I grew up. I don't know if you remember Ann Richards, she was by far my favorite governor of Texas.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:46:00] How many Democrats have we had as governor in Texas then, in my lifetime? She was running against George W. She's sort of famous for saying Don't blame George, he can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth. I, hopefully, wasn't born with a silver foot in my mouth,
Dee Mosbacher: [00:46:30] but I was born with a silver spoon. I think it's really important to acknowledge class because it's such an important determinant of the opportunities that we get in our lifetime. I say it also because the Bush silver foot family and my silver spoon family were friends. Actually,
Dee Mosbacher: [00:47:00] I played football with my father, I was on dad's team and W was on HWs team. As I remember, we beat them [W and HW]. But that could be a revisionist recollection.
Mason Funk: How did your dads career progress?
Dee Mosbacher: Well, Dad stayed obviously a very, very close friend of H.W. Bush,
Dee Mosbacher: [00:47:30] and ran his campaigns from when he started running in Texas. When, back then, the far right was the John Birch society, where they encountered them in their running for office. He was probably one of the best fundraisers for the Republican party, ever.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:48:00] When H.W. Bush came to office, he picked Dad to be his commerce secretary. In the meantime, after this happened, I sort of started fighting the Republican Party and Karl Rove, who decided that homophobia would be an excellent fundraising tactic.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:48:30] I started struggling with the Republican Party about that.
Mason Funk: Back up a little bit. When did you first start, by now you've been a socialist, you had been part of the SWP in DC. At what point did you start to feel maybe a little bit out of step with your family or ever?
Dee Mosbacher: Always. Always, as far as I can remember.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:49:00] I would say after college. I started being active in the anti-war movement when I was at Pitzer. After my mom died and I moved to DC, and I became a socialist and got involved in the Socialist Workers Party, that was definitely a bridge too far.
Nanette Gartrell: Do you want to mention your uncle?
Dee Mosbacher: [00:49:30] Yeah. Before that, while I was in DC and while I was a pro- abortion activist, I wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post, a pro-abortion op-ed. After it appeared in the Washington Post, they asked my uncle, who was Nixon's Chief of Protocol, whether I was related, and he said, No, I've never heard of her. It was kind of bizarre.
Mason Funk: [00:50:00] How about within your family, your dad, did this lead to kind of a schism or were you just ...
Dee Mosbacher: Well, it sort of started when I was in the anti-war movement. I remember I was at a huge demonstration, anti-war demonstration, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. When I got home, the phone rang and my father said, I bet you are in Harrisburg, demonstrating with those communists and socialists.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:50:30] I said, Yes, guilty as charged. And he said, Why can't you just become a doctor and leave the politics to the men in the family? And I guess I had inherited the Mosbacher gene for politics, but not the Republican gene. As time went on, as I said, I became a vociferous outspoken enemy of the Republican Party.
Mason Funk: [00:51:00] Were you painted as such, like did the right-wing media have a field day with you and all that?
Dee Mosbacher: They tried to. Yeah, they definitely tried to.
Mason Funk: Tell me who you're talking about when you say they tried to.
Dee Mosbacher: Oh, the Republican Party tried to, definitely painted me as someone who was, at least,
Dee Mosbacher: [00:51:30] emotionally disturbed, if not just somebody who needed to be quieted. I think as a result of that, the work that I did, and also the work that Dad did, he was invited to speak at Claremont Men's College, which is one of the Claremont colleges right across the street from my alma mater Pitzer College, where I had been invited to be the first alum to speak at the college,
Dee Mosbacher: [00:52:00] at commencement, excuse me. I began my speech with, My father and I had breakfast this morning and we took a look at each other's speeches. He could have given mine, but he's not a lesbian. I could have given his, but I'm not a Republican. The press got some mileage out of that and Dad and I laughed about it,
Dee Mosbacher: [00:52:30] but as the campaign wore on, we became more distant and things got much more tense. Especially after they did a feature on Nanette and me ... Well, on me in the Washington Post. One of the subtitles was, The lesbian in the GOP family, and I was that, and the only Democrat in the Mosbacher family.
Dee Mosbacher: [00:53:00] It was really, really tense at that time. I continued to speak out about their [the Republicans] egregious use of family values. I'm going to put those words in quotes because it was a cover for homophobia.
Nanette Gartrell: And a fundraising tool.
Dee Mosbacher: And a fundraising tool. Absolutely. Absolutely, right.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:53:30] And also, I think Dee's father had a lot of pressure put on him to silence Dee, and he couldn't. I knew him quite well, and I was aware of the fact that not only did he hate, at times, what she spoke out about, but he simultaneously always admired her integrity. Dee is an incredibly honest person
Nanette Gartrell: [00:54:00] who really believes in speaking the truth. He really, really admired that; he admired her leadership. He just wished that shed been on the other side.
Dee Mosbacher: Yeah. Wish I'd played for the other team.
Mason Funk: Probably part of what he admired in your leadership was that, in fact, you weren't just going along with the flow, you were [crosstalk].
Dee Mosbacher: Most definitely. Yeah.
Nanette Gartrell: And he actually saw her as the child who was most like him. So there is that element as well.
Mason Funk: [00:54:30] Yeah, I think this is a perfect time to take a break.
Mason Funk: I'm going to start back with you, Nanette, with this really, really, really important launch in 1986,
Mason Funk: [00:55:00] of the Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, but I probably did call by the right, but you know what I'm referring to. So if you wouldnt mind, tell us the story. In 1986, what did you decide to do? What was it? Why was it significant and why did you want to do it?
