John shares his heart wrenching story of the fear that prevented him from coming out until later in life and how that process took over 30 years before he could say that he was completely out of the closet. If you or someone you know is struggling with the coming out process, this episode is filled with meaningful insights and golden nuggets of wisdom. John also shares a story of his police arrest and how he chose to champion himself in a manner that changed his life for the better.
John is an entrepreneur, an advocate for human rights, and serves on the board of directors for Educare.
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Coach Maddox 0:03
Hello, John Steele, and welcome to the authentic gay man podcast. I am so happy to have you here, my friend.
John Steele 0:12
Thank you Maddox. It's a pleasure to be asked to be here. Really,
Coach Maddox 0:18
you know, when in some of our previous conversation heard your story, I knew that it was a story that needed to be heard by other people than just me. So your willingness to come on and openly share your story is epic. And I am very grateful.
John Steele 0:34
You know, I'm 69 years old, I will be 70. In February, my husband is 69. Now, and I take quite frankly, when I was young, I never even thought about being this old. But the one thing I think that unites us all is our stories or our stories. We have, we've lived a lot during these years. We've heard a lot, we've enjoyed a lot. We've loved a lot. And we have stories. And I think that's our common denominator is sharing those stories with each other.
Coach Maddox 1:13
I think so too. Absolutely. So for the audience for that for the listeners. John and I have known each other for I'm Thank you thinking maybe getting close to 15 years now. We met in a gay and lesbian networking group. And that's how we became acquainted. And we've known each other all these years. And and I wouldn't say that we know each other exceptionally well. But I think that we're beginning to know each other better. And I'm delighted for that, you know, I'm, I'm, yeah, I'm delighted to get to know you better. I've always thought you were a nice man, I've always liked you. And now it just seems like perhaps there's been this opportunity to hang out together every once in a while and get to know each other better. And I agree.
John Steele 2:00
And you know, when we had coffee the other morning, it became evident why, because I'm totally out now. Because when I was younger, I, I could not let anybody get close to me, or they might figure me out. I was so closeted. So now I'm totally out. And so it's so sweet in this part of my life, to be able to allow people to come into my life, get to know me, and I can share things that I never would have shared before. Because I was I was afraid. So it's, it's really nice. And I enjoyed our meeting. And I, I hope that perhaps this might help somebody who's lived in a closet like I did for so long.
Coach Maddox 2:50
Well, and my story is similar in that I, I couldn't let people get close to me either. But it wasn't because of the cutting out issue. I came out when I was 24 years old. And that was over four decades ago. But it was more about a safety issue. I I didn't let gay men get close to me at all, I was very, very closed off. And that's probably the number one reason that in all the years you've known each other, we've not known each other any better than we have is we both had reasons that we were not available. And those reasons for both of us are gone now. And that's why we're here telling our story. Because you know, the whole gist of this podcast is to get vulnerable and get real and be authentic. So you can have deep and meaningful friendships with your gay brothers. And so were examples of how that works. Were starting to get to know each other really on a different level for the first time after all these years, and it's because we have had that shift in consciousness, although our shifts were different. They were similar in some ways. So before we launch into your story, I want to ask you, John, and how would you describe what it means to be an authentic gay man? What does that mean to you?
John Steele 4:13
At after my evolution of coming out, and I have to say, I made it I knew I was gay. When I was young. I would say even as early as third grade, I knew I was interested in boys, not girls. I didn't know sexually what that meant. But I knew I had a fascination about boys. And I always loved girls. But it was very different. It was very different. And there was something exciting about boys that I didn't get from the girls. So I knew at a very young age that I had some feelings and I also knew because of the way I was brought up in the church, I was brought up in that that wasn't okay. And so I lived with a lot of, huh?
