George Goodloe Morgan oral history interview

George Goodloe Morgan oral history interview

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George Goodloe Morgan oral history interview
University of South Florida -- Library. -- Special & Digital Collections. -- Oral History Program


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Oral history ( local )
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interviewed by Dr. Cyrana Brooks Wyker.

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text Cyrana Wyker: This is Cyrana Wyker. I am with George Mason
George Morgan: Morgan.
CW: Morgan, sorry. At the University of South Florida Tampa Campus Library in Tampa, Florida. This is an interviewThis interview is part of the Tampa GLBT Oral History Project under my direction. Today is November 6, 2013. Do I have your permission to record this interview?
GM: Yes, you do.
CW: Yay! Okay, so lets startwhere were you born?
GM: I was born in Reedsville, North Carolina in Rockingham County.
CW: How long did you live there? Did you grow up there?
GM: Um, that was the location of the county hospital at the time. And I grew up in a little town called Madison, also in that county. I was born on August 24, 1952, and I lived in Madison until September of 1967 when I went off to boarding school.
CW: Okay. Where did you go to boarding school?
GM: I went to Stanton Military Academy in Stanton, Virginia, and I was there for three years.
CW: Wow. What was the purpose of going to military boarding school?
GM: I wanted a really good education and our local public schools at the time were not doing very well in that area. My mothers father when he died in 1949 had left a trust fund to further the education of his grandchildren. My brother who is twelve years older than I am was the first and I was the last of the grandchildren.
And so one of my cousins had also been to a military school and he just thought it was awesome. So I had this experience with Stanton Military Academy in Stanton, Virginia and it was marvelous. It wasI learned so much not only academically, but also about living with people and cooperating and doing projects together. It was a really fine education.
CW: So you were there for three years, did you graduate from
GM: Yes.
CW: And this would have been in place of high school?
GM: Correct.
CW: Okay. And so what did you decide to do after military school?
GM: I went to college at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill for a couple of years, and then I left there, and I moved to Chicago, and got a job, and then ultimately went back to school.
CW: What did you study at UNC?
GM: Journalism
CW: Okay, did you graduate with a bachelors, or did you change course?
GM: Actually, when II left University of North Carolina, ended up in Chicago, went to University of Chicago for a couple of years and got a bachelors in English.
CW: Okay. What was the reason you left UNC?
GM: Following a guy to Chicago.
CW: Oh, okay. (both laugh) What kind of work did you do in Chicago?
GM: The first job I had I worked, since I had some journalistic background, I got a job as an employee for a newspaper there called Chicago Today, which didnt last very long. And then after that I took a job working retail for a company called Abercrombie & Fitch, which is not the same company today.
It was a sporting goods and high-end clothing store. And it ultimately when out of business in 1978. And the store we know as Abercrombie & Fitch today is owned by the Gap andyesand the Gap purchased the name, and they spent several million dollars just for the name, because the name had an identity.
CW: Oh.
GM: And then after I left there I worked for Montgomery Ward for a few years. Their headquarters was in Chicago. They are since defunct. I put all these companies out of business. (both laugh) But I left there and I went to work for the Sears Corporation at their headquarters in Chicago in Sears Tower.
And ultimately the department that I was involved with became part of a joint venture with IBM. And uh, we relocated that venture out to the Northwestern suburbs of Chicago. And it was through that organization, which had its headquarters in Tampa that I arranged to have my job transferred here.
CW: Oh.
GM: That has been eighteen and a half years ago.
CW: Oh wow. So what year did you move to Tampa?
GM: 1995.
CW: Oh, okay.
GM: January.
CW: So lets take a little bit of awell, quite a jump back actually. Um, what was your adolescence like?
GM: Strange. (both laugh) Like every other kid and going through the adolescent years I guess I had the insecurities and trying to fit in into the group I went to school with, but I knew I was gay at that time. And so there was a long period of um, having to conceal that. I had one childhood friend who also was gay, and we bonded together, and we were exceedingly close friends for many years, butuntil he passed away eleven years ago.
But the adolescent yearsit was interesting, and then when I went off to military school, it gave me more interests and a higher academic standard to work with. But still it was that question of, and here we are in the 1960s, late 60s, and we are trying to conceal who I am and what I am. And I think in terms historically the gay rights movement really did not begin until June of 1969, and so that wasit was a very closeted period. It was uncomfortable.
CW: So when did you come out if you dont mind me asking?
GM: When I went to the University of North Carolina it took me one week to find a gay bar and that was it.
CW: One week. How did you find a gay bar in one week?
GM: I knew that there was a gay bar in Chapel Hill. I had heard that. I had read something about it. And so I started asking around and one of the guys in the dorm that I was living with said, Oh yeah, he said, The queer bar is down on Franklin Street, on West Franklin Street. And I said, Oh where? And he said, Why, you want to go there? I said, No, just kind of curious. But he told me where it was, and that was on a Thursday and on Friday night I was there. (both laugh) And there was no looking back.
CW: So that is what sort of brought you out?
GM: It waswell it was nice to finally find that there were other people with the same interests, with the same desires. And it was a lot of fun to not only meet the people but to have a place to do and I could be myself without really trying to hide anything. Yes, there still was this furtive thing, well you still dont want to let people know as it were. But it was a lot of fun.
I met a lot of very interesting people. Um, the youngest of whom were probably my age, the oldest was a retired doctor from Durham, North Carolina, and he was in his eighties at the time. And his caregiver, his hired caregiver, would bring him to that bar on Friday or Saturday night, and bring him in in his wheelchair and hed sit in the back by the dance floor and watch people and so forth. It turns out that he had been instrumental in the fifties and sixties in helping get young men draft deferrals. So
CW: Oh, interesting.
GM: Yeah.
CW: What was that gay bar like? Can you describe the atmosphere?
