Keith David Sherwood oral history interview

Keith David Sherwood oral history interview

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Keith David Sherwood oral history interview
University of South Florida -- Library. -- Special & Digital Collections. -- Oral History Program


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interviewed by Dr. Cyrana Brooks Wyker.

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Keith Sherwood: Yes.
CW: So, lets start with where you were born and how long you lived there?
KS: All right. So, I was born in Orlando, Florida, and I lived there til I was twenty-four, pretty much full time. I did do a stint where I lived in Moscow for six months after high school, but that was kind of more of a purposeful travel sort of thing rather than living.
CW: Okay, cool. Did you, um, live with parents or family?
KS: I lived with my parents the whole time basically until twenty-four. (laughs)
CW: What area of Orlando did you live in?
KS: We lived really close to the downtown area. It was an area called Audubon Park. It was kind of like middle class base housing, when the naval base was there that got converted into just everyday residential housing.
CW: Did you attend college, or trade school, or anything, in Orlando after high school?
KS: I did. I went to UCF. Pretty much Well, two years out of high school, I kind of worked and stuff, but then I decided I wanted to go to college, and I went to UCF.
CW: Where did you work after high school?
KS: Well, part of it was the trip to Russia where we, like, worked on orphanages, so that I didnt get paid for. When I got back I didnt know if I was going to go to college right away, and so I kind of did retail, and I did odd jobs, like medical claims work and stuff like that, so.
CW: Can you talk a little bout, a little bit about your time in Moscow?
KS: Oh sure, yeah. Well, I was homeschooled in high school, and my parents were super conservative, and belonged to like a homeschool group that was religiously based. And I kind of had this feel like, you know, I wanted to go see the world. I knew they probably wouldnt let me join the Peace Corps, so I looked at what homeschoolers were doing.
And that point Moscow had a program with the religious group we were with, where you could go like teach English, and work with orphanages, and the only trade off was really that you had to pay your own way, and like pass out bibles and stuff like that. So, I was like, okay, Im going to do that. So, we went, we lived in like big dorm type environments that were in, like, a former orphanage that Moscow basically gave to this homeschool group.
It was really weird, because there was like, for, you know, a former communist nation to then, like, give something to a religious group was kind of strange. But it was basically day-to-day living in a dorm, and then you wake up and you go do whatever your assigned work was like teach English or whatever, come back, and that was basically my life for like six months.
CW: Wow. Okay. So, is religion a big part of your life?
KS: Well, its funny. Growing up it never really was until I turned about thirteen. My parents, I guess, raised usus, its just me, but the whole family was kind of secular humanist. That was kind of the thing, no real religious basis. My mom was a former Catholic. My dad really didnt have any religious upbringing. And then my dad and mom went to a seminar, andlike, that was religiously based and when they came back they told me that my dad had like a salvation experience there.
And we started attending a Southern Baptist church. So, around thirteen, you know, I went. I would say that I, you know, had the same quote unquote salvation experience at that point. You know, and we started going to church full time, you know, every Sunday, bible studies on Wednesday.
So, like around thirteen our lives got really pretty religious. Over the years though I feel that Ive kind of moved away from that sort of organized religious based thinking to kind of more of a, I dont know how to quantify it, but kind of just more from a spiritual stand point of like seeing religion for what it is, but maybe not that it describes my beliefs. So, I would say that Im probably more agnostic now, whereas my parents are still prettythey fall in the fundamentalist Christian spectrum, evangelical type beliefs.
CW: Was that an easy transition for you at thirteen?
KS: (laughs) Yes and no. I think the part that was easy was the fact that before then my parents were kind of on the verge of divorce, and my dad was a pretty heavy alcoholic, and his conversion experience played into him getting sober, so that was definitely good for my family.
So, I could see how this whole religious thing was really great. And also at thirteen thats kind of when you want to be looking for things to help organize your thoughts, and I found that religion was good for like giving me structure, but I never really fully believed certain tenets of it.
Like I kind of always even as a kid had a view that if were doing something one way in America, that other people in other countries, like, arent wrong for the way theyre doing it, so therefore, you know, people in India, their beliefs are just as valid as ours. And so I probably dont know exactly what God is like.
So, I think I still had somewhat agnostic beliefs back then, but definitely the structure of religion I thought was beneficial back then. But it was jarring to be thrust into it at thirteen, and the exodus from that sort of religious life, and through my twenties, was pretty confusing, and I think a little bit rocky with my parents.
CW: How do you think theyvewhen you say its rocky with your parents, how theyve handled or how have they responded to your sort of transition away into your own?
KS: You know, I dont know if they fully are coming to terms with it. They dont ask a lot of questions. You know, we still pray for family dinners and, like, I dont mind doing those kind of open examples of something that people consider religious. Part of it too is the evangelical beliefs they have. I think they believe in what is called eternal salvation, so once you are saved youre always saved.
So, I think in their minds, theyre like, even if Keith is like, you know, a wacko liberal or whatever (laughs), you know, he had that salvation experience, thats what we are relying on. So, I think that theyve found ways to have me fit into their belief structure, but I honestly dont know if its going to be like a full conversation that well ever really have. And if we do, you know, I value that conversation with them.
Theyve never really asked, and I think its one part denial, one part, you know, Lets all just have fun at thanksgiving. I mean, we dont have any other, like, roadblocks to our relationship otherwise, other than, like, religion. I think thats one of the biggest ones. I mean, it effects everything, but its not We dont have like huge fights. (laughs)
CW: Right. So, um, you were homeschooled through high school?
KS: Yes.
CW: What was your social life like?
KS: Its funny cause I The typical thing that people sometimes think about homeschoolers, I think part of it is true, of like, youre in your house all day, you know, you have no contacts. But I was in public school from kindergarten until, actually I take that back, first grade until the end of seventh grade.
So, I was kind of already really extroverted and had a ton of friends, so once they put me into one year of Christian school, and I made even more friends; so once I was in homeschool, it was more me like waiting for friends to get home from their public school. Id be like, Im done with my work. Are you ready to go play? So, my social life was I think pretty good, but not because of school.
Like, if I would have just done the traditional homeschool thing, and not met any other people in a school environment, and not sought out friendships myself, I dont think I wouldve had much of a social life. So, it was pretty good. I would have to say I kept my social calendar busy, you know.
CW: Okay, Im going to ask you the million dollar question.
KS: Sure.
CW: Do you identity as gay? And what was your coming out experience like within
KS: Well, I definitely think that ever since I was probably an early teenager, if not maybe before, Ive Once I knew what gay was Im pretty sure that I identified as gay. I sometimes question my label of gay, because I do kind of still believe that there is a spectrum of sexuality.
