"He told me via text. Via text message. All via text. It was a little cheap. But then again I guess...I guess it was like Anderson Cooper, 'I'm gay, now back to the news.'"
Look what I found when I was cleaning the project closet! Be sure to check back often for new archival items! I hope that these items will not only share the stories in a deeper way, but also give you an inside look at how Cleaning Closets comes together.
New Archival Items
Listen to this episode of Hoomans, where Jonathan Mayo is interviewed: https://www.hoomans.org/podcast/jonathan-mayo/
This is a story dedicated to my inspiring father. I launch it here on the Cleaning Closets website on his birthday weekend. Daddy, I love you. *Warning: explicit language
International Mr. Leather 2014
A weekend full of integration!
In this audio clip, you'll hear one of my favorite anecdotes from the first interview for the film documentary.
In this letter from my wonderful father, you'll hear a our story from his side of the closet door.
I used to be so anti-gay for many years. Even to the point that I would make fun of gay shows. Even to the point of saying the words like fag, queer and so on, not knowing how much I was hurting you until I found out that you were gay. I am truly sorry for that. I was anti-gay even up to a few years ago when I turned all that around going to gay bars with you and your boyfriend in Chicago, and accepting all gays as loving human beings. I did not know for the longest time how much I was hurting you and how difficult life for you must have been in those early years with a father like me. I realize what an arrogant fool I was, but know through all my blindness I always truly loved you and was and still am very proud to call you my son
The Order of Things
After setting an interview time and location of the storyteller's choice, I will then conduct the interview. I will video and/or audio record it so that I can look back and transcribe the dialogue. According to the Olympia chapter of PFLAG, there are 5 stages to the coming out process, one of which is "pre-coming out." The following blurb is a pre-coming out story from one of the interviews conducted:
Audio Recording @ 3min:30sec
There was a kid in school, this was in grade school, he was I guess what you would consider in the world as effeminate. And we actually played house when he was over at our house. I'll never forget it. He made me a dinner and had me sit. He made me be the dad.
And then after he left, my dad was like, "ummm, who was that guy?" And he barely talked to me, as far as I remembered, "who was that guy?"
"Oh that's, that's Mike."
And he was like "Oh." And long story short he says, "You're not--I don't think you should see him anymore."
And so there was something little, little things like that. The word for gay is "Bakla" (in Tagalog). Bakla is derogatory--"you're a homo," same kind of thing. That's gay, you know, it's all, it's a bully thing, in school, you know words can hurt more than...You know you store that up. Yeah. Bakla, depending on the context it could be good, it could be bad. You could own it or not. But obviously it's usually a bad thing.
This sound bite is compiled from two separate interviews. The clips are raw with no transitions, since they are examples from the project archives. First you'll hear a mother's perspective of her son's coming out process and then you'll hear the son's side. The only time you'll hear my voice is when I react to their stories. The son is a very good friend of mine, so you'll hear both him and his mother refer to me being there during his coming out process.
After I transcribe an interview, I will create a Storyteller Profile that breaks down the transcription to a quick reference to the interview. Below you'll find my Storyteller Profile.
Storyteller Name: Jonathan Mayo
Background info of Storyteller: 28y/o, born in WV where his mother is from, grew up in KY, father is from England,
Who came out in the story? Jonathan came out as a gay male
Relation to the outed individual? Is the outed individual.
Coming out MOMENT(s):
- Came out to sister while back from college. Driving in car, and nonchalantly talked about a guy he thought was cute. Sister supported him.
- Came out to mother on the phone while standing in the dorm room freshman year of college. She didn’t even have to ask b/c he knew what she wanted to say.
- The next summer he came out to his father via letter that he stuck under his pillow to make sure he got it. Then Jonathan took a road trip to the outer banks to visit friends working summer stock theatre. His dad called him and he was standing in middle of cabin room.
- Came out nonchalantly to friend online…told her she had another thing to add to her list of diversity
Immediate Reactions: Mother told him she loved him. Mother blamed herself but never told Jonathan until later. Father was sad and hurt by letter, but never told Jonathan until sometime later. Father said he may not agree with it or understand it, but he loves him still.
- Now the family communicates better, and they all love Jonathan’s partner of 7yrs. Made it easier for sister to eventually come out as Bi-sexual, then Lesbian.
- While watching Ellen Degeneres’s sitcom & eating dinner, dad called her Ellen Degenerate b/c she had just come out publicly. Yet father had always taught kids to be open-minded and treat people equally.
- Scared to walk down hallway, and so finally friends told guidance counselor, 7th grade
- Mother had told his Granny for him, and he never gave it second thought. While back at college, his bf surprise visited him when he was headed to see his dying grandfather (Grumps). So he took black bf to visit with him w/o warning Granny first. She was polite, but later told his mother that she doesn’t want the bf at her house.
Connections to themes
(Freedom/Liberation vs. Hardship/Oppression; Common ground/Links/Connection):
- Weight lifted off shoulders once he admitted it out loud to himself…then even more so when he said it out loud to family and friend.
