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.
Jensen Cowan (pronouns: They/Them) was born July 4, 1997 in Brandon, Florida, and discusses growing up in Socastee, adjacent to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in an emotionally and verbally abusive home. They discuss chosen family and close friends, their relationship with their mother and four sisters in a blended family and what it meant to leave home to start a new life at the College of Charleston, with mentions of being in the Bonner Leadership Program there. Cowan describes the struggles of separating from their family financially and finding a method to pay for school. Working with We Are Family and attending functions of Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA), Cowan felt “discrepancies in maturities” in various groups, eventually finding supportive friends and neighbors to help with personal issues and the need for food. Cowan discusses identifying as queer, nonbinary, and trans, mentions a fundraiser they started to help pay for surgery and speaks of their capstone project to map all the gender-neutral bathrooms on the College of Charleston campus. Cowan notes a lack of response from College administrators on this and other LGBTQ oriented issues, describes the inconveniences and disruptions caused to their college studies by this lack of facilities and speaks to the insensitivity of some faculty and friends in using offensive vocabularies and inappropriate pronouns. Cowan and the interviewer discuss the lack of diversity within Charleston Pride, and the larger LGBTQ movement as a whole, while praising classes and faculty, such as Dr. Kristi Bryan, within the College’s Women’s & Gender Studies program and the positive effect it has had on them and others. The interview closes with a discussion of Cowan’s plans for the future after graduating in May 2019, having earlier mentioned a disinclination to return to working as an educator/camp counselor at Kids On Point (formerly Chucktown Squash), due to the fact that the students there would have known them under a different name.
Jamie Nadeau (pronouns: She/Her/Hers) describes her journey to self-realization as a lesbian trans woman and a successful business owner of a hand-press greeting card printing company in Charleston, South Carolina. Born in Nashville, Tennessee into a religious Church of Christ family, Nadeau attended religious schools. Her father, a member of the Potawatomi Nation, and her mother divorced when she was young, and she speaks of trying to reclaim and learn more about her native American heritage. Born intersex, Nadeau retains early childhood hospital memories and speaks of her conservative upbringing where LGBTQ people were seen as “cultural oddities” and trans people were thought “horrific monsters.” Trying to imagine herself as a lesbian in that conservative environment “broke my brain,” and she had to go through the “impostor syndrome” before claiming and becoming comfortable as her true self. Embracing technology and computers long before they were commonplace, she was a young hacker and researched gender identities in cyberspace when others perhaps were still using libraries. She attended Middle Tennessee State University for a year, where and when she first began to explore her identity; she then studied at, and received her degree from, the Savannah College of Art and Design. After her mother’s death, Nadeau vowed she would never wear men’s clothes again and began seeing a gender therapist. She quickly began sharing her status with friends, family and her wife Allison, meeting wholehearted support from the latter, and a variety of responses from others. Nadeau speaks to the various levels of acceptance from the religious community, and from her biological and chosen families. She speaks at length of her experiences in coming out, noting how “soul crushing” being “misgendered” in public can be, and praises the Charleston trans women’s community for being so accepting and supportive, affirming the importance of support groups and loyal friends. Nadeau also describes how she and her wife, Allison, friends since childhood, followed their fascination with printing and design and left their professions to become proprietors of their greeting card company, Ink Meets Paper. There is a brief discussion focusing on Charleston being a safer space for LGBTQ people than other areas of the Deep South, and in response to the interviewer, Nadeau suggest that LGBTQ people should not necessarily focus on otherness, but see the world as she does, a place of countless, diverse narratives, where people are to be encouraged for finding their own way and lauded for their strength in “occupying space” in a world of proscriptions and possiblities.
"Gianni Leonardi, Daniel ""Danny"" McCann, and Adam Tracey speak about their experiences as Irish immigrants in the United States. Gianni and Danny are the owners of two Irish pubs in the Charleston area while Adam works at a pub on Johns Island. Gianni hails from the rural, Irish-speaking parish of Gweedore, in County Donegal. He first came to the United States in 2009 as part of a sponsorship by a pub in Michigan through his university in Ireland. He wanted to come to the U.S. for the opportunity to make a living in the hospitality industry and relocated to Charleston from Ann Arbor to open an Irish pub. He speaks of the vast difference between his rural upbringing and his life in a more suburban/urban environment. He makes a point to discuss the authenticity of Irish hospitality, and how, in owning and operating a pub, he tries to further that sense of genuine Irish warmth. Danny is from Lurgan, County Armagh. He came to the U.S. in 1998, to Detroit, to work in the same pub that later sponsored Gianni. Having grown up in Northern Ireland, he has the most firsthand experience of the Irish Troubles. He speaks briefly about Irish politics and witnessing some of the violence in the North in the 1990s. Adam comes from County Offlay, outside of Tullamore. Before working in hospitality, he had worked in construction in Yonkers, New York. Though he has little firsthand experience with the Troubles, he tells the story of a grand-uncle who was killed young by a bombing in the North. All three speak to their experience within the small community of Irish immigrants in Charleston, and how the community works to bring newly-arrived Irish immigrants together with those who are already established in Charleston. They agree that without the support of the Irish community, their experience in Charleston would have been very different."