Kristen Lowe (pronouns: She/Her/Hers) was born in Florence, South Carolina, and currently resides in Charleston with her partner, and works professionally as a hand therapist in a sports medicine practice. She discusses growing up in the small-town atmosphere of Florence, and the impacts of her largely conservative and Southern Baptist religious upbringing. She recalls happy childhood memories with her parents and two younger brothers, including spending summers on the lake. Attending a private Baptist high school, she was unaware of her identity and saw no LGBTQ role models anywhere, having her first experience at age twenty. A graduate of the College of Charleston and later the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), she hid her sexual identity at the former institution, afraid of being labelled if she attended Gay Straight Alliance meetings, but at MUSC, she eventually served as Vice President of the Alliance for Equality. Lowe describes the difficulty of arriving at self-acceptance, feeling solitary, and at first being fearful of going to church and educational figures, or even close friends for advice. Becoming more and more open, she searched for a place within the LGBTQ community, finding fulfillment and social acceptance in becoming a board member of Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA). She details the advocacy work AFFA does, achieving, just at the time of the interview, a victory in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina in its passing a non-discrimination ordinance. Being out has given her a freedom to do as she wants, dress as she wants and she also has a variety of reproductive options available to her and her partner, as well. Any harassments received for being perceived as a lesbian were minor, she notes. In answer to queries about the issues facing the LGBTQ community today, she reflects on the number of different identities within it, and although there is much more visibility currently, she reiterates the difficulty of coming out, recalling how she at first had to do it via letters to her parents. If it takes an individual years to come to terms with her identity, she reasons, family members should be given time to adapt as well. She also explains how naturally children will take to the idea of LGBTQ relations among adults since children come into the world unprejudiced and will remain so if their society will allow it.
David Shneer (pronouns: He/Him) Louis P. Singer Chair in Jewish History at the University of Colorado Boulder, discusses the history and the later memorialization of the persecution of gay men in Germany before and after the Nazis during the 1930s and 1940s. In his lecture, “The Pink Triangle: The History and Memory of the Nazi Persecution of Gay Men”, he outlines the creation, enforcement and abolition of Paragraph 175 criminalizing gay male sexuality and focuses on both the prosecution and persecution of gay men, comparing and contrasting their treatment to the genocide aimed against Jews, while noting that lesbians, though persecuted, were grouped under the “asocial” category. He explains how the term “genocide” is not appropriate to describe the Nazi persecution of gay men, which, he states, does not minimize their experience; he argues against the quantification of suffering by various groups such as Jews, Sini and Roma, instead arguing for tolerance among the varying victim groups to allow all targets of Nazi terror to tell their stories and be included in the narrative and in memorialization. Shneer describes the various monuments to gay persecution that have risen in a variety of places, including concentration camps, near other Holocaust memorials, and in gay neighborhoods and notes that it was gay activists responding to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s who began to use the term “gay holocaust” for political purposes. At the close of his presentation, one audience member objects to the comparison of Jewish and gay victimization, while others comment on the need to learn and teach tolerance for all minimized groups. The lecture was introduced by David Slucki, PhD, Assistant Professor, Jewish Studies at the College of Charleston, was sponsored by the Zucker/Goldberg Center for Holocaust Studies and was held on the College of Charleston campus as part the Yaschik/Arnold Jewish Studies Program Sunday brunch series.
Linda Ketner is a strategic planning consultant for mostly nonprofit organizations; she and her partner Beth have been together for almost twenty years. She grew up in the small town of Faith, NC, eventually moving to Raleigh and finally, Salisbury, NC. Ketner recalls realizing her sexual identity at about age twelve and asking her mother about girls marrying girls. Her mother’s strong negative response prompted Ketner to learn more; she looked up “homosexual” in her local library and found literature that was even more discouraging. A series of events led her to live a double life: one “supposedly straight” and the other, her hidden true self. In college, Ketner began her first relationship with a woman while simultaneously dating men in the hopes of finding one with whom she was compatible. This eventually led to a number of broken engagements and a marriage that ended when Ketner could not deny that she was a lesbian. After years of living in secret, she and her partner occupying two separate nearby houses to allay suspicion, Ketner decided to come out. Some others, however, advised her to remain closeted to prevent “damaging” many of the progressive causes with which was involved. Ketner describes the process of telling friends and describes the family ceremony that included her partner Ginny, Ginny’s children, and a host of other invited guests, who ended up fully supporting them. Her mother, whom Ketner took care of for years, eventually was won over, as well. In 2008, Ketner ran as a totally “out” candidate for US Congress; she describes that and how she and others founded Alliance For Full Acceptance (AFFA) in Charleston, SC and SC Equality, in Columbia, SC. She mentions Tom Meyers and his organization We Are Family and discusses the work of AFFA and SC Equality on such LGBTQ issues such as HIV/AIDS awareness and on other public, religious, and law enforcement topics. Ketner discusses her curiosity as to what might survive death; and the interview concludes with her assessment of challenges facing the LGBTQ community today. She particularly notes the troubling policies and attitudes of President Donald J. Trump, and the lack of strategic planning necessary for progressive movements to sustain themselves and survive.
