Interview of Jade Fairall
by Elizabeth Buckeye and Wendy Schauben
Wendy: Where and when were you born?
Jade: I was born in 1957 in Freemont, Ohio
Elizabeth: Where did you grow up?
Jade: I left Ohio in 1976, never really grew up in Freemont, I more grew up in Umatilla
Wendy: What was your childhood like?
Jade: Hideous. I came out when I was 16 that led to me being kicked out of the house. It wasn’t accepted anywhere in my town. I’m from very small town, my family was well known, I stayed until graduation and then I left. The 70s weren’t easy. Being gay wasn’t acceptable we were considered diseased I guess, mildly.
Elizabeth: What were your parents like?
Jade: My dad was very stoic and hard-working he had his own business. My mother was very artistic, a bad alcoholic, it was my sister and her against the world. My parents divorced, and grandmother stepped in so I knew what a home cooked meal was like
Wendy: Do you have any siblings? What were/are they like?
Jade: A sister who I talked into moving to Florida, she’s been here since 2001. Were very close, we talk daily or twice a day. She’s my older sister. A stepsister, I guess that counts. Both older.
Elizabeth: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Jade: I always wanted to be a teacher. I enjoyed school and thought it was kinda cool. My dreams changed because I stayed in high school and had a instructor that wouldn’t let me in the room. I almost quit school â€˜cause of the bullying. A government instructor that told me not to quit and told me people were ignorant. That’s why it changed, I didn’t want to be anything near that town. I didn’t go to college right away. I studied journalism in college, wrote for the Sentinel and got a scholarship to go to UCF. I lived in Leesburg and it was 165 miles to get to class, I got an AA that’s good enough.
Wendy: Romance throughout your life?
Jade: A Midwest person like myself I was the only gay person I knew, my first experience with gay life was in Orlando. It’s not something I wear like a badge, I was a little scandalous.
Elizabeth: What do you do for a living? (If not already known)
Jade: Mostly management and always manual labor up until â€˜93 when I suffered a back injury that led me to college. I worked in gay bars, as a manager, bartender, and security for 10-12 years.
Wendy: If you could do anything what would you do? Career wise, relationship wise, or even a childhood dream to fly like a bird?
Jade: Probably if I had a lot of money I would have cleared out every animal shelter, and make room for tons of land. All my life has been about stray people; taking them in and giving them a place to live, I’m kind of a gatherer.
Elizabeth: Does religion affect your life? If yes, how?
Jade: I’m very spiritual, and took a very long time to get there. I’m of Jewish decent, but my grandfather was Presbyterian, and baptized as such.
Wendy: What was the happiest moment in your life so far? The saddest?
Jade: This can be answered in the same way. My last partner and I, well, she wanted a baby I agreed, reluctantly. I’m in my 50s she’s a piece of work. We broke up shortly after and she denied me seeing the baby. I went to an attorney to set up residence to get custodial rights, on the day I was to call the attorney I had my first heart attack. I’ve seen the baby once in passing, she was 7. The happiest moment of my life was holding her. It took me years to get over it. I’m not real versed on the bible but there’s this story about two women fighting over a child one said lets cut the baby in half the mother said let’s not hurt the baby. That’s how I feel.
Elizabeth: Who has been the biggest influence in your life? How?
Jade: My friends, friends that passed before me. I lived through my friends drop like flies in AIDS. I watched them fight, and be just wonderful people. Knowing that life is so short you never know from one day to the next.
Wendy: What are the most important lessons you have learned in your life so far?
Jade: Probably the first one would be to not take life for granted because the moment you do you get slapped with a reality wake up call, the other thing is you can’t live with regrets because if you do you waste the time that you have left.
Elizabeth: What is your earliest memory?
Jade: I did drugs back in the day so it’s hard to remember, so my first real memory, my grandfather was a pastor and had a huge church in New Jersey and it was one of the days you put flags on the graves. I thought it was awesome to pull one and march around with it. I turned around and there was my grandfather and he looked really tall, so I marched and put them all back.
Wendy: Are there any words of wisdom you''d like to pass along to us?
Jade: I’ve never been that profound I don’t think probably draw a deep breath before making life changing decisions. That’s probably the best advice I could ever give anyone. Always sleep on it. You’ll wake up with the answer, the right answer.
Elizabeth: How has your life been different that what you'’d imagine?
Jade: I never thought I would survive my childhood or later years, 20’s. I went from a very strict environment to down here, and the gay community was all about the party. It was all about the drugs and when AIDS hit, everyone wondered if they would get it. I’m very surprised I made it to 55.
Wendy: What do you see in your future?
Jade: I keep a very controlled environment around me I have to keep stress out. I have serious health issues; I keep the stress level down. I keep positive people around me, I enjoy the time I have left with my partner and my Chichewa. I fought a good fight for the gay community, I was a heavy activist. It’s time to pass the baton to the younger ones
Elizabeth: If you could interview anyone from your life living or dead, who would it be?
