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Don Quaintance was born in 1941 on a farm in Cherokee, Iowa. He was the oldest of eight children in a working-class family that moved frequently around Iowa and Minnesota. While still fully closeted, Don served in the Navy; but after his service ended in 1967, he moved in Minneapolis, and began his life as a gay man. For three decades, however, he never fully came out.

In 1999, Minnesota Senator Michelle Bachmann began a strident anti-gay campaign throughout the state. As a military veteran, Don felt he had as much, if not more of a right than Senator Bachmann to make his voice heard. He started marching and writing editorials as an out and proud military veteran. When Don’s picture ended up in the St. Paul and Minneapolis newspaper, Don was out for good.
 
By this point, Don was living in an area known as East Central Minnesota with his partner Paul. When Paul died in 1997, Don saw the need to help gay men in rural communities facing HIV/AIDS, and began volunteering with RAAN (the Rural AIDS Action Network). Then Don saw another glaring need. East Central Minnesota simply had no gay organizations at all. In 2000, with four friends, Don founded the East Central Minnesota Men’s Circle (ECMC). To this day, he serves as the group’s president & facilitator.
 
Five years into its existence, ECMC came up with the idea of inviting Minnesota’s entire rural LGBTQ community to a picnic. Each year now, along with the local PFLAG chapter and the Purple Circle (a lesbian group), the ECMC hosts the East Central Minnesota ‘Pride in the Park’ celebration, just the second rural Pride event in the U.S. Don is also proud to have participated in the campaign for marriage equality in Minnesota, which resulted in Minnesota being the first state in the Midwest to legalize same-sex marriage via legislation instead of a court order.

In March 2018, our OUTWORDS interview team navigated a rapidly intensifying snowstorm to reach Don’s home in Centerville, Minnesota. Don is a burly guy with a gravelly voice, but his home is warm and inviting, decorated with flowers, curios, native American art, and family photos. It was a pleasure to venture far off the beaten path to capture Don’s quietly powerful story, and to hear that late in life, after losing two partners, Don has found love for the third time.
Betsy Kalin: [00:00:00] Don, the first thing, can you say your name and your place of birth and when you were born?
Don Quaintance: My name is Don Quaintance. I was born in Cherokee, Iowa on a farm and that was in April 27th 1941.
Betsy Kalin: Great. Thank you. I'm going to start with your childhood. What was your childhood like? Can you describe it for me?
Don Quaintance: [00:00:30] Well my childhood I was the oldest of eight kids. We moved around quite a bit. I went to six different schools during my 12 years of education. Because of moving around a lot I think I learned how to make friends. So I was lucky with that respect. My childhood we were a poor family.
Don Quaintance: [00:01:00] Oldest of eight. My dad worked road construction in the summertime, and in the winters he was laid off. We were on charity a lot during the winter time. We got food products from the church or whatever. It wasn't an easy life but it was the only life I knew. I knew I was a little bit more poor than some of the other families but I didn't really think it was that big of a deal. In early years we had no electricity or indoor plumbing.
Betsy Kalin: [00:01:30] You were mostly in rural areas?
Don Quaintance: We always lived in rural areas in Iowa, Southern Minnesota, and Northern Minnesota.
Betsy Kalin: Okay I'm gonna pause just one second. Just give me a second to finish because we don't want my voice in the audio. We just want to hear you.
Don Quaintance: Okay.
Betsy Kalin: So give like a pause right before you say something. Were you in rural areas mostly?
Don Quaintance: [00:02:00] I lived mostly in rural areas. I grew up in Northern Iowa, Southern Minnesota, and Northern Minnesota.
Betsy Kalin: Great. Thank you. Please list three key events or experiences or people from your early years that help shape who you are today.
Don Quaintance: The three experiences or key events. Oh that's hard to tell. In my childhood, I think I just always knew I was a little bit different,
Don Quaintance: [00:02:30] but never really thought too much about it. I guess growing up, I always knew I liked men. I knew that wasn't right, but I didn't really have anybody to look up to or talk to. So in my childhood periods, I don't think I had any one special experience. As I got older, became a teenager,
Don Quaintance: [00:03:00] I felt, I guess this is when I was in the service. I was going to church, and the pastor mentioned that we all have crosses to bear, and for some reason I thought, oh my cross is being gay. And so I thought okay, that'll be my cross. I'll bear that and be the best person I can.
Don Quaintance: [00:03:30] So that's how I sort of started to accept me being gay. Prior to that I always thought I was defective in some way, and didn't quite know how I was going to make myself perfect or well or not effective. Other experiences were later in life, in my 30s or 40s that sort of pushed me out of the closet. I had lots of gay friends,
Don Quaintance: [00:04:00] but I was in the closet with family and work. I never lied about anything, I just never talked about my own experiences, what I was going through or what I was doing. So it was Michelle Bachmann who was a senator. This must've been around 1999, 2000.
Don Quaintance: [00:04:30] She was a senator in Minnesota. She was against the GLBT community and procrastinating and doing all kinds of things. Telling lies about the GLBT community that I just knew were not true. I thought, well I have just as much right to say something as she does, and I felt in a way, maybe more so since I was a vet. I thought, I fought for this country,
Don Quaintance: [00:05:00] and I fought for equality. I thought that this was a time for me to speak up, so this is when I really became very active in the GLBT community. Prior to that, I did do lots of things. In marches I walked. I carried signs. I did some things from time to time. I worked with the AIDS community. I have friends that passed away of AIDS. So all of these things together affected me, but I can't think of just one thing.
Betsy Kalin: [00:05:30] That's a great answer. That was a great answer.
Natali Tsui: Sorry to interrupt. Don't worry, I don't have to make an adjustment. Don, every so often you're looking at the camera.
Don Quaintance: I am? Okay.
Betsy Kalin: I think he's just looking off.
Don Quaintance: Thinking, yeah.
Natali Tsui: In this direction.
Don Quaintance: Yeah I do try to think or whatever.
Betsy Kalin: I could tell it's when you're trying to think. You kind of go off to the side, but yeah.
Don Quaintance: Okay.
Betsy Kalin: [00:06:00] Just me.
Don Quaintance: Okay, just you.
NatalieTsui: It's really [inaudible]
Don Quaintance: Right, okay.
Betsy Kalin: Yeah, I mean when you were young, did you get picked on or did your family suspect anything or were you treated differently?
Don Quaintance: When I was young, I don't think I was really treated any different. Growing up as a gay young boy, I wasn't picked on,
Don Quaintance: [00:06:30] as I know many people were. But I just knew I was different. I tried to get along with everybody. Maybe we moved so much that people never got to know me. And so I really never had a lot of close friends living in a rural community, my closest friends were my brothers and sisters. I don't think they suspected anything.
Don Quaintance: [00:07:00] It was just me. I was a lot different than my brother that was a year younger than me. He was the butch one. I was not feminine at all, but I was more low key. I was a good boy, where my brother was sort of a rugged, getting into some trouble, smoking, drinking.
Betsy Kalin: That's great.
Natali Tsui: Can he just say, Growing up as a gay? There was a background noise when he was saying, Growing up as a gay man.
Betsy Kalin: You just have to say that line.
Don Quaintance: Growing up as a gay man?
Betsy Kalin: Yeah, just say it again, but without the question.
Don Quaintance: [00:07:30] Growing up as a gay man.
Betsy Kalin: Was that good?
Natali Tsui: That was kind of a question.
Don Quaintance: Oh, okay. I'll say it again.
Betsy Kalin: Just say growing up as a gay man, I wasn't treated any differently.
Don Quaintance: Growing up as a gay man, I wasn't treated any differently.
Betsy Kalin: Perfect. Thank you. We just heard a noise in the background, and so that'll show up so we need the line clean.
Don Quaintance: Okay.
Betsy Kalin: That's just another technical thing. Don't worry about it.
