Interview conducted and transcribed by Cleo Johnson (’14) on February 19th, 2012 via telephone. Audio is not available for this interview.
Transcript of Interview:
Sandy: Ms. Johnson?
Cleo: Yes, hi! How are you?
Sandy: I’m OK. Remind me of your first name.
Cleo: I’m Cleo. C-l-e-o.
Sandy: Yes, from Wisconsin.
Cleo: Yes I am. How are you doing?
Sandy: I’m alright, thank you.
Cleo: So, I guess I wanted to get started maybe with a little bit of, you know, “for the record,” kind of information, like your name, if you could spell it, and your graduation year from Wake Forest.
Sandy: Ok. It’s Sandy, that’s a nickname. S-a-n-d-y S-e-a-w-r-i-g-h-t
Cleo: Ok, perfect. And what year did you graduate from Wake?
Sandy: Well I went there for three semesters. I went there from the fall of ‘65 and I left in January of ‘67.
Cleo: Alright. Was that the first half of your college career or was it the last half or…?
Sandy: The first half.
Cleo: Ok. And how old are you now?
Sandy: I’m 64.
C: Ok. And where are you from?
S: I was born in Anderson, South Carolina, but from age 9 my family lived in Charlotte, North Carolina. I lived in Nashville, Tennessee for 10 years in my 20s and 30s but I moved back to Charlotte.
C: Ok. Cool. And what do you do now?
S: I work for a branch of the public library here.
C: That’s cool. And how would you describe your sexual identity?
S: Homosexual male.
C: Ok. And do you identify religiously with any certain affiliation?
S: Hmm… interesting question. Forever I was Methodist. I would say I’m definitely Christian. I’ve been going to a Metropolitan Community Church in Charlotte for a long time. I had a break there where a minister was actually taking money- there was a crooked minister there for a while and that- well, I guess, are you comfortable with that I’m Christian?
C: Yeah- absolutely, that’s definitely good enough.
C: Do you have a certain political identity?
C: Ok. That’s kind of, you know, the basic information that I just wanted to get out there but I guess just to start with a broader question: what was Wake like when you were here?
S: Just in general?
C: Yeah- was there anything specific that stuck out in your mind?
S: Well, I can relate from my own self. I had some, hmmm, self esteem issues. I’m from a dysfunctional family. My parents had some very good qualities, principally no prejudice about race or religion. But they were both alcoholics. My father had post-traumatic stress disorder from World War II, so at Wake Forest I kind of had these issues like, my own thing. Is it alright to tell you this?
S: Ok. It was like, am I smart enough to be here? And that kind of thought. But I thought people were basically friendly, serious… let’s see… serious about their work. I guess that’s what I would say.
C: Yeah, that’s good. Great. What was the student demographic like? I guess friendly and serious, do you have any other words that you can associate with them?
S: Either studious or student-political, or student-social.
C: Ok. Do you remember any defining moments in the time you were here in regards to your identity?
S: Something that was real amazing that happened to me when I was a freshman was that when I first met one of my suite mates I was in the Poteat dorm, first floor, and this suite mate was from Pennsylvania and he was there on a baseball scholarship. His first comment to me was, he and I were talking and for some reason we went- I don’t know where we went, maybe to the book store- but he says “my friend is a student at the Philadelphia Art Institute and he said ‘I know another male student in the class sent my friend a note that said I would like to have dinner with you on Saturday night.’ My friend did not want to hurt this fellow student’s feelings, but he did not want to do it. He did not want to get together with him.” And, you know, I think he said his friend communicated, “you’re fine within the class, but I don’t want us to connect personally.” And it was very, you know, I felt like this person was telling me that I was OK with him, if that makes sense. And I was friends with this fellow, you know like when you had exam period and you might have some days, I don’t know if you still have that…
C: Yeah. Reading days.
S: Yeah. He, the guy on the baseball scholarship, came to Charlotte with me, you know, so we were college friends. But that was his very first statement to me.
S: Yes. Also my roommate, who I never had a meal with, that just never happened.
C: It didn’t work out.
