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LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with George Wolf

UNO Libraries - Oral History Projects

 

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00:00:00 - Introduction 00:00:58 - Birthplace and childhood community

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Segment Synopsis: 1:26: Growing up during end of WWII; 1:57: Discovering world outside of Brooklyn; 2:25: Wanting to get out of Brooklyn; 4:04: Bushwick's segregation

00:04:54 - Family

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Segment Synopsis: 5:28: Father George Sr.'s temper, depression, hospitalizations; 7:44: Mother Frances' profession as clerk at publishing company; 8:42: Father George Sr.'s profession at automats; 10:42: Father's second job as singing waiter; 11:29: Father's psychiatric hospitalization, George's awareness; 13:43: George's confusion about father's mental illness, societal stigma; 14:40: Neighbors’ judgment of George's father's hospitalizations; 15:30: George's older sister Janice's marriage to Presbyterian minister; 16:30: Growing up Presbyterian; 17:00: George's brother-in-law and sister moving to Ewing, Nebraska; 19:15: Relationship with sister Janice; 19:57: Uncle's work for mobster Bugsy Siegel; 22:20: Sister's friendly, affectionate behavior; 22:58: Sister's acceptance of George and John's relationship

00:23:20 - Elementary and middle school

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Segment Synopsis: 24:40: Separation into "intellectually gifted" program; 26:10: Beginning to read more; 27:07: Personality as a child; 27:42: Friends; 28:28: Knowing he was "different" than the other kids; 28:44: Being interested in politics as a child, teaching other kids; 30:00: Physical relationship with older German neighbor boy; 31:50: Realization of being attracted to men, knowing it was a sin in the 1940s

00:35:39 - LGBT identity

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Segment Synopsis: 35:40: Psychotherapy in 1950s to cure himself of homosexuality; 37:04: Meeting ex-wife in graduate school; 38:47: End of marriage, becoming depressed; 39:43: Going back to therapy after marriage, overcoming depression; 40:20: Mentor and gay man Dr. Lou Crompton; 40:40: Lou developing second gay literature course in the United States; 41:28: Lou helping George come out and come to terms with sexuality; 42:31: Falling in love and relationship with fellow Boy Scout; 43:20: Processing sexuality with no guidance or role models; 44:18: Attending Brooklyn College (1956-1961); 48:10: Singing as a soprano in junior choir; 48:52: Attending auditions for radio shows; 52:05: First time hearing the word "gay"; 52:31: Hearing the term "homosexual" during McCarthyism in 1950s, "lavender scare"; 54:40: Use of the term "fag"; 56:01: Effects of not having gay role models or guidance; 56:30: Barrett Mandel; 58:38: Lou Crompton's work in 1960s to remove sodomy statute in Nebraska; 1:00:30: Knowing other openly gay people

01:01:19 - Switching from Political Science to English at Brooklyn College 01:03:12 - Work at Muscular Dystrophy Association of America (1959-1961) 01:05:00 - Robert Sennish 01:06:30 - Graduate School at the University of Connecticut

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Segment Synopsis: 1:06:50: Feeling out of place in grad school, less sophisticated than other students; 1:09:30: Liking UNL faculty, staff; 1:09:50: Dissertation on Melville's short stories; 1:11:22: Motivation to become a teacher

01:11:28 - Desire to teach students differently

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Segment Synopsis: 1:13:13: Barrett Mandel's suggesting Carl Rogers book "Freedom to Learn"; 1:14:40: Change in teaching ideology, positive impact on students; 1:15:30: Literature teaching us we are not alone; 1:18:15: Connecting with former students again; 1:21:10: Daily Nebraskan article about George's teaching style (2001); 1:22:10: Helping students participate, acting out passages

01:28:10 - Influence of gay identity on teaching

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Segment Synopsis: 1:30:20: Pushback against Lou Crompton's gay literature course at UNL; 1:32:20: Barbara DiBernard and George teaching Lou's course; 1:33:50: Receiving no pushback for his sexuality; 1:35:00: Other openly gay faculty at UNL; 1:35:47: Hiding Willa Cather's sexuality at UNL, controversy