Nanette Gartrell: [00:55:30] Okay. In 1973, homosexuality was removed from the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. After that, lesbian women who had children in the context of heterosexual relationships and were divorcing their husbands when they were coming out, tried to seek custody of their children. They were routinely denied custody by judges who said that the children would be psychologically harmed,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:56:00] they would be abused, they would turn out to be LGBTQ, and all of those things were considered bad outcomes. Not that we [personally] agree with that, the latter outcome--turning out to be LGBTQ--being a bad outcome. But nevertheless, they were denied custody. They lost their children. It happened very routinely. And there were many, many,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:56:30] many lesbians around the United States who wanted to have their own biological children who didn't have the resources to do that. They didn't know of a man who'd be willing to donate sperm, and they were eagerly awaiting opportunities to become parents. In 1982, the sperm bank of California opened its doors for the first time ever in history to lesbians and single heterosexual women who wanted to become pregnant.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:57:00] All of a sudden, frozen sperm was being shipped all over the country to lesbians who had the resources to be able to afford it--it was a class issue because not everybody could afford it--who wanted to start their families. Theyre called intentional or planned lesbian families, where the women identified as lesbian and were going ahead with having children through donor insemination.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:57:30] I realized that this was a new phenomenon that was happening in real time and it needed to be documented. With a colleague, we decided that we were going to launch a longitudinal study. The judges that had been denying custody had come up with an even more effective argument, which was to say that even if the kids were doing okay,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:58:00] we have no idea what's going to happen to them when they're adults, so we need 25 years of data in order to determine whether these kids could be ever placed in these homes. Undeterred by the prospect of a long-term study, undeterred by the lack of money--because I always supported my studies on my own, through my private practice--a colleague and I launched the US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study
Nanette Gartrell: [00:58:30] in 1986, with a goal of following the first generation of lesbian parent families in which the children were conceived by donor insemination, from conception, until as long as we could keep it going. Then, we thought maybe 20 years, we're now in our 35th year, and it's an ongoing study and we have followed the same families.
Nanette Gartrell: [00:59:00] We started in the cities in which the researchers who were all volunteers lived, Boston area, Washington DC area, and San Francisco area. When the families moved to different places, we've continued to follow them. It's the largest, longest running prospective, meaning it's happening in real time, study on sexual minority parent families in the world. We have an unheard of 92% retention rate,
Nanette Gartrell: [00:59:30] which means that 92% of the families are still in this study that began at the very beginning.
Mason Funk: That's amazing. Okay. So I have a million questions. One of them is, explain to us, I mean, it's pretty obvious, but what is a longitudinal study and why is that important? I guess, what is the significance? Is it kind of considered like one of those gold standard kinds of studies that kind of like real game changers?
Nanette Gartrell: [01:00:00] A longitudinal study is considered a really valuable form of study because you have the same population, or the same, in our jargon, we call it a sample, or the same group of people. In this case, parents and children that weve followed from conception, from the children's conception,
Nanette Gartrell: [01:00:30] and as they grow up. We interviewed regularly throughout those years and gathered data over those years. Initially, we were interviewing the parents when they were conceiving and then when the children were 2 and 5 and then 10 [years old]. Then at the age of 10, we began interviewing the children as well. So from the ten-year-olds to the 17-year-olds to the 25-year-olds, and now we're gathering data
Nanette Gartrell: [01:01:00] on the adult children who are between the ages of 30 and 35 years old, and their parents. It's following the same group. We started out meeting them in person, we went into their homes, we got to see how they lived and they got to meet us. Once they moved to various different places, we conducted the interviews by phone because we didn't have the resources to fly to everyone.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:01:30] Then we've added many standardized tests that are completed by the parents and the children, adolescents and adults, so that we can compare them to huge population-based samples. We can comment on the growth, development and mental health of the children in relation to population-based samples,
Nanette Gartrell: [01:02:00] which is a really important and very valid way of being able to identify problems if they exist or indicate that they don't.
Mason Funk: How many families are involved with the study?
Nanette Gartrell: In our longitudinal study, we began with 84 families and we still have 77 families participating in the study.
Mason Funk: How many kids altogether?
Nanette Gartrell: [01:02:30] 85 children altogether, because there is one set of twins.
Mason Funk: Gotcha. Okay. What have been some of the interesting things that have emerged?
Nanette Gartrell: Well, the opponents predictions were that the children were going to be psychologically impaired, that they were going to be abused, and that they were going to be LGBTQ when they grew up. We've studied a lot of stereotypes as we've followed these families.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:03:00] We were very interested in all of those things, but we're also interested in many other things that relate to cultural changes as they happen. But what we have found is that at the ages of 10, 17 and 25, the children were as healthy as or sometimes on some of our standardized instruments, even healthier than, the population of their peers, when they were matched with their peers.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:03:30] We did these psychological assessments, we also found that not a single one of the children raised by these lesbian-identified parents had ever been physically or sexually abused, [which contrasts dramatically with the statistics on US children from the] National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence. One out of every four [US] 17-year-olds is physically abused and 8% report sexual abuse by a parent or other caregiver.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:04:00] When you start with the fact that these kids [in our study] are not being abused, that's a phenomenal thing compared to what we're looking at in terms of population data. In addition, at 25, the vast majority of them identified as heterosexual. So the predictions that they were [all] going to be LGBTQ
Nanette Gartrell: [01:04:30] did not turn out to be the case. It is the case that they are more likely to explore same-sex relationships, to have same sex attraction, to acknowledge same-sex attraction, and for some to identify as sexual minorities. We only had one individual who identified as gender non-binary, all the rest were cis-gender, meaning that they had the same gender identity as the sex they were assigned at birth.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:05:00] The big areas of stereotype that led to all those children being taken away in the 70s and 80s turned out not to be valid in any respect. Now, we're very fortunate that we've released publications over many, many years. Our first publication was in 1996, and we'll continue to publish until the study is done, probably in another seven or eight years.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:05:30] As our studies were coming out, many of them predated the hearings related to marriage equality. Our findings were cited in multiple briefs filed with the US Supreme court in the deliberations around marriage equality. As many people know, a lot of the hearings on marriage equality focused on the wellbeing of the children in these households.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:06:00] We feel very fortunate that we were able to contribute to the great change that occurred when, in 2015, marriage equality became the law of the land.
Mason Funk: Great. So cool. Yeah, it's a really, like super nerdy, but I really, really love it because, I mean, it's just that super detailed research, it's all about the careful tracking. I just love all the thought that has to go into doing some of that.
Dee Mosbacher: [01:06:30] Well, the influences it's had is amazing in the United States, but also in other countries. The longitudinal study, the influence of that has been truly amazing both in the courts in the United States and in other courts throughout the world and considering this question, it's really been incredibly, incredibly important.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:07:00] We have a website on which we have all of our publications available for download. They're available for free, and they're used all over the world in the social justice struggle for marriage equality, adoption and foster care around the world, as well as family planning. So that's really important.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:07:30] Also, our top 10 most cited articles we translated into 10 different languages to make it easier for the people who are using them--from Chinese to Portuguese to many different languages.
Mason Funk: Who has funded this study?
