Tessa McCarthy’s story – member since 1968

At the age of sixteen and living in a small Irish village, with no role models apart from the local tweedy dyke, I read an article in a banned English newspaper about “twilight women who walk in the shadows”, which made lesbian women sound like some kind of vampire!

The exposé also mentioned an organisation named MRG (Minorities Research Group) who ran a social club for these ‘unfortunates’.  I wrote to the address given in North London and subscribed to their newsletter.  I learnt that MRG, headed by the wonderful Esme Langley, held events in private rooms and pubs and carried small ads for penfriends in their newsletter.  I was so happy to learn that I could lead a fulfilling life in London, amongst my own kind, although I gathered that one had to be discreet or the consequences could be rather dreadful.

In London I discovered the Gateways Club and became a member in 1967.  The Gates was a great place to socialise, although the attitude of the hosts Gina and Smithy could be intimidating at times.  I then went on to join Kenric in 1968 where I found the best social group of all, with lots of interesting meetings and of course the legendary Christmas gatherings.  I have fond memories of Rita Mendoza who presided at lots of functions.  I recall one New Year’s Dinner at a restaurant where Rita had to tell staff we were a ‘ladies literary group’! – such was the stigma of the times towards gay women.  I still belong to Kenric and am glad that it still thrives today.