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Jim Toy was born in 1930, in Manhattan, to a Scotch-Irish-American mother and Chinese-American father. After Jim’s mother passed away, his father moved the family to Granville, Ohio to be close to Jim’s maternal grandparents. Then World War II struck, and the United States went to war against Japan. Jim’s classmates decided he was Japanese simply because of his appearance – and made him pay. This early experience in Asiaphobia scarred Jim for life – but also made him profoundly sensitive to anyone who was being singled out and harassed for their essence, or their beliefs. 
 
Growing up, Jim knew he wasn’t like other boys. When his peers talked about their attraction to girls, he stayed silent and puzzled, unable to relate. It wasn’t until 1954, when working out his conscientious objector assignment in New York, that Jim heard the word “gay” for the first time and had his first experience with another man. 
 
In 1957, Jim became the music director of the St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Detroit, Michigan. After a six-year marriage to woman from the church choir, Jim began exploring his sexual identity in greater depth. In the wake of the Stonewall protests, Jim helped establish the Ann Arbor chapter of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). Soon after, at an anti-Vietnam War rally, Jim became the first recorded person in Michigan to publicly come out as gay. 
 
Soon after founding the Ann Arbor GLF, Jim helped create the Lesbian-Gay Male Programs Office (LGMPO) at the University of Michigan – the first staffed on-campus office in a US institution of higher learning to advocate for sexual orientation issues. He later helped pressure the University of Michigan to amend its non-discrimination by-law to include protections for gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Jim subsequently helped convince the city of Ann Arbor and other municipalities to adopt similar protections. Over the years, Jim continued to work extensively within the Episcopal Church on queer issues, and has worked as an HIV/AIDS educator and patient counselor. The full list of Jim’s activities and accomplishments is simply too long to include here. 
 
As the first interviewee of OUTWORDS’ first road trip in July 2016, Jim holds a special place in our heart. It was also inspiring to interview him at the building that bears his name: the Jim Toy Center in Ann Arbor. At nearly 90 years old, Jim’s voice is vibrant, his eyes are piercing, and his memory is sharp. Above all, he exudes honesty, kindness, and humble strength. The American queer community owes Jim a debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid. 
Scott Drucker: [00:00:00] We are recording.
Mason Funk: I have some questions that I actually wrote out. Others we'll just kind of wing it.
Jim Toy: Sure.
Mason Funk: Is it 9:00 now, about.
Jim Toy: It's 10:00 Eastern time.
Mason Funk: That's right, we've jumped.
Jim Toy: Chicago would be 9:00.
Mason Funk: Didn't we wake up at 7:30 this morning?
Scott Drucker: [00:00:30] We did. It's now 10:05. We woke up at like 7:00. Left at 7:30.
Mason Funk: We arrived here at 9:00. Exactly. Sorry, I had a little freak out [there].
Jim Toy: You're good.
Mason Funk: Why don't we start in the relatively short amount of time, needless to say we're not going to be able to cover everything, much to my chagrin. I do love the idea of just hearing about your family of origin.
Mason Funk: [00:01:00] Your father and your mother, and growing up with a Chinese father. Your mother passed away, but in an Anglo community, probably.
Jim Toy: Absolutely.
Mason Funk: In a small town.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that. It's a big question. First of all, before we get started, just tell me your first and last names, and spell them.
Jim Toy: First name Jim, which is short for James. Last name Toy, like tinker, T-O-Y.
Mason Funk: What year were you born?
Jim Toy: 1930
Mason Funk: [00:01:30] Whenever I ask you a question, if you can take my question and fold it into your answer. Like, "I was born in 1930." Then we can eliminate me from the ... Tell me what year you were born and tell me about the environment you grew up in, and who your parents were.
Jim Toy: I was born in 1930 in Manhattan, which is where my parents lived. My mom died when I was born. My mom's sister said,
Jim Toy: [00:02:00] "The baby can grow up with us." They were Harvard people. My father said, "No, we're going to move to Ohio," which is where my maternal grandparents lived. My father moved himself, and me to Granville, Ohio. A village maybe of 1200 people, full of every ism that I can imagine. Sexism, classism, racism,
Jim Toy: [00:02:30] and I became imbued growing up there with ever ism that one can imagine. It's been a piece of work to try to at least become aware of my isms and do what I can to address them. We lived in my grandparents house. They were Baptist missionaries, retired. My father met, apparently at the village library, my stepmother to be.
Jim Toy: [00:03:00] She was the town librarian. They got married when I was 4 or 5. At that point we moved out to my step uncle's farm to live. Outdoor plumbing. No electricity. Candles and Kerosene lamps at night. What did I know being just a kid. My step sister was born,
Jim Toy: [00:03:30] and then I'm trying to remember how this all happened. My step uncle said to my step mother and my father, "You really can't live here anymore." Nancy, that's my sister's name, has been born, and we cannot afford to feed another mouth. My father found us a small house in the village of Granville.
Jim Toy: [00:04:00] We moved there when I was 4, 5, 6. That's basically where I grew up. I went to college there, Denison University, and left Denison, of course after I was graduated, and only went back for family reunions, of which we just had the most recent one over the 4th of July.
Jim Toy: [00:04:30] My step mother became disenchanted with my grandparents Baptist church. Moved us across the street to St. Luke's Episcopal Church. One of the college students who rented rooms at my grandparents house because, after he was graduated from college, and Episcopal preach, and came back to the village to be the rector at St. Luke's Episcopal Church,
Jim Toy: [00:05:00] to which my step mother had moved us. I was playing organ there. I graduated and moved on, he moved on. I went to France for a couple of years to teach English. I got a Fulbright travel grant. Came back to Manhattan because I had to work out 2 years of conscientious objector assignment, which I did. Then I didn't know what I was going to do.
Jim Toy: [00:05:30] I didn't have a clue. I got a letter from the former priest at St. Luke's who said, "I have taken a job at a radical parish in Detroit. Why don't you come and do the music?" "Absolutely." To Detroit I go in 1957, and take over the music program.
Mason Funk: [00:06:00] Let me stop you there. I want to now go back and fill in some pieces. That's a great overview though. I feel like I see the picture clearly. That would be like the first 27 years of your life.
Jim Toy: Yeah.
Mason Funk: I'm always curious, in the small town of Granville, you're growing up with a Chinese father, who must be a bit of a fish out of water, who comes back and marries the local librarian.
Mason Funk: [00:06:30] You're either living with or very close to your deceased mother's family. What kind of repercussions were there of having this kind of strange insider outsider status?
Jim Toy: I felt myself to be an outsider. Trying to remember the years. It would have been in what we now call middle school years. Second World War.
Jim Toy: [00:07:00] I was evidently harassed, bullied by my classmates who either believed, or wanted to believe, that I was half Japanese. My stepmother made me a cardboard sign to wear around my neck when I went to school. It said, "I am not a Jap." Having experienced then what we refer to as racism,
Jim Toy: [00:07:30] I would call it colorism, but there's much argument about that in academic circles, I became totally infiltrated, imbued with internalized racism. That is the coreism, actually, of my being, which I have tried to deal with over the years.
Mason Funk: Can I ask you, first of all you say apparently you were bullied. Does this mean that you don't really remember it?
Jim Toy: [00:08:00] I don't remember.
Mason Funk: Say I don't remember being bullied.
Jim Toy: I don't remember being bullied, whether I repressed it, or repressed the details, I'm guessing that I did. I probably complained to my stepmother about it, because she was receptive to any kind of complaint that I would make about whatever, and so made the sign.
Mason Funk: [00:08:30] Do you have any memories of what it was like wearing that sign?
