Larry Speaking On:
I came out a different way than a lot of men do. I had never had sex with a man, but I had been agonizing over my sexuality for 20 years. I told my best friend from college. He had come to Spokane for dinner and I told him over dinner. I was 29.
The only person I told was he; and [I] asked him to tell his wife. That was all I told on the earth for quite a while; for a couple months that was the only people I told. [He responded] really well. He said, “We’re going to be better friends than ever.” So he’s a pretty cool guy. He’s now a judge in Idaho, so he’s a pretty great guy. I was very fortunate.
I think what motivated me to tell my friend finally was I was just waking up in the middle of night terribly lonely. I was a workaholic at the time. Workaholism, just like any addiction, it can’t solve a long-term [difficulties, but] short-term [it] kind of gives you some . . . Probably better to be a workaholic than an alcoholic, but just barely, really. [Laughs.]
I didn’t know a single gay person. I didn’t know a single gay person when I came out, that I was aware of. I think I’d probably met some, who I might’ve known, but I was so intent on not knowing. And it was right in the middle of AIDS, when a lot of the public really didn’t like homosexuals because of AIDS. I think we’d been climbing upward and then we fell. Our perception in the public had fallen pretty bad at that time. One of the good things was, AIDS was already educating people that homosexuals were all over the place. So I had the benefit of that.
I thought I would never tell my father. He was quite elderly. By the time I [came out to my friend, my father] was well into his 70s. I thought I never would. But then when Jan [Jecha] and I got together in ’92, I decided to tell him. It worked out very well. [My father] was like a Rush Limbaugh Republican, but was a kind, good person and was able to handle it very well. Even towards the end we talked a little bit about opening up. We never talked too openly about it, but he loved Jan and told me I was lucky to have Jan and those kind of things. I was very close to my father, so it was nice that he was accepting. [I also told] my stepmother. She was very good about it.
I came out in ’85 generally to my [college] friends, and gradually came out at work. Because I was doing these big fundraisers and marched in the gay march in Washington[, DC] in ’87, I was on the news in Spokane. [They didn’t interview me, but] they just showed my picture. A lot of people saw me on television in ’87. And I was just coming out!
I had just come out to some of my straight high school friends. I came back to town and one of my high school friends called me and he said, “You know, Larry, I kind of accepted you’re gay, but why are you going on national TV and making a big thing?” I said, “What do you mean?” He had seen me on this march in ‘87. It was good for me. Every time you come out, it’s always good. I was pretty well out to work just by osmosis, by 1990.
The [national] gay marches were wonderful for empowering yourself. But did they do anything to the gay community? I don’t think so, because it didn’t seem to reach the public. It didn’t do us any good. We haven’t had one since 2000, as a gay community. I don’t know. I don’t think they accomplish much. It’s so much better to be out to your neighbor, and out at work, than it is to march down in Washington, DC.
Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson on 8 May 2007; held in the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. Transcribed by J. Zander; edited by Laura S. Hodgman