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subfield code a L34-000172 USFLDC DOI0 245 Andrew Martin Smith oral history interviewh [electronic resource] /c interviewed by Dr. Cyrana Brooks Wyker.500 Full cataloging of this resource is underway and will replace this temporary record when complete.Transcription and timecoding of this interview is underway and will be added when complete. At that time the audio link will be replaced with the OHPi player link (player supporting syncronized audio and full-text transcription).7 655 Oral history.localOnline audio.local710 University of South Florida.b Library.Special & Digital Collections.Oral History Program.1 773 t LGBT Oral History Project4 856 u http://digital.lib.usf.edu/?l34.17
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Cyrana Wyker: This is Cyrana Wyker. I am here with Drew Smith at the University of South Florida Tampa Campus Library. This interview is part of the GLBT Oral History project under my direction. Today is December 5, 2013. Do I have your permission to record this interview?
Drew Smith: Yes, you do.
CW: Okay, so well just start with where and when were you born?
DS: I was born in 1956. Do you need the exact date? October 15th, in Orange, New Jersey. My family lived in east Orange, New Jersey. Orange is the adjacent community where the hospital was, so I was actually born there, but we lived in East Orange until I was three years old.
CW: Where did you did you move when you turned three?
DS: My father was originally from New Jersey. My mother was from upstate South Caroline, from a town called Newberry. Its a town of about eight or nine thousand people. Its about midway between Columbia and Greenville. So, he moved the family in January of 1960 to Newberry, where moms family was. Part of it, I think, was dad was starting his own business.
He had, dad had beenserved in World War II and was trained under the G.I. Bill. He went to the RCA training institute to learn how to repair televisions. So, he started his own television repair business and when he got to Newberry that was basically he was able to start a whole brand new business to do that.
CW: Um-hm. Okay, and what did your mother do?
DS: Ah, mom was a stay-at-home at first. She did that for a number of years. I have one sibling. He is nine years older, my brother Jeff. And so when it came time for me to get into the fifth grade, and keep in mind this was in the sixties, this was when the schools where integrating in South Carolina, and what was springing up in response to that were a number of private, essentially white academies.
My father felt, even though I dont think that he was at all a racist of any kind, I really never perceived that, but he felt Id probably get a better education in the private academy, because it was smaller classes. My fifth grade class only had like nine people, the entire fifth grade. And I think he was right. Although that meant I was separated from all those students who continued to go to public schools.
And so, but to pay for this I think mom felt once I was old enough, and I was in the fifth grade, that she needed to go back to work and be a two-income household. So, she went to become a ward clerk or ward secretary in the local hospital in Newberry. And so that meantnow dad was working, his repair business was in the garage. He basically converted the garage to be his TV shop.
So, he was at home most of the time when he wasnt going out to do a house call for a service call. So I saw him maybe in some cases more during the day. Although I was in school most of the time when mom was working, she was usually on the seven-to-three shift, so its not like I didnt see my mother very much, you know.
CW: So, did you stay there untilall through
DS: Through high school.
DS: So, I graduated from Newberry High School in 1974. My brother had already, since he was older, he had already gone on to college to Clemson University and got his degree. He got his degree in electrical engineering. And then he went to work for the patent office in Washington D.C. and this was around the time of Vietnam, too, so he also by working for the patent office and he went to law school at night then he didnt have to be at risk of being drafted to fight in Vietnam.
DS: So, when it came time for me to go to college I went to Clemson as well. Clemson was about a hundred miles from my hometown, from Newberry. So actually, and I was a bit of a shy child and not one that was comfortable being on my own. Um, some people might call that a mommas boy, but I was sort of a bit of a little timid. And so, I would come home every weekend from college.
It took me a while to really get comfortable being on my own, that took my whole college life kind of, get prepared for that. But sobut that was doable, because there were people that I went to college with from my hometown who had their own cars; and, therefore, they would go, and I would just get rides with them every weekend to come back to Newberry for the weekend. And then mom would do my laundry.
CW: (laughs) So what were yourlets back up a second.
CW: What were your middle school and high school years like?
DS: Um, well it kind of became, even from the first grade on, I was a bit of aI was kind of a class brain. I tended to be at the top of the class every year. I was also the smallest kid typically, at least almost until high school. So, I got picked on a bit physically. Not, not badly, but I was certainly teased a bit, but at the same time I could compensate by the fact that I was the class brain, which meant I was teachers pet a lot.
And when I was in the private school, of course, I didnt have much competition there in those small classes, when I got back to the public school, I was still pretty much top of my class, and I did graduate basically ranked highest in high school. So, I did well in all my classes. I took lots of hours in middle school and high school. I did basically straight As, high SAT scores, things like that. But I also had trouble fitting in in high school.
I mean, most of the students I knew since its a small town, even if I didnt go to school with them from the fifth grade to the ninth grade, when I was in the private academy, I knew them all. Some of them where ones I went to church with. Some were ones that I had known in elementary school. As I said, its a small town, so you know everybody.
And so, what I ended up doing was, ah, you know, some people were in cliques. They were, you know, there was the band clique, and the athletes, and the cool kids, and whatever. And I didnt fit in very well with much of any of them really. That was kind of tough. So, as I said, it was an uncomfortable time in some ways, yeah that was.
CW: In high school.
DS: Yeah, more so in high school I guess, but particularly once I got back to that larger group of students. We had about a hundred and eighty in my graduating class in high school, so as I said it wasyou know, I got voted, I was thinking about this the other day because you know how, you know students get voted like most this or most that
DS: So, I was thinking about that for myI think that my high school yearbooks are online now or something, so I can look at them again. I have my own copies butso I got voted, although I think that was in the campus newspaper or the high school newspaper, most likely to succeed. And they did one guy and one girl. So I was the guy most likely to succeed and most intellectual.
CW: Were you involved in any groups or social clubs in high school?
DS: Yeah, I was. There was beta club, which was like honors society stuff, so I was in that. I was involved with the drama club. And in fact I had an experience where there was usually a senior play in the high school every year, usually a comedy. They didnt do a lot of serious stuff back then.
I mean, maybe now they do, I dont know, but they didnt then. And we were doing a play, which I kind of enjoyed. It was called The Phantom Strikes Again, and its set in a house supposedly on a hill, and theres a reading of a will, and all the people that are going to get money they are disappearing, or getting killed one at a time, or it seems they are.
DS: Nobody actually dies. But its kind of, its a humor thing. Well so, I wanted to play the part of the attorney. I didnt feel likeas I said, I was still a little shy about being on stage and doing these things. So, I wanted to be the attorney. The attorney didnt have a lot of lines, they had some. And I thought, Well, I have the demeanor. I can do this. So well, again, these issues in play in, this would have been 73, 74, was that they needed to rewrite some things to accommodate, because they didnt want like, an all-white cast.
They wanted to make sure that there were some African American students part of it, too, so they rewrote the role of the attorney to be a female role, so that there was an African American female student who could take that role. And the only role left for me to play was to play was to play the butler, who had like two lines or six lines. It wasnt much. And I was disappointed.
