LGBTQ+: Interview with Meredith Bacon

Title

LGBTQ+: Interview with Meredith Bacon

Subject

Queer Omaha Archives
interviews
oral histories (document genres)

Description

Click here to access the interview, LGBTQ+: Interview with Meredith Bacon

Dr. Meredith Bacon, retired UNO Professor of Political Science and LGBTQ+ activist, was interviewed by Dr. Jay Irwin on September 21, 2016, in Omaha, Nebraska. Bacon shared information about growing up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, attending an all-boys boarding school (Pomfret School) in Connecticut, her years at Colorado College and the University of Denver's Graduate School of International Studies, her scholarship in Romanian and Moldovan politics, her relationship with wife Lynne, coming to terms with her gender identity in the late 1990's, and her transition and coming out process in 2005.
Biographical Sketch

Dr. Meredith Bacon, born in New York City in the late 1940’s, is a white, trans woman, UNO Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Nebraska Omaha, LGBTQ+ activist, scholar in Romanian and Moldovan politics, and according to the Omaha World-Herald, is likely the first transgender person in America elected as a college or university faculty leader. Bacon earned a BA in History in 1968 from Colorado College, and a PhD in International Relations in 1976 from the University of Denver. After graduating, Bacon moved to Omaha, where she taught Political Science at UNO for 38 years (1976-2014) and published her 1979 book, Behind Closed Doors: Secret Papers on the Failure of Romanian-Soviet Negotiations, 1931-1932.

During her time at UNO, Bacon served three terms as Faculty Senate president (2001, 2004, 2013), won the 2006 College of Arts & Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award, supported organizations like Nebraska AIDS Project and River City Gender Alliance, and served as Chair of the Board of Directors for the National Center for Transgender Equality, where she lobbied for transgender rights and anti-discrimination laws at the local, state, and federal levels. Each year since 2015, the Dr. Meredith Bacon Lavender Maverick Award is presented at UNO’s Lavender Graduation to an individual with an outstanding history of contributions to the UNO LGBTQIA+ campus community.

Bacon married Rev. Deacon Lynne Lazier Bacon (1946-2018) in 1968 and together they were active in Omaha’s All Saints Episcopal Church, where Lynne served as a vocational deacon since 1993. Over the years, the couple housed and supported international students, as well as LGBTQ+ youth who had been rejected from their families. Lynne passed away after a long battle with cancer in August 2018.
Interview Summary

Dr. Meredith Bacon, retired UNO Professor of Political Science and LGBTQ+ activist, was interviewed by Dr. Jay Irwin on September 21, 2016, in Omaha, Nebraska. Bacon was born in New York City in the late 1940’s and grew up on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. Bacon’s mother worked as the first female securities analyst on Wall Street, and her father was an electrical engineer. As a child, Bacon knew she was different in some way, but didn’t fully understand her identity or have the words to describe it. Bacon struggled with dyslexia during her early school years, but eventually found help from a kind teacher and began to excel academically.
After being sexually assaulted by an older boy at around age 12, Bacon’s parents noticed something was off, and sent her away to attend Pomfret School, an upscale, all-boys boarding school in Pomfret, Connecticut. There, Bacon focused on her studies and was active in theater, where she enjoyed playing female characters. At some point during her last year there (or directly after graduation), Bacon discovered Dr. Harry Benjamin’s 1966 book The Transsexual Phenomenon in a New York bookstore, which helped her understand more about her gender identity.

From 1964-68, Bacon attended Colorado College, where she majored in History and minored in Theater and Dance. During her time there, she met Lynne Lazier through their studies in French, and they married shortly after graduation in 1968. The couple stayed in Colorado, where Lynne taught high school French, and Bacon began her PhD at the University of Denver’s Graduate School of International Studies. From 1971-1972, the couple lived in Romania, where Lynne was a Fulbright-Hayes Scholar. On a trip to Paris in 1972, Bacon revealed to Lynne her feelings about her gender identity, and they agreed not to speak of it again. In 1976, Bacon graduated with her PhD in International Relations from the University of Denver, and accepted a position at UNO, where she would teach for the next 38 years. That year, Lynne also began her 31-year career at Creighton Prep teaching French and Spanish.

In the late 1990’s, Bacon began to see a therapist at UNMC because she was depressed and suicidal, and from there she began taking steps forward in finding peace with her gender identity. She was prescribed low-dose hormones, but saw no significant changes in her body. Bacon’s “turning point” was in 2004 at the Southern Comfort conference, where she wore women’s clothing in public for the first time, with the encouragement of trans friends. In 2005, Bacon began her transition and the process of publicly coming out to her colleagues at UNO, Lynne’s Creighton Prep colleagues, at All Saints Episcopal Church, and in her community. Bacon’s coming out was covered by publications like the Omaha World-Herald, People Magazine, and the Daily Nebraskan. According to the Omaha World-Herald, Bacon is likely the first transgender person in America elected as a college or university faculty leader.

In this interview, Bacon also discusses growing up around powerful people in NYC’s theater scene, her research on the trans community, the “rescue” of a gay UNO student from University Village campus housing, and her battle with the Nebraska Attorney General to retain the legality of her marriage to Lynne.
Interview Notes

Trigger warning for sexual assault.
Audio can be difficult to hear at times due to poor quality and filtering of recording device.

Date

2016 September 21

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

Interviewee

Meredith Bacon

Duration

02:34:03

Files

asc-contentdm-128.jpg

Citation

Luke Wegener, “LGBTQ+: Interview with Meredith Bacon,” Queer Omaha Archives, accessed November 22, 2018, https://queeromahaarchives.omeka.net/items/show/3286.

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