Posted by: johannalee | October 7, 2009

From Massachusetts to Michigan, and beyond…go West young wimmen!

This is Marie, Kat’s partner (of over 21 years now)… and yet another friend of Jo’s.
Jo and I are both from Northampton, MA and left Northampton – California bound that same summer of ’89.  Actually it was precisely because Kat and I were leaving for San Francisco that Jo and a large number of other young and oppressed dykes (oppressed by the older, rather sexually reserved lesbian community) decided to take the plunge and come to SF too.
We were all looking for a far more sexually identified dyke community where we could express ourselves openly and meet more women like ourselves.  Our small group of erotically expressive wimmin was becoming deeply frustrated at the lack of information (this was pre-Internet), lack of understanding from our “sisters”, and intolerance that was our daily experience within the larger lesbian community.  Not to mention the lack of respect that was all too obvious to everyone.
Anyway, we all felt like the outcasts that we really were there, in that beautiful corner of the world… so without further adieu Kat and I stated our intention to leave for San Francisco on May 1, 1989 and within a very short time Johanna announced her intention to do the same.
After Jo made her intentions known, more and more dykes began to toss their kerchief into the ring and before too long we realized that there was a massive movement underway… a whole bunch of our lesbian sisters were all leaving Northampton and heading WEST that summer.  San Francisco here we come!  And what a summer it WAS!
First stop… Michigan!  We all met at Michigan to celebrate of course!  We danced and played in the warm summer nights lit by the moon and the stars.   We had a liberating experience knowing that we were now going to be carving out a new life for ourselves.  A life where we would be respected for who we are, and more than tolerated… actually welcomed by wimmin who like ourselves celebrated our erotic energy and came together to create an environment where we could joyfully play together without judgment and oppression from wimmin who do not understand.
Those first few years in San Francisco, Jo, Kat and I and Jo’s wild assortment of gyrlfriends were very close.  We tried to watch out for each other and to take care of each other in all those important ways.  Not only to be certain that we all had safe housing but that we were in good health both physically and emotionally.
We all got lost now and again… after all there is/was so much to distract us here in San Francisco.  There were so many more women, so many more energies to deal with and so much FUN to be had at the many dungeon parties and etc.  It was a good thing that we had each other.  And it was an especially good thing that we cared enough for each other to keep an eye out for each other.
So many stories to tell.
Anyway… I love Johanna, loved Johanna… and am terribly terribly sad at her early death.  I grieve my loss, our loss… and pray every morning and evening for her enlightenment in her next life.
I am not certain if Kat got this information correct, but it appears that in one of the last meetings that Kat had with Johanna in San Francisco, Johanna mentioned that her housemates were Buddhists…!  And I believe that she said that they have a Gohonzon enshrined in their home and that they chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
I am a practicing Buddhist and a member of SGI-USA.
I am in deep sorrow over Jo’s death, especially since Kat read your cues wrong in that Kat was under the impression that Jo’s illness although serious did not necessarily mean that death was only moments away.  We were wrong in that Jo apparently did not have much time left and we missed the opportunity to see her, hug her and tell her how much I love her.  I wanted to chant with Jo a bit too.  That way she could ensure her fortune to have the Gohonzon in her next lifetime.
Frankly I wanted Jo to stay here in San Leandro with us while she was dealing with her health care issues in the city… but my past experiences in offering housing to Jo held me back.  As much as I love Jo and care about her, I was reluctant to bring her back into my home.  Jo and I have had some really terrible (not terrible with each other but terrible in general) and complicated experiences in trying to live together… and you know how it goes…And we are so cramped here where we are already, there really is no room, not even in the living room, to have Jo or anyone else come stay even for one overnight.
Anyway, I want to thank you for forwarding the information to me.  I will visit the websites right now, and I especially want to thank you for doing all you have done for Johanna.  Both while she was alive and now that she is gone.
Thank you thank you thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Thank You…

Marie Louise Francoise (and Kat Lee Buell)
[written October 4th via email, held for permission to post]


  1. […] Joe came out to California as part of a wave of young radical women, a group of friends with a web of interconnections.  (more on this by someone who was there at that time here) […]

  2. Hello Marie:
    Thank you for sharing your personal and poignant memories of Johanna.
    I have only just now learned of her passing and am saddened at the news. I know she was much loved by many extraordinary people and have no doubt that she is greatly missed.
    I’d met Joe some time ago (@ 10 years, I think) through a mutual friend, Kat Buell, whom I’d befriended at the T.S. Studios.
    The last time I’d seen Joe was when I’d accompanied Kat to visit her at what I thought was Joe’s home in the Mission District.
    Oh, such fuzzy and overall darkened images of memories from a troubled time in my life.
    Kat had introduced you and I as well, though I think we only saw each other a few times afterward. I remember how Kat’s face would light up as she spoke of you and how much you meant – and obviously still mean – to her.
    If you receive this response – and I hope that you do – Please say “Hello” to Kat for me. We lost touch – I don’t know when – but before that happened, she had been a priceless friend who was there for me at a time when I was dealing with a then live-in boyfriend who was a possessive jerk – even when I wanted only to spend time away with female friends (she may remember his name, Jeremy, and how he used to hunt me down at the Studios and come pound on Kat’s door, demanding I leave with him).
    Thanks, again, Marie.
    Best Wishes and Much Love,

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