Lauren Gulbrandsen On Activism In And Out Of The Streets.

by Lauren Gulbrandsen

Nathan: Welcome to this week’s Story Update. We’re going to be speaking with Lauren Gulbrandsen, but first we’re going to take a look at her story.

Lauren: I’m Lauren Gulbrandsen and I’m from Brooklyn, New York, originally.

I never really felt like being gay was so political until I went to the Archives — the Lesbian HerStory Archives — for the first time. It’s just like a magical kind of place. It’s an archive, it’s like a library of all lesbian-specific books and articles and pictures and videos and just going through all that stuff and realizing the shoulders that I’m standing on, and all the work that people did so I can be where I am and gay youth can be where they are.

When I first went there, I walked in and I was like, first of all, how did I not know this existed and secondly I didn’t even know where to begin because you walk in and it’s like books, and you’re like, “Okay, books…” and you don’t really realize that there’s so much more than just books there.

The first box that I opened was probably the Lesbian Avengers box, which is like this fierce, radical dyke activist group. And being able to actually touch their banners and listen to the tape from the answering machine — like hateful shit on the answering machine. So I’d just read an article, I mean, that’s cool too, reading an article about an organization but actually being able to hold the stuff they held, you know, feel the shirts that they wore, things like that I really like. And you’re able to do that there, so it’s just really inspiring to keep that momentum going and keep fighting the good fight for gay rights and lesbian rights and queer rights in general. And through that I kind of got involved with the Dyke March, also which happens every year which happens the last Saturday every June. And being part of the Dyke March is also how I keep in touch with my political queer side and marching with all those women down 5th Avenue is just the most amazing feeling to me.

I think there was this moment, actually, there was this moment at the Dyke March, I was standing on this rock right near my favorite building in New York which is the Flatiron Building and I was just watching this sea of women and I was helping to lead this sea of women that were just fierce and screaming and rambunctious and all that good stuff, just leading them in just trying to find where all the marshals were and taking care of everyone there who was involved. It was just really rewarding to me to start and finish with this amazing march.

Nathan: All right. Welcome, Lauren. How are you doing?

Lauren: I’m doing well, all things considered. How are you?

Nathan: Doing exactly the same. Very well, all things considered. So in your story, you talked about how big of an impact finding the Lesbian Herstory Archives were to you. Are you still involved with them at all with LHA?

Lauren: I’ve been away from Brooklyn for the last couple of years. I only came back this past March. And obviously since COVID has been going on, the Archives has been closed. Prior to that, I’ve been more focused on my job. I’m an ER nurse and have been for the last five years. And so while I do attend Archive events and things like that, I haven’t been as active as like an organizer or anything like that. But financially, yes, I’m a supporting member of the Archives for sure.

Nathan:  Also part of your story in addition to the archives was activism and discovering either your first March and kind of, you know, tapping into that part of your life. Especially recently, there’s been a lot of protests, a lot of marches, a lot of activism the past few months. How have you been involved? And also there’s been Pride month and, you know, have you been involved much or have… you’re a nurse now, so maybe you’ve been super busy and maybe avoiding crowds. I’m not sure. How – what’s your activist life like these days?

Lauren: So I would say that being a nurse is also like being an activist. But in addition to that, I’ve also been on the streets as well with everyone for Black Lives Matter. And for the Dyke March specifically that we spoke about, I’ve been active in participating in the Dyke March, since we last spoke, every year. This year in particular, though, we took a step back back and decided in lieu of doing the actual Dyke March this year that we would center ourselves as a committee, and help amplify black leaders.

So we did a number of marches, including working with a Black Trans activist named Selu, who we did one of their marches in June. And then we’re doing another one this coming Saturday as well, August 1st.  I don’t know when this is going to be out, but it’s about the allyship and how to participate as an ally and what that really means.

And, we also did a march about confronting July 4th, that was Black…Black Lesbian-led. And another, Black-led march by a former Lesbian Avenger, which is funny ‘cause I was also speaking about that 10 years ago as well. So I think our focus has shifted a little bit to supporting people already leading, and you know, looking for ways to amplify those voices.

