Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Jason Kyle Howard, June 22, 2011

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Typical Appalachian childhood

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Partial Transcript: Alright it is June 22, 2011. We're with, we're with Jason Howard in Berea, Kentucky, and this is for the, uh, Queer Appalachian Experience, uh, Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: Describes childhood and his love of books, movies, and music. Describes the community he grew up in.

Keywords: Bell County (Ky.); Dorton Branch (Ky.); Interests; Reading

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Childhood.; Gay youth.

GPS: Berea, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 37.576944, -84.293611
00:05:24 - Religious upbringing

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Partial Transcript: There were two churches. One was a little, um, clapboard, uh, Holiness Church that my, let's see, great, my paternal great-grandfather actually built.

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about his parents' religious affiliations. Talks about attending a church affiliated school.

Keywords: Baptists; Bethlehem Baptist Church; Pentecostal; Southern Baptist

Subjects: Appalachian Region.; Homosexuality--Religious aspects.; Parents of gays.

00:09:02 - Extended family

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Partial Transcript: But I guess I'll talk a little bit about my extended family 'cause I think that will come back to be significant later, when we get into other subjects.

Segment Synopsis: Talks about being close with extended family, especially his first cousin. Talks about how his relationship with his mother and how his grandmother's death affected his mother.

Keywords: Deaths; Families; Grandparents; Grieving; Home; Kinship; Mourning; Writings

Subjects: Gay men--Family relationships; Gay youth.; Homosexuality and education.; Homosexuality--Religious aspects.; Parents of gays.; Rural families.

00:13:40 - First boyfriend

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Partial Transcript: I had a boyfriend in middle school. And, um, you know, it wasn't like an out, open, you know, little relationship. I mean this was, what, '90, '94, y'know, so....

Segment Synopsis: Jason describes his first boyfriend as an adolescent and how his peers reacted to the relationship. Talks about knowing he was homosexual.

Keywords: Pentecostal

Subjects: Gay youth.; Teasing.

00:15:30 - Female role models

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Partial Transcript: I started recognizing this, and would be more interested, y'know, in, in women, a-, not as objects of desire, but as, you know, objects to emulate or to put on a pedestal.

Segment Synopsis: Talks about emulating women as a child. Talks about heroines and female inspirations and feeling isolated in these interests.

Keywords: Barbara Streisand; Funny Girl (Film); Idols; Jackie Onassis; Madonna; Scarlett O'Hara

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Gay youth; Gays--Identity.; Role models

00:19:26 - Relating to older people

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Partial Transcript: Um, so, it was always older people that I could talk about those things to. You know, I had an older cousin from Ohio who lived with us for a while when he was in, um, in college, at LMU.

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about identifying with an older generation. Describes interactions with an older gay relative.

Keywords: Companion; Mary Tyler Moore Show; Old souls; Relate

Subjects: Gays--Family relationships; Gays--Identity.

00:21:37 - Attending a Pentecostal church

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Partial Transcript: You know, moving back to, to being in middle school, and, um, you know, being involved in that little, you know, relationship, romance, middle school romance.

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about what appealed to him about Pentecostalism. Discusses trying to "heal" himself from homosexuality and his participation in the church.

Keywords: Cures; Healing; Hiding; Jimmy Swaggart; Pentecostal churches; Pianists; Praying; Preaching; Religions

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Homosexuality--Religious aspects.

00:26:44 - Attending a Baptist church

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Partial Transcript: Um, what are some examples of what, um, religious leaders would say in your church about being gay?

Segment Synopsis: Talks about disliking the Baptist church's negativity towards Catholicism. Discusses experience in the Baptist church as a youth.

Keywords: Anti-Catholicism; Catholics; Plays; Religions; Southern Baptist.; Superiority

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Baptists; Gay youth.; Homosexuality--Religious aspects.; Parents of gays.

00:29:52 - More on attending a Pentecostal church

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Partial Transcript: Um, so in the Pentecostal church, you know, it just w-, it just exploded. And I would, you know, hear all kinds of comments from the pulpit about how unnatural it was, and it was a, an abomination.

Segment Synopsis: Talks about Pentecostal teachings against homosexuality. Talks about interaction with lesbian members.

Keywords: Bible; Lesbians; Pentecostal churches; Saved

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Gay youth.; Homosexuality--Religious aspects.; Parents of gays.

