Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Steven Johnson, May 21, 2018

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - His childhood school experiences

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Partial Transcript: This is Adriana Sisko and I'm here at the Nunn Center with Steven Johnson.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about the schools he went to as he was growing up, as well as gives some basic background information about himself and his family. He also briefly discusses how he discovered the meaning of the word 'gay' as well as if he knew anyone openly out.

Keywords: Air force bases; Angst; Awareness; Bonnaroo; Books; Brothers; Chorus; Class; Classmates; Clinical social workers; Curriculum; Discussions; Diversity; Engineers; Everything You Should Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) (Book); Football; Football stars; Freshmen year; High schools; Jack T. Farrar Elementary School; Lectures; Middle schools; Openly out; Parents; Partners; Phases; Positive experiences; Prejudice; Psychiatry residents; Psychotherapy; Puberty; Restaurants; Schools; Show choir; Sisters; Small towns; Sports; Students; Teaching; Traumatic; Trouble; University of Kentucky; Vice chair of education; Vice presidents; Wind tunnels; Words

Subjects: African Americans.; Bullying.; Childhood; Coffee County (Tenn.); Education; Gay men.; Sexual orientation.; Teachers; Tullahoma (Tenn.)

00:10:34 - His religion and self discovery

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Partial Transcript: What kind of church did you go to?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about his religion and the church he went to as he was growing up. He also discusses his best friend coming out to him and how his religion played a role in him trying to find his identity as a gay man and trying to find what he would want to do as a profession.

Keywords: Accepting; Army chaplains; Best friends; Books; Business; Christian Church Disciple of Christ; Christianity; Church camps; Drinking; Editing; Encouragement; Existential crisis; Faith; Faith journey; Females; Football; Formals; Fraternity; Friends; Girlfriends; Grandfathers; Harsh doctrines; High schools; Ideas; Journals; Love; Mainline denominations; Majors; Marijuana; Masculine; Ministers; Ministry; Overwhelming; Parties; Pot smoking; Present; Progressive; Self acceptance; Self discovery; Sexual encounters; Sorority girls; Straight; Support; Technical communications; Tennessee Technological University; Uncles; Vanderbilt University; Vocals; Withdrawal; Women; Writing; Youth choirs; Youth directors; Youth program

Subjects: Careers; Coming out (Sexual orientation); Education; Religion; Sexual orientation--Religious aspects.; Sexual orientation.

00:19:10 - His undergraduate degree

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Partial Transcript: Uh, going back for--to college.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses changing majors several times during his undergraduate education as well as how he came to join a fraternity. He also talks about suspecting some of the men in the fraternity of being gay and mentions seeing one of his fraternity brothers at the gay weekend held at Pensacola Beach.

Keywords: Ball caps; Bass; Biology; Business; Choir directors; Choirs; Choral music; Church camps; Classes; Competitive; Computers; Dormitories; Ear training; Editing; Engineering; English; Ensemble choirs; Fraternity brothers; Friends; Gay weekend; Greek life; Groups; Hobbies.; Honor; Interesting; Interests; Music classes; Music culture; Music majors; Music theory; Notes; PE classes; Pensacola Beach; Phi Delta Theta; Physical education classes; Piano lessons; Pieces; Quarters; Rush; Sorority; Technical classes; Twin sisters; Vocals; Voice lessons; Writing

Subjects: Careers; College; Coming out (Sexual orientation); Fraternities; Gay men.; Music.

00:25:14 - His coming out

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Partial Transcript: So, you keep referencing in the closet, out of the closet, so let's get to coming out.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses the process he went through to come out to his family as well as accepting that his homosexuality would affect whether or not he could go to seminary. Ultimately, he decided on a master's of social work, leading him to Lexington, Kentucky, where he met his future husband, Dan. Meeting Dan eventually led to him coming out to his parents and he talks about that experience, as well as the tension between him and his father since then.

