LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with Sue Stroesser

Title

LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with Sue Stroesser

Subject

Queer Omaha Archives
Sexual minorities -- Nebraska -- Omaha
Interviews
Oral Histories (document genre)

Description

Audio for this interview is coming soon.

Ms. Sue Stroesser, therapist and social justice advocate, was interviewed by Luke Wegener on January 27, 2020 in Omaha, Nebraska. Stroesser shared information about her upbringing in Omaha, Nebraska, being a young athlete and meeting other lesbians through sports, attending the New York City Gay Games in 1994, her relationship with wife, Mary, her education and background in social work, and the process of adopting her two sons.

Biographical Sketch 

Ms. Sue Stroesser, born in Omaha, Nebraska, is a white, lesbian woman, counselor and social justice advocate. Stroesser grew up in Omaha as one of six children in a large Catholic family, and attended Blessed Sacrament Elementary, Loveland Elementary, and Arbor Heights Junior High (now Westside Middle School). After graduating from Westside High School in 1980, Stroesser attended Creighton University for one year before transferring to Chadron State College (Chadron, Nebraska) in 1981, where she earned a B.A. in English Literature in 1985. 

After brief stints in Los Angeles, California (1988-1989) and San Diego, California (1989-1990), Stroesser moved to Seattle, Washington in 1990, where she worked various jobs, was involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy work, and represented Seattle’s Women’s Soccer Team at the New York City Gay Games in 1994. After being fired from a job for her sexuality in 1994, Stroesser began working at Costco and lead a successful campaign to implement domestic partner benefits for employees in 1999. From 2000-2002, Stroesser attended Goddard College (Plainview, Vermont), where she earned an M.A. in Public Policy.  

Stroesser moved back to Omaha in 2003 with her wife, Mary, to settle down and eventually start a family. In 2007, she earned an M.S. in Community Counseling from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. After completing her education and becoming a licensed mental health practitioner, Stroesser went on to work as a therapist at Lasting Hope Recovery Center (2008-2009), Methodist Health System (2009-2012), and Community Alliance (2016-2019). From 2014-2016, Stroesser taught classes online as an adjunct at Adams State University (Alamosa, Colorado) in the Counseling Education department, as well as classes in the Human Services program at Metropolitan Community College (Omaha, Nebraska).  

Stroesser is a member of the American Counseling Association.  

As of February 2020, Stroesser lives in Omaha with her wife, Mary, and two sons. 

Interview Summary 

Ms. Sue Stroesser, therapist and social justice advocate, was interviewed by Luke Wegener on January 27, 2020 in Omaha, Nebraska. Stroesser was born in Omaha, Nebraska in the early 1960s and grew up as one of six children in a large, Catholic, working-class family. Stroesser attended Blessed Sacrament Elementary, Loveland Elementary, and Arbor Heights Junior High (now Westside Middle School). Stroesser had crushes on girls during this time, but did not have the terminology to define her attractions until she was an older adolescent.  

During her years at Westside High School (1976-1980), Stroesser struggled academically, but found support and connection with her teammates on the girls’ basketball team. There she met her first girlfriend, a fellow teammate, and they maintained a secret romantic relationship throughout high school. Stroesser knew she had to remain closeted due to the time period, and took male classmates to events like school dances. The stress of hiding her relationship from family and friends, while maintaining a relationship in secrecy, was exhausting. 

After graduation, Stroesser attended Creighton University for one year before transferring to Chadron State College (Chadron, Nebraska) in 1981. During her college years, Stroesser played college basketball and continued to find friendship and romantic connection with fellow lesbian teammates. In 1985, Stroesser graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from Chadron State College, and moved back to Omaha. That same year Stroesser met and began dating her future wife, Mary, while they worked together at Valentino’s Pizza. 

After brief stints in Los Angeles, California (1988-1989) and San Diego, California (1989-1990), Stroesser moved to Seattle, Washington in 1990, where she worked various jobs and was involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy work. In Seattle, she found her first truly affirming community, attended her first Pride Parade, and held hands with her wife in public. 

In Seattle, Stroesser and her wife, Mary, wanted to meet other lesbians to connect with. As a life-long athlete, Stroesser had typically found other lesbians to connect with in playing sports, so she joined a women’s soccer team. In 1994, Stroesser traveled with her soccer team to the Gay Games in New York City, which fell on the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The experience was transformative for Stroesser. 

Two weeks after returning to Seattle from the Gay Games, Stroesser was fired from her job at a packaging company for being lesbian. That year she began working for Costco, a company where she could be out on the job, and lead a successful campaign to implement domestic partner benefits for employees in 1999. 

Stroesser decided to continue channeling her own experiences of discrimination into social justice work, and began attending Goddard College (Plainview, Vermont) in 2000, where she earned an M.A. in Public Policy in 2002. That same year in Vermont, Stroesser obtained a civil union with wife, Mary. 

Stroesser and her wife, Mary, moved back to Omaha in 2003 in the hopes of one day starting a family. In 2007, Stroesser earned an M.S. in Community Counseling from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. After completing her education and becoming a licensed mental health practitioner, Stroesser went on to work as a therapist at Lasting Hope Recovery Center (2008-2009), Methodist Health System (2009-2012), and Community Alliance (2016-2019). From 2014-2016, Stroesser taught classes online as an adjunct at Adams State University (Alamosa, Colorado) in the Counseling Education department, as well as classes in the Human Services program at Metropolitan Community College (Omaha, Nebraska). 

In this interview, Stroesser also discusses adopting her two sons, getting married in Iowa in 2009, experiences of discrimination in obtaining identity documentation, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the late 1990s, and the 1980s AIDS crisis. 

Interview Notes 

None.

Date

2020 January 27

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

Sue Stroesser

Duration

1:34:14

Files

SueStroesserPhoto.jpg

Citation

Luke Wegener, “LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with Sue Stroesser,” Queer Omaha Archives | UNO Libraries, accessed April 11, 2021, https://queeromahaarchives.omeka.net/items/show/3317.

Output Formats

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