Rachel Muir: Good afternoon, Kelly. This is Rachel Muir. I'm part of the
Greater Asheville Oral History project, sponsored UNC Asheville, the YMCA of
Western North Carolina, and Blue Ridge Pride. Thank you for joining us today.
It's August 1st. We're at the YMCA here in Asheville, North Carolina where we
both work. Welcome, Kelly.
Kelly: Thank you. I'm glad to be here.
Rachel Muir: I'm glad you're here and appreciate your time.
Rachel Muir: This is your story. And you can start anywhere you want. But let me
tell you a little about the focus of what we're doing here in Western North Carolina.
Rachel Muir: First off, one of our goals was to connect the various communities
that are part of the larger LGBQTQIA+ community here. One of the important
components too is A, allies. So all of those individuals who have been here and
00:01:00particularly people who have lived here for a long time can provide some very
valuable information in helping to develop our history and learn the secret of
why Asheville has become such a progressive, welcoming place to the LGBTQ community.
Kelly: Sure. Yeah.
Rachel Muir: Secondly, we're trying to connect particularly younger people with
people of middle age and elders so that our various journeys can be traced and
we can learn from each other-
Rachel Muir: And how our life has changed over time. So with that, I'll let you
do the talking. And I'll mostly be quiet from here on out.
Rachel Muir: But you can start by saying where you were born.
Kelly: So I was born in Asheville literally, but I'm from Hot Springs. So I've
lived in Western North Carolina my whole life, 47 years. And so Hot Springs,
North Carolina is a very small town in Madison County. The Appalachian Trail
00:02:00goes right through town. So it has an eclectic group of people. You have what we
would back in the day call "hippies" that would walk the Appalachian trail. But
you also certainly had your mountain folk type of population. And you had a few
retired folks. But that was kind of the good thing about living in Hot Springs.
It was a community, very close knit, small again with 500 people.
Kelly: And let's see here. As far as me, I've got an older brother and older
sister. My parents have been together for over 50 years, still live in Hot
Springs, still live in a house that I grew up in. And my parents are well well
known, so I did grow up in a home which kind of did affect who I am as a gay
00:03:00person because my dad was an elementary school principal. And so in a small
county like Madison County with only maybe 16,000 or 17,000 people, a principal
is well known. So that kind of did affect me that in the town of Hot Springs, my
family was well known. And my father and my mother both grew up in Hot Springs.
So Hot Springs is in our blood. The south is in our blood.
Kelly: And as far as whenever people ask about ancestry, my ancestors both on my
mom and my dad's side came back a long long time ago. And I'm just a mixture of
everything Irish, Western European, British, and Scandinavian.
Rachel Muir: Okay. So does your family still reside in this area?
Kelly: They do. My parents, of course they live in Hot Springs. My dad is
currently the mayor of Hot Springs. My mom was in public housing. And so they
are both retired, live in Hot Springs, and same house since 1973. My sister
lives in Greenville, South Carolina. And my brother lives in Fairview, north of Asheville.
Rachel Muir: Okay. Would you talk a little bit about your upbringing and your
experiences as a young person?
Kelly: Yeah. So personality wise, I'm an introvert and rather shy in person. And
people wouldn't think that because I'm kind of outgoing and I'm a group ex
instructor. But that's not my nature. So certainly growing up, I was a rather
shy quiet person. But because I was the son of a principal... And my mom
definitely pushed to be out there. I was a musician. I played the piano growing
00:05:00up. My mom insisted that I play the piano. My mom grew up poor. So therefore,
anything and everything that was available, my mom and dad was going to have us
do. My dad was not per se. But my dad was very athletic and very much into
education. So anything that we wanted to do, piano lessons, sports, we were
greatly encouraged to do it and those type of things. My mom is the youngest of
Rachel Muir: Oh my.
Kelly: So we always would go out to my grandma's house, and out there, and play,
and be around plenty of aunts and uncles. My dad has two sisters that were
older. And they would always come and take us out and do things. So fortunately,
00:06:00and I say fortunately, that I grew up in a very supportive and caring and loving
home. I say fortunately because as a gay person and growing up in Madison
County, rural North Carolina, and going into a highly conservative, and I would
say homophobic high school that I greatly needed that stability and love to
carry me forward.