Betsy Kalin: [00:08:00] So you talked a little bit about when you went to church and you heard the pastor say that something was your cross to bear. Did you feel shame around that? How did that make you feel?
Don Quaintance: Back to the cross to bear, when I heard that at the church. I did always feel ashamed of who I was. I felt defective. At one time, prior to this, I even told a close friend
Don Quaintance: [00:08:30] that since I was defective, I would wish that anything bad would happen to me versus any of my siblings, since I felt defective. Of course, when she heard that, she said, you're crazy. You should not be thinking that way. So it sort of changed my viewpoint a little bit, because here was someone in my corner that felt that maybe I wasn't defective.
Betsy Kalin: [00:09:00] That's a great story. Yeah. I think a lot of people feel that way. Especially young gay kids. So when you went into the military, did you know that you were gay?
Don Quaintance: When I went into the military, I knew that I was gay. I went into the military to try to become straight, because I thought, well, just prior to this, when I was feeling defective,
Don Quaintance: [00:09:30] I thought maybe the military would straighten my life out. I don't know why I thought that, but it was just a step in that direction. So it was in the military where I found out, and I never did anything in the military that was gay-oriented because I was brainwashed into if I did anything, I probably would be expelled or dishonorably discharged. I thought well if that ever happened to me, I would never get a job,
Don Quaintance: [00:10:00] never do anything. So I was a bit brainwashed. I was very good in the service. Meaning, I never had any affairs. I never did anything except what I was supposed to do. I was a good little soldier. I lost my train of thought.
Betsy Kalin: But you knew you were gay?
Don Quaintance: I knew I was gay. Yup. I did know I was gay, but in the service I did not come out, I still knew I was gay. After the service is
Don Quaintance: [00:10:30] when I got more involved with the gay community and developed a lot more gay friends.
Betsy Kalin: So when you came out?
Don Quaintance: When I came out of the service, yeah.
Betsy Kalin: Where were you living then?
Don Quaintance: I came to Minneapolis when I got out of the service and I had known a few friends because I was working in Minneapolis prior to the service, so I stayed with two friends for a while, then met friends while I was living here.
Don Quaintance: [00:11:00] I had a large group of friends, luckily. I was out among a whole large group of friends, we had a lot of house parties, did things together. But again, most of us were not out to maybe our families, and also maybe not out in our workplace.
Betsy Kalin: What year was that around?
Don Quaintance: That would've been in 1967, when I got out of the service.
Betsy Kalin: Oh wow. Okay.
Don Quaintance: [00:11:30] Can I get some water?
Betsy Kalin: No, no. You stay. You can't move.
Don Quaintance: All right. There's some 7Up, I think, in a glass.
Betsy Kalin: 7Up? Okay.
NatalieTsui: I'm going to move you just a teeny tiny bit. Don't move. This way.
Betsy Kalin: Okay. There.
Don Quaintance: My mouth and the air was so dry for some reason.
Betsy Kalin: Yeah feel free to always stop and take something to drink if you want.
Don Quaintance: Thank you.
Betsy Kalin: [00:12:00] Oh okay. I'm going to take your glass and put it down if you're done.
Don Quaintance: Yeah, okay.
Betsy Kalin: This is great. I knew you'd have a lot to say.
Don Quaintance: I sort of ramble because I don't know what to say.
Betsy Kalin: You don't ramble at all.
Don Quaintance: Really?
Betsy Kalin: [00:12:30] Yeah, you're really right on topic. It's great. Is there something that you needed or wanted that you didn't have in your formative years?
Don Quaintance: In my formative years I never thought I had any love. My family was not a loving kind where they showed a lot of kisses, a lot of hugging. Being the oldest, I saw that my parents loved
NatalieTsui: [inaudible] sitting on your shoulder, right here.
Betsy Kalin: [00:13:00] The sun just came in. I see it.
NatalieTsui: It's gonna be moving the entire time.
Don Quaintance: That very top line will come down.
Betsy Kalin: Oh the top line will come down?
Don Quaintance: Yeah the blind will come down
Betsy Kalin: Oh there's a blind at the top?
NatalieTsui: Oh really? Oh my gosh. I actually think it's coming from this.
Don Quaintance: There should be a blind. It might be on the other side, or maybe this side.
NatalieTsui: Over here?
Don Quaintance: Just slide it down. Yup. You're short. There we go. That'll maybe help out.
Betsy Kalin: [00:13:30] Yup it's off.
NatalieTsui: I'm gonna turn the other one down too.
Betsy Kalin: We're just hoping it doesn't snow.
Don Quaintance: I don't think it'll snow yet. It's too warm.
Betsy Kalin: It's too warm yeah.
NatalieTsui: I'm just hoping it doesn't get dark. I was like what is that thing on your shoulder, no! We've been rolling this whole time.
Betsy Kalin: [00:14:00] Oh okay. So you were talking about how when you were a child, you felt like you didn't really have love?
NatalieTsui: There's a plane. I'm gonna cut. Okay I think that's as far as it can get. Go ahead.
Betsy Kalin: Okay.
Don Quaintance: What was the question?
Betsy Kalin: It was about feeling about the things you didn't have when you were young.
Don Quaintance: Oh when I was young? Growing up I never felt that I had any love because we're not a loving family, showing kisses and hugging. I did think that my family,
Don Quaintance: [00:14:30] my parents loved the babies that came along. Me being the oldest, I could see that they showed love to the babies. As you grow older, you're sort of just shoved aside and so that was the one thing I was missing. The love of the family, or anybody.
Betsy Kalin: Did you feel like you had any role models?
Don Quaintance: [00:15:00] Growing up I had no role models in the 50s at all. Either in the theater or politicians or anywhere actually. I didn't know anybody that was gay. I didn't know anybody that was gay until I left school and came to the city for business college, went to work and met my first gay men, gay people.
Don Quaintance: [00:15:30] No role models at all growing up. Nobody to look up to or anyone to look to for advice. I just felt like I was alone. In fact I was so surprised to find how many gay people there were. I thought I was not the only one I was sure, but one of a few.
Betsy Kalin: That must've been amazing.
Don Quaintance: It was. It was very amazing. I went to the bars for the very first time and saw how many there were. A real eye opener.
Betsy Kalin: [00:16:00] And I bet you felt like, oh my god. You know? I'm not all alone, and look!
Don Quaintance: I went to the bar, and that's how I felt, was that I was not alone. There was so many of us out there. For the first time I felt like I, maybe, have a family. For the first time in my life, someone I could talk to and talk with, and talk about things that affect us. So that was sort of our, not a coming out experience,
Don Quaintance: [00:16:30] but for myself it was a coming out experience. A learning experience of who I really was as a gay man. And, of course, I had an awful lot to learn after that.
Betsy Kalin: That's great. Thank you. That's great. What are three key events from your adult life that are essential to talk about?
Don Quaintance: [00:17:00] Three things that have happened in my adult life that I probably should talk about was me becoming more active when Senator Michelle Bachmann was so vocal against the GLBT community and then I decided to stand up. I had a sign and we went down to the state capitol and we marched and we had a large group of people. Everyone felt so supportive. I carried a sign that,
Don Quaintance: [00:17:30] if I remember, said something like I am a vet, I am gay, something to that effect. And there was something else. I'm just drawing a blank on what it said. But it sort of caught the media attention because I was on the front page of the metro sections of both the St. Paul Pioneer Press and then The Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Don Quaintance: [00:18:00] I was on the front pages of their metro sections, showing me with the sign. And then I got a call from my local paper up in Cambridge where I was living. I was living in Cambridge, Isanti, Minnesota then. And they said that they wanted to interview me, and I'm thinking, now what am I in for in my little rural community.
Don Quaintance: [00:18:30] But I thought, when I stood up, I might as well stand up and see what they want. So they interviewed me and I was in the Cambridge News. It was well received. I expected my house to be burned or garage door painted or something, but nothing of that happened. I was so surprised. In fact, a neighbor actually said, when he called me, [inaudible] here goes.
