Timothy White Eagle Turner was born in Tucson, Arizona in 1966. His mother was an enrolled member of Mohave (CRIT) tribe. He was adopted by a Mormon family. His father was devout, taking Timothy to church regularly, while his mother and elder sister were far less strict. When his parents split up, his father took 8-year-old Timothy to move to Montesano, Washington, a predominantly white “sundown town.”
Timothy was told by the Mormon church that the more righteously he lived, the lighter his skin would become. He grew up thinking of his “indigeneity being a curse,” and his queerness and masturbation being a sin. Although he had no queer role models or mentors in his personal life, in high school he treasured Al Pacino’s movie Cruising, as well as Boy George and Cyndi Lauper’s music videos.
His father sent him to Rick’s College, a conservative Mormon college in Rexburg, Idaho, where Timothy became involved in the theater community. He nearly got expelled for sleeping with another man, but could stay in school if he attended “reparative therapy” once a week. Timothy ultimately finished his four year degree in stage management at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. There, he lived with other theater students from Rick’s, who all gradually came out as gay. He lived an openly queer life among his friends, worked at the Salt Lake Repertory Theater, and met his first boyfriend. A year after graduation, Timothy moved to Seattle.
Gradually, Timothy started coming out to his family. His father struggled most, and refused to speak to Timothy until he was on his deathbed. Timothy also received an HIV diagnosis in the early days of the epidemic. After years of experimental treatments and surgeries, and learning to advocate and research for himself, he found the right medications to stabilize his health.
In Seattle, Timothy grew interested in experimental performance art. He opened Coffee Messiah in Capitol Hill, a performing arts coffee house that offered open mics, drag performances, and late night cabaret. Coffee Messiah was a hub of Seattle’s queer alternative culture for five years.
During this time, Timothy started attending Radical Faerie gatherings in Wolf Creek, Oregon, where he met Shoshone elder Clyde Hall. Clyde introduced Timothy to native cultural practices and ceremonies. Timothy ended up closing Coffee Messiah and cleaning houses so his schedule would be flexible enough for his art, travel, and ceremony practices.
Timothy initially explored his independent art practice through photography. He did exhibits on HIV and AIDS, as well as how Mormonism impacted his relationship with his race and sexuality. He was an indigenous content consultant for Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music, also helping organize the chorus of “Dandy Minions” for the show’s international tour. On tour, Timothy started working on what would become Indigo Room, a solo show about a friend who died from a heroin overdose.
Now, Timothy sits on the board of directors for the Naraya Cultural Preservation Council, a nonprofit that offers elders grant money to organize native cultural activities. In addition to Indigo Room, he is writing another show called Indian School on historical cultural erasure in U.S. schools. He is motivated to keep creating, telling us the importance of going with the flow, taking full accountability for shedding a victimhood mindset, and reiterating how crucial it is to build an anti-assimilation queer culture.