Nanette Gartrell: We've had occasional--a few small grants--but basically I've funded it out of my private practice as a psychiatrist. People often are surprised that I didn't have an NIH grant that supported this research,
Nanette Gartrell: [01:08:00] but the NIH didn't begin funding any studies related to sexual minority parent families until the 21st century. If we'd waited until then, we would have missed the first generation. All the research that I've ever done has been on a controversial topic at the time that I began the research. I'm very accustomed to finding ways to make it happen on a shoestring budget,
Nanette Gartrell: [01:08:30] with a lot of volunteer help. I really enjoy doing that. Also, when we're publishing our articles, typically as I have described previously, sometimes it's the first time that particular topic is ever published in a particular journal. And we're very, very proud that our study on the mental health of the 25-year-old
Nanette Gartrell: [01:09:00] emerging adults born into these lesbian-parent families was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, because it was the first time in history that the New England Journal has ever published original research data on sexual minority parent families.
Mason Funk: Very cool,
Nanette Gartrell: Really amazing.
Mason Funk: Great. Well, thank you for telling us that. It's really fascinating. Is there anything else that I haven't asked about that you want to just add for the record before ...?
Nanette Gartrell: [01:09:30] I'm incredibly grateful to my collaborators and I'm really, really, really grateful to these families
Nanette Gartrell: who've stuck with us. We couldn't have done it without them. We're just incredibly fortunate that they've been committed to staying substantially longer than any of us imagined the study would be going on.
Mason Funk: Well, it must be a testament to the quality and the care you provide, they were probably looking for opportunities to say, that's too much trouble, but they must've felt super connected to your work.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:10:00] Yes, they did. The current wave of data gathering might be the last time.
Mason Funk: Yeah. So then I want to talk about another topic, which was, in the late 80s, early 90s, you started turning your attention to patient abuse. The issue with patient abuse by physicians. Incredibly timely and important.
Mason Funk: [01:10:30] I know there's a lot to cover, but what caused you to start focusing on that? I have here that you made an effort to get the American Psychiatric Association to sponsor a study that apparently didn't work out. So tell us that story.
Nanette Gartrell: Even though I had already been a pretty major troublemaker for the American Psychiatric Association by essentially having the curriculum on the psychology of
Nanette Gartrell: [01:11:00] women and men killed due to a single sentence written by me, homosexuality is a normal form of sexual expression. Two years later, I found myself appointed to chair a national committee in the American Psychiatric Association, that was the Women's Committee. The responsibility was to advocate for women's mental health in the United States. It came to my attention that there was this skyrocketing number of malpractice claims being filed against male psychiatrists
Nanette Gartrell: [01:11:30] by their abused female patients. I knew that in order to do anything in the APA, we needed data, because otherwise there weren't going to make any changes. There were no ethics codes, there were no disciplinary bodies. There were no laws. There was nothing to tell psychiatrists that they really could not sexually abuse their patients
Nanette Gartrell: [01:12:00] other than the Hippocratic Oath, which clearly many were interpreting as not applying to them when they were having sex with their patients. So the committee I was heading made a decision that we would gather those data. We developed a survey that was going to go out to every psychiatrist in the country, through the APA. We figured if we gathered it through the APA, and we just asked them about it.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:12:30] The topic of bias in research studies is often raised, and in this case, one might think, how can you possibly ask somebody if you've been sexually involved with your patient without inducing some bias in the questions? Well, first of all, with no laws, no ethics codes, no rules, there was nothing to stop people from thinking that it was just okay--if you're attracted to somebody, its okay, they [just] happen to be your patient.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:13:00] Why not? But also, we asked the questions in a very neutral way. Have you ever been sexually involved with a patient? We asked questions about that. Can you tell how many of your patients with whom have you been sexually involved? We submitted this survey to the APA. Over the course of two years, it went from committee to committee to committee, and often back to the same committee.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:13:30] They refused to sponsor it, saying that we were going to destroy the credibility of the psychiatric profession by documenting this problem. We maintained that the abusive psychiatrists were destroying the credibility of the profession. This was in 1982. They did not imagine that I had the resources to be able to obtain the mailing labels and the addresses and so on, of every psychiatrist in the country. This was before computers.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:14:00] They figured if they just stalled indefinitely, that they would kill the survey. But I'm more resourceful than that. I figured out a way to buy them myself through the American Medical Association. I and my colleagues at Harvard conducted the study independently, and we were able to gather the data and that led to a whole series of publications.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:14:30] We did follow-up studies as well. But it really shook up the organization. Initially, they imagined that I had somehow broken into the APA in DC and swiped and printed out, or stolen the labels. There was big drama around that, which of course, I didn't do.
Mason Funk: Okay. Two questions, what were some of the results that emerged from the survey? Let's start with that and set up the survey.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:15:00] The survey basically was to document the prevalence of sexual involvement between initially psychiatrists and their patients, then psychiatric residents and their patients, and then physicians in other specialties and their patients. Between 7 to 10% of physicians
Nanette Gartrell: [01:15:30] acknowledged sexual involvement with their own patients, many with multiple patients, depending on the specialty. It was a serious problem. It is still a serious problem, but the fact that we were able to document the severity of this misconduct led to the creation of ethics codes and disciplinary bodies within licensing boards
Nanette Gartrell: [01:16:00] that would attend to these complaints in a serious way, and ultimately take the license of the individual away; also laws in many states, outlawing sexual misconduct, sexual abuse of patients. Patients come to a physicians for help. They don't come to be sexually abused. It was a serious, serious problem. It's less so now because of all these regulations, but it still exists.
Mason Funk: [01:16:30] Well, my husband is a psychotherapist and every month or so, he gets the magazine from the California Association of Marriage and Family, and we always flip to the back to see who's gotten disciplined. Would that licensing body, I assume, had been in place for decades, but you're telling me that ...
Nanette Gartrell: it was without any rules or regulations to generate that kind of disciplinary action.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:17:00] There were no ethics codes, no licensing board codes. Now, there are codes that say you cannot. We were advocating for no [involvement with] current or former patients, because so often we'd hear these stories from these women who would say well, he said, okay, we're concluding our therapeutic relationship, meet me at the Holiday Inn.
Mason Funk: [01:17:30] Wow. So literally within the past, say 40 years, and probably much less time than that. There were no professional codes, [or codes regulating this within] licensing bodies, no laws that said you cannot have ...