Don Quaintance: [00:19:00] And he says, Quaintance, it's about G-damn time you come out. And then I thought well, I never hid myself, but I wasn't out preaching. I wasn't out. I was just myself. So that was one of the, one time in the beginning, I really became a very active person. But then we started the men's circle. The men's circle was started.
Don Quaintance: [00:19:30] I first was with RAAN, Rural AIDS Action Network. I was a volunteer in, I think 1999. At that time, I said to some fellow friends that were there, I said how do you meet people in the rural area? The facilitator who was from Minneapolis, said well, we can run an ad in the paper. And he said maybe we can start a men's circle up here. And I'm thinking, a men's circle? What's that?
Don Quaintance: [00:20:00] It didn't sound to me like that was gonna be a big benefit to me. Anyway, we ran a bunch of ads in all the local newspapers. We had a meeting, and about 25 people showed up. I'm totally surprised that a rural community that that many came. So that was in 2000. I think it was April, 2000. So that's when the men's circle started. Five years later, we decided, well, we've been together five years.
Don Quaintance: [00:20:30] We really should celebrate. So we said, well let's just have a picnic out in the park. We checked Pine City. So we decided to have a picnic in the park. And we thought well just us 25 people? Let's also run an ad and invite the whole GLBT community and allies, and just see what happens. So that actually was the start of our picnic in the park in Pine City.
Don Quaintance: [00:21:00] That was five years after our men's circle started. A lot more people came than expected. So we were excited, so we kept going every year. So now I think this is the 17th or 18th year of the men's circle, so itll be like the 14th year or whatever of the pride of the park. So that was a big thing for me.
Don Quaintance: [00:21:30] And then after that was the marriage amendment. I worked very hard on the marriage amendment in Minnesota. I did a lot of calling. Had a lot of house parties at my house. Raised funds, and luckily, that came through, so those are just some of the major events in my life.
Betsy Kalin: That's great. I want to go back to starting the men's circle too.
Don Quaintance: Okay.
Betsy Kalin: So what was it like being gay in rural Minnesota? What is that like? Can you explain it?
Don Quaintance: [00:22:00] Being gay in a rural community like Minnesota, at least 20 years ago, 15 years ago probably even, there was no one you could talk to, you didnt know who was gay in the community. There were issues. There were people that were being beaten up. There were things that were happening, but no one really to talk to about current events or things that maybe the GLBT community
Don Quaintance: [00:22:30] or involved with. So it was just good to get a group of people together and talk about issues. We had companionship, friendship, and we sort of helped each other. I don't know, it was a lot of support in the community, and that's what the men's circle did for me and lots of other people. I think we have 75, 80 members at this point.
Don Quaintance: [00:23:00] We're still going. We found out later that we were the first rural pride event, after we started our pride event, in Minnesota, and only the second in the United States for rural pride. We're part of that. Of course at the time, we had not a clue.
Natalie Tsui: What's that?
Betsy Kalin: Oh it's the air.
Don Quaintance: [00:23:30] I could shut it off.
Betsy Kalin: She can do it. Can you tell her where it is?
Don Quaintance: It's right in front of the bathroom. Just turn the fan off probably.
Betsy Kalin: Do you need more soda?
Don Quaintance: Yeah, since we're here. Maybe the fan, just press a button. It should go off.
Natalie Tsui: I just pressed both of them to off.
Natalie Tsui: [00:24:00] Thank you! Just wait a second. Oh, that's strange, it just switched to an input for one second.
Betsy Kalin: Oh.
Don Quaintance: The fan is still going?
Natalie Tsui: No, it's good. It's good. We're good.
Betsy Kalin: I can still hear something.
Natalie Tsui: Wait, yeah it is.
Don Quaintance: It should've gone off, almost immediately.
Natalie Tsui: Maybe it takes a second to catch up, I feel like.
Betsy Kalin: Is it the bathroom fan?
Don Quaintance: [00:24:30] Unless someone turned it on.
Natalie Tsui: Because that's really loud.
Don Quaintance: Otherwise, the fan should say off, and that's all we hear, the fan. Oh you just yell at Bill there. He can turn it off.
Betsy Kalini: It's coming from the utility room.
Don Quaintance: Yeah that's where the fan would be.
Betsy Kalin: Yup.
Natalie Tsui: Maybe it's just also taking a second to adjust.
Don Quaintance: [00:25:00] Why don't you just ask Bill to check the thermostat and turn everything off?
Betsy Kalin: Okay.
Don Quaintance: Bill?
Bill: Yeah?
Don Quaintance: Would you turn the thermostat off?
Betsy Kalin: Oh I think I set it on min. Right? I just switched that. That correct?
Don Quaintance: Just turn the fan off, the heat off. Whatever. It should stop within a minute.
Betsy Kalin: [00:25:30] And this one says fan on.
Don Quaintance: Yeah, it should say fan off.
Betsy Kalin: There.
Don Quaintance: And then it'll go off in 30 seconds.
Natalie Tsui: Maybe I pressed the wrong one.
Betsy Kalin: Yeah it's the wrong one.
Natalie Tsui: Sorry.
Betsy Kalin: There we go. Nope.
Betsy Kalin: There you go.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah.
Don Quaintance: It goes off about 30 seconds normally.
Betsy Kalin: Yup, it's off.
Don Quaintance: Thanks Bill.
Betsy Kalin: [00:26:00] How is it being out in rural Minnesota? How is it different?
Natalie Tsui: Your hair.
Betsy Kalin: Hows this?
Natalie Tsui: You're good. As long as you [inaudible].
Betsy Kalin: Okay. How is it being out in rural Minnesota different than being out in the twin cities or any other big city?
Don Quaintance: Being out in the rural area in Minnesota, your contacts are much further apart. I had lived in a city prior to moving out to Cambridge, Isanti.
Don Quaintance: [00:26:30] I did have a lot of friends in the city, but you only had to go miles, a few miles or less to meet friends, do things, go to the bars, you were five, ten minutes away from other people that you could talk with. In rural Minnesota, you maybe would have to drive 25 miles, and that's what we did. 50 miles sometimes, because we had parties at different peoples houses.
Don Quaintance: [00:27:00] So in order to be out in a rural area, there was that distance issue, more than 20 minutes away, an hour away. Felt that is probably the biggest problem in the rural area.
Betsy Kalin: Was it also hard like, I would imagine in a community that's really small, I know in Los Angeles, theres someone maybe you had a troubled history with or something? In a rural area?
Don Quaintance: [00:27:30] That has happened. In a rural area, the thing is, sometimes, it did not happen to me, but there was always someone that might be under attack for being gay or being suspected of being gay, so there was always that problem. Plus, it was an area that the GLBT community was not received well or easily. It seemed that there wasn't hatred,
Don Quaintance: [00:28:00] but there was a dislike for anyone that was different. We were perceived to be different I guess, even though we were alike in hundreds of thousands of ways. We were no different than they were, but having the gay issue created a problem. But like I said, I, personally, was never ... Well a couple of things were said to me maybe a couple of times --
Don Quaintance: [00:28:30] but I never had a real problem. And maybe it was because I was maybe more straight looking, I don't know. Or I carried myself more straight, I don't know. That probably is not even true, but I don't know why I was not attacked in any way.
Betsy Kalin: Did you find that after starting the men's group that people around you in the community were more supportive or showed their support?
Don Quaintance: [00:29:00] After starting the men's circle and having the pride events, there was an awful lot more support, and also my neighbors, there were many that came forward and supported me. I was sort of surprised. I was involved with the community. I was on our lake association. I was involved with the lake association, and many people, especially after the article that was printed in the paper came forward and supported me. So I realized that
Don Quaintance: [00:29:30] at that point, that there was support out there, before I did not ever know that there was any. All you ever heard of was the people that disliked the GLBT community. The other factor was when I was involved with RAAN, Rural AIDS Action Network, there were people that had AIDS in the area, there were articles in the paper. They didnt have any kind of support, and so because in those early days,
Don Quaintance: [00:30:00] people were afraid of a person that is, I mean even talking to them or something, there was that possibility of getting AIDS. People didn't know, and it was worse in the rural area. So that's one reason I joined RAAN. As a buddy system, I supported men in the area that needed help, getting meds, house cleaning, whatever it might mean. Mostly just support.
