Listen to the interview.
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Read Karen Doherty's profile.
Note: This autobiographical essay was
contributed by Karen Doherty as a supplement to her interview. Further
biographical information can be found in each of three books listed below.
1988: Karen Doherty and Dr. Lori M.I was born in Elizabeth, NJ on July 6, 1952. I was baptized at the same
church where my father served as an altar boy, and my mother and father
were married—St. Genevieve's in Elmora. My religious heritage is a
fusion—I have as many Protestant as Catholic forbearers and relatives. My
mixed background has served me well. The Episcopalian part has saved me
from some of the extreme kookiness in Catholicism; but it is the soaring,
passionate spirit in my Catholic faith that inspires me and thrills my
heart. I love being Catholic.
Early 1990s: Karen and Robert at Mt. St. HelensAfter graduating from Princeton High School in 1970, I went to Trinity
College in Washington, DC. Trinity was a wonderful place for me. It was a
physical and psychological oasis in the middle of a bustling urban
environment. It solidified my foundation based on Catholic values, but
also prepared me to dive into the world. As a student in a Catholic
women's college, I felt a sense of worth as a person, and confidence in my
thoughts and opinions. I also took for granted the leadership capacity of
At the end of my sophomore year I married a student at Georgetown Law.
After graduation, we moved to Juneau, Alaska. I worked for the Alaska
Department of Fish and Game and became very involved in the Alaska lands
legislation. I lived an outdoor life and had a lot of adventures canoeing,
boating, camping and exploring.
Protest at US Conference of Catholic Bishops' MeetingI learned a little of the Tlingit (Indian) language and culture. At 24,
I was adopted during a potlatch, by a family in Angoon, the most
traditional of all the villages. Angoon is located on Admiralty Island,
known as "Bear Fort Island" in Tlingit. Admiralty Island then
had the largest concentration of brown bears and bald eagles anywhere in
the United States. My everyday world included whales out in the bay,
eagles soaring overhead, bears fishing salmon from pristine streams.
Southeast Alaska is wild and vast and awe-inspiring. I told my son I hoped
we could travel north together someday. I said on that land he would get
to know the best of me, and he would also see where I felt closest to God.
1980s: Pride Parade in NYCThe marriage had problems and in 1979 I divorced and removed to New
York City. It was a horrible, painful transition. I hated the city and
missed the mountains. I had every intention of returning north, but I fell
in love and never went back.
In May of 1980, I met C.N. at Dignity/NY. We became lovers,
and partners in working for Catholic lesbian visibility and community. In
1983, we founded the Conference for Catholic Lesbians (CCL).
C.N., co-founder of CCL (no date)In 1987 I first met my spouse, Dr. Lori M. She then lived in Park
Slope, Brooklyn, and had a 3 ½ year old son, Robert. Robert and I started
out playing with forts and dinosaurs, and progressed to Cub Scouts, Little
League Baseball and ice hockey. Robert calls Lori "Mother" and
me "Mom." He has his mother's intelligence and intuitive
understanding of people, and my love for the outdoors, collectibles, wild,
faraway places and dogs.
1957: Around First CommunionLori and I recently purchased our first house, a 80 year old Craftsman
bungalow in Greenport, NY. We are having loads of fun fixing it up and I
am kayaking all over Hallock's Bay. I don't have the exciting adventures
of my Alaska years, but I enjoy the feel of the paddle in my hands, the
sun on my hair and wind in my face.
One of the things I am most proud to be part of now is the Living Word
project. I volunteered to be a participant in Shelley Jackson's book, Skin. (You can read more about this project at
http://ineradicablestain.com/skin.html.) I wanted to be a Word for several
reasons. I love books, and words. I have been mentioned and quoted in
books, but I have never really been part of a book. I also felt it would
be a tremendous spiritual experience to be connected in such a way to
other people, other words, and the story. A condition to being a Word was
to have a word from the book Skin tattooed on my body in a book font. I
chose Garamond. I believe words are gifts of the Holy Spirit. The word I
was given is "You."
Thank you for reading my story. Please feel free to write to me if you
would like to do so. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
the Forum at http://cclonline.org. You can also find her blogs at Nihil Obstat and Green Canticle.
Titles with chapters devoted to Karen Doherty
- Barbara Zanotti Hope, A
Faith of One's Own, 1984
- Raymond Holtz, Listen to the Stories: Gay and
Lesbian Catholic Talk about Their Lives and the Church, 1991
- Jane Redmont,
Generous Lives, 1992
Titles with references to Karen Doherty
- Nat Hentoff, John Cardinal
O'Connor, At the Storm Center of a Changing American Catholic Church, 1988
James A. Autry, Confessions of an Accidental Businessman, 1996
The Conference for Catholic Lesbian (CCL) records,
including the CCL newsletter, Images, has been donated to Marquette
University Archives and will be available for research as soon as they are
The CCL website can be found at http://cclonline.org.
includes an archives of Images articles, an online blog, and a bulletin
board called, The Forum.