“Lisa and Joanna’s” Testimony With Franklin Veaux
The first-person testimony of “Lisa and Joanna,” as interviewed by Louisa Leontiades. Read Louisa’s notes and supporting analysis here.
Joanna: I think the biggest, honestly the biggest takeaway when Lisa was writing everything out last night was just how many chances there were for our story to go very, very awry. And. We were going back through old emails and trying to figure out exactly what the timeline was for the various times that we connected with Franklin.
Lisa: Joanna and I were both raised very conservative, fundamentalist Christian, and we met each other at Christian university, in the South of the United States. So we were not in a very welcoming environment. We were very much straight when we went to college. We met each other. And while still believing we were both straight, we were like, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you! You’re an amazing person, and you complete me. And I guess we’ll just have to be best friends forever!”
Joanna: It took about a year and a half I think to slowly come to terms with things but at the time of the road trip we had been in a relationship for a month and a half.
Lisa: Yes, officially we had accepted the fact that we were no longer straight, and that we had the hots for each other. It was right before our senior year of college. We could not be out at our university. They would kick us out for being together. So our road trip was also like a, “Hey we’re together and we’re not at school anymore. And––”
Lisa: We went to Seattle and Portland and San Francisco and got to kind of have a taste of what non-secrecy was like.
Lisa: So when we made it to Portland we were very glad for a place to stay. I don’t really remember first impressions of Franklin––you definitely remember him wanting to take us out.
Joanna: Yeah, I remember having that awkward, like, “I’m turning someone down. And they’re not giving up.” Yeah, just that like, I don’t know, like, what you hear now of women in bars, just being like, “Oh no I’ve got a boyfriend!” Even though they don’t. Of just that like, “No I have to come up with a reason why I don’t want to go. ‘No’ isn’t enough.”
Lisa:And I remember, Vera and, she had a roommate—Maeve?
Joanna: No, it wasn’t Maeve. It was a name like that, though. Do you remember her?
Joanna: Anyway, we thought they were cool and we just wanted to stay in and hang out, because we’d been…
Lisa: Driving and sleeping in the car.
Joanna: Yeah, we were in need of some chill time. But yeah, at some point, at some point I guess he gave up on the bar thing, but we played, like, some Tic Tac Toe shots game, or something like that.
Lisa: Oh yeah. Did he give us alcohol?
Joanna: I’m sure.
Joanna: We were technically underage, not that it was our first experience with alcohol. But we were both 20. And then, I slept on some sort of like, sleeping pallet.
Lisa: I was going to say, I think we were on, like, an air mattress or very much a makeshift kind of bed.
Joanna: At some point apparently he showed you pictures of Amy. I wasn’t around for that.
Joanna: My impressions coming away were, Franklin’s a good person to know, and…
Lisa: …he’s got lots of connections.
Joanna: Definitely keep this relationship. And Vera just seemed like, the sweetest. She had to go to work before we left, and she packed us a big brown paper bag with sandwiches and wrote a sweet note on it.
Lisa: Bottled water.
Joanna: Yeah. It was very, very sweet.
Joanna: And then, yeah, we just realized that we saw both of them at Dragon Con in Atlanta in September. Don’t really have distinct memories of that, because we were mostly there to visit other friends,
Lisa: to visit “the connection”, Tim, who you were dating at the time—what, who knew Amy, who knew Franklin? Is that how the line went?
Lisa: Because Joanna was dating someone who was big in the Orlando poly scene, who was involved with it. And that’s what Franklin had been hugely involved with before up and moving to Portland. Um, so yeah I don’t really remember much about Dragon Con, except that, there was a tweet from that, and I think that’s where #petlesbians started.
Lisa: When I was looking at his journal earlier—because I didn’t realize that we’d gone to Dragon Con in September of ‘09. But his LiveJournal—he posted all of his tweets from that event, and it wasn’t tagged #petlesbians, but there was one that was, “Having #petlesbians is even more fun than having pet kittens. Plus no litter box.”
Joanna: We apparently went to Frolicon the next April, April of ‘10.
Lisa: But I don’t think we stayed the night that time-
Lisa: When we went in 2011, we swung through our old college town to see people, and then went down to Atlanta for Frolicon, so we had to stay.
Lisa: And that was, that was when it was like, “Oh, here’s this bed and I’m in it. And it’s kind of the only option.”
Joanna: It definitely wasn’t really presented in that way.
