My Life at LUK
My life at LUK began in February, 1981. It wasn’t long before I realized that I had found the place where I wanted to work for many years to come. However, I did have one major decision to make. I was turning 31 in less than 60 days and, since 1968, I had been out publicly as a gay man. Although I had not hidden my orientation from my coworkers and colleagues, I had not come out yet. If I was in fact going to “live” at LUK for years to come, I needed to bring to LUK the same honesty and transparency I owed and brought to all my relationships: I needed to come out.
One relatively quiet day, Punky (our Executive director) came into the kitchen while I was there. I told him that I was gay and asked him if that would be a problem. Without any hesitation, he quickly replied: “Of course not!” and then, just as quickly, added: "Just don’t wear taffeta, it’s too loud.” The years to come proved that his comfort with me was not just personal; it seemed to be a value shared throughout the Agency (13 of us at that time). I was not a gay counselor, but, as Greg McGowan, a coworker, said when he referred a case to me, a counselor who happened to be gay. The conversations around LGBT issues continued. I had many enlightening meetings with my Supervisor and Mentor, Dave Hamolsky, about whether or not, why or why not, and how to come out to specific clients. I wore my pink triangle as a welcoming sign to clients, visitors and staff; and LGBT-supportive posters, reading materials, signs and announcements were frequently displayed in the lobby at 99 Day Street, our only non-residential building then. The Agency and our Board of Directors were supportive of having conversations about our relationship with one of our funders who was also supporting a local chapter of a group whose national headquarters allowed for the discrimination against LGBT staff and members. I saw multiple examples where LGBT clients were treated with the utmost care, respect, sensitivity and appropriateness. With each passing year I witnessed the Agency’s awareness and actions evolve as our awareness of LGBT-related issues evolved. Everybody wanted to do the right thing the right way for the right reasons – admirable traits in individuals, and even more so for a whole agency.
Fast-forward 17 years from that 1981 conversation in the kitchen. Punky and Cris, his wife, announced they were leaving LUK to move to Hawaii. This was not an easy time for many of us and I imagine it was a difficult time for them as well. In the weeks preceding their last day, Punky and I met several times. Yet, in less-than-subtle ways, we avoided having the “Good-bye” conversation. Their final day came. For me, the day required some formality in recognition of the end of an era, but also some levity. And so I did what I thought would combine both: I wore (for the whole day) a full-length emerald green gown, emerald green opera gloves, a red feather boa and two-inch heels; jewelry gauchely worn over the gloves. The bodice of the gown and the gloves were velvet and the full skirt, in case you haven’t guessed yet, taffeta.
From personal interactions to learning opportunities to partnerships to grant-writing and program development, LUK was and continues to be a place that honors the beauty and the gifts of our LGBT brothers and sisters. THANKS!