Coach Maddox 5:08
I just had
John Steele 5:09
to be very cautious. I remember once in the third grade, my mother took me to a store. And my mother always made our clothes, we didn't have a lot of discretionary cash growing up, and she worked hard to, to make our clothes my sister and I. And we went to a store. And I saw this really sweet little pair of Bermuda shorts and a matching shirt. And I said, Oh, mama, could I have that to wear to school? And she said, Son are kids wearing shorts to school? And I said, No, but this is, this is really smart. I probably said that even in the third grade. And she actually bought it for me. And I was so excited to wear it to Monday, and we lived outside of town, seven miles, and I rode the school bus, back and forth every day, the minute I got into the school bus, the boys started making fun of me. And I was called a sissy all day for wearing that. I think they were modrest shorts and shirt. They were really stunning, I thought, but the boys made fun of me and called me a sissy all day. And when I got home, I remember, I went into my room and I started crying. And mother said, What's the matter? And I said, they made fun of me for my new clothes. And her heart was broken by a bitch. She tried to console me, but I knew that I was never going to be put in that position again. So I learned how to act differently, and how to be what I was supposed to be. And then I never had that repeat itself. And as a result, even my husband now we were we were friends in high school. And he was not out either. Of course, in that little town in south Texas, we couldn't be out well, we didn't even know what it was to tell you the truth. But he would ask me to go out for a coke after band practice or play rehearsal. And I would, I would just disappear because I couldn't let anybody get close to me. So as a result, most of my friends in high school close friends, or girls, and a few boys who we never talked about girls, there were three boys that I hung out with. And they were into Star Trek and all that kind of thing, I guess, in a way you might call us their nerves. But we so I learned at a very early age not to let anybody get pretty close to me.
Coach Maddox 7:41
So what you're what you're really describing is you learn very well how to be inauthentic.
John Steele 7:46
Oh, yeah, exactly. I created an image for myself, and I had to live up to that image the rest of my life. And that's hard to do, because that's not who you are. So when I was 32, I finally decided, oh, and when I was in high school, I, I was elected I was prom king at our prom. I was band favorite I was and people liked me because I knew how to make people like me, I, I learned how to do that I wanted my parents to be proud of me. I didn't want to shame them. And I knew I was different. But I learned how to play the game. So as you're not
Coach Maddox 8:29
you're describing a life that was a performance like being on stage or on Scratch.
John Steele 8:34
And you know, when you when you create this myth, this facade that you want to be seen as it's held to live up to that every day. And so if you let anybody get very close to you, they might find out. That's not really who you are. So I was pretty good at it. And then when I was about 32, I decided I couldn't live this way. I was a young teacher. I taught theater and dance, and to senior high school students, and I thought I'm gonna go crazy. So that's when I started my coming out process. And you know, a lot of people are never in a closet. And some people when they come out of the closet, they kick that door wide open. But there's a lot of people like I was who have to come out in baby steps we and I just finished the coming out process. Really this last year, maybe two years ago, three years ago. I serve on the Board of Educare, which is a nonprofit, created by a lady by the name of Sharon fine. She started this nonprofit and she is now Executive Director and I'm on the board and we serve sir caregivers of older people. We tried to enhance the lives of caregivers, both professionally and personal. We do a compassion fatigue symposium every year to because there's a lot of compassion fatigue, anybody who's ever taken care of anybody or any animal understands compassion, fatigue, you may not know the name for it, but you've been there. And then we also have modules that we teach for people who take care of older LGBTQ folk. And we do a symposium every year called becoming visible. Because Maddix a lot of our people, I'm going to be 70, my age and older, feel like they have to be invisible. When they seek health care, when they seek assisted living communities, what not because they're afraid they'll, they'll be hurt, because they were hurt so many times in their lives. And they may have fought to be out, they may have been advocates. But as we get old and sick, sometimes we don't have the strength to continue being that way. And so a lot of people feel like they have to go back into the closet. And that's what we're finding. So,
Coach Maddox 11:19
John, you're you're saying something right now, that's really like, opening my eyes to an issue that I have never seen before. Like I haven't. I mean, even though I'm now myself 65 years old, and newly a senior citizen, I'm not yet at the point where I'm thinking about the time when I made need care, and it hasn't yet dawned on me that there could be aspects of that, that might not be safe. If those caregivers knew that I was gay. So you're, you're opening my eyes to an issue that I had never, never really thought about. I want to kind of kind of direct us back to you were talking about coming out in baby steps. And you started that process at age 33. Now you're 69. And so you're you're talking about over 35 years, that it took you to go from being fully in the closet to being fully
John Steele 12:19
out of the closet. Right.
