The Camp 10 – Elizabeth Andersen

The holidays are behind us, and we are into 2016! It is time to set some goals for the year.

This month, I interviewed Elizabeth Andersen. While preparing for the interview, I looked through her Facebook pictures and was inspired by her involvement in the Kansas City community. The woman is out there doing things, from arranging Tuesday Movie Nights at LIKEME Lighthouse to hosting the Sandra Moran Alphabet Soup Book Club-TTV on KKFI-FM (90.1) to getting out and exercising with the LGBT Frontrunners and Walkers group. Elizabeth has influenced me to jazz up my year!
1. You lived all over before you settled in Kansas City – Texas City, Texas; Fawley, England; Norman, Oklahoma; Wilbraham, Massachusetts; Western Pennsylvania; and Columbia, Mo., to name a few! How did you end up in Kansas City?
In 1980, my then-husband and I were teaching biology and English composition, respectively, at a university in Lawton, Oklahoma. We decided to move to Kansas City and teach there. He taught at Rockhurst for 32 years, and I was a lecturer, grants coordinator, and then director of the tutoring center. By the time our sons graduated from Rockhurst in 2007 and 2010, I was a longtime resident. I had planned on moving to the Pacific Northwest, but obviously never made it.
2. Now you live in Roeland Park. Passing the LGBT-inclusive ordinance was a struggle in Roeland Park. What do you think other communities can learn from that struggle when working to pass inclusive legislation?
The support of so many groups and people was key: Equality Kansas, PFLAG-KC, ACLU, several councilpeople, as well as Roeland Park business owners and residents. As a 22-year homeowner, I spoke in front of the council, as did my sons. Even though the opponents were organized and used scare tactics such as transgender “toilet terror,” they were met with logic and facts. Equality Kansas chair Sandra Meade was especially effective at refuting them, and Michael Poppa of Equality Kansas has since been elected to the council.
3. You are the host of the Sandra Moran Alphabet Soup Radio Book Club-TTV on KKFI, 90.1 FM, which is in memory of your friend Sandra Moran, who passed away in November. Could you tell me how that came about?
When Sandra asked me to host, I agreed and realized the book club was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. We had talked often about literature and about our belief that well-written LGBTQ books should be showcased and discussed. Because she left a template through next June, I have a good sense of the kinds of books she wanted to feature. Sandra said all she ever wanted was to be kind and good and to make a difference. She was, she did, and she left us a literary legacy to preserve.
4. What will be the next book discussed on the program?
We’ll talk about Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Barnett in honor of Black History Month. The panelists will be poet Annette Billings; Stuart Hinds, curator of the Gay & Lesbian Archive of Mid-America; and Mercedes Lewis, board member of the Golden Crown Literary Society.
5. How did you become involved with LIKEME Lighthouse?
In January 2011 at a PFLAG meeting, a woman spoke of her niece who had come out and written a book. When Char Daniels said the name, I was astonished because I’d been following Chely [Wright>’s story. I attended the first meeting that May and became more active over time. For the past three years, I served on the board and hosted weekly films. I’ll continue to help with social media and special events. One favorite memory was from the Chili Cook-off a year ago. Two twentysomethings decided to have an impromptu drag dance-off in the lobby and asked several of us to judge (it was a tie). The LIKEME Lighthouse has provided a lot of laughter and meaning in my life.
6. How else are you involved?
I’ve screened films for the production team of our LGBT film festival for 15 years. Working with Jamie Rich, I am convinced that he can solve any problem, no matter how bizarre or serious. We have had so many laughs, watched so many great (and bad) films, and collected so many memories that I can’t imagine a June without the festival.
7. I understand that you are really interested in Women’s Music Festivals. Could you tell me about that?
I’ve been a stage house manager since 2010 at the National Women’s Music Festival in Madison, Wisconsin. Linda Wilson, the president of the board and producer, talked me into it, thank goodness. And my Big Bad Gina friends let me house-manage at the Amazon Women’s Music Festival in Fayetteville, Ark. Impromptu jam sessions, chats with brilliant singer-songwriters, laughs with comedians – what’s not to love? Between films, music, and books, I stay busy.
8. As if you’re not busy enough, you’re involved in the LGBT Frontrunners and Walkers group. This looks like a great group for those of us who would like to get out and be active in the new year. Is this a competitive running group, or are they a group that likes to get out and exercise together?
Some members run competitively, but for the most part, it’s an exercise group of friends, almost all gay men (who are all about the brunch or supper afterward). I have attended intermittently since 1996 because they are so welcoming. When I walk up, inevitably I see a young man thinking “she’s obviously lost.” And then one or more of the guys will greet me like a long-lost relative. What amuses me is at the beginning when we discuss upcoming activities for gay men. “Elizabeth?” Because of radio and the Lighthouse, I often know.
9. You also have two sons. What is your favorite activity to do with them?
Odd as it sounds, we have the most fun in the car riffing on ideas and doing voices and songs. We’ve had cross-country road trips, one of which was very like National Lampoon’s Vacation. It ended with a moose almost killing us, $3,800 worth of car repairs, and then our Les-baru Forester being totaled in Saskatchewan and a 50-hour bus ride home. They also volunteer with me in the LGBT community whenever I ask.
10. I like to end with something fun. If you could be a character in a book, who would you be?
Thanks for stumping me on the last one. I have favorite authors such as Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Allison, but wouldn’t want to be Mrs. Dalloway or Bone. I understand to some degree the skepticism of the central character in Sandra Moran’s Nudge. Sandra and I met to discuss working together at the Lighthouse, on radio, and informally in literature. She initially confounded me because I hadn’t met a lesbian like her. Fourteen years ago I was a senior editor at a publishing company (on the newspaper syndicate side), and working with Sandra brought that previous life back to me. So in that one respect – of experiencing my brain recalibrating – I identify with Sarah Sheppard. But the person most like that character in terms of being The Nudge was and is Sandra.”

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