DS: And so, what I ended up doingso the main role, the guy who was the detective who was there, was being played by a guy who I had been friends with in elementary school, and he was very bright. And he was a little bithe professed to be religious, but he was really kind of two-sided and so I wasnt really fond of him. He was very involved with band. So, the band washe was doing a lot of band practicing, because they were going to go play in, I think, the Mardi Gras.
Usually the Newberry High School band would go every couple years to Mardi Gras. So, they went off. And he had not been learning his lines very well. And the teacher who was the director came to me, kind of took me aside and said, Cecils not learning his lines very well. If he comes back from this band trip and still doesnt know them, I want you to take over his role. So, I was like, Okay. So, I basically had to learn his lines and again that was the male lead in it.
And they did the same thing with the female lead, something similar. And so, when he came back and didnt know them, the director put me in that position of the lead in the senior play. And some of the other students were a little unhappy. They were part of his clique and they didnt like that Cecil had been downgraded or removed. Thats okay, other people stepped in to take these roles thatand so Iyeah.
And I got to take my dads pipe. Dad was a pipe smoker. And I thought, Well, you know, a detective should have a, a mystery writer, whatever his role was, should have a pipe. And this wasdad had a pipe that had a huge carved bullhead for the bowl. You could almost certainly see it from off stage. So, I could carry it around. I never had to actually smoke it during the play, but I could use it to point with, or something like that.
So, I had that with me. So, theres picture ofyou know, I found recently in the last couple years, I found newspaper clippings that Id saved of me in the senior play, and things like that. So that was probably my most active that I can recall being in the social kind of thing, yeah.
CW: So this, so you were in high school during what years?
DS: So, basically early seventies. So, betweenI graduated in 74. I was in the private academy through ninth grade so I was in the high school tenth, eleventh, and twelfth.
CW: Interesting. Can you recall, if you can recall, were there any representations of gays and lesbians in the media?
CW: In pop culture and/or media.
DS: Right. Im trying to think when I would have first seen anything, much of anything. I mean, the earliest things I remember, and I dont even remember what years these came out in terms of like movies and so forth, I remember whenand the name of the movie has escaped me, but its the one with Kate Jackson and Harry Hamlin. And you know, you know who Kate Jackson is? And sheits about a guy whos married and hes struggling with the fact that he realizes that hes gay.
Harry Hamlin plays the guy that he ends up hooking up with, and then, of course, the guy ends up leaving his wife and so forth. So, its basically the three of them. And what made that a veryI think its called Making Love, is actually the name of the movie. And whats interesting about it is as a movie was that the characters would often just sort of almost like, theyd be apart from what is going on in the movie, theyd be interviewed.
Theyd just be looking right at the camera and saying as if they were either talking to a psychologist or just actually talking tobreaking the wall and talking to the audience and saying, This is what it was like for me. You know, Harry Hamlin says,
The guy whos the actor whose name escapes me, that played the husband, he really wanted to settle down with a partner and at the end, you know, he does. And then Kate Jackson is, of course, losing her husband to a man. And shesand I remember just her, you know, shes facing the camera. And I love Kate Jackson, because she used to be on Dark Shadows and I loved her in these other roles before even Charlies Angels, you know.
And she looks at the camera, and she stops in the middle of saying what shes saying, and she sort of breaks down and says, I miss him, which was just a real tear-jerker. She ends up marrying another guy and having a child, and later running into her ex-husband and introducing the child, whose name is the name they wouldve given their child if it was, Rupert, because she liked the poet Rupert Holmes, or whatever.
So, I remember that movie and I dont remember what year it came out, but it was one of the first ones I probably saw. And it might have been after high school. Im trying to remember when. There werent a lot early on. There were things like Boys in the Band. I mean, those kind of movies that were realand that one was a real, um, thats a vicious movie, in terms of just the gay men in that one are reallyits a real psychologically vicious movie.
DS: So, I dont remember much in terms things. I think there was another one. Martin Sheen, when he was in one of his first movie roles, suddenly something summer, and hes a gayand maybe with Hal Holbrook. They may have been the two men that were in that one.
DS: And yeah, again probably the earliest thing I ever saw. And they were still, kind of, even with Hal Holbrook and him, again another case of somebody whos discovering hes gay, and hes kind of getting away from his wife, or whatever relationship he has. And again, those were just starting to come out.
CW: Starting to come out high school, college time?
DS: I wish I could remember, because I know it kind runs together whether it was early college or whether it was doing my high school years. Yeah. Yeah, I dont remember to well about that.
CW: So, what were your college years like?
DS: Well, um, college years, I mean, I think I became a little more aware of people who were gay. I mean, meaning who they were, sort of, out about it to a certain degree. I was still very closeted, and I remained that until I was about twenty-four. So Iagain, I would probably see a bit more of it in the media in my college years, but probably was not focusing on much of anything other than college life.
Yeah, I mean, I was sort of developing some crushes and things like that to a degree. Although those were mostly a little bit right after college I guess than they were during. But um, I dont know that I was looking for a lot of that media or was really thinking about it very much in my college years. I think I was still a bit of a nerd. I mean, at my otherI really was. I worked forI did computing stuff.
I was in computer engineering. I worked. My part-time job was I did computer support type stuff and helped students with their computer programs, so I really kind ofand I dont know if that meant that I was sort of suppressing that whole thing going, Im just going to focus on my interests, my, you know, technological interests, and not think about the other until I am out of college and I have a little freedom to do what I want to do. But yeah, I was still going home every weekend.
CW: (laughs) So when did you sort of come out? I guessquote unquote.
DS: Yeah, and thatsand you know, those are things where again they are kind of a long slow process, you know.
CW: Right, right.
DS: So, as I said, I attribute it to being about twenty-four. I was still hanging out with certain groups of friends in the community. After I graduated I continued to work full time for the university for Clemson. So I lived there. I still had friends who were a little bit younger than me who were still students. And so, we kind of would hang around together. We would, um, you know, we would play board games and card games together. We were kind of a game-playing group. You know, we might drink beer.
We might do thingsI didnt really drink much until my senior of college. Ah, that was the other funny thing. I didnt drink much, and thats when I first started going our senior year of college, going back to that just for a minute, I would go down town Clemson with my friends toafter maybe after an engineering exam or something wed go down and blow off steam and drink and dance.
This is the disco era. And so, think of that kind of music, sorry, but we werent wearing those clothes, I dont think, but we were dancing to disco tunes. So every time I hear a certain thing in Starbucks now, a certain song that it just takes me right back to that moment when we were going downtown. So, but yeah, around my early twenties I had only been out of college a few years and with this certain group.
I became basically aware, again, I think now I was focusing more on my romantic interests and my, you know, and coming out as a gay man. So I wasa friend of mine whos, again, had been a student at Clemson, and we came over to my apartment, and then I basically at that point I realized that I was out.
You know, I was a gay man. And I think slowly I revealed it to various people in my life, talked to them about it over time. But that was again, a verythat was a long term proclong term in terms of a couple years, I think, between the time I was around twenty-four and then lets say until late twenties.
CW: And were you still working for Clemson at that time?