Betsy Kalin: [00:30:30] That's wonderful. When were you involved with RAAN?
Don Quaintance: I served RAAN in 1999, I believe. Just about a year before we started the men's circle. Because of the articles in the paper about people passing away of AIDS, not having any assistance of any kind, and they did not come out to their best friends or family, so they were dying alone and I had some experience,
Don Quaintance: [00:31:00] coming from the Twin Cities with friends passing away of AIDS. Prior to that, I had taken care of a person living with AIDS for two years, and he passed away, so when I read these articles, I thought well I know something about it. I could at least be a supportive person. That's how I got involved with RAAN, and I was involved with RAAN for maybe five or six years. So just as a supportive person.
Don Quaintance: [00:31:30] Someone that they could talk to or I could run some errands, get their groceries or whatever.
Betsy Kalin: That's great. That's really great. Back to the questions. What are rural people like in Minnesota? What's the influence of religion and does this present particular challenges to being out in rural Minnesota?
Don Quaintance: [00:32:00] The challenges of a rural community, in rural Minnesota anyway, I think many are religious. They have that perceived notion that you can't be gay, so it was a very strong religious community in the rural area, whether you're catholic, Lutheran, whatever.
Don Quaintance: [00:32:30] It did seem that there were a strong influence against us being a gay person. In fact, when I was working for the marriage amendment, we set up a booth at the Isanti county fair. I got into a little debate with someone who said that I wasn't a Christian because I was gay.
Don Quaintance: [00:33:00] I was saying that I am a Christian. Being gay had nothing to do with it. We had a debate about it, and later, I think a week or maybe two weeks later, she saw me in a parking lot of one of the grocery stores in Cambridge and she came up to me and said that she had thought about our conversation and that she was sorry that I was gay,
Don Quaintance: [00:33:30] but she understood maybe a little bit that she was going to pray for me. But it was so surprising that she even bothered coming up to me. This was proof that in the rural area, it takes a lot of time for people to come around. Only because they don't know. They dont know a gay person, maybe their neighbor hasn't come out to them. Maybe their son hasn't come out to them. People were not coming out in the rural area, so no one knew another gay person.
Don Quaintance: [00:34:00] And then when they did start meeting other gay people, [inaudible]. I think they sort of have changed their mind that, well he's not such a bad guy, or she's not such a bad person. We know her or him. So there's been a change in the rural community now. Maybe not great change, but theres a change.
Betsy Kalin: And how much do you think that your work has made a difference?
Don Quaintance: [00:34:30] My work in the GLBT community, I think has made a difference because I've been out there. Marching in parades, being in the pride events, writing articles in the paper. I had written a lot of articles to the editors with my point of view on something. I think that all made a change, people on the articles I would write from time to time.
Don Quaintance: [00:35:00] I think I have made a big impact with the men's circle, the pride events. PFLAG is another one. We helped start up PFLAG after the men's circle and the pride event. And then there's a purple circle, the women's group. They sort of started after the men's circle. They followed what we were doing. I think, yeah, I have a big impact. And the people I was working with.
Betsy Kalin: That's great. So you would see yourself as an activist?
Don Quaintance: [00:35:30] I do consider myself as an activist. Maybe a little bit less right now. I'm 76, soon to be 77, and I'm sort of trying to slow down a little bit. But up till a couple years ago, I was very active. And I'm still active, but not as much. I'm sort of handing it off to the next generation, I'm hoping.
Betsy Kalin: [00:36:00] Have you seen any changes? Have you seen young people in rural communities start being active?
Don Quaintance: In the rural community, some younger people are becoming involved. Not as many as I would've hoped. There's been some people that joined the men's circle, but it seems that so many people are involved with the internet now that they don't have intricate groups, one on one conversation with people, which is surprising to me and disappointing.
Don Quaintance: [00:36:30] I think in the end it's not a good thing, but you know, young people becoming involved. Young people now have gay straight alliances in high school, so there's a lot more support for the youth. I'm very proud of that. I think, with me, others like me being out, that has assisted the youth of today and being out and being themselves at an early age when they should be.
Betsy Kalin: [00:37:00] Yeah, there's really not been a lot of talk about what it's like to be gay in rural America.
Don Quaintance: Right.
Betsy Kalin: That's something you always hear about being gay in urban areas, but you don't really get the experience.
Don Quaintance: Yeah that's true. The other thing in the rural community, you don't have a lot of support. That was one reason PFLAG was started,
Don Quaintance: [00:37:30] because some people were having trouble with their son in school. They helped start the PFLAG with the support of the men's circle. The PFLAG themselves have been a great asset to the rural area, bringing awareness and support to the rural area.
Betsy Kalin: Yeah I mean, that must be amazing to be a rural kid and have your parents say, you know, they love you.
Don Quaintance: [00:38:00] Exactly, yeah.
Betsy Kalin: It's great. Did you ever think of moving back to a bigger city?
Don Quaintance: Well after I was living in a rural area for 20 plus years, I decided that for two reasons I decided that the place I was currently living in was too big,
Don Quaintance: [00:38:30] and it was a lot to take care of, plus I was advancing in age, so three years ago I moved back toward the city, right on the edge of the city which is almost rural but it is city and I have a lot of friends back here. I was glad to move back to the city because I had lived here for 20 plus years prior to moving out to the rural area. So that was one reason I moved back to the city. Just to be near friends basically,
Don Quaintance: [00:39:00] being near the city. But I was still involved with the rural community. Im still involved with the men's circle. I'm still involved with our pride events, so I'm still involved in the rural area.
Betsy Kalin: That's great. Do you think that there are advantages to be gay in a small town as opposed to in a big city? Is there anything you can think of?
Don Quaintance: [00:39:30] I don't think there's any type of advantage for being gay in a rural area, a small town. I think the city, a large area, has a lot more advantages because there's a lot more gay people in the city. You can develop friendships and have someone to talk with. In a rural area, getting back to the distance, there's a handful of gay people in one city
Don Quaintance: [00:40:00] or in another city. They're not cities, they're towns, out in the rural area. It's probably still hard to be in contact with them. I would suspect it's still difficult for youth in the rural area to meet other youth.
Betsy Kalin: I mean it seems like the drive, if you have to drive 50 miles.
Don Quaintance: Right. Yup.
Betsy Kalin: Puts a damper on wanting to hang out.
Don Quaintance: Right. Exactly. Just can't hang out, yeah.
Betsy Kalin: [00:40:30] That's great. Do you want to talk a little bit more about the marriage amendment and your work and why this was such an important issue for you?
Don Quaintance: I worked with the marriage amendment. I just thought it was very important for those who want to get married. At that time I didn't think that I would be getting married. I wanted it for other folks who wanted to. There were benefits of getting married.
Don Quaintance: [00:41:00] I can't name them all but there's like 50 plus reasons why, the benefits of getting married. So that was the real reason. I just thought that we should have equal rights, so, plus other factors that had over the years, with someone's loved one going to the hospital, not being able to see their loved one because the family of that loved one is kicking them out,
Don Quaintance: [00:41:30] they're not accepting a gay partner. So those were some reasons why I thought the marriage amendment was a good thing, so that's the reason I fought for it, worked for it, and was so glad that it passed. I was down there for the signing. I'm happy about it. I later found love again, and now I'm married.
Don Quaintance: [00:42:00] I did not get married for that reason that I could get married, it just happened.
Betsy Kalin: Does it feel different? Being married?
