Partial Transcript: I had a big desire, when I was teenager, to try to get out of the area, partially just because of that typical teenage desire to just, you know, fly the coup and go experience something new. Truly, partially also because teenage life growing up as a queer youth in the area was kind of hard, and so I had a desire to try to go someplace that I felt like would accept me a little more. But then, when it came time to start applying for colleges and looking at the realism of where I could go, and where I could afford to go, versus where I wanted to go, I humorously enough ended up landing here at UNCA
Segment Synopsis: Dan begins his oral history by describing himself as an Asheville native, having been born and attended college in the area.
Keywords: Charleston, SC; College; Early childhood; University of North Carolina Asheville; Weaverville, NC
Partial Transcript: This would've been Fall semester of sophomore year, I was doing a musical, it was my first musical that I ever did, My Fair Lady, and I would have to spend afternoons at the school because my dad would have to work late shifts at work, we were a one-car
family, he would have to take the car to work, so if I were to leave school and then try to come back in the evening for rehearsals, it was difficult to try to find a ride from somebody. So I often would just stay late, and would just stay after school. And there was one particular peer in school who had caught on that I was staying at the school in the afternoons, and there was usually a period of time between about four and five where teachers had left for the day, janitorial [00:05:00] staff had wound down and left for the day, and there really weren't a lot of adults left in the school.
Dan Coleman: And so, it made it very easy to be able to kind of single me out in the area, and they would do everything from just kind of hang out nearby and sort of say all kinds of derisive things to outwardly ... Like chasing me around the building. I was fortunate enough that one of the teachers that I had there, who was himself an openly gay man, he often would stay at school until fairly late in the day, and so once I ... He caught on one day when he found me pretty much just tucked into a
mess [00:06:00] because I was scared. I was frightened, and I didn't know what to do, I didn't necessarily feel like I could trust just any faculty member to go to them and be like, "Listen, I'm being targeted and bullied because of this."
Segment Synopsis: Dan discusses his high school experiences and living as an out gay person in Weaverville, NC.
Keywords: Bullying; Coming out; Education; Gay; High School; Intimidation; LGBTQ Denial; LGBTQ Role Model; Musical; Queer youth; Self-love; Teacher; Trust
Partial Transcript: So you know, I really tried to start researching, reaching out, finding places in the community, I got involved with PFLAG, and PFLAG was a great resource for me as a teenager. Not just for being able to find a community of people that I could feel safe and comfortable around, and that I could talk about my real issues with and know that they would be heard, but it also started to
provide me with resources that I could use to start approaching adults in my life that I felt like I needed to try to help understand. My dad, in particular, was probably one of the biggest. You know, when I came out at 13, my mom I think struggled with it a
little, but I think she always knew. She had that kind of maternal instinct of when your five-year-old boy never really wants to go and play in the dirt and play ball with all the guy friends in the neighborhood, but instead is choosing to play with Barbie dolls and dress up with all the girl friends in the neighborhood you probably kind of know something's up. But I think my dad really struggled with it with me being the only child, the only son that he had, it was a huge cognitive dissonance for him, I think, because he always imagined that I would grow up, get married, start a family, carry on the family name. You know, all those things that you want for your son because that's what culture, up until this moment, has told you is the natural progression.
Segment Synopsis: Dan talks about seeking acceptance from his parents and stepping into his LGBTQ identity. He attempts to organize a Gay Student Alliance in North Buncombe High School, but the proposal is met with silence with the administration.
Keywords: Coming Out; Gay Student Alliance; High School; LGBTQ Organizing; LGBTQ Role Model; PFLAG; acceptance; cognitive dissonance; father; mother
Partial Transcript: And that's one of the things I love so much about the drag culture, is that through all of the literal blood, sweat, and tears that go into the production of a drag show, I feel like there's so much transformation, and growth, and ability to get in touch with oneself that happens through all of that. I enjoy the experience, but I never really found it to quite click for me. I don't
know if part of that is just because my genetic makeup makes it a little difficult for drag, I have a lot of hair removal I got to do in order to pull off good drag. But I also think that, while I definitely have a very feminine element to myself, one thing that I kind of came to realize, especially later on in life, is that I am still very much in my male identity. Drag is cool, and it's fun, and I know
for many people who eventually come to understand a different part of their gender identity, drag can be a really great way to transition into that. But that wasn't me.
Dan Coleman: And so for me, it was like, I can love, and appreciate, and watch people do this
from a distance, but it is way too much work. Especially [00:31:00] for me. For
me to really want to take it on in any kind of serious way. It's also really
expensive. My heart goes out to all those lovely drag queens out there who are
doing great drag on a budget, because good drag is not cheap at all.
Patrick Bahls: Yeah.
Dan Coleman: And that was something that, you know, I did not do very well with because I
didn't have a lot of money, so trying to ... I [00:31:30] remember, I think it was
Halloween, I did a drag costume one Halloween and for every bit as obviously
bad as my drag was in my freshman theater show, it was just as bad, if not
worse in my costume. And that was kind of where I was like, "You know? Not
everything's for you, and this is probably just one of those things."
Segment Synopsis: Dan describes theater as his safe haven in high school and discusses his first drag experience.
Keywords: Drag; Drag Culture; Gender Performance; High School; LGBTQ Allies; LGBTQ Role Model; Male identity; Outsider; Peer Acceptance; Peer Group; Queer; Safe haven; Self-Actualization; Theater
Segment Synopsis: Dan describes coming to UNC Asheville as a "breath of fresh air" for LGBTQ inclusion, and he briefly states some of his involvement in community LGBTQ organizations.
