Sanford Gaylord



1) Birthdate:


2) City/state where you were born:

Asheville, North Carolina

3) City/state where you live currently:

Chicago, Illinois

4) Education:

Columbia College (Chicago), BA in Theatre, 2001

5) Career:

Health Education, actor, and writer

6) How do you describe your sexuality and your gender?


7) If you are GLBT, describe when you first “knew”:

I was very young, around five or six years of age. I knew I was different but didn't acknowledge it until I was in my early teens.

8) Who did you first “come out” to and when?

I was about 14, in 1979, and I told my girlfriend Rosalind who had become a best friend of mine. She took it pretty okay and has always been a good friend. I told my best male friend who used to play “house” with me and he didn't accept it well; it ended our friendship. I made friends with Mark and Sandra when I was 15 in high school; Mark was in the life, like I was, and Sandra wanted to be but didn't experiment until later.

By 1981, I had to come out to my mother. She said she knew and had always suspected, but still blew up when I finally said yes instead of denying who I really was. By 16 I was driven from home to the house of a man who was my mother’s age because I identified as Gay. From then, I had a four-year relationship. After it ended, I moved to the North Side with another girlfriend who identified as lesbian at 20 years of age.

9) What troubles did you face as a GLBT person?

In high school I was out, and folks knew that I didn't live at home but with an older man. There was an incident where the whole school seemed to have known. The most popular girl was dating the most popular boy from the previous year. People from class saw us as he and I drove off of the school grounds together, and speculation swirled through the school on what I did to him.

In actuality, he approached me and asked me to take a ride with him. Nothing actually happened because he had drunk so much beer he went to sleep in the car at the lakefront. He drove me home. By the evening I had received calls where people were hanging up. There were other threatening calls about beating me up because they thought I made the brotha change even though he had been in the service.

Nothing physical ever came of it, but it was a very scary time from the calls, threats, and looks/whispers in the hall. I did put it out there that nothing ever happened. It eventually died down but what a home-wrecker I was labeled.

10) Did you have mentors in the Chicago GLBT community?

David Ferrell, Madison Morrison, Robert Schultz, Timothy Alan Gates and Steven Wakefield. Denise Miles, Lora Branch, Renae Ogletree, and Tracy Baim.

11) List organizations you have been involved in:

A Real Read Performance Ensemble (co-founding member)
Youth Pride Center (advisory board member)
Phi Theta Kappa (volunteer)
The Loop Players of Harold Washington College (volunteer)
The Kupona Network (volunteer)
Brothers United in Support/Test Positive Aware Network/Youth Pride Center (volunteer)

12) When you were coming out, what were your favorite Chicago GLBT bars?

The Water Works, Club La Ray, the Generator, and the Clubhouse.

13) What were the key issues faced in the Chicago GLBT community when you first came out?

HIV/AIDS. Coming Out and violence have always been there.

14) What issues do you see as key in the GLBT community today?

Having political power, protected rights for all of our community, HIV/AIDS and breast/ovarian cancer in Lesbians.

15) How have AIDS and/or other health issues impacted your life personally?

HIV/AIDS impacted me in 1989. I wrote my personal story then many op-eds for BLACKlines and then Identity.

I've known two lesbians that dealt with ovarian and uterine cancer. I've always championed for the rights of lesbians even when it was in the height of the epidemic because I've always had women, straight or Gay, in my life.

Part of my taking the power from AIDS and reconstructing my shattered life was to be a face in the AA community. It started off with posters that ran on CTA buses and els: “What kind of person would ask a partner to use a condom? A Smart One” and “HIV/AIDS—You Can't Tell by Looking.” I was in the posters with others on Smart One and on You Can’t Tell by Looking with Rae Lewis Thornton.

Articles with Outlines, BLACKlines, Windy City Times and other publications happened in the mid ‘90s. I've done speaking engagements in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), high schools, and performed with A Real Read as director of the HIV Component where performances to reach all populations were developed.

Friends whose death impacted my activism include Glenn Thomas and Donald Redrick. We were all volunteers at Kupona Network; I wrote about them with my first article. Essex Hemphill, because I would've met the man whose words light a fire in my heart at the 10th National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum, but he passed away before the conference. Larry Duckett, my big brotha in the life. He worked with Hemphill, and A Real Read staged the play of their life and love, "We Heard the Night Outside," at the Bailiwick for the Pride Series.

16) If you consider yourself a “political” activist, how do you define this?

I don't consider myself a political activist. I consider myself an activist through the arts. Through my work on stage with A Real Read we were able to layer many issues. The group also performed for Chicago Black Lesbians and Gays (CBLG) on several occasions. My most political as a writer came with 9/11 and an article I wrote called Tales of War that was re-published in several LGBT publications.

In 1996, while working at Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN), Tracy Baim informed me of a brotha named Byron Stewart who was an actor and wanted to do some poetry readings and other artistic things. Around the same time, I had executive produced a performance and fundraiser for a retreat for African American men living with HIV at the DuSable Museum for Brothers United in Support, a program of TPAN. Byron and I met, and together with Byron Mason we formed A Real Read Performance Ensemble.

With A Real Read, community work came hand in hand. It was at the height of what I call the Black LGBT revival....Chicago Black Lesbians and Gays (CBLG) was out there, Yahimba, Brothers United in Support, BLACKlines had just started, and we all were on a roll through the year 2000.

Members of A Real Read toured locally and nationally. We performed for a wide variety of local groups, including at Horizons and by special invitation at the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Youth Leadership Summits. The last live performance for the group was at the Fire&Ink AA LGBT writers conference in 2002. The group was in Leaving the Shadows Behind, a documentary by Mary Morten; Ruth Ellis @ 100, a documentary [by Yvonne Welbon] about the oldest out African American Lesbian; and the Kevin's Room Series that aired in 2001 on a local UPN affiliate, in 2003 on the WB – and part three airs this fall TBA.

17) This project is also about “defining moments.” Please discuss some of those in your life.

I think I have written a little about some defining moments answering these questions. In a nutshell I would have to say... having to leave home because I came out; having my own place at 20; testing positive at 24; going to college at 28; co-founding A Real Read; the National Association of Black Journalist 1998 Award for Excellence in Commentary for my articles in BLACKlines; graduating at 36; and having staring roles in the Kevin's Room Project.

I have to mention Protease Inhibitors in 1996, I think. If they had come out sooner, both Glenn and Donald would still be around, I would think. Because of them, many brothas I knew who were headed towards the end left out of hospice.

18) Additional comments and memories:

Troy Ford when he was working at Senator Carol Moseley Braun's Office.

Mary Morten when she was the mayor's LGBT liaison.

CBLG in its height as well as Yahimba, Gamba, and Brothers United in Support.

Proud Black LGBT people who worked hard and paved a little of the way for the youth that follow us all.

Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City's Gay Community, the book is edited by Tracy Baim and features the contributions of more than 20 prominent historians and journalists. It is published by Surrey Books, an Agate imprint, and is hard cover, 224 pages, 4-color, with nearly 400 photos.
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