GM: The name of the place was Pegasus. And it was downstairs under a record store, and had access downstairs from a sidewalk and also from a parking lot in the back. And it was finishedthe finish of it was kind of like a cave. And, uh, it had a big bar in front, a big juke box, some booths, and that kind of served as a socializing area, and then there was a little carter going into the back and the backroom was a dance floor. And it was very comfortable, dimmer lights, it wasnt dark and creepy, but it wasyou know, like a lot of bars and restaurants, ambient lighting.
CW: During your time at UNC were there any LGBT clubs or organizations?
GM: There were. There was an organization that wasI discovered that bar in September of 1970 and there was a chapter of the Mattachine Society The Mattachine Society was founded in 1950 and was one of the earliest homophile organizations in the United States. that was local there. And because Chapel Hill isthe University of Carolina is there, in Durham there is Duke University, in Raleigh there is North Carolina State, and there is some other smaller colleges in the area.
So you had, I would say, it was a more intelligent community, more culturally oriented. There were lots of people with various ideas about what society could be like. The Mattachine Society was certainly pro-gay and lesbian, but it tended to be a little militant for some peoples taste.
CW: Militanthow so?
GM: Militant in effect that they would show and do very active demonstrations at public events, and the people who participated in those protests tended to get arrested. And that is really what they wanted, is they wanted that visibility. And that wasnt the direction I necessarily wanted to go. (both laugh)
But it was certainly interesting to keep track of what was going on. The preeminent gay newspaper at the time was The Advocate andwhich still existsand that was great source of news. And when you subscribed it came in a plain brown wrapper. You didnt want your mailman to know unless he was cute. (both laugh)
CW: So did you live on campus or did you live off campus?
GM: I lived on campus the first year, that was a requirement of the university, and then I moved off campus for the beginning of my sophomore year for three months, and then I moved into a house. One of the guys that I had met through the bar, he had purchased a house, and it was on the same street where all the fraternities were. And so we saidthere were seven of us who lived in that house. Seven guys. And we had a blast.
We called our quote, unquote fraternity Gamma Alpha Yall, but wed have a great time. Sunday was awe had a great kitchen. We took turns cooking and doing all of that sort of thing. And on Sundays we would all come together, and wed get copies of the New York Times and the Washington Post, and we would sit around, and read the newspapers, and have bloody marys, make a Sunday brunch for ourselves, have more bloody marys.
And then sit in our common TV room and watch The French Chef with Julia Child. That was the best comedy on TV at the time. If you have seen Julia Child, you know what she was like. But that was a very comfortable period. And in the meantime I had met somebody that I fell very much in love with, and he moved in with me in that house. And then he had graduated from the University of Chicago, and he was several years older than I was.
So he had decided he was going to go back to Chicago to live. There was no way I was going to be without him. I packed up. I sold a bunch of stuff and raised some money to move. And I did. And I didnt tell anybody else. My parents and my brother, they didnt know anything about it, which is probably one of the biggest regrets I have is my mother just absolutely freaked out over it when she found out I was gone. And it was several months before I contacted them. In the meantime they had gotten the state police involved and so forth.
CW: Oh wow. So did your parents know that you hadthat you were in this relationship?
GM: No.
CW: Okay.
GM: No. And my mother would have been fine with it at that time. She was certainly fine with a later relationship that I had. My father would never have understood. He was quite a bigot. He was very racially bigoted, which Ive always found strange because he was born in 1909. His mother had come from a life of privilege and she never did any work of any kind. And when his sister was born in 1905, and he was born in 1909, their mother hired a Black woman to be a live-in and act as, lets call her a mammy.
CW: Okay.
GM: So that was very strange. My father worshipped that woman but if you said something to himif you said something such as I did once, which was, Dont ever tell me that you never loved a Black woman because you did love Caroline. And that resulted in my being thrown against a wall, but then being told, never bring that up again. But you know, I got to Chicago, and Steve and I had a good life there.
We had a great time. Life in Chicago was very different. Certainly there were lots of gay bars. There were lots of gay organizations. Gays and lesbians interacted. I met my first lesbian that I knew of. Moved to Chicago and we became good friends. And we still keep in touch. It was not unusual to, lets say, go out on a Friday night and not come home until Sunday night. So, it was pretty wild.
CW: Did you join any gay organizations or clubs?
GM: I didnt. I didnt. That was an interesting time living in Chicago. There were things that were happening for instance there was the Chicago Mens Gay Chorus that formed. It was a wonderful organization. And I loved to sing, but I wasnt anywhere near the caliber to participate with them, but I knew a lot of guys in the organization. And we worked on a variety of projects together.
Certainly I participated in the Gay Pride Parade. I thought they were marvelous. It was something I never had thought about doing before. And then here we went into the late 70s and early 80s and the AIDS crisis was growing. Chicago had several gay bathhouses, and Ill say that I had been to one of them several times because it was the greatest place for entertainment on the weekends.
In that place in one night I had the opportunity to hear Barry Manilow play and to accompany Bette Midler. That was a stellar performance. We had other things as well. There was an opera singer by the name of Eleanor Stabler and she had retired from the metropolitan.
And one of the ways that she made money in her retirement is she would give concerts, and she traveled all across the county and performed in gay bars and lesbian bars. So that was pretty special too. She wasnt just performing opera stuff, but shed do show tunes and some body things. It was kind of fun.
CW: You had mentioned that you participated in some projects with members of the Gay Mens Chorus. What kind of projects?
GM: We were working on publicity for some concert tours that they were doing. And one of the things that they were involved with is helping raise money to refurbish and restore the Chicago Theater, one of the great 1920s movie houses. It was a fabulous place, and it had fallen into disrepair in the sixties.
