All right. So today is March the 22nd?
Today is Sunday, March the 24th and I am here with Michael Todd
Okay. I'd really like to talk about, well tell me about that journal entry that
Oh, so just in, because of our conversation last week I thought, oh well let me
go pull my journal and see. It was on September 9th, 1994. The first thing it
says, "This is my first night in Asheville." And I talked about the excitement
about starting something new. I talked a little bit about the grief of leaving
my chosen family, and I use that word, in Tennessee. I even talked a little bit
00:01:00about conflict with my biological family but there was nothing conflictual
happened. Just kind of like where I was in society verses them verses my family.
There was definitely a continuum between my family in Tennessee, which I very
well connected with on different levels and then my biological family; which is
one of the reasons I moved here, to be close to them, but how I just did not
connect when them on so many levels.
I gave even an example of, and I'm paraphrasing now, but something like, "I
can't understand how they're so concerned about the price of a golf club." Just
coming from different things of what we found important and not important, and
then I had something in there about my mom coming for my birthday which would be
on September 30th which would be a couple weeks, and I didn't really want her to
00:02:00but there was no real reason not to. I wasn't ready for those worlds to come
together yet. Still had some things I needed to settle on. So that was kind of
the gist of it.
How often do you journal?
Sporadic and have not done it in a while.
When I pulled my stuff out I had about six or seven journal books, so ...
This is because I like writing, but what did journaling do for you? Why do you journal?
Got it out. There was a time that I just, I call it visiting these pages, and I
would just sit and, and that comes from some book, The Artist's Way or
something, although I don't consider myself an artist. It was something about,
just sit and free flow write. So I did some of that. There was also a time that
I would draw a tarot card every morning and then journal something about what
that card meant and wove that into kind of what was going on with me at that time.
So in a sense it's almost a sense of, I wouldn't call it a spiritual practice
but it was a time of reflection. Spiritual things often came up for me. I don't
think I could sit here and give you an example, other than to say, you know, I'm
feeling nurtured by the Earth or something like that.
Do you think you'll pick it back up?
Seems like I just hit it sporadically. I don't know. I don't know.
Okay. I would like to talk about the LGBT organizations and events that you
maybe in the early days here in the area were part of or saw when they were
going on, and then now.
Okay. I will get to that question. I will give you a little bit of preface that
really my stuff around LGBT issues and events and stuff happened in Florida.
00:04:00That was kind of-
Where that was?
Where the lesbians brought me up.
So yes, that's-
And we talked about that-
A little bit. ACT UP was one of them, right?
Queer Nation, ACT UP.
And Queer Nation.
And yeah. That's where the rallies would happen once a year, whether it was in
June in October, around Gay Pride month or Coming Out month. That's when I went
to my first March on Washington, well my only March on Washington in '93. But
when I got here, there was a small group of folks that met at the, I think it's
the Episcopalian church down in Biltmore and Village. I probably learned about
that through the news rag that's still going on, Mountain Express. They met once
a week and I went to that every week. It was interesting because it was that
00:05:00whole, it was still that dichotomy of me being kind of more of the Radical Fairy
Paganistic, and here's the more norm gay and lesbian. But I liked them. They
really liked me. I went for a number of years I think.
So that was going on and that was kind of a social thing. I even had some of my
fairy friends come and we did a, not a presentation but a circle. We modeled how
we did things in the fairy world like sitting in a circle and passing a talking
stick and sharing from the heart. And then I actually even brought in some
performance art, and that was very interesting. I remember them being very like,
just amazed and like, wow that was something new and interesting. So that felt
00:06:00good to kind of bring that gift to that little community.
Did they ask for that or did you suggest?
I probably suggested it. I don't think they would've known to ask for it. But I
don't remember the details exactly. I just knew that there was a performance
group coming through, they were staying with me and I'm like, "You want to do a
little piece here?" And then I asked the folks, "Do you want to do it?" And of
course they did.
Actually I think I still have a video tape of a section of that. I don't
remember the name of it.
Oh. I would love to see it.
It was something like, I want to say adopted but what's the opposite? If you
take a child ...
Kidnapped by the Fairies or something like that. Yeah. Anyway it was kind of interesting.
There was a couple other groups. There was this Southern Appalachian gay and
lesbian thing. They actually were in the news because they had done, you know
where a group signs up to take part of cleaning part of the highway? So they had
done that, and their sign, and it made big news because their sign, every time
they would put it up it would be completely taken down within a record amount of
time, like 24 hours it was gone.
Also in the news here was, it was like one of the first, or at least the first
that I ... actually I was not part of this one. It happened before I got here.
It might've been the first gay LGBT, and I don't even think they went by LGBT
all that much back then, rally. There was a picture in one of the, it was called
00:08:00the advocate, the Gay Advocate. I saw this in Florida. It was a picture where it
said, some mountain guy was holding a sign that said, "Faggot go home," but they
misspelled faggot so it kind of made them look like some kind of backwards
hillbilly place that can't even spell the word faggot right.
There had been one and then also in the news was about this, they kept taking
down the signs. They might even have wrote ugly stuff on it as well. But anyway.
So I got loosely involved in that. It was going down as I came in. I was quickly
put on the board of directors as their treasurer, but it was failing. There was
maybe three or four members left and it didn't go anywhere and it was all women.
I think it had just run its course. What else was going on back then?
Yeah what came in then to replace it? What can up next?
I don't know that anything did. I don't know if anything came in to replace it.
I know other things came up. I really then started focusing more on building the
fairy community here. And actually, that was actually going really well. Lot of-
Is that late '90s, mid '90s?
Yeah, I would say '90s. Well a lot of my friends from Tennessee, people that I
knew from Gatherings were coming by and visiting and loving it and moving here.
Janelle Kapour who was a big mover and shaker, still is. Obviously she's not
queer, but she certainly identifies with the queer, I wouldn't say she's not
00:10:00queer she just doesn't really identify as a lesbian. She moved in and she's a
really kind of big global thinker activist person.
Would she be any good for us interview do you think?
Maybe, I don't know. She's so busy I don't think you will ever her.
She really travels all over the world. She does sustainable house building with
mud, teaches cob. She has a Asheville something something right by the ballpark
downtown where she's taken this whole area.
But anyway. She moved in with me, so that was also brought a lot of people. It
was times that I would have 12 people staying with me at my house on any given
night. And I'm working, probably one of the only people working in the group.
But there was a lot of people coming through, so that's where my energies went into.
I kind of really probably lost touch with what was happening in more gaystream,
00:11:00gaystream ... mainstream gay society in Asheville.
I like that.
Yeah, gaystream. So but there was stuff going on. I don't know the names of
organizations but there was some because then we started having regular LGBT
rallies and marches and those got big and organized. I didn't not help organize
them but we were always a pretty big piece of it.
Interestingly enough, the community that really, we connected more with and did
a lot around LGBTQ, and this really kind of brought in the QT piece, was we
linked up with a anarchist community. We really made very interesting
00:12:00bedfellows, literally and figuratively.
There was a strong anarchist community was building up, which now that I think
up fits perfectly with the Radical Fairy community. So the fairies were coming
in that were very anarchist anyway, and they got a house down in Montford which
has since burned down, but then that is where the anarchist and fairy community
really came together. And they started doing these more in your face rallies.
Right after 9/11 happened, I remember, and then right around that same time
there was a lot of the gay marriage stuff going on and hitting the news and
getting really ugly. The anarchists really joined with the fairies. I think
00:13:00that's also when the transgender community around here started to really take off.
