Dick Jones(He/Him) is a volunteer for Lambert House.
When you came out the first time, what made you feel safe to do so?
This is a difficult question as I grew up in the 40”s and 50’s. It was a scary time here in the US. We had the Korean War and we had the McCarthy hearings. The term homosexual was a very derogatory term and occasionally used in connection being a communist. In high school I had a couple of encounters with friends. We considered it experimenting. The general belief was that once one was married all those feelings would go away. Got married. It didn’t work. I had some encounters with male friends of both my wife and I and along the way we had two children. Worked for a lesbian and she had a party one night that my wife and I went to. I got very drunk and got sick on my way home and my wife had to stop for me to throw up. I told her then that she was the only heterosexual at the party. We split shortly after that. I then met someone who was involved with the Imperial Court of Seattle and Rainier Empire. The bars in Seattle were a little scary as the police were raiding then and if you were caught there your were arrested and the next day it would be printed in the paper that you were picked up in a homosexual bar. That would have meant your loss of a job. However, I had met someone from the Court and she invited me to a meeting. I went. I walked into the meeting and I immediately felt at home. I was gay.
How do you ally yourself with others of the LGBTQ community?
For some time, my primary association with the gay community was through the court. It was were my friends were and I was safe. At that time when you were a member of the court you were also a member of the United Ebony Council and the Knights of Malta. Because they had gay bowling at a long gone ally out near the UW I began to go and eventually, when I had my kids on weekends started to take them with me. They were accepted and my kids had fun and looked forward to coming with me. At the same time I started performing male roles in a number of drag shows being done by court members. I was living with a gay friend whose birthday was the day before my mothers. When they discovered this they wanted to celebrate together. My folks had kind of figured it out so we planned a party at a bar/restaurant here in Seattle called Mr. Larry’s. Several friends from the court came to the party. That night after dinner my father and I went into the bar my mother sat with the drag queens and they talked fashion, hair, and makeup. There was no going back. My folks wanted to be at every drag show and my mother started making some of the costumes. I was comfortable saying I was gay, my parents accepted me and were regulars in the gay community, my kids liked the guys they bowled with, and my ex just went along.
How do you educate people about the gay community?
I can’t say that I have every really educated people about the gay community. I have been involved in projects that were done to raise money for AIDS. I have introduced nongay friends to the community at times, and I have participated in Gay Pride quite a few times. I have been a volunteer at LH for over 15 years. I got educated about LH when working at Echo Glen. I had a young native American boy on my caseload. One night he revealed to me that he was gay and very afraid someone in his tribe would find out. Through some research I learned about LH and one night while we had our session, I called LH explained who I was and why I was calling. I asked if there was a youth there that would be willing to talk to my kid. They talked for 30 minutes. The kid was getting out in about 30days and he was now able to go someplace that would help and support him. I started volunteering there about the same time. I then transferred to DCFS and became an adolescent social worker. Had a couple for gay kids on my caseload and always had LH for them. I met some other professionals during that time, some were gay and a couple has children that were part of the LBGTQ community. I introduced them to LH.
What resources would you recommend for LBGTQ youth who have questions?
LH is at the top of my list because I know that they are safe going there and they could meet other youth who are the same as they are. Youth are the best educators about the LGBTQ community there is. Plus, the volunteers are also there to help them connect with services they may need for counseling, housing, and employment. I am also impressed that every high school and junior high and even some grade schools have a gay group in them.
What resources would you recommend to LBGTQ youth who have questions?
Lambert House, gay school groups. Although there are times when an adult member of the LBGTQ community are the best resources for youth In helping them get connected with services I have learned that many times we are their safety net when things are going wrong. We can get them to the right recourses when there is abuse, etc. to help them be and feel safe. My experience at LH has taught me that youth there know who to refer and peer to there that will support them and get them to the right people to help them.
What did you think your life would be like after High School?
I graduated in 1961. Things were very different then. Antiwar protests were very much part of the late teen early 20’s people. Not only did it provide a path to protest injustice of the time, but it became a pathway to fight for other injustices and prejudices towards women, ethnic minorities, and the LGBTQ community. This became my total social life for about 10 years.
What tips would you give to people questioning their gender identity?
First and foremost, I would let them know that I will care about them and who they are as a person. I have had a couple of friends that identified as being of the opposite sex from their physical identification. Luckily, there are many options for them now to meet others like themselves and there are groups that they can become part of that are like them. LH is a great place for youth to be who they are. I get very emotional at times when I see youth come to LH and within 5 minutes they are who they are and dress like they want to regardless of the sexual identity.
What tips would you give to people questioning their sexual identity?
I would first give them a safe place where they can talk about themselves and how they feel, making it clear that their orientation and who they are are nothing to be ashamed of or that there is something wrong with them. I would introduce them to other transgender youth because they can provide experiences and support from the youth point of view. If necessary, I have known some psychologists that would support them and help them develop skills to deal with those who will find these issues something they want to avoid.
How do you stay resilient in the face of negativity and stereotyping?
Today it is not really an issue for the most part with the exception of certain political and evangelical groups who only accept those who agree with them on everything. I watch commercials and tv programs today and there are members of the LGBTQ community being presented in positive and normal in every way 24/7. Young children are not going to see people of the LGBTQ community or another racial group as different for the most part because it will be part of their life continuously. The arguments against by those groups will carry no weight.
What is your favorite piece of LGBTQ representation?
There are so many today it is hard to choose. Police shows have gay officers, the show Tommy has the police chief a gay woman. There is hardly a show on TV nowadays that doesn’t have a gay character in it. There are out actors and political office holders that are in the public view and generally accepted.
What are your hopes for the future of the LGBTQ community?
I just hope that the progress that has been made over the past 60 years will continue. WE are moving in a good direction at the moment. However , with have to be vigilant. There are political and religious groups that will never accept the LGBTQ community mostly because as the more we are accepted and considered normal by the majority there are minority groups that feel threatened.
Is there any advice you would give to the LGBTQ teens today?
Be yourself. The moment you start questioning who you are as being something undesirable you will start to lose yourself.
Note: Things are so different from when I was growing up. I fooled myself into believing that once I was married I would be straight. WRONG! Because of that I had affairs with men who were friends of both my wife and me. I lost unbelievably fantastic times in the gay community with my parents and my kids because I was afraid. I learned that the people who care about you don’t want you to be someone you aren’t. I have been lucky to have visited people in the gay community all over Asia and Europe. I lived in Japan for 7 years and found myself involve with the gay community there. Because of this I have friends all over the world who are gay and who I keep in contact with, so easily now with messenger and email. I look back at some of the terrible times. In the 5 years before I moved to Japan. I was loosing friends every month due to AIDS. I despised Reagan because he compounded the situation. I couldn’t understand why people I loved and cared about were dying and I wasn’t because I wasn’t doing anything different. I will never know why I didn’t get AIDS. Maybe I was supposed to be here to help kids on my caseload when I was a SW or the youth who come to LH. They bring joy to my life and I am proud to be there for them if they need me.