Don Quaintance: Being married to me really feels no different. I have that benefit of knowing that my partner will be taken care of. Those kind of things that a normal couple would have. So I don't have that worry that somebody from my family would throw a fit.
Don Quaintance: [00:42:30] My partner has equal rights. That's the only difference. Other than that, to me, there's no real difference. Being a partner or having a marriage.
Betsy Kalin: So with Michelle Bachmann, and then you went to the demonstration, and then you were the cover of the metro section all over. So had you come out at that point, and did you get any reaction?
Don Quaintance: [00:43:00] Back to Michelle Bachmann, when I became very active because of her, I was still working. I think it had been my last year of work, so I felt more comfortable about being myself. I felt so strong that I had to say something or at least stand up, because I had been saying for years that if we, the gay community,
Don Quaintance: [00:43:30] would just stand up, people would be surprised at how many of us there might be. So I guess I just felt that I need to stand up, finally go down and make myself present and have a voice. So that's why I went down and that's why I became more active. At work, many did not know that I was gay.
Don Quaintance: [00:44:00] They didn't expect it, even though I had worked with the company for over 35 plus years. So they were surprised but there was no problem. I had support. I think I was the director of purchasing and customer services. It was an office job. The shipping clerks and those people, you usually think of it as being a little more hard-nosed or something.
Don Quaintance: [00:44:30] But when I walked out of the shipping department, I thought, I wonder what kind of reception I might get. Although I had been there for so many years. I was friends with everybody. I wasn't too worried, but they just looked at me for a second, and then no problem. There were other people who did support me and came out, they said they didn't know, but they supported me.
Betsy Kalin: [00:45:00] That's good. Sorry.
Don Quaintance: I'll get some water too.
Betsy Kalin: Tickle in my throat.
Don Quaintance: Voice gets so dry.
Betsy Kalin: So when did you come out to your family?
Don Quaintance: Coming out to the family, I never really came out to the family. In the early years,
Don Quaintance: [00:45:30] I had some partners, sometimes they thought they were just roommates. I'm not sure what they thought, but the actual time I came out with my family was when my second partner passed away, and I mentioned that he was my partner and that's when they were totally aware. There was some suspicion before.
Don Quaintance: [00:46:00] There was some talk prior to that time, but no one ever asked me. If they had, I would've been truthful. I was just myself. I had roommates. I had Paul, my second partner. When he passed away of cancer, that was a time that I came out. That was 20 years ago now. Ive had all kinds of support. In fact, recently
Don Quaintance: [00:46:30] I was at a wedding of one of my nephews, and I got a thank you note from him just last week. Thanked me for coming and was glad to see me and whatever. Then the very last sentence, he says he was very proud of me for being a good role model for him. I have tears in my eyes because I thought, well really? And also since that time,
Don Quaintance: [00:47:00] since the last three months, two nephews have come forward asking me about their kids. Both are saying they're bi, so they're asking me about what can they do, what should they do. Who should they see? That kind of thing. I guess they trust me, and they look for my direction.
Betsy Kalin: [00:47:30] That's wonderful. I mean it must make you feel.
Don Quaintance: It brings tears to my eyes, yeah.
Betsy Kalin: Okay, let me wipe my eyes. That's a beautiful story.
Don Quaintance: Thank you.
Betsy Kalin: People always say it's so important to come out because you can have an impact. But you don't really. I mean it's such a personal thing, and you're taking so much risks that you don't really think about,
Betsy Kalin: [00:48:00] well I'm doing this to make a greater impact, but then when you hear, you know, when you get that support from your family or you hear that you're making a difference.
Don Quaintance: Suddenly you understand that you are making an impact. Maybe you did some good, you know. Especially in your own family. That was your desire I guess, to help somebody out there, and now it's back in your own family.
Betsy Kalin: [00:48:30] That's really special. Thank you for sharing that.
Don Quaintance: Oh you're welcome.
Betsy Kalin: What do you regard as the most significant change that LGBTQ people experience today as compared to 50 or 60 years ago?
Don Quaintance: Currently the young GLBT, I think, have it much easier coming out. If they come out now, in their teens, or almost before.
Don Quaintance: [00:49:00] So there's a much greater awareness of the gay community. There's a lot more things on the news, a lot more support. There's people they can look up to. There's programs on TV all the time. We are no longer hidden. We're out there in TV shows. There's somebody involved that's either lesbian or gay or something.
Don Quaintance: [00:49:30] I think it just shows that we're here and we're sort of human. We're all the same. The TV shows show that, so I think it makes it a lot easier for youth of today. Not that some don't have a lot of problems, but it's much easier than back in the 50s and 60s and that time frame.
Betsy Kalin: Did you think that in your lifetime that you would ever see gay marriage?
Don Quaintance: [00:50:00] In my lifetime, I always had hope for gay marriage, but never thought of it happening in my lifetime. When it happened, it happened so sudden that many of us were totally surprised. It was something we worked very hard for. They had the results so fast in Minnesota that it sort of stunned us. We were very hopeful, but we were stunned when it happened.
Betsy Kalin: [00:50:30] Do you think that because of the successes that we've had with, you know, the supreme court, and gay marriage, do you think that actually sped us along a little faster?
Don Quaintance: I think the supreme court has helped us an awful lot, and presidents that have accepted the gay youth and people. I think all of that's helped the whole GLBT community, youth, adults, it all has helped.
Betsy Kalin: [00:51:00] Yeah, and how is the current political climate impacting you in Minnesota? Have you noticed any changes?
Don Quaintance: Well the current political climate in this period of time, I think is, we don't know what to think. We don't know for sure what ways something might go.
Don Quaintance: [00:51:30] So I think a lot of us are apprehensive, whether we're going to be able to keep our current rights. Whether things continue to be as accepting. There seems to be so much more strife, hate building up among everybody and everything. And our president isn't helping. So, I have hope, but I have a little worry right now.
Betsy Kalin: [00:52:00] Have you had any examples? Has anybody told you any examples that have happened in like rural communities or anything?
Don Quaintance: I have not heard of anything happening lately because of the current climate. I think it's just, at our men's circle meetings, there's been talk. Basically just that we're a little apprehensive. There's a little worry out there, but I've not heard of anything really happening.
Betsy Kalin: [00:52:30] Let me go back to the men's circle. So, let's say for youths, they don't know what is the men's circle. Can you describe what it is?
Don Quaintance: The men's circle, when we first started in the year 2000, was a group of men, in fact it still is a group of men that are accepting and we get together to talk about issues that affect us in the rural area or just affect us, period.
Don Quaintance: [00:53:00] We get together once a month in a safe place, usually a restaurant, meeting room or something. We have lunch sometimes or dinner. Lasts about two hours, just talking about current issues. Sometimes we have speakers. We've had doctors or a variety of people to come in from time to time, just to speak to us.
Don Quaintance: [00:53:30] So it's just companionship and we get together to support each other. We're a people who might just be coming out or at any age they could be coming out in their 20s, 30s, or 50s. We have people that'll come out in their 50s to us, so we're there to support them.
Betsy Kalin: Have you, over the years, made lasting friendships? Just so people can get the sense of what is it?
Don Quaintance: [00:54:00] Over the years, we've had many lasting relationships. Some have met their partners through the men's circle. I happen to have met my partner through the men's circle. But generally, we just are a lot of groups of friends. We just had a funeral for one good friend who was a member since 2000 who passed away. We had a memorial service. There was like 40 people. 40 friends of all of ours.
Don Quaintance: [00:54:30] We developed long term friendships, many people come and go, but there's also a lot of long term friendships. We get together for parties, summer parties, card parties, movie nights. Just barbecues, just a group of friends, like any group of friends. We have a closer bond than many do. And we're so lucky. Many of us have said that we think that we have more friends
Don Quaintance: [00:55:00] than many straight people have. We've heard straight people talk about it. Oh I have this one friend or whatever. We do this or we do that. They might be married, but a man has one or two friends he do something with. That's all? We think, wow we're so lucky that we have five friends, 25 friends, whatever.