So yeah, there was a lot going on. But it was all kind of splintered, but kind
of together, too. Not completely splintered.
You know, I always said this and I'll still say it. It was harder here in many
respects than it was in Florida, and I think it was because Florida, we had to
stick together because it was just us. There wasn't a lot of splintering because
there wasn't that many of us. In Asheville, there were so many amazing people
that we didn't have to all be together. We could be parts of all these different
splintered types, or part of the splinter. And you knew about these other folks
that were going on, but you didn't really, you know, you would interface at
00:14:00rallies or they may show up at your house at a house party or something like
that but we weren't tight.
It was actually harder to be tight with the community in Asheville because there
was so many great little things going on. It wasn't this force to be together
kind of thing.
You didn't have to build momentum for something, right?
Yup. Yeah. And it made it harder too because there was like, all right,
everybody had all their different little things. What were you going to be?
Where were you going to spend your Friday night or your Saturday night or your
Wednesday night or whatever, because there was so many different little things
going on, so.
When communities came together, the anarchist community and the Radical Fairies,
what'd that look like? What kinds of things did you all do together?
Oh. Yeah, yeah. We did a big fall, or we staged a gay marriage downtown. We
00:15:00busted many anti-gay rallies that were happening downtown, and it got tense, it
got ugly. I remember getting shoved and pushed and threatened. Anarchists now,
they fight back. That was a different thing. I wasn't used to fighting back. I'd
get up in your face but not aggressive. The anarchists were more aggressive.
They didn't care.
But I remember we would be at these rallies. They would be up there talking
about anti-homosexual stuff and the demise of the American family, and then some
anarchist boy would grab me and just start French kissing me in the midst just
to piss everybody off. And so there was a lot of that kind of stuff.
I partook, which had some ramifications at work, I partook in a false marriage
00:16:00where I wore this really big wedding dress, it was very gorgeous, a lampshade
that all these plastic flowers on it and I married. I have no idea if this
person was truly ... actually I do have an idea. I think she was biologically
female, but lived in this total gender neutral where you really didn't know
whether this was male or female, and whether they were born male or female or
identified male or female. It was this really-
Fluid, neutral. What was her name? I can't remember. It will come to me at some
point, but so we, in the spur of the moment because, I will just say he for lack
of other pronouns, had on a tuxedo. No, no. No, no, no. That was the one who
00:17:00married us. There was a guy who had on a tuxedo, and I had on a dress, so we
married and, oh what was that queen's name? I cannot remember, the one who
married. But she/he had a huge, huge presence. Everybody probably stopped and
like, all right. What am I looking at?
So that made the newspaper and I was called into the CEO's office the next morning.
And how long had you been at your employer at that point?
I hadn't been at that place very long. But I had a message on my voicemail when
I came in on Monday and morning and said, "Be in my office at eight o'clock,"
which I got there at eight o'clock so I just had to hightail it down there. And
when I walked in there's my supervisor, there's the CEO, there's the CEO's
secretary taking minutes.
The CEO said, "I've called you here because of what was in the paper. This is
00:18:00nothing formal or official but I just have some concerns."
I said, "First of all, you can't tell me this is not formal or official. You've
got my supervisor here. You've got your secretary taking minutes," and there was
a couple other people there. Oh, director of human resources was there. I said,
"This feels very official to me."
Then he said, "Are you aware of what you're doing?" And I said something to the
equivalent of, "I was born an effeminate homosexual in the Bible belt south. I
know everything single fucking thing I do, and I know the consequences of
everything that I do including being here in this office."
So it was tense, but nothing really came of that. Interesting enough, I think
the guy's name is Ralph Phelps, does that ring a bell? He's the big guy who,
very big prominent, shows up at all these churches, shows up at all these
00:19:00soldier's funerals saying that people are dying because they don't eradicate
homosexuals. They would always have these big signs of anal sex going on, and
they would show up at all of these funerals, Matthew Shepherd's funeral, they
The CEO said, "I want to know every time," because I think he realized he
couldn't tell me I couldn't do it, because he was an attorney also. But he said,
"Well I want to know when you're going to do these things. I want to be aware of it."
Well interesting enough, about two weeks later this big group was coming to his
Catholic church to protest them. And so I got to go to his office a couple weeks
later and I brought in some literature. I said, "Here are these folks coming to
your church." And sure enough there was a big article, showed the signs that
00:20:00they brought, things that they did. And they basically were going to church and
condemning Christians for not coming out more strongly against homosexuals.
So, oh he went through the roof, in a positive way toward me. He took it to his
church officials. You know these people are coming, duh, duh, duh. So I think he
got a little taste of like, oh. I kind of see what Michael's doing now. So I
said, "We're going to show up at this. We're going to be there at your church
because these people are coming and we're going to show the other side."
What'd he say to that?
I mean he got on board. He got so enraged that they were coming to his church,
that they had singled out his church to come to.
How did you know that they singled out his church?
Oh, it was publicized.
I think it was even in the Asheville Citizen Times. I mean it was a big deal
when these people came to your community because it would get very ... They had
to have police protection. People wanted to hurt them, and then they wanted to
00:21:00hurt people. It was a very ugly ... It still happens, it still goes on.
If I could think of the name of it you could Google it and it would pop right on up.
Yeah, I'll look-
Phelps is his last name, I just can't remember his church. And they have
children coming out, holding these signs. You know so that's part of their thing
is they show up and bring their kids with them. A lot of hate, a lot of hate.
How did that event go then, when you all showed up at the church?
I didn't go.
I don't know why I didn't go but I did not go, but people did show up to it.
Let's see. So yeah, there were lots of stuff like that that went on in Asheville
on a pretty regular basis. It was almost always something going on, and
sometimes it was, we were bringing in the fun and the joyous and having fun with
it and sometimes it was in counter protest like the KKK thing that we talked
00:22:00about last week, that the gay marriage thing.
But there was some fun things. I remember I organized this event here, it was at
a Gay Pride parade. It was one of our biggest. So we, the fairies, got together
and we did a big ritual and it was called the mud people. And so we got
together, I'd gone to the Odyssey Clay where they do pottery, got two huge 55
gallon trash cans of clay.
Old, used clay, mud. So we got together. We met outside the French Broad Co-op.
There was probably 25 or 30 of us, and we went into a ritual space. We went
around the circle. We may have talked about intentions, and then we started to
cover our bodies in mud. The whole purpose was we were going to be as if we came
00:23:00out of the center of the Earth and saw the world for the very first time.
So we took all our clothes off, we covered ourselves in mud, then we decorated
our private parts and stuff so we wouldn't get arrested, most did. Then we lost
our language, and then went around the circle the second time and we introduced
ourselves with no language. It would just be a sound or a shape. And then we
went into this thing that we'd never seen. We'd never seen cars, we'd never seen
dogs, we'd never seen bicycles. And then we came in on the big gay rally, LGBT
rally in this, and we kept in character the entire time.
So it was interesting. I actually happen to be kind of dating, loosely termed,
00:24:00the guy who's organizing. He's like, "Are the fairies going to be involved?" I'm
like, "Yep we're going to be involved." "Whoa! What are you going to do?" "Not
going to tell you. You're going to find out." So he's a little nervous about it.
They were down at the city county thing and we started at the French Broad Co-op
and we started going up through the town. Of course we're interacting with
people, we're going up to them, we're touching their hair. We are going to
restaurants and looking in and cars we might be afraid of. Dogs, we'd get on all
fours and we'd sniff the dogs and they'd sniff us. I mean it was just fun, was
just doing this whole thing. And then we went all the way from the French Broad
Food Co-op up through town.