Kelly: So I mean I can't say my childhood was great because I knew that I was
gay. I don't understand not being gay. Some people will say whenever was 15 or
16 or whenever I was 25, to me, as soon as I can remember if there was an
attractive boy or a man, that's what I was gravitated to. I mean I had a word
00:07:00for it. I never had attraction towards women. Now I would certainly fake because
that was what you were supposed to do. And I would oh... And that was the tough
part because with that despite being in a good family, you learn a lot. You
learn to be deceptive. You learn to lie or just keep quiet. So here you have a
kid who is already shy and kind of guarded and an introvert, and so now he has
heightened his awareness of what people may think or what I might say and those
type of things.
Kelly: I wasn't feminine per se. So I was never... I mean there were a few times
people may say gay boy. I don't think the word faggot was really or queer was...
But all it takes is one or two times to hear it. And then I was the kind of
00:08:00person that, "All right. I'll change."
Rachel Muir: I see.
Kelly: Some people are like, "I'm going to do what I want to do." I was the
conformist. So if I needed to conform, then I would conform to protect myself.
Rachel Muir: How do you think that influenced your interest? And as a young man,
what were your interests when you were say in high school and elementary school?
Kelly: Well so I was always kind of intellectual. I mean I thoroughly enjoyed
opening up the encyclopedia and looking through that, also whether it be foreign
language. But having said that, with interest, there's a fantasy too of another
world, of another place, of another realm, and that type of thing. And I don't
know if I'm... The fella who played Leslie Jordan, I think that's his name,
Beverly Leslie on Will and Grace, he had a one-man show. And he was talking
00:09:00about how when he was a kid, he would write in a diary. And he would be in his
bedroom and write in a diary all of his secrets. And that's kind of the way I
would feel is like is you're in your bedroom. And you're fantasizing about your
secrets. You're talking about your secrets. You have your wants and your wishes.
But I never told anybody until I was 18. So that developed anxiety, tremendous.
I still have anxiety today that's kind of learned throughout the years.
Kelly: So certainly one of the things that I had interest in was psychology and
that type of thing. And yes, I mean I went to a Southern Baptist Church and was
liked and liked the people there. But I knew based on what was being told, not
00:10:00directly to me, but that being gay was wrong based on the Southern Baptist
perspective. And I mean I grew up in this church. I was the organist at this
church when I was in the ninth grade. But you just survive quite frankly. And
Kelly: There is a certain period of time I would say I knew by being gay early
on, you don't tell anybody. And then you do try to change or pray the gay away
because you're stuck. And you don't know what to do. So I would say between
eighth grade, ninth grade, and tenth grade, because that was quite a difficult
transition from elementary school and high school because I went to a very small
elementary school and where everybody knew each other. And there was a
00:11:00community. And then when you go to high school, it became highly more
competitive because I was from a small town. And it was one high school for one
county. And so all of a sudden I'm now the low man on the totem pole. And so not
only was that transition from elementary school to high school, but now there's
expectations of dating. So before, I could kind of put it to the side. But now,
you're now in high school. And there is expectations of how you're supposed to
behave and peer pressure. So that greatly increased my anxiety.
Kelly: At the same time, I had what's called irritable bowel syndrome which is
an intestinal annoyance. It's not painful. It's just an annoyance. And that
started whenever I was 13. And it's just bowel sounds and irritable bowel
syndrome, you know?
Rachel Muir: Yes.
Kelly: And that in turn, my freshman year was probably the shittiest year of my
00:12:00life because of having to deal with that. I can laugh about it now. But that kid
was going through a hard hard time back in the day.
