In the early 1980s, a community could be hard to come by–especially for LGBTQ+ people living in rural areas and highly conservative parts of the country. For this reason, a group of lesbians living in Roanoke, Va. and surrounding areas began opening their doors to other lesbian and bisexual women. What started as strangers meeting at private homes, evolved into lifelong friendships, unforgettable events and a legacy for a younger generation of queer women to look up to.
Filmmaker Kathryn L Beranich (“After the 2nd Date” “Lesbian Centennial Project”) was a member of First Fridays and traveled around the country to interview her fellow members about their experiences in the group and the kinship shared over that special decade that First Fridays was operating. “The Unlikely Story of the Lesbians of First Friday” is filled with interviews, archival footage and images of events, giving viewers a snapshot of a time gone by that impacted the lives of hundreds of queer women in the community.
Together, acting as a linear organization with no specific leader, the group put on large events and retreats, bringing in legendary lesbian performers like Tret Fure, Cris Williamson and Kate Clinton.
While the group eventually faded away in the early 90s, the reason isn’t entirely clear. However, some cite active members moving away, changing tides in LGBTQ+ acceptance and even the desire to remain sober as some of the reasons.
“First Friday” debuted on the film festival circuit in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic made it nearly impossible to have in-person screenings and create the buzz a documentary of this nature needs to reach a wider audience. Since then, Beranich and members of First Fridays have traveled around the country to present the film to live audiences like the screening News is Out attended at Doc Marie’s in Portland, Oregon. A short Q&A by Beranich and other First Friday members followed the sold-out screening. Beranich shared that it is important to have this live audience experience and to share the story of First Friday.
“Screening the documentary around the country has been an incredible experience,” Beranich shared with News is Out.
“Other lesbians who were out in the 80s have been really touched by the doc and have shared many stories about their communities with me. Queer youth who weren’t aware of what life was like back then love our story and have been inspired to start groups for themselves. What’s funny are the responses from straight people who had no idea that we even existed, much less were living full lives, albeit in the closet.”
While “First Friday” is about a specific group of women, Beranich says the story is not unique to just Roanoke.
“It represents groups that came together all over the country and provided community and validation outside of the bars. I love sharing this little slice of lesbian history!”
If you are interested in bringing the film to your community, please contact Kathryn L at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out the website unlikelystory.net.