And part of me thinks that because of my upbringing, I really didnt believe people would accept me as bisexual, if I didnt It was like I had to pick a side all the way and figure out, because its big enough to be like, Oh, Im attracted to men. You know, I didnt really feel my sexual exploration could handle the full gamut, you know, just because it was already glaring enough that I was attracted to men, and that was kind of a huge stigma in how I grew up.
Probably around fourteen I even during morning devotions, which is so funny, I was like, Hey, I think that I may be gay because I have thoughts about guys. And my parents were like, Oh, its just a phase. You know, my mom was like, Ive had close friends and I wasnt sureIs it love? Is it friendship? She said, The key is, is you dont act on them.
So, it was funny cause then when I came out again, for real, a little bit older, they almost didnt remember that. I had to remind them, you know, This isnt the first time youve heard this. Yeah, but yeah, I would identify as gay. I definitely feel coming out in that sort of religious environment was a minefield in itself. I dont know how far to go into that, I mean
CW: Whatever youre comfortable with.
KS: Okay. Um, I think one of the important things about my coming out story is kind of tied to my parents religious background. My dad is a leader of his church, and the church that we went to its based on something called Plymouth Brethren, which is kind of an older, I dont know. Its pretty similar in structure to lets say an old timey Congregationalist church. There are elders of the church. There isnt like one pastor.
So, my dad being an elder of the church was kind of an important thing. I mean, he taught regularly. In fact, I taught regularly before I came out at the church. In the bible there is a verse that says, like, any elder that doesnt have his house in order needs to be removed from leadership. And so I knew that that would be a major thing for him. So, when I realized I needed to come out. I was like twenty-four.
I was being set up with like church girl after church girl. You know, it was like getting to me where I realized that I need to be real or Im not going to be able to remember like what lie Ive told who (laughs) kind of thing. So, I organized my coming out with also moving out of the house, because I knew that if I didnt do that, my dad would probably be kicked out of his church leadership.
So, I made sure I had a good job, and I saved up enough money, and I moved out. And then probably a month after I moved out, I sent my parents an email and it was a full coming out. And I also let them know I wouldnt be coming back to the church. So, I think that that was probably a huge blow to them then, which is probably why we dont talk about it now.
Not to say that we dont talk about issues with me being gay for them. It definitely was both an exit from like their way of life into my own, you know. It was big deal. They didnt know how to talk to me for a while. They didnt, you know, they took like about a week of silence with intermittent very angry phone calls or very sad phone calls. I, however, was like, I was sad about it, but I kind of was like, I finally dont have lie to people.
It was a euphoric moment mixed with, you know, a lot of kind of hard family and friend drama. Like, I dont talk to about half the people from that church, and the ones who do friend me on Facebook, then like try to send me data on how being gay is horrible and stuff like that. So, you know, its tapered off though. I barely think about it. Its kind of funny now Im thinking about it.
CW: When you were a teenager, how did you negotiate dating (cat meows) (laughs) within your parents household?
KS: Its funny. I did not date through high school. I dated one of the girls in the church like as long term sort of dating situation, and then I basically fended off any other sort of advances towards me with I was too busy with school, or I was too busy with work, or you know. Its also pretty convenient when you are in an evangelical church to be like well true love waits, so you know, Im not going to even date until I know Im serious, you know. Sorry about the cat.
CW: Its okay. (both laugh)
KS: So, I really didnt date. You know, I have a lot of uncomfortable male friendships that probably, in my mind, I wouldve loved to have dated them, but you know probably good for me they were mostly all straight, so it probably worked out better that I didnt. But, yeah, I didnt start dating until I was about twenty-four and I dated secretly.
You know, my first boyfriend, it was basically behind my parents back for the first portion of it until I moved out and then I was able to date a little bit more openly. But definitely it was really awkward negotiating that kind of thing, you know.
CW: Did you have gay friends or lesbian friends to sort of help you when youre in your parents house? Youre kind of under the radar.
KS: Yeah, thats interesting. You know, I cant say that I had many gay or lesbian friends until I came out. The internet definitely helped, because there was like and Planet Out, and they werent just for dating. You know, people That was kind of back when chat room culture was a thing with AOL.
So, definitely, I had friends through the internet. And its so funny, because I just remembered this: a lot of the friends I had at the time, I didnt know were gay, that I was talking to on the internet, and it would be through other interests like music. And I remember there was this one forum for a Christian singer and there were a few of us that like always talked back and forth.
And we kind of self-organized ourselves, and we all came out like three years later to each other, which is so funny because up til then we were like the good Christian kids on the Christian music forum chatting. So, I guess in some ways, I did have gay friends to support me, but never with the actual conversation of what is it like to be a gay teenager.
I did havethe only gay role model I had was my aunt on my dads side, but was it was role model in the terms of, like, I knew she existed, and I knew she was openly gay, and I respected that. But my family had like zero interaction with her, because she got really burned by her coming out experience.
Im not saying it was like my parents actively shunning her, but all bridges were burned when she came out back in whenever, you know, way before I was born. And so that was one of my only real like touchstone, I think, when I was dealing with a lot of my feelings, was like either her or like lets say TV portrayals, you know, of gay people, or like things I would go seek out book wise.
CW: Oh, how interesting. So, did youhow often were you in contact with your Aunt? Did you have much contact with her?
KS: I only probably was in the same room as her twice in my life, but both were like weekend visits, you know, to our house. Because being in Orlando, youre kind of the hub of people visiting for Disney and stuff like that. We never really Its funny, we never spoke of it, but she always had a friend, you know, in quotes with her.
And, I mean, I got what was up. I knew what was going on. That kind of was cool, because I realized that, you know, it didnt really match what the church was saying about gay people. Word versus what real life was because, obviously, they were a couple that were happy together, and so that was like kind of a cool thing to see.
CW: So, you just kept this kind of in your mind as youre growing up, adolescent, early years
KS: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I was alsoI had the internet and I was like one of the precocious kids that like would go read things way over their heads, you know. And so Id like seek out, like even when, I mean, I didnt have the internet when I was a young teenager, but I had the library and, you know, I would read about gay culture. You know, books likeI cant think of the specific books, but I just remember that I felt, I feel that it was, like, what people would write about sexuality definitely was changing for how they addressed teenagers. So, the most progressive stuff definitely had those things here and there that it is like, Dont worry its normal, theres support. And so, whatever pieces of that that I saw as young teenager, and then as an older one, you know, being in contact with things on the internet, I definitely felt like I kind of cobbled together my own support structure at least thought wise.
CW: Right.
KS: But there was no overarching, you know, help for me, which sounds sad now. (laughs)
CW: So, this would have been later nineties? Itsyeah.
KS: Yeah. Um, well, I didnt come out til early 2000s, but this teenage years would be like the nineties basically.
CW: What So, do you remember any specific books or articles?