Nanette Gartrell: Before we did this research. This was a ten-year project for me between 1982 and 1992. Then the ethics codes came into being but still with great resistance because it turned out there were many, very, very,
Nanette Gartrell: [01:18:00] very prominent psychiatrists in this country in many disciplines who were sexually involved with their own patients. Many scandals emerged. In fact, my supervisor, who was head of Harvard Student Health Services, was sexually abusing his patients who were students. I mean, he had one he was charging $35 a session to perform fellatio on him three times a week.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:18:30] This was something that was leaked to me after I left Harvard and came to California. I reported him to the California and the Massachusetts licensing boards. They went after him and then he went underground and changed his name and was never found again. He [had relocated to Stanford] and was head of Stanford Student Health Services. When he saw that they were after him at Harvard, he got a job out here.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:19:00] I mean, there were really slimy, but high profile individuals.
Mason Funk: And I would imagine you have to assume that if 7 to 10% acknowledged having had that,
Nanette Gartrell: Right. That was actually the biggest objection to publishing our first paper was they said your data could not possibly be accurate because you're asking about something that people might be worried about reporting that they're actually doing this.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:19:30] We had volumes of criticism when it was sent out for review, and we wrote back and said, you're absolutely right. The data could not possibly be accurate. The numbers must be substantially higher.
Dee Mosbacher: Clearly.
Mason Funk: Okay. Well thank you for doing that work. Dee, now we've got a lot to catch up with you, because you were going to launch Women Vision. So now I have this, I think, happening in the early 90s.
Dee Mosbacher: Yes, it was.
Mason Funk: [01:20:00] Tell me, what, I'm imagining, maybe this, well, you've mentioned, you did your tape-slide ...
Dee Mosbacher: Presentation while I was in medical school. Yeah. Like, as I was saying, during medical school, I'd done this slide-tape presentation called Closets Are Health Hazards. And in the early nineties, when I was sort of fighting this battle against the Republican Party, the far right
Dee Mosbacher: [01:20:30] developed more sophisticated tools to fight us in areas where LGBT rights were on the ballot. They had these real gay bashing type videos, one of which one was called Gay Rights, Special Rights, which attempted to drive a wedge
Dee Mosbacher: [01:21:00] between the African-American church going and the LGBT communities, saying basically that we wanted special rights, not civil rights. That was one. And then the Gay Agenda was a second one that was talked about how we could and should be changed from homosexuals to heterosexuals.
Dee Mosbacher: [01:21:30] I was actually kind of inspired by those videos to start Woman Vision, which was a nonprofit that used film and other media to educate about homophobia. The first film I did of this ilk was Straight from the Heart. Basically,
Dee Mosbacher: [01:22:00] instead of using the, sort of, the gay bashing sensationalism of the far right, what I did was used my skills as a psychiatrist--I had learned to interview and listen well, and thats something that you need both as a psychiatrist and as a documentary filmmaker. I decided that I would try to get people to model change,
Dee Mosbacher: [01:22:30] model transformation. In this case, it was to model the transformation of religious parents who had a gay or lesbian child, and to model that change that took place as they tried to understand their child, and to try to reconcile [their feelings] with the homophobia
Dee Mosbacher: [01:23:00] that existed in their churches and synagogues and so forth. It really did use emotions and tried to teach by emotional changes and by transformation. That first film was nominated for an Academy Award.
Mason Funk: [01:23:30] Let me interrupt you for a second. I haven't seen the film or if I saw it, its been a long time. How many subjects did you follow and how did you find them?
Dee Mosbacher: We found our subjects through PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. We interviewed, obviously,
Dee Mosbacher: [01:24:00] as often is the case with documentary filmmaking, we interviewed a lot more folks than we ended up including, but just some really amazing stories about people who ... like one guy who didn't end up in the film, but who was so distraught about the way his parents were treating him, that he tried to hang himself, and just many,
Dee Mosbacher: [01:24:30] many stories about homophobia. Then the parents who talked about what they had been taught and where they were coming from and how they changed by having an LGBTQ+ child.
Mason Funk: Wonderful. And then where did you go from there?
Dee Mosbacher: After Straight from the Heart, we made two other films that were similar,
Dee Mosbacher: [01:25:00] but addressed to the African-American church going community: All God's Children, and a bilingual, bicultural film called De Colores, that was addressed to the Latino community. We did that, and then I moved on to other areas where there was discrimination. When I was growing up,
Dee Mosbacher: [01:25:30] I was a total tomboy, and I played every sport possible when I was in school. Later, I was still a big sports fan and I followed women's basketball. I noticed that there were no out lesbian coaches or players, and I made what I'm sure was the first ever film about homophobia in sports.
Dee Mosbacher: [01:26:00] That was finished in 1994. 14 years later, I made another film about women's basketball, and I focused on a specific school, Penn State University, where their coach Rene Portland had been allowed to discriminate against anybody who she thought was lesbian. I suspect that other women she wanted to get off the team,
Dee Mosbacher: [01:26:30] she would accuse them of being lesbians, and she was allowed to do that for 27 years. As a result of the film, they made her quit and made her retire. I heard that she actually was selling all the trophies that she had won, out on her yard, for like 5 and 10 cents, because she was so upset about having basically been fired from Penn State. That was the same Penn State
Dee Mosbacher: [01:27:00] that several years later I mean, in my film, I talk about how rotten the athletic department was. It was headed by Joe Paterno and Sandusky was a part of it. Later, the whole scandal relating to Sandusky and ultimately to Joe Paterno came out. My film premiered in Philadelphia, and it was very scary
Dee Mosbacher: [01:27:30] because I was really afraid that there were, I mean, I was sure there were attorneys from Penn State in the audience looking for ways to try to sensor the film and stopping me from showing it elsewhere. But they didn't succeed. After that, I worked on a film that is actually, kind of, it wasn't after that, it was actually before that,
Dee Mosbacher: [01:28:00] but it's a film that's kind of my emotional favorite, which is Radical Harmonies, and that basically told the story of the lesbian women's cultural movement, the women's cultural movement, almost everybody was lesbian in women's music back then. This was in the seventies. Back then, not only would we have
Dee Mosbacher: [01:28:30] those slide carousels and all that, but there were mimeo machines and all sorts of old stuff that young people wouldn't even know. That's the way we used to copy stuff, by hand, basically. It was our internet. The fact that people went out on the road, took little speakers with them and little mics and set up,
Dee Mosbacher: [01:29:00] and you had somebody in the community organizing the show and it just blossomed from that whole little thing that became our connection, our internet, and the music was the libretto of my lesbian youth. So it was very, very special to me. This whole industry grew up. I mean, there were record makers,
Dee Mosbacher: [01:29:30] there were sound engineers who never would have gotten a job as women or lesbians, and newspapers, all sorts of things grew up around this, and it was a way to connect with each other, especially in the more rural areas where connection was impossible.
