“When I was young, I always had a mountain range over my shoulder,” he says. “I still come back looking for lost dignity.”
We were very fortunate to have Gregory Hinton on for our latest episode of “What’s Your Why!” He is an novelist, filmmaker, lecturer, curator, and playwright. As A Buffalo Bill Center of the West Resident Fellow, Hinton is the proud creator and producer of “Out West”, a national museum program series offering lectures, plays, films, and gallery exhibitions dedicated to shining a light on the history and culture of the LGBTQ+ community in the American West (follow this link for a video presentation of the program). It is the first regional LGBTQ western archive at the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center in Laramie. Gregory’s latest theatrical endeavor is “A Sissy in Wyoming”, based on the life of cowboy crossdresser Larry “Sissy” Goodman. Born in Wolf Point, Montana, Hinton resides in Los Angeles, dividing his thoughts and his time between the Golden State and the backroads of his native rural Rocky Mountain West. Follow him on Twitter! Thank yo so much for your words and time Gregory!!
- ‘He motors toward Shoshone Canyon and its prehistoric majesty, on what Teddy Roosevelt is said to have called the most beautiful drive in the world. Back home in Hollywood, he dreams about this place. He emerges from a tunnel, the expanse of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir before him. “Now you see,” he says, “why I come back.”’ - John M. Glionna on Gregory Hinton -
Emy Romero (00:00:00):
Hello, my name is Emy diGrappa. Each week, we bring you stories asking our guests the question why. We learn about passion, purpose and the human experience. Brought to you by Wyoming Humanities, with the generous support of the Wyoming Community Foundation. This is What's Your Why. Today. We are talking to Gregory Hinton. Gregory is an author, filmmaker and playwright, also creator and producer of Outwest, a historic national program series dedicated to eliminating the history and culture of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and two spirit communities in the American West. Welcome, Gregory.
Gregory Hinton (00:00:56):
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Emy Romero (00:00:58):
Well, I just want to start at the beginning because you have so such an interesting story to tell. Where were you raised?
Gregory Hinton (00:01:05):
I was born in Wolf Point, Montana on the Fort peck reservation. My dad was a country newspaper editor. We moved down to Cody, Wyoming when I was two, where I took over the Cody Enterprise which was originally founded by Buffalo Bill. And so we lived in Cody for about seven years. So I was a little boy. And then we moved down to Denver when he got a job with the Forest Service when he found out that he was not going to be able to send us to school and kind of provide for him and my mom later on. So he ended up as a chief of public affairs for the Bureau of Land Management of Colorado. He was a writer, an outdoors guy and just a wonderful dad.
Emy Romero (00:01:48):
That's good. That's good. And what was your decision to move to LA and make that your home for the past 30 years, or I should say Hollywood?
Gregory Hinton (00:01:58):
Well, I call it an evacuation actually. I attended the University of Colorado at Boulder. And that was just going to be the coolest, most wonderful experience I had, but there into my life, a little darkness fell when I came out and my coming out was kind of... I lost control of it, if you will. It spread over campus to friends of mine from high school and that sort of thing. And I ended up kind of feeling so threatened that I wanted to drop out of school. My folks were really wonderful and supportive, although this was all new to them. And my brother also, it turned out, was gay. So they had two gay sons and both of us were in some emotional turmoil largely because, well, a theology student called my folks and threatened to drive me out of Boulder with whips and chains.
And it was just so stereotypical and ridiculous and cruel, but it left its mark. And so the second my brother could move, he left and I followed a year later after I graduated. And he was living in Laguna Beach with a hair dresser to the stars. And so I stayed with them for a while. And then I met a fellow and we moved Palm Springs and he was on his way to have his dad set him up in a gay bar, because they heard they were a good business in a place called Cathedral City out of Palm Springs. And so it was just, it's been an adventure. It's just all been highs and lows, but just mostly very grateful that California was so welcoming. But of course, I wanted to know where I come from, because I'm a writer.
And so that's what started the desire to come back particularly to Wyoming because those were formative years. And I basically wanted to go through all of my dad's old Cody Enterprises. So I went to the morgue at the Hart County Archives and they hand me all of these big boxes and for the dates that I needed. And the first box, probably two or three papers in there's a cover photograph of me as a young kid, which I sent to you, which was taken. And that was the full front page of the Cody Enterprise in 1956, because I was going to supposedly be new year's baby of '57 although I was a big baby even then. And I just thought his newspapers became a family Bible to me. They were a family scrapbook because he took a lot of photographs. He won awards. Look Magazine, best sports photo of the year for a stampede picture he took. And I really just fell in love with Wyoming all over again. And I had the benefit. My dad died too young. He died when he was 64 of lung cancer.
