MC Hosts “Don’t Ask, Do Tell” by SpeakeasyDC

By: Natalia Pila Staff Writer

Dan Sullivan of SpeakeasyDC -- Photo: Katie Guerrero

On September 22, 2011, The Paul Peck Humanities Institute, along with the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center, hosted SpeakeasyDC’s “Don’t Ask, Do Tell: True Stories from the LGBTQ Community” in the Cultural Arts Center Building at the Takoma Park/ Silver Spring campus. In “Don’t Ask, Do Tell”, five individuals shared their stories of coming out.

The first actor was John Kevin Boggs. Boggs, who began by saying that he, “Ended up being in charge of [this project] since [he’s] the resident homosexual at SpeakeasyDC.” After some hearty laughs from the audience, Boggs continued, “See what I did there? I just came out to you.” The first time he had to come out was an enlightening experience. At his hometown in Tennessee, Boggs casually mentioned that he got tickets to a football game. All the men around him were in awe, especially “Alpha Male Rick,” a tall, muscular man.

One of the men asked how he got the tickets. He slowly responded by saying, “My boyfriend is taking me as a birthday present.” To Boggs’ relief, Rick patted him and said, “Well, that’s really nice of your boyfriend! I’d suck dick for seasonal tickets, too!” Boggs ended his section by saying that coming out once did not mean that was the end of it; people from the LGBTQ community always have to come out.

The next actor was J.R. Russ. A former Montgomery College student, Russ went to an all-male high school, and was the second person in his high school to come out as someone not heterosexual – the first person in his school to do so had transferred due to bullying.

Russ had a somewhat better experience. When he came out to his best friend, at the time, instead of receiving an opposing view, she came out to him as bisexual. His parents, however, were not so receptive. Russ’ parents were both religious, and his mother was from the Philippines (where homosexuality is often looked down upon). When he told them of his orientation, there were “threats to be kicked out, being moved to public school, or even military school,” said Russ.

At one point, his mother made a threat to move back to the Philippines just to adopt children from there. Shortly after his confession, Russ was asked to see the pastor of their church. Afraid, Russ went to go see the pastor on his mother’s wish. To his surprise, the pastor was more accepting than his parents. The pastor said, “Human sexuality is a gift from God,” and he admitted that Russ’s parents had to learn to be more accepting. Russ’ section ended with his senior prom.

By this time, there was no opposition to his date, his boyfriend Jake. Jake was afraid of slowdancing with Russ and tried to avoid doing it for as long as possible. But on the last song for slow-dancing, Russ plucked up the courage to ask Jake to dance. “He got up and the next thing I knew, I was just a guy dancing at prom with my date,” said Russ.

Natalie E. Illum began her part of the show by casually asking, “Did you know that the Indigo Girls were gay?” This opening line was enough to let the audience know that her section would be heavily influenced with music. And it was, the story of her lost bag with the ticket stubs to her “gay bands” such as “Tegan and Sara” was enough to make anyone with a connection to music understand her pain.

The story of her girlfriend-at-the-time, and their love for Ani DiFranco was cute and touching. They had planned to see a live show of DiFranco a year in advance. It was going to be “the perfect date.” But two days before the concert, Illum’s girlfriend broke up with her and she went to the concert by herself. The song, “You Had Time” brought so much pain to Illum when it was played during the concert that she actually ended up in tears – even DiFranco asked if she was okay.

“Whose faggot magazine is this?!” asked a co-worker at an internship that Dan Sullivan, the next performer, and his friend, Charlie, were working for during the summer. At the time, Sullivan had not come out to anyone. When this question was asked, Sullivan could not speak for himself. He was too afraid. Charlie walked into the room, however, and said that it was his.

From then on, Charlie often got the brunt of homosexual insults. It even got to the point where the co-worker stopped in the middle of work and unbuckled his belt, unzipped his pants and all but asked Charlie to get down on his knees. The whole time this was happening, Sullivan was watching. Years later, Sullivan would admit to his friend that he was gay. Charlie, however, already responded. It was then that Sullivan thought that if his straight friend that he had known for years was able to come out as gay (even if it wasn’t true), why couldn’t he?

The final performer of the night was “high-femme, sexpositive, pansexual queer diva” Caitlin MacIntyre. MacIntyre’s story began when she found out that her own father was gay. At the time, she was in the fourth-grade. Having acknowledged her father’s homosexuality at an early age, MacIntyre grew up to be a “straight girl poster child for the gays.” Especially in college, she advocated for LGBT rights. Later in life, MacIntyre got an internship to work for “a campground for the gays,” where anyone of any gender identity or sexual orientation was free to be themselves. In other words, “There were a lot of naked people,” said MacIntyre.

MacIntyre made friends with the people who frequented these grounds and was occasionally teased about being lesbian. At first, she did not appreciate these comments affirming herself as straight and that she, “Had never looked at a girl like that, never felt that way about a girl before.” Eventually, however, MacIntyre realized that it should not matter who you love and eventually came out as pansexual.

At the end of the night, Jonathan Jayes-Green, a current student of Montgomery College shared that it was a very “eyeopening” experience. “Even though you know that there are LGBT people all around, you don’t realize the struggle that they go through just to be themselves,” said Green. He enjoyed the event, especially Boggs. “He was very funny. Laughing makes it easier to comprehend,” said Green. Indeed, after much laughter, “awwws” and gasps from people, it was a night where it was easier to comprehend the life of anyone from the LGBTQ community.