Paul Tiesse – Discrimination

“You would think that everybody would be more considerate.”

Throughout high school—back then there’s usually one telephone in the house, and you had the party line also—I would get these phone calls making comments about my sexuality from, supposedly, strangers. I think I recognized who some of the people were. That really concerned me a lot. That really freaked me out, because you don’t want anybody to know that you were attracted to other guys. Especially at that age.

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Spokane is unique in that there’s no real racial divisions, because our minority population is probably only 14 percent. With Spokane, the perception is that the gay community is wealthy and has higher income, higher spending power, etc. I tell everybody, “The gay community reflects the community itself.” Spokane is a poor city. Spokane is a lower- to middle-income, for the most part. That’s the gay community you’re looking at also. Like most people here, the kids get out of Spokane. They go away to school and they don’t come back, until maybe when they’re 30 or something. The people that remain here, for the most part, [have] minimum wage jobs, [are] uneducated, or they’re going to SCC. They’re on their fifth year of going to SCC [and] still haven’t gotten a degree yet. Or they’re the drug kids. When I say “kids,” I’m talking like 20s. Obviously, there are some wealthy and well-to-do gay people living here, but that’s certainly not the majority.

[One thing] that always disappointed me is that gay people were just as bad as straight people in terms of [discrimination]. You would think, being a minority, everybody would get along and be nice to everybody. Gay people are probably worse. They aren’t nice to everybody within their group. They don’t support everybody. I always found that disappointing, because you would think that everybody would be more considerate, and they aren’t.

I think it’s just some people were bitchy no matter what. Some people don’t like drag queens. Some people don’t like leather. To me, all these little communities, they’re really facades within the gay community: putting on makeup, or putting on leather. Being a bear, meaning that you can get fat. That’s your excuse for being fat. That’s the way I look at it. People are so bitchy. I think, for one thing, there’s probably a lot of jealousy. If somebody’s doing really good—especially if somebody is 50 and they’re dating somebody 20, there’s obviously a lot of talk. A lot of gossip probably. It just seems like people are always fighting. It’s weird, because I think a lot of people in the gay community have . . . “psychological issues” makes it sound bad, like “mental issues.” I think there’s always [issues], especially with the older people, because maybe they were bullied, or they were thrown out by their families. They bring those issues then into the gay community, questioning, “Why is this group doing that?” Always questioning. Or, [they say,] “We should be doing things this way.” I mean, even gay man versus the lesbian community. There’s always jokes about lesbians, even among the gay men. It might be changing with the younger kids now, since they’re out, more open, and everything. They’re out of the closet, so to speak, at a younger age; and most of their colleagues are accepting of them. So they may not have those issues.

[HIV] was like leprosy, even in the gay community. If you have HIV, you’re kind of shunned. People are kind of afraid of it still—probably more the older people than the younger people. The younger people don’t know what they’re getting into with HIV. They think it’s just you take a pill or something; they don’t realize how traumatic it can really be. The HIV community, they’re shunned by the non-HIV community, for the most part. That’s why a lot of them stay connected together. They form their own little support groups.

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Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 15 November 2013.