Jim Toy: I may have felt safer. I don't recall. I have to use the jargon. apparently repressed all details. In fact, I'm glad you brought that up. I was in college at Denison, and I was walking down the street. A guy who had been 2 years ahead of me in high school said,
Jim Toy: [00:09:00] "Jim, how are you?" "Fine," and so on and so forth. Out of the blue he said, "Do you remember the sign you used to wear to school?" I said, "No, not a particle." He said, "You don't?" I said, "No, I don't." He said, "It said I am not a Jap." I must have totally repressed those experiences.
Mason Funk: Does that tell you anything about maybe how traumatic it was?
Jim Toy: [00:09:30] I am guessing that it was traumatic. We were poor, and that was another score against me. I was not athletic. There's another negative. I played the violin. Another negative. I was too smart, to use that particular term, so I was treated with, I don't know what term to use. I was a favorite pupil,
Jim Toy: [00:10:00] I guess, of my teachers. That didn't do me any good in the eyes of my "buddies." There we are.
Mason Funk: Can I have a quick look at the frame. Okay. By the time you got out of college and moved to New York, you had become a conscientious objector. Clearly early on you had a streak of resistance.
Mason Funk: Where did that come from you think?
Jim Toy: I'm guessing it came-
Mason Funk: Sorry, say what you're talking about, the streak of resistance.
Jim Toy: Yeah, thank you. I'm guessing it largely came-
Mason Funk: I'm sorry, instead of it, say my streak of resistance.
Jim Toy: My streak of resistance.
Mason Funk: Now start clean.
Jim Toy: I'm guessing there may have been some psychological or genetic basis for it that this I will never know.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, start the sentence clean, because I was talking.
Jim Toy: Go ahead.
Mason Funk: [00:11:00] I'm done, now you. I was talking over you.
Jim Toy: My streak of resistance, I could guess came in some part from my psychological or genetic makeup, but there's no way I could ever figure that out. On the practical side I'm guessing it came from my stepmother, who was a resistant person, and put up with no nonsense from anyone.
Jim Toy: [00:11:30] She was noted throughout the village for being the kind of person she was. Years later, decades later I was walking down the street in my village, and walked by my grandparent's house. The owner was sitting on the front porch and said, "Be careful the sidewalk is broken." I said, "Yeah, I came this way this morning."
Jim Toy: [00:12:00] He said, "Are you from around here?" "No. I'm visiting." Everyone in the village knew everybody else's business of course. "Whom may I ask are you visiting?" "Ruth Toy." "Ruth Toy?" "Yes. That's my stepmother." He said, "I shouldn't say this, but ..." I said, "Absolutely," because she was a town character. "Somebody should tell your stepmother," she was a clerk at the tollbooth,
Jim Toy: [00:12:30] "not to talk about people behind their back when they're leaving the polling booth." I said, "That's absolutely it. You've got her nailed.
Scott Drucker: Sorry, one second. Mason, do you see this in your test. It just happened. Should I stop and see if it ...
Mason Funk: What is it?
Scott Drucker: I don't if it's recording. Do you see the frame? I don't know if it's recording like this, but it has these weird lines. You see it now. You need me to move this.
Mason Funk: I don't know. Let me put on my glasses.
Scott Drucker: [00:13:00] I'm just going to stop it and see.
Mason Funk: Okay great.
Scott Drucker: We got that last one.
Mason Funk: Great. I'm curious a bit more about your step mom. I love the story of her. Ruth Toy. That's my new hero. How would you describe your relationship with her, and say my stepmom and I.
Jim Toy: When I think about my relationship with my stepmom, the first adjective
Jim Toy: [00:13:30] that comes out of my mouth is tense. Tense. Where that dynamic came from I'm sure I don't know. I may well have resented being a stepchild. I felt that my step siblings were favored within the family.
Jim Toy: [00:14:00] They may have been, and they may not have been. That was my experience. That is my memory. My stepmom said at one point, "you always hated Nancy." Nancy is my stepsister. What I am guessing, and it can only be a guess is, that my stepmother was from some depth of her being really referring to my feeling for my stepmother, and then transferring onto my stepsister. Of course I'll never know.
Mason Funk: [00:14:30] That's complicated stuff. Obviously it's a long time ago. I'm curious to hear about your decision to move to Detroit in '57. The sense that you say you didn't have a clue what you were doing.
Jim Toy: That's right.
Mason Funk: [00:15:00] What were your thoughts? What was your motivation as far as you understood it to work at this radical church in Detroit in 1957?
Jim Toy: When I was in Manhattan I was essentially rootless, I guess. Not knowing what I was going to do in terms of the word now I guess we would use would be career.
Jim Toy: [00:15:30] When I got the letter from my former rector inviting me to come to Detroit, it really saved me from my morass of oh my god, what am I going to do with my life? I was happy to move to Detroit. Packed up. I had a Siamese cat. Put it in a container, got on the train. Went to Ohio first,
Jim Toy: [00:16:00] to my stepmom's place. My father was still alive. My parents were there. Then came right onto Detroit, and started working at St. Joseph's Episcopal Church.
Mason Funk: In the context of 1957, what does it mean that ST. Joseph's was a radical church?
Jim Toy: [00:16:30] St. Joseph's in 1957 became the first Episcopal church in Detroit to integrate itself, racially that is. It, combined with St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, which was 95% black. St. Joseph's was 95% white, perhaps 100%. As a consequence of that merger, that's the term we used, many of the rich white people left the church
Jim Toy: [00:17:00] and moved North to Southfield, St. David's. St. Joe's then found itself in some financial straits. How they survived, I don't know. I knew nothing about the economics of the parish. I only knew that I got paid the small salary that I was given. The church then, and this is now the years of the Vietnam war, opened its doors to men who were seeking sanctuary from the Vietnam War draft.
Jim Toy: [00:17:30] Opened its doors to striking students from Northern High School. The high school just up the street 3 or 4 blocks. The students there were striking, because being black, most of them, they were not getting a quality education from the Detroit Board of Education. There's another example of the radical work that the church did.
Jim Toy: [00:18:00] Opened its doors to meetings of Women's Liberation, Students for a Democratic Society, that's SDS, and so on. A cardinal event, I would say, in the life of the parish was that the FBI knew very well that St. Joe's was a quote, radical parish. They knew that men seeking sanctuary from the draft would go to St. Joe's.
Jim Toy: [00:18:30] The FBI found out that one of the draft resistors, John Sankovich was going to take sanctuary at the church. The FBI was in cahoots, I'm going to use that term, with our bishop, and said "Bishop Emrick, is it okay with you if we break into the church?" Because we locked the door, of course, when men were taking sanctuary there. "Okay with you if we break through the locked door and address John Sankovich?" "Absolutely."
Jim Toy: [00:19:00] We had a counter intelligence, and we knew somehow that the FBI was going to break in, so 600 people filled the church that night, and the FBI broke through the locked door, and came to the front of the gathering and said, "John Sankovich stand up!" 600 people stood up. I still get chills when I think about that.
Jim Toy: [00:19:30] They had his photo, so they arrested him, and that was the end of that. There's an example of St. Joseph's radicalism, to use that particular term.
Mason Funk: That's a great story. I wasn't old enough to live in any meaningful way through these years, but I love hearing these stories of the resistance, and the SDS. Interestingly, you went to work in this radical parish that was an early,
Mason Funk: [00:20:00] early example of integration. You talk about how you had internalized so much racism. Was that the beginning of when you began to unpack your own racist-
Jim Toy: Yes, indeed.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that.