But his friends from Cody were still around and he kind of knew Al Simpson. So I wrote a letter to Al Simpson saying, I'm this guy and whatever. And he said, "If you're thinking of coming back to Wyoming, get on back. It's home." And Al paved the way from me at the Buffalo Bill Center of The West where he was chairman. My dad's other close friend was a guy named Ernie Gopert, who was also the other chairman. And these old grandfathers of Wyoming put their arms around me. I told them I was gay and I was wanting to do a tribute piece to my dad and my family. And they were wonderful. Every stereotype you would have about Wyoming, because I was told by friends here, "Don't go there, they'll kill you. Like they killed Matthew Shepherd." And like I say, it was the grandfathers of Wyoming that are why I'm sitting here with you today because it's been a wonderful, wonderful adventure. And so I hope I can tell you more about it today.
Emy Romero (00:05:49):
Well, it sounds like they really embraced you and had an attitude that you live free in Wyoming. That's kind of why we live here, I think, but well-
Gregory Hinton (00:06:02):
Emy Romero (00:06:03):
But it does have a very kind of cowboy reputation, which has always been more of a redneck stereotype, but it's not really... That's why I was so intrigued about your Outwest series because then you there, you're exploring a different side of the American cowboy. So tell me more about that.
Gregory Hinton (00:06:32):
I wasn't planning to do this at all. I'd been working on a novel that I could ever get published about growing up in Cody called Night Rodeo. And it was set against the backdrop of obviously rodeo and small town newspaper. And I was doing research at the, what is now the Autry Museum of The American West, but it's Gene Autry's museum that he founded kind of right near Disney, where I used to have a job also. And I went in and because it was... The Autry, they have a great history of Western film from Tom Mix all the way to Dances With Wolves at the time. And so it's very, very beautiful film gallery with a lot of ephemera and props and that sort of thing. And I noticed that the film Broke Back Mountain wasn't represented and I thought that it should be.
So I came home and this wasn't my business to be telling them what to put in their museum. I was just there to research, but I had a friend, a librarian who's helping me. And I went home and I asked my partner, Tom, "Whatever happened to those shirts from Broke Back Mountain?" And if you've seen the film, they both wear basically these inexpensive Rock Mount cowboy shirts that they love and are thread bear. And in the end of the film, the Heath ledger character takes Jake Gillin Hall's character's shirt, puts it on a rack over his shirt and puts some ceremoniously back into the closet together. So I said, "So whatever happened to those shirts?" And he said, "I think they were sold at auction." And I Googled them, thank God, and they've been sold at auction by a Hollywood memorabilia collector for $100,000.
And he had to sign a piece of paper that he wouldn't destroy them and that he would never separate them because they came on the same rack. They had never been separated. And so we bought them and he gets... I write a cold email, "It's none of my business, but I think your shirts belong in the Autry." And I remember I sent it January 1st of that year, '93, '94, I can't remember. And he writes back the very next day saying, "Meet me tomorrow." And I have no idea who he is. I meet him and his partner are major philanthropists, worldwide build museum generous fellows. And he said, "I don't think they're going to let you do it. But the shirts are yours to set up there if you want." And so I contacted my friend, [inaudible 00:09:10] at the Autry and she put it to her boss.
And so six months later there they were installed in the Autry Film Gallery with Mrs. Gene Autry attending. And the press went kind of nuts over it. And I thought I needed another hook. There is the International Gay Rodeo Association and I knew about them and I thought, "Well, they must have archives." Because when I went looking, I couldn't find anything about gay people in the American West in any established historical institution. So I write a letter to the president of IGRA and they say, "It's not my business, but if you have archives, I think they'd be cool in a Western library at the Autry." And he said, "Sure, go ahead and try and make it work." So a month after we install the shirts to gay cowboys historians, their archives were impeccable.
And he told me that they were stored in the basement of Charlie's, which was a Denver Western gay bar. And I went to Denver, went down into the basement and there were these pristine boxes, banker's boxes of the gay rodeo archives. And they were stored on a bunch of beer kegs in the closet, off the drag show, dressing room downstairs. And so from that space, they were transferred lovingly. They didn't want to ship them because they thought that they'd be destroyed by some horrible person. So they drove them personally over the Rockies, dropped them off at the Autry Museum's loading dock. They were processed and a Harvard PhD candidate came and went through all of them, and now she's created this whole scholarship on gay rodeo. Her name is Rebecca Scofield and she's a professor at the University of Idaho. So this was all just so whimsical.
I had a notion and I acted on it. And again, none of it was, was my business, but the press, the media loved it. And then other Western institutions were interested in it as well. And the Autry was just so amazed at the positive public response they got. Because they were considered a very conservative... It was Ronald Reagan's kitchen cabinet that was their board. And they said, "Why don't you create a program series for us?" I was walking around the reservoir here and I thought, "Well, duh, we'll call it Outwest at the Autry." So I did programming for them for several years. And then I started reaching out to other Western museums. I think you've seen the list, but I presented so many unique Outwest programs, a around the country and it's just been a wonderful, wonderful ride. And that brought me back to Cody proper.
Emy Romero (00:11:55):
Well, has the gay community embraced this idea that there are gay Cowboys and what do they say about that?