KS: Not so much. I just know that anything that was trying to be even-handed about sexuality and teenagers would mention like, If you think youre gay, you know, talk to somebody, or whatever, so that wasntand people were using the phrases coming out. I dont know what year it was, but I would see news stuff about it too, usually negative, like a gay person got beat up. But um, yeah, I wish I could point out something specific. It was just kind of more zeitgeist sort of situation
CW: So, more non-fiction, news
KS: Non-fiction, totally, yeah. I dont know, if I would have known where to find the gay fiction, I probably would have been super happy. (laughs)
CW: So, I lost my train of thought for a second. Um, when you did come out, did you have any LGBT type friends after you were out to help you kind of cope with the family tension?
KS: Not really. My boyfriend at the time, he was older, and I think he wanted to keep his distance from what he considered coming out drama, although he hadnt really come out that much before me. He was kind of like me, you know, in his adulthood coming out like in his twenties. So, he kind of took a backseat, but he would listen, you know, I would talk about it. I really did not have many LGBT friends at the time.
And the ones that I were meeting was, kind of, more meeting at clubs and bars and those werent I wasnt building deep friendships with them. I did have a very tight knit group of college friends that were, I guess you could classify them as, you know, straight allies, to use the nomenclature. They were great. I mean, they also were a little haphazard at
But, you know, cause they were like, We have no idea what you are going through, but were here to listen or if you need a shoulder, or you know. So, they wereI felt that they provided quite a lot of support, and they also offered, before I had moved out, you know, If you need anything, because I came out to them way before my parents. You know, they offered like, If you have to stay at my house or kind of stuff. So, I was really happy with their support.
CW: What was it like to have to lie or hide from your parents?
KS: Ah, that was just so nerve-racking. My mom is a human lie detection machine anyways. So, I mean, I couldI mean Ive had problems with like eating and weight and all that kind of stuff, and she would know, like, if I like, Oh, did you sneak a bite of blah, blah, blah, cheesecake in the fridge? Like, if she could know that, I was like, How am I going to hide a boyfriend from her?
So, its little things like that, kind of, every day conversation became very terse. I spoke very vague about everything. If I was ever meeting my secret boyfriend at the time, it was very much like, Im going to go hang out with a friend. And if it was, Who? I would pick whatever friend she would never ask about from college.
I never made anyone up, because that would just be too ridiculous, but it was hard. I hate lying. I actually got out ofI studied political science in college, and I actually got out of the track that I was doing, because it was kind of leading towards becoming a press secretary.
And I got out of that because I realized that even though I wouldnt be required to lie every day, it was enough of a difference from what I considered the truth should be verbally that it was causing me too much stress. So, in the same way it was causing me a huge amount of stress to have to hide things from my parents, which I think was one driving factor of coming out when I did enough though it was not optimal, you know.
CW: Um, youyou had mentioned that you went to bars or clubs.
KS: Um-hm
CW: Was this in Orlando?
KS: That was in Orlando.
CW: Around your early twenties?
KS: Yeah, that was. I searched out first like somewhere that I could sit. I was doing a lot of creative writing at the time, and I totally loved that romantic ideal of the writer with a glass of wine in a side table while life went around him, which incidentally I read a quote that thats kind of how John Waters wrote a bunch of his work, and so that was even cooler for me.
So, I would go to a little They called it a mixed-club, which I think is a funny term. Its kind of going away, but in Orlando there was like gay clubs and straights clubs, and then they would also advertise some as these are mixed, which basically means that its half and half, and that theyre totally okay with whoever you are. I dont see people using that nowadays, but to put it in the terms of when I was going out, it was a mixed bar called the Peacock Room.
And I would like hangout there and they had good drinks. People chatted. But then I realized that this wasnt so much a gay bar. No one knew who to hit on who. So, I started seeking out like more traditional bars in Orlando. There is a big one called the Parliament House. It was a little much for me, because like while I consider myself kind of a free thinker when it comes to sexuality, like pick up culture just kind of always weirded me out.
I would much rather get to know someone and then like awkwardly express mutual attraction, than like buy a drink or make eyes from across the bar. So, it was awkward. But, yeah, I would go to the bars or clubs probably twice a week. It also kind of coincided with me deciding that you know it was okay to drink, cause that was a huge thing with my parents too.
Not only the religious aspect of it, but because my dad was a former alcoholic and had to do AA. And they were just so I never wanted them to worry more than they had to, because (laughs) they were alreadythey already had a gay son. I didnt want them to be worried that if I went out social drinking, it was the same as like when my dad would get black out drunk like all the time. So, um, that was a hard boundary to like cross both coming out and actively going to a bar or a club.
CW: What do you think was your sort of thinking in drinking socially? Like how did you give yourself permission to do that?
KS: I guess part of it was that just as a person Ive always thought cocktail culture was so much fun. Like just, you know, aside from the social aspect of it, I just think that a martini is just so much fun (laughs). I dont know. I think I live in the 1950s in my head. And so every day is like Madmen. But the other part of it was like if I dont met some lesbian and gay people or queer people in general, Im just my head is going to explode.
I think that is where I was. Cause I looked around my entire landscape of social life was conservative, Christian, and straight, and I thought to myself, Im going to be pretty lonely soon if I am going to be quote unquote the real Keith, if I dont meet people. And the only way I knew to meet people at that point was to go out to the bars.
CW: You mentioned the mixed-clubs. Was this like advertised on a flyer or something that it was a mixed club? Or was it word of mouth that it was a mixed club?
KS: It was advertised I believe on a gay website as a mixed club. Like, its not fully gay. I think there was someI forget. You know, its one of those websites that when you type in a city name and gay on the internet, it comes up with this website and gives like ratings. I dont know which one it was. Um, but yeah, I thought It was funny. Now that I am talking about the fact it was a quote unquote mixed club, makes me think maybe I thought that would be a good starter (laughs) to ease into, you know, my gay lifestyle.
CW: When you started going to gay bars, whatcan you remember your first experience in a gay bar? The first time you went?
KS: Yeah, kind of, yes and no. It was a littleit wasnt so trepidatious Trepidatious is the feeling of fear that causes you to hesitate because you think something bad or unpleasant is going to happen going to that once mix club The Peacock Room, but when I went to my first gay bar, like advertised as a gay bar, it was called Southern Nights, in Orlando. And its now called Revolution, and a fun tidbit: it was actually featured in the movie Monster. I always like telling people that.
It was one of those places that every time my parents would drive by it was like, Oh theres Southern Nights. You know, Thats the gay club. So, even as a kid I knew it was a gay club, and I saw the rainbow flag, so walking up I was super trepidatious. I was thinking about things like, Do they film? Like, security camera? Is my picture going to end up somewhere?
Because I wouldI believe that my first gay bar experience was before I moved out of my parents house. Im pretty sure, yeah. I was trepidatious, and then when I walked in, I was like this isnt so bad. It just kind of smells like smoke (laughs) and alcohol. I was a little disappointed that you basically get just a like a run of the mill cocktail. Youre not getting like something out of Madmen, but it was cool.