Jim Toy: I've got to backtrack. The rector said, "One of the things that we're going to try to do is go around the neighborhood and invite,"
Jim Toy: [00:20:30] the term then was, "black people to come to the church." There was an intern who was working at the parish. A black guy, about my age, and the rector said ... I've forgotten his name. In any event, "We're going to ask the 2 of you guys to go around the neighborhood together, and knock on people's doors,
Jim Toy: [00:21:00] and invite neighbors of the church to come and worship there." We did, and I got acquainted with this guy. I think that was the beginning, I would say, of my attempting to address my internalized racism. He was a really great guy. In the process of that I was not out of my gay closet, so I married a woman who was a member of the church choir.
Jim Toy: [00:21:30] My black friend, I wish I could remember his name, was an usher at the wedding, which infuriated my wife's parents. They had to give in, because it was their daughter that was getting married.
Mason Funk: [00:22:00] Meantime, you're carrying around your own racial heritage. Did you experience racism in these years as well?
Jim Toy: No, not that I recall.
Mason Funk: Incorporate my question into your answer.
Jim Toy: When I think about my life then, my early life at St. Joseph's, and my life of course in Detroit, it seems strange to me, I guess I'll use that term,
Jim Toy: [00:22:30] that I didn't experience racism on the basis of my being half yellow and half white. How that happened, I don't know. However, I can guess thinking back on it, there weren't that many Asian American people living in Detroit, and the tensions in Detroit were basically between black and white people. That may well be why I didn't experience overt racism, at least.
Jim Toy: [00:23:00] My internal racism manifested itself by my avoiding, insofar as I could any Asian, or Asian American person with whom I might otherwise have come into contact.
Mason Funk: For example, were there parts of town where Asian people lived that you wouldn't go to.
Jim Toy: [00:23:30] Absolutely, insofar as I can remember. In fact, I still avoid Asian and Asian American people to this day. I'm sad about that. However, that's my life experience.
Mason Funk: That's interesting. To this day you can feel that part of you that will proverbially cross the street.
Jim Toy: [00:24:00] Absolutely, yeah. If I see Asian, Asian-American people, I do my best to avoid them. Sometimes of course I can't, because I'm in a meeting where there will be some such folks, for example.
Mason Funk: That's such an example of honesty among other things. Is it hard for you to admit that?
Jim Toy: It's sad. It's not difficult for me to talk about that. It's sad.
Mason Funk: [00:24:30] Why do you think that you have in a sense not been able to get to the core of your own internalized racism, visa vi Asian people, whereas you've worked so hard to unroot your racism visa vi say African-American people.
Jim Toy: When I think about my internalized racism about Asian, Asian American people, and my attempts to avoid them, I'm guessing
Jim Toy: [00:25:00] that the depth of my having grown up in an essentially white village has been the, I'm trying to think of the word. Impetus is not it. I'm just going to use the word, it was the core experience of my life.
[00:25:30] All the emotional baggage that I carry about that simply is still down inside me. I can do my best in practical terms to rid myself of it. However, not yet. At my age I'm going to say never, because I don't believe in what, conversion.
Mason Funk: [00:26:00] Right, the St. Paul on the road to [damascus 00:26:04] was probably not going to happen.
Jim Toy: Not likely.
Mason Funk: I was explaining to Scott, who's a straight ally yesterday how I myself, or maybe this morning, having grown up for even a couple of decades hating my own sexuality, how you don't just flip a switch and suddenly love your sexuality. We'll get to that in a minute. In a way that is the next topic. Which is you married this woman.
Mason Funk: [00:26:30] What inkling did you have either at that time, or maybe none, that this was not your path, that this was not the right fit for you sexually?
Jim Toy: When Janet and I got married I was hoping, I think I remember having said to myself the night before the wedding, you are bisexual at worst,
Jim Toy: [00:27:00] and this marriage will cure you. Because when I was growing up in Granville, the village of 1200, there was no mention whatsoever of sexual orientation or gender identity. Never. My high school class I probably had 15 guys in it, maybe. Of course, when we hit puberty, the rest of them
Jim Toy: [00:27:30] all began to talk about how attracted they were to girls, that was the terms. Still is, I think. I wasn't. I didn't have a clue. I puzzled. I said what is wrong with me? I looked around. There was no mention of lesbians, gay men, homosexuality anywhere. I did find somewhere the term undersexed.
Jim Toy: [00:28:00] I self diagnosed and said I must be undersexed. I dated sporadically a girl in my high school class. Really felt very little sexual attraction toward her. She used to complain to me, "You don't kiss me hard enough." There we were. I wasn't impelled, I guess to kiss her hard enough. Then when I got to college I dated a woman a year behind me,
Jim Toy: [00:28:30] still feeling very little attraction to her. I had some same-sex experiences, let me think, in Manhattan before I moved to Ohio. I didn't put those into context at all. They were pleasurable,
Jim Toy: [00:29:00] but what does that have to do with my life, my nature, and so on and so forth. As I said, the night before Janet and I got married I said, you're bisexual at worst, Jim, so this marriage is going to cure your. Obviously it didn't. After 6 years or so Janet filed for no-fault, or amicable divorce. Those still exist in Michigan.
Mason Funk: [00:29:30] Can you describe the sexual experiences you had. I don't mean in necessarily gory detail, but in Manhattan, were those your first same-sex experiences?
Mason Funk: Tell me about how they would come about, because this is like in the mid-50's I'm guessing.
Jim Toy: Yeah, You've got it. What were my same-sex experiences like in Manhattan?
Jim Toy: [00:30:00] I was working out my conscientious objector assignment. I worked in the blood bank. I had the day off. It was a hot, humid summer day such as we have here. I went to the public pool in Greenwich Village. The water was too warm, actually, so I hauled myself out and sat on the deck. A guy who was doing laps hauled himself out
Jim Toy: [00:30:30] and sat down next to me and said, "It is hot." I said, "Yeah, it is." "Do you want to go for a coke or something?" I was lonely. I knew no one in Manhattan except my cousin. I said, "Sure." Off we go to a caf. The guys name was Peter. "My name's Peter. What's yours?" "Jim." He looked at me over the table in the caf and said, "How long have you been gay?" "What?"
Jim Toy: [00:31:00] I said, "How long have you been gay?" "I don't know what you're talking about." "Yes, you know what I'm talking about." It took me 10 minutes to convince him I did not have a clue. I never had heard the word. Overtime he introduced me to, I forgot what bar it was. My first experience was with him, actually. That is how, to use the jargon, it all began.
Mason Funk: [00:31:30] Amazing. That's a great story.
Jim Toy: This is the summer of '54 in Manhattan, if you can believe.
Mason Funk: What was this bar like? Tell me the bar that Peter took me to.
Jim Toy: The bar that Peter took me to, I would guess, this is a long time ago, was a typical noisy, crowded, gay bar.
Jim Toy: [00:32:00] Frequented of course by some lesbians, and a lot of gay or bisexual men. I was fascinated by it, and repelled by it. I didn't much care for alcohol in the first place. I was bemused. I'll use that term. What is this all about? I didn't have a clue about what I would now refer to as gay life. I hardly ever went back.
Mason Funk: [00:32:30] Did you have some kind of ongoing relationship then with Peter?
Jim Toy: Yeah, over the years. Absolutely.
Jim Toy: Peter and I became well acquainted, and after Janet and I married he came to visit us, actually, in Detroit. I lost track of him, and I assume that he's dead, because I haven't had an answer to my most recent Christmas cards. He was a musician.
Jim Toy: [00:33:00] He was a singer. Since I played violin and keyboard, sometimes we'd get together, and he'd sing and I'd play. It was great.