Nathan: Great. If anyone wants to, like, learn more about all the things that you just mentioned and find resources, is there a way to… is it… is there like a Dyke March website where people can go to kind of learn more about that?

Lauren: Yeah. There is a Dyke March website. You can just look up NYC Dyke March on Google. I think it’s I didn’t look beforehand. But you definitely, I mean, I think we’re most active on Instagram and Facebook, so you can find us at NYCDykeMarch on Facebook or NYC DykeMarch on Instagram. And you’ll learn more about all of the actions that we’re supporting and all of the political movements that we’re working with.

Nathan: Great. That’s awesome. So you’ve… you stayed very active in the activist community. And, and I also really love what you said about how being a nurse is a form of activism. So thanks for all that you do as a nurse as well. And what… what do you think that, like, if there’s someone, who’s looking to get involved with Lesbian activism or, you know, what would you recommend someone do? You know, like the way that you discovered the Archives? What would you… where would you direct someone who might be watching this and kind of dabbling and young Lesbian activism? What would you – or another way of thinking about that is what would you tell yourself, you know, as a younger Lesbian?

Lauren: Well, I mean, things are a lot different now. I think information is just so much more accessible to people. I mean, especially if you have internet access, I should say. But I would say just going to pages like NYCDykeMarch and then just figuring out, like, what accounts are linked to that and just kind of exploring that way.

I mean, I’m learning a lot now, you know, about activism and about how to treat people in the street. You know, I’m learning so much myself. So the internet obviously is the very broad and great place to figure out how to get involved. And there are a lot of people who have accounts based on like, on education, on like how to be an activist, how to like get involved,  how to call you you’re, you know, City council members. It’s a lot easier now, I think, just to kind of figure things out and a lot of people who are leading the way and like giving you concrete ways to act is great. And just, you know, trying to form affinity groups with your Dyke friends, you know, and making it fun as well as powerful and getting out there in any way that you can.

Nathan: So what else – you’ve told us that you’re a nurse. Has there been any other big life changes going on in the past? I think we’ve last spoke 10 years ago. So the past decade, anything big going on in your life?

Lauren: Yeah, a few things have happened. Yeah. I’m a nurse. I, and I did two years of travel nursing. I did ER nursing out in California and a bunch of places, in Portland, Oregon, in Phoenix, Arizona, and I think that’s it. But a bunch of places in California and I’m just obsessed with the West Coast. And I was able to do that with my partner and we – who is also a nurse. She’s a pediatric oncology nurse. And we just recently got engaged. So that’s really special.

Nathan: Aw, congratulations!

Lauren: Thank you. Yeah. So we are getting married next July on our fourth anniversary and hopefully it’ll go as planned. I mean, we have another year or so of who knows what. I mean, who knows what the world will look like in a year, but it’s good to, you know, be positive and look forward to things even though everything’s kind of crappy right now.

Nathan: Yeah. But you gotta have hope and you have to have things to look forward to and, you know, that’s what keeps people going I think. So, that’s great. And congratulations again.

Is there anything else that you want to share? Any thoughts or any updates or any messages that you want to get out there?

Lauren: Probably a lot of things. I think that it’s important to find ways in which you can participate in activism without draining yourself, ways for it to be sustainable because it’s a marathon, not a sprint, for example. And we have a lot of… a lot of fighting to do still. For everyone, you know, it’s not, and it’s not all about you and your identity and your… and your place in the world, but you know, looking out to your community and seeing the ways in which you can better the world. I don’t know. Just figure out the small things that you can do because we can all do something even from our homes.

Nathan: Yeah. Any activism big and small all makes a difference in some way I think.

So all right, well, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. And if anyone has any questions for Lauren, just leave them in the comments. And Lauren, we’ll ask that you, check back periodically and, and maybe answer some questions if you’re okay with that.

And if you want to watch Lauren’s story, it’s on our website. All of our stories are on Facebook and Instagram. and we’re uploading every single week. So, you can watch them all out there and you can check back next week for our next story update.

Thanks for watching.

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