S: Right. But my roommate was always nice to me and I remember I went to the bookstore one afternoon and I always loved art. I mean I bought a piece of art from a museum in Charlotte where you could pay for it monthly and they would let you take the art home, the monthly rental would apply to the purchase. I was paying for a painting from my lawn mowing money. So I went to the bookstore and I bought this poster of a clown and I put it on the wall in the dorm room and my roommate said, “now if you want to turn this room into an art gallery its perfectly fine with me, proceed.” I mean it was real funny. He was always real nice to me, it’s like we had very very little in common. But he would ask me about how’s your English, and I would ask him about his Biology or how’s your professor. We didn’t connect in any way personally, but he was always nice, if that makes sense. I think those two things are kinda interesting.
C: Yeah, absolutely.
S: Those two people.
C: Were there other peers or professors that you particularly remember?
S: Oh, a lot. Yeah I looked at my Wake Forest freshman annual earlier and I had this English professor I thought was just amazing. I’m afraid that I read later that he took his life.
C: Oh, that’s too bad.
S: Yeah, his name was (inaudible). I liked him, I liked the biology professor I had. I didn’t think of myself as particularly scientific, but he was very clear. I found I did well in biology. I was kinda surprised- his name was E-s-c-h, I thought he was very clear. I had a history professor I liked, sorry I can’t think of his name…
C: No, that’s totally fine.
S: Well there’s another defining moment for me I can think of-
S: In the library, you know I think they were beginning a college art collection then and in the library there was this shopping bag that was framed in glass, like on both sides, and it was suspended with maybe like a real thin, a smaller chain, and the shopping bag on side had a Campbell’s soup can- maybe it was silk screened, maybe it was painted- it was done by Andy Warhol. And I knew Andy Warhol was like, avant-garde, I’d read about it in like, Life Magazine, or Look Magazine, back then, and I knew he was from some other world, and I’d be in the…it’s the Reynolds library, correct?
S: I’d been in the library and I’d see that piece of art hanging-that Campbell’s soup can on that shopping bag- and it just made me think that there’s this other world somewhere, there’s almost like an icon somewhere, I don’t want to exactly call it a religious object, but it was some kind of…I always looked at that.
C: Do you feel like that influenced how you viewed Wake? Or, you know, how you viewed the community at Wake?
S: You mean that there was another community somewhere?
S: Umm… sort of. I didn’t fit in…hmmm….I don’t want to sound self-serving, but I’ve been told I’m likeable, but that’s why worse things didn’t happen to me as a gay person, some people experience direct violence and so forth, but because of being likeable, some professionals, therapists, have told me that they think that’s why I missed that. But I knew I didn’t fit. The same way I never ate a meal with my roommate, I might now, but I didn’t fit into this sort of social fraternity/sorority-type situation. I wasn’t sure really where I did fit. You know, its funny, I knew another person when I was a freshman and sophomore there, I knew another gay fellow who’s from the Charlotte area, and I knew him for many years after Wake Forest, I mean he kept going there, but he and I never discussed any gayness until way after being students. I mean, I knew it, but we didn’t even talk about anything. No connection about being gay.
C: You mentioned some violence that maybe happened against members of the gay community?
S: Well I don’t know of any happening there, but I’m told that you know, sometimes, a lot of gay people go through a lot of rough experiences.
C: Yeah, definitely.
S: And the worst thing that happened to me was that on my room doorplate, you know where you have your name, someone wrote on my name “pussy.” The way I handled that was that I marked through it and then I marked on my roommate’s nameplate and scribbled something. It’s like I made it so that someone had scribbled something on both.
S: There was one time where a guy that my roommate knew- I don’t think he knew him super well- I liked a lot of people he knew, I thought they were pretty nice people. One time a guy he knew, like in the afternoon not in the night time, and I was there, and the guy asked me to give him a blowjob. And I was just, I couldn’t… I was just speechless. I was like…. I was just so kind of, shocked.
C: Yeah. So you also mentioned the Greek organizations on campus. How do you feel that influenced your experience or the gay community at Wake while you were here?
