2nd Prize – Lynn Sheridan – I AM VICTORIOUS

I am 65 and have been gay all my life. When I was very young I was quickly aware that most people did not like gay people. I was a quiet child; fearful that if I said what I was feeling I would be reprimanded, laughed at, or beat up. I was one of the best baseball players, but I was kept out of little league and wondered why.

As I started into my teen years, I became aware that for me to change to fit what society said I should be, was a death sentence for me. I did not start fights but others learned I could end them and walk away. It hurt, but I took the shunning and laughter and dressed like I wanted to, (except for school which at that time required dresses).

I had girlfriends but their mothers did not want them with me because I was “different”. So I did spend a lot of time alone. In high school a friend and I petitioned to be allowed to take mechanical drawing because we like creating things. We were the only two girls in the classes. My first year instructor did not pay any attention to me until after a few months he noticed I always took the most difficult assignments because I found them interesting and got “A”s,. My high school counselor said the test I took was flawed because I showed interest in architecture and carpentry and said I could not get into college for architecture because it was not a girls program.

So I went to computer school to learn programming and was the top of my class. I went for a programming job, which was almost all male at the time, with a high recommendation from my instructor, and was passed over for one of my fellow students whom I tutored through the whole class and he just barely passed. I eventually worked my way up in a company from cashier to systems analyst in a 2 year period. Bored with inside work I became the first, woman car salesperson and assistant manager of a dealership in my area.

I went to the community college to learn how to lay concrete block and brick and took architecture. Upon completing the course I went to several builders for a job, I was turned down and laughed at. One guy said if you can work for three days for free I will see if you are good enough to stay. So I worked the three days and he kept me. He also moved me up to start corners on foundations and do difficult brickwork because my work was so good. I was at the top like his two veteran masons.

I wanted to build log homes so I took a job selling log and timber homes and helping people start their projects. I took the dale Carnegie class so I could try to get more confidence talking to people and not feel subconscious about being gay but focus on my skills and abilities. I sold fireplaces, kitchen cabinets, stone, and other building products. I started my own remodeling company when no one would hire me as a carpenter. No one seems to want a woman in construction. It was hard to convince people a woman could do the work. Then I decided to build my own model log home and remodeling showroom to show people my skills. I built almost the whole house by myself part time with help from my apprentice. I sold and built houses and did remodeling. I took classes and got my certification, CGR, from NAHB, and CR, from the NATIONAL Association of the Remodeling industry.

At the time I was only the second person in my state to have both credentials. Four years later my business partner absconded with my identity and money. I had to start from zero again. But I did. Then I had to take off a lot of time as my life partner was dying of cancer. I then spent some time after her death regaining my strength since I had fibromyalgia since 1992 and was depleted. But I did. I am still doing remodeling work, have volunteered for habitat, have been teaching classes for women in home improvements and repairs since 1992 and now teach at the community college. I AM Victorious. I have overcome so many obstacles and I am still charging forward helping other women see the possibilities.

by Lynn Sheridan