Dr. Lilli Vincenz came to the Washington, DC area in 1963 as a WAC (otherwise known as the Women’s Army Corps). After being outed as a lesbian and receiving a general discharge, Dr. Vincenz found a community and a calling in LGB activism.
She quickly became involved in the Mattachine Society of Washington, an important organization in the fight for local and national rights for gay and lesbian Americans. A dedicated community activist, Dr. Vincenz hosted a weekly open house for lesbian women from 1971 to 1979 and founded the Community for Creative Self Development, an empowerment program for the LGB community from 1992 to 2004.
In this audio clip, Dr. Vincenz shares her memories of protesting discrimination against gay and lesbian sexuality with the Mattachine Society.
Narrator: Lilli Vincenz
Interviewer: Diane Kresh
Interview Date: November 14, 2013
DK: Can you talk a little bit about the Mattachine Society?
LV: Oh, I loved it. Yeah. I went there immediate—and I felt so good. It was wonderful. I just loved it.
DK: Well, what did you love about it?
LV: I was free. And then the picketing started and I have that noted also in there. And it was so exciting that that was the most important thing for me. I’ve got to do this, because there’s all the lies that have been made for people who think that gay people are bad people socially. And well, nobody had really told people that it’s all right to be gay. But now, of course, we’re getting this quickly now that this—everywhere now we’re—
DK: Huge change.
LV: Another marriage, another marriage, they’re doing all that!
DK: Did you think that that would happen in your lifetime, those kinds of changes?
LV: Well, early on I didn’t think right away, but I only knew I had to be there. I had to do it, because so few people could do it. And I felt that I could do it.
For more information about Lilli Vincenz, see the Lilli Vincenz collection at the Library of Congress.
The goal of the Arlington Voices project is to showcase the Center for Local History’s oral history collection in a publicly accessible and shareable way.
From June 2017 – May 2018, we will post one oral history clip and transcript each month, focusing on Arlington’s history, culture and identity.
What is the oral history collection?
Oral history is a popular method of research used for understanding historical events, actors, and movements from the point of view of people’s personal experiences.
The Arlington Public Library began collecting oral histories of long-time residents in the 1970s, and since then the scope of the collection has expanded to capture the diverse voices of Arlington’s community. In 2016, staff members and volunteers recorded many additional hours of interviews, building the collection to 575 catalogued oral histories.
To browse our list of narrators indexed by interview subject, check out our community archive. To read a full transcript of an interview, visit the Center for Local History located at Central Library.