Nanette Gartrell: Do you want to mention the signing?
Dee Mosbacher: Yeah. Oh, and that was another piece of it. Thank you. Yeah, that was another piece of it.
Dee Mosbacher: [01:30:00] The women's concerts were the first places where sign language happened. And as you see, when you look in the media today, that happens everywhere now, which is pretty amazing.
Mason Funk: The person we interviewed this morning is a transgender man named Steph Thorne. I said to him, in various cases, it's like he's living two lives. He had a full life as like a radical feminist,
Mason Funk: [01:30:30] lesbian feminist for whole life. But I mentioned that we were going to be interviewing the maker of Radical Harmonies. He goes, I love that film.
Dee Mosbacher: Oh, thank you. That's really great.
Mason Funk: It was so spontaneous.
Dee Mosbacher: That's really wonderful.
Mason Funk: A real honor for us in the last year. I was like we haven't done any interviews in the women's music world. Yeah,
Dee Mosbacher: [01:31:00] Yeah. And you did Holly, right? Yeah. Yeah. That's really fantastic. Well, if you want some ideas, you should take a look at Radical Harmonies. We can actually give you a copy of it.
Mason Funk: I saw it up there on the internet.
Dee Mosbacher: You can watch it that way too. Yeah. Yeah. So it was such a wonderful experience. It was scary because I jumped into it without knowing everything that it would entail.
Dee Mosbacher: [01:31:30] All the permissions and all of that nearly drove me nuts, but it was really a labor of love.
Mason Funk: I can imagine that as you say, it's like the emotional music.
Dee Mosbacher: Yes, exactly right. And such a variety too. I mean, just an amazing variety of people. We were early on too, we were also very inclusive of
Dee Mosbacher: [01:32:00] women of color as well, which I think is a wonderful thing about women's music too.
Nanette Gartrell: Also outside of DC, smaller towns, that's the way you found out what was happening in the lesbian world, because we didn't have publications that were national publications. They went from, I mean, the musicians, went from town to town to town. We'd see what they were wearing. Oh, wow. Overalls and flannel shirts. Oh, that's the thing.
Dee Mosbacher: [01:32:30] Yes. As Nanette was saying, and I was saying, it was like really our internet, our connection, our vital connection.
Mason Funk: Thats awesome. Yeah. Well, thank you for those stories. Okay. Two more kind of scheduled topics. Back to you, Nanette. One of the things you've done consistently is trying to create space for closeted physicians to come out and specifically you talked about Dr. Mitch Rapkin.
Mason Funk: [01:33:00] So could you talk about your efforts in that area and the significance of Dr. Mitch Rapkin?
Nanette Gartrell: Because I was the first out lesbian physician on the full-time medical school faculty at Harvard, I was in the position to try to encourage other people to come out, and I worked on it very, very regularly. When our first study on sexual abuse by psychiatrists
Nanette Gartrell: [01:33:30] was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, my department chair at Beth Israel Hospital, Harvard Medical School took me aside and said you're causing just too much trouble with the work that you're doing, the topics that you're studying, and you cannot use this hospital's name,
Nanette Gartrell: [01:34:00] Beth Israel, or Harvard Medical School when they ask for your affiliation on your publications. You can't use it anymore and you can't use it when you speak to the media, because it looks like you're speaking on behalf of this hospital and the medical school, and you're not authorized to do that. Well, I'd already been pushing boundaries and every dimension with the kind of research that I was doing. I decided not to let him have the last word,
Nanette Gartrell: [01:34:30] because that seemed pretty preposterous. So I made an appointment to speak with the president of our hospital whose name was Dr. Mitch Rapkin. He had never met me before, nor I him. He did his research on me before I got into his office. I didn't know that he had, but he found out that I was an out lesbian physician, psychiatrist, and he read my studies. After polite chit chat,
Nanette Gartrell: [01:35:00] I explained that I was there for that reason, that I had been told that I should not be using the affiliations and that I just wanted to verify it with the chief of the hospital, the president of the hospital, because it seemed unusual. And he said your research is impeccable. Your teaching is outstanding. Everything that I've checked out about you is excellent. You absolutely have my permission to continue to use
Nanette Gartrell: [01:35:30] those affiliations on your publications and when you're speaking with the media, and essentially endorsed my lesbianism in the process. I left his office. I mean, I was thrilled, I was happy about the results related to the affiliations, but I was thrilled about the inadvertent endorsement of my being who I was. I contacted all of my [lesbian and gay] friends and colleagues on the Harvard Medical School faculty
Nanette Gartrell: [01:36:00] and at Tufts Medical School. We had been organizing since the late seventies what we call Dyke Docs in Boston. There was a group in San Francisco that organized as well simultaneously. But we would have potlucks and get to know each other and kind of create a network. Dee and I were very involved in creating that network.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:36:30] We reached out to the Dyke Docs, we reached out to the gay male physicians, we just said, look, you can be out. And so it actually really began the movement of more and more and more of them coming out. Over the decades, I've had people come back to me, years and years later saying, one person for instance, who was at one of the LGBTQ most prominent clinics in the country-- the Fenway Community Health Center.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:37:00] When I was there volunteering, it was a two examining rooms built in a little space where if I cross my legs, I would kick the patient. It was that tiny, but I volunteered there as a resident, and now it's a huge, wonderful facility. Somebody who'd gone on to really help that grow and develop said to me-- he was totally closeted when I knew him at Harvard--
Nanette Gartrell: [01:37:30] If it hadn't been for all of your support and your encouragement and what you said about Mitch Rabkin, I'm not sure that I would have done what has helped create this place today. I'm really happy about that. When we get together with friends, they all say, oh, Nanette was sort of a goddess mother in getting us all to come out, our den mother or something.
