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Pat Hussain was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1950. She attended segregated schools though high school. In 1963, Pat attended a civil rights sit-in at a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop. When a man purposely poured a hot cup of coffee down the back of a fellow protestor, Pat stood up and left to prevent herself from lashing out. She realized she wasn’t cut out for non-violence. 

Married twice to men, Pat came out as a lesbian in her late 20s. In 1984, Toys “R” Us hired her, even after she disclosed in her interview that she was queer. At work she met Cherry, a fellow employee. Pat helped Cherry escape from a physically abusive marriage, and the two became partners, jointly raising Cherry’s two kids from her previous marriage.

Pat was always at the center of community organizing. She stuffed envelopes for the NAACP, co-founded the Atlanta chapter of GLAAD, helped the Gay and Lesbian Task Force prepare for the 1993 March on Washington, and was the Grand Marshall for the first Pride parade in Knoxville, Tennessee. Prior to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, when the commissioners of nearby Cobb County approved an anti-gay resolution, Pat led a successful campaign to move the Olympic volleyball competition out of the county. 

At the 1993 National LGBTQ Task Force conference, Pat joined five other women to found Southerners on New Ground (SONG). SONG creates community, fights for rural LGBT equality, and emphasizes intersectionality. Their current campaigns include advocating for sliding scale municipal fees based on income, and creating review boards to increase local police accountability. 

In recent years, due to ongoing PTSD and clinical depression, Pat has had to step back from active organizing. On the upside, she and Cherry are now grandparents, and recently celebrated their 30-year anniversary together.

Pat asked to be interviewed for OUTWORDS at the SONG House in Atlanta’s West End, the neighborhood where she grew up. During her interview, the house was abuzz with SONG staff and volunteers making phone calls, typing articles and blog posts, and generally pursuing SONG’s mission of (in their own words) “building a political home across race, class, culture, gender and sexuality.”

This house, this neighborhood, this movement, and this hope are Pat’s home. For further information about SONG, please visit southernersonnewground.org.
Natalie Tsui: [00:00:00] It's all good.
Mason Funk: Okay. To start off with, tell me your name, and just spell it out for me. I think probably the best thing to do is have you say your name is Gary Buz Hermes, and then spell that out, please.
Natalie Tsui: Then, just one thing, is if you move back and forth, it can actually ... It shakes the tripod.
Mason Funk: Feel-
Natalie Tsui: Because the floor here's mostly for stable ... So just try and stay relatively [crosstalk].
Natalie Tsui: Okay, so I need to sit still. Interesting. Okay, that'll be a challenge. If that doesn't work, I will scooch forward onto that floor.
Natalie Tsui: [00:00:30] Okay.
Mason Funk: But, the only thing I might want to do is just get a little closer to the camera.
Gary Buz Hermes: You could ... Is it the floor is squeaking, is that what-
Mason Funk: No. It's that the floor ... Because it's not as solid so ... Can you move that cable a little bit, so I can just tuck my chair in?
Natalie Tsui: Oh yeah.
Mason Funk: There we go. Because it's a not solid floor, if I move around in here it causes the camera to shake.
Gary Buz Hermes: Oh, oh, oh.
Mason Funk: Yeah. So I have to sit still.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:01:00] So you want me to spell out the whole name?
Mason Funk: Yeah.
Gary Buz Hermes: Okay. Yeah.
Mason Funk: What happens is, because somebody's gonna transcribe your interview. It's good for them to have the name, and spelled correctly at the top of the interview.
Gary Buz Hermes: Okay.
Mason Funk: So go ahead, what's your name?
Gary Buz Hermes: My name is Gary Buz Hermes; the Buz is a nickname. The Gary is spelled G-A-R-Y. The Buz, I only use one Z, so it's B-U-Z. Somebody said your nickname has to be shorter than your real name,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:01:30] so I dropped a Z. The last name is Hermes, H-E-R-M-E-S.
Mason Funk: Okay, great. Tell me on what date you were born, and where?
Gary Buz Hermes: I was born January 11th, 1939 in Napa, long before it became known for its wines.
Mason Funk: That's one of my questions for you. Do me a favor, just start off by giving me a little bit of a sense of who was in your family besides yourself? And what kind of family was it?
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:02:00] Sure. Yeah. Both my parents were of very low income. My father was actually left home at a very early age, because he was from a very large family and they were very poor. He came from Minnesota, and my mother came from Italy. They were both very bright parents, but very poorly educated. My mother, I think, had to dropout of high school.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:02:30] My father dropped out of elementary school. They married in Reno, so we were ...When I went to get baptized in the Catholic church, they did not honor the marriage, so I was not legal in their eyes. So it saved me from becoming a Catholic. I actually wound up being Episcopalian. I had a brother come along two years later,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:03:00] so I have a really good close relationship with my brother. He lives in Santa Rosa, so not too far away. We see each other frequently.
Mason Funk: Cool. What kind of work did your parents end up doing then as they were raising you?
Gary Buz Hermes: My father started out during the war working in a shipyard, building ships. But he was really an entrepreneur, so he soon started a business,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:03:30] and we all helped. The whole family helped with the business, my mother was like the secretary, I helped with some of the shipping, and some of the other work that was done. My mother, in addition to being secretary of the business, was also just a homemaker.
Mason Funk: Good. Perfect, perfect.
Natalie Tsui: Can I just pause for a second?
Mason Funk: Yep.
Natalie Tsui: I need to raise you just a little bit, because I think that's coming back down.
Mason Funk: [00:04:00] Okay.
Natalie Tsui: So, just ... Yeah, if you just stand up, and move your stool. Sit back.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Natalie Tsui: We could just do].
Gary Buz Hermes: Do you need for me to look up higher?
Mason Funk: No. I think you're doing fine. [crosstalk 00:04:16] good. I think you're fine. Let's see if this is better.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah, that's better.
Mason Funk: Okay, good.
Mason Funk: Okay. You mentioned already, tell us what not ... People think, NapaValley, ooh,
Mason Funk: [00:04:30] fancy restaurants and of wine.
Gary Buz Hermes: Well, when I was growing up in the Napa Valley, it was-
Mason Funk: Do me favor, tell me the era. Like in the what ... like in the 1940s.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:05:00] Okay. Since I was born in 1939, I spent my youth in the 40s and 50s in the Napa Valley. As I said, it was not known for its grapes or its wine. It was known more for its prunes, and cherries, and
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:05:30] agriculture, and some dairy. It was really a blue collar town. Some people worked at the shipyard, like my father did. So it was a very conservative town, I would say. There was a lot of, especially during the war, there was a lot of animosity I think toward the Italian immigrants, because we were fighting the Italians. So it was an awkward time, and definitely not a very sophisticated town at all.