DS: I was working for Clemson until 1990, so actually yeah. I moved from Clemson to Tampa
DS: to work for the University of South Florida basically right around the time of my thirty-fourth birthday. Yeah, because that was likeI think had my thirty-fourth birthday the week I moved down here. And so, as I said, yeah I wasand I remember the experience of sort of coming out to my best friend, my best male friend at Clemson. A bunch of us had gone tohe worked for, he was student, he was local because his family.
I dont know if his father had been a professor there or not, but his family had been in Clemson for a while. I think his father was a professor. But he grew up around there. Very bright guy, and he worked for the computer center too, and he lived in the same apartment complex I did. And so a bunch of us, a group of friends, wed all gone to see a movie, and everybody else except me and Phillip had gone to see whatever thatis it Hunt for Red October?or whatever had just come out. I guess thats the one.
And Phillip and I decided we didnt want to see that. We went to see Driving Miss Daisy. Dont ask, we just did, and after the movietheirs wasnt out yetso their movie hadnt finished yet, so Phillip and I sat outside the movie theater, and I mean I think he knew. I think it was, again, it wasnt that I had to tell him something he didnt know. It was just the fact that I actually said it to him, but because he knew that I had been seeing other people or Id been essentially dating. I had been going out of town.
I had gone online, and this was also happening in the late eighties. I was not only had been meeting people in Clemson usually either through friends of friends or whatever, but I was also meeting people online, because I was on a couple of online services and meeting men that way. And sometimes men in places like other states and I would actually travel to other states if there was a relationship that had developed. I did date some men who it was long distance relationships.
DS: Yeah, which is how I met George.
DS: But yeah, um, so I mean, I was involved withyeah, and when I was still living in South Carolina, I was involved with a guy who was in Fort Lauderdale. I was involved with a guy in Tampa area I think, and theres some others that didnt work out, very short term, but yeah.
CW: Were there any gay bars or gay spaces in Clemson?
DS: Yes and no.
CW: First of all, there was a bar in Clemson that was gay one day a week. (Laughs) Thats how those things worked out. When you have a real small town you can have it, but only aand I think Id gone to that one, I cant remember which night that was, I wanted to say it was Thursday nights. I think it was the gay night. But again, around the time I first came out, I went with a friend, who Ive reconnected with on Facebook after all these years.
He is in a long-term relationship, has a son, real nice family, but he and some of his friends took me over to Greenville, South Carolina. There was a gay bar in Greenville. So thats about a half an hour drive east, or whatever. So that was an experience for me to walk in and its all men. Well, I dont remember if there were lesbians in this one or not, but it was basically
DS: That was a shocker for me. I mean, notI didnt know what to expect. I really didnt. And the first time you do something like that its just still blows your mind that theres a wholecause you, again, because being gay can be kind of invisible to other people you dont know who around you is and who isnt, particularly in those days, and so to suddenly to be in a place where everybody is, is quite an emotional and mental change. Its just astounding. Good, but its scary and good, yeah.
CW: You said a change. What kind, what do youhow would you describe that?
DS: Well, when you think you are the only one or you feel like youre the only one, because you dont see it echoed back to you as we were talking about the media. If youre not seeing it in the media, and youre not seeing it in people around you, and youre not hearing your family talk about it in any of this, you feel like, again, youre the only one. Theres something wrong with you and youre just weird.
Youre just strange. And when you first go into a physical facility where there are dozens and dozens and dozens of other people and theyre like you, and they all look, they look different but they look, you know, then you go, Im not the only one. And suddenly your wholeyour mental self-perception changes. You dont say, Im weird, Im strange. Im like, No, this is who I am, and there are a lot of people like me and I just dont see them every day and I dont hear about them, read about them, and nobody talks about them, but theyre here.
And so that wasthats that sudden recognition. I mean, yeah, you can be really academic about it when you go in and I suppose I could have been, I know Im not the only one, but you feel like it all the time when itsin the seventies, like that, or in the eighties I guess by that time getting close to the, yeah, eighties by that time. You feel like it until you are in physical spaces where, yeah, you dont feel all by yourself anymore.
You say, Wow, theres a lot of people like me. Its, as I said, thats a mental shift. That shift from feeling like the only one and theres something wrong with me to no there is nothing wrong with me. I might be in a minority, but I am not like one out of a million or something.
CW: Right. So was there any concern that the university would discover that youre
DS: I had some stress about my job. Not so much that I really felt threatened, not at Clemson, even though Clemson, Clemson was a bit of an academic oasis in the middle of a very conservative state. Another straight friend of mine who knew that I was gay had actually advised me at some point that maybe thered be some things that I do toand I am trying to remember, at this time was he actually suggesting maybe that I pretend that Im straight, that I do something like date a girl, or that I do something to because there may have been talk about me.
And again, I was never, I never felt that anyone actually did directly threaten me or my job, but I guess I am sure there must have been talk at some point. So theresthat adds a little stress, because, you know, you if you feel that anyone above you, any administrator, anybody that has some power over your job doesnt approve that they may look for something to try to get rid of you, so I think there was a little bit of that stress.
One reason I left Clemson and came to the University of South Florida was I ended up with a different boss who was really intolerable, but not about that. He was just generally intolerable. And so, so that was one factor in me leaving Clemson. The other was, as I said, Im getting into at that point Im in my thirties, I guess I had to beI was in my thirties and Im thinking, Im not probably going to find mister right in Clemson. The population is too small. Its conservative South Carolina.
I need, like a lot of gay men did, I need to go to a city, but I want to stay in the South and so I looked around for places that were still close enough to where I could come home and visit mom and dad and see the family. And so I interviewed for jobs like in the research triangle up in North Carolina. I interviewed for jobs in Atlanta. Atlanta looked like it might be a really good place to be back then.
And didnt have any luck in finding anything yet, and then all of a sudden one day in the very late eighties or early nineties there was a piece of paper stuck on the bulletin board at work. I dont know, I dont know if it was actually directed at me or if it just happened to be there. It could have been either, I dont know, about a job, a management job, a computer management job, at the University of South Florida in Tampa, which I had never heard of.
I have never heard of the University of South Florida. And I looked on a map, and Tampas a city, and its sort of southern. And its notits still going to be far but itsI said, and I remember saying to my parents and mom, you know, I dont remember if it was after I had already taken the job or I asked about it and mom said, You know, dad and I, we lived in Tampa for a little while. I said, Oh, I didnt know that.
This was during the war because they met during World War II and then they got married in 1943, and so they were stationed in a couple places before dad shipped over to Europe for the war. And I guess they were in Tampa briefly, and she said, Oh, it was horrible. (laughs) But I think she really was just trying toeverybody was very posI think it was after I had already taken the job.
And sheeverybody else was that felt good for me. I mean, the fact that I was going to have this great job. And I think she just knew that I wasnt going to see her very often because that was a lot farther away from Newberry than just a hundred miles away. I would be 500 miles away and I wasnt going to come home every other weekend or every month or so.
DS: So anyway. Um, but I realized, as I said, I needed to be in a city. If I am going to meet Mr. Right, I have to be in a city. And so thats what happened in 1990 when I left upstate South Carolina in the little tiny college town for the big metropolis of Tampa.