Coach Maddox 12:21
And that's a unique story, John, I don't know very many men that can tell that story. And I think that's why I thought this was such a powerful topic for our listeners, because there's bound to be other men out there that are somewhere in that process. Between starting the process and fully saying I'm fully out of the closet and I'm my my hope is that your your story and your words and the way you've navigated this will will help those those men. So I have a question for you. If you could go back in time for a brief moment, blipped back and be standing in front of 33 year old John, that is just about to open that door and peek out and take that first baby step. What advice would you give to him knowing what you know now? What advice would you give to him at that time?
John Steele 13:29
I think it would be follow your inner self. Everybody's coming out story is different. Because we're all different. There are so many different variables that make up who we are as a person. No two are the same, like a snowflake or a leaf. And I think follow your own inner self and find the resources that you feel safe with that can help you. When I came out, I I went to the to some of the most important people in my life and made appointments with them. I also to sit down and say I'm gay and I'm coming out. And I was so afraid because I had lived a lie for so long. Some of these friends had set me up with women to date and and when I came out to him, I said Didn't you ever wonder why I never dated anybody more than two three times at the most. When we just felt like it didn't work. I said, Well, yeah, it didn't work for a very strong reason. I am not interested in women. I tried so hard. If I could have functioned with the woman. I wouldn't have been married and had a family. That's all I wanted. But, you know the Kinsey report says there's homosexuality on one end is has heterosexual On the other, most people are actually according to their report somewhere in the center. They're somewhat fluid. I'm not, I'm way over here. But and that's, that's the thing I'm, I rejoice so for the young people today, because they get that and they can fall in love with a girl, they can fall in love with a guy that doesn't really really mean they're bisexual. By definition, it just means they're fluid. And they give themselves permission to be that because you and I were raised in a very binary system where it was either this or that there was no other thing there was no gray between the white and the black. Which, when you stop and think about it really is idiocy. Because nothing in our world is white, our black. There's all degrees in between. Yes. And
Coach Maddox 15:59
it's a beautiful day when you really realize that I think we go through the beginning part of our life to a point where we really think black and white. And then there's this point where life gives you enough experience that you have the awareness that it's not necessarily black and white that there is a lot of a lot of gray. I know for me when I realized that life wasn't so black and white it it changed things dramatically. Right? And in a positive way. For for me now. Are there things still that I see kind of black and white, I like you I'm on the end of that Kinsey scale. I as much as I love women and have many female friends that I absolutely worship and adore. I am not sexually attracted to women at all. Now I was when I was young, because I you know, it was like, Oh my God, when your hormones are raging at 16 and 17. And you don't even get that point. Well, I'm old enough to remember getting gay wasn't even a thing. You didn't know anything about it. It was like I knew that I was different. But when your hormones are raging, you just, you know you you do what you have to do. So did I date women I got married when I was 20 years old and stayed married for three years. But it was the thing like something wasn't right with that finally drew me to leave that. That marriage, I just couldn't. I couldn't put my finger on it. I went on to date women for a year after the divorce. But yeah, it's like, Well, I kind of went down a rabbit hole and lost my train of
John Steele 17:42
thought. But in a way, though, you and I have a very similar story. Because yours, even though you came out early, it was still a process for you. And you know, and we as people are all continually evolving. I am not the same man I was yesterday. My husband Patrick is not the same man. He was yesterday, together. today. We are a new marriage because we're different than we were yesterday. Because things happen to us yesterday that have impacted our lives some way. And I think that's the thing. Something that I found profound while ago was when you said I knew I was different. And I think what a terrible thing for a young man to think I'm different. Then again, what a glorious saying, for a young man to find out, hey, I'm different. It depends on the perspective and what you bring to the table. And that's where I think we really can make a difference in people's lives is to help them understand if they don't already that being different, can be wonderful. It's not something we