That project ultimately raised from all the people and all the organizations participating, that project raised ten million dollars to restore that theater and reopen it again. But there was another organization very active in this called CATOE, and that is the Chicago Area Theater Organ Enthusiasts. And these are people who really love theater pipe organs. And so they not only helped us raise money and they welcomed us with open arms and said, Whatever we can do together, lets do. And that was a lot of fun.
CW: You also mentioned gay bathhouses.
GM: Yes.
CW: Would you mindI mean Ive never been to one, ever, so can you describe for me what those are like? The sort of interior.
GM: Um-hm. Um, the one that I am thinking of right now is one that called Manscountry. It had been a warehouse building. It was a three-story warehouse that occupied, I guess, about half a block. And had a basement area. You walked in, you checked in, gave your credit card or cash whatever. They gave you a key to a locker and a towel. If you wanted, they also would rent you a room for private passion.
But the rest of the facility they had a dance floor. They had a TV/movie room. They had social areas. They had showers. Just a variety of places just to socialize or, in some cases, there was some heavy cruising going on, people looking for anonymous sex. And yes, it was nice eye candy. Depending on your personalityif you were shy, you kind of keep to yourself. If you were pretty aggressive, you might get involved in almost anything.
CW: Did they sell alcohol or liquor?
GM: Yes.
CW: Okay.
GM: Yes, and about that time in the late 70s they had huge bowls of condoms available. You also could buy poppers. Sometimesthey didnt quote, unquote sanction it, but sometimes there would be people who were smoking pot, but typically that was not encouraged. It was: ask people to go out on the patio, the enclosed patio in back if you want to do that. It was interesting.
That was unlike any other gay bathhouse that I knew anything about or that I had read anything about, because it did tend to have live entertainment on weekends, and it wasnt, you know, rock bands. It was something higher class or different names. And if you consider that time period, that was the time Bette Midler and Barry Manilow were really coming into their own.
Lou Reed, who just recently died, was there at one point. They had other singers. They actually had a ballet troupe there at one point. That was kind of interesting. A lot people were not interested in that at all and other people were just wrappedtheir attention was just drawn to the performance. But it was just very interesting.
CW: That is interesting. So were therewas there any fear about police harassment or raids?
GM: No. No, not at all. Not at all. And, of course, that being theChicago at the time period, I have no idea if there was, you know, police protection or pay offs, or bribes, or whatever. There was a placethere was a great dance club on the near north side of Chicago. I forget the name of it.
It was on the near north side, just north of the river by a few blocks from downtown. And it was obviously very gay and a lot of people in and out of there. It was right across the street from a police station. And there was never any harassment. It was one of the best places to go.
CW: Do you think that is different because of the tolerance in Chicago? Do you think that the same type of acceptance would have existed in North Carolina?
GM: Absolutely not.
CW: Okay.
GM: Absolutely, not. I know that there was a gay club in Greensboro, North Carolina, and it was in a storefront. And they were very careful, very discrete about their operations. The bar in Chapel Hill was less discrete. It was college town. And you know, a college town, a lot of things happen that, you know would not happen in small towns.
CW: Right.
GM: That was an interesting way to look at things. Certainly in the same era you go to San Francisco and, of course, the Castro street area was absolutely full of gay men and lesbians, and that was very accepted. New York City was kind of a mix depending on where you were. Remember the Stonewall Riots began in June of 69 and that really was very much what was happening in other cities across the country.
CW: So you mentioned that you had participated in the pride parade in Chicago. Was that your first pride parade?
GM: Yes. And I participated in pride parades here in Tampa, and nothing anywhere near the size or intensity. Ive attended pride parades in other places as well, one in San Francisco that I went to when I was out there for an American Libraries Association convention in June one year. And I was absolutely astonished.
The first thing at step off for the parade wason Market Streetwere lesbians on motorcycles. And their banner said: Dykes on Bikes. But what was absolutely unique about them was that they were topless, and they had all had double mastectomies, and so they were making multiple statements at the same time. And if you dont think that those are powerful statementsthat was pretty amazing.
CW: And that is not something that you would see in TampaSt. Petersburg because now
GM: You might now. You might now, but you certainly would not have seen anything like that until at least the nineties. I think one thing, Cyrana, that hurt the gay movement in this country at least and elsewhere was the AIDS epidemic. It fostered a great deal of hatred for gays. It was called the gay plague and it was a very sad, sad thing. A fellow out in San Francisco by the name of Randy Shiltz wrote a book, And the Band Played On.
And if you havent read it, it is one of the most powerful books you will ever read. What it is a documentary of what happened as the CDC The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the national public health institute of the United States. This is a federal agency thats goal is to protect the public health and safety through controlling and preventing disease, injury, and disability. and the federal government started looking for patient zerohow AIDS began in this country. And they traced it back to a flight attendant butas patient zero. And one who didnt care who he infected. The plague as it were, AIDS certainly was never limited to gay men or women.
It was a general disease. I think looking at it now certainly it was traced back to its introduction in the United States in 1976. But you look back now and you think, Well it effects all races, all genders, people of all ages. Actually one of my mothers sisters died of AIDS in 1987, and she had received it through a blood transfusion and that was very hushed up in the family for a long time.
Now it is a matter of fact. And I go to and look at death certificates from that time period and I see the cause of death listed there, and it is chronic infection, renal failure but everyone knew, in the medical profession, knew that it was AIDS because they wouldnt allow her to be buried. They demanded that she be cremated.
When I was in Chicago, I decidedI had some friends in the Gay Mens Chorus who became ill with AIDS. They went into hospice and ultimately died. And I thought Id like to do something in the community. And so I volunteered to work in a hospice and I started out just kind of doing general cleaning work, and they gave me some training, so I became one of the people working with the patients.
And I thought this is great work. It is giving to the community. It is really helping people. But over time it became too emotionally draining. I am sure you hear stories about cancer nurses and the burnout, and people who can work with terminally ill patients and do all that. I certainly understand how they get burnt out. It is emotionally exhausting. That lasted for me almost two years, and I just couldnt handle it anymore.