Also what was happening, and this is what got us in trouble a bit, is people
were also wiping butt on all the statues around town and stuff. It wasn't
hurting anything but people got upset about it. And then we descended, coming
down, into the gay rally. The guy was on the platform-
And where was it?
It was at City County Plaza.
And he saw us coming, and he knew immediately, "And here come the fairies!" And
sure we did, and of course we made an entrance. But as we came in we came
across, there was all these preaching people at the thing, just condemning. And
so we immediately started going, and mimicking the people who were. But we
weren't using words, we were just using sounds. But we started mimicking
everything that they were doing, and showing the anger and the hate. It was
beautiful. It got the front page of the paper because it was just gorgeous. It
was these people that had dreads, mud, and they were just reflecting back to
these, I'll just use Christians because that's what they were identifying as. We
were reflecting back how they looked, and how ridiculous they were, and how they
were pointing their fingers and the anger in their face.
Then some of us were really like, others were doing everything, we were doing
everything they would do except they would use words and we would use sounds.
And anyway. And then we left them. Of course it got a big, big crowd, but then
we left them and then we rolled on into the parade and we led the parade. I
remember the MC was like, "Let the fairies in the front! Let the fairies in the
front!" So we went to the front and we led the entire parade down the street.
For art, at one point one of us would freeze, and then everybody would freeze
and then we would hold position. We would get in these very, you know like
touching and doing these wild things, and we would freeze until there was a big
long space, and then we would run. It was just fun, so we did fun stuff like
that as well.
What year was that?
I have no clue.
I would say that was probably in the 2000's.
I would guess.
So is secrecy always kind of part of the fairies performance?
No, like, I'm not going to tell you what we're going to do until we do it?
No. I wouldn't say that's part of it.
There was another one that we did in Atlanta. This one was really wild. We built
a big, big dragon. It was probably 40 feet long. And we were actually pushing
it. We had it up on grocery carts so we can push it. There's picture of this as
well, because there's a picture of me removing the barricade, but I'll get to that.
But anyway. There's this big dragon and we, underneath the dragon there were
fairies having trays of psilocybin mushrooms and LSD. So we would run under the
dragon, dose, and then go out and perform. And so, that we didn't tell, so maybe
00:28:00there's a little secrecy. But we were just going to enter the parade when we
So we had gotten together and we were coming in and entering the parade. This
picture of this is actually in one of those RFD magazines. Well there was a
barricade, and so I'm going up and I'm removing the barricade. And this cop
comes up to me and says, "You can't do that!" I looked at him. I said, "We are
fairies. This is how we come into the parade. They expect this of us. They never
know when we're coming or what we're going to do, but this what we're doing."
And he's like, "You can't do that," as I'm doing it. And of course, I'm moving
the thing, someone took the picture, and then we entered the parade. That was a
So maybe there's an element of ... but I don't remember it being a big secret.
But you just said you weren't, earlier you weren't going to tell your not quite
boyfriend person what you all were doing.
Right. There's not a secret to be a secret. If we're quiet around it it's
because we don't want someone to shut it down-
Before we do it. Sometimes if people hear about stuff and there's an effort to
00:29:00shut it down, so.
And who would those people be, that would shut it down?
It could be the gay community. Like, "Oh. We don't want that to happen." It
could be authorities, you know, just like the yeah. There was another time we
did the mud people. It was at Bele Chere.
Do you remember the Bele Chere festivals?
And several people got arrested. When they saw the first mud people, person,
they knew something was going to happen and they cracked down hard. And yeah
there was two or three people arrested. They actually tried to channel us, and I
don't know the right words to use so I'm going to use a derogatory word, but we
could see that were being channeled. They were coming and forcing us in a
certain direction, and we looked down the road and there was a patty wagon down
there. They were taking us all to this wagon to be locked up. And of course then
00:30:00we dispersed and then there was some, and as again coupling with the anarchists,
there was some blows between some of us and the police.
Yeah. They didn't mind fighting. That's not a big thing with us, I don't think,
but they didn't mind it. They would jump into it.
Tell me what the anarchist community was like. Was it ... Was there ...
LGBT people [crosstalk] in there?
Oh yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. I think a lot of times, and the anarchist
people would refuse to identify. They just wouldn't identify, gay, straight, bi,
They were quite fluid.
Yeah. Or if they were they were just like, I'm not accepting any of those labels
kind of thing.
They were a little bit of a rough crowd. Probably one of my best friends here at
00:31:00the time, he, and he was definitely gay, he gravitated more toward the anarchist
community and just became a hard ass anarchist. Started doing tattoos all over
his body. Not that that's a sign of anarchists, but that was definitely typical
of anarchists. He ended up moving into a community living situation in New
Orleans and was actually there when Katrina hit because he ended up back at my house.
Actually he called me last week and I have not called him back. Just wanted to
Yeah, there was just a rougher edge to it. A lot of anger, really kind of in
your face kind of thing. And dirty.
I remember they were always dirty. Like, take a bath!
I would've liked that.
Yeah. Dirty. But they had big, big, big parties and they were a lot of hard
music and ... yeah.
And they did quite a few counter-protest things?
That was kind of their thing.
So how did you all get hooked up?
I think we just came together. We came together really kind of over the gay
How is the fairies looked at among other gay organizations? So you said that
sometimes the fairies could experience some pushback from even the gay community.
And I'm sure that history has changed, right?
And it's fluid, and it's fluid. You know it depends. There are definitely people
who do not understand the fairies, and especially some more of your mainstream
00:33:00gay, lesbian folks will think that the fairies are doing a disservice to the
community and that we're causing more chaos and more questions. Just like the
woman who really questioned me hard, I mean really hard, wouldn't let it go,
about the KKK rally and how dare I show up in a one piece bathing suit with high
"We're trying to be respectable gay people and you show up like a fucking freak!
You're doing just as much damage to us as the KKK people are. Matter of fact,
you're doing more damage to us because you're saying you're one of us but you're
We would get a big of that. I got their point.
As though your way of being de-legitimizes or something.
Right, right, right.
I think there's always been a thread of that through that, even the beginning of
the fairy movement. Yeah.
Has there been, well, can we go back to the Episcopal church? You said that was
kind of a place of real community for you. When did you stop going there?
I probably went for maybe a couple years, and then that was it. I think probably
when my community started building, when more fairies were coming in, so it
might not have even been that long. I think when I felt like I was getting a
community here, then that was not-
Kind of replaced that?
And it might've even kind of faded away.
Can you talk about, let's see. Can we talk a little bit here and in Florida and
00:35:00even in Tennessee about different types of intersectionality within LGBT people,
communities? So people of color for example, and how well do people integrate
and work together and those kinds of things.
Class as well, like social class. You said a few things about social class that
Yes. I think that social class would probably be the easiest one, just because
there isn't really a class thing if you're identifying kind of as fairy, kind of
that hippy-ish kind of thing. So people come from all, I mean there were people
who were living in Tennessee off trust funds.
Never had to work, you know, so that's how they could be there. There were
definitely others who struggle day to day to day. A lot of starving artists. So,
and actually there was never really a lot of tension, now that I'm thinking
about it. There wasn't tensions between that. I think that was just something.
We certainly have folk of color. It's disproportionately white, but not for any
particular reason, and that's actually changing somewhat. As I told you, you
know, the beginning of the fairies were not acceptable to women. It's funny, I
got a copy of the Gazette yesterday in the mail? I think everybody in there was
a woman, so it's definitely, that has really taken a shift.
