Interview with Jack L. Coffman, September 10, 2018

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

 

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00:00:00 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: My name is Adriana Sisko and the date is August 10th.

Segment Synopsis: Jack L. Coffman is introduced. He gives a brief overview of his life.

Keywords: 1960s; Gay men; Information technology (IT); Partners; Retired; South Bend (Ind.); University of Kentucky

Subjects: Gay men--Identity.

00:01:37 - Childhood and early schooling

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Partial Transcript: So what city or town were you born in?

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about his childhood in South Bend, Indiana. He talks about attending a parochial school connected to St. Mary's College and the difficulties he experienced there from both the nuns and his classmates. He talks about somehow feeling different from his peers, but says that he was accepted by the African American community. He talks about the role of Catholicism in his life during his childhood and how that changed after the death of his partner of fifty years, Teddy.

Keywords: Acceptance; African Americans; Attendance; Beliefs; Bus fare; Catholic Church; Catholicism; Churches; Dating; Death; Different; Dyslexia; Elementary schools; Grade schools; High schools; Loss; Mass; Notre Dame University; Nuns; Parents; Parochial schools; Partners; Picked last; Punishment; Sports; St. Mary's College; Sundays; Supervision; Teddy

Subjects: Childhood; Discipline of children; Education; Families.; Religion; School discipline; South Bend (Ind.)

00:10:20 - Dating and self-awareness of being a gay man

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned that for a period you dated women, even though obviously at some point you realized you were gay.

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about dating women during his adolescence. He talks about his attraction to men and his awareness of being gay and how it was affected by his religion. He talks about his awareness of LGBTQ people and terminology during his youth.

Keywords: Awareness; Babysitters; Bus drivers; Colleges; Dates; Dating; Different; Emotional turmoil; Expectations; Family; Lesbians; Parents; Partners; Relationships; Sexuality; Social life; Teddy Richardson; Teenagers; Women

Subjects: Childhood; Closeted gays.; Families.; Gay men--Identity.; Gay men--Sexual behavior.; Gay men.; Homosexuality.; Religion; Sexual minorities--Identity.; Sexual minorities.; South Bend (Ind.)

00:17:21 - High school

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Partial Transcript: Um, give me a general sense of high school.

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about his negative experiences in high school.

Keywords: Attention-deficit disorder (ADD); Catholic; Classes; Difficult; Dyslexia; Fights; Grades; Graduation; High schools; Reading; Sports

Subjects: Childhood; Discipline of children; Education; Religion; School discipline; South Bend (Ind.)

00:20:25 - College at Indiana University

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Partial Transcript: And so after you graduated from high school, what was the next step in your life?

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about why he enjoyed his college experience at Indiana University much more than high school. He talks about how he discovered his love for Information Technology (IT). He tells stories about being a rebel in college, including lying about his age on his ID card to buy alcohol and forging signatures for his class registration. He talks about his social life in college and the curfews imposed by the college on women students.

Keywords: 1960s; Acceptance; Age; Bars; Careers; Class registration; Class schedules; Classes; College majors; Curfews; Dates; Dating; Degrees; Dormitories; Dorms; Friendships; Fun; Gay; ID cards; Information technology (IT); Instructors; Men; Rebellion; Roommates; Social life; Women

Subjects: College environment; College students--Alcohol use; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; Indiana University; Universities and colleges.

00:29:33 - Meeting his partner Teddy

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Partial Transcript: And so, what were you doing in your life once you hit twenty?

Segment Synopsis: Coffman tells the story of how he met his partner of fifty years, Teddy, during college at Indiana University in 1966.

Keywords: 1966; Crying; Dormitories; Dorms; Lonely; Meeting; Relationships; Student centers; Student unions; Talking; Teddy Richardson

Subjects: College environment; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; Indiana University; Universities and colleges.

00:34:56 - Relationship with his partner Teddy

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Partial Transcript: And so when you graduated you and Teddy are still together at this point?

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about being in a motorcycle accident during college. He talks about the labels he and Teddy used for their relationship since it began in 1966, when gay relationships were not accepted in society. He talks about moving into an apartment with Teddy during college and how they kept in touch during the one summer they spent apart.