And two of the patients that I had worked with were guys from the gay mens chorus and I knew both of them and one of them was justsince he already knew me he was very clingy. And he started telling me all about his life. And it just got too intense for me. I had a friend who lived in University Park, Maryland, and I had known him since the Chicago days. And he was a physicist.
It turns out he was working for Goddard Labs and I was just looking online yesterday and I found a resume for him. He is now retired. He is seventy-two, I think. But he worked for NASA for many years and had a number of experiments, physics experiments that went up in space shuttles and so forth. And he was gay.
He had a friend that he had met some yearsat some pointand the young man had told his parents when he was diagnosed with AIDS. He told them that he was gay and that he had AIDS. They literally threw him out of the house, physically threw him out of the house, and said, Never come back. Never contact us again.
And my friend Bob ultimately took him in and provided housing for him and food and transportation, and helped pay some of his medical bills until he died. And that was over about a three-year period. They didnt have a personal relationship other than just being friends. But as Bob said at the time, he said, You cant turn your back on someone who needs help, who is in a position like that. So
CW: So, um, you mentioned death records. Youre actually probablyyou would know better than anyone.
GM: Im actually a genealogist. (both laugh)
CW: So for gay men on death records, does it say AIDS related? Is there a difference between what it would state on a gay mans death record as opposed to a straight woman or a straight mans death record?
GM: Um, typically death records include the cause of death, the immediate cause of death. And it doesnt necessarily say AIDS related but it may say Kaposis sarcoma{{{00:38:23.0}}} Kaposis sarcoma is a cancerous tumor of the connective tissue that is often related to AIDS. or it may give some other cause of death. As you look at it and you read it, and look at the medical conditions that contributed to the death, the cause of death or contributing factors, you may very well be able to pick it up.
CW: Okay. And do you think there is a difference between how it is recorded for heterosexual people?
GM: I dont think so.
CW: No, okay.
GM: I dont think so. I dont think there has ever been any attempt on the part of a state or local, or federal agency to cover up a cause of death. While we do refer to AIDS as quote, unquote the AIDS epidemic, it is not meant to be something as scary as maybe leprosy or whatever.
CW: Right. WellGRIDS/HIV/AIDS is a really common narrative for most people that Ive talked to. What was that like for you in the earlier days in terms of how it was reported in the media, the communitys response
GM: Okay. Thats a great question. Living in Chicago at the time the media was very active aboutThe Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times. The Chicago Sun Times is kind of the sensationalist newspaper. The Tribune has always been kind of a voice of reason. But it was always interesting to see the stories that talked about AIDS or HIV, and infection and infection rates, and reporting statistics as they became available.
The Tribune was always very straight forward about it. The gay community in the earlier days there was this, Oh, it cant touch me. That is somebody else. That is something else. And then as cases began begin reported in the media people began: Okay, this is something that might be in our community.
And then suddenly there were activist groups who were showing up at bars and at events, and handing out condoms with maybe a card attached or they would have signs, whatever, and they were trying to extend gay awareness, and AIDS awareness. At the time we thought it was a very responsible action that in San Francisco the city closed down, they revoked the licenses of the gay baths and they closed them down.
And, of course, there were some people in the community who said, This is not right. Its a restraint of trade. It is discrimination, blah, blah, blah. But on the other hand, it was perceived as a very responsible thing to do. And when New York took similarNew York Citytook similar actions there were protests, but on the other hand we thought, well this a good thing. AIDS awareness became a thing, became a topic of conversation.
The statistics were things that were quoted. The community was very aware of it. It was not unusual to go to a bar for instance and see, lets say, a large snifter sitting on a corner of the bar with condoms in it. And people walking by and taking them. And I always thought, Well, that is a really good thing.
And despite whatever type of sex people were into that was a responsible thing. I knew one fellow in Chicago who said he made a point of taking two condoms every time he went into a gay bar. And he had a party at his house at one point, and he had a large pot by the front door, and it was absolutely full of condoms.
And I said to him at the time, I said, Ed, did you get those at bars? He said, Oh yeah. He said, Any color of the rainbow you want, theyre in there. And he said at that time, Well you know the Japanese men like the ones that come in colors and glow in the dark. I said, And you like those too? And he said, I just think theyre fun. Crazy stuff.
CW: So, um, what else about your life in Chicago? You attended the University of Chicago as well? Can you talk a little bit about that experience? Was it different than UNC?
GM: Oh yeah. It was different. There were certainly many, many less southerners there. But University of Chicago has always had a reputation as being just a stellar university, a great institution. And if you look the history of the Nobel Prize, youll see Nobel Prizes in finance and in physics and so fortha lot of U of C winners there. There was a gay community on campus, but it wasnt necessarily as outspoken as I might of seen someplace else.
CW: Hm, why do you think that could be?
GM: I dont know. It is just kind of a state organizationI mean, a state area.
CW: So, um, did you studyyou did not study journalism at University of Chicago?
GM: No.
CW: What did you study again?
GM: English.
CW: Okay. Oh, right. Um, so just going backwhat did your parents say when you finally talked to them and told them that you were in Chicago?
GM: They were relieved. My father was angry. He had been difficult to live with and deal with anyway. I didnt like his bigoted views. He also was an intense alcoholic. I didnt have a lot of respect for him. But my mother and I, we knew each other very well. She was relieved that she had finally found out what happened to me, at least I wasnt a corpse lying in the woods someplace.
But my father actually decided at one point that he was going to come see me. He wanted to see where I was living. He apparently got smashed one night and my brother called me the next morning and he said, You have to go out of OHare. And I said, Why? And he said, Because dad is on his way. I said, What? And so he told me the story, and he said, Dad forced me to put him on a plane this morning. He is on his way.