I definitely felt comfortable there, but I knew it was a language I would have to learn, like socially. Maybe language is the wrong word, but it was definitely a vibe that I didnt have up until that point. So, people openly like holding hands, or being affectionate, or hitting on each other, and it was if I was getting permission to have sexual side, I think. And so thatIt was a big deal for me, and I have to say Southern Nights was like a good starter gay club to go to.
CW: When did you move to Tampa?
KS: So, I moved to Tampa. You know, its a little fuzzy. I was either, it was either the end of me being twenty-four, right before my birthday, or it was like right after. I may have been twenty-five. But I got a job offer. I had been working as a contractor for Bright House on contract doing webpages, and things like that for them, and they wanted a something a little bit more full time.
So, they wanted me near the office instead of being in Orlando sending all my work via telecommuting. So, I decided that I would just move here, because it was a cool job for me and I really liked it. They definitely have always been like super supportive of me being openly gay. So, I was like, you know, thats not for nothing. So, I moved from Orlando to Tampa. I guess thatd be, you know, like eleven years ago or so.
CW: Oh, okay. So, you worked for Bright House when you were still living in Orlando.
KS: I theoretically worked for a contracting company, but yes, my end, the person who paid the check was definitely Bright House.
CW: And they were accepting of your sexual orientation.
KS: Yeah, on a day to day basis. I was neverI never kept it quiet that I had a long term relationship, you know, and they never told me not to say anything (cat meows) (laughs). The cat wants to be on the interview. And also I knew that in their employee handbook that they gave same-sex partner benefits and that was kind of important for me too.
You know, I think that a lot of people dont think about that if theyre not in a sort of a same-sex relationship. They dont think about how important that could be. Because everyone I have ever been in a long term relationship with had their own insurance, but if they didnt that was kind of a thing that I wanted to make sure that whatever company I worked for supported.
CW: Was that a deciding factor in why you took a job with Bright House?
KS: Probably not why I first started working with them. To stay with them, yeah, definitely, I think that was a deciding factor.
CW: So, you lived how long Sorry, let me rephrase this. How many years in Orlando that you lived on your own?
KS: Um, just in Orlando, it was just probably a little under one year once I came out and lived on my own.
CW: How exciting was that?
KS: Oh, I loved it. (laughs) I loved it. I loveyou know, its funny. My mom is always like you know, Is it hard to live on your own and be an adult? She is just kidding, you know, but at the same time I think she wants to know that I am doing good. And Im like, actually I love it. I think they prepared me pretty well to, you know, live on my own. So, I really enjoyed that in Orlando.
CW: Did you feel more, sort of, free in terms of dating and, you know, friendships that you had your own space?
KS: I did, I did. I do think that I jumped into a long-term relationship too quickly, because of some of that time I felt like I had to make up for lost time. I was very relationship-minded, you know. I was very like, I dont just want to have a lot of one night stands.
So, I think that having that free agency also kind ofI feel like if I would have had that free agency earlier on in my life, like maybe if I came out when I was sixteen and dated in high school, I probably wouldnt have jumped into a long term relationship right then. But yes, it was cool, but it was also I think kind of why I did that too.
CW: Was the long-term relationship, to have sort of your first boyfriend, was that surpriwas it what you expected or um
KS: You know, thats funny that you asked that, because like Well my first boyfriend, that wasnt long term at all. I mean, it was like three months, a summer fling, and it was one of the acrimonious break ups that didnt have to be, but it was my first boyfriend, so I went a little crazy. You know, I think hed probably say that, you know, actually he would never say that he went crazy too.
You know, then I kind of did that like, bunch of failed dates, you know, that were just like, Urgh, why am I on this date? And then, you know, I met this guy who quoted Shakespeare, and we knew all the same books, and he was just my type. And I thought, you know, Im never going to do better than this, in my mind, because I was jumping the gun a little bit.
So, you know we dated for like three weeks and then we were living together, and then you know, three years later, you know, moving to Tampa together. I mean, three We moved to Tampa, but then we spent two years here before we ended up breaking up. So yeah, I think I jumped the gun, but everyone has to have that kind of experience to move forward in life, I think.
CW: So, when you moved to Tampa what was your life like? Did you go out and socialize a lot oryour home life?
KS: So, when we moved here to Tampa, we actually moved to Brandon, Florida, which is right by where I worked. And it seemed, like, it seemed manageable, because even though Orlando and Tampa are probably pretty similar, Tampa, just if youve grown up in Orlando, feels huge. Like, it feels like this gigantic metro area with all these places to live that you dont know, and you dont want to just commit to a certain neighborhood.
It seemed like Tampa had endless neighborhoods. You know, now that Ive been to cities like Chicago, I realize its not an endless array of neighborhoods. But Brandon seemed pretty self-sufficient. You drive two minutes in any direction, youve hit like four restaurants and a grocery store, so we moved there. Not great for gay social scene, I will tell you that. Like, we didnt really have gay friends.
Again, its like I went backwards. I did have a lot of really great friends from work, and I still do. I still have that huge group, but Im basically the only gay person. And you know, Lance and I joke about this all the time. Were like the token gays at every event that that group has, which is totally fine with me.
Its just its so glaring at some times, because well be the only (laughs) LGBT person at an event. I didnt start socializing right away, I guess is thethats the long way to say that it took me quite a while. In fact, I didnt meet gay friends for probably a year or two. I started going to Ybor and thats where I met most of my gay friends.
CW: So, when you lived in Brandon, did you live in an apartment community or sort of a residential housing
KS: It was an apartment. Yeah, it was a pretty large apartment community.
CW: Do you feel were your neighbors sort of accepting of you and your boyfriend living there? Or did you
KS: Its funny. I could not point out a neighbor from that place. It was such an anonymous experience living at that apartment complex, and if I got any side-eye of Oh theres two guys moving in, I think it may have just been a fleeting thing. It was definitely one of those places where people come in and are quickly forgotten. So, I dontI never had any sort of impact there. I think we were more noticed by neighbors probably like shopping together at the grocery store or things like that.
CW: And did you feel, um, at any point, nervous or sort of apprehensive of being in public together in Brandon at the grocery store?
KS: In Brandon, I definitely was watching PDA, like accidental PDA, a lot. I didnt feel Brandon was a real accepting environment, but it was overt, like no one was yelling epithets at me, or anything like that. But I dont think that, like, I could have patted my boyfriend at the times back or something, like at the grocery check-out, and not gotten raised eyebrows, or a little bit of a gruff demeanor from people. So, you know I just kept it on lock. You know, I was just like, Nope, Im not going to do this.
CW: So, what waswhat did you two do to socialize?