Keywords: 'Gay lovers'; Apartments; Audio tapes; Careful; Cautious; Codes; Couples; Doctors; Friends; Graduation; Hiding; Labels; Motorcycle accidents; Relationships; Singing; Songs; Surgery; Teddy Richardson; Visiting

Subjects: Closeted gays.; College environment; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; Gay couples.; Gay men--Identity.; Gay men.; Homosexuality.; Indiana University; Sexual minorities--Identity.; Sexual minorities.; Universities and colleges.

00:44:44 - Moving to Lexington, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Walk me through what happens in your life once you're moved in together and you're--also that period...

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about visiting Lexington when Teddy came for a job interview at Lexington Clinic in 1968. He talks about Teddy's career and accomplishments as an optometrist. He talks about being hired as a systems engineer at National Cash Register.

Keywords: Apartments; Computers; Contact lenses; December 8, 1968; Doctors; Information technology (IT); Job interviews; Jobs; Lexington Clinic; Moving in; Names; National Cash Register; National news; Optometrists; Roads; Systems engineers; Teddy Richardson; University of Kentucky

Subjects: Employment--Kentucky; Gay couples.; Gay men.; Homosexuality.; Lexington (Ky.).; Physicians--Kentucky; Sexual minorities.

00:50:44 - Major events around 1969

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Partial Transcript: I want to, I want to hear more about that.

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about issues of gender in the IT field in the 1960s. He tells a story about being unaware of issues relating to segregation in Kentucky until an African American coworker was not allowed to join them for lunch at a certain restaurant. He talks about the riots at the University of Kentucky, which were spurred by the Vietnam War and the Kent State shooting, and discusses his feelings on the Vietnam War. He mentions the Stonewall riots, Woodstock, and the moon landing.

Keywords: Awareness; Computers; Different; Eastern Kentucky University; Fires; Good Samaritan Hospital; Graduating class; High schools; Hiring; Indiana University; Jobs; Moon landings; News; North; Riots; Stonewall riots; Technology; University of Kentucky; Women; Woodstock

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Danville (Ky.); Kent State Shootings, Kent, Ohio, 1970; Lexington (Ky.).; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Public opinion

00:59:15 - Social life and gay scene in Lexington

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Partial Transcript: And so when you started your life here in Lexington in '69 and in the years following, did you and Teddy make, um--

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about his social life and friends in Lexington during the 1960s and 1970s. He describes the gay bar, The Bar, during his early days in Lexington. He talks about how drag queens and gay people could be arrested at this time.

Keywords: Arrested; Burnt down; Conservative; Dancing; Drag queens; Drag shows; Fires; Friends; Gay bars; Gilded Cage; Going out; Hiding; Reopened; Social life; The Bar; The Living Room

Subjects: Closeted gays.; Gay couples.; Gay men--Identity.; Gay men--Legal status, laws, etc.; Gay men.; Homosexuality--Law and legislation.; Homosexuality.; Lexington (Ky.).; Sexual minorities--Identity.; Sexual minorities.

01:05:26 - Teddy's illness

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Partial Transcript: Teddy got sick with cancer nine and a half years before he passed away.

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about the difficulty for himself and his partner Teddy during Teddy's nine year battle with lung cancer.

Keywords: 50 years; Caregivers; Fifty years; Grocery stores; Husbands; Illnesses; Lung cancer; Partners; Relationships; Surgery; Teddy Richardson

Subjects: Care of the sick.; Gay couples.; Health.; Lungs--Cancer.

01:07:59 - Marriage ceremony

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned that you all were married.

Segment Synopsis: Coffman describes his marriage ceremony to Teddy in Massachusetts in 2008.

Keywords: Ceremonies; Friends; Marriage license; Married; Massachusetts; Straight people; Trustees

Subjects: Gay couples.; Gay men--Identity.; Gay men--Legal status, laws, etc.; Gay men.; Homosexuality--Law and legislation.; Homosexuality.; Marriage; Same-sex marriage; Sexual minorities--Identity.; Sexual minorities.

