Craig Peterson – Sociability

“A few stories that showed my naivete.”

[In the mid-1980s and early-1990s] things were still so underground. People knew their immediate circles. They might know of other groups, but there was no larger [LGBT] network that really functioned. It was just beginning to start to change with Stonewall News. It was beginning to get some of that going, but it was still pretty early.


Stonewall News had just started [in 1992] and I knew that Larry Stone, the publisher, had a good social circle. In fact, they had an annual Privacy Fund fundraiser at their house. That was probably one of the first events I went to. About the only other [social opportunity] I knew of was the SAN [Spokane AIDS Network] group, the people who had rallied around the AIDS Network. Other than the bars, that’s about all I knew [about for social life]. Oh! PFLAG would be the other piece I knew about when I first came out.


You know, I was so overwhelmed [at the march for gay rights in Washington, D. C. in 1993]. I mean, to have only been out a couple months. [Laughs.] I can tell you a few stories that showed my naivete.

This is still maybe the small town guy in me. I do much better with the politics and the advocacy piece than I do with the social and cultural pieces. I am still kind of a wallflower. I remember RuPaul, who was just barely breaking in the scene. He was headlining an event that I went online before I went to the march and bought tickets for, but then I was too shy to go alone. So I stayed in the motel. That was very indicative of how I was at that point.

I remember telling the group after one of the days—I think it might’ve even been the evening of the march—that I wanted to go out. What was the word I used? Not “seedy,” but just have some fun and see what’s out there. And, oh, my gosh! I don’t drink, so I wasn’t really around the bars. Dempsey’s [in Spokane] was my whole experience—very limited. They took me to a bar where there were completely nude male dancers, where people were putting money in socks and stuff. I was just so beyond blown away.

It was just very uncomfortable [for me], because I’d never been in a public environment like that where . . . It was like right there. [My friends] told me that I basically kind of freaked out and left early. They were like, “Oh, we were going to take you to a place with much worse.” That’s when I learned I had to be careful with my language, because I had one set of cultural experiences. This was night and day different.


I was tremendously naive [in the mid-1990s]. I thought when I went into these small localities [in rural Eastern Washington] and brought GLBT programs that they would be just starved for it and run [with it]. And what I found is most of the folks who live out in the rural areas, they know where to go when they want community. They know to come to Spokane for Dempsey’s [bar], or the [LGBT] community center, or take a three-day weekend to Seattle. Most of them were either not supportive or . . . almost aggressive about drawing boundaries. [They’d say,] “We really have no desire [for LGBT activities locally], and if you bring the visibility of the gay community up too high there could be a backlash.”


Sources: Interview with Maureen Nickerson, [December 2006?]; transcribed by Maureen Nickerson and Laura S. Hodgman; edited by Laura S. Hodgman; held at the Northwest Museum for Arts and Culture. Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 21 August 2012; transcribed by J. Zander; edited by Laura S. Hodgman.