have to to be embarrassed about or dread. We can find great joy in being different in in celebrating our differences. I remember when I was a high school kid, and I was so a wonder to be in love so much. I still have and I would I would get turned on by the guys. And of course I couldn't say anything but I didn't have anybody I could talk to I couldn't talk to my parents couldn't talk to my minister at church because they were telling me that what I was was a sin. And I thought what if I done to be sinful? Why am I being punished like this? And I would go to the library and try to look up information about me because that was a smart kid. And I knew if I did the research, I could find things out. But you know, I graduated from my High School in 1970. It was until 1969 that the American Psychiatric Association deemed homosexuality not to be deviant behavior. So when I would go look up things, and you had to go to the sub shields, Psych psychological area of the library, that's what I read was it I was a sexual deviant.
Coach Maddox 20:24
And in that it was a mental illness. Yeah, it was a mental
John Steele 20:28
illness cured by electroshock therapy. Even lobata Me certainly represent therapy. And you know, all that ever did was hurt someone. And because I love Lady Gaga song, we were born this way. It just really pisses me off. When somebody says, Well, you made a choice. If I had made a choice, it would have been to be straight. Who would ever choose to be gay, when you were living back in the time we were living? Now, kids have the opportunity to choose which way they want to go. If they have both feelings. Back then, I didn't feel like I did. Now some people did. And I applaud those people, because they came out and advocated for us and paved the way for us. Like my friends, Vivian Armstrong, and Louise young, and a friend who just died recently. They were all out there, trailing the making the trails for us blazing the trails for us. And so now I feel like it's our time to give back, which is why I think you and I are both doing this podcast today. You know, if we can change something for someone, then it's good.
Coach Maddox 21:49
I love your comment about choosing to be gay. My father said something of that nature. Many, many years ago, right after I came out to my parents. And I just nailed him. I said that you are heterosexual Is that correct? Yes. You are really? Like you're into women? Yes. You're not in demand at all. No. I said, So dad? Could you choose to be gay? No, absolutely not. And I said, then what makes you think that I could choose to be gay. You know, he never, ever pulled that shit again. In fact,
John Steele 22:33
good for you. At one
Coach Maddox 22:34
point, he told me that he had been on the golf course with some of his golf buddies, and one of them had made some comment about gay people choosing to be gay. And he took a stand with the entire group of guys right there. He said, Let me tell you something. That is bullshit. He said, I've got a gay son. And I know B, I have watched him go through hell, and there is no fucking way he would have ever chosen to be gay, because he has had a great deal of pain as a result of the way he is he would not have chosen that. And, you know, when he shared that story with me, of course, it was, you know, it was really just amazing to
John Steele 23:20
Yeah, no, I get it,
Coach Maddox 23:22
you're my dad site, say something like that in my, in my defense and take a stand for me. He had he'd come full circle in it. And it really was. It's in our relationship rational
John Steele 23:35
is when those we love, come to our defense. And we don't have to come to our events, they do that for us. And it it really validates our lives and who we are, you know, Maddix except for that one time, when I was called sissy when I was in third grade. And then in high school, I was in the band and I was standing with some of my football player friends. And one of the one of the men who were very influential in the boys lives came by and asked them why they hadn't been at White training that morning. And they said, Well, we did. I don't know they made up some kind of excuse like kids, or you know, and he looked at me and said, Well, you don't want to be a mullet like him. I'll never forget that and I felt about this. If you if you could see me on Zoom podcasters my fingers are about a quarter of an inch apart. It made me feel so little but other than that, I don't remember ever being made fun of or rejected because I was very careful to who I came out to at times. But I've got so many dear friends and women friends who I feel like When I came out, they came out with me. They were right there with me. And I was so afraid I wouldn't be rejected. But I'm one of the lucky ones. I never felt that rejection. My biggest enemy growing up was myself. I was the one who thought I should be rejected because I thought I was bad. I thought I wasn't worthy. I bought into the religion and all that I'd heard it. The only thing I ever heard about homosexuality back then, was in gay jokes, queer jokes. And I certainly didn't want to be the brunt of that. But I knew that's who I was.