Mason Funk: Great. What do you remember at all, about the war years? You were born before we the war. But what do you remember about the mood or any specific details from that era?
Gary Buz Hermes: It was a time of-
Mason Funk: This is an example where if you can mention the war.
Gary Buz Hermes: Okay. Growing up during World War II, people tended to be very secretive, I would say,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:06:00] very private. I'm often part of a generation that's referred to as the silent generation. So we didn't talk about things that were very personal. The emphasis during and after the war, especially during the late 40s, early 50s, was on being and looking normal. So we didn't talk about mental health issues, we didn't talk about addictions,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:06:30] we didn't talk about sex, TV programs... people slept in twin beds if they were married. It was just a time ... A lot of pressure to be very private and be very ... Keep it close to home, and not talk about things that were out of the ordinary. Yeah. So it was very awkward time to be gay.I wasn't allowed to ...
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:07:00] Well, I didn't even have a word for what I was feeling. There just wasn't any ... the word gay did not exist at that time. I knew I was different. My father inherited a clock from his Aunt Rosie, that I still have here in the house, we put it up on the piano and it would go tock-tick, instead of tick-tock, and it still does.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:07:30] There was something about that clock that was unique and different, and I always identified with the clock. There's something about me that goes tock-tick, but I had no clue what it was. So it took me a long time, in fact I was in my early 20s before I really found a home in San Francisco, and realized I was gay.
Mason Funk: Wow. That is so valuable, and just to be taken back to that era when the word didn't exist.
Gary Buz Hermes: Right.
Mason Funk: [00:08:00] Did you ever hear any references to faggots or queers? Did you ever get any external messages that said, that thing is no good?
Gary Buz Hermes: There're a couple of things that I remember from my youth that let me know that going tock-tick was not a good thing. One was, I think in many small towns, if you wore green on Thursday you were queer. I had no clue what that meant,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:08:30] but I knew that queer was a bad thing. So I remember shouting out to my mom. I said, "Look Mom, I have no socks to wear." She said, "Oh, yes you do. I just washed the green pair." I said, "I can't wear those, it's Thursday." But I had no clue what it meant.Then my father took my brother and myself to visit these two men who lived in Napa. They had a fantastic
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:09:00] miniature trains layout in their home. I remember being more fascinated by the relationship of the two men than I was by the trains. But when I got home, my mother was on the phone with my grandmother speaking in Italian. She did that whenever she didn't want us to know what she was talking about. She used a word that I had never heard her use before, and I knew she was talking about those two men. I knew from the way that she pronounced the word,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:09:30] and the way she was speaking that it was not a good thing, that these two men were living together. So that was one of my first clues that if that had anything to do with me, I'd better be very careful.
Mason Funk: Wow. That's fascinating. This whole Thursday wearing green thing, I've never heard that before.
Gary Buz Hermes: You've never heard that?
Mason Funk: No. So just tell us that, maybe just give us that idea as a standalone idea, just to someone who's never heard that back in the day if you ... How did you know?
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:10:00] Wearing green on Thursdays was for us, and I'm finding out within talking with many LGBT seniors my age, that they also experienced that phenomenon in growing up. But, it was always Thursday, it was always green, it always involved the word queer, but very few of us knew what that meant.
Mason Funk: [00:10:30] That's crazy. That's one for the record for us. I'm gonna make it a point of wearing green on Thursdays. Now, you said in your questionnaire you want to talk about a school buddy who had an influence on you.
Gary Buz Hermes: I had a really good friend growing up in Napa that was from a much more sophisticated family. He went by the nickname, Gus, which is probably why I like the nickname, Buz.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:11:00] Anyway, his family was much better educated. They lived in a nicer part of town. I think what drew us together is that we both hated sports. Passionately, I hated sports. We were always the last one chosen for the baseball team, or the football team, or the basketball team. So we started to pal around together. I think he saw in me, some potential.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:11:30] I was pretty much following the usual blue collar path of ... Because, I didn't test well in school either, I was always being shuttled off to sheet metal shop, wood shop, preparing myself for some kind of blue collar job. He said, "Oh, no, no." He said, "I think you have college potential. You should really be thinking about that." His parents also encouraged me.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:12:00] It was interesting that I didn't know until much later, that we connected in San Francisco, that he was gay. We both turned out gay. But he was a great friend. He helped me strike out on my own. My family really wasn't supportive of going on to college, but I just pushed it and got my way.
Mason Funk: Is he still around?
Gary Buz Hermes: No. Unfortunately, he died a while back, and before we could reconnect.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:12:30] We had a falling out late in life, and then I wanted to reconnect with him. Then all of a sudden he was in the obituaries, so it was very tragic. My brother was also close to him. We noticed his home was on the market, where he grew up. So we went by and we visited some of our family connections, by going through his home when it was on the market.
Mason Funk: [00:13:00] That's cool that your brother could be part of that with you.
Gary Buz Hermes: Yes.
Mason Funk: Now you also, you characterized what being gay or queer in that era meant. You were mentally ill, a criminal, and/or a . Can you just, again, for those who didn't live in that era, try to communicate to us what that was like?
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:13:30] Sure. I think the hardest coming out process for me, was coming out to myself, because during that era it was a crime. You could be incarcerated for being gay. When I was in my 20s I loved going to the gay bars. But we always looked for an escape hatch, or a bathroom window, or something we could crawl through in case it was raided. The vice squad had decoys. They would pick their
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:14:00] best looking young policemen to go out on the street in street clothes. Usually tight jeans and T-shirts. And meet up with people as they were coming out of the bars. If you invited them home, you could be arrested and put in jail. Your name would be published in the Chronicle, and you would lose your job, and probably your family. So there were a lot of suicides.There was a lot of fear of
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:14:30] being incarcerated, but there was also a fear of being institutionalized. People were ... Because it was considered a mental illness until 1971, I think. That you could be rounded up and taken to a hospital and be given electric shock treatments, or to be ... In an attempt to cure your, quote/unquote, mental illness.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:15:00] That was another fear. Having to think of myself as having a mental illness, and being a criminal ... Then on top of that, most religions considered it a sin, and I considered myself to be a very spiritual person. To feel like I was not a worthy person in the eyes of God, was ... Those three things, I call it the three strikes, were pretty detrimental
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:15:30] to my sense of self-esteem.So I tended to do what a lot of us did, I think, was to be ... Prone to be not take good care of ourselves to drink too much, to have anonymous sex. I had a number of relationships that lasted minutes, I would say. Fortunately, I pulled out of that, but a lot of people didn't.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:16:00] A lot of people went on to take drugs, and either died, or are living now with lots of complications from not taking good care of themselves.So yes, coming out to myself was really, it took a long time. I was very private about my sexuality around my family. We had a don't ask, don't tell arrangement. My mother was very active in the Catholic church, eventually,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:16:30] and had a lot of connections in the small town. So I felt it was better that she didn't feel the burden of having yet another secret. So yeah, it was a long process.
