...recording So tell us a little bit about your...
so you have some history with Key ceremony with chaplain's gardens [---?---] tell that story. Well, I wasn't doing very well in college at the University. I was in the Theater department and, there was a lot of politics going on and my grades were slipping and I was feeling really depressed about it so a really good friend of mine took me to a place called Ben's House on [---?---] and it was in the middle of wintertime and I fell in love. There were, there were like, I don't know, four greenhouses of nothing but moss-laden fern-dripping miniature paradise. And I went berserk. I just had to have them so I promptly spent a hundred dollars in [---?---] took them home and promptly killed them all with kindness. Killed them dead with kindness, and love, and care and overwatering and over-pruning and I thought oh I've gotta get smart about this, so I went to the library and started checking out books. And, uh, back in the day you could actually Xerox books and stick them back and then mark them up as your own copies. So that's what I did is I spent the entire summer, you know, uh, copying books on the, you know, printer and reading them voraciously, and found that all of the great bonsai were actually miniature versions of Zen gardens. Antique gardens and I thought, well, I could do that, I could do that! I have enough imagination and artistic ability that I could produce a Zen garden if I really wanted to, but if I'm going to do that I have to find out what this Buddhism thing is all about and what's this tea thing all about? So I immediately realized that I was in the wrong major, so I got out of theater. And immediately went into Asian art history. And my grades shot up fancy that. You know. So, um, I started studying about Buddhism and about tea, and actually knocked on the doors of practically every Buddhist establishment in town and said, if you have a little plot of land, I'll build you a Zen garden for free. And none of them took me seriously except the Zen folk. So, uh, they actually said, yeah sure, yeah go ahead. Take that little strip between the sidewalk and the driveway. Yeah, you can have that. Yeah. [---?---] So I produced a beautiful dry-rock garden for them with gravel and the stones and everything and got hooked on Zen Buddhism. And of course, tea was soon to follow, you know. And the thing that I liked about it was that these people didn't care who I slept with, they didn't care who I dated, they didn't care except about sitting on a cushion and meditating. That's pretty much it. And that was amazing to be able to follow a spiritual path of some way, shape, or form that didn't care about the morality of sex, so strongly. You know, now granted, they do have monks that are out there that are required to spend a certain amount of time being celibate. But it's only a certain amount of time. Back in the day, uh, the Zen monks had become so powerful that the emperor, they started getting involved in politics and the emperor said, oh no more of that, I'm sorry, you know. And the Shogun of course was really upset about it, and he was the one who was the mover and shaker of everything, so through the emperor he decreed that all Zen monks and Zen priests needed to, at a certain time, get married and bear children so they would have other responsibilities to take care of other than politics and national concerns, and they followed suit. They got married, they had kids. So, this ideal that we have of what a Zen
monk is or should be, isn't realistic to tell you the truth, and thank God for that. You know. So I, I hung around the Zen Center and got quite involved in that for quite some time, but because of that once again, I felt kind of isolated because I didn't know anyone else who was interested in Buddhism who was gay in the entire state of Utah, let alone anywhere else. So, I still felt like a hybrid. I still felt out of place. Why would that be important to find someone who's into Buddhism and gay. Because I could have somebody to talk to. I would have somebody to relate to. You know? Who was gay, no less. And, I think that as a culture, we have dealt with being outcast quite a lot, you know. And, I think that we still deal with that as a queer culture as a queer nation. We still deal with being outcast. Even within our own group you know. And if you don't quite fit that mold, or that stereotype, you're not part of that group, you're, you're outcast, you're, you know, if you don't have the right clothes, or if you don't have the right body, or if you don't have the right, you know, uh, amount of money, or, education, you can feel that you're out of place. And that can be tough to deal with, very tough to deal with. So, but I persevered because I thought that it was important for me to enjoy the benefits that I was receiving from meditation. They were tremendous, you know. What were some of those benefits? Oh, geez, realizing that there was a big ole world out there that didn't involve all of the crap that I had been fed as a child, and as a young adult. That there was a whole other way of thinking, that there were whole other institution and histories of, of, ways of living, you know. And realizing that being gay was just a small part of me and I could explore other avenues and other areas of life and figure out what that was and really enjoy that, plus just peace of mind. You know. Sure, what was some of that crap and what are some specific things that you felt meditation helped you? Ah. Well, it, it definitely calmed me down. The problems and the issues that I had with my own sexuality and my own life and with, just, you know, day to day living, the problems that we all have and we all live with suddenly didn't have the same amount of bite to them, they didn't have the same amount of weight to them. They were still there, but there wasn't that emotional impact behind them that, that anxiety impact, and that was wonderful, you know. To handle, you know? It put them into much more realistic perspective. Problems were, problems. They weren't PROBLEMS you know. It definitely, uh, relieved, it unplugged the drama queen. It unplugged the energy that all of that was, and channeled all of that energy into other things which was really nice, you know. And I think that being queer we all have a little bit of that in us. It's just [---?---] Yeah we all do, come on. That's, you know, part of being gay. That's part of being GLBT, is you have a little bit of that. And how you deal with that sort of defines how you are. I think that meditation had