Rachel Muir: Were there influences that first got your attention, either books
or movies or personalities in the time that you look to maybe as a way to
Kelly: Yeah, well the thing about Hot Springs, being on the Appalachian Trail,
and being... We were right beside called the Sunnybank Inn. And that's where a
lot of people that would come on the Appalachian Trail would stay. And that
would attract a wide variety of people. So there were a gay couple that had been
there, but then they moved close by. There was also... When I was a kid, I mowed
lawns. That was my job. So I had 12 different lawns that I would mow. And I
00:13:00would see them and say, "Hey." But I was...
Kelly: And then actually there was a lesbian couple that I mowed their lawn.
They lived in Salisbury. That was there once mother's home. That was kind of
like a retreat. And I would mow their lawn. Now they were two women. But once
you tell one person... You just don't know who to trust. You just don't know. I
mean it's you're aware that they probably are gay. They are probably a couple.
But this is 1980's. And you just once... And my parents didn't know.
Kelly: And I was also in terms of who I was, I also tried to be the perfect
little kid. So I tried to compensate for the internal struggles, and also tried
00:14:00to compensate for possibly letting my family down. So I tried to be perfect. I
never got in trouble. I never had any problems. Good grades, I graduated 10th in
my class. I played the piano. I played the organ at church, mowed lawns. You
never had any problems with me. But there was this tremendous amount of anxiety
and struggle that was in me. So there is that.
Kelly: Now granted, again I went to high school in 1986. AIDS was already a big
issue. I mean they didn't really know everything. So that was you're 14, 15, 16
years old. And AIDS was just kind of being known. And it's being known as gay
people had it. So if you were to say... And I did experiment or play with other
boys. But you'd just be fearful because not only are you fearful of people
00:15:00finding out, you're fearful of possibly getting AIDS. So you're just one big
ball of nerve. And the way I dealt with that was my music, mowing lawns, and my
schoolwork. I had friends, and I was liked. But because I had to keep secrets, I
didn't really want to be around because I couldn't be who I wanted to be.
Rachel Muir: You kept a-
Kelly: I kept a distance.
Rachel Muir: Distance. Okay.
Kelly: Yeah, and probably still today to a certain extent. Yeah.
Rachel Muir: So what institutions as you were growing up and since you've been
here almost your whole life, what kind of institutions have been helpful? What
kind of institutions have been barriers?
Kelly: So when I was about 17, and I was driving, there was a Pride... I don't
think it was a Pride parade. It was more of like a Pride gathering or
00:16:00celebration. So this would've been in 1989, 1988, '89, '90. I can't really
remember. I graduated from high school in 1990. But I remember I think I came to
UNC Asheville or I came somewhere. And I remember... Or maybe I read the paper.
And where there was going to be a gay, lesbian celebration Pride something. And
my parents of course trusted me whenever I want to drive to. If I want to go to
Asheville which I would do even at 17 because I'd go to a dentist or a doctor
whatever. So they end up... So anyway, I told my parents that I was going to go
into Asheville. I didn't say what it was for.
Kelly: So I remember parking nervous and that kind of stuff. And it was behind
what was tracks at the time which was Ashvegas. So you have Ashvegas which is
00:17:00South French Broad Avenue, close to where the federal building is at. And so I
remember there is a bunch of gay people. I didn't know gay people. And they were
playing volleyball. And so I went in. I had my shades on because I didn't want
anybody to recognize me. I remember sitting down. But again, I'm a shy person,
and I didn't talk to anybody. I didn't socialize with anybody. But I thought,
"Well if anything, here's other people that are like me."
Kelly: So I left that. And I remember touring UNC Asheville which is where I got
my undergraduate degree at. And I guess looking around, I probably saw... We had
a newspaper called Community Connections. I don't think that's going on anymore.
But it was Community Connections. And so that was a newspaper. I also remember
the blue banner which was the newspaper, maybe still have. I don't know-
Rachel Muir: They do.
