Partial Transcript: C: Today is February 19th, 2019. So just to start, How long have you lived in Western North Carolina?
M: So I came to North Carolina to Asheville in 1992, my friend Patricia Adell who was born and raised here, went to school with me at Belmont Abbey College down near Charlotte. And she contacted me, we stayed in contact -obviously- from college days. I graduated from Belmont Abbey in 1988. And she asked me to come build a garden with her and to paint the house that she had just purchased, so I
came and I never left.
C: So what things have you seen that changed here? In positive ways?
M: Well, there have been lots of changes, some positive, some negative, right? Or some questionable. Back then, I think the population was around 68 or 69 thousand people in the Asheville area, so when you look at the population now in Asheville over 80-85 thousand people, there's been an influx of people, that was just Asheville proper as I recall. And the county itself I think now is somewhere around 250 thousand people, I think there are 800 thousand people or so estimated in what we call the Western North Carolina region. So there's been a lot of growth, with people coming from different places.
Keywords: 1990s; Asheville, NC; Gay Bar Scene; Grove Arcade; Scandals, Asheville, NC
Partial Transcript: M: So, I don't have particular hopes of Asheville or the community, I guess what I always hope is that we can find a way to reduce stigma and discrimination, to realize that we really are just all sharing this space and place called earth for a very short time, that we have more similarities than we have differences, even though we look at each other on the outside we seem so different, biologically we are more similar than we are dissimilar, and I hope that maybe my time on this earth, in this city around the community has been helpful in some ways. I was in a group in college called Ripples, and the concept, this was at Belmont Abbey, the concept was to toss a stone into the pond and that what you toss, would create a positive rippling effect into the community and into the world. And I think that I do that sometimes. I am always so impressed that somebody remembers me, or some interaction we've had.
Keywords: AIDS; Community Needs; HIV; WNCAP; Western North Carolina AIDS Project
Partial Transcript: M : Sure, and as you have questions you know, stop and ask, interject. I was born in Newport News Virginia at Riverside Hospital, that's what it was called. I always tell people I'm from the Hampton/Newport News area and they're like "was it Hampton or Newport News?" I was like "We always called it Hampton/Newport News, it was the peninsula" but technically I was born in Newport News, Virginia. I am the first child of six, I am the eldest. My siblings, so we were
the six M's. Michael, Maureen, Marcia, Matthew, Mark, and Marty. My mother was Catherine, and my father they called him Joe, so, I'm junior but they always called him Joe. and we grew up in a neighborhood called Farmington, and we moved our times, so we lived in four different homes there over the years; kind of outgrowing one, or moving to another for whatever reasons. You could probably find some archive letters to the editor from what was called the Daily Press and Times Herald newspapers back then. I was a teenager when I wrote my first letter to the editor, and I remember being invited to a breakfast kind of thing from the newspaper, for anybody who had written a letter to the editor. And I got my invitation but my father had also gotten an invitation because he must've submitted something and he was like "what are you doing? Where are you going?" and I was like "I'm going to this breakfast to the newspaper" and he was like "well how? What?" and I was like "I wrote a column too, you know? A letter to the editor"
M: I grew up as the eldest of six, and I guess if you interviewed my siblings they would tell you different stories, but I have always known that I was a gay child, a gay person, a gay man, and people you know, ask, "is it taught or is it learned?" you know, kind of stuff you know "is it you?" I just, I've always been a gay man, I've always known it.
Keywords: Bellmont Abbey College; Education; Familial Ancestors; Family; Gay Youth; George W. Bush; Hometown; Homophobia; Politics; Virginia; college; high school
Partial Transcript: M: I understood that to be quiet, not to tell anybody, so I didn't. And then I graduated and was back in Hampton, I don't know I was probably living there that summer or something I don't remember but I was living in the house and I was in the kitchen one afternoon cooking dinner and my two sisters were sitting at the kitchen table, we had this big big table that would seat all eight of us, and one of them said "someday you're a woman just a great husband." And that was what straw broke my back with them, and I turned around and I said "No, someday I'll make a man a good husband!" They're like "whaaat?" I said "I'm gay! I'm not gonna be married to a woman, I'll be married to a man if I'm gonna be married at all!" And so, they had questions and we talked and then I don't know my brother, a couple of ‘em came in and we talked to them and told them and my mother came home and I said "look I've already told 'em all I'm gay so it's out" and she was a little disappointed you could see it in her face, but whatever. And then my father, it was my father and my brother Mark, Mark was not living there, he was in DC or somewhere, wherever he was living and working, he was the last to hear it, or hear it from me, but as my father came in I said, "look before you're the last one to know, I've come out and I'm a gay man." and he gave me a big hug and said he loved me and it was fine and no problem, that kind of thing. It was a couple years later then that all that exploded with the second class citizen and "such a strong president" and my grandfather, that sort of thing.