Mason Funk: Let's pause there. Yeah, that's great. One incident you mentioned ... gosh, so I think I read about it somewhere in an interview with you, about having registered with the draft board.
Mason Funk: [00:17:00] And recognizing that you could be declared a sex offender, or have to register as a sex offender because you were honest with them about your sexuality. But that's all that I know, and I don't know if I have that right. Can you tell us about that?
Gary Buz Hermes: Part of my coming out process was coming out to my draft board. What happened was I had met somebody and we had become partners. We wanted to travel to Europe together.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:17:30] But I was draftable, and they were not gonna let me leave the country, so it kind of forced the issue. So what I did was, when they'd called me for my physical, I came out to them as a gay man. They called me back a couple of more times, and each time I explained to them that I was a gay man. At the time being gay in the military, it was absolutely forbidden.So after the third exam,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:18:00] I got a letter from my draft board in Napa, saying, that since I was a gay man that I was under orders to register as a sex offender. That could've ruined my life. I went to the police department and I explained to them that I had been ordered to register as a sex offender. Fortunately, I was in San Francisco, and the police department, the person on duty said, "Well, whom have you offended?" I said, "I don't think anybody,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:18:30] but I've been under orders to do this." He said, "Get out of here." Otherwise, I'd still be living with that stigma of being a sex offender.So yeah, again, that was not really very helpful to my self-esteem, because then it was another label that was not very positive.
Mason Funk: Do you remember ... I can only imagine, although I experienced a little bit of it just now. But just the sense of having to
Mason Funk: [00:19:00] walk into that building, face the music, hear those words, and walk out again. Can you walk us through that?
Gary Buz Hermes: Well, I remember the headquarters, or at least the-
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, let me interrupt. Just reset the story [crosstalk
Gary Buz Hermes: Okay.
Mason Funk: "When the military told me I had to go to the police," and then carry on.
Gary Buz Hermes: Okay. When the draft board told me I had to
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:19:30] register as a sex offender, I had to ... At that time the police department that was closest to me was in Portsmouth Square area. I remember this stuffy old building, and this sense of bureaucracy that you get when you walk into these older government buildings.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:20:00] It took a lot of courage for me to really go in the door, really. Then, to say those words, "I'm here as a gay man to register as a sex offender." It just took a lot out of me to do that, but I really ... I don't know where I found the courage, except that ... I guess my motivation was I really wanted to travel
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:20:30] with my partner at the time. This was the only barrier standing in the way, otherwise I don't know that I could've done it.
Mason Funk: Wow. Oh, that's heavy, to use a term from the 60s.
Gary Buz Hermes: Yeah, right. Yeah.
Mason Funk: It is though, it's amazing. You also mentioned ... Let me see, just other anecdotal things in the summer of '67, the so called summer of love, getting beat up.
Mason Funk: [00:21:00] I forget what it was, what the instrument was, but it sounded pretty scary or ... And painful. Can you tell us that story? Do you know the one I'm talking about?
Gary Buz Hermes: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I lived in San Francisco from 1961 until 1968. So as we were approaching 1968, and I think that was the summer of love, my partner and I were living in the Haight-Ashbury. We had a wonderful flat
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:21:30] overlooking Buena Vista Park. There was a theater called the ... They renamed it the Straight Theater, and they were doing some kind of hippie event. I really wanted to go. I was very engaged in the Haight-Ashbury at the time. I had oversaw a scene of A House Tour of the Neighborhood, and it was very successful.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:22:00] So I felt like I needed to have a presence at the Straight Theater event. But they had a champagne punch, and I know I overindulged.On the way home a couple of kids, they attacked me with a sock full of BBs or some kind of stuff. They managed to break my nose, and give me a black eye. Then, it was ... At that time there were a lot of teenagers roaming around,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:22:30] and that was their sense of fun, was gay bashing. They would see somebody and they looked very gay, that was dressed very gaily I think, so it was quite obvious on that street. That was one of their activities, was finding gay men to bash. Fortunately, it was just a broken nose and a black eye. It could've been much worse, yeah.
Mason Funk: [00:23:00] What did you do under that circumstance, when you realized what was about to happen? And how did you know ... Beat it out for me from the moment you became aware of them, to the moment you became aware that this was what they were up to, to the moment that you just had to in someway, shape, or form, get through this incident. How did you respond?
Gary Buz Hermes: I was really not paying much attention. I felt perfectly safe in that neighborhood usually.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:23:30] So I was ... They came up from behind. It just happened suddenly. It was just over in a second, I would say, and they were on their way. So fortunately, I was close to home. Managed to get up the four flights of stairs to my apartment. My partner at the time, of course, drove me to Kaiser Hospital, and we got patched up.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:24:00] But, it totally changed the way I ... My perception of the city as a safe, fun place to live was totally altered. It was shortly after that, that the two of us moved to Mendocino and just got out of that scene.
Mason Funk: Wow.
Natalie Tsui: [inaudible].
Mason Funk: [00:24:30] Okay, yeah. She's just mentioning to me that if you're ever tempted to either look at Natalie, or look at the camera, just try to avoid it.
Gary Buz Hermes: Okay.
Mason Funk: Just try to keep your eyes more or less focused. It's natural to look around. Just try not to look there, or [crosstalk] her.
Gary Buz Hermes: Okay.
Mason Funk: We're gonna make her invisible.
Natalie Tsui: [crosstalk].
Mason Funk: In this case, maybe someone invisible is actually okay.
Gary Buz Hermes: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mason Funk: Then this is another anecdote that I did read about. That in Mendocino subsequently, you lost a job
Mason Funk: [00:25:00] because a coworker outed you, effectively, is what I've read. Is that right? And can you tell us that story?
Gary Buz Hermes: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Again, maybe set us in the timeframe, when you moved to Mendocino to maybe get out of San Francisco. Tell us about that.
Gary Buz Hermes: Yeah. My partner moved, and I moved to Mendocino-
Mason Funk: Why don't you shot that over?
