Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Lesbian Nuns

New Bella/Spinsters Ink cover
In May 2013 Bella Books, in Florida, brought my 1985 collection Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence back into print and, for the first time, made it available as an ebook. This edition is even better than the original, featuring an excellent foreword by historian Joanne Passet describing the controvesies that raged around the book and analyzing its impact on the LGBT and mainstream culture.

This edition also includes new afterwords with my co-editor's and my personal stories. Why did we ever undertake a project that would disrupt our lives as college English teachers, propelling us into international media limelight, making us targets of so much hostility?

Portuguese edition, from Brazil
Lesbian Nuns was published in 7 languages in 11 countries. Rosemary and I were interviewed by Newsweek, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and hundreds of other domestic and international publications, radio programs, and television shows. Callers, audiences, and letters to editors (and to us) called us immoral, sensationalistic, depraved. We were thrown out of a hotel in Dublin and guarded by Irish police during a live television show that had received threats. We were even denounced in print by some lesbian feminists for exploiting the nuns and ex-nuns whose stories were in the book.

Despite our fear and chronic exhaustion, Rosemary and I accepted every invitation to speak or be interviewed for over 2 years.  We hoped that by simply being the first open lesbians many people had ever seen or heard, we could support the early lesbian and gay rights movement's efforts to educated people, reduce ignorance and fear, and increase understanding and acceptance.

Over the years, Rosemary and I heard from many hundreds of people who were helped by the book. Just this summer, almost 3 decades after its initial publication, I received a Facebook message from a closeted ex-nun school teacher who had just discovered a used copy of the original LNBS. She said she "found pieces of [her]self in each story," which lessened her feelings of isolation. She wrote that is inspired to follow the examples in those stories to live more open and to risk being more authentically herself.
Rosemary Keefe Curb and Nancy Manahan, 2005, Duluth, MN
Although Rosemary died of pulmonary fibrosis in 2012 and didn't know our book would be back in print, I compiled her afterword based on the memoirs she was writing. Her vibrant, witty personality and her deeply feminist intelligence shine from very paragraph. Rosemary's Chicago newspaper obituary, also included in the new book, documents what an extraordinary woman she was. Working with Rosemary Keefe Curb to create and publicize a book that made a difference in the world is one of the greatest blessing of my life.

The new Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence is available at Amazon and Bella Books. For an autographed copy, contact me directly or go to

For pictures from the University of Minnesota book launch, the book event in the Dominican Republic, foreign covers, and quotes from the Bella edition, click here.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Goodbye 1990's Clunkers, Hello Lexus Hybrid

Last year, Becky's and my sedans bit the dust.  That included the newer car, the 1996 Buick my mom gave me when she could no longer drive. We took that LeSabre on an 8,000-mile adventure to Cancun and back the winter of 2010/2011. The Mexican mechanics who kept the clunker running loved it. MUY FUERTE they would exclaim at the powerful old engine. Although we had hoped to keep the cars for another 100,000 miles and felt sad when they died, we are delighted by our new Lexus Hybrid. We wonder how we put up with all the things that didn't work for so long.

Our new Lexus SE 300 Hybrid
It's my first new car. Well, almost new -- a demo with 3000 miles. It's quiet, handles smoothly, and averages 42 miles per gallon. We love the color and design, keyless entry, leather-like bamboo upholstery, navigation system, Blue Tooth, and the advanced safety features including a back-up camera that shows not only what's behind the car but what's coming from both sides.

We appreciate Lexus of Maplewood's prompt, respectful service -- no condescension or sexism -- and the new-owner brunch that helped us master, sort of, the car's computer system. We actually look forward to an oil change so we can enjoy the quiet, comfortable waiting area and the free vanilla cappuccino and hot chocolate. We're happy that, in our sixties, we're finally willing to splurge on a luxury vehicle.

