Vickie Shaw: The Unlikely Lesbian
Speaking from the office of her home in a working-class neighborhood outside Chicago, comely Vickie Shaw sounds like your everyday housewife with kids, two dogs, a husband in the police force, and a burgeoning career of her own. She chats in lively, animated style about her grown children, her grandchild turning 2 years old that very day, the daughter living at home who goes to college and is in and out of the house all the time, and the antitheft deterrent of having a squad car parked out front. She’s charming, clever, open, and candid in a breezy, friendly style of patter that disarms her listeners.
Did she just mention that she’s a lesbian? Yes. She says it as if it’s of no real consequence or importance, as indeed it is not to her anymore. Nor to the legions of fans who flock to her live standup comedy gigs or tune in to watch her perform on WE Television. Vickie in person is exactly the same as she is in her work. She’s your average housewife and mom with a job who happens to be gay – and sometimes her audiences don’t believe her.
“They’ll come up to me after a show,” she says, “and say, ‘You’re not really gay, are you?’” When she replies, “Oh, yes, I am!” they still think she’s joking. But she’s not, and that makes for interesting conversation with this unlikely lady who exhibits none of the stereotyped lesbian qualities. One would think that she’s always been at peace with herself—but they’d be wrong.
“Coming out for me was a long, painful process,” Vickie admits. She was born into a strict Southern Baptist family in Beaumont, Texas. After marriage and children, as Vickie began to acknowledge her attraction to women, she initially thought she was losing her mind.
“I thought, ‘Does this mean my God of thirty-eight years doesn’t love me any more?’” she explains. It took more than a quick visit to her local psychiatrist to convince her that it wasn’t she who had the problem. It was her outraged family, former friends, and the rest of the world who did. She goes on to say that she knew she was gay when she was 4 and that a 4-year- old is not equipped to make a decision like that, so she knows that she was born that way. “God made me gay. It’s a gift, you know, and there is no gift without a purpose.”
The achievement she’s most proud of, as a mom, is that each of her children says they had the perfect parents. “Their father is a right-wing conservative Republican and they had this crazy lesbian mother running around,” she laughs. “Just your typical dysfunctional American family.”
Her partner, Sergeant, who is actually a member of the police force, has replaced the father figure in the past five years.
“We met on a lesbian cruise,” she explains, “and I didn’t even know her name. All I knew about her was that she was a policeman in a state with an “I” in it.” Illinois – the state they happen to reside in now while waiting for Sergeant to retire some time next year. Then it’s back to Houston for the two, back to Vickie’s Texas roots. “We met again at the National Women’s Music Festival in Muncie, Indiana,” Vickie goes on, “and we made the connection and have been together ever since.” When asked what her children think of Sergeant, Vickie laughs easily. “They think she’s great!”
On the subject of sexuality, Vickie is very pragmatic. “I believe that sexuality is on a kind of line and that everybody falls somewhere on that line,” she says. “Our sexuality is a gift. Be proud of who you were created to be. You can’t love yourself if you’re not okay with yourself.”
Most of her comedy work is performed in straight clubs, where Vickie is very open and honest about her gay lifestyle and the similar situations she faces with the women in her audience. She does this in a completely natural and nonthreatening way. “By the end of my act their minds are rearranged just a bit,”
she says. “And they come up to me and ask, ‘You’re not really gay, are you?” When told that she really is, they ask, “And you really have kids?” When told that she does, they usually say, “Wow! And, they’re okay with it?”
In closing, Vickie perceptively added that our sexuality determines our mate. “We all need our sexuality because that is what makes us intimate. We all need that one-on-one relationship with a safe place to land. It’s a gift–and some never find it. When you do, celebrate it! Go for it!”
Vickie Shaw was featured at the Human Rights Campaign’s 5th Annual Kansas City Comedy Night, November 3, 2006 at The Pearl.