Now what I don't know is whether that is unique to Short Mountain, or if that is
changing everywhere. My guess is it's changing everywhere, but I would say Short
Mountain elevated that because a lot of the other, I won't say a lot. Some of
the other Gathering places or communities would not allow women. And actually,
00:37:00that just made me think of something else.
Another group that I interfaced with here, the Gay Spirit Movement. And I like
to say these were fairies with jobs, but that kind of originated in Atlanta,
that's where it's hubbed out. But very connected with the fairies from that
spirituality piece. I would say the fairies and the Gay Spirit Movement are very
close and actually probably the Gay Spirit Movement definitely reaches more of,
if you said there was a class it would be they reach more of the white gay men
with jobs. But there is also, in one of the big places where communities in
Bakersville, Running Water was the name of that community. It's no longer there.
00:38:00But many of those people and Short Mountain were connected.
So when I got here there was a little group of the Gay Spirit Vision folks, and
they met regularly up in Mars Hill. I went to their, I went there about three
times. They did things very much like we did, talked in circles and shared and
blah, blah, blah. But they were very hardcore about women were not allowed, and
I remember being there was the last time I went. I spoke out very strongly about
that not being a vision that I shared, and that I actually didn't think that was
helpful. I got where they were coming from, because in Harry Hay's kind of
vision it was more like, let's see what we are like just with us.
But I remember when it was my turn to talk to say that if that group were going
00:39:00to continue to be men only that I didn't feel like I could continue to come, and
so I didn't because they were very strong about it.
But the Radical Fairy people went through that, too. I remember being in a big
circle with Harry Hay, and the other people in the group that he was not
accepting of in the group were bisexuals. Very, very strong opinions of that. I
remember one, it was actually after the March on Washington so that would've
been in '93 that Harry Hay came to the Tennessee. And there was probably 100 in
the circle and going around and talking. Harry spoke out against allowing
bisexuals and whoo, Lord. There was a lot of strong feelings from the bisexuals
as well as non-bisexual people.
So Short Mountain really paved the way of allowing women and bisexuals into
And so bisexuals and women threatened this space of-
Yes. Yes. But I would say it's way the other way now. Like I said, the Gazette
is this little bitty rag publication they send out every six months just at the
head of the Gathering, kind of give a little thing to what's going on. I mean
almost all the people in there were women.
Have your thoughts on that change? Did you have different thoughts on that at
You know, I understood it. I came in on the tail when the stuff was coming.
Here's a big difference between the Gay Spirits and Radical Fairies. We'll go
into what I said.
Gay Spirits? Oh, my God, they can beat a subject to death and intense, intense
about it. So there's always something. The Fairies? We're going to have fun with
it. We're going to make fun of it. We're going to take it to this absolutely
ridiculous, and anything we could do, and so that was like, Gay Spirit very
00:41:00serious, Radical Fairies very not serious.
But, still get a lot done. That's kind of the magic of it, because when you go
into Radical Fairy space and you're like, how does anything get done? Half the
people here are anarchists. There's no rules, except for you can't light a flame
in the barn because we don't want to burn it down. You know it's like, how does
anything get done? But that's kind of the magic of it. Everything happens. Meals
get made. Buildings get built and you have a lot of fun when you're doing it as
So Gay Spirit Vision, I would venture, although I don't know a whole lot about
00:42:00them now, but I would venture to speak that women still do not attend those
Gatherings. But we have a strong women's, folks of color. I would say folks of
color are definitely, definitely in Gay Spirit Vision. Matter of fact I know. I
just went to a thing about, maybe it's, we had a coffee thing. It might be a
year ago now, doesn't seem like it should be that long but yeah, there were
definitely men of color there. But there's definitely some crossover.
Tell me what the process was like then for Short Mountain to start being more
inclusive. You said there was-
Talking. It was really a lot of sharing. You know, there were certainly people
there who, and I'm sure we lost some people due to it. I don't know now. That
00:43:00wasn't anybody in my circles. I think I came from a very pro-women, and so
that's really who I knew. I remember being in circle and talking about it. Never
anyone really hateful. It was more, people were afraid we would lose something.
That if we varied from that, but I would say that was a huge minority, but that
we weren't holding the vision of what we would become.
If you remember, you know Harry was, his whole thing was we are neither male nor
female. We are a third gender, and people were afraid that we would lose what
that mean tot be a third gender. At the same time the AIDS epidemic was
happening, and so gender became more prominent as men wanted to appear very
00:44:00masculine and non-sick. So that's when really you would see a lot of
hyper-masculinity. It's always been there but it took on kind of a new life of
this hyper-masculinity of you wanted to be sure that you didn't look like you
Within the gay community?
Within the gay community.
Did you feel that?
No. I would say the fairies as a whole did not embrace that. Now we would take
that and maybe do something. I mean the fairies wore dresses and make-up and
drag and all that, so no we did not embrace that at all. But I would say that
there were probably other ways that we probably tried to come to the same means
in a different manner. Because masculinity wasn't a huge thing in the fairies
00:45:00anyway, it was totally that we were just the opposite.
Was there a lot of conversation about AIDS and HIV-
During that time?
Education and sharing and-
Yes, and a lot of death.
Did you have rituals around that?
Did we what?
Did you have rituals around that?
Yes. Yes, that still goes on til this day. We have what we call the Dead Fairy
Circle, and it's a place out on one of the ridges, and it's a big circle and it
has all types of artifacts over many years now where every Gathering there would
be a Dead Fairy Circle ritual in which we would all go out there. There would be
some method of getting there, collecting stuff, and then we would get there and
we would recognize the fairies that had died from the last Gathering, add
something to the circle.
I remember one in particular. There was a fairy who'd been there for years and
he has Tourette's. You always knew where Randy was because you could hear,
"Hick! Hick! Hick!" All over everyone went, "Oh Randy's coming!" So when he
died, it was went out there and truthfully did not plan this at all, but we were
sitting there and we were thinking of Randy. I actually didn't do it on purpose
but I just did one of those ticks and then everybody started doing the ticks and
chanting. You know if things were special to a person those would get ... or we
would just talk about it. We would just talk about that we knew names and
elements. But no that was definitely a prominent piece.
We also took big measures so that people who were sick, because it was tough
getting in and out, but we would make sure that they could get in and out. And
then any of the structural spaces? That's where our sick folks-
They would stay in there, so they did not have to camp. The could if they wanted
to, but if they were in the stages where camping was just not cool. So no, we
definitely had. I mean we have to, I guess we didn't have to embrace it, but at
that point I don't think we felt like we had a choice. It was just effecting so
So also, one of the things that's very fairy-ish is morning circle, heart
circle. There's morning circle and then there's heart circle. Morning circle we
would all come together every morning and pass a talisman. That's when people
would talk. Some people would share, some people wouldn't. But then because the
Gatherings got so big, because all the morning circles used to be heart circles,
00:48:00but then it got so big that the circle would really, it would go to three or
four in the afternoon. So then we started kind of breaking off. If you want to
get involved in the heart circle, we'll do that at one o'clock. And then that
would be a smaller, intimate, 20, 25 people maybe. And that's where a lot of
people talked about struggles they were going through or what was happening or
loses or joys and stuff. There would be a lot of sharing. There was a big
support for each other through the heart circles.
Could we go back? You kept a little story about a element of workplace
discrimination. I wonder if you could talk about that. Have you had other
00:49:00instances where you felt like you were targeted at work or asked to do something
in a particular way or ...