CW: Wow. So you said you considered Atlanta. What was appealing about Atlanta to you?
DS: I had been to Atlanta before. I was familiar with Atlanta. When I lived in Clemson, I used to actually shop in the malls every, oh every couple of months. On the weekend I might go down to, ah, it was the big mall was, at that time in the late eighties, was Gwinnett Place, whatever it was called, Gwinnett place mall. Im not sure thats the right name, but it was like only about a hundred miles drive.
It was something where you could down, you know, shop this beautiful, new, enormous mall, and then go back, you know, home. And then I was meeting online. Id meet some gay men that were in Atlanta. And so Id drive down and spend a weekend, or whatever, down in Atlanta, and got to see a few of the gay bars. There was even a gay restaurant, and I was like, That was a concept, a restaurant that caters to gay men.
Im likeor gay men and womanIm like, Wow, thats really cool, so that wasyeah, and I kept thinking, here there is going to be a lot more opportunities to meet people. Its still a very southern place, its not far from where my family lives, I can drive over on a weekend and still see my family, but Atlanta was a going place and so it was like it looked like a good fit for what I wanted other than the traffic was going to be hideous. But it looked like it was a real good fit for me.
CW: Um, so you were traveling to meet people
CW: and sort of to be social in general. When was your first pride parade?
DS: (laughs) Um, in the mid-nineties. Okay, so I move here in 90. George comes down in early 95 and we buy the house. And Im going to have look, I cant remember without looking it up exactly which year it was, but it was after George was already down here. Youre familiar with GALA?
DS: Its the gay mens and womens choruses. Theyeveryits almost like an Olympics, every four years, or whatever, theyI want to say every four years, I think its every four years, they have this big event. It was in Tampa.
DS: And it was soon after George had come down here, and they had it down at the convention center. And they had all these wonderful performances that you could go listen to, and they had Maya Angelou speak, and they had Harvey Fierstein speak, and he even kissed the mayor, which was Greco at the time, during his first mayors position. He surprised the mayor and kissed him.
And on the Sunday of that event I dont think theyd had one in Tampa before but they decided they were going to havebecause I guess it was Pride month, I thinkbut they were going to have a parade. And all the choruses from all these other cities were going, and countries were going to be participating and so George and I walked with the group through the streets of Tampa where there was almost not a soul on the street.
I mean, this was like a Sunday afternoon. Nobody lives downtown anyway, at least not then. And it wasexcept I think we might have seen two protesters, who, of course, were completely outnumbered by the people in the parade, who just said very funny things throwing back at them, right. It was really cool, because it began with the group of Indianapolis began it. They were dressed in thethe gay mens chorus from Indianapolis were dressed in sort of checkered outfits and had little flags, like the Indy 500, and they kind of waved them.
And as they begin the parade they said, Gentlemen, start your engines. And then they walked off, and then all of us went behind them. And so I was, George and I were, in that parade. Um, Joe, one of the other librarians that Ive worked with for years now, he and his partner were in that parade. And that was my, I think, my first pride experience, really was being in that parade.
CW: Wow, and the first one in Tampa.
DS: Yes, yeah. I was in that first one. I believe it was the first one in Tampa. Since then Ive seen, other than on TV probably, Ive seen I think only one other face-to-face and that was San Francisco when the American Library Association was there, because it was happening the sameALA annual and it happened to be the same weekend.
CW: Thats lucky.
DS: It was, because, of course, you can imagine that is the most amazing parade that there could possibly be. And so, and I think George was with me on that one, so we got to reallyoh yeah, and that was really, that was a once in a lifetime experience too.
CW: So, just to back up a second. I know I skipped to ask you about pride.
DS: Thats okay.
CW: Um, so when you moved you didnt know anything about Tampa really.
CW: So, what were your impressions about the city?
DS: Um, when I moved here, of course, I was living right in an apartment right next to the university, and so, in that sense, that was very suburban, so I wasnt really knowledgeable about downtown. As I started meeting people, again, probably meet them online first and then, but they happened to live in Tampa, so that I could meet them in person. I became slowly familiar with where the gay bars were and the fact that there were sort of differentand there were a number of them given that it was a city.
There was, you know, probably half a dozen at least, and also that they sort of cater to different kinds of groups and they had differentso one might be more of just a bar, which maybe some Karaoke, and one was more of a dance place, and one was more, um, lesbian bar, and maybe there was another one that was a bit more for an older crowd, it was a restaurant.
And so, I eventually over theand then when George came down we also would go to some of these too. But yeah, I was learning about the bar culture and about which groups or which bar scene to cater for different kind of age groups and whether, you know, one was a leather bar. And one was more of a bar that catered to pretty young men. Things like that. So you know. Yeah, I became familiar with that.
CW: So what that different because before you were sort of traveling and when you werewhen you moved to Tampa were you still traveling to other places or did you kind of keep your social life local?
DS: Yeah, when I moved here I generally as I recall did not have to travel. That was the thing. Because there was enough possible dates in the general Tampa area that I didnt have to go anywhere else, thats right. I dont remember after I moved here flying anywhere else or driving anywhere else long distance. I mean, I might have gone as far as Orlando or something like that, but you are right I didnt have to, yeah, go to the ends of the earth just to meet another guy.
Ah, and so because that was sort of that critical mass. Being in a city, there was now a critical mass of people, meaning I could be a little more selective about people that really had a personality and a set of interests that matched mine more than that. There were cases, of course, of people, and George falls into this category, but people that didnt live in Tampa, but may have been visiting Tampa and so that gave them an opportunity for me to meet them.
Um, I think there might have been a couple cases that, although I cant remember any specific, but because Tampa was a destination city people traveled here on business, people traveled here on vacation. So I think there were some cases of that. But generally, yeah, I was able just to meet men whoand some even were affiliated with USF.
Some were, um, as I said, just parts of this area. They could have been as far as St. Pete. They could have been, you know, somewhere like that. Yeah, but I didnt have to do the flying around the country thing anymore, yeah.
CW: Did you, um, research Tampa at all before you moved here? Or should I say did you research quote, unquote gay Tampa at all before you moved here?
DS: No, I dont. Well if I did, I dont remember doing that. Um, I think I probably just had a perception. I mean, I may have. I might have just looked to see if there were just gay bars, and by that time keeping in mind though that 1990 there really wasnt a worldwide web. At best I might have been able to find some sort of a directory book or some sort of a guide like a Damrons guide or something that may be for Tampa, but to be honest I think that I was working on the conclusion that its a city.
Its a pretty big urban area. There are bound to be bars and men, and, I mean, I didnt research in the sense of probably how gay friendly it was. I mean, I probably had enough common sense to know it was not San Francisco, but at the same time, because of where it was, it was not even quite the South. Tampa is sort of a border city. Its not really a typical southern city either.
Its got kind of a mix of populations and its probably going to be a bitand again, being in the university environment it tends to be more, you know, even if the state of Florida could be arguably very conservative, although its more in the north than in the south, university environment would still be pretty liberal by comparison. So, I dont remember doing a lot of research, no. I just assumed that cities are a good place for a gay man to be.