Keywords: Coming Out; Family; Homophobia; Parents
Partial Transcript: M: To talk about where I went in terms of a gay event, I guess the first real gay place I went, I knew some gay people I knew people with HIV and AIDS so this is 1981, HIV and AIDS hits the scene right? And I knew some people who were gay. I knew that they were potentially at risk. I knew some people with HIV growing up at that time in my life, I was a teenager. So, the first time I went to a gay bar, I was at Belmont Abbey and we went to a place called, what's it down there in Charlotte? Not Scandals, that's here, it was Scorpios! And I went with a group of people I went to school with and they were like "you wanna go to this gay bar?" and I'm like " I guess..okay whatever" and I went and I danced with this guy named Reggie Ealy, and he thought it was really cool that I would come out and dance with him. Ya know, okay, "Michael's cool" or whatever and still kinda questionable not knowing was I gay, not gay or whatever. And so then spring break he invited me to Atlanta where he was from and I wrote a note to him and described myself as a gay man and how fun it was to dance with him and he was reading it and he was like "you- you're gay?" and I'm like "yeah" and we became partners for a couple of years after that. So, that was my first, Scorpio dancing kind of being in the gay bar and seeing all the lights.
Keywords: 1980s; Atlanta; Belmont Abbey College; College; First Drag Show; First Gay Bar Experience; Gay Bar Scene; Scorpio, Charlotte NC
Partial Transcript: M: In college when I went back to VCU, Virginia Commonwealth University, I did get involved in some advocacy and some activities, and a little bit more prevention kind of you know, having condoms around and handing them out. And I think I went to my first gay pride march when I was at VCU in Richmond. Felt very nervous about it, being in the crowd, people yelling and screaming at you from the sides but also being very empowered to be with people as part of the LGBTQ community. So I just wasn't involved in that. When I got here [Asheville], I came here told you '92, but I also went to the big gay liberation pride march in DC in 1993, and came back here even more kind of encouraged and empowered. And I wrote a letter to the editor right when I got back about coming out as a gay man and being here in Asheville as a gay man, openly gay man, looking forward to working with the community and seeing how we collaborate and all that kind of stuff. There was a group called SALGA, Southern Appalachian Lesbians and Gays I think is what it stood for, they were an advocacy group that are no longer around but you could find history about them. There's a newspaper that was called Community Connections, I don't know if you've ever heard of that, but there are archival copies of Community Connections.
Keywords: AIDS; Community; Gay Community; HIV; LGBT Community; Virginia
Partial Transcript: M: Over the years I've been to the national aids conferences, I'm amazed to see who's there, how many women are affected by HIV and AIDS worldwide. Here women have made great strides in reducing the number of women infected each year, or living with HIV and AIDS. Closer probably to 20 percent of all people living with HIV and AIDS are women in this country, and new infections among women are much lower than it was. Intravenous drug use represented a third of HIV cases historically in this country, depends on where you are- if you're in the Ukraine it's probably closer to I don't know, 70 or 80 percent. But we've been able to bring HIV related infections related to intravenous drug use down to under ten percent. For the most part in the state it runs between 6 and 8 percent of new HIV case reports, generally speaking. So, there have been great strides, great interventions, still nowhere near finding a cure or ending this epidemic. It'll either burn itself out or some smart scientist, chemist may find that magic potion, I don't know. But science right now, scientists are looking at thirty years from now, so they are asking, "What is this gonna look like in 2050?" So, they don't anticipate it going away anytime soon.
Keywords: 1980s; AIDS; Condoms; HIV; Health Care
Partial Transcript: M: We started what was called the Needle Exchange Program of Asheville in 1994 because he had gone through that, and I was doing street outreach on the streets of downtown Asheville in what was called the Grove Arcade. It was a public sex environment and I was tripping over needles! In downtown Asheville at the time. And back then, I'll leave this alone, if we ever exchanged a thousand needles in a year we thought we were pretty hot snot, in 2016 when it finally became legalized here in North Carolina to actually operate a needle exchange, so all those years that we operated it was completely illegal, open about it, we were never underground, we were wide open about it, on TV and radio stations and newspapers and interviews like this, but in 2016 we went through 512,000 needles; a half a million needles walked out of the office in WNCAP, at the Western North Carolina AIDS Project. And we were always out of stock too, we were often times out of stock so we could easily do a million I'm
Keywords: AIDS; Drugs; Grove Arcade, Asheville NC; HIV; Needle Exchange; WNCAP; Western North Carolina AIDS Project
Partial Transcript: M: I do hope that you'll speak to somebody by the name of Rosie Coats, she currently is a bartender at O'Henry's, the oldest gay bar in North Carolina it claims. Truly believe it's close to it if it's not THE oldest. So, Rosie Coats has vast history of people in this community and she saw the first guys coming back with AIDS you know? They had gone to big cities they came back to die. And she was there at the time for the fundraisers to help pay for a bill or two, house somebody. She was there when it all started, when WNCAP started.
Keywords: Advocacy; Asheville; Gays in Appalachia; LGBT Activism; LGBT Community; O'Henry's; Western North Carolina
Partial Transcript: M: So, I'm enriched every day, so I don't know. I go through my phases of you know, the moon, and ups and downs or whatever, but truly I am enriched everyday and I continuously ask, why am i in this person's life? Why is that person in my life? Why did I get asked? Why was I there? What can I offer that somebody would even care about?
Keywords: Community; Community Connections; Travel