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Interview with: Jerry Miller
Date: February 11, 1976
Archive Number: OH 123
I: Mr. Miller, where were you born?
JM: I was born in Alvis, Oklahoma.
I: What brought you to Houston?
JM: The move to Houston was the result of a divorce of a marriage that was of ten years’ standing. I was living in Oklahoma City at the time and to get away from the memories and the unpleasant feelings and so on and so forth, I just decided on a complete change of scenery—a complete change of life.
I: Why Houston?
JM: I came to Houston for a week to visit my sister, who lived here, the week of Christmas in
1966 and immediately fell in love with Houston. I went back to Oklahoma City, packed up my things, and moved to Houston January 1st.
I: What was it that attracted you about the city?
JM: As much as anything else, the variety of things to do, the ability to function in the social strider.
I: And, when did you first become involved with the Gay Liberation Movement?
JM: A year ago, October. So, I have been involved for about a year and four months now.
I: Although it might be difficult to pinpoint exact time, when would you say that the Gay Liberation Movement started in Houston as an organized movement?
JM: The organization of the Gay Liberation Movement in Houston actually occurred right after—a press conference was called right at the end of Gay Pride week. This was the first time in the history of Houston that homosexuals had called a press conference. It was held to announce the formation of an organization called the Gay Political Caucus. It’s the first time that—to my memory—in Houston—that homosexuals have openly announced that they were going to become politically involved.
I: What year was this now?
JM: This was last year, 1975—June of ’75.
JM: Just a couple of weeks after the announcement of the Gay Political Caucus, which was aired on channel 13 and channel 11, the Houston Post and Houston Chronicle, Gary Van Ooteghem, who was the auditor for the county commissioners, was fired from his job because he announced his homosexuality. I called Gary the day that he was fired and invited him to attend one of our Integrity meetings, another gay organization. He came, became interested particularly in the Gay Political Caucus—he headed that up—and since that time, there have been 17 other gay organizations formed in Houston.
I: Which are some of the more prominent of those?
JM: Integrity—the one I’m probably the most deeply involved with—Gay Political Caucus, Gay Community Center, Dignity, Gay Activists Alliance, Metropolitan Community Church of the Resurrection. There are social clubs, bridge clubs, motorcycle clubs—a whole cross-section of interests.
I: Is there any kind of steering committee which organizes the work of these different groups?
JM: Each group is headed by a fairly powerful personality. In a meeting of, kind of, the gay leaders in Houston, we made a decision that it would be better for us and for Houston—because Houston is particularly sensitive to homosexuality—not to have one charming character to lead the way; that it should be a diverse cross-section of personalities to represent the whole gay community. Therefore, each one of the heads of an organization is a pretty dynamic, strong, individual human being. So, there is not one particular leader but a whole variety of leaders.
I: You remarked that Houston was sensitive to gays. Why is that?
JM: Unfortunately, because of the mass murders alleged to have been done by Ben Quarrel. After that was the “homosexual ring” that were discovered photographing young boys. The homosexual “murders” that have occurred lately. It seems that any time that a gay person in Houston is involved in some type of crime, it turns up to be banner headlines with the word homosexual involved.
I: Is it the fact that Houston is a southern city? Is that also contributing to the problem?
JM: No, I really don’t think so. I don’t think so. I cannot give you a real definite answer as to why the climate of Houston towards gay people is the way that it is. Overall and totally, it’s a fairly liberal climate for gays. In our rap sessions, interviews, measures that we do, we stress our alikeness to non-gay people rather than our differences. We feel like we’re alike—the same as most other people with the only, perhaps, difference then sexual affects on preference.
I: What was it like in 1966 when you first came to the city?
JM: I don’t know as far as the gay community is concerned because I was not in it. I did not come out—I did not become an active homosexual until a couple of years later, in 1968. This is a very fearful time for an individual human being, very cautious, very scared, testing the water. Get in, get a little bit of exposure, and then get out and think about it for a while and see if that really fits—see if that’s you.
I: Would you define this phrase, “coming out?”