So I was at work, and I went up and told my boss that apparently my father was making an emergency visit to Chicago and I needed to go meet him at the airport. And so that was fine. I met him at the airport, got him in a cab, got him downtown. I said, You cant stay at my place, but I will get you a nice hotel. I put him up at the Palmer House, which is a great hotel. Its an institution in downtown Chicago right on State Street.
Then I said, Ill spend the night here at the hotel with you, but I said, I have to go get some clothes. He said, Okay. So we got in a taxicab together and he was drinking all the time. We went down to my apartment and he walked in and looked around while I pulled some clothes and packed a little case. Then we turned around and got in the cab and went back. We had room service in the room, and he had ordered a bottle of bourbon.
He proceeded to go through that entire bottle of bourbon that night. He passed out. The next morning I got roused up, got him into the shower, and put him in a taxicab back to the airport. I was kind of frightened. I think as it turned outMy father died in 1980. After that time my mother and I became closer. My brother and I became lots closer. There was twelve years difference between us.
So it is like we are two different generations and it took untilyou know, when I was starting first grade, he was starting college and then he went into the Air force, and got married, and he came back. And by that time I was about fifteen years old, so we began getting to know each other. And were good friends now.
My mother actually I was in another relationship after that, and that guy and I would go visit my mother every year in North Carolina. And wed go out different places and she would introduce him to her friends and she would say, This is my other son. And so, that was very nice.
CW: So when did you leave Chicago?
GM: In January of 1995.
CW: To come to Tampa?
GM: I came to Tampa. Actually in June of 1994 I was very much into genealogy. I spent time on America Online in the genealogy forum. I had talked to people and so forth. Drew was one of the people who was in the genealogy forum so we shared an interest. We started talking, talking back and forth. And then we talked on the telephone and I said, Well I am coming to Chicago [sic] on business, would you like to get together for dinner?
So we set something up for June 9, 1994 and we were going to meet and go to dinner. He came over to the hotel and came into the room and we never got dinner. (both laugh) But that is when we meet. It was just kind of an instant attraction right away. As I said that was in June of 94 and by September I had already told my boss in Chicago, You know, you are sending me on a lot of business trips to Tampa. Wouldnt it just be easier if IBM International Business Machines Corporation is a technology and consulting company. bought my house and transferred me to Tampa.
And she kind of liked the idea and she started talking it up. By the beginning of November IBM had agreed and so we started house hunting. And so we found a house. Drew came to Chicago, and we drove back from Chicago to Tampa.
When I moved here I stayed in his apartment for two nights and then we closed on the house and moved in. And so it was as quick as that. That was in the end of January, the very last day of January 1995. Weve been together ever since. And actually on June 2nd last year we were married in Eerie County, New York, right outside of Buffalo.
CW: And were back. So you moved to Tampa in 1995, but you had been here several times.
GM: I had been here a number of times on business.
CW: What were your impressions of Tampa?
GM: I loved Tampa. I thought it was a great city. The people were very friendly. It is very different from Chicago obviously. I was just telling some people over lunch that I have two favorite cities in the world. One of them is London in England and the other is Chicago, but Tampa comes in third. There is a lot to do here. The people are nice. Just I have a good time here.
CW: So when you found your house and you moved, did Drew also move in with you?
GM: Yes, yes.
CW: Did you encounter any kind of discrimination or judgment in that process of moving into a home together in the nineties?
GM: No, not that was overt. Nothing we saw. Nothing we heard. Certainly the people that Drew worked with in the library school they were very welcoming, very open. We had a housewarming party and I think everyone came. We had really good time. I startedone of the deals was that when I agreed to the move for IBM is that I had to sign a document that said I agreed to work with them for at least a year.
In payment I guess for their transfer. The company I had worked for before, as I said it was a joint venture between Sears and IBM. It was a company called Avantis. And I had a boss at one point who called me into his office and closed the door at one point. And he said, I want you to know that because youre a fag Im never going to give you a promotion. Youll never get another raise here.
And I thought, that is a horrible way to live. And I left his office and went to human resources and told them about it. And they said, Well do you have proof of this. I mean, theyre documenting everything. Of course, I didnt. It was said behind closed doors. But I guess they talked to him, and he became even more hostile after that, but in a very guarded way.
So when I came to Tampa I thought, forget hiding behind anything. So when I walked into the facilities here in Tampa for our office someone asked me at one pointone of the people in the department I was working inasked me, said, Well are you married? I said, No. I said, But I live with someone. Oh, who is she? And I said, It is not a she, its a he. And I said, Yeah, Im gay. And so, Oh all right.
But that became a non-issue. And a year later when I decided, Cyrana, that I did not want to work for IBM any longer. I wanted to start my own business. I thought, Well I am going to do it on my terms. It is going to be a training organization. Ill work with libraries and archives, and as far as I am concerned it doesnt make any difference whether I am straight or gay. I am who I am.
And if I am ever asked the question again I am not going to lie about it. Ill say it as it is. And that has not stood in the way of anything. My business also includes doing lectures for genealogical societies, historical societies, and Ive spoken at conferences at the local level, state level, national level in Canada, in the UK, and on cruise ships. And thats never been an issue.
And when Drew and I were married last year we published on Facebookwe published a lot of information about it. We put photos out there. We posted those. We got huge numbers of congratulations on that. Its interesting. We were at Top of the Palms for lunch and Drew introduced me to the hostess there. And he said, Have you met my husband, George? And she just grinned and she said, No. And that was fine. So it is just thats the way it is.
CW: So what is the name of your business, if you
GM: It is Aha! Seminars. And as I said Ive been doing that since 1996. I stay busy between teaching seminars and writing. Drew and I just collaborated for the first time on a book together. Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques but that is my eleventh book on genealogy. I stay busy. And I write magazine articles and Ive written things on the internet here in the U.S.
