As you heard, Jesse Helms was in the Senate. He was anti-black, anti-jew, anti-gay, anti-transgender, so he covered most—except the Jewish part—Everything that I represented, the head person in my state was against. So that was the atmosphere. It was a very, very conservative state.
Wake Forest was new to me; first time from home. And—you know—I was very afraid. But there were two things going on. I knew that I was something different—not gay. There was nothing gay-affiliated on this campus, and we—the Black Student Alliance was so small, we were trying to build that up. That was basically with hardly any members, because most blacks were just trying to do their work.
The meetings had 10 people in it. You mentioned that your blackness was, like, kind of your centered sort of focus as far as your experience here. Do you feel that there were support systems for you? I know you mentioned—. TN: Looking back, I think there wasn—there was—there was Dr. Yurig [Spelling? I stayed in a—I came to fulfil a purpose. I never went looking. And the first two years I was very unhappy, very unhappy. I almost quit and went to Chapel Hill where they did have a gay group, down there. I listened to her.
And, junior and senior year got better, but I graduated. Even among the black people, we were all spread out over campus. Some lived on. So, I wish I would have been more engaging. There probably was something for me, but I just—being a shy person in the beginning—just went in and just did my thing and kept to myself. And when I left, I never looked back and communicated with anyone back here, and never came back. Can you go into more detail about what you did after you left Wake Forest, and how you feel your experiences on campus as an LGBTQ-identified—and other aspects of your identity affected your life after college?
TN: The degree is very good. Larry Robinson [Spelling? And life was good. And, I thought I wanted to get an E. So, you need to be what you were hired to be. We hired a black, educated, Wake Forest male. But the degree has always been very valuable. The learning with Dr. Why was I two people? Why was I—something driving me to be something. And Dr. Harris, Catherine Harris,—wonderful professor.
So, I went to Sociology. He was a biology professor, and he was black. I had to do some soul searching, so I learned about myself in sociology with Dr. Harris and the Sociology department, and then went on to work. But the degree at Wake Forest was very valuable. Quite a few people on campus said it; spoke it, rumored it. In fact, I was not a homosexual. I was transgender. But there were no transgenders on campus.
There were some other known Caucasian gays that I met here. We went out to some club— Odyssey? We went to some club. And I ran into a couple professors up in there. Some grad students. Some med school student, who I thought was extremely hot, he was in there and I had seen him on the Quad. So, it was interesting. So, I had some good moments.
I had some good moments here. It taught me: your projects must go from A-to-Z. And I do that today. So, that stuck with me. So, I say Wake Forest is a great education institution. But the education was good. CM: You kind of mentioned the sort of social scene at Wake Forest.
Did you date while you were here? TN: I went out—. I did, I did. I dated an athlete. A well-known athlete. I shall not call his name; he is married. And we have kept in touch. When I turn into transgender Toni with the long braids and other surgeries I had—I was more in my sexual, provocative state at that manner. I was trying be boom-boom-bam-bam. You got your tits. We laughed. I know you have. He was nice to me. Even though we never spoke it; nobody ever knew it, he was very nice to me.
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We would go maybe fifteen miles out, have dinner, and you know, so forth and so on. But when we came on campus, if I saw him walking the Quad, he saw me, there was no communication. Be by the car. Oh, hi! How are you? So, I had good times. There were good times. There were moments I got to be myself. It was none of that.
I did have some good moments here, and I did have one or two friends—Caucasian. They never said—we never said we were gay. We went to Odyssey. We danced with each other—non-sexual. But, I had some moments where I allowed myself to be myself. But, most times, Toni was too afraid to be anything but a student. I was too afraid to express myself, thinking: what would people say if they saw me in my wig?
What would that look like? What would the two white, gay guys that drove me to the Odyssey who thought some of the drag queen performance was a little mental—? And at that time it was still classified under the Psychological Association as a mental disorder. They called it that. And it was still labeled as that until years later when the Psychological Association took it off the books as a social disorder.
CM: What were your observations about the ways people either performed or deviated from gender roles at Wake Forest? TN: I found most people—. From my experience, males were males, females were female. You can only live in shame for so long. And another ten years from that, I write a book: I Rise. So, it took me fifteen years to do what she told me to do in !
But then I was afraid: if I come out, will my parents still give me that spending money? Probably not. I was on scholarship, but I needed their help. And I knew if I told my parents, outright gay, whether they—they had to know that part—. If I spoke it, they would probably disinherit me. I saw two guys who I saw on the Quad one night, and I saw them playing around with each other.
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He touched his hand, so I knew they were gay. So, I immediately went to them and made friends. So what is that? And I never told them I was gay. You have to tell somebody. CM:—learn about yourself in that department. TN: Catherine Harris in the Sociology department spoke openly. She spoke—well, some people viewed gay and lesbian, bisexual, and—this behavior is deviant. It is not. It is just human sexuality.
Just like some of you all are black, some are white. Some of you all are Baptist, and Jewish. She impressed me—Dr. I would always ask questions, but never ask the question. I wonder why they asked that question. What do you think I should do? I wish I could go back and be you guys, because I think it is so cool that you guys are talking about it—encouraged to be you. You want to be bi? Who cares? And I see now you all have progressed.
Jesse Helms is gone. Be strong. It was insanity. For one: I like black men. And two: I knew the spots over there to go to to be appreciated. I partied over there. I got drunk over there. Sometimes I would get a room on the weekends and just hang out over there. TN: They hated us. So, I knew some of the shit to say to make it look good. You go to Wake Forest?
It was still double what Chapel Hill was charging. So, yes, it was expensive. I knew their rate; my rate was three times that, not including my room and board.
It barely runs! Let me tell you. Blacks in Ameri—. Add all the medical school, law school, football players—we had hardly any blacks there. And Latinos were nonexistent. And the Asians had not began to come in the big numbers that there are now, so it was very low in minority status.
So, I did end up pledging Kappa in a graduate chapter, but I was non-affiliate here, and I was messing around with—having sex with an Omega Psi Phi who was a football player. TN: I went to—some white fraternity invited me—one of the guys invited me to a pre-screening thing. There were just so white. And I only did the Kappa thing in grad—because they were all black and I was getting pressure to do so. Why would you even do that? TN: So, what fraternities do you have on campus now? You have the Alphas? Because I think, then, it was just Omegas and Alphas? TN: And who are we missing?
Who are we missing? Alphas, Kappas, Omega—. I think there were four. TN: For whites, yes. You know, hang out all the time. Because some of the frat members were cool, but then you could see that some of them had that racist thing about it. When I was going to these pre—. So, I never got involved in that. Not in United States? Choose your country's store to see books available for purchase. See if you have enough points for this item.
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