Mason Funk: Was his coming to visit you, do you think that helped confirm that the marriage with Janet wasn't going to survive? I guess I could just ask what effect did it have on you that he came and visited you in Detroit?
Jim Toy: [00:33:30] When Peter came to visit, I was always glad to see him. I already knew that I was attracted in some way to other men. There was at the church, at St. Joseph's church, an assistant, a gay man, to whom I felt some measure of attraction. Although we never got together sexually.
Jim Toy: [00:34:00] This was one example, I'll use that term, of my casting about what is going on with me. I would not admit to myself that I was essentially gay.
Mason Funk: It's so great. We're in Detroit. Now it's the '60s. Lots of unrest.
Mason Funk: [00:34:30] You've married Janet, and now you separate, and you divorce. Gradually, this is leading towards the moment in 1970 when according to legend you became the first person in the State of Michigan to come out publicly.
Jim Toy: Exactly.
Mason Funk: Can you kind of help us understand how you went from, let's say the mid '60s getting divorced, to that moment in 1970 when you're called to speak because some other guy doesn't show up,
Mason Funk: [00:35:00] and you say out loud into a microphone, at an anti-war protest, "I'm gay," or whatever happened. Can you tell us that story?
Jim Toy: I have to think about that for a minute.
Mason Funk: Reading your materials, you also mentioned that at St. Joseph's, there was a decision made to allow gay groups to meet there.
Mason Funk: [00:35:30] You used the term, the God box. Tell me about that. I imagine that probably had an effect on you. Tell us about this early decision at St. Joseph's to not only be inclusive of say war protesters, and black people, but gay people.
Jim Toy: St. Joseph's had 3, I'll use the term, radical rectors over the years. The first one was the priest who brought me there
Jim Toy: [00:36:00] to direct the music program. The second was the priest who asked the congregation to open the use of the church to men taking sanctuary from the draft. He fell afoul with the bishop, who was in some measure of support for the Vietnam War.
Jim Toy: [00:36:30] That second radical rector was followed by the third radical rector, who asked the congregation to open its doors to the meetings of Women's Liberation, Students for a Democratic Society, and other radical groups. All this time I'm living in Ann Arbor, where I was in graduate school,
Jim Toy: [00:37:00] and flailing about, because I really was not interested. This was in music school, but I was discovering that I had no calling to teach music in any way. There was a gay bar downtown here called The Flame. I would go down there occasionally, and became acquainted with the guy who turned out to be my best friend, John.
Jim Toy: [00:37:30] He, like me, was struggling with his sexual orientation. I was typing up the Sunday church bulletin in December of 1969, and on the calendar I see a note that says, gay meeting. I go to the priest, the third radical priest. We called him Daddy-O. Said, "Daddy-O, what is this gay meeting thing?"
Jim Toy: [00:38:00] He was a great big guy with a big deep voice. "I don't know what it is. One of the guys in the draft resistance group said could we have a gay meeting here, and I said well, whatever that is, if we can't have a gay meeting here we might as well shut this God Box down." I said, "Thank you," from the depths of my closet. I go back to typing. I get done. I drive back to Ann Arbor. I immediately run down to the gay bar, and there's my good buddy John.
Jim Toy: [00:38:30] "John, there's something very strange going on at the God Box." "What?" "A gay meeting." "What's that?" We didn't know. There never had been in Michigan an open, above ground advertised, quote gay meeting. "Are we going to go?" My term, we ambivalated about that for a month. We get together, "Are we going to go?" "Yes, no."
Jim Toy: [00:39:00] The night before the meeting we get together at the bar, "Are we going to go to this meeting?" We looked at each other and simultaneously said, "Uh, if we go that means we're gay." The next day, by karma, or whatever, we get into John's car, and we drive into the meeting. There we find a dozen other women and men just as excited and scared and confused as we were. "What are we going to do?" We talked for 3 or 4 hours.
Jim Toy: [00:39:30] Decided to keep on meeting. We called ourselves the Detroit Gay Liberation Movement. John and I, driving in there 2 and 3 times a week for meetings in his car said to each other, "This is ridiculous. Let's start a group in Ann Arbor." We did. Thus Ann Arbor, lesbian gay men called ourselves the Gay Liberation Front.
Jim Toy: [00:40:00] We asked the University of Michigan to provide meeting space for us, which they did, because we became a quote registered student group. One of the secretaries in student services ran into me, we ran into each other in the hall in the Michigan Union. The secretary said, "Jim, there's a staff office here for women students. Did you now that?"
Jim Toy: [00:40:30] I said, "No." "There's an office here for black students. Did you know that?" "No." "Don't you guys want an office." I said, "I'll go ask." Next meeting at the Gay Liberation Front I said, "I have been told there's an office here with paid staff for women's students, and there's one for black students. Do we want an office?" They looked at me and said, "Are you some kind of fool? Yes, go get it!" I go to the secretary and say, "We'd like an office. How do we get it?" "Write me a memo."
Jim Toy: [00:41:00] I did, and in 6 months or so, which is a nano second in bureaucratic time, as we know. The university gave us a 1 room office, and hired a woman and a man, I was the man, Cindy Gair was the woman, at quarter-time salaries. We opened up in the Fall of '71. First such office in the world in an institution of higher learning. That's how we got going.
Mason Funk: [00:41:30] Great. Let me slow you down. We skipped over the coming out story. According to what I read.
Jim Toy: We did.
Mason Funk: Also, I want to pick up a couple of other details there. Your buddy John and you, when you ambivalated, as best you can remember, why were you so ambivalent?
Jim Toy: [00:42:00] My memory tells me, rightly or wrongly, that we were both struggling to come to terms with our true sexual orientation. "We are not gay. Maybe we are." That avoidance. The attraction and the avoidance was the fuel, I would say, for our ambivalence. In the course of our meetings in Detroit,
Jim Toy: [00:42:30] all the radical groups in Detroit got invited to march down Woodward Avenue in a radical march, and have a big rally at Kennedy Square downtown. "Are we going to march?" "Yes, we're going to march!" "Who's going to talk?" Some guy whose name I don't remember said he would talk. We get downtown to Kennedy Square, and the groups began sending their speakers up to the speakers platform. Our guy said, "I'm not talking," and he walked off.
Jim Toy: [00:43:00] "What are we going to do?" We sat there for a couple of minutes. I had a yellow pad. Why, I don't remember. I finally said, "I'll say something." I got myself up to the podium, and this being an anti-Vietnam War rally. Invade against Vietnam War. Something inspired me to give my name,
Jim Toy: [00:43:30] my age, and the fact that I was gay. I probably said, "My name is Jim Toy. I'm 40 years old, and I'm a gay man." I had not thought about the press, and the Detroit Free Press, and the Detroit News were there, and they published articles, and so I was out. It was done for me.
Mason Funk: [00:44:00] In other words, once you said the words it went viral, so to speak.
Mason Funk: That was a big deal? They seized on this, like this guy stood up publicly and said he was gay. That was news?
Jim Toy: To them, I think it was news. They didn't embroider it in any way whatsoever. They simply said one of the speakers there, his name is da, da, da, da, da,
Jim Toy: [00:44:30] and he said he's a gay men. They put no adjectives into their account.
Mason Funk: That wasn't the headline.
Jim Toy: No. It was factual.
Mason Funk: Let me ask you a question, knowing what I know of the history of sort of the homophile movement. As we know there was an early organization in big cities called the Mattachine Society, which was mostly run by people
Mason Funk: [00:45:00] who had the idea that if we really behave, and wear suits and ties, and say we're gay but we're not a threat. It's like we're gay but don't worry. Then there was this other movement that sprung up around the anti-war movement. It was the Gay Liberation Movement that sort of thought you guys are way too cowardly. You've got to raise your fists.