Lynn Dugan attended Catholic grammar and high schools in New York City. With a lesbian friend, she visited lesbian bars where rigid “butch” or “fem” roles prevailed. She came of age just after the Stonewall Riots of 1969, later befriending some of the participants, as she became part of a community that looked after and protected each other from attacks, some of which she describes. She notes the comradery of men and women in the early gay rights movement, and the accessibility of many future celebrities entertaining in the gay baths and bars. She was mentored by an older gay man, Jimmy Alan Newcomer and she created a marriage ceremony with a woman opera singer at St. Peter’s MCC Church in 1981. She witnessed the start of the AIDS crisis and the work of many women and activists such as Larry Kramer. Professionally, she held jobs in management and sales, drove a taxi, and had her own greeting card company. In some jobs, she had to hide her sexuality. She visited Colorado often before moving to Boulder ca. 1993, participating in the LGBTQ community there. While attending a Pride parade in Columbia SC, she met political activist Charlie Smith, who invited her to Charleston, SC; she moved there soon after and began her involvement in the community, founding the Charleston Social Club, which offered opportunities to many isolated and closeted women. One of the programs, Lezz Fest, produced on the club’s tenth anniversary closed off part of North Charleston and drew 1,000 participants. Dugan was the prime mover in establishing the first Pride Festival in the lowcountry. She and a cadre of friends staged fundraisers for the event which the City of Charleston wanted to sideline. The city of North Charleston, however, including Mayor R. Keith Summey, who served as grand marshal of the parade, supported it, despite the criticism of many local churches. The Charleston Pride Organization event took place on May 15, 2010, and its impact, and that of the evening event held on the Citadel campus, is described in detail by Dugan. In response to questions, she comments on African American participation in the community and ends the interview with suggestions of other issues that LGBTQ community could address, such as the care of its older citizens, a task in which she is involved.
Emily Anne Boyter (pronouns: She/Hers) discusses her life as the daughter of missionaries, her religious upbringing and experiences with religion, coming out as a lesbian, reconciling “Christianity and queerness,” and many positive new experiences opening to her. She describes being born in Greenville, South Carolina, and being raised in Mexico City where her parents worked as Evangelical Christian missionaries, spending brief periods in the states. She left Mexico and attended college at, and graduated from, Liberty University, a private evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia. There, the strongly insular quality she experienced in the missionary world, continued, and many felt a great loyalty to the school and its President, Jerry Falwell, Jr. Identifying as straight during her time there, she nevertheless was aware of a “strong culture of homophobia at Liberty,” where close friendships could lead to questions about one’s sexuality and where being gay could lead to expulsion. In graduate school at Clemson University, Boyter began to meet, and form friendships with LGBTQ people, feeling on “friendly ground” for the first time in her life, among people who were unbothered by another’s sexual orientation or identity. Being in this open and accepting environment, Boyter began to come to terms with being “queer,” a word she embraces for its inclusiveness. Coming out in her religious community at Clemson was not a positive experience, so she eventually left her church. In the interview, she wonders if others would see her as a “Christian” at all, she having now found comfort in a feminine spirituality versus the strong paternalistic nature of many churches and religions. She recalls how many men in her religious milieu would weigh her (and other women’s) characteristics and traits, to determine if they would make good wives of ministers. After coming out to her family and on social media, finding support from some, but dismay and rejection from others, including a man who had been viewing her as a possible wife, Boyter is now in a committed relationship with another woman and they are considering marriage. Despite the difficulties faced by LGBTQ people in the upstate region where they live, Boyter, a resident of Easley, and her girlfriend feel rooted in the area, yet she expresses some misgivings at the possibility of raising children there. Her work at the Tri-County Technical College is rewarding; being “out,” she can serve as a mentor and a role model for LGBTQ students and others.
