It’s almost summertime — when the livin’ is easy.
It’s that time of year when many of us slow down, hit the beach or poolside and, if we’re lucky, forget our troubles and chase our cares away.
If slowing down with a good beach read is your style, Anne Geary can help steer you in the right direction. The former Fortune-500 and current Children’s Hospital project manager is a board member of the Golden Crown Literary Society, whose mission is “to increase the visibility and quality of lesbian-themed literature.”
PGN: Tell me a little about yourself and the work you do.
AG: Well, the Golden Crown is an all-volunteer organization, so that’s not my day job. For that, I work as a project manager at Children’s Hospital Research Institute, and I love it. The Golden Crown Literary Society is something that I got involved with back in 2016. I became a board member a year later. Our biggest event is our annual conference. Last year it was in Las Vegas and this year it will be in Pittsburgh. But I help coordinate local events as well. Most recently I worked on book readings and different events for Women’s Fest in Rehoboth. We brought in 10-15 authors associated with GCLS to do readings and book signings, etc. We’re always looking to connect with the community.
PGN: How did you find the organization?
AG: There was an author I’d been reading, and I’d checked out her Facebook page and she had a connection to the group. I started checking them out and connecting people who were doing these monthly YouTube book chats, where you’d read a book and then they’d have the author do a book chat.
PGN: I love that there’s a group out there lifting up lesbian books. I know I read much more lesbian literature when I was coming out, and this is a good reminder to go back and check it out.
AG: Yes, I came out when I was … well, I recognized that I was part of the community when I was in high school but didn’t really come out until college. A lot of my coming-out experience was spent going through the books at Giovanni’s Room trying to connect with characters and stories where I could see myself reflected. Even the romance stories and fiction stories that often aren’t valued as much are still important to me as long as they reflect positively on the LGBT community. If some young girl in a remote part of the country is able to read one of those stories and feel good about herself, then it should be respected, and I enjoy being part of an organization that helps make that happen.
PGN: What were some of the first lesbian books that you read?
AG: Rita Mae Brown’s “Ruby Fruit Jungle” was one of the first lesbian books that I read, then also “Patience and Sarah” by Isabelle Miller and anything by Sarah Waters.
PGN: I think we all read “Ruby Fruit.” So, you’re from this area?
AG: Yes. I went to the High School for Creative and Performing Arts as an artist. Then I went to the West Coast for college, came back and then went to the Midwest — Cleveland, Ohio — for a job, stayed there for 18 years and just moved back to Philly two years ago.
PGN: What kind of art did you study?
AG: A little of everything, but my preferred media was black-and-white sketches. I just took a course this spring at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts doing portraitures in oil and I really enjoy doing that now. Oddly enough, I never dabbled as a writer, but I’ve always loved to read.
PGN: What’s a favorite piece that you’ve created?
AG: [Laughing] I’m outing myself as a nerd! I would say a collection of “Star Wars” drawings that I did in high school, Princess Leia with her buns and all. You get inspired to draw things that are close to your heart and for me that was “Star Wars.”
PGN: Tell me about the family.
AG: I have an older sister who works here in town at Red Cross. My mom is alive and well. One of the reasons I came back was to enjoy my family while everyone’s still around to enjoy. We all have places near each other in Cape May, so we’ll get to spend some time together this summer. We’re very close. Dad was out of the picture by the time I was 4, so I grew up in a very female-centric environment. It was just me and my mom, my sister and my grandmother, though she moved out when we started becoming rambunctious teens.
PGN: You and your sister followed altruistic paths: Is that something you got from your mother?
AG: Probably. She was a nurse — well, is a nurse, I should say. You can take the nurse out of the hospital, but you can’t take the hospital out of the nurse. She was always very caring and, at 82, still volunteers her time and has started doing artwork herself.
AG: I have a 12-year-old Golden Retriever that I share custody of, so half the time she’s in the country in Ohio with her other mother and then in the city with me. She’s called Samantha, named after the character in “Bewitched,” though she’s more like the neighbor Gladys Kravitz because she’s always looking to see what everyone else is doing.
PGN: Were you more sporty or academic as a teen?
AG: I took one of those aptitude tests once and I was right down the middle. I played some volleyball and softball in the leagues at Wissahickon, at CAPA and in college, but had to drop it to work as a resident assistant since it helped pay for school. [Pulls out her handbag decorated with Phillies logo] As you can see, I’m a huge Philly sports fan. I love the Eagles, the Flyers — I actually wanted to play ice hockey but, at the time, girls weren’t allowed. But I was also into reading and painting and got my MBA, so I have that side too.
