By Kathy Wolfe
Like most people, the story of who I am and what I have become was shaped by my childhood experiences. My story began with being the youngest of three separated by 16 years from my oldest sister. As a result, my parents developed a rather casual relationship with me, supporting all of my interests and embracing my needs to do, explore and be.
A rough and tumble tomboy my entire childhood, I was called “Peetie” by my family and was allowed to wear boys’ clothing. My practical mother even shopped in the boys department for me. My feelings of being different started when school began and I was forced to wear dresses. What a shock! In second grade, I fell in love with my classmate, Diane. I can still see her in her darling brown and white calico dress.
The missing element throughout my early education was an image, story or teacher to whom I could relate. As I learned much later, my gay and lesbian teachers were too afraid to be close to me. They were dealing with their own need to be invisible.
Fortunately for me, I was a teenager during the Age of Aquarius. Freethinking and acting was in style and I loved being a hippie. I embraced the ideals of working cooperatively, sharing, having extended family with mutual goals, having fun and developing a vision for a greater purpose. At the time, I had no idea that this period of my life would be so significant.
After earning my master’s degree, I taught art at the college level for eight years and started and grew a national graphics business for 18 years. As my 40th birthday approached, I had plenty of time to think about what I was doing and what I really wanted to do. Not surprisingly, I returned to the values and experiences of my early life. I wanted to create a business that had meaning and purpose, one that felt personal. I wanted a staff that felt like extended family with mutual goals. I wanted to make a difference and have fun.
Starting in 1982, I became obsessed with the new video technology. I was a regular producer for public access television and was one of the first to document the California NOW Conference, early Women’s Music Festivals, the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, the Gay Olympics and so much more. I began to realize the power of images. I discovered what a difference it would have made to little Peetie to see LGBT life. And, I realized the difference I could make if those images were made widely available to the public. I began to bring together a collection of movies and sell them to bookstores. Also, I developed a mailing list and a direct-to-consumer catalog. Most importantly, I began to build a like-minded and talented staff, most notably, my business partner, Maria Lynn.
Hundreds of thousands of videos and DVDs later, our broadcasts can be seen on HBO, Stars, Showtime and LOGO, video on demand on Comcast, iTunes, Dish Network and streaming on Netflix and YouTube, to name a few. Even as cloud-based services emerge, our DVDs are still our most popular form of viewing. Our customers love the simplicity and comfort of owning their favorite movies and knowing they will always be available.
In every way Wolfe Video and Wolfe Releasing have exceeded my expectations. I’m especially grateful for the long-lasting and loyal financial support from our customers. My staff continues to amaze me, and I appreciate them beyond measure. I consider them our community’s precious resource; they continue to carry on the vision that is still so relevant. Likewise, the dedication of our writers, filmmakers, actors, and programmers is essential in presenting our positive LGBT image to the world.
And for all the little Peeties looking to see themselves, we’re here for them.
Kathy Wolfe is the founder and CEO of Wolfe Video and Wolfe Releasing. Learn more at www.wolfevideo.com