DS: At that time because, you know, yeah.
CW: So, you said you wanted to stay in the South, was that to be close to your family?
DS: It was probably that was one of the major factors, to be close to the family. I think there is a cultural factor too. You know, you can leave where youre from and you can go to New England, you can go to Texas, you can go to Midwest, but I think there was some aspect of me, again, Im still that sort of timid shy guy, there are things I like constant in my life. I dont want to have everything change.
And I think I wanted some sense of familiarity, and being in the south, because I had been in the south sense I was three years old and my mothers family was all southern. I think there was still a comfort level associated with being in the south. So, um, I think thats a cultural factor and I just decided that, yeah, that was good. I didnt want to have to throw everything I knew out the window and have to learn a whole newand climate.
I like the climate. I didnt want to go north. I didnt want to go places where I was going to have to wear coats all the time and scrape myI already actually, and I used to joke about this when I left South Carolina, um, one of the advantages of coming to Tampa was I never had to scrape ice off my car windows again, so I really liked that. Um, so that was part of it, yeah.
CW: Had you had any knowledge of gay life in sort of San Francisco and I guess, New York, because thats like the other big city when you were sort of deciding where you should go? Was that even a thought in your
DS: Yeah, I mean, Im sure I was by that time, by 1990, I think I was aware of certain gay meccas. And I guess I probably diswell, but I think that I felt that was too drastic a change for me, you know. And I wasnt trying to find a gay city either. I mean, that was sortyou know, again, with all these factors there were factors of, you know: Am I going to like the climate? Am I going to like the culture in general? Am I going to like the kind of work Im doing, which is kind of critical, I mean, thats the thing.
You know, am I going to like all that? I dont think I was really looking for, oh, I need toI am a gay man, I need to go to San Francisco. Yeah, I think thatand actually there is even a bit of a, um, lets assume for the sake of argument that I had even thought about it that way, but I think I would have also been, I would have been intimidated by the idea of, Im not going to measure up.
In a sense of: if I go to a place like San Francisco, I mean, Im going to be not doing well in the competition area. I dont find myself the most attractive man in the world or the most physically fit man in the world. And I am sure there are people there that are just amazing and I probably would have thought, Im not going to do well competitive wise. There is a competition aspect to dating.
You know, you want to feel like youve got a chance at finding Mr. Right, and that theres not like, oh my gosh, a thousand people that have everything you have plus more. So I mean, I am not saying I mentally actually went through all that in my head, but there probably was some aspect of me that, boy, Im probably not going to do well in a place that already has a lot of gay men, where, you know, if Im trying to find the right guy, thats going to make it that much harder in a sense.
So its kind of like, thats the other extreme. Its like you dont want to be in a place where there are nobody, youre the only gay man in the world like a small town in the south, but maybe you dont want to be in a place where theres so many that you feel like you are just going to get lost, that youre not going to have any chance. I dont know.
CW: Um-hm. So, when you moved here, um, you came to work at USF.
CW: When did you become a librarian?
DS: (laughs) Well, I came into a job as a manager, which I learnedit didnt take me too long to learn that I really didnt like management, but I was managing in the computer center. And I was actually put into sort of an awkward situation where I have a lot of confidence that my direct supervisor waswho was marriedwas involved with one of my employees, and that put me right in the middle, where it made it very tough for me to manage, because I couldnt do certain things involving that employee, because I could get countermanded by my boss.
So, I was really discouraged, and I had only been doing it for about a year or two, and around this time the university decided that the computer center, which was then very centralized, it was over in the student services building, very centralized organization, that they wanted to decentralize it and have more computing in the colleges, because the faculty were claiming they felt as that they were not, their interests werent, being really looked out for.
So, they reorganized everything. They really kind of took that organization apart, and my job wasI wasnt high enough to be preserved and I wasnt low enough to be preserved. My management wasI was laid off, and that was probably one of the lowest points in my entire life, because I basically didnt know what I was going to do. You know, 93, I was told this. And so I was very discouraged. Now the last thing thatI was told this in about February of 93, and with saying my job would be terminated as of April.
DS: So, I had a few months. And um, the last thing that my boss had me do, a different boss then the one I was talking about, but my boss had me do was to work with the library here, which was getting a new computer system. They actually had two separate email systems here in the library, one that they could email each other in the library and one that they could email the rest of the world, and they actually had separate systems.
So, they were getting a whole new unified system. And they needed someone who could do things like teach the librarians how to use email, the new email system, which I knew that email system pretty well and I was good at teaching. I had done that and doing instructional stuff for computer centers for years. And I like teachinga lot more than management.
And they needed to learn how to use gofer, which was the predecessor to the web, and I knew about how to do that. And so, I taught basically a hundred people in this building how to use email, and I got to meet everybody, everything, and as I amthis wasand I continued even after my full time job went away, they found, the director of the library at the time, decided to hire me part time, hourly, and continued to work.
Because they were trying to hire what they would call, sort of, a systems person to run the systems in the library, but that person hadnt started yet. So, they needed someone who could still do some computer support, help the librarians and the staff, so I did that. And um, in the summer of 93 the library school got a new director. It had not been doing well so they brought in a new director from another place.
I think it was Louisiana. And it was Dr. Kathleen McCook. And Kathleen meets with the director of the library here at that time and says, Ive got these computer labs over in the library school and I dont have anybody to run them. And the director, he says, Well Ive got this guy working for me part time. Maybe he can work part time for you. So I went right over there and met her and she hired me part time.
And even after I stopped doing part time work for the library, she continued to have me do stuff for the library school. And Im over there and Im thinking about, Okay, so Ive got, you know, this computer background, this good computer background, many years of work in computer centers and a bachelors in basically computer engineering. Ive got a masters in management.
If I had a masters in library science, I could probably get a job somewhere as a systems librarian being the librarian that runs a computer system for a library, so that Id get all my computer skills and I could do that too. And by the way, I didnt mention it, but my senior year of high school I worked in the public library. That was my first job.
CW: Oh, okay. (laughs)
DS: So, that had a factor too. So, I liked libraries a lot. I love libraries. So I, um, so I got in to the program in 93, and Kathleen, in fact, got me a G.A. Graduate Assistant position. position with the library school. So, basically from 93 through that year I was a G.A and into 94. And as it happened, when I finished that program in December of 95, thats when I got my MLS, and, as it happened in the spring of 94, thats when kind of the internet just really exploded for everybody.
It was in the media. It was all over the place. The web had exploded and it was all over the place. And Kathleen comes to me because she knows my background, and she says, Drew, do you know about this thing called the internet? And Im like, Yeah. And she says, Could you teach a course on it? There was no course at USF, not for undergrads at least. College of Ed. had something for grad students, but there wasnt anything for undergrads about the internet.
And I said, Well yeah, Ive taught workshops, short courses, for years. I was even in charge of them when I was at Clemson, the ones for the computer center. I was the one who directed all our short courses. And I said, Yeah, I can put that together and offer it during the summer of 94. And we offered it, and we advertised it. I was in charge of kind of putting the flyers up all over campus that said were going to have this course this summer.