a lot to offer, and, I, I just dove in, drank the Kool-aid, [---?---] and really appreciated meeting wonderful people and finding out who they were and discussing ideas and attitudes about stuff and junk, crap and things. [laughter] Cool. So you took up meditation at the Zen Center here in Salt Lake City. Designed a garden for them. I did. And how did you end up studying tea. Well, uh, I had been very enthusiastic about tea and one of my art history professors introduced me to a wonderful teacher by the name of [---?---] Sensei. And she was very very old. She had come over here as a first generation. Way, way back in the day, before World War II, before, you know, any of that had happened, and had been quite instrumental in promoting Japanese arts and culture here in Utah. And she was magnificent. She could walk into a room and within 15 minutes everyone else in that room would suddenly, for unexplainable reasons feel calm. And at ease. She just had this way about here that was truly magical. And it was because of the fact that, I consider, because of the way she practiced tea. You know. Which was a way of enjoying meditation without necessarily having to shave your head and renounce the world and enter a monastery and lock the door. That's, this is the common folks expression of meditation in another form. It can be. It can also be completely secular as well. But being introduced to her was a very pivotal uh, point in my life. Because I thought she was magnificent and I wanted to be like her you know. So I was very enthusiastic and of course I started doing demonstrations and practicing as much as I could, and met a person by the name of [---?---] Sensei who was an American who was based out of Los Angeles and he came to do a demonstration for a Japanese festival that was being held at the Salt Palace. And so I, I loaned him all of my utensils and was really grateful for the opportunity just to meet him, and he said Wow you're really enthusiastic about this. You should join this, this group that's in Japan that teaches tea to foreign people, and at this school, you know, the Japanese tea school, and, uh, here's the application for it, and I'll help you see if you can get in. So I applied for it and got a full-ride scholarship and was able to go over and spend three years there studying tea, and had amazing experiences because of that. And I found myself incredibly fortunate to be able to do that. So, uh, there are three things, there are three debts that cannot be repaid in Japanese culture. One is to your parents, one is to your teachers and one is to your emperor. And most definitely, to parents and teacher, there were debts, I mean, they really helped out. And I will forever be in their debt and their gratitude for helping me along, saying, "Yeah sure we'll take you on, see what we can do." And it was amazing, an amazing experience. How do you think that experience, studying tea in Japan, has, I guess affected you when you came back here. The choices you've made.
It's made my enjoyment of things much more simple. It made me into a cheap date. It really did. It, I am, I am, I can be entertained by very simple things. I don't need a lot to be made happy because, there doesn't require that much. Uh, it's, it's made me really appreciate a walk down the street, a sunny day. It's really made me appreciate how good we really have it, you know. It's even, believe it or not, helped me appreciate being gay, you know. Because How so? Uh, well, I know it sounds kind of strange, but we really do live in a golden age. I know that it kind of hard to, to come to grips with that or even to recognize that, but we really do live in a golden age. And, I mean, throughout human history, we have never been so vocal and so high profile, and so entrenched in the public eye, and, and, we have been able to fight for our rights and to receive them and get them and win them, you know. On a global stage, no less. There are many different countries, there's, I mean come on, there's Germany and France and Britain and Canada and Thailand, I mean, a bunch of others I'm sure, that I've yet to remember that say, "Yeah, sure, it's okay to get married. Sure, yeah you're a wonderful citizen. You can participate in, in our nation as a fully, a full-fledged citizen and be gay and not have to worry about it. And yeah, you're one of us. You're a valued member of society that we appreciate and that's never really happened before in human history. And we have a big huge responsibility of gratitude to thank all of the people and who at least to remember all of the people who came before that have given their lives, you know, for us. There are countless heroes and heroines that have suffered and died and have demonstrated a tremendous amount of courage so that our lives as queer people can be better, you know. And that's really sort of sprung from meditation and from tea, you know, in a weird kind of way because you come to the realization that, you find out kind of, what's really important, you know. And it's not necessarily things, you know, it is relationships, it is the, the singular day you have on this planet which is right now, and, the specific moment with the people that you're with which is right now, and that's pretty much all you've got, you know. To put it in sort of a Buddhist context. Uh. And that can be, that's really important. Cause usually our minds are either in the future or worrying about the future or regretting the past. And that's a lot of wasted time. Now granted we kind of sort of need to do that occasionally, but, most of the time it's just wasted energy. Um, we do have a lot to be thankful for, right here, right now. Being gay, being in a time where we can really enjoy and explore what that is. And figure out where our responsibilities lay with that you know. What may those responsibilities be. Oh gee. I can't wait for, for, you know, civil unions, marriage, whatever you are going to call it, takes place here in America. That is going to force a lot of us to think about, okay, what do I do now. I really love this person and do I love them enough to get married? Do I
