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Read a transcript of the interview.
Read Charlotte Doclar's profile.
Doclar was born in New Orleans on April 2, 1934. She attended the School
of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Canal Street, operated by the School
Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) for all twelve grades and graduated in 1952
at age 18. While not especially devout, in 1954, she decided to pursue a
vocation and entered the novitiate at the School Sisters of Notre Dame
motherhouse in St. Louis..
her noviate, she taught in San Antonio in the Dallas Province. Despite
regulations against "particular friendships," Charlotte had what
she termed "affairs" with other nuns and lay women. The word
"lesbian" was never used by convent officials or the nuns. When
in her thirties in San Antonio, she became aware of feminism and
lesbianism and recognized her own lesbian identity. She came out to her
Mother Superior who later notified Charlotte about a retreat for lesbian
nuns. This was the first retreat for lesbian nuns organized by Jeannine
Gramick of New Ways Ministries. Charlotte's Mother Superior made it
possible for Charlotte to attend the weekend conference without disclosing
the reason or her sexual identity to the other nuns in the convent.
Charlotte never experienced any persecution for her lesbianism while in
attended this highly secretive retreat in Hyattsville, Maryland in late
1970s with four other lesbian nuns. Afterwards, Charlotte drafted a
proposal to her provincial order, requesting a year off to work with
Jeannine Gramick in Washington, D.C. The convent agreed, and supported
Charlotte in 1980s while she worked for New Way Ministries. Charlotte
expected that when the year was over, she would return to her province to
act as a resource for other lesbian nuns, but no nuns ever approached her
regarding their sexual identity. Having lived openly as a lesbian outside
of the convent, she found it hypocritical to hide her lesbian identity
behind the convent walls. She left the order in 1981.
remained in contact with other nuns who had left the SSND order. She
attended a conference that Jeannine Gramick and New Ways Ministry
organized for Catholic lesbians-lay women and nuns-at Yardley,
Pennsylvania. It was at this conference that lay Catholics Karen Doherty
and Christine Nusse conceived of an organization for Catholic lesbians.
Charlotte subsequently attended the first conference of the Conference for
Catholic Lesbians (CCL) at Kirkridge Conference Center in Pennyslvania and
later CCL conferences around the country.
Charlotte Doclar's story became known in 1985, when Nancy Manahan and
Rosemary Curb published their interview with Charlotte in their book Lesbian
Nuns: Breaking the Silence. Soon after the book was released, the
publisher, Naiad Press, sold the rights to this interview to MS
magazine which published it in August 1985. (Naiad sold other stories from
the book to the men's magazine, Forum.)
leaving the convent, Charlotte taught in Houston public schools from 1981
until her retirement in 2000. She joined the Unitarian Universalist Church
in Houston, and was a vital member of that church community. She died in her home in Houston on September 7, 2012.
- Lesbian Nuns, Breaking the Silence edited by Nancy Manahan,
Rosemary Curb (Tallahassee, FL: Naiad Press, 1985)
- "Lesbian Nuns; Charlotte Doclar's story," MS,
August 1985, volume 14, pg. 8 (2) Sandy Stutz,
- "Community Portraits: Charlotte Doclar," Outsmart:
Houston's gay, lesbian, bi, and trans magazine at http://www.outsmartmagazine.com/issue/i04-01/charlotte.html