Lisa: No. But, he and Sylvia had that room. And either there were two beds, and she was in the other one with someone else, or there was only one bed, and she was somewhere else. We both have vague memories of another woman being around, but Sylvia was coming to visit quite a few different friends, so. I’m sure that was one of them. But that was where—
Joanna: That was the time that I distinctly remember having a sense of…this man who is not much younger than my father definitely would be interested in more from me than I’m ever willing to give. It’s like, this isn’t just a cutesy “pet lesbian” thing. And I don’t think I had any thoughts past that, just like a—oh. OK. Being a little alert if necessary, and be OK with saying no.
Lisa: I remember—he was doing one of his like, I don’t know, like it wasn’t “have an orgasm in an MRI machine,” because he wasn’t running around with an MRI machine. But remember, there was some sort of sciency thing that he tried to get us to do, and we were like, “No. No, it’s not happening in front of you.” So I think in that way, it kind of helped us that we were coming out of this sheltered stage, because everything in the poly and kinky world was so new that we were taking it rather slowly. And so, it was like “No, we’re not comfortable with that.”
Joanna: And also just this confusion, of like, “Well, what is OK?”
Joanna: And just those really blurry lines of, like, “well am I uncomfortable with this because I am a prude? Or am I uncomfortable with this because it’s actually wrong?”
Lisa: Yeah. Yeah, I do actually remember that.
And something about that night—I remember that I couldn’t sleep. And part of it was probably because I was in the middle, and I cannot sleep.
Joanna: I was asking her about this last night. I was like, “Why couldn’t you sleep in the middle? And she was like, “Because I hate sleeping in the middle.” But I was like, “No that’s not what I was like.” I know you don’t like sleeping in the middle, but, because I remember, I fell asleep pretty fast, which is actually kind of unusual for me in the sense that I keep an eye out on Lisa.
But I remember I was so exhausted that I fell asleep, and as soon as she woke me up, I knew—like I was like, “We’re leaving the bed.” And so she woke me up and was just like “I’m not comfortable,” and I was like, “Let’s, let’s leave.” So obviously we didn’t leave the hotel, but we left the bed and slept in chairs together. And there was nothing that happened. It wasn’t anything like, there was no like, touching, or anything like that. It was just a sense of—it—I couldn’t relax fully, and therefore I wasn’t going to sleep.
Louisa: So you didn’t feel safe.
Louisa: Or there was an unease, an unease.
Lisa: Unease is a good way to put it.
Joanna: And she and I, Lisa and I have very—we, we rely on our intuition a lot. And, yeah, it just, something wasn’t right. So definitely, definitely a sense of unease there. And it’s really interesting looking back.
Lisa: Especially as my connection to this whole story now is Vanessa, who is with Rhaoul, and I’ve been talking, just kind of processing some of this with Vanessa, and she was like, “And why didn’t the old guy sleep in the chairs and give you the bed?” And it was like, “That’s a really good point!” Like, looking at that now, that’s absolutely what should have happened. But it was never even brought up. It was just like, “Oh yeah, we’re just going to pile in the bed.” And then the two of us ended up pushing two arm chairs together and then sleeping in them somehow. But I wouldn’t say that even like—tampered with our relationship with him. It was just like, “OK, so.” But I don’t think we actually—oh we didn’t see him after that when he and…
Yeah. Let me think. So, the next time we saw him, he was driving a friend from Portland cross-country to start a grad program in Boston, if I remember correctly. She wasn’t much older than we were. He asked if they could crash at our place for a night. Which they did.
Joanna: And they stayed in our guest room.
Lisa: Yeah. And that was, okay, let me think—we lived in that house…oh, I can do this, September of 2010 to December of 2011. So it was sometime in 2011, I would imagine. And that, I believe, is the last time we actually saw him.
Lisa: Okay I have to pause for a personal tangent. Joanna and I have been in a closed triad for six years with, actually my childhood sweetheart. It’s romantic and adorable, and we’re all very happy. But I say that because we three got together in 2013, early 2013.
And at some point after that, Franklin asked the three of us if we would film the questions for the promo videos. So we did that. And then since then, I really feel like it had just been oh, kind of Christmas card, maybe occasional texting.
And then we had inklings that he and Vera weren’t together anymore, and that he was moving to Canada to be with Lily. And then we started sending Christmas cards just to Vera. And then all of a sudden he was getting married to Amy, and we were invited to that, and we were like, “No, your life’s just weird.” It was also in Portland.