Mason Funk: [01:38:00] People need, obviously, someone to go chart the path that would make a path. Chop the wood, make the path. That's one of my favorite things about this whole project, is different ways that people make space by coming out. We now know this to be true: by coming out, you make space. By stating who you are, someone's ears perk up and go, oh, theres somebody like that, maybe I could come out.
Mason Funk: [01:38:30] Especially in the medical profession, basically doctors and teachers, those are, in my mind, maybe the two professions where people are most likely to freak out, in the old days, if the doctor or the teacher is a gay man or a lesbian. To make space for doctors who were probably so concerned about being perceived ... Ironically, through your studies, you discovered that these are not the doctors we should be worried about. But there's so much sensitivity,
Mason Funk: [01:39:00] I would imagine, in terms of, if people doubt me as a credible person because I'm gay or lesbian, my career is shot. Anyway, I'm telling you what you know. I find it very inspiring, so thank you for that. Last but not least, you, jointly with another person, wrote a letter. I did a little research. I didn't realize it was before president Trump took office.
Dee Mosbacher: Yeah. It was President Obama.
Mason Funk: [01:39:30] You wrote a letter to President Obama, who's just over your shoulders there, but tell us about what motivated you. This one, you could just kind of go back and forth jointly. I won't pick out either one of you, but what motivated you to write that letter to President Obama in, I think, November, December, 2016.
Nanette Gartrell: Okay. Our colleague, Dr. Judith Herman, we were all together. Harvard contacted us shortly after the election.
Mason Funk: [01:40:00] Do me a favor, tell me what election you're talking about. Set the stage. In 2016
Nanette Gartrell: In 2016, shortly after the election, our colleague, Dr. Judith Herman.
Mason Funk: Sorry. One more time. The election of President Trump.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:40:30] Shortly after the presidential election of 2016, our colleague and friend Judith Herman, who's also a psychiatrist whom we've known since we were all at Harvard together, contacted us to ask if we would be interested in co-authoring a letter
Nanette Gartrell: [01:41:00] to President Obama calling for an immediate neuropsychiatric evaluation of Donald Trump. We said, yes. She drafted the letter, we went over it, sent it off, heard nothing. About three weeks later, a friend of ours who is a columnist for a major newspaper contacted Dee and me and asked if we would be willing to go on the record,
Nanette Gartrell: [01:41:30] commenting on the neuropsychiatric condition of the president elect. We spoke with Judith, and the three of us agreed that instead of speaking, we would send our letter to her and understood that it would then be out of our hands and whatever happened, happened. She passed it on to a colleague at Huffington Post. It went viral. I mean, went just literally everywhere. We had friends who were in India,
Nanette Gartrell: [01:42:00] it was a front-page story there. We were getting calls from just everyone. We pretty much decided we weren't going to speak to the media. We were just going to let the letter speak for itself. Shortly after that, Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan contacted us too, and began to guide us about some steps they felt we really needed to take, including getting our letter to the desk of the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:42:30] Dee and I had a way of doing that, and we succeeded. We also got the letter to people at Langley because we felt that they really needed to know the potential danger of this individual who was going to be occupying the White House all too soon. Then when Dee and I participated in the Women's March on the Mall,
Nanette Gartrell: [01:43:00] Gloria Steinem read a segment of our letter in her speech on the Mall.
Dee Mosbacher: At that point, Bandy Lee, a psychiatrist at Yale took up the baton and facilitated a town hall at Yale.
Dee Mosbacher: [01:43:30] Out of that came the book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. Nanette and I wrote the last chapter of that called, He Has the World in His Hands and His Finger on the Trigger. It was about the 25th Amendment and the possibility of using the 25th Amendment to basically impeach the president
Dee Mosbacher: [01:44:00] because of his mental state. It was New York Times bestseller and it went into a second edition. We tried, but he was still there. We thought it was really important to speak out about it. Again, the American Psychiatric Association came after us
Dee Mosbacher: [01:44:30] because we spoke out about it saying that it was not okay to speak about a person without a real examination or a face-to-face evaluation. But in this day and age, we had read so much and experienced so much of what he was like that was so clearly out of the realm of normal behavior,
Dee Mosbacher: [01:45:00] so we fought that fight, Bandy particularly, fought that fight really, really hard.
Nanette Gartrell: And we werent diagnosing him. We didn't diagnose him. In our chapter, we really spoke about the highest ranking individuals in the military who are responsible for the nuclear codes have to go through such incredible testing and evaluation annually, and what we advocated in our chapter was that every presidential candidate,
Nanette Gartrell: [01:45:30] every president and vice-president, while they're in office, should go through that kind of examination annually, and that the results should be made public, not some White House physician who's got a secret deal and a kind of crazy little exam that he gives, he or she, but [instead] a really rigorous evaluation. This is the future of the world. It's just appalling that we're at the state that we're in. That was really the gist of our recommendations.
Dee Mosbacher: [01:46:00] Absolutely, absolutely. We were hoping, if not this president, to at least get people to start thinking about a way to take on someone in that high office if they started displaying symptoms of anything that was out of the ordinary. It had been true that presidents before had
Dee Mosbacher: [01:46:30] had terrible things, like Woodrow Wilson had had a terrible stroke, and basically his wife was running the White House for quite a while after, because he really did not finish his presidency as a conscious person. Then Richard Nixon lost it in the White House. He was drinking very heavily, his behavior was really-- it was a secret to the rest of the world,
Dee Mosbacher: [01:47:00] but when you read the history of it--he was very, very disturbed. Then Ronald Reagan got demented as time went on in office. So there's very good reason and logic to have something that can be made public that does evaluate the presidents fitness for duty.
Nanette Gartrell: As a requirement of the job. I mean, jobs have requirements,
Nanette Gartrell: [01:47:30] and you have to be able to have capacity, you have to be psychologically sound. This is the most responsible job in this country. We continue to advocate for that, but we did it in that way, in that form.
Mason Funk: When you get pushback from some organization like the American Psychiatric Association, like what form does that take? For example, the person at Yale who spearheaded the publication of the book,
Mason Funk: [01:48:00] what form does that take? Do they threaten? Do they say, if you don't cease and desist, we're going to take away your license?
Nanette Gartrell: They can't do that, but they did publish a fair number of things about how irresponsible it was and that it was breaking the Goldwater Rule and did a lot of media around that.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:48:30] A former president of the American Psychiatric Association specifically targeted her, so she bore the brunt of the criticism around that, and she parried it quite brilliantly.