Gregory Hinton (00:12:09):
It just surprised everybody. I had only been to one gay rodeo and they had it at the equestrian center years before I did all of this. And I'd been away from rodeo. I hadn't been to a rodeo since I was a kid. So I remember going to this and just looking like, "Well, what's gay about this? This is just a bunch of Cowboys." And they were doing all of the same calf roping, bull riding, all of the same stuff off. And they were just all men. And there were also gay women there as well. It just looked like a regular rodeo of my childhood. It wasn't any different than they do the flag. They do everything that a "straight rodeo" does. And it just started as, as two and then built up.
And pretty soon there were... Gay rodeos kind of bloomed in other states around the country. Not all of them by any means, but I have to say, I really have not had any kind of blow back. And I go to a lot of "red states" what we call all them now. I was thinking as I was anticipating talking with you today, do you know who've been... Some of my kindest allies have been straight men of faith, who just have been so gentle and considerate. And they respect what I'm trying to do and they know I'm not there to... That this is a gentle program. It's not meant to inflame emotions. It's just meant to kind of just establish that we're peaceful cowboys and cowgirl and just want to live our lives the way we wish and not hurt anybody.
That's basically it. It's just, we want to live as we wish to live without hurting anyone. And when Al Simpson puts his arm around Jiman, you're like, it was major. It was just major. I sent you, I think, the Los Angeles Times piece, because the LA Times just got intrigued about what I do and asked, "How could we cover it?" And I said, "Well, we've got to go to Cody and go to the Buffalo Bill Center of The West. And we went in and Al came to lunch at the Irma Hotel with us and he was just so wonderful. And you know why I thought to reach out to Al? Actually he was on Bill Mar's show if you've ever watched it.
And Bill Mar, he said, Bill Mar made a crack about Al being from the state where they kill gay people. And I was watching and I was offended. And I'm a gay man and I know what terrible things have happened obviously. And Al just exploded at Bill Mar. He took his breath away. He said, "The people of Wyoming were offended by the murder of Matthew Shepherd and how dare you accuse us of not being sympathetic to... We stand for live and let live in Wyoming. And how dare you insult me and the people of Wyoming?" It was like, wow. And so I wrote him this letter reminding him who my dad was and what I was doing. And I'm not somebody who wrote senators by any means. It was a matter of daily activity. Then I was embarrassed. I thought I shouldn't, and I get this beautiful letter from Al just welcoming me back. And-
Emy Romero (00:16:03):
I think he's a-
Gregory Hinton (00:16:04):
... he just remained so powerful. And obviously, I know he and Ann and Pete and Lynn were in one of my plays. We did a reading of it at the museum. And so there will never be another one like Al and so it's pretty cool.
Emy Romero (00:16:28):
True, true. I think Al Simpson is a very generous person.
Gregory Hinton (00:16:34):
Yes. And a loving person. And I think you may have read that. I'd been in the film industry for 20 years and I was an executive producer for a film director named Randall Kleiser, and his biggest, best known film was the film Grease. And we had production deals with Universal and Disney and all of these places. And at a point I decided, I really wanted to not be the guy next to the guy. And I had novels that I'd already written and had published, and I just wanted to devote myself to my own creative career. And so I left and I applied for a fellowship and I thought all of this was terrible risk and it remains a terrible risk not to have the security, but I heard about Ucross Foundation through Annie Proulx book, The Shipping News, which I loved. And so I looked it up.
I decided that I would apply to Ucross and I got accepted because I wanted to come and work on night rodeo there. And I recall thinking that... And my friends were, "Don't go to Wyoming, don't go to Wyoming. Why do you want to go there? They hate people there." And it was just no, no. That was what really changed my course for good, because I was able to base camp there and go over the little big horns to Cody and just reintroduce myself to the museum. And there was different leadership there, but they were, as I say, when Alan and Simpson invite you to their table, people... It was the first time I felt like a rich man's son. Do you know what I mean? Those doors that opened just because of the influence of he who brung you.
And so that's why I love that museum so much. And I was a kid at the groundbreaking of the Buffalo Bill Center of The West in 1958. I remember it. And when I gave a talk at the museum several years ago to a group of Cody, I said, "Does anybody..." And I always say, I attended the groundbreaking of this museum in 1958, '59. "Was anybody else here... Is anybody here who also was?" And the only other person who was there was Anne Simpson. Anyway, and so that's why I remember my dad specifically digging a hole in the ground and throwing some dirt with the shovel as a five, six year old kid. I just, I can still see that picture. And we just lived two blocks up the street from the, from where the museum was being built on 1037 Canyon Avenue. So that's because my mom and my dad and my brother all passed away so young. My dad at 63 and my brother at 50 and my mom at 74, that was all smoking related.
It just makes me... The morgue of your community newspaper should be a family album for everybody. And if one bothers to go look, you'll find yourself in the pages is the thing. So, so that's, that's really what continues to launch all of this. And I brag on Cody and the Buffalo Bill everywhere I speak, which is now kind of all over the the west, certainly, and now kind of reaching all the way to Florida and that sort of thing.