love them enough to spend my life with them? How are we going to define a relationship you know. Oh boy? What if we break up? What if we have a divorce? Suddenly there's alimony. Or whatever. That's a good segue to something we were talking about before of, you used terms Stepford Gay. So what do you think is the dialogue surrounding Stepford Gays happening specifically here in the Wasatch Front in Salt Lake City, kind of given our specific cultures and thoughts about marriage and thoughts about marriage and things like that. Well we do have Pleasantville, uh, we have, uh a community here that appreciates settling down, you know, buying a house, living with a partner, having a picket fence, having a couple of dogs or a couple of cats. There's a huge population of people here that want that, that appreciate that, and that should be validated, that is just another expression of what it's like, you know for this particular person to be gay. Other people are polyandrous, other people are completely independent and will remain as such. And those are completely valid ways of expressing yourself as being gay. Uh, it can be difficult though because I know that some people think that that's falling into a heterosexual paradigm. But being a gay person, I don't think you, even if you mimic that, I don't think you can actually be that. Because you're going to express it in your own individual way anyways. I mean, I, I just sort of head about it recently myself, and I thought, oh my God. Am I a Stepford Gay? Am I a single Stepford Gay? Well I don't have my own house, so I guess, no, and I don't have a white picket fence, no, and I don't have a partner at all, well I have a couple of cats, one out of four. I have some sort of education, and, but I don't have a tremendously, I don't have a traditional living like normal gay people do. I don't have the 9 to 5 at all. So I don't necessarily fit that model either. But I still think that we need to seriously take a look at who we are and what we're about, and if we do, well not if, but when we become non-second-class citizens, but full citizens with full rights for marriage and full rights for, for, being open in the military, you know, and we're able to, to, take hold of those rights that we should be having right now, it'll be really interesting to see how they manifest within our communities, because there's a lot, there, for a while I think that even though we're in a golden age, we're still in our infancy. We still have a lot to learn, we still have a lot of growing up to do, but I'm really proud of where we have come from, you know, and hopefully we're going in the same direction where things will constantly get better so that the queer youth of the future will have it even better than we have it now and hopefully that's the way it's going to be. You know. I think it would be fantastic for, uh, a man or a woman, or a young adult to be able to go through grade school and high school and be openly gay and not have to worry, not have to worry about, "Oh gee, am I going to get beat up after school.” Oh gee, “Who spit on my locker,” or “Who spray painted, 'gay' all over it.” Or, “Oh God I've gotta fight this person because of the fact that you know I'm attracted to guys.” I hope that that doesn't happen in the future. I hope that we're, just, you know, I mean, in a certain way there's nothing wrong with being normal. I don't know if there is a normal to begin with, but you know.
So what is it that you personally want? I want to rule the world! [laughter] With an iron fist covered in Crisco. Gay, queer nation - world domination! Yes, that's it. Right kitty? World domination. Um no, what do I want specifically? That's, that's a hard thing for me to... Do you want the Stepford life or do you want... I wouldn't mind trying it. Just to see if it fits. And if it doesn't fit, try something else. I, I've, I've never had my own home. I've never had my own property. I've always had to rely on the kindness of strangers. I've attempted relationships with men and it's never really worked longer than six months. And I'm 47. I don't know if that's going to happen for me or not. I don't know. I wish, I wish things were different. You know. Maybe it's buying into all of the images we see that are, you know, shoved down our throats from the media of, what gay life is, and what gay life should be and what, you know, queer folk. I know that all of that is basically fantasy's self-product, but still, I don't know what I want. I know, well I know what I would like to accomplish, but wanting and having are two separate things and I, I don't know that's a paradox I have not figured out yet. I have just not figured it out. I never really fit into one specific group enough to find out what it is. I've always felt that I'm on the outside. I guess one of the things that I would really like is to be able to be just accepted. Just to be accepted for who I am and what I'm about and not necessarily have to, you know, if I wanted to try on a stereotype and be, you know, the perfect gay. Yeah, sure that'd be great, but I've always felt outcast. I think all of us do, but I think it's hard to deal with, and we all deal with it in different ways but, I just never been able to figure it out what it is, but acceptance is definitely one of the things that I've always wanted and to be able to share my life with someone. Yeah, sure. Of course that would be fantastic. I don't know if, I mean I'd like to see what monogamy is like, sure. I don't know if I, I've never gotten the chance even. I've tried, but I've never gotten the chance to even have a partner to say Yeah I would love to share my life with you. And not have a tremendous a lot of bullshit and baggage to sort through that they weren't even talking about, and to realize that Wow. All of that was just a lie. See ya. You know. The people that I've attempted a relationship with, it never worked because of the honesty factor, for starters. You know, so, yeah. It'd be great to, to attempt, you know, to find out what I want. So. You still have time. [laughter] So says the youth. So says the future youth, "You still have time." Not really. I used to think that. I used to think, "Oh yeah I've got plenty of time to figure out what I want to do and figure out who I am." That's not true. If there's anything I can say, to the youth of the future is, don't waste your youth, cause where you are now, I once was, and where I am now, you will become. And life is a lot shorter than you can ever imagine and opportunities can really fly by without you even knowing they were there until they've