Jim Toy: [00:45:30] The impetus for what we began to refer to as the gay movement, essentially and perhaps simplistically I might say began with a stonewall uprising in June of 1969. We in Detroit had not a clue about the Mattachine Society. In these radical years, however, we said to each other, "You know, there is now a Gay Liberation Front in Manhattan." When we got together we talked about that and said,
Jim Toy: [00:46:00] "Let's start a group here, first in Detroit, and then in Ann Arbor."
Mason Funk: This is one thing I don't know. Stonewall made news.
Jim Toy: Absolutely it did.
Jim Toy: There was an article in the New York Times First, which may have been reprinted in the Detroit Newspaper.
Mason Funk: Just set the stage that this is about Stonewall.
Jim Toy: The Stonewall Riots occurred in June of 1969. The beginning of it was the evening,
Jim Toy: [00:46:30] as I recall, of Judy Garland's funeral. That uprising went on for 2 or 3 nights. The police actually began the event, because they were in the habit of raiding quote gay bars, and trying to shake down the owners, and so forth. They did. That got an article in the New York Times,
Jim Toy: [00:47:00] which evidently got reprinted in Detroit papers, though I don't have a copy of those articles at all. Then, some of the lesbians and gay men in Detroit organized the Gay Liberation Front in Manhattan, which was the first example of an open, loud, radical lesbian and gay men's group in the United States,
Jim Toy: [00:47:30] insofar as I recall. We took our cue, we in Detroit and Ann Arbor, from the example of the Gay Liberation Front in Manhattan.
Mason Funk: Were there ever, either in Detroit, or here in Ann Arbor, any kind of events similar to Stonewall? Were there any times when the Gay Liberation Movement became violent, or clashes with the police? Anything like that?
Jim Toy: [00:48:00] As I think back to the quote early years of the Gay Liberation Movement in Detroit and Ann Arbor, the police essentially ignored us. The police in Detroit continued to raid gay bars, but beyond that there was no repression that I can recall of lesbians and gay men in Detroit. We began to have gay liberation marches
Jim Toy: [00:48:30] in Detroit and in Ann Arbor, and police basically ignored us. At one of the marches in Ann Arbor, there was a town character, to use that term, who lived in Ann Arbor for decades called Shakey Jake. He walked around town, played the guitar or the banjo occasionally. He was at the particular rally,
Jim Toy: [00:49:00] and came over to us and said, "You know, there's a guy with a rifle sitting at the edge of the crowd. You'd better tell the police." Someone called the police station. The police at that point had no love for us. It took them a half hour to come 3 blocks to the rally, and the guy had driven off by then.
Jim Toy: [00:49:30] We tried to have a meeting with the Ann Arbor Police, and they refused to meet with us. It wasn't until maybe 10 years ago, actually, that the then police chief, Dan Oats, invited me to train the police force about TBLGQ concerns, which I very gratefully did. It took probably a dozen or 15 trainings,
Jim Toy: [00:50:00] because of the schedule of the police officers. I'd be doing workshops at midnight, and at 6 in the morning.
Mason Funk: This was 10 years ago?
Jim Toy: Maybe 10, 15. I lose all track of time.
Mason Funk: Now I want to go back to the story of the founding of this, the first office, what was it called? The sexual ...
Jim Toy: [00:50:30] The university called it the Human Sexuality Office.
Mason Funk: I would like to hear that story in a little more detail, and just kind of dwell on it a little bit more.
Jim Toy: Give me a second to think how to begin this here.
Scott Drucker: We've got about 30 minutes left.
Jim Toy: [00:51:00] The Ann Arbor Gay Liberation Front became, in the jargon, a registered student organization. As such, we were able to hold our meetings in the Michigan Union. When then President Nixon ordered the bombing of Cambodia, there was a student outcry, and members of Ann Arbor Gay Liberation,
Jim Toy: [00:51:30] Students for a Democratic Society, Women's Liberation staged a guerrilla theater event on the steps of the Michigan Union. A dark skinned woman crouched down on the lowest step, and a white guy took a sack of white flour, and broke it over her head. The director of the Michigan Union called me up and said, "Jim,
Jim Toy: [00:52:00] members of your group were part of this action." I said, "Yes, it's true." "I am forbidding you use of Michigan Union facilities." His board has its weekly meeting on the next Monday, and they overturned his dictate. We kept right on meeting in the Michigan Union. I ran into a secretary in student affairs one day,
Jim Toy: [00:52:30] and the secretary said to me, "Jim, there is here a staff office for women students. Did you know that?" I didn't have a clue. "There's an office here for black students with paid staff. Did you know that?" "I didn't know that. Not a bit." "Don't you guys want an office?" I said, "Thank you. I'll go ask."
Jim Toy: [00:53:00] I went to the next meeting of the Ann Arbor Liberation Front and said, "There are offices here with paid staff for women students and black students. Do we want an office?" They looked at me and said, "Are you some kind of fool? Yes, we want an office. Go get it!" I went to the secretary and said, "How do we get an office." "You write me a memo," which I did.
Scott Drucker: Hold on second. Just wait till the car ...
Mason Funk: [00:53:30] It's a car backing out right there. Starting the party early.
Jim Toy: I hope they'll move on.
Mason Funk: Yeah, it's going down the alley. Okay, so maybe backup to the moment when you went to ask your buddies if you guys wanted an office.
Jim Toy: I went to the next meeting of the Ann Arbor Liberation Front and talked about the existence of offices
Jim Toy: [00:54:00] with paid staff for women students and black student. "Do we want an office?" "Yes, we want an office. Are you some kind of fool? Go get it." I went to the secretary. "How do we get an office?" "You write me a memo," which I did. Within 6 months or so, which is a nano second in bureaucratic time, the university gave us an office, maybe 10x10, with a desk, and 2 chairs, and a filing cabinet. We opened up in the Fall of '71.
Jim Toy: [00:54:30] Cindy Gair and I got hired to fill the positions. We called ourselves the lesbian and gay male advocates. The regions of the University of Michigan sent us a message saying, "What does gay liberation want? Please send someone over to speak with us."
Jim Toy: [00:55:00] I said to the Gay Liberation Front, "The regents want to know what we want. Someone needs to go over there and tell them." "Well you go!" I take myself over to the next regents meeting. Today you have to go through a big bureaucratic process in order to address the regents. Then you just walked in. I walked in. There's nowhere to sit. Every seat is full. The regents sit around the main table with the vice president,
Jim Toy: [00:55:30] the other bureaucrats, and the visitors sit on both sides, and the press sits somewhere. Everybody looks at me. "I'm Jim Toy from Gay Liberation. I was asked to come and speak with the regents. Where should I sit?" President Fleming, always gracious in public stood up and said, "Mr. Toy, please have my seat." For the first, and I'm sure the last time in my life, I sat in the President's chair and addressed the regents.
Jim Toy: [00:56:00] "You've asked us what Gay Liberation wants. We want justice, and in practical terms that means we want information about sexual orientation." Gender identity concerns weren't in the air at that time. "We want information about sexual orientation concerns included in the curriculum. We want trained counselors
Jim Toy: [00:56:30] who are able to work with lesbian, gay, male, bisexual self questioning clients. We want non-discrimination protection in the universities bylaws. Thank you very much." I said thank you, stood up, and took off. That was that.
Mason Funk: It sounds like you were a little bit reluctant, but by virtue of the fact that everybody had to tell you, "Yes, we want an office. You go talk to them."