00:31:38 - Developing political views / preaching against homosexuality

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Partial Transcript: But I oft-, also have to relate this to my political odyssey as a kid. Because my, my mother's family always identified as yellow dog Democrats.

Segment Synopsis: Discusses political views of family. Talks about intertwining political and religious views.

Keywords: Affiliations; Debates; Faith; Liberals; Party identifications; Politics; Progressives; Welfare

Subjects: Democratic Party (Ky.); Homosexuality--Religious aspects.

00:38:01 - Pursuing a career in politics / college years

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Partial Transcript: And you know, I started to become more politically active for the Democratic party. Um, after I graduated high school, before I graduated high school, I had learned that I had gotten an internship in D.C. that summer with Hal Rogers.

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about becoming politically active in high school. Talks about how his internship in Washington, D.C. affected him.

Keywords: Bell County Democratic Party; Education; Government; Lincoln Memorial University; Washington, D.C.

Subjects: Gay teenagers.; Homosexuality and education.; Parents of gays.; Sexual minority college students

00:41:41 - Attending church in Washington, D.C.

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Partial Transcript: And so, I got up there, and, picking back up on the religious journey, ended up, you know, continuing that and trying to find a church up there. A Pentecostal church up there.

Segment Synopsis: Talks about adjusting to different social customs of church in Washington, D.C. Talks about attending a conservative church while working for the Democratic party. Talks about realizing his beliefs were not in sync with the church he attended.

Keywords: Internships; Liberals.; Non-denominational churches; Pentecostal churches; Politics

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Homosexuality--Religious aspects.; Lesbian and gay experience

00:50:39 - Appalachian religious attitudes toward homosexuality

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Partial Transcript: Do you think that church leaders and members are, uh, are they more aware nowadays of the possibility of there being gays and lesbians in their own congregations?

Segment Synopsis: Talks about how churches in the city address homosexuality as opposed to those in Appalachia.

Keywords: Baptists; Churches; Doctrine; Holiness Churches; Pentecostals; Progressive; Religions; Sins

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Homosexuality--Religious aspects.; Lesbian and gay experience

00:55:39 - Challenging ideology of Appalachian churches / lack of diversity

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Partial Transcript: So, there, it's not like these churches really get challenged a great deal, there's no, there, probably either, correct me if I'm wrong, but if you are gay, you're either silent about it or you just move away.

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about gives some examples of people speaking for homosexuality acceptance in Appalachian churches. Discusses the homogeneous culture of the region.

Keywords: Acceptance; Appalachian culture; Attitudes; Change

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Homosexuality--Religious aspects.; Lesbian and gay experience.

01:00:53 - Diversity / deciding to come out

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Partial Transcript: So you've been part of this church, you've, at this point, thrown up your hands. When did you decide to take that next step and actually come out? Or were there a million other steps before that?

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about events leading up to his coming out and coming to terms with his religious beliefs and being gay.

Keywords: Cultures; Environments; Faith; Friends; Mel White; Stranger at the Gate.; Washington, D.C.

Subjects: Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay culture.; Gays men--family relationships.; Homosexuality--Religious aspects.

01:07:05 - Coming out to parents

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Partial Transcript: When did you tell your parents?

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about waiting to come out to his parents. Discusses his expectations versus the reality of each of his parents' reactions.

Keywords: Acceptance; Fathers; Fears; Isolation; Love; Mothers; Reactions

Subjects: Coming out (Sexual orientation); Parents of gays.

01:14:12 - Estrangement from parents

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Partial Transcript: I'm now, at this point, completely estranged from both my parents. Um, I went into this whole, I guess because I didn't tell them right away, and, and, even though I regret putting it off and off, you know the conversation with my parents.

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about giving his parents time to process his coming out. Talks about his decision to eventually remove his parents from his life.

Keywords: Acceptance; Changes; Fathers; Interactions; Mothers; Relationships

Subjects: Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay men--family relationships; Homosexuality--Religious aspects.; Homosexuality--Social aspects.; Parents of gays.; Rural families.

01:18:13 - Having a love-hate relationship with home

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Partial Transcript: And so that gets into the thing about going back to Bell County. And, you know, it's not a place, it's, it's a complicated place. And any place we live is a complicated place.

Segment Synopsis: Jason relates his definition of "home." Talks about how Appalachia has been romanticized.

Keywords: Attachments; Bell County (Ky.); Belonging; Dorton Branch (Ky.); Home; Places; Rejections

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Appalachian Region.

