Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Ross Ewing, September 13, 2018

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


Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:00 - Introduction

Play segment

Partial Transcript: My name is Adriana Sisko and the date is September 13th.

Segment Synopsis: Ross Ewing introduces himself.

Subjects: Family.; Gay men.; Law.; Same sex-marriage.; University of Kentucky

00:00:35 - Childhood in Owensboro, Kentucky / Middle school and realizing his attraction to other men

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Um, so let's start early on.

Segment Synopsis: Ewing shares his upbringing in Owensboro, Kentucky. He describes his early childhood as well as his elementary school experience in positive terms. He also talks about how the authority figures at the Catholic school he attended as a young teenager were always supportive, appropriate, and kind toward him. However, Ewing also talks about a shift that took place in his life beginning during middle school, when he realized he was interested in other boys in a way that he didn't experience toward girls. Ewing details the inner turmoil that this caused him.

Keywords: Boyfriends; Childhood; Dating; Elementary schools; Fathers; Gay adolescents; Girlfriends; Growing up; Happiness; Love; Mothers; Siblings; Sisters

Subjects: Catholic schools.; Catholicism; Gay youth; Owensboro (Ky.); Puberty.; Questioning (Sexual orientation); Religion.; Sexual minority youth

00:09:20 - High school experience

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And let's move to high school.

Segment Synopsis: Ewing summarizes his high school experience. He talks about switching from Catholic school to public school, being in love with his heterosexual best friend, and the presence of other gay youth at his public school who were, at least not initially, out. Ewing also discusses his concept, at the time, of his budding sexuality and how other children who called him gay were likely aware of his sexuality before he was.

Keywords: Derogatory slurs; Derogatory words; Emotional connection; Friendships; High schools; Love; Mothers; Romance; School bands; Slurs; Teenagers; Unrequited love

Subjects: Closeted; Closeted gays.; Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay high school students; Gay youth; Sexual minority youth

00:13:19 - Lack of knowing other LGBTQ people during childhood / Embracing the word 'gay' / First coming out experiences

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And growing up, who was the--was there anyone you knew of that identified or was known as being gay?

Segment Synopsis: Outside of movies, Ewing says, he did not know of anybody who identified as or was known for actually being LGBTQ during his childhood. He also discusses an eye-opening realization regarding his sexuality that he experienced through an episode of the "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" television series.

Keywords: Boyfriends; Ellen DeGeneres; Friendships; Girlfriends; Heaven; Love; Popularity; Romance; Star Trek Deep Space Nine

Subjects: Catholicism; Gay high school students; Lesbians; Religion.; Star trek.

00:17:18 - Experience coming out to friends and family

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And was there any point, and actually I think you mentioned this, was there any point during middle school or high school where you told anyone about these thoughts and feelings?

Segment Synopsis: Ewing discusses the extent to which he divulged his sexual identity to friends and family during his late teenage years. Ewing details the range of reactions he received from friends. He also talks about how his parents reacted when they discovered his sexuality.

Keywords: Acceptance; Being outed; Fathers; Friendships; High schools; Internet; Mothers; Outing; Sons; Teenagers

Subjects: Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay high school students; Gay youth

00:20:49 - Graduating from high school / Transition into college and experience being out at the University of Kentucky

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So, when you graduated high school, how did you feel about graduating high school?

Segment Synopsis: Ewing talks about his feelings when he graduated from high school and his transition from high school to college. Ewing shares why he chose to attend the University of Kentucky and his first semester experience there. Ewing talks about meeting other LGBTQ people at the University of Kentucky, particularly once he joined the undergraduate LGBTQ group, then called UK Lambda. Ewing discusses meeting other out gay people for the first time and the fear and anxiety he initially experienced being more broadly out himself. Ewing remarks that the murder of Matthew Shepherd weighed on himself and other LGBTQ-identified people.