PGN: And you’ve put it to good use. I saw your bio and it’s pretty impressive! I’ll quote, “She has held senior-project and program-management positions with research, consulting, global, multinational and Fortune-500 corporations. Her leadership experience comprises leveraging technology to proactively identify and implement leading practices with respect to process and systems. During her tenure as the Global Lead for the LGBTQ Employee Resource Group at her former company, Eaton, Geary supported the introduction of Equality legislation for the state of Ohio and was instrumental in securing the 2017 Corporate Equality Award by the Human Rights Campaign.” Right on, Anne!
AG: Thank you. I’ve worked on some pretty large projects but what I’m doing now is kind of new to me. I’ve never worked in research before like this, but I love it. And I’m excited to be back in Philadelphia and I’m starting to feel connected to the community again. I’ve been getting involved with the LGBT group at CHOP as well.
PGN: Have you always been out at work?
AG: Yes, I’ve pretty much been out since I started working. Not always as comfortably as I am today, but yeah. I feel like life is too short to not be open about who I am. I’ve never changed or avoided pronouns.
PGN: When did you come out to the family?
AG: Someone who knew my sister innocently said, “Oh, I saw your sister at Pride!” thinking she knew already. She didn’t. It was fine; I was about to come out anyway.
PGN: Ever face any discrimination?
AG: I went to an evangelical Christian university kind of by accident. My mother married this guy and they were moving out West. I wanted to be close to them so I found a small school nearby. It was OK until the end of my senior year. I wasn’t in a relationship but I was starting to come out to people. My resident director found out and decided to “save” me before I did the deed. He thought being gay didn’t technically count until you’d done the act. He was trying to give me a loophole, but I told him that being a lesbian had nothing to do with what happened in bed, that it was about who you are as a person and who you loved. I decided to step down from my position as an R.A. after that.
PGN: What was your favorite book as a kid?
AG: It was a collection of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series “Little House on the Prairie.” I still have the box set with the “These Books Belong To” section where I signed my name.
PGN: So you moved back to Philly —
AG: And the Eagles won the Super Bowl, which I attribute to all the karma I’d built up as an Eagles fan in Cleveland Browns territory. I cashed it all in when I came home and we won.
PGN: Nice! What do you like to do when you’re not reading?
AG: I haven’t been able to do it recently because of an injury, but I usually run quite a bit. I was doing at least one half-marathon a year. I even competed in the Gay Games in Paris. I golfed and did all the running events including the half-marathon. It was amazing to see so many LGBT people from all over the world. People from countries where they would have been imprisoned for attending a gay event. Heartbreaking stories but an uplifting and joyous event.
PGN: I went to the one at Yankee Stadium in New York. Just looking down from the el and seeing the sea of people was amazing. But back to you and GCLS.
AG: We are the only organization solely focused on lesbian-themed literature, and we’re pretty inclusive under that umbrella. We include transwomen and bi-women, anyone who is writing those stories that speak to us. At the conference, you can participate in everything from lectures to open-mic nights to workshops and a ton of panels.
PGN: I saw the website. It looks amazing. The sponsor list alone was impressive; I didn’t realize there are that many companies providing LGBT content.
AG: Thank you. We also give out over 30 awards and grants. Things like the Trailblazer Award for lifetime achievement, which is being given to Sandra Scoppettone, as well as the Lee Lynch Classic, which is going to Ann Allen Shockley. This is the 15th anniversary so we’re going to have two hosts: one to represent where we’ve been — that will be Lynn Ames, who is a writer and a founder of GCLS — and then a younger woman, Dana Piccoli, who is a media specialist for Bella Books, and she’s highly connected with Clexacon. Have you heard of them? They have a huge conference in Vegas. We had a table there this year. They bring thousands of diverse LGBTQ fans, actors, filmmakers and other content creators from around the world to “celebrate positive representation for LGBTQ women in the media.” She’s so dynamic and really connected to a younger millennial crowd. We’re also doing the premier of the documentary “In Her Words: 20th Century Lesbian Fiction.” It has been in the works for several years and has a lot of the heavy literary hitters in the community on screen for the first time; the women who were writing at the forefront of the movement. It’s really a wonderful experience, to be with hundreds of women who share a joy of learning and reading.
PGN: In this day and age when intellect seems to be frowned upon, that must be refreshing.
AG: Absolutely. I feel passionate about it because I feel like I’m supporting an organization that is so important; promoting books that will help young girls (and adults too) who are just coming out when a book might be the only means they have to identify who they are. The friendships I’ve made are another benefit. Every year I meet more people and always look forward to going back the next year to see them again at the conference or at Women’s Week in Provincetown, Clexacon or the Women’s Fest in Rehoboth. And if you can’t make it to an event, there’s a lot of great content on the website.
For more information on Golden Crown Literary Society, visit goldencrown.org.