Actually it's pretty amazing. I've had very much the opposite experience, which
I was kind of surprised because I worked for the only community mental health
center that was here at the time. I think I told you, I had dreadlocks and I
wore sandals to work. I was ended up in the paper, or in the media a lot. As a
matter of fact they used to tease me that I would track down the newspapers to
try to get in them. But truthfully I would just show up.
Were you always a named person in the newspaper or was it just an image?
I was often a named person and sometimes just an image. So I remember a few
times I'm like, "Oh I'm going to pay for that." And I would go to work and
00:50:00nothing. I mean sometimes I would have clients come up and, "Ooh I saw you on
the news in that dress downtown!" But nothing else would ... and I'm like,
surely. I mean I work with children and adolescents. I'm like, certainly a
parent's going to come in and complain. Never. Never happened.
I remember one where I was definitely in the paper and named, and my age was put
in there. It was right after the 9/11 and I was doing this whole thing about
drag queens, what was it? Drag queens with cameras, Homeland Security, that was
it, Drag Queens for Homeland Security. And I had this little, one of those
millimeter cameras, old ones. Didn't work, but I was going around, and this was
with the anarchists as well and I was acting like we were filming everything and
we were doing Homeland Security. Just way over the top, you know, people eating,
00:51:00filming, blah, blah, blah. And so they took a picture, actually I have a picture
of this in my box that I opened up, and they put a picture of me in the paper
with my name.
I was like, okay let's see what happens here. And so I had a big meeting that
next Monday and it was with several of the people from, lots of school
officials. It was probably 20 people at this meeting. And Jane McDonald, she was
the school person, and she was a hoot herself. So I knew everybody saw this,
because it was the front page of the paper. So I walk into the meeting,
everybody looks, dead silence. Dead silence. And finally Jane said, this is what
she said. Without saying anything else she goes, "The only thing I found really
surprising is that you're 40 years old!" Everybody busted out. So it was like
everybody was holding this and nobody knew what to do or what to say, and then
00:52:00everybody completely busted up when she said that, and then nothing else was
said and we went on with the meeting.
Truthfully I never had any issues until I went to A Light of Hope which is where
Mark Upright was the CEO who called me in. But that was a Christian born
organization and they also had to rely a lot on fundraising and do a lot of
churches and a lot of private donors. Community health wasn't like that, so.
So in a sense, I've always been very, it was always, there were many times I was
nervous that something was going to happen and nothing.
In Florida what happened ... I was in the paper a few times in Florida around
the ACT UP stuff. I don't remember that being, no I worked for the state, so
00:53:00that was not an issue. What became an issue in Florida, and this is when I
started kind of getting my activist wings. I started putting in my office
posters of, and I may still have them in my attic, but I remember one in
particular it was two women kissing, two men kissing, and then a black man and a
white woman kissing, and it said, "Kissing doesn't kill. Government indifference
does." And then I had the ACT UP posters. I remember I had a poster of, it was
all these famous people through history that weren't necessarily straight, and
it said, "Unfortunately," or something like, "History didn't get the," or
something, "didn't get the history straight." It was all these stuff.
And I had these up in my office. And I remember some colleagues going to the
heads and wanting me to take them down and making a big issue of it, but I was
00:54:00not forced to take them down. The response to them was, "If it bothers you don't
look in his office."
So I've never really had nothing bit. Now it's interesting, the A Light
experience made me nervous and I had not probably been involved in the same way.
But I think at the same time I also was getting older. It's kind of interesting.
The more you kind of acquire and get, the more you kind of protect that. So it's
like, I would probably be much more careful not to be too far out there right
now, as public. You know, just because of what you, like how you experienced,
your little ordeal. Not that I have a lot, but I have a lot more that I want to
protect. And I'm older. Retirement's not going to be that far for me.
I don't want to risk getting fired, so I'm probably much more cautious now than
00:55:00I ever was, and I don't do as much so I don't really have to be cautious. I'm
just not ...
I want you to talk a little bit about your HIV work in Florida.
You said you kind of came as an activist all at the same time. What were you
Yeah, so how that came about was when I first hit the mountain, as I said, and I
was like, my life's going to change. When I came back from the Gathering, this
is one of the serendipitous type of things. When I came back from the Gathering
there was something on my answering machine about working for Tampa AIDS Network.
And I had just lost my partner. So I was like, "Oh! This is meant to be. Here is
someone wanting to inquire about me working for Tampa AIDS Network," so I went
down, interviewed. They offered the job, it was going to be open in the
00:56:00satellite office in Polk County, Florida. They hired me, I quit the state and
started that. And we were, gosh. The very beginning we were working out of the
trunks of our cars.
I was going to say, what was your day to day like?
It was locating people who had been identified. There was what was called the
Medicaid waiver, and it was basically they were saying, if we could keep people
who were dying of AIDS out of nursing homes and provide services in their home
it would be a lot cheaper for the state. So it was called a Medicaid waiver.
we were working with gay white men who were sick and trying to keep them out of
the hospitals, which the hospitals did not want them. I remember going into
hospitals and this was back in the day when nurses were afraid of AIDS patients.
00:57:00There were hospitals not wanting people with AIDS in their building, so they
were very in some sense welcoming to see us because we were going to try to get
them out of the hospitals.
The whole dentist thing happened, where that poor girl contracted AIDS from her
dentist, so it was a lot of stuff going on. But yeah, we built up this little
service arena for people with AIDS.
I remember I got one of the most sickening things I ever saw. We were tracking
down some migrant workers, and I found one and he was in this little shell of a,
00:58:00you couldn't call it an apartment. It barely would qualify as a room. But he was
in the bed, and I at first just noticed the smell. Oh, my God, it was horrible.
And he spoke maybe no English or very, very little English. Maybe he was Haitian
or something. But what stood out to me was I remember when I went to go talk
with him, he was obviously very sick. His lips were all chapped over, but then I
could see open wounds and there were maggots in his wounds. And I remember I had
to go get a nurse and we had to go ... I don't think he lived much longer at all.
That was probably the most profound. But we were definitely going into some
profound situations, trying to get people with care. Number one there was a lot
00:59:00of shame. This guy certainly was, I mean who knows what really went on in his
life, but he would certainly identify as straight. He was straight and black, a
migrant worker. He didn't want anybody to know he had AIDS so he didn't get
care, and he was found in the room.
So there was a lot of that that went on. The gay folk, men, came together well.
I mean they definitely, they came together to support each other. The lesbian
community was fucking amazing on how they supported the gay men. The hardest
people to work with were the so called straight people with AIDS and the drug
users with AIDS. They got it bad. Or they were straight men who slept with other
men, and of course that was very hush hush and secret. But now the secret was
01:00:00coming out because if you weren't a known drug addict, how do you have this
disease? And so that wall was falling down, and those were the hardest. Those
were very difficult situations because families were finding out. They would go
to such lengths to not disclose.
And there was a lot of sadness. I remember a lot of really young, young people
who were dying and they were bitter. I got it, I understood, completely
understood. These were kids that were 22 years old that were no bigger around
than my pinky and sick. A lot of them were being taken in by other gay men, just
as a place to come in and die. But there were some people who had nowhere to go,
so John Wall and I opened up ... I actually became the president because of my
01:01:00employment with Tampa AIDS Network, Polk AIDS Support Services, PASS was pretty
much a gay man run support organization. I started working with them because I
was a paid employee, and we opened up a housing shelter. Actually it started
upstairs in my house. Quickly moved it from my house when there was people using
IV drugs in my house. I was like, "All right. We got to get this out of my
house." So we actually rented the house across the street from me and that was
the first AIDS shelter.
