Lenard Mace – Identity and Awareness

“There are other people like me!”

I lived out by Cheney. That’s where I grew up. You know, in those days, a very rural setting. That was our world. I didn’t know anything about the terms like “gay” and stuff, until I went to college in 1967, over in Everett, Washington. Having grown up here, my whole life, I couldn’t wait to leave. Once I left, I decided that little old Spokaloo wasn’t that bad. I was only gone a year . . .

[After I came back to Spokane] I got married, had a daughter, who I ended up raising as a single parent from the time she was 11 months old. I married a second time. Then, when that marriage fell apart, I decided, well, maybe it was time to figure out who I really am. I didn’t come out until I was almost 30.

When I first started dealing with my own reality, I just felt I was the only one on the planet. I started that internal coming out process—self-acceptance—which took me years. Of course, the only thing I knew about—and I’m not even sure how I knew about that—was the bars. One night [in 1979] I finally got up enough nerve, literally knees shaking and hands trembling, and I walked into [Disco 425]. It was a real eye opener for me, the first time I walked into a real gay bar, at the age of 30. “Oh man! There are other people like me!” It was quite a shock. I really didn’t have anything to compare it to. I had no knowledge base, other than things that I’d read. When I was in college, I met some obviously gay people, which I shied away from at the time, because that was too close to home.

As I look back, I knew probably from the time I was 12 years old. I didn’t really know what, but I knew I was not like everybody else.

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Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson and Katya M., 2007; held in the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.