Theyve been published in Canada. And I actually, believe it or not, I had a writing gig, a genealogy column that appeared every month at a place called, and they would take my column and they would translate it into Chinese and publish it out on the web. That was kind of interesting. It was fun.
CW: Do you work much with the elderly doing genealogical
GM: A lot of the genealogical community is retired. So yeah.
CW: Have you had the same type of, um, sort of welcome and acceptance from the older generations as well?
GM: Yes, but I think what youre going to find is that the genealogy community is very open. It is very friendly. People want to share. They want to give of themselves. They appreciate whatever help they get. And working with genealogistsI love the community. It is like working with librarians. Theyre there to serve the public and theyre there to help. So its a very rewarding group of people to deal with.
CW: What is life like here in Tampa? What do you and Drew do for funin your spare time?
GM: In spare time we work on the house. I am in the process of doing some bathroom painting this week. But, um, like most people who are concerned about skin cancer, we dont go to the beach. We go out to dinner. We socialize with friends. People come over. We make dinner and then we play board games or card games. Things like that.
We go to the movies occasionally. And its like every other boring couple who have been married for a while. We watch TV. We have three cats. We certainly aspire to the same values that everybody else does. We want to live in a safe community. We want to give back to the community and make it a better place.
CW: Do you still live in the same house that you moved into?
GM: Yes.
CW: Okay.
GM: Yes.
CW: What neighborhood do you live in? Do you guys live in St. Pete?
GM: No, we live in the Citrus Park area close to the mall there. Citrus Park, or some people call the area Keystone. But we live in a community called Farmington Village. There are one hundred and twenty-two homes there. We are one of three same-sex couples who live there.
Two other guys who live behind us and down one, and theyve been in their house for twenty-six years. And then there is a lesbian couple that lives two streets over and they have three children, two sons and a daughter. And very supportive in the community. We know each other, but we dont cling together because.
CW: Right.
GM: But we have relationships with the neighbors on all sides of us. Weve got a fundamentalist Christian couple who lives next door. We have on the other side of us a man and wife. He works for Delta airlines. She works in a medical office. We have other people, a couple across the street weve know for fifteen, sixteen years, and their daughter used to cat sit for us.
And there is another couple across the street and theyve been in that house for twenty-three, twenty-four years. I mean, it is a stable community. We all get along very well. We have a good time.
CW: So your experience in your sort of neighborhood community has been really good. No issues with neighbors or
GM: No, issues with neighbors. I mean there is one couple that lives down the street on the other side of the street whenever he sees one of our cars coming he turns the other way. People in the neighborhood wave. We talk and so forth. He is justthat is his problem not mine.
CW: What were some deciding factors in choosing to live out in the citrus park area?
GM: Okay. We were looking for a house that had four bedrooms, two of which we could turn into individual home offices. We wanted some place that was equal distant drive for us in a commute. At that time when I was working for IBM down beside the stadium that was about a twenty-five minute commute for me and then for Drew, here to the university, that was about twenty-five minutes. So that was fine.
We were looking for a community that had a modest amount of shopping, but in the eighteen and a half years weve lived there weve seen a new high school built. Weve seen a shopping center with a Publix and some other stores. The Citrus Park Mall has been built. Some more housing, apartment housing, and free-standing houses have been built, and its turned into a really great area of the county.
There are sports facilities out there. There are just all kinds of things. If you think about the Brandon community that has one of every type of store out there, and gridlock too. In northwest part of the county we have the shopping. We have the convenience without the gridlock.
The nice thing is the Veterans Expressway was just being opened when we moved out there and that gives us easy access into downtown. We can be at the airport in fifteen minutes. We can be downtown in less than twenty-five minuteswhich means we spend time at the library. There are other things downtown that we like as well. The Straz Center. So that is very convenient.
CW: Some people have said, umsome people that I have spoken to have said that at one point Hyde Park and Palma Ceia have been gay neighborhoods. What is your perspective on that as a resident of, you know, the area, greater Tampa area for a long time? Have you seen sort of neighbors change or
GM: Oh, yeah. Hyde Park neighborhood has always been quote, unquote trendy. It has been a destination for gay men to purchase property there and live there. There is a certain status associated with that. Palma Ceia a little less so, but certainly that is close tothere are several gay bars in that area.
If theyre interested. There isand I am trying to think of the name of itjust north of downtown. That has become a place for purchasing property and rehabbing it. That is a very attractive thing. You buy it low. You put your time and energy and your expense into that. And you end up with a better piece of property with lower real estate taxes than Hyde Park.
CW: Oh.
GM: Real estate taxes are much higher in Hyde Park.
CW: So have you been to any gay bars or businesses anywhere in Tampa?
GM: Um-hm.
CW: Would you mind describing that? Maybe some places that youve been and what your experiences were there?
GM: Okay. Just to give you a couple of different types of experiences. There is a place called City Side that is a gay bar just off of Dale Mabry going south. When I was traveling to Tampa on business that was a very popular place, very popular watering hole. I would visit there and have a couple of drinks.
And talk to people and just get a feel for what is going on in the area. And then there are other bars that are kind of like that. There is another place in Tampa called 2606. Have you ever heard of that one?
CW: Um-hm, on Armenia Avenue.
GM: 2606 is a quote, unquote leather bar. Drew and I kind of joke and call it 1303 because only half the guys who go there are masculine. (laughs) If people want to dress up and put on leather harnesses and all that kind of stuff then they can go there. Its a more masculine type of place. You would almost call it a biker bar, but its an interesting atmosphere.
But there are any number of places with all kinds of dcor and all kinds of experiences. What I find universally is that the people you meet in these places theyre nice, usually good personality. The main difference between a gay bar and a straight bar is in the gay bar there are a lot of people on the make. Maybe more so than what youd find in a straight bar but you never can tell.