Gary Buz Hermes: Okay. My partner and I decided to move to Mendocino around 1968 just to get out of the city, because we the scene was changing. And the gay bashing
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:25:30] really was the straw that broke our back in terms of putting up with a lot of changes. So we moved to Mendocino, and I was desperate to find work up there. Because we had invested in a home, and we really wanted to fix it up. I got a job, originally driving a bus for some people with developmental disabilities, they were some adults.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:26:00] Over a period of a year, I managed to become manager of the program, and it was a day program.We were having some staff meetings. One of the staff meetings, one of my coworkers outed me to the rest of the staff. There was a woman there, an older woman, who I could tell the minute that happened, that she was not
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:26:30] going to be very happy working with a gay man. So the very next day there was a sheriff at our door under the pretext that someone was using my name as an alias. That was very strange. He wanted to come in, and I knew he was looking for drugs or something, some excuse. Then shortly after that I got notice that I was being fired.That was pretty typical of the times, I think.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:27:00] This was 1971, I think, or maybe 1970. But, a lot of people who were coming out at work were losing their jobs. It just wasn't acceptable yet.
Mason Funk: What was your coworkers motivation? Do you know?
Gary Buz Hermes: I'm not sure what the motivation was. I think it was probably a combination of homophobia, and
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:27:30] objecting to my leadership style. Because I was treating her adult clients as adults rather than children. She had long been the one person that was in charge.
Mason Funk: Do you know what she actually said, your coworker? Yeah, I'm just curious.
Gary Buz Hermes: There was no mention in the staff meeting at all. I just could tell by her expression that-
Mason Funk: [00:28:00] I mean the one who outed you, did she out you in the meeting, or afterward?
Gary Buz Hermes: She outed me in the meeting. She felt an attraction toward me, and she said that I had just ... It was the era of encounter groups, when you just laid it all out. Nobody ... We went from the silent generation to the tell it all generation.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:28:30] She was a little younger than I am, and she told it all. She said, "I'm sexually attracted to you, and I'm so sorry that you're gay." She said that in the staff meeting, so it was out.
Mason Funk: Wow. Remember, the tell it all generation. Yeah, exactly. I actually ... I think I have that in my notes for you. Because it occurred to me that you'd gone from one end of the spectrum to the other.
Gary Buz Hermes: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Okay. Now we're gonna jog backwards maybe a little bit here.
Mason Funk: [00:29:00] You had mentioned that you wanted to talk about Jose Sarria. He's obviously a seminal figure, and no longer with us sadly. But, just tell us who was Jose Sarria? What did he represent? What did he do in San Francisco in this era?
Gary Buz Hermes: When I was first coming out, and I had just moved to San Francisco, there were several gay bars, but my favorite was the Black Cat Caf, in North Beach, or close to North Beach. It was our church on Sunday morning.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:29:30] We would go there to have Bloody Marys, and to watch Jose Sarria do his one person show. He would perform entire operas, male and female roles, all by himself. He was so outrageous, and so out there. At the end of every performance we would all join hands and sing God Save Us Nelly Queens. That was so empowering, I've never forgotten.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:30:00] With the three strikes, a criminal, a mentally ill person, and a sinner, to come into a place that's that welcoming, and that supportive, it just balanced it all out for me. So he's still ... I don't know that I would be here today if it would not be for him. Because I was so down on myself and so self-destructive that he just ...
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:30:30] I think he did wind up running for supervisor at one point, so that was a pretty out there thing to do, and that was very encouraging. This was not long after Stonewall, so building on Stonewall was pretty great.
Mason Funk: I don't know if you'll want to do this, but do you remember how God Save Us Nelly Queens went? Like, what the tune was, or what the words were? And do you feel like singing it for us?
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:31:00] I don't remember if there was anything more to it than that. There must have been, but I don't remember all the words. I just remember that ... The refrain, and how important it was.
Mason Funk: That's hilarious. Okay. Used to, when we interviewed this guy named Black Barry. Do you know who Black Barry is? He's an African American singer, [crosstalk], and he sang for us a little bit, just because that's what he does.
Mason Funk: [00:31:30] I love it when people can weave a story into a song. He was fantastic [crosstalk]. But I'm not gonna put you on the spot.
Gary Buz Hermes: You do not want me to sing.
Mason Funk: I do have a question. When you finally begin to turn the corner and shed ... at least begin to shed those labels that you had applied to yourself, I just wonder how did you do it? How did you begin to shift your perspective on yourself?
Mason Funk: [00:32:00] And as you say, come out to yourself first before even coming out to anybody else? How did that happen?
Gary Buz Hermes: I think I began to-
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, set it up. "Coming out to myself began."
Gary Buz Hermes: When I was in the process of coming out to myself, of course it helped when they finally did away with the mental illness
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:32:30] determination, and that they it was not longer a crime. All that helped, but I think what really helped eventually ... It took me a long, long time. I think there were always two parts of me. It was only, I think during the AIDS pandemic, that I really got in touch with, "Wow, being gay is the core of who I am. It's more than my sexual preference,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:33:00] it's really the core. There's a whole package here." So I began turning it around, I would say around 1984.I had a friend who had joined the Terry Cole-Whittaker Ministry in San Diego. It was a very gay friendly, new age religion. She actually became a minister, so I got hooked
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:33:30] and joined. It eventually became part of the Church of Religious Science, which is now The Centers for Spiritual Living. I had become active in a church in San Francisco, The Golden Gate Church of Religious Science, and became eventually a practitioner in that tradition. One of the things that I started doing was a gay forum.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:34:00] Reaching out to our gay members and having gatherings, activities for them. That's when I finally owned, this is my essence. These are my people. This is my tribe. I really need to honor that.But until then I was really ... Had the two lives. I would say, at work, all my jobs I was not out, and not out to my family really, other than my brother eventually.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:34:30] But it was very ... What's the term? Like, split personality or a schizophrenic kind of existence that I managed to carry off somehow. But it didn't really dawn on me how important it was to bring those two halves together, until I think getting involved in this spiritual movement. Then, the AIDS pandemic really
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:35:00] forced me to really go all the way. So I joined Kairos House in San Francisco. I became part of the staff of Kairos House, which was set up by Father John McGrann, to serve and to support people who are caregivers of people with HIV and AIDS.He was a visionary, and my whole life was about ...
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:35:30] when I look back, was about supporting visionaries. Being the person that would help them implement their vision, but he took me to a new level. So he saw that I could also be a visionary, and build on my essence, my gay essence to serve people in a leadership position. So with that confidence building experience,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:36:00] I went on and got my Master's Degree at age 60 in Leadership and Humanities. Then over time I've learned how to apply all of my skills and my strengths to supporting my tribe.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:39:30] He was a very devout person, and had a lot of compassion. So it helped me re-embrace the Catholic church. I had a lot of hard feelings against the church for its judgment, and for not baptizing me as ... And for some of the way that they treated some of my family members as well. So it was a healing to work with him, very much a healing.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:40:00] I think he's still very active up in the northwest.
