Jeanne Cordova


When We Were Outlaws; Love & Revolution in the 1970s

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[Mexico] January 19, 2003

I was not born knowing how to love. It came to me late in life and continues to be difficult. Politics on the other hand came naturally, my mind attuned from birth to the ways of power and survival. But Morris Kight, my political godfather, died this morning, and in the wake of his death I’m left to think about my life and what matters most to me. Today I am fifty-four years old and I need to know how to love those who, living and dead, who occupy the center of my life.

The rough-purple sunset gathers color on the Pacific’s horizon in front of my house in Mexico. In 1999, I left Los Angeles, Morris Kight, and the whole gay movement and moved to the southern tip of the Baja peninsula. Here with Kate, my partner of thirteen years, four tiny dogs and two large cats, we’ve built a house and started a new life in this pueblo called Todos Santos, a town that has no elevation on the topography of political significance.

Two weeks later and I am leaving Mexico. The plane gathers speed and lifts off, my ears crackling with the pressurizing of the cabin as we head north, back to California, back to my old life. This morning I’d packed a large suitcase and made the barren desert drive across the Baja to the airport in La Paz all by myself. Kate will stay to hold the fort and fulfill our commitments to La Palapa, the non-profit scholarship group we’d birthed together. Kate barely knew Morris. And, I’d told her, there are some things a woman has to do alone.

I strap on my seatbelt, and try to focus on the stewardess mumbling quickly in Spanish about the oxygen that drops from the sky. My eyes close and I try to grasp realities so new that I have to practice them: Morris is dead; Rachel has called. She’s called me out of the middle of my life. She’s called to tell me that forgetting was not what the years of abstinence have brought her.

I concentrate on the grind of the plane’s engine; smell the sterile air of being locked in a bubble above the world, in between countries, in between the past and the present versions of ‘Jeanne Cordova’. And I suddenly question everything—who I am and who I was, who I still hope to be.

I close my eyes and try to leave my mind behind, go to an inner space where I’m free to remember what happened. Perhaps I won’t return to Mexico. Remembering begs the past of who I was as a political activist to come forth and build a new future among my tribe. Remembering pulls me back through a corridor of years and brings her close to me once more.


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from "Remembering Jeanne Cordova" March 5, 2016

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