CW: Interesting. So, um, you mentioned that you guys go to the performing arts center and some other places downtown. What kind of cultural, I guess, events do you guys prefer to patron?
GM: Well do classical music or opera. When I lived in Chicago I was a subscriber to Lyric Opera for about eighteen, twenty years. That is great. Also the Ruth Eckerd Hall over in Clearwater, and they have stage shows and different performances or different things. We are not real big on seeing plays, but musical performances whether it is Broadway type thing or symphony or opera, those are the types of things we enjoy going to.
CW: Um, how do you thinkthis is a very broad, big questionI am just going to lay it on you. How do you think representations of gay people have changed in sort of, popular culture and maybe sort of a high culture kind of environment?
GM: Thats a very big question.
CW: I know, Im sorry.
GM: No, its a very big question becauseand I constantly find myself surprised and Ill say, Wow, I never thought I would see this. Or, youll look at some of things like Sean  to the Rescue or Modern Family or some of the TV shows that are around, and you think, Wow, look whats happened. Gay men and women are being portrayed in the media.
There are lots of things that seem to be coming to the forefront. There are books that are being published in the mainstream dealing with gay men and lesbians that I think are portraying people as, Hey, we are all a like; we are all normal; we all have the same things going on. Probably one of the biggest disservices in television came in the 1950s with things like Ozzie and Harriet, the quote, unquote perfect family or the Donna Reed Show, or some of those things.
And a lot of us growing up at the time, kids growing up at the time, we kind of looked around and said, My family is not like that. I remember having conversation over lunch in a cafeteria. I must have been about ten or twelve years old. And a bunch of us were talking, you know, This isnt normal. This isnt real. This isnt what is all like. Do you know anybody like that? Do you know
But you know these quote, unquote ideals and this was the cookie cutter type existence that was promoted after World War II as America became a class of middle-class individuals. And it wasnt until we got into the late eighties and into the nineties that things began changing. I never would have thought gay marriage would be something that would happen.
And as of this morning, we have the state of Illinois is sending a bill to governor for signature and that will become the fifteenth state, plus the District of Columbia, that sanctioned and promote gay marriage. And one of my friends on Facebook posted something this morning where she saidand I thought it was just brilliantshe said, Im looking forward to the day when we talk about marriage and it doesnt need a prefix. And I mean thats pretty insightful.
I think culture has changed. I think there are more books. Theres more music. There is more theater. There are lots of things that talk about all types of different relationships and all different cultures. And um, my personal feeling is: the more people I meet from different countries, different cultures, the richer my life because it helps broaden my experience. And I feel sorry for people who have these blinders on that they cant see that, that dont experience it.
CW: Um, you mentioned gay marriage, and you and Drew recently were married. Was marriage something that you always considered that you do if it were sort of legal or able?
GM: I always liked the idea of a marriage ceremony. We had been together for just about a year when we went to Westshore Mall and bought ourselves wedding rings. And just for ourselves to show our commitment to one another. Thats always been kind of important. Never really thought about the idea of same-sex marriage until a number of years ago when civil partnerships were legalized in the UK and then same-sex marriages began taking off in different countries in the world.
I remember we talked about at one point and said, Wow, do you think it will ever come to the United States. And we both kind of nodded our heads and said, Yeah, but I wonder if it will be in my life time. And now were looking at this snowball. Drew was talking over lunchand I forget the fellows name who successfully predicted in the last presidential election all of the states results, how they would vote for president and he was dead on in every state.
He has just done a list and done some projections about the rate at which same-sex marriages will be approved, and legislated, and put in place, and approximate time periods. The lowest states on his list are Mississippi and Alabama. And that doesnt surprise us. But you look at some of the others and you think, well, the southern states are going to be, you know, more conservative about it and more resistive to it.
But I think asgetting back to your comment, to your questionthe fact that the media is covering this and being quote, unquote neutral about the realities of, yes, there are these opponents of same-sex marriage and there are these advocates, and the two different sides.
I think its interesting they are reporting and talking about it, and they are doing editorials and they are accepting quotes and portraying those. And I think it has gone a long way toward normalizing the relationship between quote, unquote straights and quote, unquote gays.
CW: Did you encounter or wellwhat are sort of the difficulties that lay in say getting married in another state and then coming back to state of Florida specifically?
GM: I guess, when I was in high school and we studied U.S. government and state government, and we talked about the relationships between different states and full faith in credit, and the recognition in things like drivers licenses and that sort of thing. I guess I was surprised at some point to think, well that marriage wont be recognized in this state.
Look what the federal government has changed in the way of recognition. And I think what we are going to see is more of that state-to-state, and it certainly is going to take some time. The fact that we went to another state to be married, and the fact that we choose New York, was that I have a cousin and his wife who live there and I just matter-of-factly one night said, Gee, Peter, would you and Rose be willing to host us getting married at your place.
Didnt miss a beat. Absolutely, come on. Lets do it. And that is what we did. But then coming back to Florida and thinking, well, you know, our legal union someplace else isnt recognized here. I thought, well, were going to have to wait. And someone, one of our friends asked us not long ago, Well, when marriage is legal here in Florida what will you do? I said, Just go register thejust take the marriage document from New York to wherever it needs to go to say this is this.
CW: Okay.
GM: One of the big challenges with marriage is the recognition of spouse rights, both inheritance laws and health care surrogacy. Those are very important pieces. You can work your way around real estate inheritance laws by when you purpose a piece of property together having it recognized as tenants in common rights so you can kind of get around that piece.
As far as healthcare surrogacy is concerned, you know, you have to do some legal documents. Lets say a living will, for one, a healthcare document authorizing someone to be your agent for that. And so weve done all those things. Weve also written wills and so forth. Weve made sure in the families that were not going to have anyone challenging a will.