I actually then wrote a grant to the city of Lakeland, because they were going
to do this road build and so they were imminent domain. They were buying all
01:02:00these houses where it was going to expand this highway, but it wasn't going to
start for another ten years. So I wrote a grant that if they would give us
several of these elements that we could impact people on the street with AIDS,
and they gave it to us. And so we did that. And so then that was down the road
from me. We had one house and we had one, two, three, four duplexes. Two, four,
six, eight, nine places, and then my friend John Wall and I, we ran that.
So these were houses that were slotted for imminent domain, and so they were
sitting vacant or?
They were sitting vacant. The other thing that got it was they started becoming
crack houses. Crack was really big then and they started becoming crack houses.
So I made the case that we could get people with AIDS off the street, we could
01:03:00also make use of these houses so that they weren't being used as crack houses if
they would give them to us to use. We didn't own them.
They just, they were empty.
So what kinds of things did you do for people?
We'd give them housing. Get them medical care. We worked with the local health
department. Food, we made sure that there was food. Kept their pantries full.
Example here would be Mana Food Bank, I forget what it was called down in
Lakeland, Florida but it was a big food bank.
And Loving Food, which is where I work on [inaudible 01:03:48].
As a matter of fact, when I came to town that's where I went to get my
healthcare was where Loving Food is. It's in that church up on ... Yeah, that's
where I got my healthcare.
I was going to ask if you knew them, if you'd ever been there.
Yep. Yep. That was the first place I went.
So that type of stuff. I don't think we provided any legal stuff.
So you mentioned a lot of the discrimination that HIV patients experienced; job
seeking, medical care, that kind of stuff.
Did you, while you were part of this Tampa project, did you all have a list of
people that were better to go to or not in terms of-
There was only a few doctors that would even provide care, so yes there was a
very small list. They were the infectious disease. A couple hospitals had a
couple infectious disease doctors that would see.
But my husband who died, he had to go to Tampa to get treatment. There was no
one in Lakeland. There were some people, he couldn't get in with them they were
so full. So it was very tight. But part of it, too. He might've been able to get
in with someone but this other guy, Mead, I won't say his name anyway but he was
01:05:00known to be progressive in treating people with AIDS. So we would actually
travel an hour each way just for him to go see his doctor. Ended up that he was
a quack, he wasn't even a real doctor.
We didn't even find this out until later. He would also fly to Puerto Rico and
see people down there because there was no one Puerto Rico who was seeing, well
there was some but not enough. So some of these wealthy people would be flying
down to Puerto Rico to provide care, so he became a little bit of a legend. And
then it found out that he wasn't even a real doctor. He actually had a complete
fake license. But he treated a lot of people.
Yeah. I don't know what happened ... and he actually ended up leaving the
country and never coming back. I won't say never, I don't know what happened to
him. But yeah, because he saw most of the people that were in my circles because
01:06:00they were the gay white men who were going to get treatment.
I've listened to these oral histories that are in California and it's a lot. I
think I mentioned this to you, maybe it's another point. But it's interviews
with the nursing staff and doctors who would treat HIV patients.
Just, what was the treatment process like even in the early days?
We were a tight group because there wasn't a whole lot of us, and it was I knew
them all at Tampa AIDS and at work. But it was a tight group. Thinking back on
it now it was like, it was a good group of folk and we just had to be there for
each other. I don't remember the stories but I'm sure there are plenty where we
would come upon a situation and get on the phone like, let's make this happen.
Figure it out.
Let's figure it out. I do remember trying to get people out of the hospital
pretty quickly. I think that got better as time went on of course, but we would
really work hard to try to get people out. But that was also a time when people
were getting pneumonia left and right so there had to be hospitalizations. I
remember people coming together to be with them around the clock to make sure
that they were taken care of and that ugly signs weren't put on their doors, or
that food wasn't left in the hallway in the door. I remember being-
Because dietary would not want to take it in.
Exactly. Yeah. So I remember being in tense situations where we really had to
push the envelope for things to happen, but yet also not burn your bridge so
that you're not allowed in the hospital. There were times that that happened as well.
I guess legally I guess you don't have to. Yeah.
Oh that was another big thing. There was a lot of times where partners, as soon
as their partner went in the hospital the family would cut the partner off. That
was hard. And we would fight on that.
I can't remember legal people being involved, but sitting here now I can't
imagine how they weren't involved.
Yeah. Those were the-
So how many years were you with the Tampa AIDS Project?
Three, four, five, something like that. I don't know.
Will you remind me what your husband's name was?
I don't think I got that last time.
Alvin Austin. No, I think I told you.
He was a real cowboy. What I mean by that is, he knew everything about a cow
01:09:00that you needed to know. We could drive out in the country and he'd be like,
"Now that's a Holstein and that's used for this and that and another. And that's
a this and it's used for this and that and another and this and this and that
and duh, duh, duh, duh." Yeah he grew up in Oklahoma on a ranch. Oh, my God
there was some country people. I'll tell you about the time we went out to visit
True story. We're going to Oklahoma to meet his folk, and we're going to meet
his dad. His dad and mom hadn't been married for many years, and his dad was
married to a Cherokee woman whom he affectionately called her squaw. That's what
he called her, squaw. So we drove up to his dad's place. He lived in a mobile
01:10:00home way out in the middle of a cow pasture with nothing else around. As we
drive up, his dad comes around on a horse and he says, "Son, we got 40 loose
heads out in the East pasture. Does that boy of yours know how to ride a horse?"
And I said, "Yeah I can ride a horse." "Saddle up! We're going to go bring those
cows in!" And that's what we did, and that's how I met his dad.
So they were pretty accepting.
Yeah. I think at that point Alvin was sick, they knew he was sick, they knew he
was dying and so they were trying. It didn't last. Alvin, I think he stayed
alive about two years once we were together. And his mom was a nurse, so that's
kind of how it unfolded, but he got pretty bad and then he started really having
01:11:00dementia type of side effects. I would come home from work and I couldn't find
him, and then I would find him down the street at a grocery store talking to people.
Is that pretty typical?
Yeah. I remember he was, this was also when the first Desert Storm War went on?
Bobby Lee Bush, I remember him talking about Bobby Lee Bush who was the
president, which was President Bush but not a Bobby Lee Bush.
And he would have all these delusions. I don't remember what they were now, but
it was getting scary. He was disappearing, and I just couldn't take it. I
remember coming home, he'd be covered in vomit and shit. I'd already worked all
day in health and human services and come home. Then he would disappear. And his
mom wanted him to come back, and so I finally, she and I talked and I said,
01:12:00"Yes. You can come and get him. I need a break." And I knew she could take care
of him, and so she did. She came and got him.
Bless her heart, her car got stolen the first night she got, I forgot about that
until it just came out of my mouth.
But her and his sister, they came and got him and they took him back to
Oklahoma. I saw him one more time. He went into ICU up in Oklahoma and I went
out there, and he came out of ICU barely but he came out. And that's when I
first had the hunch things were going to be different.
If you remember we were involved in the Metropolitan Community Church and our
pastor, Kay Casey ... Alvin had met with Kay and Kay actually, Kay and I and
another woman from the church went out to Oklahoma and we went out there to
visit him. Alvin was very clear, very clear. He was like, "I do not want you to
01:13:00give me a funeral like you give other people. I'm not gay. My sins and forgiven
and blah, blah, blah." He goes, "I want it stated why I died, what it was, and I
want Kay to do the funeral because I know Kay will do it that way. She won't
cover things up."
