- Goldmine: Root
- Oral History Collections
- Charlotte LGBTQ+ oral histories
- Gene A. Sloan and Robert M. Schmiel oral history interview, 2015 November 5
Gene A. Sloan and Robert M. Schmiel oral history interview, 2015 November 5
In this interview, Gene Sloan and Robert (Bobby) Schmiel juxtapose their life as a married couple in 2015 with their young adult lives in the 1970s. Mr. Sloan was raised in Aberdeen, Mississippi and after the age of ten, Mr. Schmiel was raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. As both men were raised in the South, Mr. Sloan describes the grace with which small Southern communities tolerated LGBTQ members, carving out a place for everyone, so long as everyone stayed in their place. Mr. Sloan and Mr. Schmiel illuminate gay life in the South from their unique perspectives. In larger Southern cities such as Atlanta, Mr. Sloan explains that anonymity was still necessary for gay survival, as he and his friends employed abbreviations and pseudonyms to conceal their discussions in public spaces. Likewise in Charlotte, Mr. Schmiel shares how he gained an education on how to be a gay man from his friend and significant Charlotte activist Don King. Mr. Sloan and Mr. Schmiel discuss their interactions with Mr. King and how these chance encounters culminated into lifelong friendships. Mr. Sloan and Mr. Schmiel talk about their eventual exhaustion within their Southern gay communities, describing shifting beauty standards and focuses within their gay male communities. When Mr. Sloan and Mr. Schmiel saw the sweeping effects of AIDS, each describes the stigma and fear associated with the disease in the late 1970s and 1980s. Mr. Sloan explains that although AIDS devastated LGBTQ communities, it also moved many gay men in the direction of more fulfilling relationships that weren't centered solely on sex. After Mr. Sloan and Mr. Schmiel met in 2012, they bonded over a shared value in spirituality, and each discusses the importance of inclusive local worship spaces such as Metropolitan Community Church of Charlotte and St. Peter's Episcopal Church.