Keywords: Academics; Acceptance; Anxiety; College work; Community; Fear; Friendships; Governor's Scholars; Graduating; High schools; Life changes; Matthew Shepherd; Outness; Transitions; UK Lambda

Subjects: Gay men.; Homophobia; Sexual minority college students; Undergraduate students; University of Kentucky

00:27:27 - Majors during undergrad and passion for music

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Um, what were your majors in undergrad?

Segment Synopsis: Ewing shares his academic interests during undergrad. He also shares his passion for music, which originated in his childhood. Ewing describes music as an important emotional outlet.

Keywords: Academics; Majors; Minors; Scholarships

Subjects: Sexual minority college students; Undergraduate students; University of Kentucky

00:29:16 - The importance of college friendships in coming out and self-acceptance

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Walk me through the rest of college.

Segment Synopsis: Ewing discusses how important the friends he met during college were in his coming out process. He details how the support of his friends was helpful in his journey toward self-acceptance. Ewing says that his friends' acceptance made him feel more free to be out and open regarding his sexual identity and gay topics more generally. Ewing describes how he wasn't able to fully deal with his coming out internally at the time, so he externalized it as a political venture.

Keywords: Acceptance; Activism; Being out; Coming out day; Friendships; Greek mythology; LGBT studies; LGBTQ studies; Outness; UK Lambda; Undergraduate activism; Undergraduate thesis

Subjects: Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay men.; Sexual minority college students; Undergraduate students; University of Kentucky

00:34:52 - Experiences dating during college / Last year of college

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And before we get to your last year in undergrad, um, I want to ask, how was dating going at this point in your life?

Segment Synopsis: Ewing discusses his dating life during the latter years of undergrad. He discusses how, by this point in time, he was able to imagine a future for himself in which a happy same-sex relationship was possible. Ewing also shares about a difficult period in his life when a man he had dated and loved disclosed his HIV positive status, and one member of UK Lambda committed suicide and another attempted suicide twice. Ewing talks about how he relied on alcohol during this difficult period, and how his drinking impacted his academic performance and general happiness.

Keywords: Activism; Aids Volunteers, Inc.; Alcoholics in recovery; Dates; Dating; Depression; Drinking; Emotional energy; Emotions; LGBTQ activism; Pain; Romance; UK Lambda

Subjects: AIDS (Disease); AIDS activists; Alcoholics--Rehabilitation.; Alcoholics.; Alcoholism.; Gay men.; Homophobia.; Sexual minority college students; Suicide.; Undergraduate students; University of Kentucky

00:41:02 - Law school / LGBTQ activism

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Why did you choose law school? Why did you choose to apply to law schools?

Segment Synopsis: Ewing talks about his decision to enroll in law school at the University of Kentucky. He also discusses his increasing commitment to LGBTQ activism during this time. Ewing was a board member of the Fairness Campaign and helped to found UK OUTlaw, an LGBTQ group for law students. He also wrote letters to the University of Kentucky administration that eventually resulted in the committee that created the OUTsource, a student LGBTQ center. During this period, Ewing connected strongly with the Episcopal Church and joined a church board.

Keywords: LGBT jobs; LGBTQ jobs; The OUTsource; Undergraduate activism; University of Kentucky College of Law

Subjects: Episcopal Church.; Gay men.; Gays--Employment--Law and legislation; Law schools.; Lawyers.; Religion.; Sexual minority college students; Suicide.; University of Kentucky

00:44:41 - Meeting his now-husband and introducing him to his parents

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So you mentioned that you and your now-husband met through Fairness somehow?

Segment Synopsis: Ewing talks about meeting his now husband, David, through his involvement with the Fairness Campaign. He also discusses the importance of a model of a happy, monogamous same-sex relationship for the first time. Ewing tells the story of his parents meeting his future husband, which Ewing now terms his third and final coming out.

Keywords: "Professionally gay"; Acceptance; Dating; Fairness Campaign; Husbands; LGBT activism; LGBTQ activism; Love; Parents; Partners; Student representative

Subjects: Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay men.; LGBTQ business enterprises

00:48:57 - Seeking a job in law / Working in family law / Opening his own law firm

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So, you finish law school up. What happens next in your life? Like, what's sort of the next step that happens?

