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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Quinton E. Baker, February 23, 2002. Interview K-0838. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Baker does not feel that he fits the homosexual stereotype

Baker fights against the idea of belonging to a distinctly gay culture, arguing that what many people think of as being stereotypically gay—he mentions specifically going to gay bars and clubs—does not fit his own conduct. McGinnis pushes him to say more about this, and Baker begins questioning the ways society represents homosexuality, questions that cause a disagreement between the two.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Quinton E. Baker, February 23, 2002. Interview K-0838. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

And I respect cultural differences, I think cultural differences are important. What I can't, what I don't understand, or what I have not been able to deal with, is understanding what people call the ‘gay culture’ because I don't live a gay life in that sense. So, I don't know what we are talking about.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Gay life, obviously you are living a gay life in having a gay partner—
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Oh yeah.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
But you are not going to lots of gay functions and those kinds of things—
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Yeah, the person who cuts my hair is not gay, my travel agent is. I am saying, you know, I am trying to figure out what that is supposed to be.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
It is different than other traditional cultures have been.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Other than the fact that—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Because you are not born into a gay family, you are not that identity.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
And when you set up household, what, you know, we live a fairly dull life compared to—we don't do bars, not that we have anything against bars, it is just we do not do them, it is not what we would do, we don't do, you know, I saw—so I have to stretch to understand what makes it a gay culture beyond the fact that one is involved in a same sex relationship.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
In larger metropolitan areas, of course, there are gay ghettos, there is a little town, whether it is the Village, or the Castro or whatever, there are several areas.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Yes, I lived in a gay ghetto in Boston, I lived in the South End. Its really not quite gay, it is kind of gay and yuppie—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Or Du Pont Circle in DC.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Right
CHRIS McGINNIS:
There are areas where there, you know, there are those gay things. And I guess that there are gay centers, and I guess, there are people who are thinking about taking advantage of downtown Durham where a lot of the buildings are just closed and turning that into a gay area, being the next phase, but as we see—when you are in an area that doesn't have that kind of population center, you really do have to work in terms of going and finding the gay people and working with them, but I can see where you are coming from. I didn't understand what you had said, when you mentioned it. But a lot of people that I had spoken with, especially people who had been involved in the black civil rights movement, said, "What is the gay community? Please show it to me, because, I don't really see the gay culture." You know.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Well, and a large part of it has to do, I think, with, I think in terms, if you are not in a large metropolitan area you wouldn't see a whole conglomerate of gay people interacting, but I think it is because there isn't a tendency in the African American community to segregate. As much as people say it, there isn't that tendency to segregate the population out that way.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
But as long as you are quiet about it, you see, that is just the distinct thing that I get, you know. And that is a Southern thing in a lot of ways. As long as you don't talk about it, as long as you don't make demands of rights, as long as you don't actively say, "This is my partner, I want to get married in this church, then it is just fine." You know, that is the issue.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Oh, I think that—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Is there more acceptance, or are you just tolerated, maybe?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Yeah, probably. But—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
You and I, as activists, come from the exact same template; we are just applied in different venues.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
I was just going to say, I feel tolerated by white people a lot.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Exactly, exactly there we go.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Exactly, I mean, and white people are very good as long as you don't demonstrate anything that is distinctively black.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Exact same tradition. So, that's the similarities and the comparison that I have been making with the two movements, and how interested I am in that many people who were involved in the black civil rights struggle, don't understand or necessarily relate well to the gay civil rights struggle, or their immediate response is, "You are comparing apples and oranges."
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Oh, yeah.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
But once you start talking about it with people, like you and I are now, we definitely recognize that we are on the same page.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Yeah, right, yeah. If you talk about the issues—I think that problem is that, I mean, I think for instance, if you read that article that Jim Sears just did, and if you were not gay and read that article, you have no—that chapter or whatever—[said with mild but obvious tone of disdain] you have no idea of what that's about, because what it seems to be is about celebrating cross—it seems to be—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Transgender?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Well, it is more of drag queens and drag queen culture and you are thinking, "Well, now is that the gay culture?"
CHRIS McGINNIS:
And you are wondering, "How did I get that as Quinton Baker?"
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Absolutely, absolutely. [Laughter] You know, how.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
If somebody put me in this, I would be offended, and I am like, "I am not a drag queen, but I certainly would not be—"
QUINTON E. BAKER:
I am offended, you know, [pause] I mean, we used to have a statement, that Pat and I used to make all of the time when we were in Boston, and I went to gay clubs once I was in the cities, I went to gay clubs, we danced. I understand that aspect, that there is a need for places where people can be free, they can express how they feel, they can relax, what have you. But, if you take "Queer as Folk" a lot of the stuff that I see on there, I go, "Wait a minute, what is this?"
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Oh really?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
You know, what is it?
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Because, I see it, and I say, "The got it!" [Laughter] That is exactly the way it is.