I’d Like You to Know
Identity and Awareness
Mentoring and Support
Spirituality and Religion
Spokane in Perspective
We don’t [show affection in public] because it’s our habit not to. And where did you learn not to? In my case, my family. Good quality people just didn’t do that, if you were straight or gay was not the issue. You bring that culture right on into the gay world. Then it’s reinforced that, if it isn’t acceptable for “the straight world” it certainly wasn’t acceptable in the ‘70s for the gay world. [Laughs.]
I had 11 years in the school system in the classroom. During those first 11 years I was married. Then I did the six-year hiatus in the marketing world. It was during that period of time that I divorced. So when I came back into education I had met Gene and I came in [to the job] as a gay person in 1977. I had a self-imposed quietness. [Laughs.] I never felt direct . . . suppression from the school district, but I was not a person to be at all obvious.[As a teacher,] I didn’t make any point of being out. I came on the faculty as a single male. Of course, there were a couple of single women on the faculty that immediately paid me a lot of attention. Within six to eight months [they] figured out that probably was not going anywhere. [Laughs.] We formed some friendships and that was it.
By the same token, I didn’t make any point of being in the closet, because it just wasn’t me. It’s like, “This is who I am, how I live, and I’m not going through a lot of charades here.” I never made it a point of denying that I had a roommate, and we remodeled houses, and did things together. Within the first year to two years, [I] formed some faculty relationships. I had faculty people to the house. [Gene and I] were invited to events at their homes. So we socialized as a couple. A lot of the staff knew we were gay. It wasn’t talked about, but it was understood.
We never went to a faculty event together, like a Christmas party, that sort of thing. Many times I would not go, rather than go alone. I refused to get into the game of having some lady friend go with me. It’s like, “Come on, everybody knows I live with a guy and this is stupid.” [Laughs.] From my standpoint, I probably would have rather spent a quiet evening at home having dinner and watching television or whatever, than being at a social event when he wouldn’t have been comfortable going. I wouldn’t have been comfortable with him there, so . . .
I suspect you’re right that Spokane was . . . “closeted” would be the appropriate word. There were little groups of people that got together, friends that got together. They’d run to the lake, they’d have a private party at the home, or something like that. My initial experiences were in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, around the country. I had a little different point-of-view than the people in Spokane. So yes, I think this community, particularly, probably was more closeted.
In terms of openness for people my age, I think a lot of those people came with the idea of secrecy, closure, and they didn’t get involved in some of the political routines of dealing with it. It’s just safer in their experience to [say], “We’ll just keep on doing what we did, keep it low profile, and off the radar.”
Sources: Interview with Susan Williams on 3 December 2006, held at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture; interviews with Laura S. Hodgman on 30 November 2012 and on 27 February 2014.