01:23:00 - Appalachians do not like change / understanding his own identity

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Partial Transcript: I think the, you know, and this is a huge, you know, stereotype of Appalachia, but I think that it is a largely true one. I think that most Appalachians do not like change.

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about how Appalachians avoid changes in culture and place and lack diversity. Talks about how he identifies himself.

Keywords: Bible; Culture; Home; Identity

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Gay men--Identity.

01:27:29 - Patsy Cline / more on "Funny Girl" experience

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Partial Transcript: But, yeah, it's...do you like Patsy Cline?

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about gay iconography and the appeal of turning unacceptance into success.

Keywords: Barbara Streisand; Beauty; Faded Love; Role models; Success; Unconventional

Subjects: Country music.; Gay culture; Gay men--United States.; Gay youth.

01:34:51 - Sam Hall / decision to leave home

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Partial Transcript: One, a lot of the people that I've interviewed are, ar-are intelligent. I mean they, everybody has different levels of intelligence, but I mean conventionally book smart.

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about gay men who do not leave Appalachia and his decision to leave home.

Keywords: Charleston, W.Va.; College; Intelligence; Moving; Travel; West Virginia

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Homosexuality in the workplace.; Homosexuality--Social aspects.

01:41:46 - Living on the border of Appalachia

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Partial Transcript: And I think it's interesting that, and this is, you know, getting back to what I'm writing in my essay. We're on the front porch of our house right now, mine and Silas's home.

Segment Synopsis: Talks about being in exile from Appalachia and having an attachment to the area he's been rejected from.

Keywords: Ancestry; Attachments; Berea,Ky.; Borders; Home; Rejection; Settling

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.

GPS: Berea, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 37.576944, -84.293611
01:45:43 - The Fairness Ordinance

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Partial Transcript: Let's touch on, 'cause you, you mentioned the Fairness Ordinance. Let's kind of touch on that for a second.

Segment Synopsis: Jason explains Berea's Fairness Ordinance. Talks about history of social justice in Berea.

Keywords: Gender identity; Human rights; Justice; Laws; Leaders

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Berea (Ky.); Berea College; Homosexuality--Law and legislation--United States.

01:51:43 - More on relationship with parents / current relationship

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Partial Transcript: I just don't want to simplify anything, but especially the situation with my parents. I mean, it, it's tragic, of course.

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about why his parents may have reacted the way they did to his coming out. Talks about his relationship with his boyfriend.

Keywords: Companionships; Fathers; Gratitude.; Mothers; Privacy; Relationships; Understanding

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay couples.; Gay men--Family relationships.; Parents of gays.

01:58:29 - Defining family / more on coming out

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Partial Transcript: I sort of thought out loud where do you all go f-for Christmas, but then I think, you know, it's, it's a pretty common, um. Well people sort of toss around this concept that, you know, gays, lesbians, sort of choose their family.

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about who his family is; talks about his parents looking for someone to blame.

Keywords: Childhood; Fathers; Mothers

Subjects: Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay couples; Gays--Family relationships; Parents of gays.

02:05:59 - Current role of religion / Episcopal church

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Partial Transcript: Religion and writing. So, I, I just want to, sort of, complete my religious odyssey, because I think it's significant.

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about what he needs from religion and what drew him to the Episcopal church.

Keywords: Conversion; Faith; Gay priests; Religions; Spiritual needs

Subjects: Episcopal Church; Homosexuality--Religious aspects.

02:12:58 - Writing

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Partial Transcript: And the other thing that I was gonna touch on is my writing. And, I'm slowly learning how to write about this journey and these issues.

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about being able to write about his experiences. Discusses his current writing projects.

Keywords: Commentaries; Essayists; Gay icons; Stories; Writers

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Gay authors; Gay culture; Homosexuality--United States.

02:18:35 - Appalachian youth need gay role models

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Partial Transcript: And it also, might even, it, it inspires others, you know, who may have not heard a story like that. I hate to go back to that whole, kind of, trite saying that, you know, the world needs you to be your most authentic self.

Segment Synopsis: Jason talks about the need for the visibility of gays and lesbians in Appalachia. Talks about the importance of the Queer Appalachia Oral History Project. Interview is concluded.

Keywords: Cultures; Identity; Questioning; Sam Hall

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Appalachians (People); Gay culture.; Role models