Emy Romero (00:20:49):
That is excellent. You've come a long way. What a great passionate journey you've been on. Tell me how you started and became interested in writing this new play called A sissy in Wyoming.
Gregory Hinton (00:21:05):
Well, it might be my downfall, but no, I'm teasing. I read about Larry "Sissy" Goodwin, who is a Wyoming cross dresser, he is married, has children. His only differences that he prefers to wear women's clothing unlike... And so anyway, I read about him on the cover... On the front page of the Los Angeles Times. And I was shocked by the article and it was written by a Times' writer named John Gliona. And I was offended by the title because sissy is a pejorative. I thought that they were having it both ways and that sort of thing. But as it happens, Sissy Larry Goodwin who passed away several years ago adopted the name because that's what he was called. And he wanted to appropriate it as his own.
So I just was so intrigued and I wanted to know more possibly to do an Outwest program about him, but I reached out to the writer of the Times and explained what I was doing and he contacts me and he said, "I've discussed you with our editors at The Times. And I'm more wondering... We would like to do a piece on you. We think your mission is very unusual. And so we talked and he said, "If you're willing, I would really like to meet you in Cody, and you could show me where you lived and tell me more about growing up and what it's like to be a gay kid from Wyoming and your dad's..." They were intrigued that my dad was a newspaper man, and that I had all the covers of the Cody. I sent you one, I think, but there were covers from spanning seven years, full page ads. Some of them were taken by Jack Richard who's a beloved Wyoming photographer who was also my dad's friend and who shot for the enterprise. And then others were my dad's.
And when I was in Cody, I would just really enlist the passion the archivers who... At Park County Archives, a wonderful woman named Lynn Stallings, who just was so excited because I was so excited. And it was just a great story. And so I have that whole collection. And my mission is also to honor my dad's work and country editors everywhere, because they're under sung and underpaid. And so I've met several folks from the Wyoming Newspaper Association. Guy named Jim Hicks and Bruce McCormick, who was the editor of the Cody Enterprise, who I went back and met. And so I don't know if you saw that picture of the kid just falling off a Brahma bullet at a Cody stampede, but my dad shot this photo and it ended up in Look Magazine and he won Wyoming Newspaper Association prize. And it was a big deal. So now, everywhere I go, I open with that shot of that kid. And it just pleases this me that... Oh, and two years ago they did a big cowboy exhibit at the Buffalo Bill in Cody.
And they blew my dad's photograph up to this huge, huge size. And you could have your picture taken in front of it. And just seeing my dad's work because I always show it at every museum,] I lecture at, being able to promote my dad's artwork, getting him in museums is just... He would die a thousand deaths, but I know how pleased he and my mom would be, because I get to honor him with with his talent. But I also get to honor my parents for putting their arms around their own two sons. And nobody is going to threaten us without answering to them. It's just really great and it keeps me close to them every time I talk about them. And my mom was as much of a hero to me as my dad. Just wonderful altruistic people. And that's what all this journey is about as well.
Emy Romero (00:26:13):
Were those hard conversations that you had with your dad when you came out and what was his reactions? How did he embrace you?
Gregory Hinton (00:26:21):
Well, it's quite a story actually. I was in Boulder and I didn't know about my brother yet, but he was coming out as well. He went to Fort Collins, Colorado State University. And I was involved with a group. I had gotten caught up in the evangelical movement that was coming through Boulder during the '70S. Actually, it was kind of burgeoning around all of the university systems in the early '70s. And so I had several friends who we had prayer groups and that sort of thing. And during one of these sessions, I felt like I needed to confide that I hadn't had any experience as a physical experience as a gay man or come out or told anybody. But I told them about this and the theological student who went on to Princeton and is a major Presbyterian minister flipped out.
And he tried to cast out our demons. My friend sitting next to me, turned out he was gay too so there were two of us. So we didn't know. And it's funny if you think about it. And then we had this charismatic dancer from Canada who went around and danced for the Lord with this group. And it sounds insane, but these are all people of faith and how are they... Anyway, and we were all characters and that's why we liked each other, but this fellow just freaked out and blew everything up. And I was suicidal at that point and I had to be... My folks were just very fearful for me and... Well, I wanted to say we had a... I went home to tell my mom that I thought I was gay.
And she said, "Well, what about Scotty?" And I said, well, he's gay too. So outed him to them. So she was taking a nap and I described this in my book. My mom was somewhat depressed and let's face it. We all want to take a nap in the afternoon now. But I walk in and she was asleep and I woke her and I told her this. And I remember her getting out of bed, lighting a cigarette, walking into the kitchen. And she calls my dad at work. My dad called her every day from work to tell he loved her. So she calls him at work and she says, "We have a serious issue. You remember what we thought about Scotty?" And I'm listening to this. And then she goes, "Well, Greg is too. Come home." And she hung up. She called my brother, and who's living in downtown Denver with a college professor at DU.