Coach Maddox 25:41
I was the brunt of that, you know, I was very definitely different. I had definite effeminate qualities to me. And I could not cover that or hide that I got picked on. Well, just unmercifully through my entire school life here. You did, I'm sure. It was crazy. You know, you know, I back it at it now and see it very differently than I saw it at that time. But that's another podcast episode. So you have it is
John Steele 26:13
is very definitely a part of this, though, what we're talking about coming? Yes. Yes.
Coach Maddox 26:19
You took 35 plus years to gradually go through that process? If you could do that over again, would you do it exactly as you did it? Or would you would you take 35 years, knowing what you know, now, would you do it as you did it? Or would you do it differently?
John Steele 26:36
I would like to think I could do it differently. I used to think, but I doubt I could let me say that I doubt I could, I used to think growing up that I was a coward. I grew up thinking, because I knew there were people i i remember when Harvey Milk was such a successful politician and had a career in San Francisco. And I remember when he was killed, I was a young teacher. And I just thought there are these people all over the United States in the world, fighting for our rights and advocated advocating and trying to make people understand that we are not different from them. But I didn't have I felt at that time, the courage to come out, I felt like I and when you don't feel like you have courage to be who you are, it makes you even more less of a person or to feel like that. And when one day I had an epiphany. And I thought, You know what, you didn't lack courage, it took a lot of courage to fight to remain in the closet, and to build an image up. That was different from who you are, that took a lot of strength. And I learned that day, what I lacked was not courage. I lacked clarity on who I was, and who I wanted to be and how to get there. And all of a sudden, that gave me a lot of strength, inner strength when I realized that I didn't lack courage, but I lacked clarity. And that made all the difference for me.
Coach Maddox 28:26
I love that, John, I mean, what what you just said, if our listener doesn't get anything out else out of our conversation today, I hope that they heard what you just said, I'm going to repeat it. You said that you realized that you had believed for a long time that you lacked courage. And that was the reason you hadn't fully come out. But you had this moment where you realize that it wasn't an issue of courage. You had plenty of courage, you lacked clarity, clarity to clarity in who you are, and and who you wanted to be in life and how you wanted to show up in life. Did I do a good job of paraphrasing that?
John Steele 29:07
Yeah, I think so. That's really powerful. Well, I don't know how I came to that. But it just hit me one day because I struggled a lot. But you know, I thought how could I? Can I like the courage. I know when I became when I signed on to the board of Educare. And if anybody likes to look up Educare on the web, it's educator Dallas, and we do educational modules on training for cultural competency for people who work with the LGBTQ community. That doesn't mean you have to be a caregiver. It could just be trying to get give people more cultural diversity in the way they see the world. Because a lot of people still don't know gay people or they don't know they know us and
Coach Maddox 29:59
they That's the accurate part. Everybody knows somebody gay, they just don't know, they know somebody's gay because
John Steele 30:05
and so it's frightening to them because you're frightened of what you don't know. And usually if people get to know us, or get to know somebody of another religion, get to know somebody of another race, ethnicity, whatever. We're not scared of them anymore if we just get to know people, but I, you know, when I was talking about, I remember, excuse me, I know I'm rambling here, but when I first started coming out, there was a bookstore down on Throckmorton and Oak Lawn, and no Cedar Springs called
Coach Maddox 30:45
the Crossroads Mark Austroads. Market.