- Was teased as child…first called girl, then gay-wad, then fag…scared to walk down hallway
Connections to other stories:
- Came out to sister first.
- Mothers blamed self.
- Parents don’t understand/agree with it, but still love him.
- Easy to come out online
Quotes & Transcriptions:
“nobody even discussed the topic of homosexuality in my small home town, and IF they did, it was always with a negative connotation”
After I've collected several interviews and gone through them dozens of times, I start to outline a script. Below you'll find the opening scene of the draft that was used in the staged reading at UIC. Feel free to use it for your own performance--be sure to send pictures or video if you do, so we can post it on the Cleaning Closets website. Remember that this was a first draft! Finished scripts will be available for purchase in the future. If you can't wait that long, you can always hire the creator Jonathan Mayo to develop a Cleaning Closets event that is unique to your school, organization, or company.
Scene 1: An Invitation
RICK, MANDY, BRAD, MAX
(Rick and Mandy stand and wave to the audience like they are in a couple’s portrait.)
Rick: She’s Mandy.
Mandy: And he’s Rick.
Rick: And we’re married and we have three sons and (together) one of them is gay.
MANDY: (together) One of them is gay. And at first, when you learn that, you feel like it shows, like people can tell just by looking at you.
Rick: Like everyone can see that (together) we’ve got a gay son.
Mandy: (together) we’ve got a gay son.
Mandy: But what I think people don’t realize is it’s not just about your child coming out of the closet, they’re really inviting you in. You have this new information but you don’t know exactly what you’re supposed to do with it.
RICK: That’s how we felt. I mean all families are different and where we come from, in our white, middle class,
MANDY: Right, and for our generation, we’re both in our sixties
RICK: we just acted based on what we knew at the time. This is our son, Max. (Max appears, waves.) A few years back we all went out to Providence Island.
MANDY: No, Provincetown.
RICK: Providence, Massachusetts.
MANDY: No, Provincetown.
RICK: Yes, Provincetown.
MANDY: And honey, this was BEFORE he told us. We went to Provincetown and he introduced us to a friend.
RICK: Who just happened to be on the island but who wasn’t staying with us. But somehow, every time we went out, this friend was magically there.
RICK: It was…
(Brad appears and waves)
MANDY: (together) Brad
RICK: (together) Brad
MANDY: And that was before he told us.
RICK: Was that before he told us?
RICK: OK, I’ll accept that. He gave us the fateful phone call; we had just gotten back from St. Louis.
MANDY: We had literally just pulled in the driveway, the back door was open, the car doors were open, the dog was running around and the phone was ringing and it’s Max—
Sound of car door and dog barking in background.
MAX: Oh good you’re home.
MANDY: Yup, we just got in.
MAX: Well is Dad there?
MANDY: Yes, Dad is here.
MAX: OK because I’ve got something to tell you, it won’t make any sense but I’ve got to tell you.
RICK: Did we both listen at the same time?
MANDY: I think so. You got on the extension.
RICK: This was an era when you didn’t have cell phones and we were both on a phone extension.
MANDY: So you can see how long ago that was.
RICK: He didn’t beat around the bush on it.
MAX: I wanted to tell you this for a long time, and I didn’t know how ta tell you, and I wasn’t sure how you would react.
MANDY: (Rick & Mandy look at each other) So, we just sat down on the sofa,
(Brad crosses, stands next to Max)
RICK: and he said,
MAX: I’m gay.
MANDY: And we said:
MANDY & RICK: OK, you’re gay.
MANDY: He invited us in.
RICK: Just like that. And we send out a Christmas pitchure letter every year and I said, “well why don’t we say it in the Christmas letter?”
Everyone moves into “family portrait”
RICK: We more or less said our son told us that he is gay and we’re supporting him and…
MANDY: Well, we weren’t that, we weren’t that…
RICK: So we pussyfooted around?
MANDY: Yeah, we pussyfooted around a bit. But eventually what we did was include a picture of our son Max and (together) Brad (Max and Brad pose together)
RICK: Brad. His significant other.
MANDY: That’s what we did. And if people didn’t figure it out then, well, oh my gosh, I don’t know.
RICK: Yeah. I’m glad Brad’s name wasn’t Pat. (they laugh)
MANDY: Makes it easier.
Then I'll find a location for the performance and collaborate with all kinds of professionals and artists to get it in front of an audience. Below you'll find a rehearsal clip from the performance at Northwestern University on November 13, 2013.
Above you'll find a clip from the staged reading at UIC. It corresponds with the script above. If you'd like to see the full staged reading, check it out on the Cleaning Closets YouTube channel. You'll also find the talkback at the end of the full video. It is important to allow time for discussion when doing a Cleaning Closets event. This particular talkback was focused more on script feedback while the panel discussion that followed the event at Northwestern University broke down the issues surrounding the coming out process.