Oral History with Keith Robinette

Special Collections at UNC Asheville
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00:02:06 - Childhood

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Partial Transcript: Then when I got into high school it was probably the worst four years of my life. I was teased a lot. I was bullied because I was different. I was a little bit more effeminate. I started hearing more about being called gay and faggot. So all of that stuff started to really hit home with me, even though I still had all of these feelings and still attracted to the boys in the neighborhood. It was at that period that coming from a religious background, I went through phases of really bad depression and just prayed to God to end my life so I didn't have to deal with this because I didn't understand and I didn't want to be scrutinized and made fun of. But I didn't know how to stop it.

Segment Synopsis: Keith describes his childhood in a religious environment, and the homophobic bullying he faced for being effeminate.

Keywords: "faggot"; Childhood; Church; Depression; Family; Growing Up; Parents; Prayer; School

00:07:01 - Married Years

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Partial Transcript: At that point my ex-wife would never accept any of her wrongs. It was all me and it's the fact that I was gay and I was destroying our marriage. So, none of the counselors would continue conversations with me and after three or four they all said, "If you're going to be gay, if you're going to continue this path we're not going to have this conversation." So, I continued on and at that point conversations with my ex-wife is like, "I don't know if I can stay married. How are you going to feel being married to a gay man?" It was just very awkward. Then a couple months after I came out to her, I came out to my family. So everybody knew and then a couple of months later she became pregnant. That started to compound even more of, "Oh, my gosh now I'm married, I'm having children. And then she didn't tell me until a couple of months after, probably the second trimester that she had went to her doctor to get on fertility pills to get pregnant so I wouldn't leave her." That's the reason that we have twins.

Segment Synopsis: Keith describes his marriage to his ex-wife and his process of coming out to her and his family.

Keywords: Children; Coming Out; Divorce; Family; Living Closeted; Marriage

00:15:23 - The Transitional Period

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Partial Transcript: So that started the journey to transition, to start having some acceptance of being gay. I slowly started to develop some friendships with gay men which is something that it was very different. Unfortunately, the guy that I was with and the same guy that I had been with while I was married, we were together after I divorced. The experience that I had with him coming out was not a great experience because he took me to every [inaudible 00:16:17] side of being a gay man. He's the one that showed me about the cruising and the hookups and three ways and that was what I had always thought being gay was all about. It was a sex thing, that if you're gay, especially a gay man it's sex, sex, sex and that's all your life revolves around. And so that was my experience coming out was it's exactly what I thought it was. It's just sex and I never thought that I would ever make friends because I didn't want to sleep with everybody to become their friend. Unfortunately, that's where it was in the beginning. Started abusing alcohol quite a bit. Still continued to burn myself because I still just didn't understand the dynamics of what was going on.

Keith Robinette:

So I mean life started to slowly turn around. I started to find friends who were accepting. I did find a few gay men that supported me. I found a lot of females and even their husbands, they were accepting of my lifestyle. Didn't care. Didn't matter. I was who I was. I was a good father. I was a good friend and it didn't matter to them that I was gay. So, they started to help me with that transition piece of okay.

Segment Synopsis: Keith talks about the struggles he had with the transitional period when he first came out as gay, and how he was eventually able to overcome them.

Keywords: Acceptance; Alcohol; Children; Partner; Seeking gay community

00:23:32 - Acceptance & Family

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Partial Transcript: So her getting married changed a lot and that's why I say my daughters have done so much to transition thoughts. So when my daughter was planning her wedding, of course she's like, "Logan's coming, correct?" I said, "Yes." And I was like, "Well I don't know how your papaw is going to feel about it." So Sierra had a conversation and said, "Logan's coming to the wedding. He's just he's our stepdad. I want him to be there." She told me dad, "You can either accept that or not come and I want you to be there, but Logan is going to be there as well." And that changed my dad's perspective a little bit. I don't really know if he was just trying in the moment just to be supportive of Sierra. But he called the year my daughter got married and asked Logan to come to Easter.

Keith Robinette:

So that's the first time my dad ever had reached out and he actually asked Logan. It wasn't through me. When he was there my dad had conversations with him and as he left he was like, "Logan's really not a bad person. I like him." So I was blown away at that moment. I was like totally unexpected and even said the same thing when Sierra got married because Logan came and he helped and he was serving food. My dad invited him to spend the night because he had to drive back to Knoxville. So that was a total different view of my father who is so Southern Baptist, of being ... and he may not be 100% accepting of it, but he still asks about Logan. "How's Logan doing?" Even to this day. So my daughter helped transition his thought process that Logan's really not a bad person.

Segment Synopsis: Keith speaks about his dads journey of becoming more accepting and the adult lives of his children.

Keywords: Acceptance; Balanced relationship; Conservative; Gay community; Gay couple; Partner

00:33:56 - Building a Strong Community

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Partial Transcript: Tina Madison-White:

Listening to you, almost word for word even you use the word transition and I felt like ... you were talking about your children and the pain I felt with my children. It's so similar and what I find behind all that is that is why we need to have a great variety of stories is I think in that we discover we all share humanity and it's the same struggle for acceptance and a sense of self worth. But anyway, I just had to that was very beautiful. Let me ask a few more pointed questions or specific questions. You mentioned in your intake form that you think one of the most important priorities in the LGBTQ community is to build a stronger sense of community. Could you tell me more what you're thinking?

Keith Robinette:

I think that's what we we were talking about earlier with there's still some different prejudices that are out there. I mean when people are sharing their experiences or whatever. Even life's journey they're taking right now, I still see that we still turn our heads to certain things. We don't accept certain things. I know as we transition and there's the pronouns and all the different things that define who we are, I think that sometimes that can turn switches off. This community already has its built in struggles and whether it's political, religious whatever. Those struggles are there, have been there and unfortunately will probably always be there. But if our community as a whole is not there to rally and empower and to accept this is who you are, we love you exactly the way you are. We're here to strengthen you, empower you, support you, then the community is always going to be fragmented.

Segment Synopsis: Keith discusses some issues that he has had within the gay male and general LGBT community, as well as how to build a stronger one.

Keywords: Community; Community Needs; Gay community; Pride; Unconnected

00:48:40 - Being Gay in Asheville and the Future of the Community

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Segment Synopsis: Keith and Tina discuss their experiences with Asheville and the LGBT+ community here, and how they want the community to progress in the future.

Keywords: Asheville, NC; Community Needs; Gay bar scene; Gay youth; Racism