John Steele 30:47
Yes. And I would go there and find reading material, I bought a lot of books about who I am, because I wanted to learn I wanted to be have knowledge about how who I am, because history is never taught about the gay, the LGBT community. If we if we find out about history, we have to research it. And I bought this little book called The best little boy in the world. And it talks about a little boy who realized he was gay. And he didn't want to embarrass himself or his family, especially. So he learned how to make them proud of him by being the best little boy in the world. My mother used to always say, Whatever you do, make us proud of you. And I took that seriously. So I really tried to make them proud. And I would do everything I could to make my family proud of me, which is another reason I created this myth for myself. And but you know, this, this book was written by Andrew Tobias, he wrote another book, lighter sequel that's called best little boy in the world grows up. And that's pretty telling as well, because thankfully, that's what both you and I did, we grew up. There's a lot of people still living in the closet that haven't had the strength or the clarity, to figure out how to come out. I know, I told my friend, Vivian Armstrong, when I came onto the board of Educare, I'd said, I'm just in awe of you, and some of the other people in Dallas, who fought so hard for coming out rights, equal rights, equal rights at the end protection at the workplace, and in Dallas. And, you know, she said, John, we were at a place in our lives where we could do that. And it wasn't always easy, but we knew we needed to do it. And she said, you're at a place now in your life where you can do it, and be there. And I, again, that goes back to the lacking courage versus having the clarity. And I think that's so important. I have a friend, he's not really a friend anymore. I wouldn't call him a friend. I think he's an acquaintance now. But he used to get so angry at people who were older, in their 60s, perhaps, who had raised a family and lived a life a straight life and then decided it was time for them to come out. And he said, they're just hanging on to our short tails, they, and I say, that's not right. I thought you did that for everybody. I thought you did it for all these people so that when they got to the point, if they needed to come out, and they could, you would welcome them.
Coach Maddox 33:50
But you know,
John Steele 33:52
the LGBT community, just like every other community is not always as welcoming as it should be.
Coach Maddox 33:58
No, it's not. And most most of us have experienced that. A welcoming, welcoming aspect. I certainly did.
Unknown Speaker 34:06
Coach Maddox 34:09
So I know, John, that you have shared with me that you're coming out story that 35 of your story, at one point included an arrest. Yes. I would love for you to share that.
John Steele 34:26
You will I will tell you there was a time in my life. I could not talk about it because I was filled with shame. And I felt like I let myself down and just make bad choices. I guess they weren't bad choices when you look at them, but we make bad choices every day. I was being human is messy. Yeah, it is. I was actually entrapped by a vise squad person and a public
Coach Maddox 34:56
bathroom. And which I agree with completely
John Steele 34:59
mom I'm not interested in having public sex that was not ever my intent. I didn't do that. But I was entrapped. I was. Actually I was encouraged. And, and then, when I took the bait, so to speak, when I reached over to touch someone, I was shown a license and a badge. And I was arrested. Well, that changed my life. Because after that, I had to recreate myself. In a way you can say, that was good for me. My sister, who was a school teacher had a friend who had been in prep the same way and he took his life. He actually took his life. I, I guess I'm more of a survivor. Or I was at that point, instead of taking my life, I recreated my life I reinvented myself. And it was very hard.
Coach Maddox 35:57
And John, elaborate a little bit on recreate yourself. I mean, I, so people understand what you're talking about. You're talking about the loss of a job and a series of things. Correct.