01:10:40 - Teddy being outed as gay

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Partial Transcript: And so I have a question that's--it's somewhat backtracking but it's also--

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about how his partner Teddy had to hide being gay due to being a doctor. He talks about when Teddy was nominated to be the president of a state association for physicians but was outed as gay and asked to step down. He talks about how he and Teddy danced together at the next association event since they had already been outed anyway. He talks about the reactions to their dancing.

Keywords: 1980s; Dancing; Doctors; Events; Hiding; Optometrists; Outing; Presidents; Public; Reactions; Sound Bar; State associations; State representatives; Stepping down; Technical advisors; Teddy Richardson

Subjects: Closeted gays.; Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay couples.; Gay men--Identity.; Gay men.; Homosexuality.; Lexington (Ky.).; Physicians--Kentucky; Sexual minorities--Identity.; Sexual minorities.

01:16:18 - Career at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Were you open in other ways following your public dancing?

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about his career in IT at UK. He talks about coming out at work, his relationships with bosses and coworkers, and why he eventually retired from UK after over twenty years.

Keywords: 1987-2013; Awareness; Bosses; Careers; Changes; Department of Finance; Drinking; Early; Events; Frankfort (Ky.); Friends; Hiding; Hours; Information technology (IT); Jobs; Lying; Open; Out; Retirement; Timesheets; Vice presidents

Subjects: Closeted gays.; Coming out (Sexual orientation); Employment--Kentucky; Gay men--Identity.; Gay men.; Homosexuality.; Lexington (Ky.).; Sexual minorities.; University of Kentucky

01:24:47 - Changes in Lexington / Hobbies and interests

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Partial Transcript: How about Lexington in general?

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about how Lexington has changed from a small country town in the 1960s. He talks about how everything was closed on Sundays in those days. He talks about his interest in technology which led to him owning the first Betamax player and lazer disc player in Lexington. He talks about the attitudes toward LGBTQ people in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida which led to he and Teddy owning a condominium there. He talks about their interest in live theater and movies.

Keywords: 1960s; 1982; Atlanta (Ga.); Betamax players; Blue laws; Broadway Opera House; Changes; Closing time; Condominiums; Country towns; Early adopters; Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.); Interests; LaserDisc players; Movies; New York; Older people; Plays; Satellite dishes; Season ticket holders; Size; Snowbirds; Sundays; Technology; Television channels; Theater; bars

Subjects: Fort Lauderdale (Fla.); Gay couples.; Gay men.; Hobbies.; Homosexuality.; Lexington (Ky.).; Sexual minorities.

01:36:18 - Changes in public acceptance of LGBTQ people

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Partial Transcript: I have another big question.

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about how public opinions regarding LGBTQ people have changed since the 1960s when people could be arrested for merely being suspected of being gay. He describes the risks of being gay during college at Indiana University. He talks about the court case in Kentucky which led to the law against homosexuality being removed from the books.

Keywords: "Runners"; 1964; 1990s; Accepting; Afraid; Arrested; Arrests; Bloomington (Ind.); Careers; Changes; Court cases; Ernesto Scorsone; Expelled; Fort Lauderdale (Fla.); Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.); Gay bars; Harassment; Indiana University; Indianapolis (Ind.); Jobs; Kentucky; Kentucky Theater; Police; Public opinions; Repercussions; Risks; Safe spaces; Student orientation; Taunting; Teddy Richardson

Subjects: Closeted gays.; Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay couples.; Gay men--Identity.; Gay men--Legal status, laws, etc.; Gay men.; Gays--Violence against; Homosexuality--Law and legislation.; Homosexuality.; Lexington (Ky.).; Sexual minorities--Identity.; Sexual minorities.

01:44:52 - Family's awareness of him being a gay man

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Partial Transcript: Oh, and I just thought of a question I wanted to ask earlier, actually.

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about his family's awareness of him being gay without ever explicitly telling them. He talks about the acceptance he and Teddy received from his brother's family. He talks about how his sister found out he was gay and told his mother.

Keywords: Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); Awareness; Babysitting; Brothers; Children; Family; Gay bars; Human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV); Misconceptions; Mothers; Naive; Parents; Seafood; Sisters; Teddy Richardson

Subjects: Closeted gays.; Coming out (Sexual orientation); Families.; Gay couples.; Gay men--Family relationships--United States.; Gay men--Identity.; Gay men.; Gays--Family relationships.; Homosexuality.; Sexual minorities' families.; Sexual minorities--Identity.; Sexual minorities.