Yeah, I mean, we weren’t going to go for a variety of reasons. And I think that’s the last actual contact that we’ve had. And looking back, I wouldn’t have necessarily said, like, “Oh yeah, that night at Frolicon. Man, I knew something was up.” But it’s interesting reading the article on Medium, the piece, and just how—how easily I can believe it, almost, how much it’s like, yeah. Yeah, that all makes sense. So I guess that kind of comes back to that intuition and something wasn’t right from the get-go.
Joanna: And now it’s like, after reading everything that I did last night, you know it was like, “Oh that makes sense.” And it was like, “Oh, I can just you know, help, help provide more information.” I was like, “I don’t really feel like I have much to share.” And then as I started writing it out, it was just like—oh. Oh wow. Like—yeah, we did experience something. And then just looking back on it, you know as, as someone 10 years older, and just having that feeling of like, I think we were being preyed upon. And it’s like, yeah, it’s like we—we just circumvented it and carried on. But just knowing that there was intent there…I guess is unsettling.
Lisa: We were such good girls that all of our stories really are completely mild, but attending Frolicon, or rather being snuck into the hotel, not attending the conference, was probably one of the stranger things we did at that time.
Joanna: And I think it’s only because we were together, and we’ve always looked out for each other so much. Yeah. If it had been just one of us, I think it would have gone very differently. We were, we were discussing that last night, of just how, how we really have just looked out for each other without even really, you know, it just, it comes so naturally, I wouldn’t have said 10 years ago, “Oh, I’m protecting you.” But it really does—we put each other’s needs first.
Lisa: Right. Where you’re willing to push down unease that you might have—if I express the slightest bit, you’re moving Heaven and Earth to get me out of it, and vice versa.
Joanna: I know, and then just the cover of polyamory, and the cover of, you know, “I am an enlightened thinker.” And just, you know, my first thought was like, “Oh, well, you know, he—he couldn’t have been, you know, courting us, because he invited us to his wedding!” It’s like no, like,
Lisa: It doesn’t matter if you’re poly!
Joanna: It doesn’t matter if you’re poly. Anything goes. Nothing is off limits, even though technically it is, and everything should be based in consent but just—that idea that no person is off limits to someone with a sense of entitlement, I guess.
Lisa: It was when we were reading the post on Medium and it mentioned the number of long-distance relationships. And that really just, that rang a bell for me, because I remember Joanna and I having a conversation years ago about just like, why does, like how did how on earth does Franklin have like eleven sweeties?
Joanna: And they all live—they all live far away from him! And it was it was just kind of like oh, that’s interesting. That’s an interesting observation, but then reading that, pointed out was like ahhh…
Lisa: … there’s a reason. Which…well even Amy was in Orlando, but they weren’t living together, right? When he was in Orlando? I don’t know. Well you met… not when you met him, but when you were down there. Or Amber.
Everything I remember is always him saying “sweetie.” And I remember at the time thinking like, “that’s cute”; I hadn’t heard that term for someone. But it also still sounded kind of weird when he talked about his, like, eleven sweeties.
Joanna: Like, I felt so special that he was showing me pictures, and that he wanted me to model for him. And I felt so special—
Lisa: And we had a special nickname—
Joanna: —and we had a nickname that was just for us.
Louisa: You know it’s uh, it’s, it’s, I mean it is a nickname, but it’s also fairly objectifying.
Joanna: You know that never—that never occurred to us. You know, I had that realization last night, honestly how objectifying it could be, especially, you know, we’ve done so much growth in the past 10 years in terms of, you know, what does feminism mean, and what does, you know, how do you be an inclusive person? And, yeah, just realizing with new eyes how objectifying it—it is, and what I kept coming back to and all of these interactions with Franklin was just like, “oh I felt so special.”
Lisa: And yeah, looking back, that’s classic— Yeah. Abuse or classic— Wooing. Yeah.
Louisa: There is a concept called “love bombing.”
Louisa: But you know I can’t, I’m not a, I’m not a psychologist. And I can’t draw these conclusions. I can only lay it out, as it were.
Lisa: And see the patterns.
Louisa: There are so many patterns.
Lisa: That’s what infuriates me. Because I am still friends with him on Facebook, and so I went and looked and saw the post from a few days ago. “Crazy ex had the journalist sleuthing around, something like that. And looking at the twenty-five comments in support, one of which was even, “What do you want us to say if we get contacted?” And just realizing that I still know some of those names, of people who are very clearly not planning on taking any of these allegations seriously.
Lisa: Yeah. And it’s just—it’s infuriating.