And she said, "We know. Come home." She called my sister who was married and had a husband and a small child. They were students that... She was getting her master's degree in education. And she said, "We're having a family meeting. Come home." Didn't say why. So we had this truly devastating conversation around our dining room table and our small little brick house up in Green Mountain, above Denver. And this all was discussed. And I've written about this and spoken about it. I understand the need for them to want to act so quickly because they felt our lives were going to be at stake. That's all they knew was that we were going to have difficult lives and the absolute idea wasn't, "You have to change, you can't do this. You can't da, da da."
It was, "How do we circle the wagons? How are we going to intact? How are we going to protect you? How are you going to protect yourself? What do you expect you have to gain by this?" And my dad didn't say anything. My brother was shouting statistics and figures and everything that he knew about it. I'm going, "I don't want to do this." My brother-in-law was a psychology major so he's trying to kind of be that guy. And they have their new baby with them, which helped. And we were never the same again. And I'm not saying we weren't all close. We remained a very, very close family, but they sent me to a psychiatrist because I was clearly in trouble and my brother just was going to go on living his life.
And what I knew is that I would always have... Oh, and then the theology student called after the fact, my mom answered. And that's when he threatened me and my dad got on the phone and said, "If you ever call here again, I'll kill you," which I know he would've. And we had 30 firearms and basement. And that was when I just felt like I had to leave Boulder and drop out. And so I went to San Francisco for the summer with the fellow that was my partner at the time. And called my mom and said, "I want to come back and finish school." So I came back." But the university, my professors all knew when I dropped out, I was honest about what was going on. And there weren't any resources for a student then it wasn't. There wasn't any advocacy by the university to stop bullying and hazing. Because I was basically bullied. I was bullied out of my education for that time when I left.
And I went to the student health clinic because I was really having a terrible anxiety attack and I told them what was going on. And they said, "Well you're long term. So you can lay down here for 20 minutes, but you're going to have to find yourself other help." And I mean there just wasn't any support system yet. It was too early. This was mind you in the mid '70s and just when everything was starting to come out. And I'm fortunate that I didn't let it get the best of me. But all of that informs kind of all the choices I have. I have a happy life. I have a wonderful partner and we're here both together for 30 years and we've had nice friends and I love what I do so much. So that's kind of what it's been about.
Emy Romero (00:34:05):
That's quite a journey. Wow.
Gregory Hinton (00:34:08):
Emy Romero (00:34:09):
And a lot of heartbreak and emotion and, but being an overcomer at the same time.
Gregory Hinton (00:34:17):
Yeah. I've not heard that word and I'll take it. That's great. And I imagine the students are the kids that go home and they get kicked out, literally just kicked to the street with nothing because their families can't handle having an LGBTQ kid, trans kids. And that's long way away from... Because I'm circling back to a sissy in Wyoming. Trans kids are just being ostracized and tormented and murdered. Wyoming has had several instances of that. And so when I heard about Larry Goodwin and I was busy doing a lot of things. And so I was never able to meet him directly. And by the time I got around to wanting to meet him face to face or do a project about him, he had already passed away. So the LA Times friend and connected me with Vicky Goodwin and I contacted her and we spoke, and I sent her a background of what I do. And she said, "I'd love to meet you." And so I went and I stayed with her for a couple of days at her house in Douglas. And they were just wonderful record keepers. They he was like me.
Has all of this publicity. And he had a scrapbook and he had all of his awards and photos. And his story is just really remarkable and she's an equal partner to it. And so that's the really terrific thing. And I would like to underscore this as well, is that when I went back to Wyoming, I noticed that when I went looking, I couldn't find my community anywhere in westerners history institutions. I went to the University of Wyoming to the American Heritage Center. I don't know if you've ever met him. He's a wonderful guy, but a fellow named [inaudible 00:36:31] was the associate director there. And I wrote him kind of a proposal saying that we really need an archive of the LGBTQ West. And there are other archives like them, but not devoted to those of us who come from the rural American West.
And he thought that was a good idea. I sent a proposal and he said, "Why don't you come and you can meet the director of AHC and talk it over? Because he's kind of interested." So I flew out and I meet a fellow Mark Green. I don't know if you've ever met him, but he was just an internationally acclaimed archivist. He had never seen... I was supposed to meet with Rick and Rick said, "Well, you need to meet with Mark instead because I'm called out of town." And I thought, "Oh, great." Because I was worried. And so I go in and I meet with Mark. I said, "Well, have you ever seen Broke Back Mountain?" "No, I never saw it." And I'm going, "Oh, my gosh." And then I just explained what I wanted to do and he green lit it and we decided to call it Outwest at the Rockies, and it was the first...
At the time, this was 2015, it was the first regional LGBT Western archive, dedicated space to collect our stories. And then Mark tragically passed away in a terrible accident between Laramie and Cheyenne and in a Blizzard. And then Rick took over. And so they, they sent me all over. They said, "We'd really like you to go out and promote it, promote Outwest." And so I started making appointments and I went to Idaho and I went to Utah and I went to Nevada and I went to New Mexico and Arizona and they underwrote it. The whole thing. And as a result, everywhere I would go, I would speak. And I could brag on the University of Wyoming and AHC and other, I'm not saying it was because of me, but the value of having dedicated archives to my community, started to be embraced by these other institutions. So now there are other archives that are springing up kind of dedicated to the stories of those particular states.