Richard Little (pronouns: He/Him/His) describes his youth and education, his founding and running a gay bar in Charleston, South Carolina, attending medical school, and his professional work as a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institute of Health. Born in Union, South Carolina, he attended Christ School, a private boarding school in Asheville, North Carolina, where he impacted student programming and where a research project of his prompted the state to take action on water pollution in Pisgah National Forest. After some experimentation in high school, Little came out as gay while attending Tulane University in New Orleans. After a brief stint in graduate school, Little moved to Charleston, where in 1979 he opened a gay bar, Les Jardins, more commonly called LJ’s, in the then-desolate Market area. Little describes some of the other gay bars in town and notes that his private club offered a place for both out and closeted LGBTQ patrons. State liquor laws mandated the necessity of incorporating as an eleemosynary institution, and LJ’s became a major supporter of the Spoleto Festival, gaining praise for the club and the gay community from Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. and others. He describes the evolution and growth of the club, its parties, programs and members, speaks of the Alcohol Beverage Commission’s anti-gay harassment, describes a court case regarding that, and mentions speaking to the Charleston Police Department about its harassment of gay men at the Battery, a cruising spot in Charleston. In 1984, opting not to franchise, but to close, the club, Little decided to attend medical school. He faced anti-gay bias at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston but found a welcome at the University of South Carolina Medical School in Columbia. Little was elected President of the American Medical Student Association and in a public venue confronted South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster for his homophobic comments, instead of addressing the topic of infant mortality. He speaks of early poor care of HIV patients in Columbia, a situation he tried to remedy and how “the good old girls’ network” brought him to the National Cancer Institute where he became head of the AIDS oncology center. In his work of almost thirty years, he has had patients he knew from LJ’s and from his hometown, and he mentions how difficult it has been to deal with so many losses over the years. But changes in HIV care, and changes at MUSC in Charleston, are signs of progress and the interview ends on a hopeful note.
Dick (Richard) Latham (pronouns: He/Him) describes his childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina realizing he was gay and growing up in an accepting family. They moved to the more conservative Rock Hill, South Carolina when he was a teen. Latham attended the College of Charleston, where he was fully out, and a member of the Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity, as was a man he dated. He attended gay bars in downtown Charleston including Les Jardins, the Garden & Gun Club, and Streetcar, later Dudley’s, and he describes the class stratification within the gay community, elites attending the Battery Club, and there being a pecking order with drag queens and “redneck” cruisers at the bottom. Enrolling in a graduate program in early childhood education, Latham felt the need to be less open about his sexual orientation, due to working with children; he recalls a closeted gay principal refusing to hire him because he was a male. After graduation, he continued to work in early childhood education at the College of Charleston and later Trident Technical College. Latham describes a long-term relationship that ended in the death of his partner, the impact it had on his professional and personal life when the local press identified him as a teacher at the College of Charleston, and how the hospital staff would not at first communicate with him since he was not considered family. He discusses facing the issue of ageism in the LGBTQ community. He was present at the founding of the Lowcountry Gay & Lesbian Alliance (LGLA), and describes its struggles, its activities and his presidency in the early 2000s, recalling the debate within the group to be “out” or not and how highway signs crediting the LGBTQ group for picking up litter were constantly vandalized. Latham also worked with We Are Family, and compares the mission of LGLA with that of the Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA). An Episcopalian, he discusses reconciling his faith with his sexuality, and homophobia at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul, compared to the openness of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Latham also responds to questions on the AIDS crisis in Charleston, noting the silence around it, prejudice against people with HIV, the work of Joe Hall and AIDS service agencies and programs such as Dining with Friends, which made AIDS work acceptable since it centered on social events. He ends with his thoughts on the current LGBTQ issues, and describes his creation of Safe Space trainings at Trident Technical College. In reply to some critical reaction, he notes how he was treated as a gay college student, showing the need for such programs today.