S: See, I wasn’t really aware of any gay community. Well, a little bit. There seemed to be some people, maybe around the theater department, that seemed to be somewhat together, you know, kind of an enclave. I don’t know. They were kind of unique- they appeared to be kind of avant-garde people. I would always kind of see some of them together. But I had no real sense of any gay community. This is in like 1965. May I ask what year you were born?
C: Yeah. I was born in 1992.
S: Right. There was another guy- I knew of him- I hope this isn’t breaking anonymity too bad, I knew a guy who was a cheerleader there. Later in Charlotte I would see him, I mean later when I’m in my 20s, I would see him in the gay community here, and I said, “well weren’t you at Wake Forest?” and he said, “yes,” and well I said, “how was that for you?” and he said, “well I kind of just went off campus to be gay. I wasn’t gay there.” There was no… I wasn’t aware of any support.
C: The guy you knew, you mentioned he went off campus, do you think there was more of a gay community or a sense of that off campus or do you think that that still wasn’t really there?
S: I don’t believe it was there.
C: Ok. What did you major in?
C: So which school did you attend after Wake?
C: That makes sense, since you’re from Charlotte. Well why did you decide to transfer? Was it that you wanted to be closer to home, or?
S: I’m sure this is playing the part, but fortunately I haven’t been bothered in a long long long long time, but I had some issues with depression, which I guess my gay issues were probably influencing. I am manic-depressive and at one point in my late 30s I spent time on social security disability for ten years. I had some other medical things, but that was the principle one. I lived in public housing for eight years. Fortunately, by the, I’ll say the grace of God, actually, and medication, and good doctors, good therapists, good psychiatrists, I’ve been working, I think it’s for 17 years, full-time. So I was able to come off disability. Well I’m sure that depression and my, I would say, denial of my sexuality, I’m sure that played a part with my depression. But I also had some issues around self-esteem. But I made pretty good grades, you know. My mother was kind of a smart woman. She would tell me, pick one of your classes, like you’re very afraid you’re going to fail something, well I didn’t, but she said pick one and deliberately fail it. It’s going to be OK. Even if you fail it, it’ll be fine.
C: It’s an interesting philosophy.
S: Yeah. So, even though I’m from a dysfunctional family I guess I felt homesick for a dysfunctional family.
C: Yeah. So, did you ever communicate with your parents about your sexual identity?
S: Later. Later.
C: So after you graduated?
S: Actually when I met my first relationships. When it really came out. Yes.
C: So when you were at Wake did you identify as being “out,” or?
S: No, just like neutral. Like, asexual or something. Like asexual. Like very closeted. I don’t mean I tried to appear macho or anything, I just didn’t bring it up. I didn’t do anything to act upon it.
C: Why was that?
S: I imagine fear and I imagine I didn’t know anybody to connect to who might be gay. I felt I didn’t have an awareness of other gay people.
C: Do you think that would have helped you maybe have your sexual identity out on campus?
S: Yeah. I think maybe being more authentic can be more real. I mean I think that could have helped. Also, I did go see, I will share this, I didn’t want to sound too bleak, I think this is helpful. You know the way therapy worked at this time- I did go see a school therapist- who essentially would just listen. Now I’m not sure, you know nowadays I’m pretty open book, I’m probably too open. Back then, I don’t know if I mentioned much about homosexuality or not, or if I was more concerned about my self-esteem issues, but I do remember the therapy practice seemed to me more where the therapist just listened, pretty much.
C: Mhmm. You mentioned some depression while you were here. Do you think that that was linked to your sexuality or confusion about your sexuality or anything like that?
S: I think it would have to be. I mean it might be, I don’t know the right psychiatric terms, but I think it would have to play a part. If you were denying a part of yourself, or shutting off a part of yourself. You must be doing something that’s negative.
C: Where you in any organizations while you were at Wake?
S: That’s a good question…I don’t think so.
C: Ok, sure. The greek community here is still pretty strong, and you mentioned that a little bit, but um, were you friends with any people in fraternities and sororities? What role do you think that played on campus?
S: Both of us fellows I mentioned, the guy on the baseball scholarship, and my roommate. My roommate was a very political person, like he ran for president of the freshman class. He didn’t win, but both of them were in social fraternities. I mean, I’ve always kind of had friends who were straight. If that makes sense…
S: My cousin went there. She’s two years older than me. She was in a, I think back then they called it “societies”
C: Yes, they did.
