These comments belong to the Reverend Rebecca Strader, Presbyterian Church (USA), pastor in Vermont. Following the murders of Julie Williams and Lollie Winans, it was she who revealed to the public after much soul-searching that the women were lesbians – a decision she was criticized for. All words below are hers unless specified otherwise.
TW: mentions of violence, murder.
My own journey has taken some turns in the intervening years since Julie and Lollie were murdered. The decision to give honest answers about Julie, rather than, “No comment,” was one that I would replicate. “No comment” as a way of citing confidentiality would have hinted at the same assumption, although also indicating that there was some shame involved. I imagine that not everyone would agree that I did the right thing. For that, I will remain eternally sorry.
It makes no sense, the violence that seems to come from a deep place in some people. For a person to be “not male,” means that we are less worthy to be alive. For a man to be gay appears to some people to be someone who rejected the male identity of someone who is “better than female.” For those people, there is no greater sin than being a gay male. Or being a lesbian who doesn’t accept her less-than role in life.
I am fortunate to live in a state that has been a leader in rights for gays and lesbians. Marriage is only one of the issues, but that institution has far-reaching implications for financial and familial security. I still do not belong to a Christian denomination that will allow its clergy to officiate at same-gender marriages in a state that recognizes them.
I’m not sure that there will ever be enough evidence to convict the person who murdered Julie and Lollie. But one day, I may again be summoned to Charlottesville, VA, to give testimony. I am so sorry that the lives of two young women were cut short. But I am glad that their gifts are remembered — not merely their “unfulfilled promise.”