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Vp Issue 9: "Rachel Maddow Before the Big Time"

Vp Issue 9: "Rachel Maddow Before the Big Time"

[Originally published in Vp issue 9interview by Alix Olson (2005)]

I pull up in front of a charming Massachusetts country home, with a black Subaru and a red pick-up truck parked in the driveway (lesbian home, anyone?), overlooking a flooding river. Rachel bounds out in mud boots to greet me and direct my parking. We settle in front of a roaring fire with mugs of coffee and have a chat.

Obligatory coming out story—this is for a lesbian magazine, after all!

I started to figure out I was queer in high school. I was a jock and lettered in three sports (volleyball, basketball and swimming). I had the choice to go to Stanford, or to play sports at a few colleges on scholarship, but I had a shoulder injury and would have had to stay at home for another year to recuperate. I decided I couldn‘t stay at home for another year during my coming out process! 

rachel maddow by angela jimenez
all photos by Angela Jimenez

So, was Stanford a worthwhile experience in that regard?
Yes! I definitely started sleeping with girls and that was a nice confirming experience. I was like, ‘oh, that’s what’s going on below my chin.’ I wrote a coming out letter and posted it in all of the dorm bathrooms. I wanted to get it over with, to have everyone know at once, and also to provoke people who couldn’t handle it. But, I graduated early. Stanford was all bright-eyed and bushy tailed and into inline skating and (grimaces) jogging and e-mail. I moved to a queer house in San Francisco and worked at Espresso Bongo. Growing up as a queer kid in the Bay Area, you know, Act Up was going on and there was all of this deep important resonance for me. I was particularly drawn in by the chapter informed by the radicalism of the 1970’s. I realized, then, that we couldn’t have a true AIDS movement until HIV folks were not quarantined in prisons, not dying alone. This was the real deal. These prison issues became clear things, things that needed to be done, and nobody was putting pressure on the prisons to make it better. The sexy, connected, activist types, I think, felt like these prison issues were a big black box. Like, how do you make a difference there? I decided to make it