KS: You know, mostly hung out with our straight friends, you know, from work. We had a lot of friends from work. And then he was a nurse and he had a lot of friends from work. In fact, his friends were more used to being around gay people, which was kind of funny.
I guess theres just traditionally been a high rate of people being out at work in hospitals, I guess. I mean, thats anecdotal, but its just like, you know, his nurse friends, its like they hadmy boyfriend was just one of the twenty-five gay friends they had. And we were like were kind of like, where are all these gay people? (laughs)
CW: So, what type of things did you all do as a group?
KS: A lot of house parties, game nights. That was when I was actually into like network gaming where you would have what were called LAN parties A LAN party is a gathering with computers or compatible game consoles primarily for the purpose of playing multiplayer video games. and everyone would bring their computer, put it on the same Ethernet switch and youd play tournaments of fighting games and first person shooters.
Thats kind of whatI mean everyone at work in my group, we were all either software developers or systems analysts, or people working with computers on a day-to-day basis. Everyone was super nerdy and had similar nerdy parties. I guess was theYeah, that was basically what we did. Otherwise, you know, I just kind of worked and was a homebody.
CW: And then after a year of living sort of in the Brandon area, you said you started to go out in Ybor.
KS: I did. I realized that my social experiences werent really congruent with what I wanted to be doing. And its not so much I wanted to party, but I just wanted to meet people who were on a different spectrum than you know the average work friend. And you know, I didnt know too many who were artists. I didnt know too many who were in academic pursuits.
Like, I was like, I have to just start varying where I hang out, which did cause some friction in my relationship, because the thing was like, Well why are you going to clubs? Thats where people go to meet people, If were in a relationshipblah, blah, blah. I think that thats just kind of I dont want to project that thats drama with any couple, but it was definitely a dramatic thing for my relationship at the time. But I knew that if I didnt meet new people, I wouldnt be able to fully express myself on a social
CW: What do you think brought on that desire to branch out your social sphere?
KS: You know, that is a good question. I dont know if I even know where my drive is for that, because even as a kid Ive always been enamored with like, big cities, and you know, that whole like lifestyle of being seen on the town and stuff like that. I dont know where that comes from, but I just definitely like ephemeral conversations.
You know, the way I was going on my social life seemed more like I was going to end up an old married couple going to book club and that would be the only social experience that I had. You know, not to put that down. Its just that I kind of wanted something that resembled more like: you go to work, you may go out to the bar and meet people, and, you know, discuss current events, which I know is pie in the sky in itself, because that doesnt always happen in Ybor. But I definitely wanted a more bustling atmosphere to be around.
CW: What clubs did you go to in Ybor?
KS: The first club that I remember going to would be the Castle. And I knew nothing about the Castle. I just knew that they hadcause I asked someone, and I dont even remember who it was. I was like, I want to dance. Where can I go dancing? And they were like, Mondays and Thursdays at the Castle. Because Mondays is eighties night, and who doesnt like eighties night?
And then, you know, Thursday is this kind of like modern electronic music. And they were like, Thats when everyone goes. And they even said, I think, its the unofficial gay night, and I was like, oh thats kind of cool. And then once they told me it was in a Goth club I was like, Okay, Im sold. If I see like a skeleton or something, or a cage, I think thatll be hilarious.
So, I went and I realized, and I dont know if everyone has this experience, but when I walked into the Castle, even though its not officially a gay club, it definitely was exactly what I was looking for in the fact that it basically housed people from the fringes being about to come to a place and everyone is treated exactly the same. I am sure that may not be the case in fine points with the Castle, but I definitely felt that everyone was equal footing.
It didnt matter what you were wearing, it didnt matter if you were Goth, it didnt matter if you were gay or straight. You know, you could just go to their night. And I knew I wasnt going to get people getting on my case, you know, for being gay. So, thats the first one I went to and it was liberating. I really enjoyed it.
I do think the liberation compared to some of the negative things that were going on in my relationship was probably one of the reasons that I probably starting thinking like, I need to break up, but thats a whole other story. It was there and I started much later going to Czar.
You know, Ybor is a collection of nights more than clubs in my mind. It depends on what night you go, on whats going on, and once you get to know one place, you know, everyone seems to know all the other places too. So, you know, I basically started going to anywhere that would consider itself an alternative type club.
CW: You had mentioned before about the pick up culture in the gay bars in Orlando. How do you think it compares to the Tampa area?
KS: You know, its funny because the clubs that I mentioned in Ybor, I find myself going to places that dont label themselves gay. And so, you know, when it comes to me pickinglike doing that whole, like picking up or flirting with people, I do think its a little bit more advanced, because you dont know who is what. But I think at the same time, going out, thats like the last on my list.
However, I did notice at the gay bars in Tampa its definitely a little bit more cut throat than Orlando as far as people hitting on each other and theres almost a competitive feel to it. And theres alsoI dont know. If youre bad at it, youre not going to probablyyoure flirting will not be successful, if youre bad at flirting in a Tampa club, whereas I think in Orlando, they kind of give you points for trying. I know that is a little abstract.
CW: What Tampa gay bars have you been to?
KS: Ive beenits funny, because I once did a birthday run with a friend, where we tried to go to all of them, but the ones Ive been to the most probably would be City Side, Georgies Alibi, I think is a major one, nowadays theres a place called Bradleys in Ybor. Its weird, like I dont enjoy, its going to sound bombastic, I just dont enjoy the gay clubs in Tampa. I dont feel myself when Im there.
I feel thatI dont know. Its not a very welcoming space, and I feel that its super male dominated. And I really feel that there is no place in a lot of gay clubs for any sort of trans expression. And I feel that the way a lot of gay clubs treat their female customers is appalling.
And it really weighs on me, so its kind of hard to be in the clubs. I dont know how much to talk about that, but its just kind of sad for me, because I would really like that sort of gay speakeasy that accepts everybody and whats so funny is that its the Castle and not a gay club, and thats not even a gay club.
CW: Interesting. So, when you say Tampa gay bars are not accepting of trans expression and are unfriendly to female patrons, can you describe that a little bit more?
KS: Sure, I think its a littleIts subtle, but I mean my degree is in political science so Im always looking for subtle discrimination, I guess, which I dont know. I dont want to paint myself as someone who is looking for discrimination under every rock, but I just noticed that when it comes to lesbian patrons of gay bars, they tend to get ignored a lot.
Either through events, fewer events, or just like, you know, bartenders naturally like at a gay bar, if they are gay, they kind of want to flirt with the same, you know, same-sex. So, Ive seen preferential treatment to male patrons by male bartenders and things like that. I think on the trans side. You know, I dont want to throw any bars under the bus, because I think everyone is learning and growing.
