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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Cecil W. Wooten, July 16, 2001. Interview K-0849. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Awareness of sexuality and sexual experimentation

Wooten describes coming to terms with his sexuality while growing up in eastern North Carolina during the 1950s. Wooten recalls his early awareness that he was attracted to men, although he explains that he did not have the terminology to describe his sexual orientation at that time. In addition, Wooten describes sexual experimentation with a cousin and with a friend. His comments indicate that this type of sexual behavior was not uncommon in that area during those years, nor was it something that generated tension in those relationships in later years.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Cecil W. Wooten, July 16, 2001. Interview K-0849. 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

CHRIS MCGINNIS:
So when did you really realize that you were gay? When did that start surfacing?
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
Well, although in the early 50s, the term gay did not exist.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Especially in eastern North Carolina.
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
I realized that I was sexually attracted to men when I was about seven or eight. I first realized it when I would go and see Tarzan movies, and I found Tarzan much more exciting than Jane. Also, as often happened in small southern towns, I had a lot of sex with a first cousin of mine. My grandfather was a tobacconist and he spend July, August and September out of town, so the grandchildren would stay with my grandmother and we slept in this big feather bed and Iߞ
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
If I only had cousins. [Laughter]
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
It started, as I used to say, "fooling around with my cousin." Actually, we had sex with each other until he was about 21 and I was about 22, he was a year younger than I am. Then, all of a sudden I went to France for a year and came back and he was getting married.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Wow. How did you feel about that?
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
Fineߞ
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
I guess that it was kind of a recreational thing.
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
Yeah, it was recreational and we never talked about it, we never discussed it, it was just purely a physical kind of experience. I also had a friend in high school that I had sex with a lot and I realized that for me, this was what I was interested in. For him, it was sort of a substitute for not having an available woman. Because women were not available in the 50s in eastern North Carolina. He also, the same thing happened, I went off to Europe, returned and he was dating my first cousin. Not the one that I was having sex with, it was a woman. Again, you know, we have never discussed it since then, he lives in Raleigh, it just has never been discussed.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
It is a moot point basically.
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
Yeah, I mean, it was, for him, clearly a phase and a substitute for something else. I think that for my cousin it was more than a phase, I think that it was something that he felt very strongly. But, he wanted to live in eastern North Carolina and be a businessman. I think that he realized that you could not live in eastern North Carolina, be a businessman and be gay. So, he got married. I am sure that he is bisexual, but I think that he was more homosexual than my friend. I think that my friend was probably more heterosexual and I was available and girl weren't.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Yeah, was there ever any kind of tension that he might have felt guilty because this was happening and you didn't? Did it basically work out fine?
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
Not that I ever sensed. I sensed that it was something that we both enjoyed and when the time came, he put it aside and I didn't. There, I guess, with both of these people, there was a little bit of awkwardness after we quit having sex with each other and each of them were dating women, and looking as if they were going to get married, but it was not a great amount of awkwardness and there is not awkwardness what so ever now. I see my cousin all of the time now and I see this other guy on occasion and, you know, it is never mentioned, but it is not tense.