Mason Funk: Oh, is he?
Gary Buz Hermes: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Mason Funk: That was gonna be my next question. Is that man findable? Is he still alive?
Gary Buz Hermes: As far as I know. I have not heard from John McGrann for a long time, but yeah.
Mason Funk: I'd love to track him down. Cool. Okay. Excellent. This is a huge question, I think you might have referenced it. But how do you think the AIDS epidemic ultimately
Mason Funk: [00:40:30] changed the course, not just of your life, but of our history, our common history?
Gary Buz Hermes: I think what brought our tribe together was the AIDS pandemic. I think we had to ... we were very segregated as I recall. In San Francisco I know there were women's bars that would not allow any gay men in.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:41:00] There were different factions of the gay male community, as they were people who were, I would say more prone to affirming our differences as gay people. And there were other people who wanted to assimilate, to go meld into the mainstream.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:41:30] So we were pretty fragmented.The pandemic brought lesbians and gay men together in ways that were just phenomenal. It brought a lot of people out of the closet. They had no choice, since it was so long identified a gay disease. The minute they got AIDS they had to be out to their parents.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:42:00] There was a lot of pushback. I know that working at Kairos House one of the sad things is that if somebody that we knew died of AIDS and who had been disowned by their parents, the parents would swoop in after their death and kick the partner or roommate out of the apartment. Make off with all the possessions, because there were no legal protections.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:42:30] We actually wound up having pets dumped because the parents didn't want anything to do with the cat or the dog. It was very sad. But that kind of experience I think pulled us together. We had our work cut out for us and we rose to the occasion. It was a very powerful time for us.
Mason Funk: [00:43:00] Great. Thank you for that. This is gonna be going backwards a little, because you had written something in your questionnaire and now I understand it because of what you already said. But, you talked about learning how to express your core truth while simultaneously hiding it. I guess you were referring to those years when you had this dual life
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:43:30] Yes. Yeah.
Mason Funk: Is there anything more you want to say about that? Because it's a really interesting phase in a person's life, when you're expressing your core truth and at the same time hiding it.
Gary Buz Hermes: In terms of getting to ... Accepting my homosexuality as more than sexual preference, I think
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:44:00] one of the things that drove it home for me was reading the book, Coming Out Spiritually, by Christian de la Huerta. Christian did research into indigenous people, especially Native American people, and found that they had a whole different way of looking at people who were lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:44:30] So they saw them as not just expressing their sexuality or their gender differently, but also as encompassing some other qualities that could be beneficial to the tribe.That's when the ah-ha moment for me happened, was, oh wow, this is a package. And that, there may be things that I have
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:45:00] as part of my gayness that can serve not only my tribe, but the culture as a whole. So that's kind of been the theme of my advocacy work, and with LGBT seniors, is let's celebrate that. Acknowledge it, affirm it, celebrate it. We have served our culture in ways that we will They will never be acknowledged,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:45:30] but we can honor that, and honor ourselves. That was a huge catalyst, reading that book, for me. Christian is still very active in doing empowerment groups for LGBT people.
Mason Funk: Wow, another name. I'm gonna actually make a note of that right now. If you want to pause for a second. Maybe just take ... We'll just toggle backward. [crosstalk 00:46:07].
Mason Funk: [00:46:00] Okay. You speeding?
Natalie Tsui: Yep.
Mason Funk: This is a little bit hopping around, but you mentioned the legacy of a friend whose life was cut short. I think might have been Gary Shepard?
Gary Buz Hermes: Yes. Yeah.
Mason Funk: I think you wanted to talk about him.
Gary Buz Hermes: Yeah. One of the things I do now
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:46:30] that's very rewarding, is that I co-facilitate a local LGBT seniors group. We meet every month. This group was started back in 2009, so eight years ago now by a good friend of mine called Gary Shepard. He started it as part of a grant project. He started one discussion group here in Sonoma, where I live.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:47:00] Then he started one over in Napa, where I used to live. Then another one in Santa Rosa, not too far away. Unfortunately, the grant ran out after three years, and then almost simultaneously, Gary died.He didn't know he had HIV, and he got a really serious lung infection and died. He not only started these three groups, but he was very,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:47:30] very active at the county level in our area agency on Aging Advisory Council. Making sure that when they did data collection that they included LGBT seniors and their needs. So when he died it was just left this huge vacuum, and I realized that I was really committed to carrying on his legacy. It was a chance to use my leadership skills, my advocacy interests.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:48:00] I'm doing it a little differently than he did it, but I'm really still passionate about what he started. He really woke the county up. Here in Sonoma County, we have such a huge population of LGBT seniors, because it's close to San Francisco. Many of them retired up here because it was cheaper living. We have,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:48:30] really, very little going on for them. One of the things I'm doing is working on a grant project with County Adult and Aging Services to ... It started in 2015, to begin to close the gap between aging service providers and LGBT service consumers.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:49:00] My colleague, Nancy Flaxman, provided cultural competency training to the service providers. I decided to bring my awareness and study of conscious aging strategies to my tribe. And to do a eight week series called, Aging Together with Pride, which is now called, Aging Gayfully, I did four of those. I'm also very active in helping plan a LGBTQ+ Summit
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:49:30] coming up in September. Then doing a lot of working with Kaiser to make sure their doctors are aware. And doing a lot of building on what Gary started. I'm so pleased to be able to do that, so I'm very excited.I'm very excited about the response I'm getting too. The county service providers have been so onboard, and so eager to serve our community.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:50:00] So I'm pleased with that.
Mason Funk: That's amazing. The Summit in September is gonna be essentially focusing on this area, and just bringing together ... Well, tell me more about the Summit.
Gary Buz Hermes: The LGBTQ+ Summit is a project that is partially funded by our Sonoma County LGBTQI Giving Circle. The Giving Circle, is composed of over 100 people, each committing $500 a year.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:50:30] To make sure their money gets used locally for the LGBT community of all ages, and they each get a say on how that money is spent. Well, this last year, they awarded some money to Positive Images in Santa Rosa to do this Summit.The Summit will be, hopefully, the beginning of an LGBTQ Center in Sonoma County, where we can all go
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:51:00] for the resources and support we need. It will bring together all the LGBTQI movers and shakers, as well as people that are allies. We'll see what happens after that, but that's the vision.