JM: “Coming out” has a whole variety of meanings. I am not sure of what “coming out” encompasses—the total, overall acceptance of a human being homosexual. For me “coming out” means when I came to Houston, I decided that I would act on my homosexual feelings. I came out a little bit by going to a gay bar, seeing what it was like, seeing what the people were like, backing off, thinking about it, seeing if I fit, if I didn’t fit, where I was. I came out a little bit more when I met my lover of five years. That was another admission that I was homosexual. But the total “coming out”—and I don’t know why this has to be for the gay person. In some particular cases it is true—for me it was true—I felt impelled to make a public announcement of my gayness, which I did with the press conference on channel 13 and channel 11. I was taking the ultimate risk for a gay person to see if everything would happen I had been told would happen, like I would lose my job, I would lose my family, I would lose my friends, I would be kicked out of my apartment. I had to know. I was not willing to continue living hiding all the time.
I: Now, I did want to investigate these ramifications of coming out. Do a lot of people, in fact, lose their jobs?
JM: Yes, that has been a pretty well-known truth in the gay world for a long, long time, although that is changing a little bit over time. Some of the larger corporations are taking a nondiscriminatory stance towards gays in writing by personnel policy where they will not fire a person because of their sexuality. This is becoming more and more popular, particularly among the big companies, not so much the smaller companies yet.
I: Could you provide some examples besides the city employee that was fired?
JM: The strongest one right now, I think, is Leonard Matlovich.
I: Right, I was referring to Houston.
JM: Oh, to Houston? Personally, let’s see. I don’t—
I: Without naming names.
JM: I cannot name specifically one person. I know of people that have been fired, but I do not know them by name. I have heard about their being fired at meetings and so on and so forth, but I don’t know them personally.
I: You said that the corporations, at least in writing, were coming around. Does that mean there is a difference between their announced intentions and their actual policies?
JM: No, usually when the larger corporation forms an anti-discriminatory policy toward gays they will stick to it. You will not be fired simply because you’re gay.
I: Has it gotten better in the last 10 years?
JM: Much, much better.
I: To what do you attribute this?
JM: A lot of work on the part of a lot of gay people with courage simply standing up and being seen and being willing to take the risks that are necessary to take in order for people to be able to see them, talk to them, relate to them—be able to say to themselves, “Hey, they’re not such bad people after all. They’re kind of like I am.”
I: What has been the attitude of the Houston police force in the past?
JM: During the mayorship of Louie Welch, we were left completely alone. We were not hassled. We were not bothered, only in rare isolated incidences. Things for the gay community under Fred Hofheinz have been good. We just recently had a series of harassments at some of the bars, not because of the mayor’s office or anything to do particularly with the Police Department. This was on the action of individual police officers.
JM: No, not off-duty, on-duty. But in this particular segment of time, and by Fred Hofheinz’s own admission, he did not have administrative control over the Police Department. It was a transitional period of time in which the old police chief had resigned, and he was not even appointed permanently. It was a transitory period in which no one had administrative control, so the individual officers in the patrol cars were fairly free to do whatever they wanted to do. So, the gays in the bars were hassled. We—we being the Gay Political Caucus, in particular Gary Van Ooteghem —contacted Mayor Fred Hofheinz to notify him that this was a very, very dangerous situation, potentially explosive, and it was reaching that point. Mayor Hofheinz immediately responded by setting up an afternoon conference with some of the gay leaders to find out exactly what was going on, where the problems were, and how to resolve it, and resolve it he did.
I: I must say, I am surprised by your comment that the gay community was left alone under Louie Welch. Even in the—well, even during his administration, did Houston have a reputation as a safe city?
JM: Yes, I think Houston is known throughout the United States as being a fairly safe city for the gay person.
JM: A strange phenomenon which I thought about many times—it was pointed out to me. I have no answer, but for what it’s worth, Houston, the Houston area, and the Houston population are approximately the same as the St Paul/Minneapolis area, both within population and size. In Houston there are about 42 gay bars. In the St Paul/Minneapolis area, there are seven. We know that, according to all statistics, there have to be as many gay people in that area as there are in this area, but we cannot explain the difference in exposure.
I: Well, one thing that occurs to me is perhaps there was a migration of gays to Houston if Houston did have the reputation of being a safe city. Perhaps people would be motivated to come here, and then Houston might actually have a higher percentage of gays.
JM: That is very possible. We go pretty much by our research, which indicates that 10% of any given population is going to be gay, whether the town is 1500 people or 15,000 people.
I: Oh, by the way, where do you get those figures, 10%? Kinsey?
