Paul Tiesse – Silence/Passing

“There is still subconsciously this fear of being outed.”

The Jim West thing: I found it entertaining that people were having a fit over it. To me, it’s funny, because we went to the Rose Bowl and Jim West was there with one of his “assistants.” [My partner] went over there to introduce himself. [West’s] “assistant” really wouldn’t talk. His “assistants” were always in their 20s it seemed like. Early in my real estate career, I had a duplex listed. [West] and his wife ended up buying it; he ended up divorcing his wife a few years later. They remained friends, he and his ex-wife.

In terms of outing people, I kind of have mixed emotions about it. You think about it: “Well, it’s not cool.” But it’s kind of cool when somebody is forced to come out—if they’re a public figure. I think it’s ironic when they vote anti-gay issues and they come out. To me, that’s no problem when they’re exposed for their hypocrisy. [I think,] “Why don’t you just come out and admit it?” When there’s so many rumors, there has to be some, a little bit of, truth to the rumors eventually. Who cares if you’re gay or not? I think for the average person, it’s probably not cool to out them, because you don’t know how their family is going to react. I think a public figure is fair game. I know that’s really controversial in the gay community. I think if you’re a public figure—and especially if you’re voting anti-gay stuff—it’s fair game.

What Jim West did, to me, really wasn’t that bad. I mean, when he was a State Rep[resentative] or a State Senator, he was voting against [gay issues]: that was bad. But I think in terms of what he was doing [when he was outed] . . . All the people were 18. They knew how old he was. It was fine. I think it’s so stupid they get him for like using the city computer or something. I’m sure it wasn’t like he was obsessed, doing it 24 hours a day. He probably just used it once, a little bit of time. No, I didn’t like him. I felt sorry for him. He was obviously very tortured, ended up having and died from prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is due to pent up sexual frustration. That’s what one doctor told me. It turns out [that’s] why a lot of older men will get it. I don’t think he was a very happy man, so you have to kind of feel sorry for him.

Even though Washington State is pretty progressive, there is still subconsciously this fear of being outed. There was a couple that [my partner and I] had met. [One person] was a banker at Washington Trust; his partner was a truck driver. The banker at Washington Trust did not want anyone to know he was gay. At all. At the bank. He thought he’d be fired. And it’s like, “Washington Trust is a member of the INBA. You’re not going to get fired.” He just was insistent that nobody could find out. It’s like, “I’m sure you go to banking events. Either you go by yourself, or you take this guy with you. They must know.” People know. People aren’t stupid. I mean, some are, but a lot of people know.

I think the more educated you are, the more willing [you are] to be out—just in terms of my opinion. I think [less educated people] would be afraid to come out, just because of fearing family will ridicule them, and their friends, and job. They aren’t strong enough to take it yet, is what I’m thinking. I think in some ways Spokane is still locked in the ‘60s, a certain population. Even though there are so many gay things going in on the town all the time. I think it’s really a psychological and mental block for some people.

I guess in some ways I’m still in the closet because I don’t proclaim, “I’m gay” to everybody. I think most people can tell right away just because of the way I talk. [That] is what I was told. I certainly don’t hide it. In fact, I would walk hand in hand with [my partner] down the street, but he’s scared to do that, so we won’t do it. You don’t really do that in New York even anymore. You know, New York is having a rash of gay bashings that are killing people outside gay bars. You don’t know who’s driving by anymore. That’s just the way society is—not just in Spokane.


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