Mason Funk: That's a good first step. That's nice. I think a lot of how these things are born is you go step by step.
Gary Buz Hermes: Yes, exactly. Yeah.
Mason Funk: [00:51:30] Now, this is in fact, jumping straight backwards, but you had mentioned along the way that you wanted to honor the drag queens, who were often times the first people to fight back. At Stonewall, Compton's Cafeteria, and I think it's just really important. I agree with you 100%, to recognize that people who were the dregs of society, that even gay and lesbian people didn't want to be associated with, but who were on the front lines. And whose
Mason Funk: contributions are often time erased or ignored, or [crosstalk].
Mason Funk: [00:52:00] I guess from speaking from a personal point of view for you, what do you remember noticing ... I guess you could say about the debt that you owe to some of these people who were on the front lines?
Gary Buz Hermes: When I was first coming out to myself in San Francisco, I loved the drag queens. I just think they were
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:52:30] so outrageous. Charles Pierce was a performer at the Gilded Cage Bar in the Tenderloin. He would do Jeanette MacDonald even better than Jeanette MacDonald could do it. He was so outrageous, and it was very liberating to see how much fun it could be, being gay.I've always had a soft spot in my heart,
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:53:00] and a lot of compassion for the pain and the discrimination that drag queens have experienced, especially early on. Both from the straight community, and the gay community. One of the things that Christian de la Huerta mentions in his book, Coming Out Spiritually, in terms of how we serve the culture at large, is by
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:53:30] mirroring back to them some of the frailties, some of the inconsistencies, the hypocrisy, the extremes that we sometimes go to. Drag queens have a way of doing that.They can pick up on something and mirror it back in a way that makes it palatable. We're willing to laugh at ourselves through
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:54:00] the drag queen's interpretation of our culture. I miss the drag shows, I wish we had more. We have the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and they're great, but I wish we had more opportunities for drag queens to perform in our culture. I think they have a lot to offer.
Mason Funk: What do you remember specifically about the roles that drag queens played in some of these, either having heard or read about, or even knowing people
Mason Funk: [00:54:30] who were there, in some of the seminal events? We talk a lot about Stonewall. People don't know as much about, for example, Compton's Cafeteria. I don't know if you know much about Compton's Cafeteria in terms of the riot that happened there, at least the clash.
Gary Buz Hermes: Unfortunately, I was living in Mendocino when the Compton's Cafeteria thing happened, so it was long distance news.
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:55:00] But I remember being buoyed up by reading about it. And knowing that there were ... Lots of things could grow out of that. Lots of new beginnings. I remember also reading about the raid on California Hall when they had a dance. Some of the ministers were there to protest the police arrests. There were just lots of outrageous
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:55:30] acts of defiance that happened that I did not participate in. But certainly reading about them, and seeing about them on the news was so empowering and so encouraging for me in accepting myself, and my rights as a gay man.
Mason Funk: [00:56:00] Great. Great. Great. This is a little bit of an add-on to that same question. But, you wrote that some of these individuals encouraged us to fight back against the oppression that we had become used to, and to tolerating. In other words, there's a way in which you get used to ... It's like turning up the water on the frog. [crosstalk 00:56:23] it becomes normal, the oppression that we all experience. I think I just really want to hear from you about that phenomenon
Mason Funk: [00:56:30] of that tension between getting used to subtle oppression that is not maybe gonna kill you, but is also not really a way to live. It's not a full state of acceptance and living and belonging. There's not really a question in there, but I wonder if you could reflect on that?
Gary Buz Hermes: One of the concerns I have in working with LGBT seniors is that we have internalized the cultures
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:57:00] LGBT phobia in many ways. Because we grew up with those three strikes that I mentioned, and developed early on, kind of a negative self-esteem. We are still, I think reluctant, to access
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:57:30] what is rightfully ours. I know I sometimes ... In the past I've had some health crises where I ... A good example was, I went into the ER, suddenly. The doctor on duty was very concerned about my condition. He asked me, if my wife knew I was in the ER? I said, "No,"
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:58:00] but I began to get really hypervigilant and guarded. Then he said, "How about your kids, or somegrandkids? Who can I call? Your wife, some kids?" I thought I have got to let him know that I'm a gay man. And if I do will I get the same good treatment from him as a straight person? How can I ... I have to make this decision quickly
.Gary Buz Hermes: [00:58:30] So I looked at him, and I just ... he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. He had a goatee. I thought he's gotta be at least liberal. So I said, "I have a brother you can call, but I'm a gay man. I don't have a wife, and I don't have any children." He was fine with it. But that moment when I felt that fear, is from having put up with all those years of
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:59:00] feeling less than, less deserving, less well, less whole, less perfect, or less normal, as we would say in the silent generation.So as I work with LGBT peers, I just make sure that they're in touch with that internalized LGBT phobia
Gary Buz Hermes: [00:59:30] that may be interfering with their willingness to access service. And maybe have to be out to their service provider. It's pretty subtle sometimes I think, yeah.
Mason Funk: Yeah, it's really ... I mean, kudos to you for the work you're doing. Kudos to organization like SAGE, for example, because it really is so true. You get older, we all become more vulnerable.
Mason Funk: [01:00:00] We've gotten used to being able to fend for ourselves, and then suddenly you're in this position whose help you may need, might for a number of reasons, discriminate.
Gary Buz Hermes: Right.
Mason Funk: It puts us all in a very ... I think it's a good word of warning, or caution to all of us as we get older, to think about these issues.
Gary Buz Hermes: One of my worst fears is
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:00:30] either having a home care provider here, or winding up in a skilled nursing facility. With staff who are underpaid, and not vetted for LGBT sensitivity. And having someone not want to bathe me, or take me to the bathroom because of their phobia. Or, waking up and finding somebody praying over me to heal me of my condition.
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:01:00] Those are ... And I'm not alone in those fears. That's rather broadly shared with my peers, so it's still a concern. No wonder people who are in nursing homes, are not out. And often not out to their healthcare providers.
Mason Funk: Great. I'm really glad we talked about that. I mean there's more we could say, but that's really good.
Mason Funk: [01:01:30] I am curious, what do you mean by aging gayfully? Where did that phrase come from?
Gary Buz Hermes: Well, it came-
Mason Funk: Tell me what you're talking about.