Keywords: Accepting; Angry; Applications; Band season; Bands; Bisexual; Books; Boyfriends; Brothers; Calling; Christmas; Christmas Eve; Christmas day; Churches; Clergy; College majors; College of Social Work; Connections; Conversations; Cowboy towns; Dating; Denominations; Dinners; Downtown; Dunbar High School; Explanations; Fate; Fathers; Females; Football; Fortunate; Friends; Gay jokes; Gay restaurants; Generational differences; Graduate schools; Gyms; Happy; Holidays; Horrible; Husbands; Interviews; Issues; Letters; Lexington Theological Seminary; Lures; Masters of Divinity; Masters of Social Work; Mechanical; Members; Ministry; Moment; Mothers; Music directors; Needs; Negative; Numbers; Openly gay; Partners; Phone; Problems; Questions; Races; Reception; Rejection; Relationships; Respect; Respectful; Self acceptance; Seminary; Significant others; Sons; Sunday evenings; Supportive; Tearful; Tense; Territorial; Twin sisters; Uncharted Lives: Passages for Gay Men (Book); Uncomfortable; Withdrew; YMCA; Youth choirs; Youth directors; Youth musicals

Subjects: African American women in higher education; Coming out (Sexual orientation); Education; Families.; Gay men.; Gays--Family relationships.; Lexington (Ky.); Long View (Tex.); Nashville (Tenn.); Parents of gays.; Religion; Sexual orientation.

00:46:59 - Marrying his partner of 20 years

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Partial Transcript: Tell me more about the wedding.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about making the decision to get married to his partner of 20 years, as well as the details of the wedding. He also talks briefly of the reception held at the alumni center at the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: Alumni centers; Artists; Breakfast; Chair of elders; Church background; Construct; Dancing; Dinners; Family; Fraternity brothers; Friends; Mothers; Overkill; Parties; Private ceremony; Rededication; Sisters; University of Kentucky; Weddings

Subjects: Chicago (Ill.); Marriage; Relationships.; Religion; Same-sex marriage

00:49:32 - His work in psychiatry

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned the alumni center and that got me thinking about UK again.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses how he came to find the field of psychiatry as his calling and how he is able to work with the LGBTQ community through the counseling services that he offers. He also briefly talks about a friend who died from contracting AIDS, as well as his time spent working with a support organization for people with AIDS.

Keywords: AIDS/HIV; Addiction; Adults; Alone; Anxiety; Backgrounds; Case load; Cliches; Coming out support group; Commitment; Community Mental Health; Counseling; Courage; Department of psychiatry; Depression; Difficult; Drugs; Eastern Kentucky; Emotional difficulty; Enjoyment; Friends; Graduate; Guidance; Health insurance; Help; Human condition; Human experiences; Humanity; Information; Jobs; Kentuckiana People with AIDS Coalition; LGBTQ; Lexington Men's Chorus; Lives; Low point; Master's degrees; Necessary; Openly gay; Pain pills; Postpone; Problems; Progressive; Psychiatric hospitals; Psychotherapy; Rewarding; Schools; Semesters; Sexuality; Smaller city; Social work; Stealth; Struggles; Support; Support groups; Teaching; Teenagers; Terminal illnesses; Towns; University of Kentucky; Youth directors

Subjects: AIDS (Disease); Coming out (Sexual orientation); Death.; Gay community; Gay men.; Lexington (Ky.); Mental health.; Psychiatry.; Sexual minorities.; Transgender people.

01:01:25 - The AIDS crisis

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Partial Transcript: Two things. Um, this one's looping back to a few minutes ago.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses more in-depth about what it was like to work with AIDS patients at the Kentuckiana People with AIDS Coalition, as well as how the gay community and even himself was affected by the crisis. He also talks about some of the stereotypes and slurs that people were called if someone thought they were gay.

Keywords: AIDS/HIV; Anal sex; Bars; Beer; Bottles; Campus; Colleges; Condoms; Dance; Dances; Dangerous; Edwin Hackney; Effeminate; Factors; Fears; Fraternity; Fun; Glass; High schools; Higher risk; Hysteria; Ideas; Image; Kentuckiana People with AIDS Coalition; Masculine; Music; Officers; Partying; Positive; Practicum; Production; Promotional materials; Reality; Regions; Resources; Sexual experience; Sexually active; Slurs; Small schools; Social work curriculum; Sports; Straight friends; Support groups; Time; Transmission

Subjects: AIDS (Disease); Death.; Gay bars; Gay community; Gay men.; HIV-positive gay men; Huntsville (Ala.); Lexington (Ky.); Stereotypes (Social psychology)

01:11:12 - Pop culture and gay men

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Partial Transcript: What about in popular culture when you were growing up and when you were in college?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses how gay men were portrayed by pop culture as well as the level of acceptance that college provided for people that were more feminine. He also talks about getting "cruisey vibes" from men at the gym.