Segment Synopsis: Ewing describes his job search toward the end of law school, and how he felt concerned that he may be discounted for jobs on the basis of his resume, which was laden with various LGBTQ-related legal efforts and activism. Larger corporate law firms did not demonstrate an interest in hiring him at that time, Ewing recalls. Ewing talks about the first job offer he accepted as a law clerk for Judge Jo Ann Wise, who worked in family law. Ewing reflects positively on this experience and remarks that he has worked in family law ever since. Ewing briefly summarizes the rest of his job history after working with Judge Wise. Additionally, Ewing talks about his experience working for one particular unnamed law firm in which he had a bad experience as a result of judgment of his sexual identity. Ewing discusses how, at the time of this interview, he finally works at his own law firm as a family law attorney. He shares his most rewarding experiences working for himself thus far.

Keywords: Accusations; Clients; Discrimination; Employment; Job experience; Judges; LGBT activism; LGBTQ activism; Law clerks; Law employment

Subjects: Family law; Gay men--Relations with heterosexuals; Gay men.; Gays--Employment--Law and legislation; Homophobia.; LGBTQ-related legislation; Law firms.; Lesbian adoption

00:55:28 - Marriage to his husband

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And, when did you and your husband get married?

Segment Synopsis: Ewing talks about marrying his husband. During 2009, Ewing says, he and his husband participated in a commitment ceremony at an Episcopal church. Years later, Ewing and his husband became legally married in a New York City church. Ewing describes his family's reception of their marriage.

Keywords: Acceptance; Affirmation; Churches; Commitment ceremony; Community; Episcopal Church; Faith traditions; Family; Husbands; Integrity USA; Support

Subjects: Gay men.; Marriage.; Same sex-marriage.

00:58:17 - Current social circles / Changes in the LGBTQ community over the years

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I'm gonna move into a couple more big picture--

Segment Synopsis: Ewing describes his social circles. He also discusses how he thinks the LGBTQ community has changed over the years. Ewing emphasizes the importance of allyship to the community, and the allies that have been particularly important to himself and Kentucky more generally. He elaborates on the cost that those early allies paid in terms of employment and reputation.

Keywords: Alcoholics in recovery; Allies; Allyship; Allyship politics; Corporations; Derogatory slurs; False allies; Friends; Friendships; Gay slurs; LGBT slurs; LGBTQ slurs; LGBTQ-related legislation; Money; Social circles

Subjects: Alcoholics--Rehabilitation.; Alcoholics.; Alcoholism.; Gay men.; Politicians.

01:04:28 - Current presidential administration / How Lexington, Kentucky has changed

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Um, what do you think of, or how do you feel, existing under the current presidential administration?

Segment Synopsis: Ewing shares his thoughts and feelings regarding the Trump administration. He again emphasizes the importance of allyship, and also discusses how he does not believe that social and political progress is always linear. Ewing also shares his thoughts about Lexington, Kentucky and how he feels the city has changed over the years.

Keywords: Allies; Allyship; Allyship politics; Changes; Donald Trump; LGBTQ-related legislation; Linear progress; National politics; Nonlinear progress; Ordinances; Progress; State politics; Tammy Baldwin

Subjects: Domestic partner benefits; Gay men.; Gays--Legal status, laws, etc.--United States.; Gays--United States--Social conditions.; Lexington (Ky.); Louisville (Ky.); Presidents.; State politics and government; Transgender people--Legal status, laws, etc.

01:08:38 - What gives him hope for the future

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So, I think my last question is, um, what are some things that give you hope for the future?

Segment Synopsis: Ewing explains that the number of out LGBTQ people gives him hope for the future. He hopes that so many people being out will give hope to closeted or questioning children.

Keywords: Acceptance; Anxiety; Being out; Critical mass; Future; Hope; LGBT community; LGBTQ community; Looking forward; Outness

Subjects: Closeted; Coming out (Sexual orientation); Gay men.; Role models.