Gary Buz Hermes: I'm doing this eight week series called, Aging Gayfully, where I bring conscious aging strategies to the gay community. I did an article
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:02:00] when I was working for Spectrum, the Center for LGBT Concerns, in Marin County, I titled it, Aging Gayfully, as a takeoff on Aging Gracefully. The whole idea was to fight the stigma, especially around gay men around being older. But also, as always, I think we have something to offer
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:02:30] the culture. Having survived the AIDS pandemic and found ways to support one another through that horrible period. And to have found ... We were able to keep a sense of humor.We developed all kinds of strategies in that period that will help us as we age now, and I think the culture at large can learn from us as well. There's this taboo
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:03:00] against talking about death and dying. I think with the AIDS pandemic, we broke through a lot of that. We had to, we had to face our mortality. So I'm having such a good time with it, and I learn so much from the participants. There's such wisdom brought to the topic, and each week we have a different theme. But it just blows me away, what people have to offer
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:03:30] in terms of their life experiences, and helping each other see things with a new perspective.
Mason Funk: That's great. That's great. I love that. It makes me want to move up to ... My husband Jay and I, by the way, because his mom lives up here. My parents, my dad is ninety, so he won't be around too much
Mason Funk: longer. Then we feel we're gonna be very free to pull up stakes on LA. We want to ... Where you mentioned, Sonoma, Napa, Santa Rosa. We're ready. We're so ready.
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:04:00] Yeah. Oh good. Good, it'd be great to have you here.
Mason Funk: [crosstalk 01:04:10] be able to contribute to [crosstalk 01:04:10].
Gary Buz Hermes: Yeah, yeah.
Mason Funk: It occurred to me to ask you, given what you've been through, what particular empathy do you have for the challenges facing trans people, and particularly trans people of color? You've been through so much, and
Mason Funk: [01:04:30] seen what people like Jose Sarria have provided and brought. I imagine that has translated, just knowing you a little bit, into a deep personal concern for people who are still very much on the fringes. Still, very much vulnerable, and in places of risk.
Gary Buz Hermes: I think transgender people have it particularly hard, because our culture is so
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:05:00] obsessed with classifying everything and having everything in categories. We're just now moving away from that tendency I think, and to see more holistically, but it's still there. Even among my gay and lesbian, and bisexual peers, we are still trying to get comfortable with the right language.
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:05:30] We do have some transgender individuals in our local seniors group, and we're learning from them, they are coaching us. We offer them our compassion.What I have found really helpful too, is finding the part of me that is transgender; the male and female components of myself. I love the Native American term,
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:06:00] twin spirited. That we are often called into roles of bridging opposites. Because a lot of us who identify as LGBT acknowledge not only our gender assigned personalities, but also our softer, for those of us who are male, our softer more feminine side.
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:06:30] When we're comfortable with that, than a lot of straight men. It helps I think, us begin in a small way to understand what it's like to be transgender.I think what they're experiencing now is what we've experienced in the past as gay and lesbian people and bisexual people. I'm heartened to see the publicity
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:07:00] and the attention being paid, but it's still not comfortable I think for a lot of us. We've got a ways to go. I just read about a young person who identified as gender fluid, who just committed suicide at age 14, here in this area. So it's still a ... The challenge. It's our growing edge, as they say.
Mason Funk: [01:07:30] Yeah. Great. This ties into everything you've been talking about, about how we actually have gifts to offer our culture, the wider culture by virtue of being gay. I wrote a note here about ... Well, it's a two-edged sword. The so called minority stress that we've all experienced, how it's made us stronger,
Mason Funk: [01:08:00] but it also can weaken us. It can wear on our defenses, and wear on our strength, especially as we get older.So we're carrying this mixed bag of awareness, that on one hand we accept ourselves, and not only accept ourselves, but celebrate ourselves. But [crosstalk 01:08:24] we've been carrying this minority survivor stress for so long. I guess if you could just talk about how you
Mason Funk: [01:08:30] work with that, and cope with that. And help others to just recognize that, that's a factor as we get older.
Gary Buz Hermes: I think the discrimination, the harassment that we've experienced has taken its toll. I think one of the things that I learned from the conscious aging movement is called, life review and life repair.
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:09:00] So to be able to go back and forgive ourselves for any harm we may have done to ourselves or others, is very important. I know some people carry guilt around family issues, and relationships that didn't work, or careers that didn't pan out. But also, forgiving those that may have hurt us. I think that helps us heal.
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:09:30] It's not something we can just sit down and do with a 10-minute meditation. It's something that's ongoing until the day we die, but it's something worth working on. And to know that it's there. That we do have the stress of also not having a Yeah. Sorry, my answering machine. I didn't know-
Mason Funk: [01:10:00] Oh, is it really? Oh okay. No worries. I'll just have you hold that thought. Will we get this person speaking, or does that [crosstalk]?
Gary Buz Hermes: It's probably a-
Mason Funk: [crosstalk]
Gary Buz Hermes: ... A marketing call. Yeah.
Mason Funk: Okay. So, ooh, I can't remember exactly what I was wanting you to go back to.
Gary Buz Hermes: Well, let's see if I can do it.
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:10:30] So the life review and life repair, includes looking back over your life and finding out if there are people who have hurt you, or you may have hurt them. And finding a way to recognize that you are not the same person now that you were then, that you didn't know as much as you know now. And to forgive them, and yourself, for whatever happened, and
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:11:00] let it go, so that's part of it.Part of it is also, just acknowledging that we have been through a lot. Being compassionate toward ourselves and realizing that we have, as I tell people in the group, we've been through a lot of shit. In that way we are so haunted by some of those earlier experiences, those of us who are older.
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:11:30] Just to be aware of the impact that might have now, as we age. But also, to look at the strengths that we developed to cope with those demeaning things we heard, and the way we were treated.One of the things, I call it resilience, one of the things that's important in our resilience I think,
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:12:00] is that we have a dark sense of humor in our LGBT community. We've learned to laugh at things that most people wouldn't laugh at. I think that helps us accept challenges. It maybe gives us even a legs up in terms of approaching our aging, so many straight men for example, have careers and they so identify with those careers that when they retire there's nothing ... They have no sense of self.
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:12:30] I think we have had to find our own identities, and develop those, make them up.Whether it be drag queen, or butch, or fem, or whatever we did to develop a sense of self, it's gonna serve us now as we go through our later years. And have to redefine ourselves as our mobility decreases, or our health. We suffer health setbacks,
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:13:00] and our appearance changes. So accepting the stress that we experienced, and acknowledging it, but also acknowledging the strengths we developed to deal with it.
Mason Funk: Fantastic. That's fantastic. I want to give Natalie a chance to chime in. She sometimes has questions. If she has a question, do you want to think about it, or do you have any off the top of your head?
Natalie Tsui: [01:13:30] I think I need to think about it.
