John Boardman

As Interviewed by Sylvia Grimes, March 18, 2018

John Boardman: In His Own Words

I’m Sylvia Grimes and I interviewed John Boardman over LGBTQ rights.

So growing up and as a person of LGBTQ, did you ever feel as if it were something to hide or were you open about it?

Absolutely felt it was something to hide. Things were much different. I heard the word gay on the playground when I was in third grade and it was an insult, so I knew it was not a good thing.

I remember once in high school the local community theater put on a show, a play that had a gay character in it -- and the city pulled their funding from it, from that theater, because they had a gay character in the play, and that was so bad. So that’s kind of the environment that I grew up in. I decided to go into the high school library and look in the card catalog. And I looked under “H” for Homosexuality, found it and there actually was a book -- which actually surprised me because it was not an accepting place. And I went and checked it out, and that was like a big deal. Probably the only kid who’d ever checked out the book. And I read it cover to cover -- and one of the things it said was if you live in a large city that there might be a gay youth support group. So I looked in the phone book under “G” and found a gay student group at a gay community center. And I called them up. Then I asked if they had any programs for youth, and they did. And so I told my parents that I was going to work, because I had a job, and instead of going and into my job, I drove all the way to Dallas, which is a good half hour drive and there was this youth group. And I started going as many Thursdays as I could convince my parents I was working, and so could go and I at least be around other gay people. And that’s the first time I had any kind of support group.

So then I started finding out there were people I knew who you were gay, but I didn’t know it on those crucial years growing up in junior high and high school, which would have been really nice if I had. Also, after high school I had been very careful not to put myself in situations where I wouldn’t be bullied. Like for example, I went to University of Texas here in Austin. I knew Austin was liberal. I knew the campus was progressive relatively speaking for back then. I’d actually made sure when I looked into colleges, that’s one thing I looked into is what kind of environment they had, both in the university and also the city. Because I didn’t want to be a place where I’d have to deal with prejudice any more than I needed to.

I took French in college and we were supposed to write -- a teacher assigned us to write about our, what we did that weekend, on Halloween weekend. She asked us to write about -- so I wrote about what I did on Halloween. Halloween happens to be my birthday. And my boyfriend took me out to dinner for my birthday. So I wrote that my boyfriend took me out to dinner for my birthday. And when you write boyfriend and girlfriend in French are almost the same thing. Just you change the gender, you know, doing many foreign languages, the gender of the nouns, and she marked it wrong. So after class I said “By the way something is kind of funny. I’m actually gay and I did mean to write what I wrote, ‘Mon petit ami.’” And she said, and she wouldn’t correct it. She said, “No, no, that’s incorrect.” And she actually, like, refused to correct it.

So it was my sophomore year that I and some other friends looked at that situation and said, “You know, what we need to... we need to create our own group. You know, we’re not gonna try to change these other groups -- they exist and they can do things their own way. But we want a group that’s more positively focused, and also provides more support.” Because the other groups were having marches and protests and things. But I thought, you know, if you’re just trying to come to terms with being gay and you were in an unaccepting family situation, you need a place where you just go talk and be listened to and get support and understand what’s going on -- and talk to someone who’s been down this path before. And so we wanted to have that kind of group. And so we formed it and ended up becoming really, really successful. It became the largest lesbian gay student group.

But the biggest rally I went to was a 1993. There’s a march on Washington for lesbian gay equal rights and people came from all over the country to Washington DC. What we have now, which is just phenomenally positive. And we have that movie Love Simon that just came out. I mean, like there, there’s still all these firsts. It’s still like, that’s still not a non-issue. Um, you know, until we can have a, you know, just an incidental gay character and together that you’re, you’re a Marvel superhero, be gay. And it’s not a big deal is a plot line. It just is, you know...