I: Of these, how many have come out—of this 10%? That’s a hard question.
JM: I am going to take your expression of “coming out” to mean within the framework of being totally upfront—willing to be photographed, willing to be interviewed, willing to be totally upfront.
I: Politically aware.
JM: Right. I know of seven individuals in Houston that are upfront: Ray Hill, Gary Van Ooteghem, Hugh Krill, Bob Falls, Okie Anderson, Jerry Miller—six.
I: Is frequenting a gay bar a way of coming out?
JM: It is on an individual basis—on an individual personal basis to find out where your own feelings are. That’s one step toward coming out. The expression “coming out” refers to coming out of the closet.
JM: You can come out of the closet by degrees. You can come out with a bang; you can never come out if you choose to.
I: Never come out at all. Well, let me ask this. Of that 10%, about what portion patronizes the gay bars?
JM: About 10% of that 10%.
I: Oh, that’s very high.
JM: And of the 10% of any population that’s gay, usually only about 5-6% of the males are visible—recognizably gay, and only about 2% of the females are recognizably gay.
I: What about bisexuality? Of this 10%, do many claim to be bisexual?
JM: Not within the framework of that 10%. The 10% that we’re talking about are exclusively homosexual. Although most gay people that I know are capable of bisexuality, they choose not to.
I: Are many gays in Houston married?
JM: Not to my knowledge? I know a few individual human beings who are married but very, very few.
I: That is heterosexually?
I: How about homosexual marriages? Is that becoming more common?
JM: That is much more common. There seems to be a trend in that direction—that the gay couples want the commitment. They want the ceremony; they want the feeling of oneness. So, there is a very definite trend in that direction to make a commitment to one other human being.
I: In my research, one of the criticisms of homosexuals that I came across repeatedly was that they are promiscuous. Do you see this trend in marriages, gay marriages, as a rebuttal to that?
JM: Partially, yes. Partially, it is a rebuttal. I think the trend towards gay marriages is probably based on a more individual awareness of what being human really is. I speak as a gay person. I don’t really need all that sex. What I really need is some warmth and affection. I really don’t need all that sex all the time. What I really want is simply to be held and cared for. There is a growing awareness of this type of need, as if the need for sex and the action of promiscuity has covered up the deeper feelings of the real human needs to be held, to be cared for.
I: You mentioned that there were 42 gay bars in Houston. I did want very much to ask about the gay social life in Houston. Are most of these bars geographically concentrated, say on Westheimer?
JM: They are geographically located in the Montrose area, not necessarily on Westheimer but within that nucleus.
I: Why? Was it just an accident of history?
JM: It—no, I don’t think so. Of course, Montrose happened long before I ever came to Houston, but—the cliché birds of a feather—what else can I say? A gay person is usually much more comfortable around other gay people and can much more freely be himself or herself. That would create an actual tendency to congregate in one place.
I: In a number of these interviews, we have asked people about Montrose, which by all lots, is the most unusual area of Houston artistically—perhaps in terms of sexual preference—in a rapidly changing area. I was just wondering if there was any one time in your memory that Montrose was marked out as a gay community or a good place for gays to go?
JM: Not since I’ve been here. It’s always been the place for gays.
I: That’s interesting.
JM: To my knowledge.
I: Which are the most famous of these bars?
I: (laughter) Currently.
JM: Dirty Sally’s is a good bar. Mary’s is a really popular bar. The Farm House, The Depository—good dance bars. They have two different types of clientele. For the older generation, the Briar Patch. Each bar seems to kind of serve cross-sections of the gay community. Each one has kind of a unique set of patrons, like a Western bar or a boogie bar or a more middle-aged bar or one that is simply an atmosphere of friendliness or card play. So you can find what you want in the way of a bar by just simply going to a different bar.
I: Is there a generation gap in the gay community?
JM: A great deal of youth-ism exists in the gay community. Of course, the emphasis on the physical part—physical attraction of one man to another man, of course, is the muscular type, so that there is a great deal of youth-ism exhibited in the gay community. The young, healthy, bronzed, muscular type is the one that is the most sought after physically. So, this kind of precludes an awful lot of interest in the over 30, maybe a little bit paunchy, beginning to thin in the head a little bit.
I: Well, I guess it works that way for heterosexuals too.