Keywords: Acceptance; Blue Ridge Pride; Building Community; College; Gay Student Alliance; LGBTQ Community; LGBTQ Inclusion; Math major; Teaching Major; UNC Asheville
Partial Transcript: And it did kind of feel like that at certain times. It's interesting to me that still to this day, even myself and other queer friends of mine ... I have one really good friend who lives in Marshall, and she says, "You can see it slowly evolving. If you go into the downtown space, and you look at some of these areas, you see it starting to try to breakthrough, but there is still very much that
pervasive Southern sort of Christian conservative influence culture where ..."It kind of feels there now, like what it did in Asheville then. Where it's like, yes it's okay if you want to go be gay go do it over there. That's your space to go be gay, here we're not going to do that. We're not going to talk about that. We're just going to be normal here. At least, I feel like, within the immediate Asheville area that it has evolved past that. You know, I don't ever go anywhere within the immediate Asheville area and ever feel like I have to curb myself like I have to try to do anything different. I remember as a teenager I would very specifically have a certain voice that I would try to use, and I'd try to drop my pitch down and be less emotive, because I've listened to recordings of myself before and when I'm just being authentically me it's like, "Oh, yeah. That dude's totally gay." I'm not hiding anything. But I remember specifically having that persona that I would try to put on when I felt like, "Oh, this is not a safe space, I need to cover up." I don't ever really feel that in this immediate area. Now, travel 30, 40 miles in any
cardinal direction from here, it's a different situation.
Keywords: Asheville, NC; Assimilation; Backlash; Evolving Inclusion; Fear; Leicester, NC; Rural LGBTQ; Rural Life; Weaverville, NC
Partial Transcript: I'm like, "Listen, dad, this can happen one of two ways. We can either put our differences aside and we can love and respect each other as family, and we can work to rebuild and forge a new chapter in this relationship. Or you can continue to not accept me for who I am, and I can walk out that door and never come back. I was like, "I know that I'm just going to be 20 minutes away
at UNCA, but you know as well as I do, I don't ever have to come back home. I will get all my needs met right here. The choice is yours." And I think when he realized that and was met with that reality, that there was the possibility that his son would walk out and never see him again, that he needed to make a change. So he, at that point, really started to try to listen, to understand, for the very first time. Where everything up until that point, I feel like had just kind of been met with eyes closed, fingers in the ears, "I
don't want to see it, I don't want to hear it, I don't want to talk about it. I know that this is a part of you, but I just want to ignore it."
Segment Synopsis: Dan explains his father's process of coming to accept him as a gay man.
Keywords: AIDS; Coming Out; Courage; Family Acceptance; Family Estrangement; Fear; Homophobia; Leaving for college; Self Acceptance
Partial Transcript: Whereas, in a public school environment, you're accountable to students, staff, and members of the community. And so, I think a lot of times, that can probably create barriers that would make it more challenging. I don't think that I would have any less of a mission as a public school teacher to fill that role, but I could absolutely see where I would encounter greater obstacles to being
able to fulfill that role. You know, because all it takes is one parent, one family, one outcry, one call to WLOS, and now there is inordinate pressure upon the administration to deal with the situation. And I think in many cases, even where an administrator may in their heart want to be supportive, might find themselves backed into a corner where they're best way to diffuse the situation is to try to just sweep everything under the rug. Just make it all go away, and let's return to normal. For the short period of time that I got to serve as an administrator at our small school ... Now granted, orders of magnitude much much smaller, I
could definitely, from my experience, see where there would be that desire. You know, when things erupt, you just need to put out the fire. You need to try to establish normalcy, and routine, and get everything running smoothly again. And so, it would totally make sense that in some cases, however misinformed, and ultimately, more damaging it has the capacity to be, you may be tempted to just try to wave your hands and make it all go away. As opposed to what might be the right thing, which might be to take a stand, have a voice, be prepared to catch that fire. But as much as I can, from my armchair thought experiment here say, "Oh, well this is what I would want to do." If I were that person, in that situation, under that pressure, can I say with certainty
that it's what I would do? No.
Segment Synopsis: Dan assesses key differences between Private and Public school settings. He is a teacher, and describes how schools seem different now toward LGBTQ identity than during his youth.
Keywords: Conservative; LGBTQ community; LGBTQ inclusion; LGBTQ teachers; Private School; Public School; backlash
Partial Transcript: But I would love to see that be a more active process, where there can be community organization that is putting itself out there to make it known, we are creating a community space for queer youth where you can come be yourself without fear of judgment, find people to connect with, find resources to connect with, to be able to be there to support queer youth that may be struggling with homelessness because they are being kicked out of the house because there's just too much divide in the family for it to be safe for them. Because I was fortunate enough, that I had enough love, and support, and care in my immediate community, through my family, through my friends, that I overcame those challenges.
Patrick Bahls: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dan Coleman: But I know, both through just my own observation, and through conversations I've had with others, that I'm lucky in that regard, and that for every one of me out there in the community, there are dozens more who it's 100% the opposite. They are being thrown out on the street, left with nothing, decisions for survival.
Segment Synopsis: Dan names needs the LGBTQ community should consider as it evolves to a stronger and more inclusive group.
Keywords: Community Building; Decolonize; Gender Evolution; Gender NonConforming; LGBTQ Inclusion; LGBTQ Unity; PFLAG; Queer Youth; Transgender