However, I have seen events not be very understanding when it comes to labeling something as either a male only or female only event. They seem to exclude trans. They imply that somehow there is going to be some sort of biological check and, you know, they dont understand that what your gender is, is not exactly tied to your biology, and it actually not even tied to your sexuality.
And there is a lack of sensitivity to that. Its almost like if youre trans, you should be performing, but this is not your bar. Um, I think that the most trans friendly place Ive ever been is probably Valentines. In fact, thats actually a gay bar I enjoy going to. Its just out of the way for me.
But the environment there is welcoming, not only of the full spectrum of LGBT, but I find that they are welcoming of like people of different class differences in Tampa. And you know, I think that there is something to be said for a place that you are just as happy going there if you have a working class job as if youre the vice president of something.
And I think that a lot of Tampa gay bars that are more male focused are focused on getting that young professional or older professional crowd, and, you know, not so much where someone wants to go if its there one night out and they work really hard for working class job. So, I definitely think that was a more inclusive experience.
CW: Do you think these spaces are racially inclusive?
KS: Not all of them, no. But once again, its super subtle. Like, I definitely think that they are on paper and I definitely think the people working there are inclusive. I would never give, like, and say that Ive seen any of the owners of these places being any certain way towards people of color or minority groups.
However, theres a mob mentality that I kind of see happen when Im at a gay bar, which on one hand, I kind of value because where else can people on the fringes mob together, because, you know, Stonewall was not for nothing. It was, you know, that was a safe space for them. But, I feel sometimes in our culture a safe space for white males of a certain means equals a safe space for only them.  It just becomes that way.
So, in that way Ive seen incidental, you know, either racism or just insensitivity at places. Once again I would have to say that Valentines is super racially inclusive, which I really love too. This is not an advertisement for Valentines, because I probably only go there once a year, but I definitely would say that Ive been to more inclusive environments that are not gay bars for even queer and people of color or different minorities.
CW: Thats interesting. So, youve been here eleven years
KS: Eleven years about, yeah.
CW: How do you see the culture changing?
KS: Just in general, because I know I talked a lot about bars, but I guess even outside of that I definitely feel that on a day-to-day basis in Tampa, at least in the more urban areas like downtown, a little bit in Hyde Park, I think thats still not like a gay mecca by any means, but downtown and Ybor, and Id say any of the neighborhoods ending with heights like Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights, people are totally expecting to like gay couples and lesbian couples.
I even know that there some trans friends that are just totally integrated into their neighborhoods, you know, and I just think that this is a cool thing. And thats even focused on like everyday life of being at an event, or, you know, lets say a place has a music thing, its people of all types. And I think thats it almost expected by everybody. I didnt see that eleven years ago, whereas I see it more now, definitely.
And as far as like the bar scene goes, I hate to say the gay bars are the same place theyve been eleven years ago, but I think that every other place is kind of changing. I know specifically in Ybor, how when all the gay bars kind of took over the West End of Ybor, that was really great because it seems to transform, like, at least that side of Ybor to where people are very accepting.
And people are almost are like, Im not even going to Its almost mentally theyre like, Im not even going to go that way unless Im totally okay with queer culture. And so, I really, I value that. In fact, I even heard these like two guys, just two straight college students, and theyre just walking down the street, and someone, one of his friends, kind of said something off color, like, when they passed a gay bar.
And the other one was like, Dont say that. Hes like, They own this neighborhood. Hes like, Thats not really nice either. I just was like, I dont know if his motivation was standing up for, you know, the gay bar because he was afraid to get beat up by all the gays around, but I felt that thats at least visibility is a move in the right direction.
CW: Interesting. You mentioned Stonewall earlier. When you think of a gay past do you think of Stonewall, or is there any other major landmark events that you think of?
KS: Thats interesting. You know, my gay history is not probably as good as a lot of other peoples, but I definitely latched on to that whole idea of Stonewall, because queer spaces have always fascinated me, because with the amount of discrimination that has been put forward in the past towards queer people of all types, I felt that a place where people went to be themselves and then the dominant culture tried to like come in.
Like literally, with police treatment and everyone banded together. It didnt matter if they were like drag queens or gay men. So, that was like really important for me. As far as other landmark thingsits funny. I think Ive been watching all the legislation stuff with two different viewpoints.
There is the part of me that was really excited that they overturned Dont Ask, Dont Tell, because thats something that I always felt was really egregious and it made no sense to me to stigmatize people who were in the military, and that has nothing to do with my take on the military.
Im divorced from that. But what the other eye Im keeping on is like, I hate to say it, it feels like a lot of the major gay events that happened through legislation are almost being handed out slowly so that the dominant culture doesnt freak out. And that part I think Id like to see it move a little bit quicker.
So, I know thats not really answering the question about gay past events, but I think that my take on, like, what it means to be gay in the historical context kind of is a mix of thinking about the people that fought for my rights in the past and then mixed with like what we are trying to do now through legislation.
CW: Do you attend the pride parades and any other gay festivities?
KS: I do. I do. I dont go every year, but I do enjoy pride parades. The first time I went to one was that year I came out in Orlando, and I went to their pride parade, which was really interesting to me because they had so many floats from like Disney and stuff. So, it was kind of a neat thing to see the businesses of the town embrace, and I dont really have a cynical view of big business participation in pride parades, because I almost think that like you know, Im glad theyre there.
Thats awesome. I think they are doing the right by their community. So, I go to St. Pete probably once every two years, to their pride parade. And I like the fact that people are celebrating visibility, and I love the fact that all these people theyre like, Im straight, but I love gays. So, its like, its kind of neat to see, you know, that sort of celebration take place.
CW: Do you think thats relatively new? The straight allies going to the pride parade?
KS: You know, I dont know as far as likesince I only every other year, I definitely feel like Ive seen more straight allies in general. And its kind of interesting to me, because theres kind of an academic somewhat neo-Marxist reactionary place I could look at that from, where Im like, Well now being gay is popular and dominant culture wants to absorb whats cool from it and then like kind of white-wash the rest of it.
Like, that is one side that takes over in my head. But I see it more from an optimistic place on a day-to-day basis, like the fact that I can hold hands with someone that I care for at that event and all the straight people are going to do is like smile and be happy about it. Like, thats awesome to me.
So, I do look at it more from an optimistic standpoint, and I do think there are more straight allies not just at pride parades. I have more people say positive things to me that like even in coming out, lets say, to co-workers or to new friends is not exactly a hard thing and involves little more than you know a pro-noun, you know, or a name that is obviously my partners name.
CW: Why do you think that is?
KS: I definitely think its a combination of people, more people being visible, and also there is sort ofI mean, I think in this country the dam is going to break when it comes toits almost like we are going stop legislating to create equal rights and its almost like equal rights are hopefully at some point going to be assumed.