John Martin Taylor (pronouns: He/His/Him) born in Baton Rouge, LA in 1949, discusses his youth, university years, his travels, various careers in art and the culinary world, his family, friends, lovers and his husband. His father was a scientist with the Manhattan Project who moved the family to Orangeburg, S.C. Taylor speaks of a happy outdoor childhood, with some African American friends in the segregated South and little awareness of gay life or issues. The family also summered at Hilton Head, S.C. before its development, giving Taylor firsthand experience with the land and its foodways. He attended the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. at two different times, for undergraduate and graduate degrees. He speaks at length of the artistic circles there, including that of the musical group, The B-52s, whose first concerts he attended and with whom he remained friends, later describing their visit to the Charleston gay bar, Les Jardins. He came to Charleston, S.C. in 1975, left for the Virgin Islands, and lived in Paris, France and in Italy, pursuing a career as a visual artist and a photographer, eventually, becoming American Liaison and Food Editor of the French periodical ICI New York. Returning to Charleston, he had little to do with the local gay scene, feeling an equal attraction to men and women, or mostly to particular individuals who interested him. As his love for cooking grew, influenced by what he calls his strong “maternal instinct,” his childhood experience crabbing and fishing in the Lowcountry, his mother’s culinary skills, and his father’s interest in wines, he began to focus on a career. After learning the business in New York City, Taylor opened Hoppin’ John’s, a cookbook store in Charleston, and quickly became the recognized expert on Lowcountry and regional cooking and foodways, eventually publishing articles on the topic in local, regional and national publications. A serendipitous find of a manuscript cookbook from St. John’s Parish of Berkeley County prompted and nourished further research. After recovering from the damage done to his bookstore by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, Taylor published his first book, Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking in 1992. He has published three books since then and mentored many while enjoying the friendship and respect of leading scholars in the field. Taylor notes the changes in the local culinary and restaurant scene, lauding many chefs and proprietors for their contributions. He and Mikel Lane Harrington were married in Washington, D.C. in 2010. Through Harrington’s work with the Peace Corps, the couple, based in Savannah, Ga. and Washington, D.C. have lived in various locations across the world.
Melissa Moore (pronouns: They/Them) discusses their personal life and the various roles they played in numerous social causes and organizations, many being LGBTQ related. Born in Mt. Pleasant, SC, they identified as male, and, denied that self-expression, Moore details the impact it had on their school years and the numbing escape made possible by drugs and alcohol. In passing Moore also describes a run-in with religious demands at Vacation Bible School, and being exposed to, and fascinated by, female impersonators at an early age. At the College of Charleston, Moore joined such groups as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance, and the Women’s Forum, engaging intellectually and socially with new people and ideas. Coming to see that societal norms aid in controlling conformity and denying diversity, Moore was strongly affected by a billboard supporting LGBTQ rights put up by the Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA). That prompted them to begin volunteering, and eventually working, for AFFA under the direction of Warren Redman-Gress. Moore later went on to work with Linda Ketner and SC Equality to attempt to defeat the movement within the state of South Carolina to define marriage as between a man and a woman. That was unsuccessful. In the process, Moore came into contact with other organizations such as Southerners on New Ground and worked with activists including Mandy Carter and others, creating opportunities to learn grass root organizing skills and to work with groups like Africa House in Orangeburg, SC. Moore notes the reluctance or refusal of national and other LGBTQ organizations to fund work in the South, assuming it “unwinnable” and also speaks to the lack of funding for social service agencies in lieu of political ones. Working with the Abortion Access Project, later called Provide, gave Moore further experience and they eventually became director of We Are Family, an organization in Charleston for LGBTQ youth. Moore details how under their management and planning the organization and its programs grew. They describe the plan to fund the organization through the creation of a thrift store and Moore notes how three LGBTQ organizations in town, Charleston Pride, AFFA and We Are Family recently moved to the same building in North Charleston. After touching on subjects like transphobia, the new management of We Are Family, and naming many people in the field they admire, Moore finishes the interview describing their new position with the city of Mount Pleasant, working on sustainable and equitable city planning.
As part of the 2018 Charleston Pride festival, “The State of the Community Symposium” was presented to the public during Pride Week. In this recording, panelists representing various LGBTQ organizations and businesses are introduced by emcee and local radio host Mike Edwards and they speak of their activities, their plans for the future, and challenges and obstacles facing the community. Brandon Reid and Dr. Nic Butler speak of the Dorothy and Gaylord Donnelley Grant-funded LGBTQ in the Lowcountry documentation project; Tony Williams, the Chair of Charleston Pride, speaks of past accomplishments and plans for this year and the future; Chase Glenn, Director of Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA) follows with similar information about his organization. Jason Kirk and Adam Weaver represent the AIDS service agency Palmetto Community Care. Melissa Moore speaks about We Are Family, a direct services organization focused on LGBTQ youth. Jonatan Ramirez, noting his gay Hispanic identity, and Maria Rivers detail the activities and plans of Beau Magazine. In the course of the presentations and in the Q and A session following, issues important to the community are raised and discussed. Topics include plans for an LGBTQ Community Center, the need for more cooperation and information sharing among the various local institutions, different legislative and social action agendas, the competitive funding objectives of direct services to the population versus those for organizing and political action, AIDS, mental health, sex education and gender identity in public schools, identifying LGBTQ friendly businesses, and other subjects. A recurrent theme voiced by many focuses on the need to reach all members of the community, crossing geographic, racial, economic and identity lines. The problems faced by trans people and people of color are brought up repeatedly.
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