Jade: I would have loved to interview Walter Cronkite. Come on, didn’t you think someone was a real dumbass? Tell his deepest secret.
Wendy: Does music influence your life at all? If yes, how?
Jade: Oh yeah, I’m into everything! The only music I can’t get into is heavy metal. I like hip hop, rap, I like to keep current. My mother was a classic pianist, she won a scholarship to Juliard I grew up on the classics like Beethoven. I like Christian music, but opera puts me right to sleep. Music is a good influence, it helps to let your mind drift and fluff your aura. Oh and I love fergy, fergalicious!
Elizabeth: Did you have to come out? How old were you?
Jade: I have a best friend, we were in the same play pen, and never been more than just my best friend. My father just assumed that she was my girlfriend. I hated wearing dresses. And my father came right out and asked me. And I said yes, I’m gay but that’s not my girlfriend.
Wendy: Who have been your biggest supporters?
Jade: It would be the people that passed through my life at various stages. I was always gravitating towards older people, they really had a big influence on my life and they’d see me running amuck and running around and pull me back. It’s never been my family, my friends have always been my family.
Elizabeth: What was the opposition to the community like in the 70''s compared to today?
Jade: If you did know someone that was gay, it was very closeted. You took your life in your hands if you told anyone. It was scary. When I came to Florida in 76 everyone was just on a first name basis. Otherwise they could lose their jobs. It was constantly living in fear. It was probably why a lot of people gravitated towards the gay bars, for very little money, because it was a safe haven.
Wendy: How different were the laws?
Jade: In the 70s I think Florida finally repealed that sodomy law which gay women don’t do. There weren’t any laws to protect your rights as a human being who was a different sexual orientation. Anita Bryan, when Florida hired her to come to the sunshine state, we thought oh hell no. Being involved in that boycott was one of my finer moments. We picked up the telephones dialed a number within hours we had everyone boycotting Florida orange juice and it hit people right in their pockets. It’s been at a lag I don’t really see a lot of people stepping in and trying to do more. Celebrities could do so much more to help with gay rights
Elizabeth: What were hardships in the workplace like in comparison to today?
Jade: I had one job that all I did was sell cars. I was their top salesperson. One person didn’t like me, her daughter was a friend of mine. I was fired simply because I was gay. It just took someone saying oh, she’s queer and I lost my job. That’s the biggest reason I didn’t go into teaching, because I didn’t need to go through school and have a student say she touched me and be guilty before anything else happened. When I had my heart attack, my partner couldn’t sign anything even though we have been together for over 5 years. We had to call my sister to sign everything.
Wendy: How did "closeted" members in the past overcome these types of obstacles?
Jade: Everybody stayed in the closet nobody came out. In the 70s if you walked into a gay club with a camera, no one wanted their picture taken. The only way for most people, not myself, was to stay in the closet. If you didn’t go to gay clubs you went to homes. There’s a group here in Lake County, for women and they are all closeted, they invited me to come to a group meeting. I went so I said what are you all trying to do? They said nothing to change laws, were playing cards, we can’t come out of the closet many were teachers. I said I’m sorry I don’t need to come and play cards. It’s a lot to undertake, and you don’t want to lose your job everything goes to hell.
Wendy: How were you involved in the gay community? How are you now?
Jade: I think. Lets see. I was also a male impersonator I won a title in New Orleans. I won Miss Gay French Quarter New Orleans 1979. I considered myself an entertainer, I would not just be one of those old time dykes, I wanted to entertain. I did all kinds of things including a turnabout night in 87-- that’s where if you’re normally butch you have to be fem, this girl owned faces and we were good friends we came out as the Supremes with the dresses and heels. It’s all about conducting yourself with class where you went, how you conduct yourself is how you portray the gay community. It used to irritate me with TV footage of the gay pride parades; it only showed the people screwed up on drugs and not the rest of us. I had a mustang one year; we all had matching t shirts we were throwing candy. We said â€œwere representing Key Largo and Faces but do you think we got any air time? It was always the media portrayed extreme, media plays a big role in the way you perceive things. Media can make or break it all but it all depends, you can refuse to be in someone’s pocket. A lot has happened with journalism. You have to have an angle in journalism you don’t fabricate details you don’t put words in someone’s mouth, the new generation is stepping up. You can tell you’ve got people with class. It was tough. It’s interesting now all these years later to sit back to see that younger gay people complaining, honey child you should have been back in the day. We couldn’t leave gay clubs or even Denny’s even without getting harassed by the police. There has been progress.
Elizabeth: What do you think of modern representation of gay couples and characters on TV?
Jade: I have a few shows. I love Once Upon A Time and Greys Anatomy. What’s interesting is that here I am, I’m gay and I’m a dyke. There were functions that they didn’t want dykes coming to. It’s the only way that television can get people to handle gays is because it’s two really pretty females.. So it’s easing the general public into it.
Elizabeth: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
Jade: I was featured on Fox News and boycotted Casey Anthony, there is a group on Facebook. I helped Jeff Ashton win his election. Also, I’m really big in social media.