Kelly: They may have changed. And so you would look... Because you were
searching for something, you would search for something. So whether it be a
newspaper or Community Connections or anything, you are always looking for
events. Is there something happening? Is there some way that I can reach out for
somebody or something? And I'm sure whenever I looked into UNC Asheville, I know
they had a gay support group. So I probably saw that in there. I remember... You
know just something that was open minded and oriented because that was never
ever in where I was from. A small town, small community, you don't see anything
gay related. And if you do, it's going to be, "They're going to hell," or
Kelly: So once I saw that, and again my nerves were not great. So I decided to
00:19:00go to UNC Asheville. And then my parents got me an apartment. I think my parents
recognized that I had a nervous issue. But I don't think... I don't know. I
don't think they... I guess I was good at hiding. I was good at hiding.
Rachel Muir: Oh they didn't make any connection between your anxiety-
Rachel Muir: And what might cause it?
Kelly: Well when you're doing well in school, and you're a good kid, and you're
an organist, and you work; you'll go, "He doesn't have any problems." So you
learn to compensate and then compensate. So there was that.
Kelly: And also, what was also another greatly greatly... I don't think they
have it anymore. But it was called Closer. And you had... Closer, it's a
community liaison, I can't remember, support for gay people, but for anybody
00:20:00really. And that would at All Souls' Episcopal Church.
Rachel Muir: Okay. My church.
Kelly: Yeah. And Van and Joan Marshall were the sort of leaders of Closer. And
so you would go there and kind of have a good sense of just, "Here's a place..."
I think another important factor too is it was in a bar. When I got into UNC
Asheville, I did go to of course the gay bar Scandals, Tracks, O'henry's. But
the problem with that is you have alcohol. You have smoking. And then all that
probably leads to sex and those type of things. But UNC Asheville, I mean that's
the reason I went. I mean I was not about to go to a religious institution. I
00:21:00was smart enough not to do that because I was like I just know. So whenever I
graduated and left, my belief of the Baptist Church was like I'm gone, never
Rachel Muir: So Closer, this was a community-based organization. It was All
Souls' particularly? They just hosted it?
Kelly: I think the Episcopal Church in general was open to gay and lesbian folks.
Rachel Muir: Yes.
Kelly: So they were okay with having a support group for gay and lesbian people.
Rachel Muir: You probably met in [Zuperski] Hall or one of the meeting rooms there.
Kelly: Probably so. It had a wooden floor.
Rachel Muir: Yeah.
Kelly: Yeah. Yeah. Yup, that's where we met at.
Rachel Muir: There's still meetings going on there, various kinds.
Rachel Muir: So.
Rachel Muir: Okay. That was one influence. You've mentioned the other
institutions here at... businesses, bars, and restaurants. It doesn't sound like
00:22:00those were of particular interest or-
Kelly: Oh yeah. I mean I would go.
Rachel Muir: Oh you'd go. I see.
Kelly: I would go.
Rachel Muir: Can you describe your experience there or what they were like?
Kelly: Sure. I mean a matter of fact, the first time that I went to a gay bar
was Tracks, and there was a strip show. The thing about it too is I would've
been... I would guess 17 or 18. And you'd get in. You get stuck. And then you'd
go in. And here would be this environment. I don't think I... I think I went by
myself. And of course the way it works is you go around the block a few times.
And you look to check it out and that type of thing. And then finally, you get
the nerve to park and go in. And then you go in.
Kelly: The good thing about that is regardless of who you are, somebody is going
to come and talk to you. And it may not necessarily be for sex. So the good
00:23:00thing is somebody is always going to come and talk to you. So who came and
talked to me? I could not tell you. And of course I was going to have a drink
because... But they're not going to serve because you're not 21. So I would
always get somebody to get me a drink which was never a problem. I wasn't
unattractive. So I didn't have a problem with that.
Kelly: But a couple of things that was kind of interesting. That was the first I
ever saw the drag queen. And the drag queen, her name was Marsha Mallow or
Marsha Mallow, and big big lady. But I thought that's cool. I thought, "Here's a
drag queen. And she got a funky name." I thought, "How great is that?" And then
with the strip show, I mean that was like sort of icing on the cake. So I was
like, "Oh this is what I like. This is what I like to look at. This is what I
00:24:00like to enjoy," and that type of thing. And then I think I stayed until the
lights went up. So who knows what time that would've been, one or two o'clock or
something, and just hang around and socialize. So there was that.