Mason Funk: [00:57:00] What do you remember ... By now you were about 40 years old. You're kind of grown up. It doesn't sound like you necessarily thought of yourself as the guy who was going to go say these things and do these things. What was your notion, if you can remember that, of what you were up to, and who you were as a person at this point?
Jim Toy: [00:57:30] When I found myself, for example, addressing the regents, I can well imagine that I said to myself what are you doing here? I was an extremely introverted, shy individual, who had never talked in public. For me this was a new experience. I could perhaps use that jargon, liberating. In any event, I found it traumatic in the one sense,
Jim Toy: [00:58:00] and liberating in the other, on the other side. I am amazed that I was able to stand up in public anywhere, even in a meeting, and say a word. Over time I became accustomed to doing it, and then began running my mouth far more than perhaps was wise.
Mason Funk: [00:58:30] That's great. What role was your, I guess you could say your personal faith playing in these years?
Jim Toy: The Episcopal church, of which I was a member, and a church organist in a practical sense, has, I can use that jargon term, always been a progressive, or at least parts of the Episcopal Church have been progressive.
Jim Toy: [00:59:00] Working in them, in a radical parish, I had the example and the backing of the congregation and the ministers. Give me a minute while I think about this. I said to myself, as I recall, as a person of the Episcopal faith
Jim Toy: [00:59:30] you find support in what you're trying to do from the members and the leaders of your own congregations, and other congregations finally in Detroit. I simply got out there as an Episcopalian, and expressed myself.
Mason Funk: Were you the kind of church goes, Episcopalian who would,
Mason Funk: [01:00:00] would you describe yourself as having a personal relationship with God? Did you pray? Did you draw inspiration from the Bible? Some of the things religious people do. Did you do those things?
Jim Toy: As I think about my faith journey, I would describe myself as a cultural Episcopalian. When my stepmother moved our family from the Baptist Church to the Episcopal Church
Jim Toy: [01:00:30] I found good music. I found highfalutin language, both of which I took to, with relish, I guess I would use that term. My personal faith, I would say, is more cultural than religious in the simplistic sense.
Mason Funk: [01:01:00] That makes total sense. Clarify for me. You've mentioned it in passing before, but I kind of want to highlight this, that the Human Sexuality Office, that office with paid staff was the first office of its kind probably or definitely in the US, and possibly anywhere in the world. Can you just tell us that, and verify for us that if that's true.
Jim Toy: [01:01:30] When we were invited to open the Human Sexuality Office-
Mason Funk: Do me a favor and say at the University of Michigan.
Jim Toy: Thank you. When we found ourselves invited to establish what the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor called the Human Sexuality Office, it was not about to use the terms lesbian, gay, homosexual, and any other such adjective.
Jim Toy: [01:02:00] We said to ourselves, we've never heard that there's any such office anywhere. Sure enough over time we discovered that we were the first such office in the United States. Having learned that, we began to say to ourselves, it's not likely that there was an office anywhere in the world that preceded ours, and we have never learned that there has been.
Jim Toy: [01:02:30] Given the internet and all the information now that one can gather, we think that we were correct and are correct today. I have to give thanks and full credit to the administration of the University of Michigan at that time, for taking that risk.
Jim Toy: [01:03:00] I assume that it was an enormous risk. I once ran into then President of the University of Michigan, Shapiro, and said "President Shapiro, when the office was open was there any outcry from alumni?" "Nope." I did discover in the Michigan Alumnus,
Jim Toy: [01:03:30] maybe half a dozen letters of protest, and that was it. There was 1 staff member of the University of Michigan, Ruth Bender, that's his name who was, I'll use the term unhappy, that the university had decided to create the office. He would write letters about that to the university newspaper,
Jim Toy: [01:04:00] and so distressed another staff member who happened to be lesbian, that she made a formal complaint. I think I can remember that I went to the university newspaper and said, "Well you know, Mr. Bender is entitled to write whatever he wants. I am asking you if you really fell obliged to print what he has to say?" They stopped.
Mason Funk: [01:04:30] I think we need to be reminded, certainly I, and certainly people 23 years younger than I, how radical it was, for example for this lesbian to complain out loud about somebody writing letters of protest. That's crazy in the say, '70s.
Mason Funk: [01:05:00] Can you just remind us or describe for us essentially what I'm guessing, that this was a pretty big deal for anybody to be speaking publicly, and claiming their space, and claiming their rights as a gay or a lesbian person.
Jim Toy: The University of Michigan, having taken the risk of opening the office, I'm trying to put this into context.
Jim Toy: [01:05:30] The non-discrimination bylaw of the University of Michigan at that time did not include protection for sexual orientation. However, the non-discrimination bylaw was administered by first, the affirmative action office, which then changed its name sometime down the road to the office of institutional equity. I always say that's a contradiction in terms,
Jim Toy: [01:06:00] but in any event that office was the repository for complaints about harassment and discrimination. People would of course complain about discrimination on the basis of race, basis of sex, and so on. We had that example, and the lesbian who used that particular avenue of complaint felt inspired to do it, and found redress indirectly.
Mason Funk: [01:06:30] I guess I want to take a moment just to highlight that the University of Michigan, for whatever reason, was a bit of a beacon at this time for this kind of openness. Maybe have you explored briefly what you can say or guess at in terms of how this particular institution,
Mason Funk: [01:07:00] in the Midwest, not in New York or California, was pretty enlightened, where you might not expect it. Why University of Michigan?
Jim Toy: As I think back to the founding of the office, and the university of Michigan's expansion of the resources that it accorded to the office over the years, slow, steady,
Jim Toy: [01:07:30] and welcomed of course. The Vietnam Years spawned, and I'm putting this simplistically, an enormous amount of student protest. There were student marches. There were student riots, to use that term. Students dug a bomb crater at the northeast corner as I recall
Jim Toy: [01:08:00] of the diag in protest. In one march some student threw a rock at the then sheriff, and he was taken to the hospital. A gay man, Harry Kevorkian, outspoken, would do anything, to use that particular term, took himself up to the hospital, somehow found a white jacket,
Jim Toy: [01:08:30] and went into Sheriff Harvey's room and harassed him. Of course Sheriff Harvey must have pushed his buzzer, and Harry got removed. In any event, that was the climate at the time. I have no access of course to administration files. I can only guess that the university may have, and this is a conjecture,
Jim Toy: [01:09:00] thought well if we establish whatever this office is that lesbians gay men want, maybe it can be the funnel, the repository for every complaint that comes in so we won't have to deal with complaints coming to some office in literature, science in the arts, some office in the engineering school, and everything can be localized. Of course I will never know.
Mason Funk: [01:09:30] Do you want to take a little break? Are you good?
Jim Toy: I'm good, if you guys are.
Mason Funk: We're good. Time wise we have about 10, 15 minutes.
Scott Drucker: 14 minutes.
Mason Funk: 14 minutes on this particular hard drive and then we'll take a little break just to put in another hard dive. It'll go a little bit longer.
Mason Funk: [01:10:00] There's another story that I read in your materials about the time when you wanted to hold a meeting, and the university said no, but somebody had a key, snuck you a key. You know which story I'm talking about? Go ahead and tell us that story.
