The Rev. Florine L. Fleischman was a student at the University of Tampa in
the late 1940s where she connected with other lesbians and gay men, particularly
through Literati, a student writers group. She also wrote for the university
newpaper, Minaret. She was blocked from becoming editor of the paper in
1951 because of her "mannish attire." From 1951 to 1956 Fleischman was active
with underground gay and lesbian activities in Tampa and Miami, despite
intense persecution by the notoriously anti-gay Tampa Vice squad.
Flo moved to southern California in 1956, in part to escape this oppression.
She checked out ONE, Inc., there but found it and its leader Dorr Legg very
male-oriented and not welcoming to her. She later met Betty Perdue and, in 1963,
the two of them formed a lesbian group "to improve our lot as lesbians and
women." The group was comprised largely of professional women, so they met in
secrecy and used pseudonyms. The group eventually became the Manhattan Beach
chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis. Flo came out publicly as a lesbian during
In 1965, Flo became active with the Council on Religion and the Homophile
that Dorr Legg and Jim Kepner founded in Los Angeles. She became one of the
public faces of that group, appearing on panels and other public events to speak
about her experiences and that of other lesbians and gay men. In 1971, she
joined the first Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in Los Angeles. She decided
to pursue pastoral ministry and received a bachelor's degree in theology from
the Samaritan Theological Institute in 1979. She was licensed to ministry in the
MCC and pastored at MCC Oceanside and MCC Van Nuys.
In 1984, she left the MCC and founded New Hope Christian Church in Van Nuys.
She pastored and nurtured this gay and lesbian religious "extended family" for
about 15 years. A successful businesswoman, Flo supported herself
financially through her years of ministry as an investigative real estate
claims adjustor and commercial collection manager.
Fleischman was elected to the board of the ONE Institute and Archives in Los
Angeles in 1995 and served as president from 1998 until 2000.
(This information taken from a profile about Fleischman written by Ernie
Potvin and published in ONE-IGLA Bulletin #4, Winter 1998, and also an
interview with her by C. Todd White, Ph.D., published in his Legends column in
the Orange County and Long Beach Blade, May 2005. Photo by C. Todd White.)
Biography Date: June, 2005
MCC | Council on Religion and the Homosexual | Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) | Clergy Activist | Gay Liberation Movement | California | Los Angeles
“I have known Flo for almost fifteen years. She has been a loyal and loving friend to me and my husband, Tom. In fact, she often tells Tom he did the “right thing” when he married me. Tom and Flo have been friends for almost 35 years. They met when she was working in Collections as a manager. He tells me she didn’t take to him at first, she was wary. But they become very close and worked at the Gay Archives together volunteering, and other activities. Despite their nearly 30+ age difference, Tom and Flo have always been close. Last year, Flo lost her partner, Irene, whom she had been with for 45 years. Flo was devastated, and took a turn for the worse as she began sundowning, and now, at 87, nearly 88 years old is in failing health. She may not make it much longer, but Flo is always ever present in the history of the community. Her stories of her days as a pastor who had to conduct services while under guard to avoid discrimination to her stories about being arrested several times as a teen for wearing men’s clothes. She told me she was what they called “a stomper” back in the day. Flo was an activist before she even knew it. And she continues to support charities and embrace people. Most don’t know that she was raised mostly by a nanny, Tillie, who is Black, and whom she calls for even in her dementia. Flo has a gay brother, Joe, whom she has been close with, fought with, and loved her whole life. He is just a year younger. My hope is to keep telling Flo’s story: it’s all of our story.”
– as remembered by George Blake on November 6, 2017
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