JM: It’s—that’s right. There is very little difference. The emphasis on T.V. is the same whether it’s heterosexual or homosexual. If you have the gleaming teeth and your armpits are clean and you use this product or that product and you’re young and smiling and on the beach throwing a Frisbee, you’re in.
I: Does that discourage you? It seems like almost sexual—sex, like everything else, is commercialized. Very much emphasis on attractiveness.
JM: This—it creates some personal problems for me, being 46. I am tempted, on those occasions, to really want to be something that I’m not—on occasions when I’m down on myself and plucking away at myself. I can find fault with the gray hair. I can find fault with the gray beard. I can find fault with age 46. Then I can snap back to reality and accept myself. I am 46. I am gray-headed. I do have a gray beard, but I am who I am.
I: Are these bars specialized in terms of sexual preference as well as in terms of age?
JM: I am not sure that I—
I: Well, are there leather bars, and so on and so forth?
JM: Vaguely—kind of. Generally specialized. For example, The Locker is reputed to be the leather bar, although, some things that I would fully expect to see in a leather bar do not occur at the Locker. It’s a very friendly, open, congenial place. The more masculine types go in there. I believe that type—the leather type, the motorcycle crowd—goes in there. Although, it’s a very open, warm, friendly group of people.
I: I would imagine that these bars are quite lucrative. If you own one of these places, you’re in the money.
JM: If your bar is in, you make money.
I: How does a bar become in?
JM: I don’t know. I really don’t know. It’s just based on the whim and fancy of the bar-goer, and they can be very finicky people. It seems that the “in” bar changes, perhaps in the period of a month’s time or the period of six months’ time. At one time the crowd, perhaps, on a Sunday afternoon, will be at Dirty Sally’s, and then 6 months later, the crowd will be going to The Briar Patch, just for example. The crowd seems to be transitory.
I: How many gay bars, approximately, were there in Houston when you first arrived—or let’s say 1968?
JM: I don’t know.
I: But the number has increased substantially—
JM: The number has increased. At the count a year ago, there were 22, which was a year ago last October when I first joined Integrity. There were 22 gay bars. That has now increased to 42. That will give you an idea of what’s happened in a one-year period of time. Back in ’68 when I came out—came to Houston and came out—I had no idea of what the gay population of Houston was or the number of gay bars or anything else.
I: Back then it’s not likely that a bar would advertise itself as being a gay bar.
JM: No, it was simply—the only advertisement that they had was word of mouth.
I: Word of mouth, yeah, that’s what I thought. Are there any other arrangements or kinds of places where gays congregate? The baths?
JM: The baths. There are two baths in Houston. I have never been to either one. That type of interaction does not appeal to me. I don’t know a thing about the baths; although, there are people that go to the baths and enjoy them tremendously. We are, as a movement, trying to think and instigate new ways of gays meeting each other outside of the bar scene.
I: —the bar environment.
JM: Yeah. Metropolitan Community Church serves in this function. We have an organization now called the Gay Community Center which we want to serve in this capacity, to offer a variety of social events, educational classes—a community center to be whatever we need the community center to be to give some options, to give some alternatives to the gay person. There are problems with the gay bar being the only avenue of social contact. There is a tremendous alcohol problem within the gay community. The figures that I have heard from the Lambda Chapter of AA, which is the gay chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous, state that 50% of gay people have an alcohol problem. We attribute this to the social setting of the bar. We don’t knock the bars by any means because they are very important to us, but we do want some alternatives for ourselves and for younger gays coming out.
I: What about the pressure of society as a reason for drinking? Is that part of the problem?
JM: This is from the—based on no statistics, no facts, nothing except the way that I see it and the way that I feel it. The gay is under a tremendous amount of pressure, particularly if he is not out of the closet, in having to play a role, play a game. Every day of his life he has to subordinate and hide a big part of his personality. That subordination of personality, that hiding, has to have a release and an escape somewhere. It’s going to have to be on the tennis court. It’s going to have to be on a bicycle. It’s going to have to be in a bar. It’s going to have to be released some way. We experience a great deal of comfort in a gay bar with each other, because there is the freedom to express affection and camp and kid. I feel an enormous comfort in a gay bar in putting my arms around somebody that I love and kissing them. I would be more hesitant to do this in downtown Houston. I would do it—understand it—if I felt it, but I would be more hesitant. I don’t have that same feeling of freedom. The bar being the social scene for the gay world, alcohol goes hand and hand in this. Alcohol also is a mood-alterer. If the gay is depressed or feeling down on himself because he is gay or because his lover has left or so on and so forth, he goes to the bar—a gay bar—that makes it better, and it becomes a very easy habit to fall into.