01:40:08 - Retirement in 2003

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Segment Synopsis: 1:40:37: Work at Center for Great Plains Studies; 1:47:29: Work at Center for Great Plains Studies helping with depression after John's death

01:49:00 - Lack of support for LGBTQ+ students and faculty at UNL

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Segment Synopsis: 1:49:33: Fight for domestic partner benefits for UNL faculty and staff

01:52:09 - Beginning of Citizens for Equal Protection

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Segment Synopsis: 1:53:05: Psychologist Paul Cameron's campaign against protections for LGBTQ+ employees; 1:56:15: Nebraska Initiative 416 in 2000

01:56:57 - Gay bars and LGBT meeting places

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Segment Synopsis: 1:58:30: "Common Place" protestant church dances for LGBTQ+ community; 1:59:53: Meeting partner John Taylor at dance; 2:01:14: Beginning of gay bars in Lincoln, Omaha; 2:02:24: Stigma of gay bars; 2:03:18: Signals used if gay bar was raided

02:03:30 - Historical LGBTQ+ events

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Segment Synopsis: 2:03:32: Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969; 2:04:09: Play and film "Boys in the Band"; 2:06:20: Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement; 2:07:25: Assassination of Harvey Milk; 2:08:12: Repeal of sodomy laws in Nebraska in 1978; 2:08:52: AIDS crisis in 1980's; 2:10:16: Student Joe Creason forming Gay Action Group in 1970 at UNL; 2:10:41: John Taylor working with Ernie Chambers to ensure protections for those with HIV/AIDS; 2:11:21: UNL granting domestic partner benefits in 2012; 2:12:10: Changing UNL environment for LGBTQ+ students; 2:12:59: 2015 nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage; 2:14:24: Same-sex marriage as a diversion from other LGBTQ+ issues

02:16:00 - John Taylor, George's partner of 40 years

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Segment Synopsis: 2:16:45: Learning about John's Type 1 Diabetes; 2:18:02: Wanting to care for John, sensing his kindness; 2:19:12: John being fired from grocery store job for being gay in early 1970s; 2:19:45: Pushing for Lincoln to pass LGBTQ+ rights ordinance; 2:20:33: John's legacy of social justice work; 2:22:49: Quote from George in Lincoln Journal Star about John; 2:23:55: John's background and family; 2:25:39: Openness of relationship with John; 2:27:23: Decline of John's health; 2:32:30: Caregiving for John; 2:34:29: What George wants others to know about John; 2:40:03: George's last thoughts about his relationship with John

02:42:23 - Affiliations

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Segment Synopsis: 2:42:44: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); 22:44:16: American Association of University Professors (AAUP); 2:45:10: Getting involved in local politics; 2:47:13: National LGBTQ Task Force

02:48:00 - Awards and recognitions

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Segment Synopsis: 2:48:06: University of Nebraska Foundation Medal for Distinguished Teaching (1971); 2:50:10: James A. Lake Academic Freedom Award (2002); 2:57:40: Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Contribution to the GLBT Community (2003); 2:57:57: Association of Students of the University of Nebraska Teaching Award (2003); 2:58:56: Participation in Academic Senate at UNL

03:00:20 - Evolution of identity as a gay man 03:02:04 - Ageism in the LGBTQ+ community

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Segment Synopsis: 3:02:36: Organizations not understanding the needs of older LGBTQ+ people; 3:05:15: Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE)

03:05:56 - Disagreement with local LGBT leadership about LGBT non-discrimination ordinance 03:09:50 - Reflection questions

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Segment Synopsis: 3:09:56: Insights on family and upbringing; 3:17:32: Where George has felt most comfortable in his life; 3:20:12: Impact of Trump administration; 3:24:18: What George would tell young George; 3:26:44: What George says to young LGBTQ+ people in the world; 3:29:42: George's hopes for his legacy; 3:30:37: Last thoughts; 3:31:00: Feeling lucky