We also included a clause that if anyone who might a prospective heir should contest this will that they should receive nothing. So that is our way of doing that. I have two friends that I knew from Chicago, very, very good friends, who retired to the Florida Keys and the relocated back to Miami because they couldnt stand the solitude in the keys on Marathon. So they ended up living in a retirement center in Aventura.
One of them has since died of cancer, and so he left his estate to his partner. So I am on record as the legal representative for the surviving fellow and at the time of his death what he has asked me to do is to take his entire estate, take one specific chunk for myself for my service, but also to make sure that the estate that he leaves behind all of it goes, all of it goes, toward an organization that will support gay marriage, same-sex marriage initiatives. When that time comes we are talking somewhere in the neighborhood of nine to ten million dollars.
CW: Oh wow.
GM: And I think that will make a nice piece of change for whether it is Equality Florida or who else.
CW: So you as a same-sex couple have to hire an attorney, right, to get all these documents in order?
GM: Um-hm.
CW: Is there any
GM: Whereas straight couples, I mean, yeah a will or the terms of how they own real estate. Yeah, that is certainly legal stuff. But the healthcare pieceyou may have read articles about same-sex couples where the person, where a surviving spouse or a partner is denied access in a hospital to the person theyve spent the last five years, thirty years, fifty years.
Or the case that has just been resolved in New York state recently about the woman whose partner died and the surviving woman had to pay a massive inheritance because they were not quote, unquote married. There has just been a judgment against that. She will get all of that tax back, but that was considered discriminatory.
CW: Um-hm.
GM: So yeah.
CW: Wow, its a lot of legalloops.
GM: It is but it is fun watching it. (laughs) And listening to it.
CW: And you and Drew go to the film fest or Pride parades now or
GM: We dont go to the film fest. I mean, we dont necessarily make time for it. The pride fest, every other year maybe. Its just not a huge priority. I keep saying, But we need to be there to show support. And he says, Yes, we do. And then sometimes it falls by the wayside.
CW: What do you thinkwhat kind of meaning do you place on those types of cultural events for the gay community?
GM: I think theyre important because I think they speak out to the rest of the overall community that, yes there is alternate way of thinking. There are additional resources available. And yes, you need to take advantage of it. And I guess from everything that I read and here from friends about the film festival is that it is being attended by more and more people from diverse backgrounds than ever before, and I think that is great too.
The pride parades, I dont know that they are drawing the crowds that they might have. At one point we had here in Tampa, this goes back I guess 2003, we had Gala Gala is an event located in the Tampa area that is put on by Equality Florida and their supporting sponsors every year.   and we had the festival of gay mens and lesbians choruses here from all over the world. And it was a magnificent, wonderful event. Maya Angelou was one of the participants. Harvey Fierstein was here with his (impersonates voice) great, gravelly voice.
Mayor Dick Greco opened the ceremonies and thanked Harvey for being here and thanked Maya. He was up on the stage with Harvey and put his hands on Grecos face and just gave him a full kiss on the lips. And Greco just held his arms up and he said, Thats cool. It was interesting. I think there is certainly more acceptance of the cultural events than there every have been before. And thats great.
CW: So the festival of the choruses where was that held at?
GM: That was downtown at the convention center.
CW: Oh, okay.
GM: It coincided with pride fest that year and there was a huge parade that year. It was great.
CW: It was national, all the
GM: Choruses from all over the United States and from overseas. You may remember the flight that went down into the ocean when theit was headed from New York to Paris, that time period. There were some members of the French chorus on that flight, including one couple that had been together for, I guess, twelve or fifteen years. And that was very sad. The loss of the flight and the loss of any life of course was just tragic. But that just happened to coincide but it left a little sad taste in the mouth after having had such a great event.
CW: So how do you think Tampa has changed in the years that you have been here?
GM: Tampa has become a more cosmopolitan city. It hasnt beenit hasnt moved backwards. I think it is moving forward from a cultural standpoint. I think from a political standpoint it is quote, unquote enjoying the same kind of political problems that other cities are having.
Certainly financial issues prevent expansion of some of the cultural facilities, but then on the other hand I look at downtown development and look at the Riverside Park work being done, where this city is becoming more and more world class every year. I think its a very positive thing. Our public library system is one of the best in the country.
You will find that over and over again from a genealogy standpoint over the space of five years, a five year period just ending year before last the library system put six million dollars into the genealogy collection. So it isthat is the strongest genealogy collection in the state of Florida.
CW: Oh wow.
GM: So it is pretty impressive. If you are into searching your family history this is a great place to be. You cant find it all on the internet despite what would like to advertise and make us think.
CW: Yeah. (both laugh) Okay, do you have any closing remarks? Any
GM: I think that recording some of your personal history in an environment like thisI think its a great thing. As a family historian and genealogist I think we miss a lot by not going through the process of doing recordings like this. There is a lot of discussion about recording the memories of World War II veterans. Steven Spielberg has certainly worked with survivors of the Holocaust with the Shoah collection.
But I think we owe it to successive generations to share our experiences so that in ten years, twenty years, fifty years, one hundred years from now someone else can come back and say, gee, that really is what it was like. Tampa Public Library has a number of oral history interviews online at its website from the African American community. And those are fascinating to listen to.
From the WPA The Works Progress Administration was an American New Deal agency that was responsible for employing millions of unemployed with projects of things like construction and public services. project back in the thirties there are recordings of the slave narratives, people who had been born into slavery recounting that. Some of the federal writers projects where writers went out and gathered information, and including oral history interviews. And its great to find those things. The fact you can listen to them and that they are transcribed so they can be read and studied and picked apart, I think thats a great thing. So I just thank you for the opportunity.
CW: Oh, no. Thank you so much for letting me interview you.


COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 201 5 University of South Florida. All rights, reserved. This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrighted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 42 02 E. Fowler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.


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