And not only did we fill it really quick, we ended up having to open up three more sections that summer. We ended up with about a hundred students in the lab over there in that computer lab that held twenty-four workstations, whatever, and so we actually got some other G.A.s to help teach it. I taught as much as I could and then some other G.A.s taught some sections too. In the fall of 94, we had nine sections.
So thiswe had the mother load, and so because we were going to teach nine sections Kathleen was able to go to the college of arts and sciences and say, I need to put Drew Smith into a visiting instructor position. I had a masters already, not an MLS yet, but I had another masters, so they could make me an instructor.
So, I had become a visiting instructor for a library school and I do that for two years, so all the way from 94 to 96, and in meanwhile get my masters in library science in December of 95. So then Kathleen applies for a permanent instructor position, which I had to apply for, and I did and I got it.
So, I was an instructor over there from 96 until 2007, and so there I was teaching the internet, teachingI created a course for web design, taught that to undergrads, taught genealogy librarianship for grad students, taught indexing and abstracting one summer when no other faculty member over there wanted to do it. And the director at that time, Vicki Gregory, wanted someone to teach it.
And nobodyI said, Ill do it. I had taken it from Dr. Gregory. I said, Sure, Ill teach it. And so I did. And I did that. And then again after twelve or thirteen years I got a little burned out on teaching because all I was doing was teaching four classes every semester, endlessly.
And it was a nine-month appointment. I was not guaranteed summer employment and there were some summers that were lean where I had toI couldnt teach a class. I had to find something else that I could make money at. Thats what I ended up doing. I said, Eh, you know And then a job opened here in the library. In fact, it was Mary Ellens job. She had left.
And I saidit was information literacy related. And well, I had really focused on that when I was in the library school. Id put together a website for information literacy. Id doneId gone to Immersion in 99, that was the first information literacy Immersion. I went to the first one. So yeah, I was able to get the job in early 2007 as a librarian, which made me really happier, because I didnt listen to students whine about their grades anymore.
DS: I love teaching. Gradingits not my favorite thing, so yeah. And, but, that was good, and I already knew everybody cause I had been inand not only some of them I had taught how to use email back in 93, but some I had continued to know and worked with them, and I was in the library school. Id be over here all the time. So, there were peoplethey knew me.
So, I wasnt a stranger to anybody here really, so that was good, that was really good. And bothnot so, well, the computer center, a little bit, the library school, a lot morethey were very gay friendly as was the library. My boss realized fairly early on in the computer center that I was gay and he was cool with it.
And then, as I said, the library school, Kathleen and the whole gang over there, you know, even if universities are liberal, librarians are even more liberal, you know, even in the south. So, that was really cool, because then I could talk openly about George all the time. And you know, once I wasand George got to meet, you know, he was invited to all the faculty, when we have parties or whatever, he was invited, and then, of course, same. Everybody loved George.
CW: So, lets talk about how you met George.
CW: I heard his version but
DS: His version of the story.
CW: this is your version. So
DS: Okay. Well, both of us wereI was a charter member of America Online, that meant around November of 1989 I was, back in the early days of America Online, and I continued it when I came down here. And America Online had gay chat rooms, chat rooms for all kinds of people meeting about all kinds of things, but there were certainly dating ones or hook up rooms, or whatever you want to call them.
And there were certainly gay ones. And I think they were, I want to say that they actually were separate ones for different cities, because I dont think there was just a generic one. I think they were, once it got, once you got a couple million people on America Online, you could actually narrow them down and either, say, so there may have been a Tampa Chat room. I think there might have been.
Well, anyway, so I met this guy. This guy comes into the chat room, and he says, I go to Tampa on business, Im going to be in Tampa in June of 94, and whatever. And were talking, seemed like a really nice guy and it seemed like we had some things in common. So we agreed to meet when he was here. And he was staying at a hotel over on Rocky Point area, room 1111. You remember details like that, of course, right.
First meetings, you remember things like that. And we said, Well meet, well go out to dinner, and well have a good time. Went over there, sat on the sofa, we talked. He had recently lost a pet that hed had for many years, a cat. I had lostI had broken up with the guy Id seen for about two and a half years, a long involved story, and I had actually taken care of this guys miniature schnauzer in its older days.
It didnt get along with the guys other dogs so he had to find someone else who could take care of it so I, for about a year or so, a year and a half, I took care of this guys miniature schnauzer until it passed. Not too long after it passed we broke up. So but, so Im sharing the stories of the miniature schnauzer, which I was fond of, not terribly emotionally involved in.
It wasnt my dog as such, but still losing a pet that you are taking care of is not fun. And George is talking about his cat, so we had that in common. We are sharing the emotional things in that. And anyway, we did not make it out for dinner. So, we had a wonderful evening together and then I went, drove home, and as I said, I would have been living near campus here in an apartment.
And then I think we talked again after I got home. And I think that was a feeling on both our parts, I dont remember who initiated or whatever, but that this wasnt one of those one-night stands that we are never going to talk again, but no we talked afterwards, and so were going to want to see each other again, yeah. So, then, you know, he continued, and I think its fair, hell say this, he pursued me.
Because I was still a littlehaving been sort of dumped by this other guy after two and a half years, I was kind of a little burnt in terms of I was not ready to immediately jump into another serious commitment, because I, you know, I wouldnt want to have that happen to me again. So, George had to be kind of persuasive. So again, lots of ways to do that, but, you know, communication in all kinds of ways, whether its packages or letters or calls or whatever, and certainly online communication, and then he continued to see me every time he was down here in Tampa.
He worked for IBM so he would stay onIBM has offices down near the stadium so he was here fairly frequently from Chicago. And he said he could get his job transferred here. And I felt a little bad about that in a way, because, I mean, you know, I wasI liked the idea, but at the same time you felt like theres a guilt factor, like what if it doesnt work out and he just got his whole job transferred.
He was in Chicago for years, and he liked the cultural life there, the opera. He was an opera fanatic. He had season tickets. And Im like, Tampas not exactly opera city, you know. Its likeI actually did when he did move here I bought us some season tickets for Sarasota opera. They had like six or seven productions. It was a bit of a drive. We only did it a couple of years and we decided it was a little more work than we really wanted to do.
But, ah, there was guilt on my part, because if somebodys going to leave their job, well, leave their city, he had the same job, same company at least for a while, you know, you feel guilty. What if it doesnt work out and hes just left all those friends behind in Chicago and all those people, but he did. And so he moved down. Well, we had a friend of his, another guy he already knew from having been down here before, a friend of ours who is a real estate agent and he started looking for places for us.
And the criteria was we needed to find a place that was sort of the same distance from Georges job and my job. Well so, think about where the stadium is, think about, roughly think about where USF is, looking on a map, and youre going, okay so stadium, north, USF, west. Â It intersects around Carrollwood. Its about twelve miles, whatever, twenty minutes each way, but we had trouble finding anything really right there.