Kelly: And then that was Tracks. O'henry's was downtown. So I think it's kind of
off. But it was downtown close to where Malaprop's Bookstore is at. And I think
it was downstairs. I would go there occasionally. But I want to say O'henry's
was more of a country Westernish type bar. So I wouldn't go there as much. And
then there was Scandals. I think Scandals was around. And then that was more of
a dance bar as well. So those were places.
Kelly: And typically once I've got into UNC Asheville and people knew that I was
gay especially my roommate when I told him, then I would take him along with me
00:25:00or usually you became friends with people. Or you would go to the bar, and then
you would start chatting up with people and that type of thing.
Rachel Muir: Did you have the sense that UNC Asheville was a welcoming place as
a gay person?
Kelly: Oh absolutely. Yeah. So when I first came out, I started in the fall of
1990. And I was a ball of mess. I hit it well. But it was starting to explode.
My anxiety was just... And I had no medication. I had no psychological services.
Rachel Muir: Counseling.
Kelly: Counseling, nothing. I was an exerciser, so that helped some. And I was a
rational person. So I could talk to myself. But I needed some more help. So
Carol Schram, God bless her, I mean she's still alive. But she should be. I mean
that was... But Carol Schram was the therapist. I went to Weizenblatt Health
00:26:00Center, is that it? I think that's what it's called. It's a little small...
because the bottom part was the counseling center, and the upper part was the
health services center.
Rachel Muir: On Merrimon Avenue?
Kelly: No, no, this is on UNCA.
Rachel Muir: Okay.
Rachel Muir: Of course.
Kelly: Yeah. So then you're nervous. But you open up the blue banner. And there
is information. That was 1990. Heaven knows in 2019 it's a totally different way
of getting information. But then, you didn't have the internet or anything like
that. So you had print media. And so I remember you go to counseling. And there
was a gay support group that would meet there. So like anybody else, that
cautiousness, you would walk around. And who's going in? And who's not going in?
The good thing is it was positioned in a way that wasn't obvious so it was kind
of hidden. So if you did go in there, you didn't feel that you were being
googled at or anything.
Kelly: So I remember going in there setting up an appointment. So it could be...
Maggie Weshner, she was the director of therapy. And then Carol Schram was
another therapist that was there. And so I met with her and sat down. And she
was the very first person that I said that I'm gay and probably bright red and nervous.
Kelly: And I remember her, she had a wooden desk. And she would put her finger
like that. And she's like, "Well that's okay. That's okay." And a part of me was
kind of like, "That's okay." That's not in questioning her response because I
was like, "I have held this secret from the beginning of time, five years, six
years, seven years old I mean, and kept it from my family, kept it from
everybody." Friends did not know about it. Nobody knows about it. And then here
I tell Carol Schram. And she's kind of like, "That's okay." And I expected more.
00:28:00Not that I was disappointed. Not that I was disappointed. I mean I was greatly
relieved at her approach that it was not that big of a deal. And that led me to
opening up and coming to the support groups that met once a week. And then that
connected you with other people as well.
Rachel Muir: So that was one aspect of health services that you got to do and
see in Asheville. What about other kinds of health services in the community at
large? Have you found places to get help that you were comfortable with like
finding a physician or-
Kelly: Yeah. I've been with my physician Dr. Baumgarten. He's actually retiring
this year. But I've been with him probably since 1990. So I've been with him for
25, 30 years. So this is the last year with him. And I'm going to be going with
somebody new which is a little disturbing because I really really really like my
doctor. And he was the one that would help prescribe me with medications. I did
00:29:00go to... Let's see. Some therapists, other therapists I went to maybe later in
time. I mean whether it be Dr. Buie, or Dr... I don't know. I didn't... I
majored in psychology which I think was partly maybe to help myself.
Kelly: But as far as other health services... As far as HIV, I probably sort of
was blind to that a little bit. I don't want to say nave. But I chose to not
think about that as much. I can't say that I didn't participate in behavior that
could lead to that. But I wasn't in direct position to be the person to get HIV
00:30:00suppose you know. But anyway... But I mean you could get condoms at the
Weizenblatt Health Center at UNC Asheville. So that was available if you needed that.