gone, you know. And I think that because we are so youth orientated as a culture, that we, we sort of cut people off from opportunities of just interaction. Oh he's too old, oh he's the crypt keeper, you know. That attitude will turn around and bite you in the ass very quickly. And I really hope that, that the queer youth of the future would get over that. I mean you don't have to sleep with an old person just to interact with them, and they might not necessarily want to sleep with you either, you know. Uh, but I am still really grateful and proud of where we have come from, and as I said before we are living in a golden age and I really hope that we take advantage of that opportunity. Here we are. As a huge group we are in our infancy. As individuals we might be youth, we might be ancient, we might be somewhere in the middle, whatever, we need to interact more with each other and support more with each other, so. So because, um, so, switch our focus onto youth since that's kind of come up. Sure. Um, because of the various difficulties that you have brought up about growing up as a gay youth even today, and Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that the youth of today and the youth of the future are going to have their own problems to deal with. And if anything, that makes us stronger, you know, gives us some calluses you know. What would you say to, you know with, with things like self-harm and suicide being so prevalent among queer youth, what would you say to someone, how would you, how do you respond to that. Kind of in relation to what, your thoughts already on appreciating this fleeting existence, um, to youth that was maybe thinking about suicide. What would you respond to that. Please don't. Please don't. We need you. We need you. Uh. In a way I was lucky. I was lucky. I bided my time before I came out. I realized that I couldn't come out at 16, I couldn't come out at 14. In a way I kind of came out at 18, but I really came out at 25. It was a gradual process for me, and, I know that there are youth out there whose family and parents have completely ostracized them and can't come out because of the fact that they were just being honest with who they were. Those are the people that I admire the most because they've had to deal with horrific issues and talk about being outcast. My God. That, that is a horrible thing to happen to anybody, let alone gay youth. I would just say that get in touch with your local gay community center, and see what can be done to get you off the streets or away from the knife or the pills or whatever. And as far as self-abuse is concerned, there's so much more in this life that can be enjoyed and can be appreciated without having to abuse yourself. I mean, I'm not a psychologist but, [sigh] we've all been there in our own ways. We've all suffered in our own ways. For some of us it's going to be harder than others. To get through youth and to stabilize and to find a job and to get an apartment and to just survive and I realize that. And it's those people who need our help
the most. And I know that sometimes people want to just end it but old age ain’t for sissies. And old age ain’t for gay sissies. Old age ain’t for lesbian pussies. Old age isn't for bisexual douche bags. Old age isn't for transsexual asswipes. Old age is hard. But it's worth getting to because it's worth getting to because of what you can contribute. And life isn't going to be easy no matter what age you are. You know, I think we're given as much as we can handle. Some people can handle a whole lot more. Some people can't. I would just say, please, you know, find your friends. And stick with them, and, realize that anything that they do is a contribution, you know. They are the giants on which future gay youth will be standing on the shoulders of, you know, and they need to stick around so that things will be better for the future, but I know that's easier said than done but damn. I know that there were times that I felt like [shouts/grunts] I have felt like that. Yes, I have felt like that. Luckily my brain went, please don't do that, it's not worth it, because, suicide hurts a lot more people than you would ever realize. Even though you might not understand it, but just your being alive contributes a lot to people that you might not even ever really know. You might affect someone in some way that you don't even know. I've met people who I interacted with 20 years ago fleetingly, you know, and I've met them just recently, and I found out that I had a huge impact on their lives and I had no idea. For me it was a casual exchange. For them it was a pivotal moment and I had no clue of how I had affected their lives and somehow I had affected their lives for the better. And that really shocked me in the heart because, I felt like what the hell did I do? Obviously I did something right, you know, but you never know who you're going to influence. You never know whose life you're going to change. And you may never know, but you've got to stick around just in case. So please, put the knife down, put the pills away, cry it out, or whatever, get some help. Let people know you're in trouble for one thing. So did you go to high school? Oh yeah. In Utah? Which high school did you go to. Oh Highland High the social bigotry hub of the Intermountain West. [laughter] Yeah. What was that experience like. That was uh, four years of [sigh] stressful endurance. I knew who I was and I knew what I was about, but I knew that I, at that time, I couldn't say that to anyone at high school because they had already figured it out, but if I'd said anything [sigh] I would have been offed. My locker was regularly spat on. I was regularly threatened with physical harm. And I had done nothing but exist. So, high school, I don't even know why we have it sometimes to tell you the honest-to-God truth. If I'd been able to CLEP out of my classes and get my GED and gone to the University I would have. Instantly. And, and I suggest to anybody whose having a problem with high school to do that very thing. Take all the
courses that you need, get your GED or whatever you need, and get into the University. It's so much nicer. [laughter] Cause people don't care about who you are in the University. They're too busy getting an education. You're just a number, you're just a blank face in the crowd. You can be who you are and who you want. Um, the University college life was amazing for me, because I could finally relax enough to be who I was and be gay and say, yes! This is who I am. It's just a part of me but this is what's going on with me. And have people support me with it. And if they didn't, they didn't care, they just dashed away. I wouldn't associate with them. But... So what's kind of the time frame for this? '76-'80 was high school. And '80 on for college. Uh, during I think it was 1976 that the American Psychiatric Association finally admitted that, that homosexuality was not a mental disorder. That of course, being located in the interior of our nation, it takes a while for that information to filter through into the boondocks. So uh, it, it was difficult. It was majorly difficult, I had a, the guy that I talked about previously that I met on New Year's night, that I'd fallen in love with, I actually wrote him a love letter and mistakenly left it in my locker and forgot to take it out when I was moving from the