01:49:27 - AIDS crisis

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Partial Transcript: Tell me more about that period of the AIDS crisis.

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about losing many friends during the AIDS crisis and how it was made worse by Ronald Reagan's actions.

Keywords: Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); Death; Florida; Friends; Human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV); Loss; News; Pat Robertson; Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP); Research; Ronald Reagan

Subjects: AIDS (Disease); Gay couples.; Gay men.; HIV infections; HIV-positive gay men; Sexual minorities.

01:53:23 - Teddy becoming an ordained Baptist minister

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Partial Transcript: There's another thing I need to tell you.

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about Teddy earning a divinity degree and becoming ordained in the Baptist Church. He talks about why Teddy left his job at the Lexington Clinic in 1980. He talks about Teddy's ministry to prisoners at Blackburn Correctional Facility.

Keywords: 1980; Baptist Church; Baptists; Blackburn Correctional Facility; Catholic Church; Churches; Competition; Cults; Divinity degrees; Doctors; Lexington Clinic; Loss; Ministry; Morehead (Ky.); Ordained ministers; Prisoners; Private practice; Studying; Teddy Richardson

Subjects: Gay couples.; Gay men.; Lexington (Ky.).; Physicians--Kentucky; Religion; Sexual minorities.

01:57:55 - Lessons his parents instilled in him

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Partial Transcript: Earlier you mentioned that there was another story you wanted to tell about--

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about the current molestation scandals in the Catholic Church and how his parents taught him that he did not have to do anything he did not want to. He talks about their other lessons regarding the importance of attending college and not doing drugs. He talks about how these lessons affect him today.

Keywords: Colleges; Drug use; Drugs; Family; Graduation; Lessons; Mental blocks; Molestation; Parents; Prescription drugs; Prescriptions; Priests; Teaching

Subjects: Catholic Church; Catholicism; Childhood; Drug abuse; Education; Families.; Religion

02:02:35 - Trump administration

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Partial Transcript: Um, I have about two more questions--

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about his feelings on the current political administration.

Keywords: Checks and balances; Congress; Dictators; Donald Trump; North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); Political administrations; Presidents; Trade negotiations

Subjects: Politicians; Politics and government

02:04:16 - Current social life

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Partial Transcript: And my next question is who do you surround yourself with now in terms of your social circles, in terms of your friends?

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks about his current social life and friendships. He talks about meeting new people at the Pride Center.

Keywords: Coworkers; Dinners; Friends; Lesbians; Pitch in meals; Pride Community Services Organization; Senior nights; Social circles; Social life; Straight people; Transgender people; Women

Subjects: Friendship.; Gay men--Identity.; Gay men.; Homosexuality.; Interpersonal relations; Lexington (Ky.).; Sexual minorities--Identity.; Sexual minorities.

02:10:47 - Going on dates

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Partial Transcript: Um, I'm coming up on my last question but I wanted to give you the chance in case there are any stories going around in your head...

Segment Synopsis: Coffman describes some of the dates he has been on since the death of his partner Teddy and how he is navigating those relationships.

Keywords: Age differences; Break ups; Friends; Hookups; Joe Bologna's; Loss; Lunches; Relationships; Teddy Richardson; Young people

Subjects: Dates (Social engagements); Dating (Social customs); Gay men--Identity.; Gay men.; Homosexuality.; Interpersonal relations; Lexington (Ky.).; Sexual minorities--Identity.; Sexual minorities.

02:19:56 - Current friendships and the grieving process

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Partial Transcript: You had another last question?

Segment Synopsis: Coffman talks more about his current friendships, his lack of interest in movies since losing Teddy, and how his friends have been helping him through the grieving process. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Bonds; Break ups; Costa Rica; Depression; Dinners; Facebook; Friends; Grandsons; Grieving; Happiness; Hobbies; Hope; Loss; Mentors; Movies; Partners; Pride Week; Relationships; Roles; Self; Teddy Richardson; Wives; Women

Subjects: Friendship.; Gay men.; Homosexuality.; Interpersonal relations; Lexington (Ky.).; Sexual minorities.