So he did die in Oklahoma. I remember I was washing collard greens when I got
the call from Kay. And of course the plan was when he died we would all go out
there, and as soon as he died, they did let Kay know. What they told her was,
"You're not welcome to come out here. We're going to do our own thing and you
all cannot come," so we never went. So he did not get the funeral he wanted. He
got one of those regular, I was a good Christian boy. No speak of anything, so.
Did you all do a [crosstalk]
No, he was not a part of the fairies. I did not find the fairies until after he died.
He we had a big ceremony in Lakeland. I remember when Kay called me and she
said, "Alvin's dead, and we are not allowed. We are not welcome." She goes, "But
we will do something here," and we did. And we had a ceremony. She said, "We
will do it here the way he wanted it," and we did. But that's not what he
wanted. He wanted his home community. He wanted to not be ashamed, and he wanted
to ... yeah.
But you know, I look at that, that's on his family-
Because they knew very clear.
They were very, very clear. I don't hold anything about that. That's by gones,
by gones, by gones.
Oh, go for it.
Okay. The last kind of I don't know. I'm interested in any other stories you
want to tell, but I have this last question of, thinking about how the LGBT
movement now verses in your experience before ... I'm trying to think about how
to frame this. What do you think are some of the issues effecting LGBT
communities now that are distinct or different from things that were effecting
you when you were coming out and coming up?
It really feels like an entirely different world now. There is so much more
01:16:00acceptance. There's other issues that come up, and I don't even know that I can
put my finger on them but it's so much more visible now. Through media, through
stories, I mean it's almost, and I'm not like this but it's almost like, oh my
God are they going to put a gay character into every show? Is it going to be
every episode that is everything?
And actually I'm glad that it is and that was so behind the shadows.
Yes. And then you know, you were very risque if you were going out. And of
course I saw every gay movie made because they just weren't that ... there were
actually quite a bit, but-
I was going to say, is there one that stands out to you?
Torch Song Trilogy, I think, was one of the first ones I saw. My Beautiful
Laundrette was another one of the first ones I saw. Yeah because we would all
get together and, oh my God there's this gay movie out. Let's all get together
and watch it! And now it's like you can't watch anything without it being a
subtext of it.
So it feels just so incredibly different. I would probably say that I'm kind of
out of touch with what the gay community is now. And there's kind of a sense of
that that's kind of nice because we don't have to, there's so much support. And
not that things don't happen. I mean even the fact that I see so many more
transgendered and gay, lesbian folks in the hospital even on the adolescent
unit. My practice is primarily on the adolescent unit. It's just that there are
01:18:00new issues coming up, but they're issues that we've probably always dealt with
but it's just out, like bullying.
Bullying is such a topic now that people understand and address. As I told you
last week, I was bullied horribly but I didn't want anybody to know I was
bullied in my family because there wouldn't have been support. Now there really
Things that we grapple with now at the hospital, we wouldn't have grappled with
20 years ago, and one is preferred name. We have a psychiatrist that we had to
go around with because there were adolescents coming in that wanted to be called
another name by another gender. The psychiatrist was like, "No," and then you
know they came up with some stupid reason because of medication administration
01:19:00we could work past that.
And we did. Really quickly that doctor who, I've worked with this doctor ever
since I've been in the community who would've had the last word totally did not
have the last word. Didn't even hard two words into it, shut down so fast and
supported by senior like, "Oh no. That's ridiculous. We will accommodate these
people and call them by the name they prefer." He'd be like, "But they're
adolescents. They can't-" "No. Shut up." They didn't really say that but it was
kind of like, "Shut up. We're not even going to entertain that."
We might've had those battles even ten years ago, but that battle would've went
on for months, and now it's not even a battle. It's like, no. So it's just so different.
I know we talked a little bit about this before. Before I would've thought, okay
here comes the big battle between the Christians and the non-Christians, but
it's not even that anymore. The Christians are on board with it. They're like,
"Oh no. Yeah no there's LGBTQ people and we're going to start ..." Now of course
we get individuals-
Obviously. I mean we still get parents who are like, "I can't deal with this. No
I'm not going to allow my kid to be called by a different name." But then we
have parents on the other extreme as well. "All right I know my kid's 14 and
they're transgender. How do I support that? How far do I go in allowing? Do we
start pharmaceutical interventions with that or do we wait until my kid's older
and they're not 14 and conflicted about everything?" So we're getting those
types of questions now.
Do you think healthcare professionals are getting more education about-
That kind of stuff, too?
And school and ... [crosstalk]
I don't know about school system now, but I would guess so. It's definitely
happening in the hospital system. Last year we had a transgender person come and
they were there for the whole day just talking to different groups about how to
support that, what the language is, how to incorporate that into policy, how to
put signage around that people feel safe. You know, little things that I would
never look for but somebody ... If I walk into a place and I see a little
rainbow flag sticker? I know I'm safe.
Yeah. So there's just little, I mean they came to talk to senior leadership of
the hospital and then all the way down to the nurses who provide bedside care.
So yes, there's a lot. There are learning modules that we have to do every year
01:22:00at the hospital that address diversity and what diversity looks like.
Do you feel like it's just Missions doing a good job or do you think this is national?
No I think it's all over the place. Actually when the whole thing came up with
the pronouns and stuff, I did some research to see what the Joint Commission who
regulates hospitals ... oh my, very strong language. There's just no bones about
it. You will do this or we will shut you down kind of thing. It's not even
recommendations, it's requirements.
Yeah so things that people are dealing with now ... actually that's even dated.
Some of the things that could probably come up, and actually I can't speak to
01:23:00this very educationally so I'll just bring it up but I won't go into it. I
remember, I don't know if you saw the documentary Southern Comfort? It was about
a transgendered female to male who got ovarian cancer but was male and couldn't
get treatment because doctors wouldn't treat because that's a man. Men don't
have ovarian cancer, not going to treat that, and he died from ovarian cancer.
So I think those are the kind of things that, over the last decade we've been
dealing with. Okay it's here, how do we roll with that?
Or we have a patient that comes to see us pretty regularly who identifies as a
male but wants to have a baby. It was interesting. I actually had a nurse, an
01:24:00older nurse who was an engineer in a previous career, he had a hard time because
we would be in team meeting and we would bring up this patient and we all would
refer to their pronoun of choice, he. This nurse would say, "she". Every time he
would say she, everybody would correct him including the provider, the doctor.
"You need to use this," and finally he got really angry and he pulled me aside
because one of my staff really jumped on him really hard and said, "We are tired
of correcting you. You need to get it right and stop doing this," and it
embarrassed him so he came to me to say.
He's like, "I'm a nurse and I was an engineer. Why is this important? The
patient's not in the room, why does it matter?" And I was like, "Because you
don't know who else in the room is transgender or has transgendered folks, and
it's a thing of respect. You need to respect that and you need to honor it. I
know it goes against your thing as a nurse because it's everything," a lot of
01:25:00nurses are black and white. It was just, things aren't being tolerated like they
would have been, and things are being challenged as they should be, or in my
perspective how they should be.
Do you think that the gay movement is really dealing with what you were talking
about when you first came to Asheville, right? That it was a little more
difficult to see the community because there were so many different
organizations kind of competing as opposed to, we all had to stick together
because there was just us.