S: Yeah. She was in one of those. She was kind of a shy person. I’m actually kind of extroverted I think, but I was pretty isolated. But it didn’t seem like something I should do, like try to pledge a fraternity. It didn’t seem like… well at UNC-C I joined a business fraternity, but it didn’t seem like something I would have the guts to do. Like it would open a big can of worms or something.
C: Ok. And why do you think that was?
S: Just a strong image of heterosexuality. Just the image is kind of like straight male, straight female, and um… maybe not feeling like I had enough courage, at the time. Someone I knew from the Charlotte area, I mean he lived in Winston-Salem, is gay. And I would see this guy, and we would talk, and his dorm room was real close to mine. I would see him probably daily. We never talked about being gay. And we were both gay. It wasn’t till later, after the college years. I had a lover back in the day. And this person would sort of come around, and just kinda opened up. I mean its like, its two gay people might not open up to each other.
C: Do you think that was specific to Wake Forest’s environment? Or do you think it was attributed to the time, or?
S: I will say this. My first relationship, he was my age, he was from High Point, North Carolina, which is pretty close, he was going to Chapel Hill. When I met him in Charlotte I believe was… that’s a very good question… I believe I was 23 years old. Something that kind of surprised me about him. He’s had one, two… he had two gay friends from Chapel Hill that he knew in Charlotte, that he’d known in Chapel Hill. And then he had another friend, a gay friend, his two friends were gay, and then he and the guy were partners at some point, and then he knew another guy who was from, he met him in Chapel Hill but he was living in Atlanta and he was gay. It kinda surprised me that his college experience- we’re the same age- that he had these gay friends in college. They were friends with a girl. I guess she was a gay woman? She might have just been someone who liked gay men. But my first relationship- I’m sorry I’m redundant, I’m sure you got what I said, but, it’s pretty amazing. He had gay friends from college. I really didn’t. I had this one, but it was like we had to get out of college to be gay friends.
C: Ok. So maybe UNC was more accepting, or what do you think it was open, or are there any characteristics about Wake…
S: You know, it could be, it could all be in my head, all in my perception, but I guess somehow, I think there was a gay bar in Chapel Hill, maybe pretty close to the campus. Or maybe somehow a bar that was gay accepting? I think that’s part of it. Now at Wake Forest at that time. I don’t really think… I hope this is kind of healing for me about Wake Forest, I don’t want to be bashing Wake Forest, but I didn’t feel any gay affirmation. I had another friend from Charlotte. His name was Sandy. He was always friends with me. I went on a trip with him to the World’s Fair right after Wake Forest. How do I say this. People were nice to me. Nobody really affirmed, well… it could be just me, my own homophobia at that time. I didn’t feel an affirmation of gay. I didn’t feel a sense of “go here and meet other gay people” or “go here and hear a gay lecture, or see a gay movie, or see a gay exhibit.” I didn’t feel that.
C: And would you say that you felt that when you transferred more?
S: That’s an interesting question. Of course I was a little bit older. Well when I was in the business fraternity I knew this other guy. He was very active, he was very much about doing service, and he was very academic, he was a good student and he was an accountant, and he got a good accounting kind of job, he got a job while he was still a student. Well, I remember he was dating this girl but then he pretty quickly…he became…he was gay… he was out there, and that did happen a little freerer at UNC-C. I mean it took a little while, it didn’t happen instantly, but it became a little freerer. And at UNC-C I took an art history course. See when I was going to Wake Forest there were no art history courses. When I went to UNC-C I took a modern art appreciation course with a painter, a woman, who I later learned was a gay woman. I mean I didn’t quite know that at the moment, it became a little more open… right.
C: Sure. Well comparing Wake and other communities you’ve lived in, do you think Wake impacted you as a member of the gay community? Or did it change your outlook in any way?