Five-hour blockade, 90 degrees, no water, no toilet 
Our first Lexus road trip will be this March, to visit family and friends in Colorado, New Mexico, and LA before arriving in Napa for the month of April. We'll probably never tackle a road trip to Cancun again. Becky and I could stand it, but we wouldn't want to subject our new Lexus to the ordeal!
Buick in repair shop, Yucatan, Mexico

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Geneva Nemzek and her mother Sandi Paulson
The 2013 Manahan-Bohan PFund Scholarship was awarded to Geneva Nemzek, co-president of the Straight and Gay Alliance at Moorhead State University. SAGA had been featured on Minnesota Public Radio in 2012 when their "Love is Love" campaign opposing the proposed anti-gay marriage state constitutional amendment prompted the appearance of "Sin is Sin" T-shirts on campus.
Geneva and a few of her family in SAGA Love is Love T-shirts

I met Geneva and her mother Sandi Paulson at the PFund Scholarship Awards brunch in June. They had driven several hours to attend. BTW, for the best roasted chicken recipe, check out Sandi's delightful blog.

A month later, Becky and I visited them at their northern Minnesota cabin. A dozen family members, including Geneva's mom and step-dad, were wearing "Love is Love" T-shirts.

Having strong family support is one reason we think this young activist will continue her work for LGBT social justice after she graduates. Demonstrated leadership is one of the criteria PFund uses when evaluating the many applications for the only 20 or so scholarships offered each year to LGBT students.

Becky and I feel privileged to be able to support Geneva and the other recipients of our annual scholarship over the past 20 years.  We love the joie de vivre many of them bring to the movement, expressing playful, flexible approaches we serious lesbian feminists couldn't have imagined at that age. May they carry it forward.

Becky Bohan, Geneva Nemzek, and Nancy Manahan, July 2013

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Love is the Law!

I am posting a few personal high points of last year in no particular order. Nancy

All Married

Reps. Carolyn Laine and Susan Allen
One of the biggest events of 2013 was the legalization of same-sex marriage. In Minnesota, it happened via legislators like our friend Carolyn Laine; Susan Allen, the first openly lesbian Native American legislator in the country; and Karen Clark, the first open lesbian in the Minnesota legislature. 

NanBec at MN state capitol on Love is the Law day 

Becky and I attended the jubilant ceremony at the state capitol in May when Governor Dayton signed the bill into law. Our marriage, performed in San Francisco in 2008, became valid in Minnesota on August 1, 2013. 

With the Defense of Marriage Act being struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer, our marriage was suddenly also recognized by the United States government. Although these rulings give us access to hundreds of rights previously off limits, the most immediate benefit for me has been psychological and social. Being able to say "my wife" simplifies interactions in the world immensely. Whereas mentioning "my partner" usually elicited an awkward, confused, and/or disapproving silence, mentioning "my wife" often results in a smile, a heartfelt "Congratulations!" and/or a story about a gay friend or relative who just got married. People understand marriage. Suddenly I'm okay, not weird or threatening, part of the human community.

Amy Posmantur and Terry Cramer' s wedding
After Washington instituted marriage equality, we attended 2 weddings in Seattle. For our friends Amy Posmantur, a federal employee, and her partner of 31 years, Terry Cramer, marriage has significant immediate and long-term  benefits. Their July wedding with their closest friends and family members was a celebration of community and love.

Ruth Baetz, officiant Kate Thayer, and Sandra Jo Palm
We returned to Seattle in October for the wedding of Ruth Baetz and Sandra Jo Palm. They had asked us to be their witnesses at a no-fuss city hall ceremony. But the night before at a charades party in their home, they surprised us all. Wearing T-shirts from the Puget Sound Women's Peace Camp, where they fell in love almost 30 years ago, they asked their friend to marry them right there. Kate, ordained online through the Universal Life Church a few days earlier, pronounced Ruth and Sandra Jo, spouses for life. 

Reverends Nancy and Becky
Last month our neighbors asked if we knew anyone who could marry them. We offered ourselves and got ordained online in about 15 minutes. Our neighbors decided to hold off until next year, but now we can serve anyone, gay or straight, who has been waiting for marriage equality to get hitched.

And you may now call us . . . Reverend NanBec. :-)