Dee Mosbacher: They just tried and tried to discredit her--many, many times by people in the APA and leaders of the APA.
Nanette Gartrell: And she ultimately lost her position at Yale. She's still fighting that.
Mason Funk: [01:49:00] I'm guessing their objection was that she was kind of violating some ... Like, you can't diagnose him. Like, kind of falling back on, this is not how it's done. It sounds like they're holding onto their authority and, like so many other professional establishments/organizations,
Mason Funk: [01:49:30] it's not that they necessarily don't think Donald Trump is crazy, but they don't want people to do things that are out of order.
Dee Mosbacher: Well, and the order, what came from actually the Goldwater Rule specifically, that Nanette referenced, and basically that was after Barry Goldwater, or maybe it was during his campaign, they asked several psychiatrists to comment on his mental health because he was the guy
Dee Mosbacher: [01:50:00] who said he was in favor of using the bomb, the nuclear bomb. I think that spurred reporters to ask several psychiatrists about his mental health, and they did comment on their opinion about his mental health, on what they thought might be wrong with him, anybody who would
Dee Mosbacher: [01:50:30] endorse using a nuclear weapon. And Goldwater sued the APA. Out of this suit came what they call the Goldwater Rule--you cannot comment on somebody's mental health without meeting with them face to face.
Nanette Gartrell: You cannot diagnose them.
Dee Mosbacher: Yes.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:51:00] But you will see on the news every day, a Senator goes into the hospital and they've got the doctors standing outside speculating, well, he probably has this or that, or whatever. I mean, in every other specialty, diagnosing is happening all the time. And the bottom line is we weren't diagnosing, there was no diagnosing in this book. This book was commenting on his behavior, which caused great concern and seemed, and continues to seem, very dangerous.
Dee Mosbacher: [01:51:30] All you had to do was list his behavior to get the point across, you didn't need a diagnosis. That was not even needed.
Mason Funk: Fascinating. All right. Well, I think we've covered the waterfront, as my mom used to say, when we would have long phone calls. Is there anything that you, for either one of you, that's like, oh, but we haven't talked about this. Like the time you won the Nobel Peace Prize,
Mason Funk: [01:52:00] or the time you won an Olympic gold medal in Sweden. Anything that you feel like we haven't covered?
Nanette Gartrell: I would say we won the gold medal of relationships. We're so happy with each other, 46 years together. We are one of the happiest couples we've ever met. We felt like it was
Nanette Gartrell: [01:52:30] just a perfect match at the beginning, and it continues to be a perfect match. I can't imagine anyone I'd rather be spending this pandemic with than the person who's sitting right next to me.
Dee Mosbacher: Ditto, ditto, ditto.
Nanette Gartrell: We hope to have a post pandemic life where we continue to have wonderful adventures and cause trouble in good ways.
Dee Mosbacher: Exactly.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:53:00] From my perspective, this is my gold medal.
Dee Mosbacher: I couldn't agree more. We feel so incredibly lucky to be with each other during this period. I mean, we've got each other, we've got space that we can go out and walk. You just have to turn on your iPhone to know about couples
Dee Mosbacher: [01:53:30] who just couldn't be unhappier together, or single people who don't have anybody. We just feel even more extraordinarily lucky to have our 46 years, almost.
Nanette Gartrell: And counting.
Dee Mosbacher: And counting.
Mason Funk: Tell me just either one of you or spontaneously,
Mason Funk: what would you say, apart from just a natural connection, what else has been important to keeping your relationship healthy, vital, joyful?
Dee Mosbacher: [01:54:00] I would say it's Nanettes persistence and my flexibility. I think the combination of that has been the most important thing to keep us together. I'm sort of a more go with the flow person and Nanette is ...
Nanette Gartrell: [01:54:30] Linear and detail-oriented person, Ill say it.
Dee Mosbacher: And I'm the ADD. OCD and ADD together.
Nanette Gartrell: We share a sense of humor. We were incredibly compatible about what we enjoy doing. We're very fortunate that we've been able to travel really extensively, and we love doing it in the same kinds of ways.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:55:00] We're so lucky and we work hard on keeping it that way.
Dee Mosbacher: Plus Nanette is the person I really respect and admire most in the world for all of the wonderful things she's done. And speaking of persistence, she's never let an obstacle get in her way
Dee Mosbacher: [01:55:30] to getting done what she thinks is right, and to doing what she thinks is right. I completely admire her, and that goes along with completely loving her.
Nanette Gartrell: I would say that I am so inspired by Dee's integrity and by her perceptiveness about problems in the world. She's very, very, very tuned into the suffering of other people.
Nanette Gartrell: [01:56:00] She's my role model, always has been and always will be.
Mason Funk: Wonderful. The minute I asked if there was any other topic, I was like, we haven't talked about their lives. So you've won the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Love Prize. What else is there? Okay. Well, we typically finish with four questions.
Mason Funk: [01:56:30] I've only interviewed one other couple at the same time, so I don't really know. Well, I think I'll ask each of you the four questions individually and we'll go back and forth. I'll start with Dee. Question number one, if you could tell your 15-year-old self anything, what would it be? And please include my question in your answer.
Dee Mosbacher: If I could tell my 15-year-old self anything, I would probably say: you go girl, you go girl.
Mason Funk: [01:57:00] Great. Perfect. And now over to you Nanette, what would you tell your 15-year-old self?
Nanette Gartrell: If I could tell my 15-year-old self anything, I would say: it will be possible for you to have a happy relationship. You will be loved. And certainly, don't go for the first person that you meet.
Mason Funk: Good advice. For the second question, I'll start with you Nanette, which is, I have a little theory,
Mason Funk: [01:57:30] it was given to me by one of our interviewees. She used the term queer superpower, and she's the San Francisco icon Jewelle Gomez. She brought this up spontaneously, through some of her stories, this queer superpower. She, and now I've adopted this, identified as some that unites all of us, people who are outside sexual preference norms, gender expression norms. She used the phrase queer superpower.
Mason Funk: [01:58:00] Do you ascribe to the notion of there being kind of a queer superpower? And if so, what trait would you identify?
Nanette Gartrell: Do I imagine that there is such a thing as queer superpower? I would say among LGBTQ activists, there is a queer superpower because it takes a lot of commitment and motivation
Nanette Gartrell: [01:58:30] and enthusiasm for changing the world to make it a better place for everybody, and queer activists are very good at that.