Betsy Kalin: That was great. That was a really good explanation, thank you.
Don Quaintance: You're welcome.
Betsy Kalin: Also I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about pride and pride in the park
Betsy Kalin: [00:55:30] and how it got started and how it's grown and then who's there and the community reaction. You can just go.
Don Quaintance: Referencing our pride in the park, it's now called East Central Minnesota Pride in the Park. It started out in 2005 and we have 100 people that came to our little picnic in the park.
Don Quaintance: [00:56:00] Then the following year, 200, 300. So now we have about 500 people that might come, which is quite a few for a rural community. So there are both gay people, there are allies, friends, families, so it's a large group of people that come. We have a barbecue where we serve food. We have entertainment. Sometimes we have two or three bands. It's growing every year.
Don Quaintance: [00:56:30] It seems to be pretty well received. Not that we have not had an issue once or twice, but generally it's been well received. I think it's been a plus for the community, especially the GLBT community. It's a place for people to come together and
Betsy Kalin: Stop right there. It's five o' clock.
Don Quaintance: Five o' clock, that's right. Right you are.
Natalie Tsui: [00:57:00] Meet and socialize
Betsy Kalin: Yeah we're just gonna pick up where you said it's become a place where people can meet and socialize.
Don Quaintance: Yeah so at the park we just meet and socialize, and we have vendors there from a lot of different places. They could be selling plants. They could be selling jewelry, art supplies. I think we even maybe had 20 vendors our last year.
Don Quaintance: [00:57:30] Maybe more than that, but we have a few vendors there from the local community. It's just a big party in the park. Like I said, we have entertainment. During the political situation, they come and talk to us when someones running for governor, they'll be there, or a senator or legislator. Many speakers have come.
Don Quaintance: [00:58:00] It runs from noon to about five. It's a nice five hour event. Just a lot of friends that sometimes we only see them once a year. They come to the park and party. It's just a big get together that we have a good time and share literature and those kinds of things that are happening in our lives for our community.
Betsy Kalin: [00:58:30] That's great. Because I think of, I mean most people know what pride is, like big San Francisco pride or New York pride, and they don't really think about what is pride like?
Don Quaintance: It's probably the same thing except that it's a smaller thing, and being a smaller community, you're raised to know most of these people, especially when they're coming back every year. You get to know their names,
Don Quaintance: [00:59:00] and if not their names, their faces at least. It's like a big family with four or five hundred other people. You see the same people all the time.
Betsy Kalin: That sounds wonderful.
Don Quaintance: It's a good feeling that we're all coming together and supporting each other.
Betsy Kalin: That's great. Do you need to make an adjustment?
Natalie Tsui: Let's change [inaudible] significantly. I can adjust. This might be the time for it.
Betsy Kalin: [00:59:30] Take a short break?
Natalie Tsui: Yeah a really short break to adjust lighting. But the lights are pretty much set for a few hours.
Don Quaintance: Yeah, probably half an hour on them now.
Betsy Kalin: [inaudible]. I think if we can, if the light is still okay, we should keep going.
Natalie Tsui: My adjustment is turning this down. It'll take like two seconds. I'm basically bumping up the ISO and turning everything down.
Don Quaintance: [01:00:00] I sort of ramble so I hope this turns out.
Betsy Kalin: You don't ramble at all.
Don Quaintance: My mind is like what should I say.
Betsy Kalin: No you're great! Trust us, we know people who ramble, you are fantastic.
Don Quaintance: Oh okay. Good.
Betsy Kalin: [01:00:30] So you had mentioned in that questionnaire that some of the changes that you see that are different than 50 to 60 years ago is that there's gay straight alliance in school, gay marriage, and greater acceptance.
Don Quaintance: [01:01:00] Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Betsy Kalin: Could you just say that again, because I'm not sure you said all of those when I asked you.
Don Quaintance: The first part.
Betsy Kalin: Gay straight alliance, gay marriage, greater acceptance of GLBT people.
Don Quaintance: So these are the significant changes of the last 50, 60 years?
Betsy Kalin: You can just say, you know, it's different today from the past.
Don Quaintance: Okay well what's different today from the past, like 50 years ago.
Don Quaintance: [01:01:30] Well there's gay straight alliance in the schools now, so there's support between the youth. There is role models now, 50 years ago, we didn't have a role model of any sort or any kind. TV programs that show that there is issues for the GLBT,
Don Quaintance: [01:02:00] but there's also good things that happen to the gay people on television that we now are part of this civilization. We're part of life. So people are accepting us that way. That we're not some strange thing out there, that we're just a normal person doing the same thing they're doing. Shopping,
Don Quaintance: [01:02:30] going to work, going to school, having kids, whatever. Being gay might only be, like I always said that being gay is only part of us as who we are. It's like being left handed or right handed. Brown eyes or blue eyes. It's just part of us, it doesn't define us. I think people maybe understand that now, at least better than they used to. Probably other things I can think of, but I can't think of right now.
Betsy Kalin: [01:03:00] That was great. That was perfect. What would you name as the most important underlying reason for the progress that the GLBT community has made?
Don Quaintance: I think one of the most important things that the GLBT community has done is let other people know that we're out there
Don Quaintance: [01:03:30] and that we're just like everybody else, that we're no different than they are. That we are going to work, we have jobs, we go to church, we have families, we have kids, and we really are no different than they are, than a straight person might be. So I think theres that awareness now that maybe was not there, if at all 50 years ago.
Betsy Kalin: That's great. You also mentioned that the community involvement.
Don Quaintance: [01:04:00] Yeah. The first part of that was what now?
Betsy Kalin: What would you name as one of the most important things?
Don Quaintance: The other thing that's very important for the GLBT community is that we've been out there, making people aware. We have out front Minnesota, our pride events. I just think us being out
Don Quaintance: [01:04:30] is a big factor for people's acceptance, awareness, education. I guess that's it. I don't know.
Betsy Kalin: That's great. So do you want to talk briefly about the three people that you listed that have made contributions to the community? I'll give you their names and you can take them one by one. You said Phil and Barb Schroeder, Randy Olsen, and Julie Redpath.
Don Quaintance: [01:05:00] You asked about 3 people that I'm aware of that had made a big impact in the rural GLBT community. One would be Randy and Dudley Olsen. They helped me start the men's circle. We were three of the five
Don Quaintance: [01:05:30] that started the men's circle and are still with the men's circle. They had become an impact on my life, and a big part of my life. Phil and Barb Schroeder, they helped start PFLAG in East Central Minnesota. They are the ones that had a gay son and had issues with him. They helped start it
Don Quaintance: [01:06:00] and are now in charge of the PFLAG, or at least some of the main members. Then there's Julie Redpath. She helped start Purple Circle, a women's group of GLBT. They helped start groups in the rural East Central Minnesota area, so they are also a part of the pride committee,
Don Quaintance: [01:06:30] so they all are involved, PFLAG, men's circle, purple circle, are involved with doing our pride event every June. They are a big support. Very important people in our community and the GLBT community in the rural area.
Betsy Kalin: That was great. Thank you. Have you heard from, you know when you first started the men's circle,
Betsy Kalin: [01:07:00] did you hear from other members who joined or came or wanted to check it out, what it was like for them to finally have this group?
Don Quaintance: When we first started the men's circle, we had 25 people that came, the first meeting. Most came at every meeting for the first nine or ten months. And that might be because we had free pizza every meeting.
Don Quaintance: [01:07:30] Food always brings in the people, it seems. But after that, still we had a good turnout in the teens. I lost my whole train of thought.
Betsy Kalin: How did people react?
Don Quaintance: To the men's circle. Okay. People who came, many of them, some would come thinking that it was a group of men getting together for sexual things.