locker to another and somebody found it. And that kind of blew my cover. Entering my senior year and, it was hell. It was absolute hell. Luckily I had some really good counselors that stood up for me, and said, don't worry, we'll take care of it. And the guys that wanted to literally take baseball bats to my head, you know, uh, well, they waited a year after I graduated and then they tried to do that. They realized because of the counselors protecting me that they couldn't beat the shit out of me and get away with it because they knew that they could be found out. Or at least made suspects. So they decided to do that the year after I graduated from high school and was in college, standing at a bus stop one day. And they pulled up in their car cause they'd found me and immediately jumped out and started beating the shit out of me. I picked myself up, went back home, bloodied, got out my high school yearbook, immediately called the police, and had them all arrested. Because I was over the age of 18 and I could do that. So uh, their parents called and tried to weasel their way out of it, but I kept the charges, and uh, I don't know whatever happened to their conviction, but that, you know, that still happens, and even though we are still living in a golden age we still, have a long ways to go, we still have a lot of violence in our world that we have to fight against. Were there, during high school, were there any sort of outlets, or friends or mentors, or places you could go or anything. Just the bars. At that time there were just the bars. There was no community center. There was no youth groups. There were no gay-straight alliances. Um. If you were gay you had to go to a bar and hopefully meet people that you could associate with and hang out with and enjoy the company of, and figure things out with them. And, that wasn't easy, at all either, because, even then I still felt kinda outcast. You know.
So is, as a high school student were you able to get into the bars. Did you sneak in? I did. I snuck in, I got myself a fake ID. This was back in the day where you could actually, still kinda sorta get a fake ID, you know? And, and, if you played your cards right you didn't get arrested. Uh, yeah. Uh, I, I got into the bar scene when I was about 16, 17. And, I really didn't even drink much then, thank God for that. But I loved to dance and I loved to hang out and I loved to meet people. And I met this wonderful drag queen named Phoenix [---?---] and he was amazing. Uh, he was uh, a wonderful person who was a mentor for me. As well as a wonderful man by the name of Auntie Dee. Was his drag name. And, they were people who really, I mean, even though I wasn't a drag queen, I was friends with them and they helped, and I will forever be in their debt for their kindness and just for their friendship. Just to be able to hang out with them and sit and talk to them. And they were much older than I was. So I really appreciated you know, I'd come to them with problems, and go, Oh my God. What do I do about this? Or what do I do about that? You know, how do I deal with this situation, and they would give their two cents worth as best that they could. You know. And, they were wonderful, they, they had, they, they were deeply courageous and wonderful people. Do you remember any of those specific conversations with them? [sigh] I remember asking them about, um, how to deal with my own feminine issues. Cause they were drag queens, you know. And, I even was in, one or two of their productions, you know, as, for whatever reasons, they would do productions in the bars and stuff and I helped out with that, and that was amazing and that was fun, uh. I bet you make a lovely drag queen. Actually I wasn't a drag queen but I was part of it. I was part of their entourage you might say. Um, but they, I would ask them questions about how they came out and how they dealt with their inner feminine you know, that aspect of femininity, you know. And, their inner masculine. Cause here's a guy in full out drag. How is he dealing with that. How did he grow up as an ultra-feminine youth, how did these two men deal with that? And they told me some very interesting stories about what they went through, you know. Um, and, and, I just appreciated who they were. I mean, it, if, if anything I learned a lot just by osmosis. Just by hanging around them and, and, just shooting the bull almost. What kind of time did you spend there. Regularly? Or... As much as I could, you know. Because at that time, this was still between the ages of 17 and 21 so I was still quite young and, [sigh] I still had a family life that was difficult at best. We were dealing with Mormon issues and Mormon ideology and religious issues and being gay was still, even, even the APA had said It's okay to be gay! You're not a disorder anymore! People still hadn't quite gotten comfortable with that. Back then it was still
twenty guys locking their eyes with a banner saying gay pride and walking down the street and getting spat on for 10 blocks and having people scream at them. That was gay pride for a while here in Utah. And those people were amazing. And then after a while it became fashionable and chic to know a gay person, but that was much later. So. So were you involved...So moving on into your university time, were you involved with the GSU, or LGSU. I was for a while yes. I was. Talk about that for a little bit? I never felt like I fit in once again, you know? Uh, [sigh] I don't know. I attended a number of meetings. I was really glad that they existed. You know. Even, I was even able to attend that group while it was in its infancy as well. Who else was involved with it in its infancy? I don't remember their names. I remember some of their faces, and one of the guys was absolutely spectacular. Beautiful and completely nuts, completely, utterly nuts. But, um, but still it was at least a place that I could go to and interact with people who I had some similarities with, you know, and I appreciated that, for whatever that was worth. I still never felt like I fit in though. What did they do in those early days. It was called GSU at the time? LGSU. LGSU at the time? LGSU. [sigh] It was more of a discussion group actually, then go out for coffee, so, that's what we did. What kind of things did you talk about? Um, upcoming events. Issues dealing with everything, from AIDS to abuse to, you know, all sorts of things. I don't even remember most of, of that, I just remember being there. And glad that I was there. But still I don't remember [---?---] [---?---] crazy guy. So speaking about AIDS. What was up, like in Salt Lake City. Hm. It was, what do you mean exactly though?