S: Hmm. I guess I wonder if it’s possible that I could’ve had a different gay experience than I did. Which was, pretty, well, an experience of denial. That could be coming from me only, my own homophobia, but I did see that these theater people seemed- they were definitely kind of avant-garde the way they dressed. And you would see them going around together. I did see that group connection. It would be interesting to see if, at that time, if my Wake Forest experience could’ve been a little bit different. Where I wouldn’t just be looking at the Andy Warhol poster as my height of sort of like, GL, trans, as my…center, as my GL center.
C: You’ve mentioned this theater group a couple of times. Do you think that other people viewed them as maybe being a kind of gay community on campus?
S: Well my friend named Sandy said to me one time, he said, “I think they’re pretty wild.” I would say yes. At least one other person saw that group as something going on there. Something different than the fraternity/sorority/society socialization. The heterosexual socialization.
C: Were there any challenges that were specific to Wake, or that you faced at UNC that were specific to that environment?
S: Good question. At Wake I was in ROTC. My father had suggested it. And actually, this is kind of interesting, later in the Vietnam period, I joined the Army Reserves, and I went to basic training, I thought they’d probably send me back, and I actually, believe it or not, I actually liked it. And I learned later that I like structure. I do well with structure. I think I’m real avant-garde and free-wheeling and anything goes, but actually I like structure. Challenges, let’s see… I think the challenge was… I think repressing my sexuality was a big challenge at Wake Forest.
C: That’s interesting. What do you mean by that?
S: Like, not letting anybody know who I really am, probably being overly pleasing to people, feeling isolated. I had a friend from high school. She went to UNC-G. I would borrow my cousin, who was in Laurels society, she was two years older than me, I would borrow her car and drive over to UNC-G and see my friend, well my friend was going to some bar/coffeehouse where gay people came. And they knew these people. They hung out with them and they went there to avoid straight men. The woman I knew, she and some of her friends, would go to this gay bar to avoid straight men. So they were at UNC-Greensboro, and that outlet was there. I really believe that my homophobia- my own homophobia was so great- and then I wasn’t seeing any affirmation of my sexuality.
C: Yeah. So you mentioned a couple of times maybe your own homophobia. Where do you think that came from?
S: My family. Oh yeah.
C: And why do you think they had that feeling?
S: It’s interesting. My parents had very good qualities, even though they were alcoholic and post-traumatic stressed, but they had no prejudice about race or religion. I work in a library branch in a black part of Charlotte. I wrote art reviews for five reviews in a black newspaper. I’m comfortable in the black community. But gayness was not big there. My father was like, “I believe you change your sexuality.” That’s like ignorance. And I was in an ex-gay ministry in Charlotte. Catholic social services. For about nine months. And the nun running that program said, “I believe we are hurting people here more than we are helping people.” It was a co-ed group. So then I had to do a lot of work, I’m still working with a gay male therapist, and I’ve been to that for a long time.
C: What time were you in this ministry about?
S: That would be in about 1986, 1987. I’m probably about 40 years old.
C: And why do you think you decided to go into this ministry?
S: Is this going to be on the record?
C: It doesn’t need to be.
<Omitted from the record from 43:29 to 45:50>
C: Maybe going back on the record, if that’s ok with you.
C: Maybe moving back to your time with ROTC?
C: How was that at Wake? What were your day-to-day activities like with it?
S: You had a class- maybe only one day a week. And then there was a drill. Do they still have ROTC there?
C: They do, yeah.
S: Ok. Well that actually went pretty ok but I think I also had fear about becoming an officer in the army. I think I had fear about that. Right.
C: What was the community of ROTC like?
S: This is going to sound strange. I felt…this is a good question…the community was stratified by class year and rank but there wasn’t a feeling of hazing. Actually, I think in ROTC I actually felt pretty comfortable.
C: Ok. And why do you think you felt comfortable?
S: Maybe again it’s that structure that I discovered when I went to basic training. I mean I was in the army reserves for six years and I became a sergeant. I ended up as editor of a magazine for an army reserve division of drill sergeants of about 70,000 members. Somehow that structure is good for me. I don’t know how to explain it but I didn’t find any structure to be gay at Wake Forest. I mean, I was homophobic and I didn’t find structure to be gay in. If that makes sense.
