LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with Shari Baumer

Title

LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with Shari Baumer

Subject

Queer Omaha Archives
Sexual minorities -- Nebraska -- Omaha
interviews
oral histories (document genres)

Description

Click here to access the interview, LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with Shari Baumer

Ms. Shari Baumer, Omaha LGBTQ+ advocate, was interviewed by Luke Wegener on March 29th, 2018, in Omaha, Nebraska. Baumer shared information about her upbringing in Grand Island and Omaha, her strained relationship with her parents, her battle with alcoholism and getting sober, coming to terms with her sexuality, finding her birth family, and meeting her partner of 32 years, Mary Anne.
Biographical Sketch

Ms. Shari Baumer, born in Milford, Nebraska in the 1940's, is a Mexican and Native American lesbian woman, adoptee, survivor, LGBTQ+ advocate, and grandmother. Baumer's early childhood was spent in Grand Island, Nebraska, before moving to Omaha with her parents around age 6. After attending Holy Name High School, Baumer went on to work for Mutual of Omaha for 21 years (1965-1986), while earning her BA in Psychology from UNO in 1984. Baumer later worked for CHI (Catholic Health Initiatives) for 15 years before retiring in 2011. Along with her wife of 32 years, Mary Anne, Baumer stays active in supporting organizations like Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Omaha's Second Unitarian Church, and is one of the founding members of Open Arms Trans Social Group (OATS), a support group for trans youth, adults, and their friends and families.
Interview Summary

Shari Baumer, Omaha LGBTQ+ advocate, was interviewed by Luke Wegener on March 29, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. Baumer was born in Milford, Nebraska, in a home for unwed mothers, and spent her first year in an orphanage in Lincoln, Nebraska. After being adopted by an Italian American couple, Baumer moved to Grand Island, where she spent the first 6 years of her childhood before moving to Omaha. Baumer grew up as an only child and her home life was difficult, as her mother was mentally ill, her parent’s marriage was broken, and she was regularly shamed for her Mexican and Native American heritage.

After her parents’ divorce during Baumer's freshman year at Holy Name High School, she was active in school activities and made a supportive group of friends. Baumer had a brief stint at Creighton University after high school, but was unable to keep up with the work, and was drinking and partying heavily. In 1965, at age 19, Baumer began working at Mutual of Omaha as a File Clerk, working her way up to becoming a Systems Analyst over the next 21 years, until she left the company in 1986. During this time, Baumer was supporting and sharing a home with her abusive mother and binge drinking until her mother's death in 1984 sparked a turning point in her life. Baumer began seeing a therapist, opened up about her mother's abusive behavior, and eventually got sober.

After attending LGBT-specific AA meetings with a friend in 1985, it began to dawn on Baumer that she was gay. In 1986, Baumer met her partner Mary Anne at an AA meeting, and they have been together for 32 years, eventually marrying in Iowa in 2015. In 1996, Baumer began working for CHI Health and retired from the company in 2011. Along with her wife Mary Anne, Baumer is active in supporting organizations like Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Omaha's Second Unitarian Church, and is one of the founding members of Open Arms Trans Social Group (OATS), a support group for trans youth, adults, their friends and families.

In this interview, Baumer also discusses reconnecting with her adoptive father after 20 years, meeting some of her birth family, learning about her Mexican and Native American background, and her relationships with her step-children and step-grandchildren.
Interview Notes

Trigger warning for domestic violence, sexual abuse, and substance abuse.

Date

2018 March 29

Creator

Luke Wegener

Publisher

University of Nebraska at Omaha Libraries

Relation

LGBTQ+ Oral History Collection finding aid available at https://archives.nebraska.edu/repositories/4/resources/604

Interviewer

Luke Wegener

Duration

02:06:39

Files

ShariBaumer_Omeka.jpg

Citation

Luke Wegener, “LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with Shari Baumer,” Queer Omaha Archives, accessed December 13, 2018, https://queeromahaarchives.omeka.net/items/show/3280.

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