I feel that, you know, progressives in Europe like have a few, like a decade or two on us when it comes to equal rights for LGBT community. So, I definitely see thats where its going, and both because of political pressure and because of more visibility. Also, I mean to go back to my parents for a second, even though they are super religious, they definitely defend me to the people that go to church with, and they definitely express their acceptance of my partner.
Theyre definitely doing their part to be whatever straight ally they can be with the tools that they have. So, I definitely see that like if my parents could, excuse me, if my parents could do that with their belief system then, you know, I think that thats an example for other people. In fact, its funny, this just popped into my mind.
A year after I came out, someone from their church was like, So Keith moved out on his own, got his own job, started paying for everything, and moved out and then came out to you? They were like, Yeah. And he was like, He probably did that because youre an elder of the church and he wouldve and they recognize that. They definitely were like, Wow, thats really respectful.
And its almost like in that church it was taught, you know, gay people are the devil, theyre ripping at the fabric of society. And they were like, Oh, actually that was a super respectful thing to do. You know, for a child to do for a parent. And I think that that kind of, little things like that I think are just changing peoples minds on a daily basis. And thats just visibility and, you know, queer people being themselves.
CW: Do you thinkor let me rephrase that. How do you think popular culture has changed in terms of the visibility of gays and lesbians? Since you were younger?
KS: Yeah, thats interesting. Its like a roller coaster, cause, like, when I was younger, I mean, every gay character was this like tragic figure that as soon as they expressed their gay love for someone, you know, something horrible happened to them like they got beat up or hit by a car, or something like that. So, thats kind of what I saw.
Either that, or it was kind of like the Birdcage style thing, where it was like, theyre so gay that you just cant, the whole movie is fabulous, or whatever, and so that was kind of the extremes that I grew up with. So, it was interesting. I think as much as I probably put down now the whole Will and Grace thing, cause it does seem a little bit like nowadays gay people might find that offensive, watching Will and Grace, if it was billed as new television, but I think that definitely helped.
People were laughing. It was uncomfortable laughter, but it was national laughter. I think now though, if you were to ask me ten years, if I ever thought Id see a show like Glee on TV, where even the straight people seem like they have some queer thing about them, I wouldnt have believed it.
I feel like pop culture is almost this roller coaster, because its gone from a tacit acceptance of gays to almost like an over embracing of gays to where like everything has to be somewhat gay or its not going to sell. And that almost gets a little uncomfortable because I kind of favor more organic narrative structures with my entertainment but its definitely cool to see. Im not going to put down a show for being about two moms wanting to adopt a baby and that being a sitcom because that would have never happened when I was a kid.
CW: What kind ofyou said that when you were younger the gay characters were tragic, can you remember, does anything stand out in memory?
KS: Well, it wasnt when I was super young, but I remember in Ally McBeal, early on and I was like really impressed that they took it on. There was a story line about Ally McBeal helping, I guess, like, the best way to put it would probably be like a trans like hooker. She was helping this girl and I remember like, she kind of encouraged, like, tell your story, you know.
Dont let culture get you down, and then the girl ends up getting killed because of this visibility. Ally McBeal thinks its her fault. And that kind of stuff was par for the course. You know, My So-Called Life, you know, the gay character had one sad thing happen after another. And so, like, those kind of portrayals were kind of hard for me.
Also just the shorts If I found anything in fiction, it tended to be someone like, Oh I have to hide my sexuality. Cause later on I read things byoh, man, I forgot the authors name. Oh well. Forget about that part, but yeah.
CW: So, do you think that youll stay in Tampa for a long time?
KS: You know, there is part of me that is very practical and I really like my job, and I keep finding new things that I really like about it. And I really like my set of friends. But knowing that Ive always wanted to live in a big city, I almost feel like I need to give a big city a chance. You know, but Im thirty-five now. Im not likeIm not twenty, in my twenties, ready to press the start-over button, you know.
I think that theres a romantic period that you can go through in your twenties with, like, moving. But now I have to think about my partners career and my career, and, you know, is my job exportable? Or, am I going to be able to move up in this company to where like it doesnt make sense to move somewhere else and kind of start over? So, those kind of decisions weigh into it.
I would love If I was doing pie in the sky, like just kind of coming up with it, I would love to live in the north east. I would love to be one of those people working, you know, a pretty good job, but, you know, having to be in a tiny Brooklyn apartment. Like, I would totally be okay with that as long as, you know, I could have seasons and things like that. So, thats the romantic ideal is to move away from Tampa, but I could see myself living in Tampa long term.
Its definitely not a city that I am ashamed to be from or living in. You know, because its funny, like all the punch lines on SNL, and I forget who recently had a quote negatively about Tampa, and Im like, Its not that bad. I dont know why they are painting it that way. It tends to be just metropolitan enough that you have a fun time, but its not overwhelming to your daily life.
CW: What role would, for example, gay rights, the right for the state to recognize marriage and adoption Does that play any part in your thought process about where you choose to reside?
KS: It doesnt right now, but I definitely kind of keep an eye on what is going on in different states mainly because it would be most important if my partner and I ever decided to have a child and adopt. Because I would definitely want to be somewhere that had, you know, really good adoption laws that werent like draconian.
And the issue of marriage is I am still undecided, because I have enough, from kind of an academic standpoint, I have enough issues with marriage as it stands now to really consider it for myself, but I definitely believe in the struggle for equal rights when it comes to marriage.
Now, you know, its funny, all of my straight married friends are like, When are yall getting married? You know, I want to go to a wedding. And I was like, I dont know. We are more likely to have a party, like, hey, guys we really love each other, come to this party then we are to get married. Unless it comes to a point where were getting older and, you know, estate planning comes into play.
I know thats really not a romantic reason to get married, but its definitely those are the kind of things I am looking at when I look at when I look at legal stuff. So, I feel I personally can wait as far as marriage rights go for myself, but I definitely am one hundred percent on board to, and I really think that it needs to be a federal push, and I dont know why its not. I get its a States rights issue but part of me thinks like, Hey, lets get creative. (laughs)
CW: Um, let me think, are there any particular stories about Tampas gay culture that you find, um, funny or memorable in any sort of way or fashion? It can be anything.
KS: Oh, yeah. One thing I think I really like about Tampa is we definitely have a very experienced and well-traveled and, like, well-known drag culture, and I dont think people realize that. Like, the drag queens that you see at bars didnt just blow on the scene like last year. Theyve been performing. They probably know Ru Paul. Like, they probably Ive heard stories of certain drag queens being in New York in the eighties.
And they probably would never want me to say who because then that tells you how old you are. So, thats never going to happen. But I definitely feel that its kind of an undiscovered gem, you know. Orlando drag Im sure was the same, but I just didnt have a lot of experience with it.
But what I love is that a lot of the drag I see in Tampa, its sad that theres not big crowds for it, because like Bradleys is one thing and its kind of like, lets entertain you with popular music. But then there is a different side, at like Valentines you might see someone perform to some super obscure Kate Bush, you know, song, and basically artistic performances that rival San Francisco and probably have had the same history.