Kelly: But no, I don't think there were any other health services that... I mean
psychological services, yeah, and then my doctor, yeah, but I didn't really need
any other because I was fairly healthy. Yeah, I didn't need any other services.
Rachel Muir: Okay. Now you and I are both employees of the YMCA Western North
Carolina. Would you like to talk a little bit about your journey to kind of do a
job at the Y, and how that's been for you as a gay man?
Kelly: Wow. So I cam to Y in many ways because I have kind of a slight midlife
crisis whenever I was 38. And I've gotten a master's in social work. And I
worked in social work from 1999. I got my master's in '98. So from '99 to 2007,
00:31:00I was in whether it be at the health department or some other therapeutic foster
care adoption programs. And in 2007, I got burnt out. I was with the
organization that treated children very much as commodities and not as children
and families. So I did something extremely rare that I've never done. I quit. So
my partner was working. I met my partner in 1992. So we can talk about that later.
Kelly: So then I had work because I'm not a believer in not working. But I
wasn't employed for three months. So then I worked for UPS for five years which
is a homophobic institution.
Rachel Muir: Really?
Kelly: Yeah. Yeah. I wouldn't say UPS as an organization, the people in because
you have a lot of young people that start at UPS. And it's a very masculinish
type of environment with a lot of competition. And even at the age or mid 2000's
when you're 38 years old, you're hearing the word faggot, and not towards me.
But once I heard that, I was again you're mindful of, "What do I say? Who do I
say it too? Who do I trust? And who's ready to undermine me because I'm gay?"
Kelly: So anyway, I did that with beer on the side and kind of figure out, "What
do I need to do?" Well one person said to me, "Kelly, you're too smart to be
delivering boxes." And I was always fit. And I did body building. And I did... I
00:33:00was always moving and going. And so I asked... I already did cycling classes at
a gym. And so I picked up a cycling class here. And then from there, I got my
personal training certification. So it just kind of mushroomed into other things.
Kelly: And then Chris Coffman... In 2012, there were some positions open. And
one was to be a wellness coordinator. Well there were two wellness coordinator
positions. One would be a wellness coordinator here. And then one was to be a
wellness coordinator at BorgWarner Turbo in Asheville which is where I'm still
at. But so I actually applied for the wellness coordinator here because I didn't
know anybody at BorgWarner Turbo. I didn't even corporate wellness. I don't know
that. But Chris Coffman said, "We're going to put you at BorgWarner Turbo
00:34:00because you care." And I kind of thought, "Well okay." But again, I don't know
the people over there. I don't know what this is. So that became full-time. So I
worked from the bottom up, doing classes, working wellness floor, and then
full-time in 2000... I think I started 2010, and then full-time in 2012.
Kelly: And so I do 22 hours a week at BorgWarner Turbo doing corporate wellness.
And then I do... I work with [Lestron] at the Y since 2011 which is a cancer
survivor group. I'm not a cancer survivor, but I do that. And then I also work
with people with Parkinson's, personal training, group exercise, athletic
conditioning, weight loss, all that kind of stuff.
Kelly: As far as the broader Y, it has evolved in my opinion in some ways, good
00:35:00ways from being I guess, "Okay. Here's somebody who's gay. Okay, whatever," to
really embracing it and being more blatant. I'll give very much credit to Tina
Weaver for doing that because I think she was the kind of person that we're in
the South. And in the South, we need to be blunt in terms of we are gay, and
that type of thing. And I remember telling Jill, our supervisor, that as far as
spirituality, when I went back to a church, and I'm searching. And I went to an
Episcopal Church. I went to a Lutheran Church. I went to a synagogue.