Jim Toy: [01:10:30] At some point, the Gay Liberation Front, the student group said we want to have a state wide conference. Somehow we'd found out that there were lesbian and gay male groups at Wayne State. There was one at Michigan State. There was one at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. I went to the same secretary in student affairs that I have already mentioned and said, "You know, we'd like to have a statewide conference. How do we get it? How do we get space for it?" "Just write me a memo,"
Jim Toy: [01:11:00] which did. In a week or 2 we got a letter back from then President Fleming saying, "I forbid use of University of Michigan facilities for this quote conference." We would have to have police presence on campus, and the conference would not be educational. I went to the Gay Liberation Front and said,
Jim Toy: [01:11:30] "I guess we can't have a conference, because President Fleming says we can't have space." One of the vice presidents of student government happened to belong to the Gay Liberation Front. He reached into his pocket, hauled out a bunch of keys. Detached one from that key ring, and said, "Here is the key to the Student Activities Building. Go ahead and have your conference." In those years, the Student Activities Building
Jim Toy: [01:12:00] was given over totally for the use of student groups. Today it's a bureaucratic building full of bureaucratic offices, and no student group has access to it. We had the conference. The university sent, the term I'm going to use is a spy, to find out what was going on. I got a call from another secretary a few weeks later saying, "Jim,
Jim Toy: [01:12:30] I found some dirt in one of the files. Do you want to see it?" I always, today I like to hear about dirt or see dirt. I go up to her office and say, "What's going on?" She said, "You know your conference that you had?" I said, "Yeah." "The university sent a spy, and I found his memo in the file." She hauled it out, and it said, "At your request," whoever your was. "I went to this conference.
Jim Toy: [01:13:00] Low attendance. Low energy. If you ignore these people they'll disappear." We well knew that he was an ally. He was in fact a staff member in counseling services, whom I knew. From his wording, we determined that he was trying to get the university off our backs, and that was the end of that.
Mason Funk: I love it, "If you ignore them they'll go away." To clarify, what this means is that essentially, b
Mason Funk: [01:13:30] y getting a hold of this key against the president's orders you guys were basically trespassing.
Mason Funk: Just tell me that. Clarify that for me.
Jim Toy: As I think back on it, the Gay Liberation Front might have been accused of trespassing, because we had gone against the dictates of the president. On another hand, the student activities building
Jim Toy: [01:14:00] was set aside for the use of students. If we stretch a point, we're not trespassing at all.
Mason Funk: You were students.
Jim Toy: We are legitimate.
Mason Funk: That's great. Let's take a little break now. We're going to just swap the card.
Scott Drucker: [Speeds] .
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, again tell me your first and last names.
Jim Toy: First name Jim, short for James. Last name toy like tinker, T-O-Y.
Mason Funk: [01:14:30] Tell us kind of in brief about the 21 year battle, according to I think what you wrote, to get the University of Michigan to add sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy?
Jim Toy: We appealed, by we I mean what the university referred to as the Human Sexuality Office. In 1973, as I recall,
Jim Toy: [01:15:00] a year after our founding, we appealed to the University of Michigan to add sexual orientation to its non-discrimination bylaw as a protected, the jargon is, class. There was no mention at that time of gender identity or gender expression. The university then, as now, was administered by quote a board of regents.
Jim Toy: [01:15:30] One of the regents strenuously, I'm going to use that term, objected to the inclusion of sexual orientation in the bylaw. Give me a minute while I try to remember his name here.
Jim Toy: [01:16:00] Just a second. It was on our lips every day for those many years. Just a second here. Larry Deitch, the only reason that ... I can't do it. It may come to me while we talk. This particular regent appealed to his Christian faith
Jim Toy: [01:16:30] as justification for his objection to adding sexual orientation to the bylaw. He used Bible quotations forever, that's my term for it, in his pronouncements. He, in fact I think at some point said, "Well, we have this office. There ought to be a heterosexual office."
Jim Toy: [01:17:00] In the same fashion as referred to over the years, there ought to be a white office, and so on. In any event, he was a quote favorite, with the Michigan electorate, and kept getting reelected to the board of regents. Finally, 2 really liberal regents, Rebecca McGowan and Laurence Deitch got elected to the board, as I recall in 1992.
Jim Toy: [01:17:30] They asked me to meet with them about this concern, which I very gratefully did. How they went about convincing the board to go along with them, in spite of the objection of the one regent, I don't know. In any event, I got a call one morning from a friend. The friend said, "The regents are going to vote this up this morning. Get your butt over to the regent's room."
Jim Toy: [01:18:00] Over I go. President Duderstadt said "Our next agenda item is the amendment of the university's non discrimination bylaw." Immediately, this particular regent asked for the floor. "Yes, you have the floor." This particular regent said, "You have heard over the years my objection to this addition to the bylaw.
Jim Toy: [01:18:30] I am repeating it today." Then he sat down. Whereupon Regent Deitch was across the table from him. Regent Deitch pounded on the table and said, "The only reason that we have wasted time for 21 years on this concern is because of you and your obsession!"
Jim Toy: [01:19:00] That's language one doesn't ordinarily hear at a regents meeting. Then the regents cast their vote, and there we were.
Mason Funk: As background, or for context, tell us in general terms who the regents are. In other words how large a body this is, how people become regents for the university. Start clean.
Jim Toy: [01:19:30] The regents of the University of Michigan are, to use the jargon, a board. I suppose I could say the equivalent of the board of directors, although that's not a term that they would use. There are 10 of them as I recall. They are elected to the board by the Michigan electorate, and they're elected along party lines.
Jim Toy: [01:20:00] I think at this point that the democratic regents outnumber the republican regents. I don't know that there has ever been a regent either not a member of the democratic party or of the republican party. I suppose I could simplistically say that their votes are cast along party lines in terms, again simplistically put, of conservative or liberal. I couldn't prove that, of course.
Mason Funk: [01:20:30] That's a great story. Do you remember how, when he pounded his fists and they voted, do you remember what the vote was? The count.
Jim Toy: The vote was I think 9 to 1.
Mason Funk: What became, or what was the reaction of this now defeated regent.
Jim Toy: [01:21:00] I have to be careful here, I left the meeting after the vote was cast. Whether he spoke again I do not know. I don't recall any printed pronouncement from him, but there may have been one.
Mason Funk: How did that feel to you after 20 plus years of fighting for this change?
Jim Toy: After the vote was taken I was euphoric. I don't know what other term to use.
Jim Toy: [01:21:30] It was an explosion of relief after those decades of working for this change.
Mason Funk: It may seem self evident, but why was that so important, this change?
Jim Toy: The inclusion of sexual orientation in the non-discrimination bylaw meant that, for example, decisions about education,
Jim Toy: [01:22:00] decisions about employment, could not be adversely effected by an appeal to sexual orientation as a discredited class, again to use that particular jargon. Sexual orientation found itself protected equivalently along with sex, race, religious belief, and so on.
Mason Funk: [01:22:30] One interesting thing about you is that the acronym you use to refer to our community, the so-called LGBTQ community, you have a different acronym. Tell me the story of that. Tell me what your acronym of choice is and why.
Jim Toy: [01:23:00] Over the years, as we know, and especially with the invention and increased use of the internet, concerns of gender expression and gender identity have quote, come to the fore, at least in United States society, and the popular reference to those concerns are quote, transgender. I became acquainted over the years with some number of transgender people.
Jim Toy: [01:23:30] Heard their story, and they said, "We are the most oppressed of all the people in the LGBT queer community." They gave me examples, and I said, "You absolutely are." There are 2 reasons.
Jim Toy: [01:24:00] For that reason, the dept of the oppression of transgender people, you deserved to be named first in this list of discredited, oppressed people. Further, in my life experience, and I expect it's that way with everybody. We become aware of what we refer to as quote, gender. We are gendered the minute we are born,
Jim Toy: [01:24:30] and we learn whether we're assigned to the female or the male gender, that there are issues of power immediately associated with our quote gender. Temporarily, in our life experience, we become aware of quote gender, long before we become aware of sexual orientation. For those two reasons, I use the acronym TBLGQ. B,
Jim Toy: [01:25:00] secondly, because bisexual people, along with transgender people, are discriminated against even among the TBLGQ community. Some particular by some gay men, just as some white gay men oppress gay men of color. Sadly, but it's true.
