History of the Live & Let Live Lesbian Round-Up


            Originally, the Round-Up was founded on a double resentment:  One, in order to attend the famous Woman to Woman Conference in San Diego, someone needed to drink or die in order to create a vacancy and then the slot was immediately filled by someone on “the inside.”  A couple of us did get in one year and it cost about $400.00 back in the early 80’s for the weekend.  So, a group of us from North County in San Diego decided to start Las Hermanas, an affordable weekend retreat for women.  For $75.00 (room and food included), we “retreated” to the San Luis Rey Mission in Oceanside, California.  Mostly, straight women attended (Woman to Woman refugees) and we had a great time.  However, we were no invited back because a Friar saw two women kissing in the courtyard and we were sent on our way.

            We secured Camp Cedar Glen in Julian in 1984 and hosted 150 women—95% straight.

            Only a few cabins had showers and bathrooms in the cabins, while others had to walk about 50 feet away for the facilities. The floorboards in many of the cabins had fallen through to the ground and many had dirt floors. The Dining Hall was located where our Hospitality Suite is now.  We did our own dishes at our table while Dan, the camp manager, yelled at us to hurry.  He was sure we were all lesbians and didn’t know how to wash dishes.  He thought we only ate off of paper plates (a.k.a. Lesbian China).

            The workshops and meetings were always great and a lot of fellowshipping went on.

            Then IT happened!.  In 1985, a group of women wanted to get organized, have elections, have officers with titles and a board of directors and a corporation.  They also wanted to increase the registration fee and sell important stuff!  And, most of all, they wanted to get rid of a lesbian  (a vocal lesbian, okay pushy) who co-founded Las Hermanas.  They did not like the fact that she could sleep with her “wife” and kiss her at the Camp and they could not bring their husbands or boyfriends.  She simply replied, “It’s a women’s retreat;  get a lover for the weekend.”

While our mission and vision got blurry for a bit, the retreat went well.  Our treasurer decided to run our checking account through her ex-husband’s non-profit corporation, unbeknownst to him.  We voted her off the Board and trouble began.  There were a lot of hard feelings.  A new regime was being recruited for 1986 and NO lesbians would be on the committee.  We had 200 women in attendance!  At a table outside of the Hospitality Suite, a couple of women said they thought it was disgusting that there were so many lesbians in attendance.  I asked them how many they thought were sitting at a nearby table and they said about 10.  I told them there were none and that out of 200 women, there were only 6 lesbians in attendance.  They almost fell over. 

            Here is the second part of the double resentment:  I talked to the head lesbian, who co-founded Las Hermanas, and asked her what we could do.  I cannot print her response here.  In essence, she said we would start our own and have the word “Lesbian” in our title, so there would be no guessing about our attendees.  She asked me to help her and her wife.  By this time, Dan had fallen in love with us because we gave him such a hard time and teased him about his gruffness.  He really liked us.  We told him about our idea and he said it would be very difficult to get a secured date.  Finally, he gave us the first weekend in February and said we would freeze to death, but that was the best he could do.  He didn’t know about the flannel thing at the time.  Anyway, we needed a minimum of 100 women to secure the whole camp, or else we would have to share the camp with Girl Scout troops.  We guaranteed it to him and set out “rounding up” the lesbians for our first Round-up.

            In 1986, we had 57 women, but Dan said it looks like 100 to him and he let us stay.  The temperature was over 100 degrees all three days and we had a blast.  We had 6 speakers from NA, DA, AA, SLAA, OA, and Al-Anon.  We were established!  Our cost was $45 per person and we charged $50 to cover hospitality costs.

            Our mission was/is to provide a safe, affordable environment for ALL women in ALL 12-step programs to share their experience, strength and hope.  Straight women have attended and still attend because they have found recovery is recovery and women are women, regardless of sexual orientation. In 17 years, our cost has increased $50.  Not too shabby.  We solicit scholarship donations throughout the year to insure that all women who want to go can attend regardless of their financial situation.

            The next year brought 100 women and the word was getting out to other counties.  We were the only Lesbian Round-up in the country.  Women from Arizona, Washington, and Nevada attended. 

We hit a major hurdle going into 1988.  Our bill hadn’t been paid.  One of the founders stole all of the money to meet personal expenses.  She promised to pay it back, but didn’t and we were asked not to return.  However, I asked if we paid our bill in advance, could we attend while the camp negotiated with her to get its money back.  They agreed and for two years we had to pay upfront for 85 women  (minimum) to secure our weekend.  The San Diego Lesbian community rallied each year to make this happen.  Finally, we were returned to good standing as long as the other woman was not involved on the two-person committee.

            Over the years, two people at a time have organized the Round-up with a lot of help from volunteers during the weekend.  Over the last 7 years, the Round-up has been a committee on the Gay Men’s Spiritual Retreat (GMSR) in order to operate under their 501C3 non-profit status.  In addition, the GMSR and individual members of the GMSR have donated several hundred dollars for scholarships for the women and promote our Round-up for us.  Several of the men donate their time by decorating our camp with lights and the GMSR flags.  Without their love and support, we wouldn’t be where we are today.  We share expenses for storage and insurance as well as supplies. 

The GMSR and Lesbian Round-up founders created the Lambda Recovery Weekend seven years ago, where 50 men and 50 women get together at another camp in Julian and share their recovery.

Several women have attended over 15 of our round-ups.  Some started their sobriety here.  Relationship began here;  sponsors were found;  4th Steps were dumped;  spiritual awakenings have occurred;  firsts laughs in recovery were heard and experienced;  first cries let out;  and most of all, love and support surrounded us.


Submitted by Johnna Helm, co-founder