What, what are your memories of, anything related to the pandemic happening here in Salt Lake City? It was a time of great denial that it even existed, here. Denial by who? Oh the whole public let alone the gay public. Denial. Complete utter denial. Oh that's not going to happen to me. I'm from Utah. I'm white, I'm Anglo-Saxon. I come from an upper-crust middle family, I'm a Stepford gay, that never happens to me. Oh, I beg to differ. Uh, one of the most amazing things that, that, I ever went through was going, when the AIDS quilt, when a section of the AIDS quilt came to Utah I went to it, and, that was a little further on in the process when people started recognizing it, uh, and I had some friends who, had contracted AIDS, early, early, early on, and found out about it. And I kept their secret, and rightly so because, at that time, I'm not quite sure if it's changed much, but at that time if you were HIV positive, you were a social pariah. You were an outcast, you were, completely ostracized. You might as well just hang it up, here take the pill, here, slit your throat. Go ahead, why bother, cause there was nothing for you. And they told me of the problems that they had had. You know, the issues they had dealt with, and, the the fledgeling, uh, groups that they had been a part of. They're no longer with me, us, now, but they were amazing. They were incredibly brave, amazingly brave. And they went through a lot of shit, that they really didn't have to go through, but because people didn't understand and what's more important they didn't want to understand. And that was what was really sad. Is there, suddenly as the years went by here in Utah, people started figuring out, at least medically, oh gee, this is how you catch it. This is how you don't. And, this is what it's about and this is what it's not about. But there were a lot of people out there that didn't want to know about that at all. And even the slightest, slightest scent or whiff that you might have had it crossed their noses, suddenly they stopped associating with you and, it, it was bad, and I think that it's still that way to a certain extent. Here, you know. And it's really sad that we have that, it's kind of like, as I said, we're living in a golden age, but we're still shooting ourselves in the foot. And that's one of the bullets that we keep shooting ourselves in the foot with, is that whole issue. And it's really frustrating because we should know better. We should be better. I mean for God's sake, we're queer. Automatically we should be better people, you know. Why's that. We should dominate the world, you know. Because. We have a lot more to show for it when we achieve something. I mean, if you really want to talk about it in material gain, in economic statistics, sort of a cliche, every time you move into a neighborhood the property values go up. That says something about us. We're money makers. We have a lot to offer. We should be better people. We should be more understanding. We should be more compassionate, we should be, you know, more brave, thrifty, clean and reverent. We
should be more courageous, we should be more compassionate. You know, hell knows we've got the flair and the fashion sense, hell knows we've got the hutzpah and thank God for lesbians in Home Depot. We've got all of these magnificent qualities that we seem to squander because of the fact that, that, you know, I don't know, we just need to grow up a little bit more. I'm really glad that we're here, but I just, in some, in some aspects I wish that we were better to each other, that we were kinder to each other, that we were more civil to each other, and less exclusive and snobbish, and, hurtful. We can really be hurtful to each other and, we don't have to be. But we are. And you'd think we would know better. Or, I mean, we're all we've got, you know? We're all that we have. I mean no wonder youth is committing suicide. For God's sake. You know. When you say hurtful to each other what does that mean? Well, even though we're in a community we still treat each other as outcasts sometimes if we don't fit the stereotype. You know, if we don't fit the body image, if we don't have, you know, everything that I was just talking about. The right car, the right property, etc. Or, oh gee he's a Stepford gay, I can't associate with him because I'm polyamorous. You're not cool. Instead of just basic acknowledgement of who we are and being okay with that. So catching your reference a moment ago, were you a Boy Scout? Yeah, I was a Boy Scout. Got me backpacking. God. What was that like. I loved backpacking. Boy Scouts sucked. It sucked big purple donkey dicks. [laughter] And I'm not going to retract that. Why do you say that? Because the guys in my troupe were ass wipes, they were the epitome of douche bags. Oh God. Talk about suffering. Shit. Yeah shit literally. One day I woke up and I found a bunch of deer shit that they had gathered up and stuck in my shoes. Yeah they were great. Try hiking out [---?---] deer shit [---?---] Well finally I decided that they weren't worth associating with anymore. Luckily before I stopped associating with them I learned how to do some backpacking. I started buying some equipment and it stuck with me. I was able to, uh, in my later years, in my twenties and thirties, I started going on solo backpacking trips by myself, and going up in the mountains and rediscovering how wonderful that was and how magical and magnificent it was to be out in the wilderness, and loved every moment of it. And then,