Kelly: Finally, I went to a Unitarian Universalist congregation. And in theory,
if you say that you're for gays, well that's just in theory. But if you posted
on the wall, then that is saying this facility, this institution in words, in
letters posted, we mean it. We mean it because as gay people, we're always kind
of like, "Well maybe they are. Maybe they're not." You say one thing, but you
also not think something else. We're used to that. But if it's there concrete...
because I remember telling Jill in terms of Pride month that I said, "Yeah, it
needs to be in print and there because you're going to have gay people walking
in. And when they see that..." Because you have some gay people that whether
00:37:00they're 18 or whether they're 70, you may say that we're accepting. But again,
this little head back here is like, "Well yeah. I've been told that before. And
then once we get into a group, it's a different story."
Kelly: So just like the Unitarian Universalist congregation, when I saw that, I
was like, "Okay. They mean it. It's on the wall. There's no denying it." When I
went to a Lutheran, yes you're welcomed. But there was nothing that said that
you were welcomed.
Rachel Muir: Nothing visible.
Kelly: Nothing visible. And again, well maybe 50% do, 50% don't. I don't want to
play that. Either you are or you're not, not half of half. So here to me... Now
there are certainly people here that aren't. But the institution itself, and I
appreciate that. I appreciate that the institution uphold this, and Paul Vest has been
fantastic in regards to welcoming all of us and also taking a stance towards
00:38:00some... Maybe four or five years ago, some Ys in our organization in more rural
areas were not very welcoming and maybe still aren't as welcoming, certainly as
downtown and how we are, but has publicly stated this Y, "We're not going to do
that. That is wrong," and has said that to us in our staff retreats. And I
remember distinctly about four or five years, one Y in the organization was not
on board and has some members that were being ugly. And he called out, not the
people, but he called the Y and said, "That Y is not going to play that game."
So I really appreciate them-
Rachel Muir: Yeah, standing up as an institution.
Kelly: Yeah, and I told straight people as well whether it be Paul or whether it
be Jill. Me as a gay person, I'm still that person who is kind of shy, that
00:39:00person who doesn't want to draw attention to myself as being gay. It creates
just unnecessary anxiety and that type of thing. So I tell people, "I need you
to do it. I will do what I do that I feel comfortable doing." People know that
I'm gay. But I don't want to shout it out. That's my personality.
Rachel Muir: It's not the first thing that you want to-
Rachel Muir: It's not the most important thing about you.
Kelly: No. No. And I don't want... It reminds me of what life was like when I
was 20 or 15. So that's why I strongly encourage those that please be a voice
for us because I'm living the life. Please don't expect me only because I don't
feel comfortable. Some gay people are totally comfortable with that. Go for it.
00:40:00And I do my own advocacy in different ways. But if you can be an advocate for us
because there's some of us that just don't feel comfortable constantly being put
on the stage.
Rachel Muir: How do you recognize welcoming institutions, churches, businesses?
What are the clues?
Kelly: The clues, so I do a lot of reading. I do a lot of... So certainly if
they've welcomed a gay like, "All right. Well we're celebrating Pride month. And
we're putting up posters. And we're putting up banners," those type of things.
That tells me they're welcoming. There's no question about it. And if it's a
church and they host gay meetings or certainly a gay marriage, then they're
welcoming, that type of thing.
Rachel Muir: Or have gay clergy?
Kelly: Or have gay clergy, yeah. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.
Rachel Muir: We're going to do another session. And there's a couple of things
I'd like to visit. One of them, I certainly want to hear about your personal
life, your relationships. But a quick question if we have time is your
interaction with other elements of the LGBTQ community. Have you gotten to know
people in those different categories if you will and people of color who are
gay, black, Latino? How do and how well do those communities cross over you
think in Asheville?
Kelly: So I am not wholly connected to a lot of gay people, gay groups. I just
don't. I mean I know obviously gay people and friends with gay people. But I
00:42:00guess I have the philosophy of I want to work with people. And if a person is
heterosexual, I mean that's what they are. And that's who I'm working with. So I
don't go out of my way. And I might be kind of unusual in that regards because
for example we went to the gay men's chorus which I've seen the gay men's chorus
maybe two times in my life. It's just not something I do. But I'll go to those
events. And there will be all these gay people and that type of thing. And
that's kind of a rarity for me. I don't search that. I don't feel that I need that.