Mason Funk: [01:25:30] You made the decision to turn it on its head.
Jim Toy: I reversed that order of naming. I've convinced the field office at the school of social work at the University of Michigan to use that order of naming. They have a committee that addresses these concerns, and so they start out with a T.
Mason Funk: With regard to bisexual people, one of the things, I made it a point as I began to compose the list of interviews,
Mason Funk: [01:26:00] the first 40 interviews, was to really seek out and include a healthy number of bisexual people. I've been hearing their stories. I've also interviewed gay men who sure enough say some of the most ignorant things imaginable. What are some of the instances you've witnessed of this ignorance slash oppression of the bisexual community, even within the larger LGBTQ community?
Jim Toy: Overtime I have heard some gay men, and in fact, sadly, some lesbians,
Jim Toy: [01:26:30] saying to bisexual people ... I recall a bisexual man who was told, "You are gay. Just get out of your bisexual closet. You're seeking protection by calling yourself bisexual. Come on get real!" Variations of that particular criticism I've heard over the years.
Mason Funk: [01:27:00] What convinced you that that was not fair and accurate.
Jim Toy: I talked over the years with any number of bisexual people, mostly bisexual men, who describe to me their life experience, and the struggle they had had, and still do have about finding themselves with a foot in both the gay and the straight communities,
Jim Toy: [01:27:30] that their experience is valid and they're entitled to call themselves bisexual, and I'm glad they feel able to do that, harassed as they are.
Mason Funk: I agree. It's been so educational for me just to begin to pull back some of my layers. We haven't actually done any of our important bisexual interviews yet, but soon.
Mason Funk: [01:28:00] I think I have the standard 3 questions that I like to ask everybody at the end. One is, and you already responded to this in part. What advice do you give, or not give, to young people of the LGBTQ community? Someone who is just beginning to come out, or think that maybe there is something there,
Mason Funk: [01:28:30] or maybe coming out. Not about coming out in general, but just in general what advice do you give young people in the LGBTQ community?
Jim Toy: When I entered the school of social work, I found myself in a class taught by professor Frank Maple, who said to us students, "Social workers do not give advice.
Jim Toy: [01:29:00] Except in the instance of someone who is at imminent risk of harm to self or other. In that case we get extremely active. However, when someone comes to us with quote, a problem, we attempt to help them turn that statement of their problem into a statement of a positive, achievable goal,
Jim Toy: [01:29:30] and to move in whatever way seems reasonable to move on that goal. Advice, social workers do not give." I've lived by threat precept ever since, and if a young person, let's say, should share with me a particular concern that they have about their sexual orientation or gender identity, I would take that route.
Jim Toy: [01:30:00] Let's see her. You're concerned about living in your closet, and about coming out. Let's talk about that. If you were to decide to come out, and then so on, and so on we go.
Mason Funk: [01:30:30] Having been born in 1930, and now 85 or 86.
Jim Toy: 6
Mason Funk: 86 years old.
Jim Toy: Excuse me, 39.
Mason Funk: 39. Yeah. Just kidding. What is your hope, when you think of the world continuing on after you're no longer here? What is your hope for the future?
Jim Toy: As I look back at the positive changes, and of course there are negative ones that have been brought about in my lifetime,
Jim Toy: [01:31:00] I hope that those changes will expand, and in particular that our country's acceptance, and support of human diversity will continue to enlarge, and that we will find ourselves, the term I guess is a nation of a diversity of human experience and human identity.
Jim Toy: [01:31:30] That we will be mutually supportive. That's a dream given what we see still today, understandably. The resistance to the acceptance of transgender, bisexual, lesbian, gay, queer people. It's a dream. It's okay for me to dream, I say.
Mason Funk: [01:32:00] What do you think holds us back as a nation? What is holding us back from the realization of that dream?
Jim Toy: As I look to the realization of that dream I say to myself, okay let's be real. Any number of people oppose the acceptance and support of the members of the TBLGQ community. I think that they may do that in some part because of ignorance,
Jim Toy: [01:32:30] and in some part because of selfishness. As I expect we know, and as I hope we understand, heterosexual men hold the balance of power in this country, and white, heterosexual men, of course, and well-bodied, healthy, white, heterosexual men, and Christian,
Jim Toy: [01:33:00] or self-named Christian, white, heterosexual men. Anything that differs from heterosexual maleness is suspect. I'm laying this on heterosexual men. Women are suspect, and gay men, a gay man, a bisexual man is not a man, thank you very much.
Jim Toy: [01:33:30] Perhaps some heterosexual men may feel themselves threatened by the presence and behavior of bisexual and gay men. I've heard this, "You guys hide behind trees, and you would assault my children if you could." I have heard this said.
Jim Toy: [01:34:00] How much of that they really believe, I do not know, or whether they're simply quote parroting what they have heard, the myths and the prejudice that they have heard over the years, I do not know. The self-labelled heterosexual men who actually are in the closet would understandably be fearful
Jim Toy: [01:34:30] of out of the closet gay and bisexual men. About women, I don't know. I hear this from men.
Mason Funk: What to you is the importance of OUTWORDS, and projects like OUTWORDS?
Jim Toy: When I think about all the efforts that we have been making over the years to achieve equality,
Jim Toy: [01:35:00] I'll use that particular term, for TBLGQ people, OUTWORDS, and any organization or movement that is supportive of these concerns is essential, and I am so grateful for your work, more than I can say. I'm very moved.
Mason Funk: [01:35:30] What does it mean to you?
Jim Toy: What does?
Mason Funk: You're evidently moved, and I'm moved that you're moved. Can you access what it is about it that moves you?
Jim Toy: The work of OUTWORDS, and equivalent, if there are equivalent projects is evidence of widespread and focused now,
Jim Toy: [01:36:00] focused support and advocacy for the concerns of TBLGQ people, and even 10 years ago when I think back on it, such a project may have existed, but I was not aware of it.
Mason Funk: [01:36:30] You've dedicated really your life to this work. At your age, does it still feel good to have your life's work recognized? Is that important to you?
Jim Toy: When I think about what I've been able to do with an infinite amount of support over the years, I am grateful for all the,
Jim Toy: [01:37:00] I'm going to use the term progress, toward equality that we've made with so much support, and enough focused sense. I can't even find the term. Grateful. I'll use the term grateful, to have been told by some number of gay men, because most of my work has been with gay men, not with lesbians,
Jim Toy: [01:37:30] except as compatriots and travelers on the way, that "Had it not been for you I would have killed myself." There is the voice that I've been privileged to hear.
Mason Funk: Congratulations on a job well done.
Jim Toy: Hey, you guys are doing a good job. Better than good.
Mason Funk: [01:38:00] Thank you. I'm full of appreciation, and also just for your interview. You're a wonderful storyteller.
Jim Toy: You are asking the questions in a helpful way, so there we are.
Mason Funk: Thank you.
Jim Toy: Without that, never mind.
Mason Funk: We're going to roll room tone, which is the sound of this room with nobody talking for just 30 seconds.
Jim Toy: Do it.
Mason Funk: Do you want to call it out?
Scott Drucker: Yeah, alright this is going to be room tone.
Scott Drucker: [01:39:00] That was room tone for the Jim Toy interview. I'm going to cut.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Scott Drucker
Date: July 17, 2016
Location: Jim Toy Community Center, Ann Arbor, MI