Mason Funk: Okay. So then I have a final four questions. We can check-in with her in a second.
Gary Buz Hermes: Okay. Yeah.
Mason Funk: My final four begins with ... And these are all intended to maybe be served shorter, if that's possible, answers to these questions. One is, to anybody whom you might ... If someone came to you who was about to come out, whatever that might mean to that person at that time in his or her life. What little nuggets of wisdom from your own experience, would you offer that person?
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:14:00] If somebody came to me saying they were thinking about coming out, I would first, I think, ask them how comfortable they are with themselves. To make sure that they are very secure first, so they can be prepared for whatever the reaction is. To make sure that they were really
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:14:30] at peace with ... That they have come out to themselves, basically, and they're at peace with it.
Mason Funk: That's great. That's great. Secondly, we're obviously as a country we're in a time of change, new things, new realities. Not always things that are easy to love and embrace, and they make us feel hopeful, depending on who you are.
Mason Funk: [01:15:00] But, if you have hope for the future in someway, shape, or form, what is that hope? What do you hope to see in the future, or what keeps you hopeful for the future?
Gary Buz Hermes: As I wind down, I look ahead and I think ... I'm heartened by what I see happening in the millennials and young people, I find. I think there's some evolutionary
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:15:30] growth going in humanity where we're looking at things more holistically, and accepting more diversity. I know that there's a backlash now, but I think that only serves to strengthen the resolve of humanity to move forward. I think in terms of LGBT acceptance, my only hope is that they find one word
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:16:00] so we don't have to keep adding letters.
Mason Funk: Great. Great. Yeah, excellent. Does the word queer ... I'm just curious, I think queer is the word that some people have chosen to say, queer. Does that work for you?
Gary Buz Hermes: Not really. Queer doesn't work for me, although I'm less resistant to it than a lot of my peers, because it was such a derogatory term in our youth.
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:16:30] The gay bashers would go out looking for queers to bash. I still struggle with it sometimes. Homosexual sounds so clinical. Gay elder, which I often use to define myself, sounds like a happy old man. That I am, but I'm so much more than that. Sometimes I say I'm a rainbow person. I don't think we've got the vocabulary yet. And certainly,
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:17:00] LGBT is a tongue twister. It would've been almost better to do GLBT. It's a little easier to say, but we're adding letters, and it's getting harder and harder to define what we mean.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Why is it important to you to tell your story?
Gary Buz Hermes: Well, I think I need to share my story for two reasons. One, it helps me in doing life review.
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:17:30] To acknowledge and affirm the life I have lived as a gay man. And sharing it with others, it's important I think for people to know that growing older as a gay man, or a lesbian, bisexual, transgender person, is not something to be dreaded, that good things happen with age.
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:18:00] There's a greater sensitivity, there's a greater ability to see things with a long perspective. So yeah, I think there's great value. I learned a lot from, especially my Italian grandmother. She was a great source of wisdom for me. So I'm hoping since I don't have children, or grandchildren, that by sharing my story it will have some impact for others.
Mason Funk: [01:18:30] Great. Great. Finally, for me, this project is called, OUTWORDS, as you know. It's an attempt to really capture a very, very, very broad inclusive collection of stories from all over the country, different rural, big cities, you name it. What do you see is the importance of a project ... And eventually it'll all live online. So in some ways, this is what you just answered. But what is the importance and the value of a project called, like OUTWORDS? And if you could use OUTWORDS in your response?
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:19:00] I think a project like OUTWORDS, captures a history that has been overlooked in the mainstream culture. There aren't any textbooks out there that we can ... Maybe now they're coming out with some, but in my youth there were no textbooks that talked about the contribution of LGBT individuals in our society. So OUTWORDS provides a place where that can be captured and held for
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:19:30] future generations. Hopefully, it will give other people a chance to grow from what we have experienced, and build on it, and move forward.
Mason Funk: Great. Great. It doesn't get any better than that.Natalie?
Natalie Tsui: Okay. I do have a question, but I haven't fully formed it.
Gary Buz Hermes: Sure.
Natalie Tsui: Well, it's a two part question. You talk about
Natalie Tsui: [01:20:00] cultivating resilience and also I feel like your work deals with that. So I want you to touch on what you hope your legacy is, like your gay legacy, if that makes sense. I don't know if there's a better way for you to say. I've been just looking at audio monitors and not thinking for it. But, do you know what I'm saying?
Gary Buz Hermes: Yeah. Yeah.
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:20:30] In terms of leaving a legacy from my gay essence, I think it has to do with bringing together what I've learned from all my life experiences, and my study of conscious aging to my community. I attended a conference
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:21:00] up in Seattle, of the ... it's a group called, Sage-ing International. At the conference I announced that I was a gay man looking to connect with other LGBT people to talk about LGBT aging.I got a handful of people to have lunch with me. I said, "There's something missing in this movement of conscious aging for me.
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:21:30] It needs to be adapted for our community." One of the group disagreed totally, because he was more about assimilation. But the others in the group supported me in affirming our contribution as LGBT people.So my legacy, it hopefully will be that I can do more of the kinds of things I've been doing,
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:22:00] for however much longer I'm capable of doing it. Then it'll start a movement that will carry on. That will help others throughout the country heal from past wounds and move forward with greater pride in who they are as aging LGBT people. So yeah,
Gary Buz Hermes: [01:22:30] rainbow people. That's what we are, rainbow people.
Mason Funk: It's interesting on a side note. Yesterday we interviewed this gentleman Black Barry, who's a singer/songwriter and African American. He said that in his culture he uses the term, same sex loving. Because that was a term that the African American community felt like they could make their own. They didn't feel the gay ... it was like they had to fight their way into the gay community, but they could take their own term. I thought same same sex loving,
Mason Funk: [01:23:00] is a neat way of expressing himself. Of course, it can be both men and women at that point.
Gary Buz Hermes: Right, exactly. Yeah. Yeah, we-
Mason Funk: It's also a little bit clinical sounding, but not to clinical.Natalie, did you have another follow up, or any other questions?
Natalie Tsui: That's it. That's it. Yeah.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Gary Buz Hermes: All right.
Mason Funk: Fantastic. We're gonna record what's called, the room tone, for 30 seconds. Which, is just literally this room with nobody talking.
Gary Buz Hermes: Okay.
Mason Funk: And hopefully, nobody hammering either.
Natalie Tsui: [01:23:30] Okay. Room tone.Okay, that's good. Thank you.
Mason Funk: [crosstalk]

Interviewed by: Kate Kunath
Camera: ManSee Kong
Date: March 26, 2018
Location: SONG House, Atlanta, GA