Rex Wockner



1) Birthdate:


2) Birthplace:


3) City/state where you live currently?

San Diego, California

4) Education:

Drake University (Des Moines, Iowa), BA, Journalism, 1979

5) Careers:

Founder, in 1988, of a one-man wire service for the gay press. Publication in more than 350 gay newspapers since then. Still probably the world's most-widely published gay journalist (because Dan Savage insists "Savage Love" isn't journalism per se, and insists I retain the title).

6) Did you serve in the U.S. military?


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

Gay male

8) Do you have children and/or grandchildren?


9) If you are GLBT, please describe when you first “knew.”

I'd say I probably knew at 16 but didn't name it. I named it ("gay") at 22.

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

Probably my girlfriend, in 1979. She cried for two weeks. This was after I met a guy on the street, followed him home, and he kissed me. His kiss felt different than hers.

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

I may or may not have been fired/laid off a couple of times for being gay, in 1980 and 1987. Since 1987, I don't believe I've faced any "trouble" for being gay, unless I want to personalize things like George W. Bush's homophobia that affect all gay Americans. I believe that people around you reflect back to you the degree of comfortableness with your gayness that you broadcast to them. I have zero issues with being gay; I treat it like a normal, common thing and just another piece of my Rexness. It often is in the background in my life rather than the foreground. People around me tend to treat it that way, I believe.

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

"Mentor" is not the right word. But these people stood out in the list of people I admired: Art Johnston. Rick Garcia. Danny Sotomayor. Paul Adams. Tracy Baim. Bill Kelley. David Olson (WCT reporter). This list is NOT meant to be exhaustive.

13) List organizations (GLBT or mainstream) you have been involved in.

National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA). Journalists really aren't supposed to join organizations other than those concerned with journalistic professional development, such as NLGJA. This de-facto rule helps prevent conflicts of interest between one's reporting and one's other involvements.

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

Sidetrack (1982-present). Deeks and AA Meat Market, when they existed.

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

I don't know, since I was barely out. I think the first one I became aware of was the attempt to pass the city gay-rights law. And AIDS, of course.

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

Same-sex marriage. Full legal equality in every way. Getting the culture to the point where sexual orientation is no more of an issue than eye color or favorite hobbies.

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

I'm over 50 years old. My list of dead friends is very very very long. Before the "protease revolution" in 1996, everyone who had it ended up dead. I'm not going to make the list because I just don't want to go there in my head. The primary impact on me of all this death was the realization that life is short, and you should be sure to live each day and do whatever you want and go wherever you want and not let other people define or control or direct your life. You must pursue pleasure and adventure and fun and love – because it all will be over way too soon.

18) How would you describe the “diversity” within the Chicago GLBT community?

Chicago, in general, is still far too segregated with too large a percentage of black folks living in black-only neighborhoods. Apart from that, I think the GLBT community does much better than the general community in mixing up folks of different races, classes, and ages. Not sure about gender; I'm still not sure lesbians and gay men have that much in common. When the definitive history of gay-male culture is written, it will be highly notable that gay men's libidos had the power to completely overlook/erase any and all class distinctions.

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

I'm a journalist, so I write about, rather than take part in, activism.

20) Describe what you feel your personal legacy is to the Chicago GLBT community.

I worked my ass off and wrote more than 50 percent of Outlines' news section every month for over five years. Much of this was good old-fashioned "beat" and "enterprise" reporting, meaning I went there, covered it, and wrote about it. Or that I dug it up on my own, investigated it, and reported it. I also traveled around the world covering big gay stories for Outlines and for my one-man wire service: Leningrad, Moscow, Stockholm, Vienna, Montreal, Vancouver, New York, and I can't remember where all.

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

Realizing I was gay (1979).

Leaving the seminary and abandoning theism (1984).

Watching half my friends die of AIDS (1985-2007).

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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