though, oh gee I wonder if there are any other gay people or lesbians or bisexuals or transgenders who might also appreciate this and started looking for a group and there wasn't one, so I started Lambda Hiking Club. Oh so you founded Lambda Hiking Club. I founded Lambda Hiking Club. I've retired since then from being president but I was, I was, cumulatively president for about 14 years. And, started making Xeroxed flyers back in the late '80's. With this guy, shirtless guy with a backpack on, and told them a place to meet and a time to meet and people started showing up, big time. And we'd go on day hikes, and we'd go on a couple of car camping trips and a backpacking trip like every year. And we'd even go skiing in the wintertime and ice skating and stuff. And kept on it and met some absolutely wonderful people who are still members of that organization. And we had some spectacular times. You know, and, and, I, even though scouting sucked, it luckily blossomed. It was the muck from which the lotus blossomed so to speak. Because, uh, if it weren't for, fine I'll give the credit to Boy Scouts but they're still a bunch a dicks, if it weren't for scouting and backpacking at an early age, I don't know if Lambda Hiking Club would have existed for me, or if it would have happened, or manifested as it had. Why do you think it became so, so popular? Oh I didn't become popular. Well I mean, you said that people started coming. Oh, well because I think that first of all they wanted to see who was showing up and if they could have sex with them. And that was great. You know? I think that was one of the major movers and shakers of being human is, If I join this group could I have sex with that one person? And that's okay, I don't have a problem with that, you know? That's fine, go for it. That group is responsible for a number of people shacking up and making a marriage out of it, making a commitment to each other out of it. So I was quite proud of that. Uh, sad to say, I wasn't one of those people, but, um, but, I don't know why it was as popular as it was. Luckily we had magnificent mountain scenery and spectacular deserts and National Parks, with our own backyard to do that with, so, it, I mean, it was a nobrainer, and I was actually really surprised that we didn't have a group earlier than that for me to just join up with. I mean there were other organizations, gay bowling league, gay volleyball association, who would, like once a year they'd go on a hike, but there wasn't anything specifically for people who really wanted to do that, and so, we did it and a lot of people showed up and really had a good time. They got to enjoy the experience of kind of sort of being a Boy Scout without all the bullshit associated with it. So. That...computers here is one of the topics to talk about.
Ah, the internet. The internet. What been you're, you're experiences interacting with any sort of gay community on the internet or... You mean the chat rooms? Yeah. Sure. And the uh, and other things. That is actually where I have seen, most of the things that we should be really ashamed of. What do you mean by that. It's a lot easier for people to be anonymous online than it is face to face. So it's a lot easier for me to witness sexism, agism, racism, online. And I was shocked when I saw that, you know. I'm in chat room and I'm reading somebody's profile and it says oh if you're under the age of, 27, then I'll talk to you, but if you're over the age of 27, don't even bother. If you don't fit the specific body type or if you don't, you know, meet my extremely unrealistic views of what I am looking for in a man, don't even bother. Or, sorry I only have sex with whites only. I'm sorry but that's just the way I am. That just, turned my stomach to hear that, you know. How do you think people's online personas like that, how do they interact with their, I mean their real personas do you think? I have no idea because when I see somebody online who has that kind of profile, I block them. I instantly block them because I don't want to know who they are. If they, if they have that kind of narrow-minded, racist, bigoted, prejudiced attitude, I mean, God, no wonder, sorry I don't even want to know who you are. I mean I thought we were more evolved than that. It seems that we're not. It's sad because we have so much potential. That's why I keep coming back to we should be better than we are. We have so much potential. We have so much creativity. We are an untapped resource of amazing things. You know. Why on earth would we, to those, and I know that maybe we're a microcosm of the macrocosm, I'm not sure but it's just sad to think that, that, we would do that. You know, I'm sorry but if you're over the age of 27 I don't want to talk to you? If you're skin is of a different color I don't even want to associate with you? What the hell! You know? That's just sad that they would be like that. Not, oh, not to mention, don't get me wrong, negative and clingy and only want to associate or talk with people who are negative and clingy. Wow. That says a lot about a person. You know, astounded. Or, if you're nelly, if you're a drag queen if you're not masculine and down-to-earth, I don't want to associate with you. How femophobic can you be, I mean, that's one of the reasons why I keep saying that eventually we're going to have to grow up. That's why we're in our infancy. Cause