Dee Mosbacher: For Nanette, again, I would have to say her persistence. Everything that she's ever wanted to achieve, she has achieved.
Dee Mosbacher: [01:59:00] She's never let anything get in the way of that. That has ended up being just amazing, an amazing contribution to the LGBTQ+ community.
Mason Funk: Do you think, not only in Nanette, but all of us, LGBTQ+ people, that that persistence is, in some ways, a common trait,
Mason Funk: [01:59:30] or do you see perhaps some other trait that you would identify as the thing that kind of unites all of us, as disparate as we are?
Dee Mosbacher: Honestly, I'm not sure about that, because I really feel like we're very, very individual people and we each have our strengths and weaknesses.
Dee Mosbacher: [02:00:00] Together, I think we weave something that is very special, but I think it's a lot because of our differences and our embracing differences. I think that is the superpower, to embrace the differences.
Mason Funk: That's fascinating. Because one of my favorite things that I've discovered through this project is, of course, how much difference there is. Its not always pretty.
Dee Mosbacher: No, its not.
Mason Funk: [02:00:30] As far as I can tell, every important social justice movement has endured a lot of internal dissent in moving forward.
Dee Mosbacher: Absolutely. I think every movement actually has weathered that storm.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Yeah. Because we are so different.
Dee Mosbacher: Yeah.
Nanette Gartrell: And it's also characteristic of ours that we also change our identities. In not all movements do people actually change their identities,
Nanette Gartrell: [02:01:00] but our identities are changing. Our vocabulary is constantly changing. I mean, keeping up is a challenge for all of us.
Dee Mosbacher: That's a really good point.
Mason Funk: Yeah. I agree. That's why the people who kind of bemoan where we are today, like somehow it was better in the past. I'm like, it is a living, breathing body of people. We're not staying in the same place. Okay. Third out of four questions. I'll start back with you, Dee, why is it important to you to share your story?
Dee Mosbacher: [02:01:30] Well, it goes back to that very first time when I came out, the reason I jumped out of the closet is because I saw not one but three real lesbians who were just like regular people. I mean, they were not only regular, but they were better than regular. I mean, they were successful doctors and attorneys.
Dee Mosbacher: [02:02:00] The more regular folks I saw, it made a profound, profound difference to me, but those first real lesbians I saw, it goes back to that. And that really informed my whole filmmaking career--to have them out there for people in places that-- we live in, kind of, a bubble in San Francisco--
Dee Mosbacher: [02:02:30] but for people who are not in that bubble, for them to see a real LGBTQ+ person. Its profound.
Mason Funk: For sure. Thank you. How about you, Nanette?
Nanette Gartrell: It's important for me to share my story because I am a highly educated, established research scientist who's had a career
Nanette Gartrell: [02:03:00] of 50 years of social justice advocacy that I'm melded with my science and my research, and I've loved it. I love being on the cutting edge. I love being further out there than our movement or our culture is, at a particular moment.
Nanette Gartrell: [02:03:30] I love changing people's hearts and minds to make people more accepting of all of us. It's been a fantastic life. It's been so vibrant. I'm never bored, just like I'm never bored with her. She has always had my back. I've been totally supported in what I do and I've loved it.
Mason Funk: Great. Great. Okay. Final question. We'll start with you,
Mason Funk: [02:04:00] Nanette. This is a little shout out to OUTWORDS, basically. Our mission is to record stories like yours, all across the country, with as many different shades and colors and subcultures as we can find. Needless to say, we're really still just scratching the surface. And always, so called, pioneers and elders. What do you see as the value of that? And if you could use OUTWORDS in your answer.
Nanette Gartrell: I think OUTWORDS is incredibly valuable to our culture,
Nanette Gartrell: [02:04:30] our community, and to the world at large, because it's so important to record the stories of the first people in our LGBT community who were leading the way, or breaking down the barriers or beginning to educate people about who they were and the ways that our culture has changed over this period of time
Nanette Gartrell: [02:05:00] that they've been doing this work. It's only a very recent phenomenon that we as LGBTQ people have been valued enough for anyone to want to hear our stories, so I'm incredibly grateful to OUTWORDS for wanting to do that.
Dee Mosbacher: OUTWORDS is really after my own heart. I commend the project so much.
Dee Mosbacher: [02:05:30] Like Nanette said, it's so important for us to share our stories and for people to hear our stories. In fact, I am, in a smaller way, embarking on a project with Drexel University to record the words of our Dyke Docs or lesbian physicians. I'm really excited about doing it because I think it is really important.
Dee Mosbacher: [02:06:00] I mean, you alluded to the importance of physicians and teachers, and for them to share their story, how they've been affected, and the effect they've had on their patients and clients and so forth. Bravo is what I say, Bravo.
Mason Funk: Thank you. Yeah, it's been, obviously ... Well, I don't know if it's obvious, but it's been by far the most gratifying [crosstalk]
Dee Mosbacher: [02:06:30] Yeah. I can imagine.
Mason Funk: Two things, kudos to you for your Drexel project, and that sounds fascinating just that you're going to take this one particular population. How did it happen and why Drexel?
Dee Mosbacher: Drexel used to be the ...
Nanette Gartrell: Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania.
Dee Mosbacher: [02:07:00] Yeah. So it was fitting to put the archives there of lesbian physicians. And there's a women's physician archive there too.
Nanette Gartrell: So it's becoming the US women physicians archives.
Mason Funk: Did you pitch them?
Dee Mosbacher: No. A friend of mine and a colleague of mine actually pitched them originally, who's used their archives to research early lesbian physicians. She's the one who pitched them and started that.
Mason Funk: [02:07:30] Oh, cool. Yeah, it just dawned on me. My mom, who's passed, was a historian and a writer, her whole life amateur, and she published a novel late in her life about the first female doctor in the state of Nevada.
Dee Mosbacher: Oh, wow. That's amazing.
Nanette Gartrell: What's it called?
Mason Funk: It's called Lifeblood. I will send you a copy.
Nanette Gartrell: Oh, please.
Dee Mosbacher: Good. We would love that.
Mason Funk: I can remember where I have them. I think theyre in a storage unit.
Dee Mosbacher: [02:08:00] Okay. Okay, great.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: A. K. Sandhu
Date: August 11, 2021
Location: Home of Nanette Gartrell and Dee Mosbacher, San Francisco, CA