Sherri Rase: A dedicated life

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Out In Jersey magaziine personal profile of Sherri Rase from Jersey Pridepersonal profile.

Sherri Rase was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in the area now known as Wilton Manors. “It’s like gay central in South Florida.” Her identical twin sister, Debbi, is also gay, “Identical twins have a 50-50 chance of both being gay or both being heterosexual, which is greater than the general population, which has about a 10 percent chance.”

In response to what Rase wanted to be when she grew up, she responds, “Hmmmmm. I didn’t envision anything being available like I have now, so for instance when I was in fifth grade, I saw myself as a businessman, because back in the 1970s when Debbi and I were in grade school, we didn’t think in terms of chairperson or businessperson because that’s not the way the world was then and it wasn’t that long ago.”

Rase and her sister were tested in the fifth grade and discovered they could have these additional educational opportunities. They had opportunities throughout their years in the Broward County school system to go on field trips to places like the Miami Serpentarium. They also went on nature hikes and had opportunities like nursing injured snakes back to health as well as raising rats and mice and feeding them to the snakes. “In addition, they taught us things like college English.” She was in the Broward County school system, “which is pretty amazing because many people think of Florida as being backward or southern schools as being of lower quality than schools up north. And I think that education is in every environment if you have someone who is dedicated to getting every bit out of it.”

Rase’s educational experience might come in handy in her present volunteerism with animals. “One of my dear friends is Laura Pople and there were a handful of us who helped her establish Seer Farms.” Seer Farms takes on animals temporarily for people who can’t care for them at the time due to a short-term medical issue, a military deployment, or a foreclosure. Rase says there are more than a hundred cats there at present. Part of the deal that Pople made when she acquired the property was that the feral colony would remain. One of Seer’s ongoing projects is the capture of these animals, spaying and neutering, and microchipping.

In her junior year at Marietta College in Ohio, Rase was halfway to completing a speech major, a music major, a theater major and more than halfway to completing a philosophy major. “It made it simpler when I was deciding what to do.” She did competition speech events (extemporaneous speaking, impromptu speaking). She won national awards for impromptu speaking and poetry. “And all of that’s handy whether you’re speaking to two people or you’re speaking to 20,000.” Rase handles the talent and opens the stage for Jersey Pride and there are 20,000 people in the park when Jersey Pride opens.

Rase began her work with Jersey Pride 18 years ago amidst a year of high activity for her. She moved to New Jersey with her then partner, with who she subsequently broke up. She did not know many gay people, “I’ve taken since then to saying I knew the woman who dumped me and the couple who brought me to GAAMC (Gay Activist Alliance of Morris County.)… It’s hard to imagine, but I was very shy.”

But Rase learned that this was a way to get in touch with “gay New Jersey.”  She was in her early 30s and ready to make a change. Rase got down to Asbury Park at 10 a.m. that Saturday morning for Pride in June 1993 (the following year, Pride was moved to the first Sunday) and has been volunteering ever since. Shortly after being involved at GAAMC, she became involved as a representative and later as an officer of the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition, where she met groups from all over the state.
 
Rase says we need to continue doing our work because there are some young people who think same-sex couples can get married. “We’ll have equality when everyone realizes the nature of the struggle.”

Rase adds, “Something I’ve really missed, from a political standpoint, is having a sitting governor come and speak to that throng of people from the stage.” The following politicians have spoken at Jersey Pride: Senator Robert Menendez, John Corzine (when he was a candidate for Senate as well as governor and when he was active in those roles), James McGreevey (when he was a candidate for governor and when he was governor), and Senator Lautenberg’s son on his behalf. Rase notes, “Oddly, even though we have invited Governor Christie, he has declined. And whether or not you’re partisan in your politics in New Jersey, seeing who comes to support us on that day tells a lot about where our money should go and where our influence should go.” 

Rase’s writing work includes reviews of movies, operas, and a photo exhibit at The Brooklyn Museum entitled, “Who Shot Rock & Roll,” along with operas for QOnstage (an ongoing writing project for four years). She has also reviewed books for Out In Jersey. Rase has an interview series called Conversations. She has had “conversations” with Janis Ian, Kate Clinton and Michael Mastro. Sherri’s life is proof that one dedicated person can make a very big difference.

 

Out In Jersey magaziine personal profile of Sherri Rase from Jersey Pridepersonal profile.

Sherri Rase was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in the area now known as Wilton Manors. “It’s like gay central in South Florida.” Her identical twin sister, Debbi, is also gay, “Identical twins have a 50-50 chance of both being gay or both being heterosexual, which is greater than the general population, which has about a 10 percent chance.”