I: Which groups in the Houston community are most vociferous in their criticism of gays? Organized religion? The unions?
JM: We don’t particularly have one unified opposer. Our critics, our enemies, are crazies who come from—(laughter)
I: Good word.
JM: —and this is what takes so much energy on my part, and on the part of the other gay leaders, is that they come from the most unexpected, most unpredictable sources. What I have in my mind right now is the removal of Doonesbury this week from the Houston Post because they introduced a gay-sympathetic character. Who could have predicted—who could have known that that would happen? But this is the type of discrimination. This is the type of action that we have to respond to.
I: That was absurd. I want Todd Steridy to know that the strip was run in the Rice Thresher, so we all got to see it.
JM: God bless Rice.
I: But, that’s—that is amazing.
JM: Totally unexpected. It’s like thrusting a spear at our flank. We didn’t know the enemy was back there. So, we have to turn and respond to that in a series of appearances that we made at City Council week after week after week to try to get the introduction of a Gay Rights bill into the city, particularly in the high practices. We found through that action that Frank Mand, councilman, is very homophobic. He has a tremendous homophobic reaction to any gay person who appears there, to the point of being very hostile, which prompted his comments about the, “queers, odd-wods, and long-ears living in the Montrose area” which he would eliminate from the face of the earth if he could. In response to that and to respond to that, we came with a t-shirt that says on the front, “I am an odd-wod.” This, we felt, was the most effective way to respond to Frank Mand’s comments. It’s fun. We have a great demand in the non-gay world for this t-shirt, and we’re making money for the Gay Political Caucus—money which we would use the next time Frank Mand’s reelection comes up to try to defeat him.
I: Ah, I want to discuss this point. I have heard some talk about a very large potential block of voters—the gays in Houston—directing their efforts.
I: Would you describe these efforts to organize the vote?
JM: The first thing—the first and the most effective way that we have right now to get gays to vote is by word of mouth. We are here. We are alive. We are well. We have 1800 registered gay voters that we know of right now. We don’t know how many registered voters that we have that are gay who cannot admit to their gayness.
I: But who can still pull a vote.
JM: Who can still pull a lever, and they know that we exist. They know that we’re alive and we make public who we support—who we feel, by screening, is on our side, who has our interest at heart.
I: Is there a gay newspaper in Houston?
JM: There are several gay newspapers in Houston.
I: And this is the way you make known your support of certain candidates.
JM: That’s correct. That’s correct. Also, we have a mailing list—a confidential mailing list—
I: Yes, I was about to say—
JM: —extremely confidential. There is no way anybody could get their hands on this list. It’s too well-protected. We mail our findings on political candidates to the people on the mailing list. These are people who are really interested in what’s going on and want to be kept up on anything we do.
I: Do you find the gays that are politically active are drawn from any one social class?
JM: If you would define your social classes.
I: Well, or occupational level. Is it—are well-educated, white collar gays more likely to be politically involved?
JM: Yes, yes. That’s true. Gary Van Ooteghem is an accountant.
I: And your profession is?
JM: I work with computers. That other upfront gay that I named, Hugh Krill, is a programmer. It seems that the one common denominator that we have is rather precise mathematical minds.
I: County’s votes. (both laugh)
JM: Is that so?
I: Well, that’s interesting.
JM: No, that’s the first time I could really put that together. Another common human trait that we share is the feeling of rebelliousness, and it’s expressed rebelliousness in our activities and our behavior; although, it’s a very constructive rebelliousness.
I: Do you organize demonstrations very often?
JM: We have not yet at this point. The only thing in the way of organization—which we refer to as a zap—that has occurred so far is that we’re, this week, zapping the Houston Post for their removal of Doonesbury. I talked to the switchboard operator today at the Post—that poor woman is very harried.
I: Yeah, it’s not—what other forms does the zap take? Does that always mean a telephone blitz?