C: That makes sense definitely. So, maybe thinking a little bit about after your time after Wake and actually after you graduated. How are you currently involved in the LGBTQ community in your area?
S: I’ve tried to be more social. In the fall I went to, you know, a gay pride, in the late summer in Charlotte.
S: And, I am a good dancer, I like the shag, that’s like a…
S: And I saw a line-dancing group and I thought, “I could do that!” You know, they were doing a demonstration. Well I went to this line-dancing group for about four months.
S: I really can’t line dance, cause I can’t remember all the steps in a row, but the people were very nice. The people also were about 45 and below and I think one of my goals is to face my age. You know, that I’m 64 rather than 34. Also I got in a gay tennis group. And that was good. My tennis improved a lot. I met some people. And I go to, well I’ve go back to this MCC church. The name is New Life Metropolitan Community Church in Charlotte. They got rid of the minister that took 10,000 dollars. And I do some activities with, well, there’s now a gay male, you might just if this is public, I don’t mind you saying this, I’m in a gay male, between me and god, its an SAA meeting. They now have that in Charlotte. But it’s a gay male twelve-step meeting.
C: Ok. That’s cool.
S: Yeah! And I did some things with, well I’m connected with, well this is gonna sound strange connected to that ex-gay ministry, it’s a Catholic social services, but I’ve actually connected to the gay Catholics. And I go on a retreat in Maggie Valley, North Carolina in October.
C: Yeah, that’s a beautiful area.
C: Well it sounds like there’s a good sense of community in that area.
S: Oh yeah.
C: That’s good. How do you think your occupation interacts with you sexual identity, if at all?
S: Well, I’m out with my boss. And the library doesn’t use sexual orientation as, you know, it doesn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation. I deal a lot with the public of all ages. Children, I do a lot with children. Story time, events for children, plus older people using the computer, people trying to find books. Maybe being caring, compassionate, if that’s a part of my gayness. Maybe. You know, I’m using that. But you could have that, but you wouldn’t have to be gay to have that.
C: Right, yeah. Do you think your sexual identity influenced any other careers or jobs that you’ve had? It sounds like you’ve done a lot throughout your life. Do you think it influenced your career choices or any of the career environments you were in?
S: When I was on disability I could make a little bit of money, so I taught at the college level. Art appreciation, art history, art criticism, and I wrote art reviews in three different weekly newspapers for fourteen years. Now there can be a stereotype that the gay male is, you know, like some gay males like the arts. I mean of course anyone can like the arts. That probably fits me. But I’ve recently had a big big shift. I should tell you this. After worshipping very contemporary art, including Warhol, for like fifty years, that art is not doing it for me anymore. I mean, it feels empty. And I’m kind of switching back to the renaissance and art that’s figurative.
C: Interesting. Do you think there’s a specific reason why that happened?
S: I think it’s because I’ve become more social. I think that the real cool, detached, contemporary art, kind of for me personally, represents my aloneness and my isolation. And I think, you know, in being more social, and liking people more, or connecting to people more, or feeling more comfortable connecting to people. Right.
C: So I guess going back a little bit, this is a little scattered, but you mentioned that you took and art history class when you were at UNC?
C: UNC-C. Did you take any other art classes? It seems like you’re really knowledgeable about that field. Or maybe was your appreciation of art influenced by either of the schools that you went to?
S: Oh, I was influenced by Wake Forest a lot by art. A lot. There’s this picture of, I think it’s a portrait, of Z. Smith Reynolds. I believe there’s a portrait of him in the library, or there was, and I would look at that, and I would look at it, and I would say, “oh that young man.” Then I read that I think he took his life. I might be wrong.
C: I’m not sure.
S: Right. And the same artist that I bought from the museum, that’s actually in two locations in Charlotte. This is the old museum on Randolph Road. That painting I had in my room at Wake Forest by Walter Thrift. T-h-r-i-f-t. Well, at Wake Forest there was a big, BIG, like it was multi-paneled, it was very large painting by Walter Thrift at Wake Forest.
In, I believe, in the library. It was maybe seven panels.