John Steele 36:09
Right. I was a very successful school teacher, the particular district I was working at found out. I decided at that point, I was so beaten down because I felt, I felt embarrassed, I felt like I had let myself down. And I bought into what they told me. I was, which was a bad person. And I bought into that. And again, it wasn't because I lacked courage, it's because I like clarity about it. And so I resigned my job, I sold my home, I started over, and it took me a period of years. Now, you can say that was one of the best thing that's ever happening because now I work in senior health care and, and helping people. And I, I like to help everyone, I don't work with just LGBT community, I work with people. And but certainly, if I have an opportunity to work with an older LGBTQ person, notice, we don't call ourselves seniors anymore, we call ourselves older folk. But as I work with older ones, it's a real privilege, because a lot of them are very frightened about where they're going to go. And if they have to go into an assisted living community, or residential care home or a memory care community, they feel like they could be made fun of or they could, and so I try to help them find a place where they're going to be respected, and taken care of, with great care and lovingness. And, and feel like they're the human being, they should feel like after they've lived this long, and fought this hard, you know, it would be terrible, to feel frightened again. And so that's what we tried to do. But it's, you know, we all have our own demons. And I, it took me 1520 years, I guess, to really bounce back. And now I, I tell my story, I share it, I'm not ashamed of it, I'm not embarrassed by it. We all have something, some choices we made, that maybe weren't the best choices. But I never did anything to hurt anyone in those situations. We were, we were castigated for those, for loving the people we loved. And in my generation. We, I couldn't be out, I didn't feel like I could be out. I couldn't give my name. And so we hid. And as a result, that kind of entrapment was able to occur to us, it was a really a way that we could be bullied. And it was, it was affirmed by the law. And, you know, it was way to put us in our places back then. Yes. And
Coach Maddox 39:23
you know that there's something I want to reflect on for a moment that you have said I because I want our listeners to be sure and that I want to be sure that they get this part. And that is you know, you had an experience where you were entrapped, you were arrested and it pretty much derailed your life. You You said you know, loss of jobs, sold your house to many, many years to recreate yourself and really rebuild your life. But I also heard you say that when it was all said and done. It was one of the best things that could have happened to you. Is that correct?
John Steele 39:57
I made it one of the best things that could have happened to you? Don't get me wrong. I don't think it's I don't think it's fair to say that because they can come out and entrap us for who we are. That it's a good thing. I don't I think it's a terrible thing to happen. No, I made it talking
Coach Maddox 40:17
about the entrapment itself. I'm talking about just the the fact that it directed you to recreate your life like, yes, it was a totally shameful, embarrassing, awful experience that no man should ever have to endure. Painful took you a long time to rebuild. But what I'm hearing you say is not so much about the entrapment. But the result of the trap met, it directed your life in a place where you're doing more good in the world, and perhaps something you love more than Yeah,
John Steele 40:48
I get what you mean. But I would have to say, as a codicil to that it was because of the friends and family, I had my family of choice, as well as my blood family who stood by me, and helped me hold my head up at a time, I didn't have the strength to do it by myself. And I redirected my life because I didn't have another choice. You know, I had to, and but that we
Coach Maddox 41:22
are describing community. Yeah. Which is what, what this podcast is about advocating, it's about advocating friendship and community among gay men. And that's what you're describing
John Steele 41:34
is that why community? That's why I believe what you were doing is so important. And when you asked me on to do this, and you said, can I talk about your whole story? And I said, Yes. Because I'm not ashamed now. I, I feel like if that story can help anybody, then let's put it out there. And the other thing, I've found that by putting it out there, I can never be hurt by it again. Because I've put it out there. You know?