JM: That’s the mildest form of zap. We haven’t really had occasion in Houston to have a visible demonstration. Nothing has occurred that has been that earthshaking to this point. If something did happen, we would demonstrate. If it’s not happened in the past, I don’t foresee it in the future. Our communication with City Hall is very good. Our communication with other agencies is excellent.
I: I would like to have you describe on tape the Ooteghem case from the beginning and all of its developments.
JM: All right. This comes in bits and pieces to me. Gary was selected to be the auditor of Harris County after research was done nationwide by Price-Waterhouse for Harris County. Price-Waterhouse advised Harris County that Gary Van Ooteghem, who lived in Chicago, was the best man for this job. Gary was brought down here, was employed at the beginning salary of $25,000 per year, was doing an excellent job in cleaning up some of the mismanagement in the County Treasurer’s Office. He has a great deal of negative feeling for Hartsell Gray and his inefficiency. Inefficiency tears Gary up. He cannot hide it.
JM: Right. This, on the business level, was really bothering Gary. He felt that Hartsell Gray was inadequate in his job. On the other level—the personal level—he met Leonard Matlovich and became incensed at what was being done to this fine soldier. He traveled with Matlovich to Washington D.C., and they lobbied in Washington for a gay rights amendment to the Constitution and got so far as to see Senator John Tower, who was very interested and very supportive and said that he would not sponsor the bill but he would cosponsor. During that 3-day period of time that they were in Washington, they came out with 25 to 27 cosponsors for a gay rights amendment to the Constitution. Gary came back to Houston, realized that the county did not have an anti-discriminatory clause in their Hiring Code. As a result of that, to test the county in County Commissions Court on Thursday, he announced his gayness. He was discharged for reasons other than being gay.
JM: They specifically fired him for politicking on the job—whatever the hell that means. I don’t know. He doesn’t know.
I: There hasn’t been an auditor in the city’s history that hasn’t done a little politicking, but go ahead.
JM: We think that their connection was the travel arrangements that Gary made to make the trip to Washington D.C. with Leonard Matlovich. We think that that’s probably what triggered the excuse of politicking on the job.
I: All right, now who is they?
JM: Hartsell Gray, yeah, Hartsell Gray.
I: But then the ACLU has not taken up the case?
JM: The ACLU has taken up his case. It’s now in process. I don’t know what their status is.
I: You don’t know the status?
JM: But it will ultimately go to the Supreme Court. The ACLU feels that he has an excellent chance of winning.
I: So, he was doing this to have a test case. I mean, he had that in mind.
JM: He was testing the county’s position on gays. I don’t think, at the time—it may have occurred to him, I really don’t know. I don’t know that ACLU and test case for the Supreme Court was going through his mind at this time. I think as much as anything else, he was incensed at what was being done to Leonard Matlovich and it was his way of standing up and protesting.
I: Do you recall, offhand, any other homosexuals who have been dismissed by the city or county government?
JM: Not in Houston. I am sure that it has happened, but it’s not in my memory.
I: I wanted to ask a question about lesbian groups. Is there a good deal of cooperation between homosexuals and lesbians or is there a tension?
JM: There is a tension. On a one-to-one basis, excellent cooperation. Our mainstay in the lesbian community to represent the women is Pokey Anderson—dependable, literate, articulate, beautiful human being. There is the everyday type of tension that is created between man and woman. They feel that they are still being discriminated against because there is the white man supremacy. I am pretty much a feminist, and I tend to agree with them. I think that’s true. There is an equal amount of tension between blacks and whites in the gay community.
I: In general though, what is the attitude in the gay community towards feminism. Do they just not care?
JM: No, the gay community is 90% for feminism.
I: They see their own cause reflected.
JM: That’s correct. And we also see that the more free the women become, the more free we become. There is a parallel between the two movements. We have a common movement—the lesbians and the gay men have a common goal, and there are parallel goals.
I: Oh, I almost forgot, are there any lesbian bars?
JM: Yes, there are three.
I: Do you recall the names?
JM: Yes, Just Marion and Lynn’s is the oldest in Houston. Ursula’s is probably the most popular, and the other one, which is over in the village is called—huh, I don’t know. I’m blank—Lamplighter or something like that. I’m not sure. I’ve never been there.
I: Do a large number of heterosexuals often visit the gay bars just out for a night on the town?
