Ben Edgar Williams Jeremy: Thanks for joining us today.

If you wanna start just by introducing yourself and talking a little bit about your practices as a self-appointed LGBT historian Ben: My name is Ben Williams and I have been known as the amateur gay historian of Utah, primarily because of my interest in, being a pack-rat, gathering things. And what gay person doesn t love to gossip? The difference with my needs is that I wrote down the gossip. You know, more than that, actually. I graduated from college in history; I ve always had an interest in history. I ve done extensive family histories and I joined historical societies back when I was in college and did reports on history. I just love any aspects of history. As I became active in the Salt Lake community, I knew that we were making history and I think that takes a certain awareness. I think you d probably have to have a background in, maybe, history or have some interest in historical events to actually recognize that history is being made. Most people probably think that history is just a matter of huge events or politicians doing something, or some kind of decree or law being passed or something. Actually, history is our ordinary, everyday lives or how we change our perspectives on the world. I knew a lot of really fascinating people. And when I came out of the closet in 1986, I was 30; well the second time I came out of the closet I was 35 years old and I decided there s no time to waste anymore, you know, with this. Always used the analogy that I came out like Minerva came out of the head of Jupiter, just battleready to go and get involved. Immediately, I was involved with creating organizations and forming groups and getting people to socially inter-net and connect with people, before there was the internet. I didn t try to, like, take over any organizations, I just decided to create my own. There were some really valuable organizations that were already established in this community. And there were a lot of activists that were doing things that really didn t represent anybody but themselves and their ideas of activism. So the groups I formed were, basically, peer therapy type thing or peer support. No one had degrees, nobody had doctorates or masters or social work degrees, what we had were our common experiences. And our common experiences is what healed us and bonded us together. I think because I was not a teacher at this time, but I ve always been a teacher, and so I was able to lead organizations and connect people and get people involved in things. And also connect with other leaders of other organizations, so that we wanted to build a community. When the [unintelligible] states conference came here in 89, I was asked to do a workshop on community building, because they just said, who builds community? Ben Williams. And so, I was doing it kind of naturally, because it just had to be done, there was a vacuum here and it needed to be filled. I was younger and a lot more energetic to do things. I always have a vision of what this community could be and what this community needed. And I also knew that this needed to be recorded; this needed to be remembered.

While we were doing this - we were doing amidst the AIDS epidemic, so not only were we trying to build a community, but we were taking care of the sick and dying without any help from anyone else but ourselves. To me it was a heroic age and people like Ben Barr and Bruce Barton and Russ Lane people that were doing all this because it had to be done, not because they were gettin paid for it or were gonna get accolades for anything. If anything, they put themselves right in the bullseye for targets of criticism from straight and gay communities. But, we were small enough community that we all knew each other and we one of the real catalysts that helped build this community was the Gay and Lesbian Community Council of Utah, which I was secretary of it twice, because they always said, well that s what you do, Ben, you take history, so they named me secretary. And that was an organization that, where, monthly, the heads of all the different organizations in the community got together and they talked and fought and battled and squawked and cussed and bitched and gossiped and everything else; but the most important aspect was that we knew each other. We actually really knew who we were doing things with in the community. We had face-on-face, you know it wasn t like I didn t know who was running LGSU; I knew exactly, because they were attending; I knew these people; I knew who was doing the Metropolitan Community Church; I knew who was doing Affirmation; I knew who was doing additional support; I knew who was doing the Royal Court, you know and the gay men s group and the father s group and the Utah Valley Men s Group in Logan s and Cache Valley Alliance people, because they all came to the meetings. And so there was a real connection with, among ourselves and I think that was our real strength. That s what, really, I think, created the foundation of the community here in Salt Lake; that we had a gay identity here. And a lot of the people that came out and were doing things, channeled themselves through the Community Council, like Cathy Worthington, you know, here she was introduced to the community through the Community Council, just by showing up. Then she started the women s community newsletter, then all the organizations that she did with the local lesbian community. So I mean, people would come to this community, to the Community Council and say, Hey! We re doing this. You know? This group is doing this and we got to know the new leaders that were coming too. Then, it was really a diverse group of people: we had the Wasatch Leathermenas well as LGSU; and before the Community Council and before this community building there was really kind of a division in this community between the organizations. The LGSU people were thought of as egg-heads, Ivy-league, ivorytower people and the bar people would have nothing, really, to do with them, or have anything to do with them. Affirmation was seen as being too religious and Mormon and, so people would do with that. There wasn t really a lot of communication between the different organizations, certain organizations that were really powerful, like Royal Court, they had the muscle and the money and the staff to put together, like, a Pride Day. But it was not a real community event, it was a community event hosted by people from the Royal Court. Or the time that

Affirmation did it, it was basically Pride Day held by Affirmation. It was only the Community Council form that they took over Pride Day and made it a subcommittee of Community Council, actually then made it a community event, where the Community Council chose who was the chair of the committee and then the committee was responsible the chair of the committee and the committee itself was responsible to the Community Council to do monthly reporting. We always knew how much money they had; we knew what their problems were, we knew the fundraising, you know, and it was a community event, which, you know, with the Pride Day as it is today, it s such a huge self-important kind of, you know, juggernaut type thing with a life of its own. It s it CAN be a community event, I really do believe that, I don t wanna be negative; I think you can get involved with, you know, Pride Day if you choose to be involved with Pride Day. But not in the way that it used to be, you know? You could be involved in Pride Day today, but you re probably not involved in the decision-making aspect of Pride Day. Where, with the Gay and Lesbian Community Council, you d be involved in the decision-making aspect of Pride Day. And we also, like, always knew the budget; we d know exactly how much was being made or lost or whatever. And it was an accounting to the community, because there were delegates that came from other organizations; they d send delegates from other organizations would send delegates to the Community Council; and those delegates had voting privileges, and they would take the information from the Community Council and go back to their respective organizations and tell their members what s going on. So there was really huge, you know, communication going on within this community. About the mid 1990s, volunteerism in the community tankered off and people became more comfortable with this being out ; that once the community had been established, that people could feel like they could be out and wouldn t hurt their professional jobs, people a lot of these organizations started becoming professional and they wanted people with master degrees in social work or some kind of, you know, degrees in community planning or something, you know, where I m not saying, necessarily, that it s wrong but it changes the whole dynamic: doing something because you re getting paid for it as opposed to doing something because you re volunteering for love of the community. Even things like the Utah Aids Foundation, which was all created by volunteers; I mean, no one got a dime or a salary. Doctor Patty Reagan, Ben Barr all these people we had our own jobs. My job was being a school-teacher and that gave me the money to be able to be active in the community. They d give me my Summers off that s why I stayed teaching for so long: so that I d have so much time away from work to actually be involved in community building. I always said there s three reasons why I taught, and that was good reasons I taught, and that was June, July and August. And people used to ask me all the time, Well, don t you work in the summer; don t you get a second job? (My colleagues.) And I d say, No, I like to travel and things like that. Hell, all I wanted to do at that time was to help with

Pride Day, help with, you know, putting the Utah Stonewall Center together, or writing histories, or you know, doing things that needed to be done for the community. I think things seemed to be turning a little bit with this Proposition 8. I think younger people are not feeling that professionals are moving at a fast enough pace, because Interview interrupted by library staff; we were subsequently told to leave and to request permission to film or record in the library s space. Folllow-up interviews were requested by QOHP facilitators but have not since been scheduled.

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