And so AHC just continues to be a great partner to me, Leslie Wagner, who's the president of the Wyoming Historic Society is also an archivist. I spoke with her and she arranged to do an oral history of Vicki about her life, her own life and her life with sissy. And so we have 10, 12 hours of her oral history of The Key, which I was able to use to write A Sissy in Wyoming. I'm mostly what you call a verbatim playwright where I adapt the real words of real people and kind of curate them into a staged piece. And I've decided that I really like doing playwrights readings rather than cast them with because it's actually, frankly, it's another check and another plane ticket and all of that. And I just really love doing my own work, but so I created this piece and this is what's also really wild and it's like that old serendipity thing.
So I'm down in Tulsa doing another project, which was a very wonderful project about a playwright named Lynn Riggs. And he was a Cherokee playwright whose play Green Grow The Lilacs was adapted by Rogers and Hammerstein into Oklahoma. And so they have a museum dedicated to Lynn Riggs in his little town of Claremont, Oklahoma. And I go down and I meet a curator down there named Andy Couch. This has a point to it. Andy's this great guy. He did all of this research, the Yale Beinecke Library, hands me all of this material. And I craft that play. So lo and behold, Andy announces he's looking to... He's just gotten married and he and his wife would like to try their hand at another state. And so he was looking for a museum directorship in Wyoming and he ends up at the Nick Museum in Casper. And the first big program...
And I had told him about sissy kind of when I was down there, I met this really interesting story about this fellow Sissy Goodwin. So Andy mounts the [inaudible 00:41:46] fabric of his life, the story of Larry "Sissy" Goodwin, which was a... It was so courageous. This is his first major exhibition and it's just been hugely successful. And so Leslie now has done the whole oral history of Vicki, Andy's done this exhibition. So I decide I'm going to write A Sissy in Wyoming to be read at one of the programs that the museum is doing, that Nick is doing for Sissy. I just love that I partnered with, with history and art and theater and it wasn't an accident. It was a curation of these different elements that end up with this piece that people are really responding to.
I did my playwrights reading of it at the Nick and we had a huge attendance and standing ovation. And Vicky, who is this beatific, wonderful woman is sitting on the front row with her daughters who don't know what to make of this whole exhibition about their dad. And then here's this guy doing him. I don't dress as Sissy. It's a playwrights reading. I'm reading my own play. And there's Vicki sitting and their daughter and throughout the play, Sissy loved Vicki. They loved each other so much, and so I could really... I could work with Vicki, who's sitting on the front row and I could refer to her and because a lot of it is Sissy talking to her. And to be honest with you, it was a really nice act and it's all true, but I mean the emotion of that.
And so that's what caused, I don't know how, I suggested it. And Leslie was an equal partner, the American Heritage Center, equal partner in it because she supplied the goods. She dedicated herself and she's taken my oral history as well now. But she's just been such a change agent. She took this over and Ricky and I discussed that. We'd like to take a tour of Sissy around the state of Wyoming and AHC is sponsoring it and we're trying to... AHC and obviously humanities, Wyoming are sponsoring it and October comes and we're going to drive around and we just got our first response, actually the first one that Vicky sent is the Jackson Cultural Center in Jackson Hole wants one to come. So we want to do maybe about an eight community tour in October, which is LGBT history month. And so Vicky and I will drive and I'll do a reading every night and I'm so looking forward to it, because I've really decided that I love, I just love reading these plays. And so I'm really looking forward to it.
Emy Romero (00:45:23):
Well, it sounds like you're a great dot connector. That you connect dots very well. You go from one place to another place, you meet this person or that person, and you kind of have the ability to put all these connections together.
Gregory Hinton (00:45:40):
I guess that actually I will talk to that, having that skill. I have a vision and the media, like I said, has been a great partner to me. I've been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Every time I go to a state or a city like the local NPR affiliate that will have me on. So there's all of this, this great opportunity to kind of promote our community's right to come back to the communities that we feel that we have to leave. And the really great news, I just find Montana has a great LGBT community that didn't do what I did, which is evacuate. They've stayed in Bozeman and in Great Falls and in Billings and in Missoula and the same with Utah and Oklahoma and all these other states where they stay in those communities and kind of have lives and businesses and create families.
And staying is really what takes the mystery out of it all. People may not sign on to everything one does, but at least they have that base basic belief, what anybody's doing is their own business, as long as they're not hurting anyone and are giving to the community. We have to try all that much harder, but I just have met just some really, really great people. So that's kind of just been a major gift to me, this whole thing.
Emy Romero (00:47:46):
Yeah. When you talk about community, I think about, yes, there is a gay community, but there's also a family community. And like you were talking about these Western towns, they have their own communities and staying in those communities because I do believe that it's person by person and ultimately people do want to accept you and love you, and it's not all rejection.
