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Remembering Kathleen Brindley

Dec 22, 1942 - Jul 5, 2007

ROAD WARRIOR. Kathleen Brindley with partner Judy Zapotochny at Pride 2005. Credit: (Mark D'Aguilar)

On the morning of Jul 5 at 5am Kathleen Brindley’s beautiful queer spirit roared off into the wild blue yonder on her “horse-cycle,” just as the sun was coming up and the birds were singing. She left us with a beautiful smile on her handsome face. Her death, like her life, was dignified and uplifting.

Kathleen Brindley was my hero and my best friend, though through the almost 20 years of our friendship we always greeted each other by our last names. We were neighbours, too; greeting each other was a joyful way to begin the morning. It was a daily ritual that always made a difference to the rest of my day, especially when times were hard.

Brindley was a courageous civil and human rights activist from the age of 14. Her stories of resistance while growing up in rural Indiana in the 1950s were an inspiration to me; she persisted in seeing her first girlfriend against all odds and impediments. She spoke out against a high school teacher who was a Holocaust denier and, as a result, was nearly kicked out of school.

In the early ’60s Brindley won a full four-year scholarship to Butler University by playing her trumpet brilliantly, but she was subsequently expelled for performing as a drag king in a gay club with her trumpet. Kathleen witnessed raids on many of these underground gay clubs and their tragic effect on many of her friends; those who were outed this way, with their names published in the paper, often committed suicide.

Brindley marched in every major civil rights and anti-Vietnam War demonstration in the ’60s and early ’70s before immigrating to Canada. She was one of a couple of dozen or so white and Jewish antiracists on the march to Selma, Alabama lead by Martin Luther King Jr in 1965. She met him and was photographed with him; after that her life was under close scrutiny by the authorities for the rest of her days in the United States. Canada was her sanctuary; she moved here a week after the Kent State shootings, where four students were killed when a crowd of antiwar demonstrators were fired on by the National Guard.

Kathleen Brindley was very proud of her grandmother, Hannah Kathleen Brindley, after whom she was named. In 1929 Hannah Kathleen Brindley became the first female Democrat elected to the Indiana State Legislature. Her grandmother was an inspiration to her, despite having passed away when Kathleen was age seven.

I was not the only friend who was always amazed by how much Brindley knew about just about everything under the sun, from finishing furniture, to taking apart a motorcycle, to playing the horses, to her extensive witch-like knowledge of herbs and flowers. Brindley was an avid biker, a member of the Amazons Motorcycle Club for many years, a gifted gardener and a self-taught artist; her work has been exhibited at the O’Connor Gallery and at Gallery X. All of her friends agree that she was always right, though not from a sense of superiority; she was just born wise and all-knowing — a winter solstice baby.

Kathleen Brindley was a fiercely independent spirit who inspired her friends and loved ones with who she was — always genuine and deeply engaged. Her friendship and her wisdom will be dearly missed.