And so, I just find that that is really cool. I dont know why more isnt written about Tampas drag culture, but I think its because its kind of unassuming. Theres a little bit of this like work-a-day unassuming, Its Sunday night, of course, we are having drag at Valentines. So, I like that. It feels like, on one hand, it feels like family atmosphere type thing, everyone knows each other and its been this long-standing thing.
But on the other hand, I am constantly blown away by some of the artistic things that Ive seen. So, that would be one thing. Also just for me, I definitely have valued the experiences where I have been at like a place thats not overtly gay, but then has like a gay night come out of nowhere. Like, I really think that. I mean, its not so big anymore, but the Castle Thursdays was definitely I dont know if Tampa realized that through the 2000s they definitely had a gem on their hands.
Like, it was a night, and it was a no b.s. kind of night, too. You didnt start drama on that
And it was this very, it was almost a celebration of queer identity without being something that anyone had to hand out flyers to be like, this is about gay culture. It was just happening. And thats something I value about Tampa, is I really feel that queer culture gets supported in the most unlikely places, and its almost when it overtly turns into a money making operation surrounded around queer culture that things get a little bit shaky, but I think that Tampa will figure it out, you know, eventually.
CW: Do you go to drag shows often?
KS: I do. I dont go as much anymore, but I used to go a lot. You know, when I travel I try to seek out, like, at least whatever the citys drag performances. And not like smaller cities, but like if I go to San Francisco or New York, I definitely really like enjoy that kind of thing. And here I used to go a lot to Valentines, like I mentioned, you know, when Bradleys first opened, I kind of went to their drag shows a lot.
I think now I just dont go out that much, and its good that I met a lot of people that became friends, because now looking at it, my one night I go out is maybe on a Friday. Or, if its for someones birthday, you might see me out on a weekend. I tend to meet less new people, but I do feel like that basis of having that a bunch of people is there so.
CW: You said it was like a family atmosphere. Can you sort of describe what you mean?
KS: Sure. I definitely dont mean that families should be bringing their children to the drag show at Valentines. I do want to say that. (laughs) It was like, because you walked in the door and you were accepting of other people, you were automatically accepted. There wasnt some sort of cold shoulder, you have to appease me entrance fee to the experience.
It was definitely like, Oh, are you down with drag? Are you down with people who have a trans identity? If youre cool, Im cool. And not just that, like, Im probably going to be like super chatty, even though youre a stranger. So, it was definitely that sort of welcoming thing of, like Um, I grew up, on my moms side, it was Syrian and Lebanese family, and tons of cousins, tons of aunts and uncles.
And it was one of those things that you may not know a cousin, but just because you are both there, you have this shared bond, and youre like best friends right off the bat. I was used to that, thats how I grew up, so when I say family I think I kind of mean that sort of environment that like, if you show up and youre on the same page, then Im going to treat you the same way Im going to treat this person Ive known for ten years.
And that is something that I also see at the Castle and places like that in Tampa. And I see that too in neighborhoods, even none-bar events like, I know Ive been heavy on the bar events when Ive been talking, but there is certain experiences whether its like running into people at the farmers market that because youre not acting like a jerk, and I know that sounds pretty vague, its almost like you are accepting into this group of the people who dont act like jerks.
And I find that people in Tampa are nice that way. However, like when it comes toto put that in contrast, when it comes to the gay bar scene at the places that are pretty male heavy, I feel like the cliques arent so much that. I feel that, you know, you kind of have to have similar jobs or look a certain way. And Im not getting down on that I just have found that theres a lot of acceptance in place outside of that.
CW: How long have you lived here at this residence?
KS: This house its either five or six years. Its such a great place and the management of itwe rent. And the managers are great. They dont play games with us. They like are really happy that were here. TheyI mean, they get it that we are gay couple. You know, they dont bat an eye. Yeah, I love it. I love Tampa Heights in general.
I know that a lot of people had designs on Tampa Heights that it would be the next Seminole Heights and that the housing bust didnt really help as far as turning it all around and it being mile after mile of bungalows. I get thats what its supposed to be but I kind of like it rough around the edges. Its definitely a nice neighborhood I think for me.
CW: And you umI know you were saying before that you saying before that especially this area of Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights, Hyde Park, sort of very accepting of LGBT people and couples. Does thatdo you think about that often when youre in, ah, moving around looking for places? Particularly maybe here.
KS: I do. I do think about that. You know, Ive had friends that have had a lot of success moving to suburban houses and you definitely get a lot house for the money, I get that. But Ive gone to visit those same friends and I dont feel as comfortable in those neighborhoods as I do closer to the city center only for that fact.
You know, I dont think Im ever going to live in Skypoint per say, like in a high rise in downtown, but if I did I would almost assume that people are going to be friendly to a gay couple there. And maybe its my own prejudice. I just dont feel that that assumption can be made for certain suburban areas in Tampa.
Thats saying nothing against the people who live there I just dont think thatcause if its for me to expect that they are probably going to be okay with a gay couple, you have to know that straight people moving into a downtown area probably need to expect that there are just going to be gay couples.
So, they probably wouldnt move there if they werent okay with that. So theres a little bit of people who are accepting self-selecting their neighborhoods and those just happen to be the ones that I feel the most comfortable in. So it does weigh in on my decision on where I would live.
CW: Do you think that thats because of the more urban environment?
KS: I do. I really do. I feel thatI dont know what causes it. And there is this joke that Ive heard said before that, you know, first, hipsters move it. Then gays and lesbians move in and fix up houses. And then by the time there is a Whole Foods, you have to get out. Everyone has to get out and then that is when all the people come in from the suburbs and buy up all the houses in the urban area.
And by then someone else has moved in to some former crack house and starting revitalizing it again. And then a target will move in. And so, I feel thatI mean, thats a joke but at the same time I definitely feel that when I look at a city I am like, What neighborhood isnt too perfect but definitely has quaint but affordable housing, and seems to have kind of a, multi-group sort of identity? Because if you were to take Tampa Heights, theres just as many old ladies in Victorian houses as there are hipsters living six to a house, so.
CW: How funny. Okay. Is there any else that you would like to talk about?
KS: Oh, okay. Um, Im trying to think like about what is unique about my coming out experience and kind of just being who I am at this place in time. And if anything I justI do run into people who had very similar sort of like through their teens they were religious and they all seem to be pretty well adjusted people with an open identity about either being gay or lesbian, bi sexual. I justits so funny when a lot of the It Gets Better stuff happened about two years ago or whenever, a lot of the stories I saw were like, Oh, I was homeless
[Interview concluded off tape. Keith continues on to comment about how not all gays and lesbians have had a negative experience.]


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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