Gregory Hinton (00:48:17):
Exactly. But I've got to say that my community can be pretty mean spirited when it wants to also. It's not like we have our... It bothers me a great deal when I say that I do my work and I write red plays for blue states. And I don't go to start something. I just go to tell a story about people who live in that state who happen to be part of my community. And the bigotry that again, and they're mostly from cities have about the places that I go, they wouldn't even consider going to Wyoming. I'm not going to go there and I'm not going to go to Idaho. It's, I don't like to even say conservative because I don't believe conservative people are biased.
And let's just say automatically, I think that they have opinions and they have their religious beliefs and everything, but I don't... It bothers me that people, there are other communities than Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York and Miami and whatever. I just would've loved to have felt that I didn't need to leave. I wish that I had been able to stay in Denver or in that area to be with my folks as we were... As I was growing up. But it was imperative to me that I get out of Colorado and get... I needed my privacy to find myself is what it was. And I did achieve that. And with the novels I've written and the films that I've made, I've been able to tell some stories that I am just so happy that there's a place that I have that I can leave kind of all that early ephemera, the rough drafts and all of that.
And this is another thing too. One thing I always express to my audiences wherever I am fortunate enough to speak is I always identify as being HIV positive. I've been HIV positive for over 30 years, and I've never hidden it. And the community that I've been so fortunate to have, have that experience, but I'll often... In addition to often possibly being the only gay person anybody's ever met, I'm also often the only openly HIV person anybody's ever met. That was just something that I was never, ever not going to cop to so that people can see that you can be well, and you're safe to be around and all of that. So again, I just, by owning this stuff, I really haven't had that difficult other time. I will say that my 50th high school graduation is this year and I'm not going, because I have not felt comfortable about...
I'm a bit ashamed, but I just heard horrible things said about me and I just don't really need to convene with those people. And I'm not saying it would be all of them, but I don't feel welcome to do that. And this has been a concern to me in the neighborhood where I live. There's this term walking while black, there's also a term called walking while gay. And that means you can get harassed just for walking. And we live in a dense neighborhood. I like to walk to my local grocery store, which is The Ralph's two and half blocks away. And about a year ago, I was really harassed by a kid on a bike as I'm walking home with my stuff and I'm going to repeat what he said. If you need to delete it, you can or bleep it, but I'm walking along and all of a sudden, I hear a kid say, "Hey, you fat fag and I want to slit your throat while your boyfriend watches."
And this is like a block from my house and a block from the supermarket and he's on a bike. And I could hear him coming up and I didn't turn, because that would've been a mistake. I just kept walking. And as he flies by me, I just am hoping he's not going to cold cork me, and he didn't. But what he ended up doing is he [inaudible 00:53:34] past me and he kicks all those little rental scooters you see everywhere. I must have them as well. He kicks seven of them into the street, the whole row, just one by one, by one, by one, by one just violently. And then he flies off and suddenly I was like, I was 11 years old again in junior high. Because it's so quick. You're kind of like reasoning with, "Wow, this is really interesting." And then it kind of... So in any case, that's... And then it happened another time recently just walking and you get the F bomb thrown at you, the not the gay F bomb and you just kind of walking along and you just doesn't...
I don't know who does that. And I have to be aware. This is funny. When I go to McDonald's now they're saying, "Thank you grandpa," to me. It just happened again this morning because I love their sausage them up in the bag. And I like to go over early in these young kids, working very hard and it's a term of endearment. Sometimes it's in Spanish, but sometimes, "Thank you grandpa." And I've gotten it now seven times. I come home and Tom dies of laughter. He thinks it's very funny. They mean it kindly or it's whatever, but I just have been laughing about how much it comes up now. I've got to say I'm embracing this time in my life.
I want us to be well and live a much longer life and to be comfortable, but I want to be safe too. And my point about this is in addition to being a gay man, and now I'm an old gay man and I've got to consider that I am putting myself in jeopardy on occasion. I'm not going to stop walking because I love it. And so it's just something though that I do have to think about. And I reported it both times. A hate incident is where they say things to you and a hate crime is where they hit you. So anyway, but I just find that sort of thing interesting more than terribly frightening, but I just have to... I know I have to be careful.
Emy Romero (00:56:19):
Yeah. Well that's a good idea to always be careful. Well, I guess you can relate to women's rights because we've been harassed all throughout history and are still... I think we're probably even behind in many countries. What you've gone through in different ways-
Gregory Hinton (00:56:39):
Oh, I agree. No, no, I agree. I absolutely agree. I don't know what a woman goes through just while walking. Well, female. I've seen it. Well, we've all seen it. There's a scene in my novel Cathedral City where Maria who's become the inheritor of this little town in Cathedral City is walking with her niece. And they're getting cat called from a construction site, and she basically turns and takes them on. She's a very formidable young woman. Of course she's very beautiful. But she turns and takes them on. And the young girl and says, "If you bother me again, I'm going to call your foreman and I'm going to get you fired. I can do it and I will." And then the young girl who's with her, they're walking along and she says, "I didn't know we could complain." And it's one of my favorite scenes. This young girl, she's kind of adopted and is a bit clumsy at her age of life. And she's just going, "I didn't know we could complain."
