3) City/state where you live currently:
Rhodes College (Memphis, Tennessee)
Former theatre producer/radio host/sales manager
6) Did you serve in the U.S. military?
7) How do you describe your sexuality and your gender?
8) Do you have children and/or grandchildren?
9) If you are GLBT, please describe when you first “knew”:
I think I always identified with women in a way, mostly older women – babysitters, teachers, my mom’s friends. I thought it just meant I wanted a sister, a hot older sister, or that these were women I wanted to become.
It is hard for me to look back on my life with a lens and filter my experiences knowing what I know today. But as I was leaving high school I had crushes on camp counselors and mentors. In college those crushes became more prevalent – all the while dating men.
My standard answer for a long time on how I “knew” I was gay: “When I watched the movie The Hunger – that was when I knew.” Or Tootsie with Jessica Lange and Dustin Hoffman (though he was a man… but I guess Catherine Deneuve was a vampire!). But when did I really “know”? It was when I first kissed a woman. It was a dare during a “Truth or Dare” game, but it changed my life forever.
10) Who did you first “come out” to and when?
I first told a college friend, ironically a woman I was obsessed with in college, that I thought I was bisexual. This was immediately after my Truth or Dare game kiss. Once I started seeing a woman many months later, I realized I was not bisexual but lesbian.
I immediately told my two best friends at college as well. But I remember the experience of “coming out” most vividly in telling my college mentor/advisor and my brother. I was terrified in both instances but felt it was the right thing to do. I remember being so excited with most people… like I had discovered a buried treasure. It was years later that I told my parents.
That admission terrified me and changed the landscape of my family life. My father told me he loved me, and that he could hate the sin and love the sinner. My mom was stoic and supportive. Both had known but never discussed it with each other really. I challenged my dad and his Southern Conservative upbringing and he listened, God love him. And he poured over books, especially ones that would challenge bigotry in the Bible. In a very quick time he was meeting my new girlfriend and hanging out at the Gentry on Halsted listening to one of my best friends Alexandra Billings, a trans AIDS activist, perform her cabaret show. He did a complete 180 in less than one year. My homosexuality has been the blessing of my life and a big blessing in the growth of my family emotionally and spiritually.
11) What troubles did you face as a GLBT person?
I have escaped with little to no homophobia. Is it because I pass? Some people say it is because I look more like the “type” of lesbian straight men don’t mind thinking of with women. I find all of that offensive and yet for a while in my 20s I played into that with men and couples. The tease, the flirt.
I don’t have the experience of bigotry really. In the South everyone is too polite to talk bad to my face (who knows behind my back) and my life in Chicago has been so supportive. I understand it is uncommon and it has made me continue to be vocal – I have done my best to be out and proud (thus my job as a personality on radio and in the media as a lesbian for over ten years).
12) Did you have mentors in the Chicago GLBT community?
Alexandra Billings – Trans Activist, AIDS activist, Actress, singer, teacher and one of my best friends. We met through a mutual friend and then through LesBiGay radio. We still talk very frequently. She is my ferocious older sis. She understands me and my heart and my creativity. She has taught me courage, honesty, and perseverance.
Ronna Hoffberg – Former owner of Rose Records and owner of Audience Logic (PR company). Strong leader/board member of the ACLU. I don’t remember how I met Ronna, but she is a lesbian and business woman I admire a great deal. We have been doing lunch for many, many years every few months or so. I feel she has taken me under her wing almost as an aunt. She has fed my spirit and shown me the generation before me in a way full of grace, intelligence and passion.
Alan Amberg – Founder of LesBiGay Radio. He taught me everything I know about radio. Gave me a shot since he thought I was a “lesbian weather girl with a brain,” and I knew what he meant and was not insulted but intrigued. I am still doing radio/podcasting after ten years, all because he handed me a mic and said talk. He encouraged me to “get to know” this GLBT community. I did and I have been talking about it, to it, and for it for a decade. What a conversation it continues to be!
Reverend Greg Dell – Former pastor of Broadway United Methodist Church; I found myself being asked to sing at his church after many years away from any church home. His communion service that Sunday invited all to the table including gay, lesbian, and trans people to share in radical concept that we can be made whole if we felt broken. He reconnected me to my relationship with God that day – one of the most profound moments in my life that began my activism with Christianity and homosexuality and healing the many wounds for our two communities. Greg Dell was an angel to my life – a messenger from God.
13) Involvement in organizations (GLBT and/or mainstream):
About Face Theatre artistic associate, 2000–present.
Xena Live! and Xena Live 2: The Musical - I produced and starred as Gabrielle in these Jeff-nominated box office hits.
Acting: Many productions, from Execution of Justice to Seven Moves to Whitman and more.
Greasy Joan & Company - founding member and producing director, 1995-2000.
LesBiGay Radio co-host, 1998-2001. LesBiGay Radio was the nation’s first daily GLBT radio show. It was the winner of 1999 GLAAD Media Award in Radio and the 1999 Chicago Washington Award/Human Relations; it was a finalist for the 1999 Chicago AIR Award (won Honorable Mention) and was nominated for the 2000 GLAAD Award as well as a GLAMA (Gay/Lesbian Music Awards).
Co-host of Windy City Radio for Chicago’s Gay Community (WCKG 105.9 FM), 2001-present.
Host of Windy City Queercast/weekly podcasts for the GLBT community (live talk radio with GLBT news and entertainment).
I have conducted more than 5,000 interviews including Sandra Bernhard, Indigo Girls, Margaret Cho, Cyndi Lauper, Rufus Wainwright, k.d. lang, Lucy Lawless, and reps from national GLBT organizations such as Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, etc.
Co-host on Aware Talk Radio Nationally Syndicated Newsmagazine for the Latest on Health and Well-Being, 2001-2003, heard in 40 major markets on more than 400 stations.
Co-host on Life Outside Nationally Syndicated Newsmagazine for the Gay and Lesbian Community, heard on 70 stations.
Member of Broadway United Methodist Church.
14) When you were coming out, what were your favorite GLBT bars in Chicago?
Paris Dance, Girl Bar, and Sidetrack
15) What were the key issues faced in the GLBT community when you first came out?
AIDS, getting people to come out, and discrimination (work and housing)
16) What issues do you see as key in the GLBT community today?
Civil Unions so that we have basic protections (social security, powers of attorney), and Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
17) How have AIDS and/or other health issues impacted your life personally?
AIDS has affected me most greatly by my friendship with Alexandra Billings and the wonderful artists in the theatre world who have fought this disease.
18) Describe what you feel your personal legacy is to the Chicago GLBT community.
My legacy… hmm. I am a storyteller or a recorder of stories. Either through my work in theatre or in my work in radio it has been about giving people the opportunity to give voice to their lives, their stories... and that creates change, radical change. So am I a radical? Damn straight! Also I hope my legacy will be that I served the community and my friends, that I was honest and out and proud, and grew every day in an effort to learn more about myself and others.
19) This project is also about “defining moments.” Please discuss some of those in your life.
Every day is a defining moment for me...my choices, actions, perspective. I hope I live my life that way. Being gay has been a defining moment, and choosing to live openly, being Southern defines much of who I am... there is not enough space. Spend a day with me.