Don Quaintance: [01:08:00] We right away said no. We're just a group of friends. If you find a partner fine. If you have sex, fine. But this is not a group for that. So occasionally someone would come, they find out that it wasn't' a sex group so we wouldn't see them again. But generally, people found it very supportive. We had people that would come for a while and would drop out, or people that would come occasionally, and may come six times a year or whatever.
Don Quaintance: [01:08:30] We have a large support, it'd be like 75 people that come from time to time, but there's probably 20 main core people that come to most meetings. So most found it accepting. Most found it very helpful. Pardon me. Good grief. Be sure to show that, me choking.
Betsy Kalin: [01:09:00] Is it getting dark?
Natalie Tsui: [inaudible]
Don Quaintance: What was I saying? I forgot.
Betsy Kalin: Are we Okay?
Natalie Tsui: Yeah.
Betsy Kalin: You were just saying that most people found it really accepting.
Don Quaintance: Oh yeah. Most people found it very accepting and helpful. Some people come who were just coming out, like I said earlier
Don Quaintance: [01:09:30] that they might be 40s or 50s, just coming out. They've found it very helpful to find support in the community, and know what to do, other people to talk to, knowing that they aren't the only ones out there. So most found the group pretty supporting. Like I said earlier, there were a handful that maybe came for the wrong reason, but generally, overall I think it was a good experience for most people,
Don Quaintance: [01:10:00] whether they came for a short time or long term. Many of us are together now, 18 years.
Betsy Kalin: How does the prevalence of religion and churches, how does that impact the GLBT community in a rural area?
Don Quaintance: Religion does impact the rural area, but maybe no different than in a city. I don't know.
Don Quaintance: [01:10:30] There's a strong religious undertone, overtone in the rural area that we may not accept it. In general, I don't think it was a real problem, at least for the people that were coming to our meetings. Some did have issues. Some had experiences of going to sessions
Don Quaintance: [01:11:00] where they were supposed to become straight, and they would really get screwed up, and they would come back and find out that they were really normal. They didn't have to be straight now. They weren't sick. So the religion, generally in our group, didn't seem to have much of an impact. Many were not all that religious, basically.
Don Quaintance: [01:11:30] They had sort of left that a little bit behind. They were Christians or whatever, but that wasn't the forefront of their life.
Betsy Kalin: Okay. Thank you. So in this last section, I just have kind of a shorter question. Answer with maybe a couple sentences.
Don Quaintance: Okay.
Betsy Kalin: [01:12:00] So I wanted to know if you had advice to a young GLBT person on coming out. What advice would you give?
Don Quaintance: For a young person coming out now, the only advice I would have is to just be honest. Be yourself. That's about the only thing I can think of. Know that there's people out there that are supportive.
Betsy Kalin: It seems like they're more supportive today.
Don Quaintance: [01:12:30] Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Betsy Kalin: I mean, that seems to be the way to go.
Don Quaintance: Right, right.
Betsy Kalin: I mean you just had an experience.
Don Quaintance: That's right, yes.
Betsy Kalin: That's great. What is your hope? What do you want to see in the future?
Don Quaintance: Well in the future, I'm hoping that there's never an issue, really, between GLBT and straight. I just hope that we're accepted as who we are,
Don Quaintance: [01:13:00] as being normal people, as we are. That's my hope.
Betsy Kalin: That's great. Thank you. Why is it important to you to tell your story?
Don Quaintance: I think it's important for people to tell their story so other people can get a feel of who you are. I'm just like anybody else. There are probably a thousand other stories just like mine out there,
Don Quaintance: [01:13:30] so I'm not unique. I'm just one person. I think by people telling their stories, just shows that we're all human.
Natalie Tsui: The sound just clicked in.
Betsy Kalin: Oh yeah.
Don Quaintance: That's a fan, but how could that be?
Natalie Tsui: I know.
Don Quaintance: Unless that's the water heater or something. I wouldn't know how to shut that off.
Natalie Tsui: It kicked in right during that last answer. So.
Betsy Kalin: [01:14:00] I'll ask it again.
Natalie Tsui: While that's happening, I'll go.
Betsy Kalin: It's all off.
Natalie Tsui: It says it's off?
Don Quaintance: Is it coming from the utility room?
Betsy Kalin: It does sound like it's coming from the utility room.
Don Quaintance: Huh. I don't know.
Betsy Kalin: Same thing. It's the same thing that was on before.
Don Quaintance: If I could get up I could look.
Betsy Kalin: Stay.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah, stay.
Don Quaintance: [01:14:30] Because if everything should be off, heat and air's off, nothing should be running. Is Bill out there?
Bill: Yeah, I'm trying to figure it out.
Don Quaintance: Yeah, press the heat and air so it's just plain off. It shows no heat, no air. And then the fan, the same way. Just off.
Bill: Yup.
Don Quaintance: [01:15:00] Yeah, we can't do anything about that I guess. It won't go off, huh?
Betsy Kalin: [inaudible].
Don Quaintance: I thought we had the fan off. It shouldn't be running.
Natalie Tsui: Room tone with air conditioning.
Betsy Kalin: [01:15:30] No it's off. Well okay, we're rolling. Let's roll.
Natalie Tsui: Nevermind. Nevermind the room tone.
Betsy Kalin: That's okay.
Don Quaintance: Just me.
Betsy Kalin: Why don't you tell me again why you think it's important to tell your story? Sorry.
Don Quaintance: I think it's important for people to tell their stories so others out there know that we are no different than they are. Because there's a thousand other people
Don Quaintance: [01:16:00] that have the same story or similar story as I do. I'm really no different. I'm not unique. We're all human, but I think it's important for us to tell our stories so other people know who we are.
Betsy Kalin: That's great. So OUTWORDS is the first national project to capture and share our history through in-depth interviews. Why do you think this is important? And you can please mention OUTWORDS in your answer.
Don Quaintance: [01:16:30] I think OUTWORDS is important because I think it's very important to document GLBT history from the seniors, a senior's point of view, because we've gone through the 50s and 60s. We probably have a different view, or definitely a different view from when we were growing up in the 50s or 60s as now, 2016 or whatever. So I think that's a big difference.
Betsy Kalin: [01:17:00] Yeah, maybe if you can just say a little bit more about, you know, you actually lived through all of this history and you witnessed the changes and, you know, what it's like to be you now in Minnesota. Why you feel that that's important? You don't have to reword it my way, just say it the way you want.
Don Quaintance: [01:17:30] So basically, you want me to tell why I feel important?
Betsy Kalin: Yeah I find your story really resonates with me, because I grew up in a rural community, and I knew what it was like when I grew up, but looking back and seeing what it was like when you grew up and to be out and to be on the cover of papers, you know. It's pretty momentous.
Don Quaintance: [01:18:00] Well growing up, a person really had to be careful of how they acted. Not to let people know who you really might be, so you were always undercover. Sort of hiding in the closet. You could not be yourself. You sort of grew up being two people because you had your gay life and then you had to be, if you went to work, went to school,
Don Quaintance: [01:18:30] you had that other self. Your other self, so you were like actually walking two roads. Probably without realizing it. Even at work, like I said, went to school, went to work, the same thing followed through all the time. You could never be yourself. You could only be yourself when you're with like people. We were going to bars ourselves,
Don Quaintance: [01:19:00] I mean our own gay bars. We met there, had friends there, we had parties. We sort of grew up in hiding. We were hiding in public because [inaudible] there were like people, so we were not out in the community. They didn't really know who we were, like our neighbors maybe don't know who we are.
Don Quaintance: [01:19:30] We're just there. So it's a different time now because you can be yourself. You can gay, not that you have to be flamboyant or anything, but you could be yourself. People are accepting, at least a lot more so than they were. I think I lost track of what more I should say.
Betsy Kalin: No, you did great.
Don Quaintance: Really? At this point, since I'm a senior, I've lived through so many things.