Emy Romero (00:57:55):
Gregory Hinton (00:58:00):
I don't know. The world is so... I should set if for... This is for posterity. We both know that the Russians are bombing Ukraine and people are dying, terrible, terrible, unnecessary deaths. And it's just unconscionable. And the level of anxiety in the world is just sky high now. I took Russian as a kid in junior high. I wanted to learn Russian. And this is something also, as kids in Cody, they were building in the late '50s, early '60s, they were building bomb shelters. They were digging bomb shelters in their backyards. We had a Sonic boom hit Cody. I was little and I was with a girlfriend, little girl down the street, and we were kind of outside her house.
And her mother came this Sonic boom hit. We didn't know what it was. They took us down into the basement and this girl Cate Calwel says to me, "You're never going to see... It's the bomb and you're never going to see your mother again." And that's what she thought, because that's.... And that's in the newspapers then of that time where there's all of this cold war stuff that's going on. And then I remember the Cuban missile crisis and we were living in an apartment. My dad had just relocated and we were living in an apartment at that time. We didn't have a house. I remember we went to like the storage room of the building thinking that's where we would hide. I just remember all of this huge fear about nuclear war with Russia.
And it seems so old fashioned, everything that's happening right now, it's just like, "What? In 2022, what? This is like..." Because insanity is what's... Maybe it's giving Putin too much credit to say it's insanity. Oh, it's too bad. He's mentally ill. I don't like to use the word evil, but it's just evil. And it's all just starting and that's kind of where we are right now. It's going to be touch and go, I think, for a long time. But I get to look forward to my tour of A Sissy in Wyoming and-
Emy Romero (01:00:49):
And well, you have lots to look forward to for sure. And yes, it is a stressful time in this world. And sometimes you think about history, world history, and there's always been some kind of stress someplace in the world. There's always been that push and pull between good and bad or right and wrong.
Gregory Hinton (01:01:13):
Emy Romero (01:01:15):
I don't know. I always think about how we always think we're so evolved but we're not. We're still becoming real people all the time.
Gregory Hinton (01:01:34):
I remember my mom saying, "All I ever wanted of my children is that you be kind." And so-
Emy Romero (01:01:42):
Gregory Hinton (01:01:43):
I don't know if that's what all mothers wish and I'm interested that was just her value. She just didn't understand cruelty.
Emy Romero (01:01:56):
That's right. That's good. And that's what she shared with you. And that's a great legacy that you have of hers to pass on.
Gregory Hinton (01:02:06):
Emy Romero (01:02:07):
To whoever you meet, to whoever you meet.
Gregory Hinton (01:02:10):
I hope so. Yes.
Emy Romero (01:02:12):
Well, I've had such a great time talking to you. You have such an interesting story and I look forward to seeing you in Jackson hole when you come here.
Gregory Hinton (01:02:23):
Well, I'm not sure. It's not set yet, but it'll be sometime in... Oh, it's probably mid-October but I'll let you... Forgive me. Where do you live?
Emy Romero (01:02:34):
In Buffalo Valley. So I live 30 miles north Jackson.
Gregory Hinton (01:02:39):
Oh, you're kidding. Oh, I had no idea.
Emy Romero (01:02:42):
Gregory Hinton (01:02:43):
Emy Romero (01:02:43):
Yeah. So when you were saying that, I was like, "Okay, I get to see you pretty soon." So that'll be great. So you'll definitely have to call me and we'll either have coffee or lunch or something.
Gregory Hinton (01:02:57):
By the way, the Laura [inaudible 01:02:59] song I referred to you, which is actually called Emily, but she calls her Emmy in the... She refers to her, not as Emily, but Emmy during kind of one of my favorite lines in the piece. So I don't know if you've looked it up, but it's very-
Emy Romero (01:03:17):
I did, I did. Yeah, I did. Yeah. Thank you. I appreciated that. So Gregory, have a beautiful rest of your day and we will be talking soon. And I'll let you know when your podcast launches.
Gregory Hinton (01:03:30):
Okay. This is just so generous of you and please thank the gang as well. I always get so worked up about this and this is the most comfortable interview I've had. So I appreciate it.
Emy Romero (01:03:43):
Oh, absolutely. I appreciate you.
Gregory Hinton (01:03:47):
Actually, it's been a talk rather than an interview, so I'm so grateful.
Emy Romero (01:03:52):
Gregory Hinton (01:03:53):
Emy Romero (01:03:55):
Absolutely. Take care.
Gregory Hinton (01:03:56):
All right. Bye-bye.
Emy Romero (01:03:57):
Bye. Thank you for joining us for this episode of What's Your Why, brought to you by Wyoming Humanities, with support of Wyoming Community Foundation and generous supporters like you. To learn more, go to thinkwhy.org, subscribe, and never miss a show.