Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Igal Roodenko, April 11, 1974. Interview B-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Coming to terms with homosexuality

Rodenko talks about coming to terms with his homosexuality. Although he remembers becoming aware of his sexuality in his teenage years, he argues that it had taken him years to come to terms with being gay. He relates his difficulty to social conceptions of sexuality and talks about the relationship between his sexuality and his social activism.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Igal Roodenko, April 11, 1974. Interview B-0010. 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

I don't want to open another whole long can of worms, but one thing, you in your life and in your times, the last few years it has been possible for you to become more radical in terms of your own homosexuality. We left this all out of your earlier experiences, jail and camp and the freedom rides in '47, but did this play any role at all.
Of course it did. I think I became aware of being gay when I was in high school, and it was the most horrible experience. I thought if I couldn't cure myself - that was the way I thought - that I'd commit suicide. I think that the awareness, the self-awareness, gave me such a sense of being an outsider, that the natural socializing qualities had to find a way of relating to the world, or otherwise it would have been the nuthouse or committing suicide. Being gay certainly made it easier to do time in prison. The sense of an all-male society is not difficult for me to live with. It took a great deal of the gain in the last few years to make it easier for me to come out. I was in my mid-twenties before I even came to terms with myself. I said, alright, you are not going to commit suicide, and this is you and this is what you have to live with, and this is what the world has to live with. I mean, that was an intellectual thing. The emotional thing was a lot more difficult. Only within the context of the gay liberation movement of the last couple years have, has it been, possible, easier, to live within my own small circle of friends in the radical and peace movement, and within the world at large. It is still very awkward. When I am on tour, when I get into a situation like this, when I overhear, I overhear myself saying the things that I am saying, I have a certain sense of drama. Maybe I play things up a little to make things more interesting and dramatic. People said, wow, and I can sense this, wow, big hero, all the things they said. This has happened many times in the past, the question isn't asked. People have suggested indirectly that I must be a self-sacrificing saint, I gave up all the joys of a family and of raising children for the cause. Now, if someone asks me that pointblank, I would say, no that isn't it, I never had a family, because I am not constituted to have one, I am gay, I never had any children, I never wanted any. Therefore, it is much easier for me to function this way. But I don't know what to do when I get this aura of approval based on a false assumption, that I have made this sacrifice. I don't know how to say, well, I'm just another guy, but my circumstances made it easier for me to do this. They don't know. To this date I don't know how to cope with this. How do I avoid being aggressive about it, the balance between being agressive about it and being reticent. I don't know about it, except I welcome a person putting it right to me like this. I can say what I have to say.