Coach Maddox 42:08
And exactly. It's, there's no, there's no dark secret that somebody can find out and use against you. Right? Beautiful, beautiful. Um, anything else you'd like to add about your, with your story? Um,
John Steele 42:24
well, I would say, for all of us who are my age, in our age bracket, sometimes we feel like we have to give up on finding love, or finding that romance. And some of us didn't have it when we were younger. Some of us did, or whatever, we all have such complicated stories. But I just, I wouldn't put this out there because I think it's so charming. About 10 years ago, I went down to bury my sister next to my parents in the little town, I grew up with him. And a man was there visiting from Los Angeles, who I'd gone to school about, I mentioned him earlier in the podcast, he found out I was gonna be there. And he called me and we started talking. Pretty soon we came out to each other, we didn't know each other, we're gay. And he's now my husband, we've been together for eight years.
married for three. And, and I have to say that was the last part of my coming out. Because I posted it on Facebook, all of my family, some of my family, I'd never told everybody knows now. And now I am out to the whole world. But I would say the last two steps of my coming up process, which I began when I was 32. Was Sharon fine and Educare. And they've been Armstrong and some of the others on that board. Because I've stood up in front of audiences. Is that okay? I'm a gay man. And this is what we're going to learn today. Ask me questions to get to know us. We want to be visible to you. And then secondly, it would be my marriage to Patrick, when we disclosed our marriage on Facebook. And thank God, that three years ago, the Supreme Court found it fitting to give us the same rights as other people in this country. So that we can have the financial security and and the rights people should have. So it's so many up. So now I'm out there. I'm out here.
Coach Maddox 44:49
Such a beautiful story, John. And I just want to acknowledge your vulnerability. You know, just this beautiful realness that you've shared. with me and with the listeners today, I'm in awe. I'm wowed right now.
John Steele 45:06
Thank you for sharing yours as well, Maddox.
Coach Maddox 45:09
Thank you. So how about a couple of rapid fire questions? Do you got some rapid fire answers for me? I'll try. Awesome. So when was the last time you cried other than just a moment ago?
John Steele 45:25
Oh, I, you know, I'm that guy. I talk in when we're all telling our stories now, or Patrick, and I'll talk with we'll sit around the dining table. He and I were talking I'll I'll become emotional. And I don't feel like I'm crying anymore. I feel like something just touched me deeply. And I responded, I, I may say, Oh, I'm sorry, this happened because I don't want somebody else to feel uncomfortable that I'm really not sorry that I did it. It just happens to me. It happens frequently. When I'm touched. My my voice breaks. Yes,
Coach Maddox 46:06
I am not. And
John Steele 46:07
I have to take a moment because I don't want like on the podcast while ago when I broke a little bit. I don't want my audience to ever feel uncomfortable. So it's good for people to see us be vulnerable, that I don't ever want to make someone feel uncomfortable, because we're all at different places in our journey as to how we respond to things.
Coach Maddox 46:28
Yes, we are. Absolutely. So it's 30 years from now. And you're a ghost at your own funeral. And although there are many people there diversely there's also a group of your gay peers there. What would you like to hear your gay peers say about you at your funeral?
John Steele 46:57
in some small way, he helped our community. Because if people hadn't been there, to lead the way, for me, I wouldn't be where I am now. I mean, we can get married legally. Now. We have protections under the law. We still don't have enough. In Texas, we can still be fired for being who we are. But you know, we're making a difference. And we're getting there.
Coach Maddox 47:26
We are getting there. And you are one of those pioneers. John. You're one of those people that have fought loud and proud. Thank you. Thank you for your service. Such a beautiful time today. Thank you so much for coming on being a guest and being the awesome you that you are.
John Steele 47:47
Thank you, Maddox. And good luck to you as you pursue this new part of your journey.
Coach Maddox 47:52
Thank you, John.
President of Alternative Living Choices
After teaching theatre and dance for 25 years, John began working as the Director of Community Outreach for a hospice agency. Eventually he founded his own company, Alternative Living Choices, now serving as a Senior Living Advisor assisting older adults in locating appropriate Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Memory Care Communities in which to live.
He began his coming-out process when he was 32, now living as a totally out gay man with his husband Patrick.
John serves as the Educational Chair for EDUCARE, educating community and professional caregivers in compassionate cultural competency as they serve older LGBTQ+ folks. He also serves as a board member for the Adult Protective Community Board of Dallas, and past board member for Dallas Gerontological Society.