JM: Not a large number, no. There are non-gay people in the gay bars. There is very little problem at any time. The only problem that any—that’s been had at any gay bars with a non-gay person is usually at the women’s bars, like at Ursula’s or Just Marion and Lynn’s where it is predominantly women. A heterosexual man can have a tendency to see those women as being available and can create a little friction that’s not wanted by the gay women. But it’s a hassle sometimes, because the man thinks, “Well, I know what I can do to straighten her out.” (laughter) The women just really don’t want to be bothered.
I: I haven’t mentioned housing yet. Have there been cases in Houston where people have been thrown out of their apartment because they were gay?
I: Do you recall any specifics?
JM: Yes, I cannot give you names. I don’t know the names. A good friend of mine, who is a social worker, approached me about 3 or 4 weeks ago twice about the problems of two separate lesbian couples in his apartment complex who were being evicted because word got around that they were gay. I have heard other people asking if I knew of an apartment available or a room for rent or so on and so forth because a friend of theirs had been kicked out of their apartment because they were gay.
I: Is there less danger this will happen in Montrose?
JM: There is less danger in Montrose than in any other part of the city. There are also less apartments available.
I: Yeah, right. Do gays pay higher rents?
JM: No, not necessarily higher in Montrose. The—you know, just like anybody else—because they cannot perhaps find an apartment in the Montrose area where they would really like to live, they have to move out to suburbia and perhaps pay a little bit higher rent than they would if they were in Montrose.
I: What I was suggesting was that—is the demand for apartments greater in Montrose? If the demand is greater, therefore the price is.
JM: The demand is greater, but the price is not.
I: I have gone through my prepared questions, but there are just a couple of other things that are on my mind. Do you look forward to the day when the entire 10% will come out?
JM: That will not happen within my lifetime. That will not happen within the lifetime of the generation underneath me or the one after that. Possibly, the one after that might see it. I will have to die. You will have to die and it might happen.
I: That spans in contrast. It seems to be in something like the Civil Rights Movement where the idea was freedom now.
JM: Perhaps I took your question out of context, because you said when all the 200,000 people would come out.
I: Right, when everyone would come out—if you looked forward to seeing that.
JM: I look forward to seeing it but I would never see it in my lifetime. The only solution—and I love this, this is not a reasonable one with me. The solution to the gay problem—what would clear the air immediately is if tomorrow morning everybody in Houston, Texas who is gay woke up with a purple dot on their forehead that they could not hide. That would solve the gay problem in Houston.
I: It certainly would.
JM: All those people could not be fired. All those people could not be evicted. All those people could not be deserted by their friends or their families—
I: I guess what I was thinking was that there might be a snowball effect. That if a few people came out, and then a few more, and then suddenly—
JM: That is what’s happening.
I: —it’s the thing to do.
JM: That is how it happens. Leonard Matlovich inspired Gary Van Ooteghem to come out. Somebody else’s courage inspired me to stand up publically. If I’m an inspiration to somebody else, they will stand up. So, one at a time, we do this. But it’s a very slow process. It’s a very fearful process. I don’t think that that domino effect will happen during my generation or the generation under that.
I: May I ask how many years it took before you came out? How many years did you know you were a homosexual before you came out publicly?
JM: I knew—I knew in puberty when I was 11 or 12 years of age. I knew I was gay then. I knew where my attraction was. I knew what I liked, and in retrospect, if I had been left alone or supported, I would have been an active homosexual from age 11 and 12 on. I would never had had any conflict or any problem with it. Slowly but surely, social pressure, peer pressure, family pressure pushed those feelings back. I blocked, I repressed, I suppressed them. I did whatever necessary to start playing the straight game. I did all the things that I thought were necessary for me to do. I married, I had 2.3 children, the washer and dryer and garage and a new car and a used car and a three bedroom with a bath and a half. I did all the socially acceptable things. I was totally miserable all the time. So in answer to your question, how long did it take for me to come out? From age 11 to age 38—27 years.
I: Is there anything that I have failed to mention that you would like to discuss on tape? Any other thoughts you have?
JM: I, of course, get involved in this and could go on for hours and hours and hours. I am trying to think of what might be of interest to someone in the future. I am totally blank on this.
I: Well, what we have already is certainly very good, very interesting. On behalf of the Houston Metropolitan Archives, I would like to thank you very much.
JM: You’re welcome.