Keywords: 'Cruisey vibes'; Acceptance; Androgyny; Asymmetrical haircuts; Bath houses; Bisexual men; Colleges; Concerts; Conflicting emotions; Context; Cute; Downtown; Exciting; Experiences; Eye contact; Feminine; Flirting; Fraternity; Functions; Gallery Hop; Gyms; Handsome; Heart rate; Loafers; Locker rooms; Michael Jackson (Artist); Movies; Naughty; Prince (Artist); Private gyms; Ripped jeans; Self expression; Smiles; Socks; Taboo; Tolerance

Subjects: Closeted gays.; Gay community; Gay men.; Marriage; Pop culture.

01:16:30 - A continuous cycle of coming out

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Partial Transcript: So, do you ever find yourself coming out still?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses the concept of constantly having to come out to new people and in what situations he is comfortable with doing so.

Keywords: Ambiguous; Appropriate; Assumptions; Authentic; Books; Comfortable; Disclosure; Discussions; Friends; Husbands; Issues; Jobs; Lady; Lectures; Life long; Mental health; Offensive; Patients; People; Perpetual coming out; Professional situations; Professors; Psychotherapy; Researchers; Sexual abuse; Straight; Teachers; Terms; Therapeutic relationships; Treatment

Subjects: Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay men.; Marriage; Sexual orientation.

01:22:37 - Carrying on his love for music

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Partial Transcript: So, it seems like--jumping topics a bit, it seems like music has been a big part of your life--

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses his love for music and how he uses that love for music to lead a choir that is welcoming to both male and female members that either are LGBTQ or are supporters of the community.

Keywords: Another Note; Audiences; Choirs; Communication; Concerts; Dinners; Dissertations; Encouragement; Ensembles; Feelings; Fellowship; Frustration; Gay men's singing groups; Goals; Inclusion; LGBTQ; LGBTQ non-profit organizations; Language; Lexington Men's Chorus; Meals; Money; Movable Feast; New Song in the Bluegrass; Pride Community Services Organization; Rehearsal; Skills; Straight; Team sports; Vocal music; Voices; Words

Subjects: Communities.; Gay community; Music.; Singing.

01:28:01 - His social circles

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Partial Transcript: I was actually just about to ask about, um, community.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses the kinds of people that he hang outs with and that he likes to keep in his life.

Keywords: Affirming; Facebook; Fraternity; Friends; Husbands; Reconnect; Roommates; Social circles; Social life; Toyota Manufacturing Company; Unusual; Wife; Wives; Woodland Christian Church

Subjects: Artists.; Friendship.; Religion

01:30:53 - Changes in attitudes regarding the LGBTQ community

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Partial Transcript: It seems like you're really, at least to me, it seems like you're very connected with the LGBTQ community, in terms of your work.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses the change that he has noticed throughout the LGBTQ community as well as in Lexington and his hometown. He also talks about places that he feels safe and why he would never move back to his hometown.

Keywords: Acceptance; Adults; Churches; Colleges; Commonwealth; Congregations; Convenience stores; Downtown; Eastern Kentucky; Encouragement; Examples; Fairness ordinates; Fall; Family; Fundamentally conservative; Gas stations; Generations; Graduate students; Grown; High schools; Holidays; Homes; Hometowns; Job positions; LGBTQ community; Lights; Love, Simon (Motion picture); Marriage licenses; Mayors; Military contracts; Models; Nephews; Nieces; Offices; Organizations; Partners; Restaurants; Scary; Sisters; Small towns; Spaces; Spring; Struggles; Students; Summer; Symbolism; Uncomfortable; University of Kentucky; University of Tennessee; Warm; Weird; Work

Subjects: Change.; Coming out (Sexual orientation); Communities.; Gay pride parades; Lexington (Ky.); Sexual minorities.; Talluhoma (Tenn.); Travel.

01:42:30 - His views on the future

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Partial Transcript: Speaking of, um--'cause to an extent that touches on politics.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses his outlook on the future in terms of the current presidential administration and whether or not he thinks America will learn from it.

Keywords: Backlash; Behavior; Center; Compromise; Congress; Disasters; Environment; Feelings; Forward; Grieving; Historical cycles; Hopes; Left; Liberal; Moderate; Polarization; Political climate; Progressive; Psychotherapy; Reactions; Screens; Support; Technology; Values; White, straight male

Subjects: Elections; Future.; Politics and government; Racism; Trump, Donald, 1946-