those types of ideas, those types of mindsets and attitudes still pervade our culture and we should be better than that. And hopefully in the future we will be better than that. You know? I know that maybe that's a pipe dream but I'm still hoping. What would have to change do you think? I don't know. Just thankful that Obama's in office, thank God. You know, and I hear this wild rumor that maybe, pardon me, I hear this wild rumor that maybe gays and lesbians and bisexuals, maybe even transgenders, who knows, will be accepted into the military. If that happens that would be huge. Even if we got just that, screw the marriage part, if we just got accepted into the military, that would be amazing. You know, where we could serve without having to worry about being ostracized from that group. There's another outcast, you know. And those people are giving their lives, they are literally putting their lives on the line for us, but if they're gay, oh heaven forbid that they should have any rights. If they're lesbian, heaven forbid that they should have any rights, you know? And I see this kind of crap happening all the time on the internet. I don't know why, people decide to go, I'm going to let all of the can of worms that I've been holding inside me out, maybe it's because of the fact that they feel that they are impervious or that they are anonymous, that they can hide behind that cloak, but not really because, I don't want to know them. What does your own online life look like? It's pretty sad. Uh. I have men. A few very wonderful, amazing people who I am lucky to know. And I appreciate them a lot. And I have let them know how much I appreciate them. And I still interact with them. Even if it's just a wink. And I'm sorry but, I, I love winks, you know, or whatever that is, you know. I don't mind that at all. I don't mind a smile or a wink. I, I have met some wonderful people online but they are few and far between. Maybe there's, I might meet three if I'm really lucky, three amazing people in a sea of, of, people who scare me. You know? In a three year period. And most of the people that scare me are the, you know, if you're black, don't even bother. If you're under this age, don't even bother, if you don't act masculine or if you've got this or that problem, if you don't like my unrealistic attitudes of what a man should be don't even bother. But luckily I've met some really wonderful people but they are few. So these people do they have any sort of offline relationship or is it purely online. Offline. I have met them online and have luckily been able to meet them offline. And interact with them and they were, they were, exactly what their profile professed to be. They were upfront and honest with that, and they didn't have a problem with age, and they didn't have a problem with race, and they didn't have a problem with, you know, femophobia or AIDS or whatever. They didn't even mention that in their profile. And they're amazing people and I'm really glad to know them. And I, I keep, I try to keep in touch with them as much as possible.
When did you first start interacting with other gay people on the internet? Hm. A while back. About, when I finally started getting, well some good friends of mine realized that I was not in an economic position to afford a computer so they made a big huge Frankenstein computer with all of these different parts, so it was really old and it was huge and bulky and it took forever for it to get online and do anything and that was '95, '96 that I started, finally having a computer that I could have any kind of interaction online with. So I, I know I'm a bit behind the times, at the moment luckily I have a laptop so things are a bit quicker, but, and, I mean I appreciate the person who donated that to me. I really do appreciate that gesture, but ever since about '96 let's say, I've been able to use the internet in some way, shape, or form. But I am a techno peasant and I wish I knew more but I don't. I actually found out a few months ago that I had a Windows Media Player and I am thrilled, and I'm still trying to figure out how to use it. And, and, I have yet to, to, sort of crack that nut but I was so excited that I called up my friend and I was like, “I've got a Windows Media Player and it's really cool,” and they were really not that excited about it. And, I was curious, you know, I didn't even know I had one so, they were kind of excited for me but meanwhile they were like, oh God, he's a techno peasant. How much do you think the internet has influenced your gay life? It's actually become a bit more necessary for me to use because, the options that it provides for interaction, are huge. They're, they're massive compared to just a bar or just a community center or just a card shop, or just a, a, couple of, like, clubs here and there. That has enhanced the experience of interacting with that community a lot and I'm, I'm grateful to have it, so. It is definitely enhanced that for sure. But also, it, in a way is kind of isolated me too, because I've found that, that it's easier to jump online than go and dance at a club, you know? Or go to an event, you know. And I'm trying to budget myself a little bit more as far as that's concerned because I think that it's more important to have actual physical communication than it is, you know, something online, with a static portrait, picture or webcam whatever. Alright. Our time is winding down, do you have any closing thoughts or anything you wanted to finish on for this interview. Yeah. I, even though I've talked about some of our shortcomings as a group and as a culture, I still want to, I still want to reiterate how amazing we are and how much we have to offer, and, and, how, how courageous we are. We're amazing people, and I'm proud to be gay, and, I hope to be interacting with that culture for a long time to come and we're wonderful people, you know? We really have a lot going for us and I really hope that we enjoy that. And that we realize how wonderful a golden age we find ourselves in. And that we really appreciate that, and, and, and enjoy, wallow in it, luxuriate in this, our queer golden age, because we've never had this before and I really hope we enjoy it as fully as
possible and we're worth it. We really are worth it. And I hope that the youth of the future make it even better. Cause, you know. They're all we've got. So. Those are my closing thoughts. Thank you. You're welcome.