S: It was tall and wide. As I said this was before there was an art department. I think you have a building or a gallery.
C: Yeah, we do.
S: This is before that, but still I found that art there very comforting. Yes.
C: Let’s see…
S: Oh! The films! They used to show films a lot.
C: Ok! What were some of your favorite films when you were here? I’m sure there were tons.
S: This is a good memory stretcher, let’s see if I can think of some. That’s another form of art. I’m sorry, I’m not…
C: No, that’s totally fine!
S: But you know I think they had, this is something I suddenly remember, this is something like really tapping into memory, they were doing some silkscreen posters for the movies. And I really remember, like maybe it was a movie that had already happened. I’m pretty sure I took the poster and put it in the dorm room. I’m pretty sure that happened. Those posters would be all around the campus. So I guess I would say the art, I mean for me, specifically me the visual art, was kind of my, that was part of my sustaining nourishment. And it definitely related to my gayness.
C: And why do you say that?
S: Well, let’s see, because they’re both authentic.
C: Interesting. What do you mean by that authenticity?
S: Being truthful. Being real. Being who you really are. Being your true self. Getting to the real core of you.
C: Why did you decide to transfer? Did you have any particular reasons for that?
S: You know I got to where when I came back from Christmas the first semester of being a freshman I had this very strong feeling of homesickness. And I remember telling my roommate that my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary was January 25th. And I said, “I think I’m going to go home for that” and he said “well, I would! Why don’t you? I would go home for that, that’s important.” And I got to where, see my biggest recovery issue, I’m gonna trust (*laughs*)… is depravation. I’ll tell that first view off the record and then we’ll see how it evolves. And so I got to where I wouldn’t sleep very well. You know? Insomnia. Then I would register for classes. Like I would have a professor in the fall I made an A with in an 8’oclock class. This is when you could go around, I don’t know if you can still do this but you would sign up yourself for classes.
S: Well I’d forego that teacher and I’d pick some stranger because I could go there at 11 in the morning. Like, oh, well if don’t sleep I’ll at least go later and just doing stuff like that. I wasn’t sleeping very well. That was in the spring of being a freshman. I was still like, well, I’ll go back. I mean, I’ll keep going. And I just go to the point that I was, in the fall of being a sophomore, around Thanksgiving, I just got to the point that I was, I guess it’s like my depression had increased. And I’m trying to think how this happened. I guess I went to the infirmary. I saw a female internist. And she said, “I want you to go home. I do not want you to do any schoolwork while you’re there. I want you to watch movies,” this is really interesting, “watch movies and read comic books and then just come back and see how you are.” And I came back and it was exam period so I took the exams and then I just went home. I went home because at that time the struggle was too great for me.
S: She did. For real. She said, “watch movies.” This is before the videotape. And, read comic books.
C: Well, some questions to maybe start wrapping up. Are there any questions that I didn’t ask that you maybe wish I had asked?
S: You know my cousin. My cousin’s, she’s a very positive person. And she’s had a lot of loss in her life and interestingly she went to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin.
C: Oh really!
S: In economics. So. Her father took her life and her younger of her two children, he died of cancer when he was four, she had a mastectomy and her husband divorced her. She says you learn you can live with anything. You know that’s a kind of interesting. I think when I’m about in my 30s. She tells her mother, she says, “I guess he’s homosexual.” I really believe, well maybe that happens in my 20s, that she says that. But I really believe I’m in my 30s. That’s the secretive in my family. And I’m close to this person. I’m spiritually close to them. I mean I was driving her car to Greensboro (chuckles).
C: How do you that she told that, how do you think that affected you?
S: More vulnerable. But then later I feel much better about it. Much better. But at that time more vulnerable.
C: Is there anything else at all that you would like to discuss about your time at Wake?