We looked in Carrollwood, North Dale, all those places. Couldnt quite find the right place. Eventually we found a place north of Citrus Park, which was out a ways, back then it was two lane roads and cow pastures and horse pastures, it was out a ways. But, okay, but we liked the house. It was neighborhood that had just beenthe house, we were the third owners.
This was 1995. The house had been built in around 87, and so it was fair, because it was still about the same distance traveling. It was right five minutes from the Veterans Expressway, which had just been built, so you could get downtown really quick. So weI know it sounds crazy that we had only known each other since June of 94 and we buy a house in the beginning of February 95. Some people might think thats crazy.
DS: But we did and were still in that house.
DS: Yeah, eighteen and a half, almost nineteen years in that house, together.
DS: I know. So (laughs)
CW: And then you were married
DS: Oh yeah, in New York last year.
CW: Last year. Okay.
DS: June ofwe couldnt quite do it the weekend that wouldve been sort of thewhen you dont have real marriage you kind of, I mean, at first you have to figure whats your anniversary date, and that wasand so we always treated it from the day we met, you know. So, that was June 9th of 94 and then we got our rings about a year after that. He was already down here. So, around the weekend of the same June 9th of 95 we bought matching rings, and that was a cool experience.
I want to share that, because I dont know if George did or not, he might have, but it was So we go out to a couple jewelry stores, one over in St. Pete, couldnt find what we wanted over there. We ended up over in like, Westshore Mall at one of theoh, it begins with a B, but I cant remember exactly which jewelry store it was, but we go there and a young guy was helping us and we were explaining what we are wanting to get.
And again, still 95, and the guy, the young guy, kind of looks at us, and he says, So, how long yall been together? So, that was nice and so we bought the matching bands then. So, when we decided we want to get married, once it was legal in places that we would go to, to get married, and have family there, and George has family, some cousins, near Buffalo, NY.
So they offered to do the whole wedding, to have a tent, to haveto make the arrangements, whatever we needed, and thats what we did in June of last year, twenty-twelve. It was on June 2nd, so it was the weekend before that would have been our anniversary. And we went up and that was justthat was an amazing experience, that was really an amazing experience. Because, again, I mean, I have always felt very accepted by my brother, whos very cool with George and very cool with all this.
I wouldnt expect otherwise knowing my brother. Georges family verywell, he had been with his ex before me for many, many years so certainly he was out. They knew who George was. But this was really cool then to have a real formal ceremony, and so, ah, you know, they found us theI mean, we were in this tiny little town outside of Buffalo called Colden.
To show you how small a town this place is: um, we went downtown to fill out the paperwork and do all that kind of stuff. We were basically the first couple getting married in Colden in that year. It was June. (laughs) So its kind of like they dont do a lot of weddings in Colden, you know. And in fact, so we were basically the first ones and this was a new county clerk or whatever, a woman maybe in her forties, Im not sure.
So, she kind of had to do, you know, find all the right paperwork because of course this was basically new for her too to do since it was just legal in New York, this hadnt been legal that long in New York. So, she had tobut I mean, that was fine and that was a cool experience. And did all the paperwork. And then, uh, the other cool experience we had about the wedding, well, was the night before.
Because I felt guilty, because Georges family was doing all this expense to do all the food and all these things they were doing. I mean, yeah, we bought the cake toppers, the two guys to be on the top of the cake and things like that, but I said, Well were going to take everybody out to dinner the night before.
Its like you would do the rehearsal dinner kind of thing almost, right, where you invited the judge and his wife, and you invite everybody else who is probably going to be there, people who were in town, who have already made it to town for the wedding.
But it was aand they had a lot of room. And so George and I got there first, and that was intentional. I wanted to get there as early as possible, because I wanted to make it clear to the people that ran it that George and I were paying for it so they needed to bring us the bill and we were going to cover it, right. So, at some point I think the woman asked when we were there and saw me and George, what the event was, because Iand I, we, told her.
And shes like, Thats wonderful! And she was real positive, and I said, that was neat, that was another neat thing that everybody was so accepting about that. So, we had a wonderful meal, sat right opposite of the judge. He had been, um, he was in probably in his seventies, early seventies, and he had done hundreds of weddings. He had done them all over the place in all kinds of ski lodges and on boats and all kinds of interesting experiences. We were his first same-sex marriage.
DS: So, I guess he could check off one more on his list of all the kind of weddings Ive done, you know. He could do that one. And we had the funny experience ofhe had misunderstood us. I was very clear that you know we just the sort of traditional kind of thing and when it came to the actual wedding day and were up inwe did it at the home of Georges cousin. There were like twenty-something people there in room. The judge said, Well you wrote your own vows right? And I kind of looked at him and go, No. We said, you know, its just So George and I had to do our vows off the cuff.
CW: Oh gosh.
DS: Yes! (Laughs) It was kind of scary. Fortunately, both George and I speak for a living, I mean, we do a lot of talking so it was no impossible but it was a little scary. Yeah. And George went first I think, so I probably duplicated a lot of what he said, but that was kind of funny.
The other part that was funny was we had both taken our rings off and had given them to our brothers to act as our ring bearers to give them back to us to put on our hands and George had trouble getting mine back on my finger. So, probably had put on a little weight, so, um, but yeah it was a nice experience, nice experience. And we had people there fromone friend of ours from England was there and so forth. We had a lot ofyeah, it was cool.
CW: Do you thinkis there like an emotional shift when do you something like that from beingwell I guess, um, since its not technically legal yet in Florida or recognized in Florida, but I mean is there an emotional shift in having a ceremony or being someplace where you are able to
DS: I dont know, Im sure its different for different couples, so I mean, I can only give my own experience on this. Um, first of all, George and I, I feel among our friends have always been treated pretty much as a couple. And maybe thats the case in modern society were a lot of people, again heterosexual couples even if theyve not legally married, have been together long years, and are treated as a couple, and people dont really care quite as much about: do they have a piece of paper or not?
But even having said that, its like there is a certain amount oflets see, whats the word I am going to try to find for this? There is an amount of pride of, um, to say, I have the same document that my straight couple friends have, that my parents had. I have a document that says Im married. And first of all, George and I still, because we grew up being of the age we are, we grew up in a time when you couldnt even talk about being gay.
I mean this is like when we kids, you know, and later. And now we are at a point where we can marry. And thatswe still shake our heads at how quickly all this seems to have happened, you know, that this change has happened and this one seeming to us generation, for us its all during our lifetime. It just blows our minds. It really blows our minds. But so that was part of it.
The fact that I am standing there, I have a legal document that is currently being recognizedevery month or so another state recognizes ityou know fourteen or fifteen states now. And um, itsyeah there is an emotional piece to it. Its not an emotional piece between me and George, in the sense that I dont look at him any different than I did beforehand, I dont think he does me either, because we already felt married. We already felt that we had done every single thing that a married couple does.
You know, I mean, and we live in our neighborhood, the couple that has lived next door to us, close to our own ages probably, many years, straight couple, no kids. They have pets. Couple across the streetmaybe a little younger than us, not by a lot, pets, no kids, whatever. I mean, were no different than they are in the way we conduct our lives. You know, we have the same kinds of things, we do the same things.