Kelly: And as far as Latino or black, I kind of go with the social psychology
00:43:00perspective. If you're in my area, if you're in my workplace, if you're in my
grocery store, if you're in my congregation, or if you're in my running group,
and if you happen to be gay; then okay. But I don't go to special events or
anything to seek out gay people. I don't feel like I need that. And I don't feel
like I want that. And at the same time, there's this assumption that, "Well
they're gay. So therefore you should get along with them." No.
Rachel Muir: No.
Kelly: So my friendship and my interaction with people is if you are in my work
and you happen to be gay, then we'll be friends. And that's kind of that. But I don't-
Rachel Muir: It's not a criteria for friends.
Kelly: It's not a criteria for me. Yeah. And maybe because I just never felt
that... Again, I'm not a big group person even though I do group ex classes. And
00:44:00we had a specific... But we were in a big group that it could be a little
overstimulating for me. So I'm not as a general person, I'm not a big group
person anyway because there's too much going on and I don't care for that.
Rachel Muir: Well a question in which I'm not proposing I have an answer for or
that there is an answer. But one of the common threads in interviewing people
and these communities in Western North Carolina, there's somewhat a sense of
isolation. Now that's what prompted the first question about have you had
connections with lesbian, transgender, black, Latino, other communities within
the larger umbrella-
Rachel Muir: And if you have any thoughts about how they might connect in an
organic way as you mentioned, but just so that isolation perhaps can be reduced.
Kelly: I think probably yeah. I mean being a while gay male, I probably can get
away with some things a little easier than those populations because I've
learned to kind of blend in. And again, I'm a white male so people can... But I
would say, for me in that situation, if someone is a black male and I work with
him, then yes, I know then. And I'll be friends and that type of thing if our
Rachel Muir: Sure.
Kelly: But otherwise, we're just coworkers. But I think like the Y or
institutions that do say that they'll allow people who are gay to be open, to be
who they are, then obviously that's going to increase the visibility of other
00:46:00gay people to where that they can come out and be seen, and be known, and be
friends, and that type of thing because there is that isolation. And either you
go to a grouping, a specialized grouping. But that can be difficult because
you've got transportation. You've got maybe barriers to get to that place. And
quite frankly, they may not mesh. So just assuming that this lesbian or
transgender will get along with this, yes there's a commonality. And that's
good. But maybe their personality doesn't mix.
Rachel Muir: That may not be the basis for a relationship.
Kelly: Yeah. Yeah. But when work is more open, I mean just BorgWarner where I do
corporate wellness, you know who is gay and who is not. Now and there are I
would say black and transgender at BorgWarner. And myself and some others have
00:47:00welcomed them in. But they haven't really came in. And there's just... I don't
know if maybe our personality is not the same. And that could be or what we do
because we are... Even though we're under the same umbrella, we're still
different people. And there's different personalities. And there's different
experiences. And there's different cultures. I did not grow up around black
people. So I may not be as, what's the word-
Rachel Muir: Experienced?
Kelly: Experienced, yeah, that's it. Yeah. Yeah. I mean you gravitate to what
00:48:00you're used to. And that's not necessarily a good thing. But yeah, yeah, what
you're used to.
Rachel Muir: Okay. Well you have been generous with your time today. I'm looking
forward to meeting again. I know that you had 45 minutes on your calendar. I
appreciate that. We'll revisit some of the other things. But thank you again and
enjoyed our conversation.
Kelly: Sure. Thank you.
Rachel Muir: Thank yeah, Kelly.
Kelly: Yeah, you're welcome.
Rachel Muir: Okay. That's interesting. We probably share some common history. I
grew up... My dad was a mayor of a small town.
Kelly: Oh yeah.
Rachel Muir: It was 1995, before I came out.
Kelly: It's like when they were going to Atlanta. And I went to the gay bars,
But it was... I'm not a heavy drinker. I'm not... And it was at the Heretic
00:49:00where they wear very very little. And I just don't... There's a part of me
that's kind of like that's not healthy.