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00:00:05 - Introduction 00:01:42 - Childhood in Hot Springs, NC

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Partial Transcript: 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 goes 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.

Segment Synopsis: Kelly provides overview of his upbringing in Hot Springs, NC, as the child of an elementary school principal. His parents still live in Hot Springs, in the same house since 1973. He explains that he had a supportive home and family, and he always knew he was gay but "would conform to protect" himself. Not until Kelly went away to college at UNC Asheville did he tell the first person he was gay.

Keywords: Appalachian Trail; Childhood; Gay Youth; Hot Springs, NC; Introvert; Mountain living; Parents; Rural life

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: 35.892729, -82.829225
00:05:36 - Coming Out as Gay

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Partial Transcript: 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 for 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. 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 person that, "All right. I'll change."

Keywords: Childhood; Coming Out; Conforming; Faking it; Family; Feminine; Gay; Living Closeted; Peer pressure; UNC Asheville

00:08:19 - Living a closeted life

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Partial Transcript: 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 community. 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

Keywords: Beverly Leslie; Church; Conforming; Internal conflict; Living closeted; Perfectionism; Religion; Will and Grace; anxiety; mental health

00:12:18 - LGBT Community and Role Models in Youth

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Partial Transcript: 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 would see them and say, "Hey." But I was...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.

Segment Synopsis: Kelly recalls closet culture of LGBT people during his childhood and discusses his lawn mowing business and how it put him in touch with LGBT community.

Keywords: Appalachian Trail; Closet culture; Gay Couple; Sunnybank Inn

00:14:23 - Aids Crisis in High School; First Pride Event

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Partial Transcript: 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 celebration. 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. 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 South 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."

Keywords: Aids; Coming out; HIV; High school; Pride; Secrets; South French Broad Avenue

00:17:31 - Going to College and Searching for LGBT Community

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Partial Transcript: 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 something negative. So once I saw that, and again my nerves were not great. So I decided to go 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.

Segment Synopsis: Kelly discusses his search for LGBT community when he started college (publications, events, groups, etc.).

Keywords: Abomination; Anxiety; Blue Banner; C.L.O.S.E.R.; College; Community Connections; Hiding; LGBT Publications; UNC Asheville

00:19:44 - LGBT Organizations in Asheville: C.L.O.S.E.R. and Avoiding the Gay Bar Scene

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Partial Transcript: 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 was 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 coming back.

Keywords: Alcohol; All Soul's Episcopal Church; Baptist; C.L.O.S.E.R.; O.Henry's; gay bar scene; smoking

00:22:00 - Gay Bar Scene in Asheville, NC

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Partial Transcript: 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. 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 thing 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.

Keywords: Drag; MarshaMallow; beauty standards; closeted life; first bar experience; gay bar scene; sex; strip show; talking

00:25:07 - Mental Health Therapy and Coming Out

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Partial Transcript: 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.

Keywords: Blue Banner; Carol Schram; Maggie Weshner; Mental health; coming out; doctors; living closeted; psychology; therapy

00:29:22 - HIV Blindness and Health Service Experiences

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Partial Transcript: As far as HIV, I probably sort of was blind to that a little bit. I don't want to say naïve. 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 suppose 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.

Keywords: condoms; health services; hiv; psychological services

00:30:29 - Social Work Background and Leaving that Field

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Partial Transcript: Wow. So I came 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, I 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.

Keywords: "faggot"; Homophobia; Masculine environment; Midlife crisis; Partner; Social Work; UPS; YMCA; competition; cycling; living closeted; trust

00:35:28 - Spiritual Journey and Welcoming Institutions

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Segment Synopsis: Kelly discusses visible markers that churches do to signal LGBT inclusion.

Keywords: Acceptance; Church; Unitarian Universalist; Welcoming; pride

00:41:34 - Assessing Diversity in Asheville's LGBT Community

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Partial Transcript: 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 guess 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. And as far as Latino or black, I kind of go with the social psychology perspective. 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.

Segment Synopsis: Kelly discusses his means for meeting LGBT friends.

Keywords: Black; Diversity; Gay Cohesion; Gay Community; Latino; Race; Seeking Gay Community; Social Psychology; gay men's chorus