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 this period.
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 | EXHIBIT Council on Religion and the Homosexual
“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
Know Flo Fleischman? Tell us your experience.
(All entries are reviewed by the LGBT-RAN office before posting.)