Do you feel like with young people now, LGBT folks coming up now and out, I
don't know, the momentum or a movement seems like, what are they rallying behind?
You don't need a movement. You're accepted, so yes. I-
What do you think about that?
Yeah, yeah. I think there's other issues that we need to rally around, like
01:26:00climate change and immigration and poverty. I think there are a lot of other
causes that we can come together. I do, and this is where I hold onto some of
the Harry Hay's stuff, from kind of a spiritual aspect. I really, and maybe it's
just because I want to hold onto this, but I believe that we're gay for a reason
and there is a calling to it. And the calling is, and that'll lead me to another
struggle that I went through, but we don't necessarily have children.
We don't necessarily have that responsibility put on us, so we have more time
01:27:00and energy and resources to be the healers that I think we can be called to be.
And I think that's why you see such a disproportionate people, LGBT in the human
services and healthcare. It's probably why hospitals are so far along than some, maybe.
But I think that that's the step I would like to see go. All right, we don't
need to fight to be alive any more.
We don't need to fight to be visible any more. Now what do we need to come
together to fight for? There's a lot of stuff out there.
Yes. When I said it would lead me to a struggle, that was another little
struggle I went when gay people started to marry. And I married twice, but it's
01:28:00... I didn't want to marry Alvin but the truth is Alvin was dying and he wanted
to be married. His Christian values pushed him in that direction and I wanted to
honor that. But I was already moving into the point of that place of, no I don't
think we should marry. I don't think we should. I think we need to not marry so
that we have this time to do these other things. We don't need to marry.
I've moved off of that obviously. That, yeah, okay. Marry if you want to.
Actually I think I've kind of gone into a wider thing as like, people in general
don't need to feel like they need to get married. It doesn't have to be a
marriage thing. We don't have to have children and-
It's an institution, right?
In fact, right.
Regulated by the government and-
Exactly. So I don't think that-
Now I sound like an anarchist.
Yeah. But I feel that for men and women, that it's like I probably, if I had a
wagon to be on now it would be that. I don't need to be coupled. I don't have to
be in a relationship to feel like I have a purpose. And that's a big step. Way
back when we met last week I was telling you, all I wanted to do was be married
and have a little house and duh, duh, duh. Duh, duh, duh. Being married was
important because that meant I was important. I was valued, it was worth while.
Now I'm like, if I'm never in a relationship again I'm fine. I don't need it.
Is one of those big, you could call it maybe a cultural myth that we're taught
to believe, right? People who are married are more stable and happier and just
all of these things that come along with that.
That was something that actually you said that there's many of these, what I
heard when you were talking about something previously was other cultural myths
one of those was, we'll grow out of it, right? We can't be doing things ... We
can't give young people hormones for example because they're going to grow out
of this desire at some point and whatever.
What kind of other cultural myths about being gay do you think aren't that
relevant any more, or that are still relevant? I mean there's certainly still
parts of the population that believe in anti-gay camp, right? Like, if I sent my
kid off that they'll fix them and those things, right?
Are there any other cultural myths that we're combating?
I'm sure there are.
Anything else you want to tell me about?
Yeah nothing's coming to mind. Myths.
I keep coming to something about sexuality but I can't find the words to ... I
mean I do think some of the problems that we are experiencing now, but it's not
unique to LGBT. How to meet people, the whole internet thing. How to be in
community. I think those are things that all of society is struggling with right
01:33:0001:32:00now, not specific to LGBT.
But I'm sure there are things that are unique and I'm just not thinking of it.
Gender seems to be the biggest kind of thing that's on the thing now is the
gender fluidity and identifying it. It's come leaps and bounds but I think
there's still leaps and bounds that will go with gender expression. Yeah.
Just this week at the hospital, I go to a place Loretta's and have lunch
sometimes and there's this guy here who-
Is it the sandwich place?
I love that place.
It is good. He works there and, so it's, I've seen him and ... He's got long
hair on one side, completely short on the other side. And then he was at the
hospital and I stopped him and said, "Hey. Hey. You're on my stomping grounds,"
and he was there because his partner was having some procedure done. But he very
clearly, male, huge guy. He had a dress on and you know, part of his hair was
all fancy, the other side was shaved and he had a dress on, and tights. It's
just like, yeah. It's like, I wouldn't have a clue of how he identifies.
So there's still, my old brain I'm like, "How do I ..." so I avoid. Like, all
right I'm not ... make sure when I'm talking to-
Them that I, yeah. So it's interesting. That's the new, I think, challenges is ...
And I do-
And I don't know how far it'll go.
It's kind of interesting for me. I'm like, how far will it go when-
Well, what do you think about that?
I don't know. It's not new to me.
I've always been around it, but it's definitely ... there's definitely language
now that I didn't know when we had the transgender person come and speak he put
all these graphs up and I'm like, my God. I feel like I knew this stuff and I
don't know anything he's talking about, all these terms and what this means and
that means. So anyway.
In terms of gender or sexuality?
Both. Both. I can't even recall what they are now, but ...
Is that enough for today?
I don't know that I have anything right else on top. Oh, did you know Holly Boswell?
Did we talk about that?
Well let's talk about Holly Boswell if you ...
Yeah. How do you know Holly?
We just know that Holly passed away pretty recently and was-
I did not know that.
Yeah. And so that they were kind of like a powerhouse here, and so we're just
trying to memorialize.
The way I met Holly is Holly came to that group that met at the Episcopal church
to talk about transgender-
Way, way, way back. Then Holly sold books, so I was also, knew each other. She
sold educational books to educational systems.
About trans identity?
No. No, that was just how she made her living.
Probably sold psychology books to UNCA and-
You know, that kind of stuff. But yeah I knew Holly for, yeah, for probably 20
something years now.
Tell me a story.
Well I remember her coming talk to the Episcopalian youth, it wasn't necessarily
01:36:00youth group but it seemed like more young people. Saw Holly at many rallies and
marches. I remember Holly, somebody asked her, did she still have her penis and
she did. They asked, "How do you deal with that?" And she was like, "It's like a
little puppy. It's like my little puppy. It's there and it's cute but it's not
who I am. It's just there." For some reason that stuck out in my mind.
Yeah I think it's only been a couple years ago since I've seen her, so.
Yeah I think it was in the last year, and I'm not really sure. I don't know
Yeah, she's been around in this community for a long time. The other big
powerhouse is Zeke. And it's interesting because I knew Zeke when Zeke was
01:37:00female down in ACT UP, in Florida. I remember there was some people found that
out, and they wanted me to tell them, "what name does he go by?" And of course I
know but I would never ... because they asked Zeke, "Well what was your former
name?" And he said, "That's not important. I don't want to talk about that." And
so they knew I knew him so they came and asked me and I was like, "Well he's not
going to tell you, I'm not going to tell you."
Why would that have been important?
I don't know. I don't remember why that was important. But I just saw him last
week. I think he's adopted, I don't know his partner, they've adopted some kids,
or they're at least providing foster care for some kids.
Do you know Zeke?
Would he be somebody to interview?
He's a powerhouse around here, especially in transition. He's a Greek last name.
Zeke duh, duh, duh, duh. I could probably find that if I Googled him.
Yeah, yeah. Definitely Greek. If you meet him you'll know he's Greek right away.
Big black beard, black hair.
What other interactions did you have with Holly? [crosstalk] and stuff like that?
Purely social. We were not tight, not close. I couldn't tell you where Holly lived.
Yeah. We would always know each other when we saw each other and ...
All right. Well, I think that-
Let's end it.
That has value.