So I feel like you know George and I dont look at each other differently because of this, but I think I look at, or I want to feel that our friends, partially our friends and partially maybe strangers, have to look at us differently, because I can wave it around and say, you know, Were legally married. And I had to teaseyou know who Merrell isand Merrell often calls me in relation to some event or something, he maybe even talks about whether George is invited if there is some event that faculty could attend here.
And I remember I was in my office and he calls me and he saysMerrell says something like, You know, and you know you feel free to invite or bring your partner. And I just waited. I let that little pause for minute and I said back into the phone, husband. And Merrell corrected himself, but I felt like saying, I have to make myself say that too. Its really kind of touthats the toughest part for me I guess, because I am still a little skiddish among people I dont know well, because I dont know how theyre going to take it, so I have to pick and choose every time.
I decide: Am I going to use the word husband? Am I going to use the wordeven significant other? Â I guess Im still in the closet with some people, I dont know, with strangers, maybe, or I might say that. A couple years agoI just love this story because itsGeorge and I, you know, we do genealogical speaking and weve done it as a couple, travel, I mean.
And were the genealogy guys. And so we are these two guys like click and clack, you know, we speak about genealogy. And we were asked to go to Dallas a few years ago. This is not that very long ago. And there we were in downtown Dallas, the public library, or whatever, big crowd of people, maybe a hundred people in the audience, typical genealogists, meaning theyre typically middle-aged to elderly, mostly women, but some men, and very nice.
Again, sort of a southern city, very sweet, veryyou know, we had a nice time. And at the end of the day when George and I had been speaking all day, two little old ladies walk up to me and say, Well, soyou were wonderful, whatever. She says, you know, The next time you come to Dallas you need to bring your spouses. And I think I looked at her in the eye and I said, I promise we will. And if we go back, well I wouldve kept that promise, wont I?
CW: Right. How funny.
DS: It just is, because they didnt know, and sometimes at a certain age, they dont. But yeah, George and I jokingly refer to us as the gay power couple in genealogy becauseor the power couple in genealogy, because there arent a whole lot of couples that do what we do in genealogy, where its a both a husband and a wife, or a husband and a husband, or whatever.
So, its kind ofthats kind of cool. But yeah, everybody, well most of speaks in genealogy, writes in genealogy, knows me and George, knows that we are gay. So thats kind of nice when you are out in a professional environment and everybody knows and you dont have to hide anything. But the whole marriage thing, going back to your question is, yeah, I dont think the paper, as I said the emotional connection is not me and George together, but its how I feel about people I encounter.
I feel, I guess I can feel like I am holding my head up just a little more, like, Im married, you know, and Im equal, Im equal. Thats, you know, its my relationship is recognized by these states, its recognized by the federal government. I actually have to choose next year whether to file single or married, separatewell no, actually I cant file single, arguably I guess I cannot file single next year in my taxes. Up until now I didnt have a choice.
DS: Now I have to decide whether its married jointly or married separatewhatever the deal is. But I mean those are kind of interesting, it does flip in your head a little bit the way you feel about yourself, a little bit. And theres this perception of, I dont know, I am not Rosa Parks sitting on bus exactly, you know, I am not trying to equate that kind of discrimination, but at the same time there has to be a mental thing of like, Im going to hold my head up a little higher and say, Im the same as you, and Ive got a piece of paper to prove it. So
CW: Thats awesome.
DS: I think so, I think so.
CW: Well do you have any, um, sort of concluding remarks? Do you have any stories that we didnt get to you um think would be important for the historical record?
DS: Yeah, thats a good question. You know, being gay in Tampa, and George and I dont live in the city limits, so we havent had to deal with what goes on. What goes on with the city council doesnt affect us too much. We were around when, ah, during the Ronda Storms days. You know, in fact, I was on the faculty of the library school, because at the time it was another faculty members student who had the display that triggered the whole thing.
DS: So, I was quite aware of what was going on with that. And that was discouraging. Its like when you feel like when you are making progress in a city, or a county, or state, and then you feel like a step back has been taken. So, its kind of nice that I think weve recovered from that. Clearly, its still, you know, the county still doesnt really recognize us in any way, State of Florida doesnt recognize us in any way.
Its discouraging to me that I cant put George on my health insurance. Notthe state, they give methey did start a thing a couple of years ago of a stipend, which is paid out of foundation money. Thats the only way they can do it legally, because the state wont let them do it. So, that stipend is paid for and it doesnt cover all of his insurance. Its just a small portion. It is something that is paid to me. In fact, I used to have to pay taxes on it as income.
Once the federal government had made this mandate that they would treat us as a married couple, I was able to now get that money without having federal taxes taken out of it. But I mean those are the things that weve come this far, but here in Florida in general and Tampa specifically, we still have a long way to go about marriage equality and thats kind of sad, but at the same time seeing how fast things have happened, um, I think I will live to see it legal in Florida. I really do. Um, I dont know if I will live to see it legal in Mississippi.
DS: Or Alabama. I mean, I could laugh, but you know it wasnt, even though interracial marriage was legal because of Supreme Court decision in 1967, the Loving v. Virginia case, many states still had it on their books even though they could no longer enforce it. Although, I guess the argument was that if the federal government changed their minds again I guess they could start enforcing it again.
Alabama didnt remove their law against interracial marriage until the year 2000. It was still on their books. And there were still countiesthey did athey had to vote, because it was in the constitution they had to vote to remove it. And there were counties still within Alabama that the majority of the people in the county voted to keep that law on the books in 2000.
So, you know, theres certain states that are just they are going to be the last to go, and I, you know, certain deep south states. Florida is going to be ahead of the pack I think, just because of the nature of the demography of Florida, the demographics here. But I dont know, five years, ten years, somewhere in there I think it will be. So I think George and I will still be around for that.
So, it will be interesting then to actually live in a place where we are married and were recognized here where we are married. And maybe I can get, as I said, maybe George will be on my health insurance if Im not retired by then. I may be retired in another seven or eight years. You never know.
But yeah, Tampa is not San Francisco, but its not a tiny little town in a rural part of the south either, so it was a good choice on my part I think. Um, heck I wouldnt have met George if I hadnt moved to Tampa. Think about that too. So, I made some good decisions I guess.
CW: You did.
DS: So, but, um, and I think anyone listening to this and if there are people thatI do think about people that come after me. I think about people your age or younger who didnt live through all this that George and I have lived through. Um, so that we do have this perspective of the changes are extraordinary and they areand we knew was it was like before and we lived through what it was like before, and now were living through what it is like now.
And I wouldnt wish anybody had to do that. I mean to go through the tough times that we did, but the same time its quite an experience to have lived through all this. So I hope that people who look back on this and look at the history and use this for whatever purposes, um, understands that. That while they were bad times, there have been bad times, um, who knows there will be something else I am sure starting today that are bad times that will be better times decades from now. Theres always something.
DS: There will be another fight of some kind, another civil rights fight. So, yep, so those are my concluding remarks.
CW: Well, thank you so much for letting me interview you.
DS: Thank you, Cyrana, for having me be interviewed and to have this opportunity.
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