Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Cecil W. Wooten, July 16, 2001. Interview K-0849. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Returning to UNC and becoming involved with the Carolina Gay Association

Wooten talks about his decision to be fully open about his sexuality when he returned to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a classics professor in 1980. Wooten had been teaching at the University of Indiana where his participation in the gay community there was more limited than he preferred. Upon his return to UNC, Wooten was open about his sexuality with his colleagues and he became active in campus organizations, such as the Carolina Gay Association (CGA), as a faculty advisor. Although Wooten found tolerance in his department, he describes tensions between the CGA and the student body government during the early 1980s.

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

So, I came back here and I made a point of finding out where the gay bars were and I really tried to meet gay people and I started going to, I guess that it was called CGA [Carolina Gay Association] then, they were called CGA meetings.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Okay, let's take one quick break here. [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
Okay.
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
I told my colleagues that I was gay, and I was very natural about it. If I had a boyfriend, I took him to classic department social functions. You know, I had colleagues to dinner with gay people and I became a faculty advisor to CGLA [Carolina Gay and Lesbian Association, which changed it's name from CGA in 1985].
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
That was in 1985-86, right?
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
That's right.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
And that is the same year that it became CGLA?
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
Right, okay, right. Well, and given the limited amount of free time that I had, I tried to get involved in things as much as I could. I was very happy I was very glad. I felt that it was a very good choice.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Where there many, looking back at 85 and 86, I just had done some research on this and this was a rough draft, but apparently when you came here or became active in CGLA in 85, 86 James Duley was the co-chair. Is he still in the area?
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
I don't think so, I don't know where he is, but I don't think that he is in the area. Robert Phar was also involved that year, but he is dead now.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Oh, okay, did he die of AIDS?
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
Yes. But, I don't think that Jim Duley is around. I think that he lives in Washington, but I am just not sure.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Okay, well describe CGA/CGLA a little bit to me. Was it predominantly male when you got involved?
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
Yes, it was almost exclusively male. It had a reputation on campus for being a very radical political organization, and to some extent it was. I mean, it was very political. Whether it was radical or not, I do not know. It was radical, I guess, for Chapel Hill in 1985.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Because they were really right in the middle of the AIDS crisis, when it first started. That must have been very hard.
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
Yeah, and it was, there was also a fair amount of opposition from the student body, which seemed to have the effect of radicalizing the people of the group even more.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
How would the student body backlash against CGLA?
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
It mainly took the form of an attempt to defund the organization every year. It was the same tired old crap every year.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
That was the same crap that I even had to go through.
CECIL W. WOOTEN:
I would get so tired of that. I mean, it was the same old stuff, you know, there would be a forum on religion and homosexuality and the same old arguments, and the same old bible thumpers and it was really tiresome. I got so tired of that after about five or six years. You know, reporters from the Daily Tar Heel would call me every year asking me the same questions that they had asked me for the previous seven years. I am glad to say that that has kind of weathered out now. Every year, I advised the group to try to make it somewhat social, because, I think.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
That seems to have always been the schism from the beginning.