S: You know I’ve had this experience that, I hope this doesn’t seem too far out, but spiritually. That Wake Forest in me is kinda like it’s cut back for me spiritually. Like that’s a little period in time I’m not really supposed to go back to. One time at Reynolda House a couple years ago, a film about a couple of friends of mine who are art collectors, they collected on shoestring and the National Gallery in Washington bought their collection. So I went to see the film when it first came out at Reynolda House. I drove on to the campus and, I have a pickup truck, the fan of the front of the truck, like its near the radiator, part of the fan broke off and hit the pavement on the Wake Forest driveway. It’s almost like, disconnection, you know? I mean it’s like, I called this friend and they said, if you drive safely you can drive back to Charlotte with that. And I have another friend in 12 step recovery who finished school there. He’s younger than me, I mean he’s got a family. He and I have been up there before. It’s been real interesting. But that friend of mine, the baseball player. He lives near Charlotte. I mean he lives 20 miles away and I’ve left a message. One time I saw on linkedin he worked at the community college in Charlotte- I was so surprised. I left him a message. He left me a message back. I called his house, I talked to his wife, he was asleep. It’s almost like it felt like you and he aren’t really supposed to connect. I don’t think he exactly dislikes me. I saw him once in New York city after he finished Wake Forest, but this is the most connecting experience I have had to Wake Forest since, just, talking to you, since I was 19 years old. And I’m real grateful for that.
C: So, you don’t have any connection in particular to any alumni activities?
S: I do get the emails of the GL…BT? I just get them. I haven’t ever… right.
C: Right. Well is there anything else you’d like to wrap up with?
S: Now tell me the nature… you’re in a class?
C: Yeah, sure. I’m in this class called Queer Public Histories. And we’re doing all sorts of different things. And we’re interviewing people like you who have volunteered. And we’re going to transcribe these, of course if there’s a part that’s off the record that won’t be transcribed. And it’s going to be put in the LGBTQ part in the library here. And they’re going to go in there and that’s about it for now. We’re kind of just building up archives so that if someone in the future is interested about what it was like at Wake during a certain period there’s a little bit of history there. And the rest of the class we’re just exploring a lot of other gay issues, particularly in the south. Since the 1800s on, even earlier than that.
C: Yeah! It’s really interesting, I really like it. I’m taking it as part of my history classes. But I guess just kind of to wrap up a little. I emailed you a consent form this morning. I’m not sure if you got it.
S: I don’t have email at home but I’ll get it tomorrow at work.
C: Ok, sure. And I sent it to haroldsander@yahoo?
C: And you’ll see on the form that there’s a place to write anything, any restrictions that you might want. And of course the portion that we discussed during this conversation that was off the record will be off the record. That won’t even be recorded. And if there’s anything else you think of retroactively that you would like to have off the record you can put that in that box and I’ll take that out of the transcript. But if you can think of anything now, you can tell me, otherwise just feel free to email me. But if you could print off that form and either fax it back, there’s a number of the form, or email it back or send it that would be great.
S: Great. And your name is in it?
S: And this is for kind of archival usage.
C: Yes. Just archival. And they might actually do something, my professor Dr. Mazaris, she may decide to do something else with it in the future. So by signing this form you are giving her permission to potentially do something. Reproduce it in a book or use it in an exhibit in the library. It’s very explicit in the form. If you have any questions about that you can feel free to contact me. I think that’s it. Do you have any questions about the consent form?
C: Ok, well that should be in your email inbox. Of course feel free to reply to the email. If you have any questions or if you decide you want anything else off the record. I’d be happy to help you. Also, if you’d like a copy of the transcription I’d also be happy to email that to you.
S: Oh, that’d be wonderful!
C: Sure, I’ll do that then.
S: Will that be in print version?
C: It’ll be a Word document. And I’ll just email that file to you when it’s done.
S: That would be very nice.
C: Well I really appreciate you volunteering for this, it’s been a wonderful time talking to you.
S: Well, the same! You have some very smart questions.
C: I’m glad you enjoyed them.
S: Do you have any guestimate as to how many people are in this process?
C: Well, I think there is about 15 students in the class. And each of us are interviewing someone. So, at least 15. And I think there were a couple extra that volunteered. So, depending on if people actually end up following through with the interviews, we should, you know, maybe 15, maybe 18, something like that.
S: OK, great.
C: So a good number.
S: Thank you so much.
C: Thanks! Have a good rest of your afternoon. I’ll be in touch with you.
S: Thank you.
C: Yep. Bye!