Don Quaintance: [01:20:00] I've lived through stonewall, and then I lived through the parades, still doing them. Lived through the AIDS epidemic. My first partner probably died from AIDS. In 1980 he was diagnosed as having an illness that some people in California were having,
Don Quaintance: [01:20:30] some people in New York were having. They asked what his lifestyle was. He was gay, and they said, well, sounds like a gay disease. We had never heard of AIDS, they hadn't even used that term yet. So I went through that whole period where a lot of friends passed away. My partner passed away. So it was a time of uncertainty, in the 80s. Even in the 90s. I had friends passed away. I had a person living with AIDS with me for two years I took care of.
Don Quaintance: [01:21:00] Then I went into the marriage amendment. Time passed, I was involved with lots of different things. Men's circle, PFLAG, our pride events up there. Doing a lot of things, starting a lot of things. Involved with lots of things, but then the marriage amendment was another big deal. Got involved with that,
Don Quaintance: [01:21:30] had a lot of parties at the house, raising funds, calling. We were so glad when that passed, and now we're at a time that I've seen so many changes, it's hard to remember them. It's hard to realize how it was back in 1950s, 1960s. It was a totally different time. It's sort of hard to remember that I lived through that. So I see documentaries or history on that. It's like oh man, I remember I lived that.
Don Quaintance: [01:22:00] I don't know what else to say about that, it just ... I lived through it and I'm glad I did. It was a real experience. I think it was a growing time for a lot of people and I'm glad I was a part of it.
Betsy Kalin: That's great. Yeah well you hadn't mentioned earlier that you thought that your partner had passed away from AIDS.
Don Quaintance: Oh yeah, my first partner. Yeah.
Betsy Kalin: [01:22:30] And can you talk a little bit more about the impact was for you, about the AIDS epidemic and how ... It seems like it radicalized a lot of people and made them more open because it's just a tremendous loss.
Don Quaintance: Right. Well during the AIDS epidemic, and you know that first started in the 80s, people didn't know how to react. We didn't know what caused it, we didn't know how we were getting it exactly. We thought maybe kissing someone, you may get AIDS, so it was a rather traumatic period of time for us,
Don Quaintance: [01:23:00] especially when we had lots of friends that were dying. It was absolutely amazing and we were so angry about it because we would say, oh did you know Bill passed away. Did you know Ed passed away? It's like, oh my god, every time you heard this, it was like I don't know, stabbed in the heart because you didn't know what to do, because no one really knew in the early 80s and mid 80s, what to do about it.
Don Quaintance: [01:23:30] But as time went on, I guess we formed groups to help support each other. MAP, Minneapolis AIDS Project, started. Aliveness on AIDS project started to help deliver food to the sick. So theres a lot of people in the area that were starting groups to help people living with AIDS. When my friend who lived with me for two years passed away,
Don Quaintance: [01:24:00] he wasn't my partner. This was in the early 90s, he came to live with me because he had six months to live. Thankfully, he had two years to live, although it was quite a burden on someone taking care of a person with AIDS because it got worse and worse as time went on. And then more medicine was being discovered to help these people. More people were living with AIDS,
Don Quaintance: [01:24:30] now people are living with AIDS for 50 years, I suppose they could. So people are living with AIDS now. So there's a lot of things going on during the AIDS epidemic that have helped people survive. And there was an awful lot of support. So much support that I can't think of all the support that we had during that period of time.
Betsy Kalin: That's great. Thank you. Thanks for sharing that. Natalie?
Natalie Tsui: Oh yeah. Shit, question?
Betsy Kalin: [01:25:00] Yeah.
Natalie Tsui: Oh yeah, sorry, I do. Okay I was wondering if you could tell me how you met your current partner, and also what it was like to lose a partner and then?
Don Quaintance: My current partner?
Natalie Tsui: Yeah.
Betsy Kalin: And then talk to me.
Don Quaintance: Well, losing a partner, of course, is like losing part of your life, because you have this plan. Especially when you're in your 30s, my first partner passed away at 39.
Don Quaintance: [01:25:30] It's like suddenly your life is half over or something. The plan is gone, and you're not sure where you're going. There was a period of time after that.
Natalie Tsui: There's a plane.
Betsy Kalin: Okay, so the question was can you talk about what it's like to lose a partner?
Don Quaintance: Well losing a partner, my first partner was Bob Clark.
Don Quaintance: [01:26:00] Well it's like losing a part of your life, your direction. You're suddenly just not for sure quite what to do, where to go, because you're so used to having this person with you, a part of your life. But afterwards, you get sort of used to it as always. There's a period of adjustment for some people. It might be six months. Others, a year or more. I had lots of friends,
Don Quaintance: [01:26:30] I had an idea to have some relationships after that point, but I didn't get another partner for another 10 years. That partner I had for 10 years. My first partner Bob I had for 10 years, was without partners for 10 years basically. Another partner for 10 years, and he also passed away from cancer. His name was Paul. And then about another 10 years went by,
Don Quaintance: [01:27:00] so these weren't mourning periods, but they were just periods of adjustment. At that time I thought I would, well, I had two lovers, that's probably more than many. I was sort of content, not that I didn't want a relationship. Plus, I was now approaching 60s and 70s. But then my current partner Bill came into my life five years ago. It was unexpected,
Don Quaintance: [01:27:30] and so I'm really happy now that I took another chance and it's working out great. It's a new beginning, or five years into the beginning. So I've been very lucky. I consider myself a very lucky man.
Betsy Kalin: That's beautiful! Thank you! That was great.
Natalie Tsui: How did you two meet?
Don Quaintance: I met Bill at the men's circle, like I said, earlier that the men's circle was more of a friendship type thing.
Don Quaintance: [01:28:00] Some people came for sex. We said, well, this really isn't a sex club, but I said if you have sex, or if you meet someone to have sex, good for you. A couple of other people have met partners there. Bill came to some meetings. I met him and somehow we hit it off. He seemed like an old soul and for some reason he liked me. He got to me
Don Quaintance: [01:28:30] and we decided to see what would happen. I'm a bit older than he is, so I first thought maybe it wasn't a good idea but it's turning out great. I'm a happy man.
Betsy Kalin: That's terrific. Thank you.
Natalie Tsui: I have one more. Sorry.
Betsy Kalin: Go ahead, no. My gosh, no.
Natalie Tsui: My last one is, so you started the men's circle and I was wondering if you could speak to the importance of community and especially community as a queer person? You know, finding your chosen family?
Don Quaintance: [01:29:00] Back to the men's circle as a community, I think it's important to have a community. I think going through life alone is probably the worst thing that a person can do. I find that forming the men's circle and then having this group has been a real rewarding thing for me, and I know other people have said the very same thing, that we're able,
Don Quaintance: [01:29:30] now that we're older, to mentor some younger people, or mentor people that are just coming out. We have some life experiences that can help guide them. It's been a community of great friendships, love. I just think it's a very important asset, especially in a rural community where the distance is the real problem. Like I said before,
Don Quaintance: [01:30:00] in the city you can meet people five minutes away. In a rural area, you may have to meet people like 20 miles away. So the distance was a real problem in the rural area.
Betsy Kalin: Great. That's excellent.
Natalie Tsui: Okay, that's it for me.
Betsy Kalin: I want to ask you if you have some stuff that we haven't talked about that are omissions that you think that we should talk about and ask you?
Don Quaintance: I can't think of anything to be truthful. I can't think of anything.
Betsy Kalin: [01:30:30] It's fine. We're almost at two hours. That's great
Natalie Tsui: Okay. I'm going to cut, should I cut?
Betsy Kalin: I think we're done.
Natalie Tsui: All right. Okay, we're done. Okay, Room Tone
[01:31:00] [ROOM TONE]
[01:31:30] Okay, we room tone with the AC on.

Interviewed by: Betsy Kalin
Camera: Natalie Tsui
Date: March 04, 2018
Location: Home of Don Quaintance, Centerville, MN