Exclusive Interview by Karen Beishuizen
Photos courtesy of Jim Koury
Who is Jim Koury and what are your hobbies and plans?
Who am I? Does anyone know who they are? Lol. Sorry, getting a bit philosophical. I am ME. It took me a very long time to grasp this simple concept after being in the closet for so long and molding myself as someone I was not. But I will get into that later.
I am a 63-year-old gay man. I am retired from local government. I was the City Clerk in my hometown for almost 22 years. The first 18 years were great, but the last 4 were completely miserable. I hated where I was, what I was doing, and the people I worked for and with. I knew it was time to get out. I am now enjoying retirement. I get a pension from NY State, and I started collecting Social Security benefits a year or so ago, which I cannot believe. I do not act, look, or feel like I am 63.
As for my hobbies, I love to write. I have written two books entitled, “Unredacted,” and “Soul Journey.” I am currently working on a third one. Procrastination got the best of me, but I am starting to move forward with it again. I also lost my mom 3 years ago. She was my best friend, and her death threw me for a loop and sent me off on a tangent that took a while to recover from. But I guess we never really “recover” do we? We just simply deal with the loss better.
I also love pencil drawing. I have been getting back to that as well. Birds seem to be my thing now. I always knew I had an inclination for drawing, as I excelled in art classes, and my art teachers commended my work. I should have gotten an art degree, but I guess it is one of those things that just happen later in life when we start to explore our talents and skills more and begin to home in on them better. That is what has happened with my writing and the drawing. I always had a knack for both, but it was not until later in life that I pursued something more concrete with each skill.
My plans? I would love to become a famous author who sells movie rights for one of his books. Lol. We shall have to wait and see how that all works out. I am always open to doing different things. I know I am not suited to working for someone else in a rigid office environment or structure. I am a free-spirited type, who loves doing things on his own, at his own pace, and doing what I fancy instead of what I have to do to fulfil someone else’s dreams. I am a “day-by-day” kind of guy at this point in my life. I answer to no one but myself. I do what I want when I want it. As long as it is not hurting or harming someone else or taking their rights away, that is all that matters.
KB: Where were you born and how was it growing up?
I was born in a small upstate NY State city called Oneonta (O-knee-on-ta). Indigenous Oneontans tend not to say the “t.” That is how we folks from here know someone is not originally from here. They pronounce the “t” like they were spitting at you. Ha, Ha, Ha.
I had a good childhood. I did not come from a wealthy family. My mom and dad were working-class folks, who did what they had to do to support the family, most especially my mom. I miss her so much. She worked her butt off and was the kindest, gentlest woman I know.
I was most definitely a loner type growing up. While I had a circle of friends, I was always most comfortable with spending time with myself. I still am that way. I am a very private person, but I do get out and about and immerse myself in the ways of the world, I always feel most comfortable at home, by myself, with my dog, Lina, and my cat, Critter. My solitude had much to do with being gay and not knowing it as a child. The benefit of hindsight always gives us clues as to why we were the way we were, and why we like certain things. So that is me in a nutshell.
KB: How old were you when you realized you were gay and what made you think this?
From my earliest years, I always knew and felt I was “different” from everyone else. I always had a liking for the other boys in my elementary school years, and not so much with the girls. I was aware of this, even at that very young age, and I began to bury the feelings I had, thinking it was wrong. One clear instance, which I talk about in “Unredacted,” is in first grade. We would always do the envelopes on the front of the desks for Valentine’s Day. Everyone would give each other Valentine’s cards. I always looked forward to getting them from certain boys in my class. When I did not get one, I felt let down and disappointed. This was one of my earliest clues that things were not going to be “normal” for me. Whatever normal is, I guess.
KB: When did you come out as gay?
I came out to myself in my early 20’s, which at the time was the early 1980’s. It was the time of AIDS, and being gay at the time, doing much of the clandestine sexual stuff I did to satisfy my urges most certainly put me at risk, but luckily, I dodged HIV. How I do not know sometimes. I did the tearoom (bathrooms), and rest area circuit, trolling for sex and others like me. I talk a lot about these activities in my book as well. These places, while the first and foremost purpose was getting off, were also social outlets for us queer folks, since we could not at the time do and say many of the things that are freely done now. It was a social network, and much more than just a place to have sex in the woods. Going home from one of my nights at the rest area, I began to cry, and just yelled over and over in my car, “I am gay. I am gay. I am a fucking queer.”
It was not until many years later, in my late 30’s, that I came out to my family, friends, and co-workers. For me, it was an anti-climactic experience. The most often cited response when I told someone I was gay was, “What the hell took you so long?” There were only a couple of people who were thrown off by my revelation, but they dealt with it okay.
Did I lose some “friends?” You bet! It was very noticeable that some treated me differently and did not hang around as much. My view was, that I am just becoming “me,” and if they cannot handle that truth, then they were never friends to begin with.
Since then, it has been quite an evolution. I do not recognize the Jim Koury of my high school and younger years. He does not resemble the person I am now at all. Now I just do not give a shit who knows what, and that was a primary reason why I wrote “Unredacted.” I did not want anyone to be able to hang anything over my head or “blackmail” me into doing anything because I was hiding a secret. In “Unredacted,” I came clean about everything. The sex at rest stops, the escorting I was doing, and all the other “stuff” that I was always petrified about people finding out. It is so liberating now to know that there is nothing that is not known about me, nor can anyone threaten me with anything by exposing my secrets. I am completely an open book now, and I love it.
KB: How did your family and friends react?
For the most part, as I said above, most people handled it okay. I told my older brother and then sister-in-law first, who also sort of knew what the deal was. They said they loved me, and it did not matter. I wanted to tell them first before I told my folks, so I could have someone to bounce things off of.
I came out in a somewhat cowardly fashion to my mom. I was going to Montreal one weekend, and she would go to my then apartment, to check on the cats, and keep tabs on my place. I did not have a dog at the time. I bought a bunch of books about coming out, being gay, etc., and placed them in strategic places around the apartment where there would be no chance that she would miss them.
Upon my return, she told me she saw the books, and said that she and my father sort of knew already. Moms know, you know? She told my dad and my younger brother, and that was that. My dad was good with it until I started dabbling in a relationship. I asked my mom how she thought he would react, and he told her if I brought someone down to the house, then he would leave. So, upon hearing that I just stopped going to my folks’ house. I knew it hurt my mom doing that, but she understood. After about 2 weeks, my dad relented, as I found out later from my then sister-in-law, that my mom made my dad’s life a living hell over it all. Lol. From that point on, all was fine with my folks, and my immediate family. Some extended family members took issue with it, but I had little to do with them anyway, so I just did not give a fuck.
KB: Did they know at your workplace / School / University you were gay?
I told some closer workmates first, and again, the general response was, “What took you so long?” I had told the mayor first, just so she was aware of it, in case I got any shit. I told her that I would not hesitate to pursue human rights violations if anything happened. She was supportive, and we sort of bonded a bit more closely after that. One work associate was nasty about it all, but of course, not to my face. I found out some of the things he said from someone else, and well, let’s put it this way, I was not shocked. Again, I did not have much to do with him anyway, so it was not a big issue.
So, all in all, my coming out to my work associates was not bad either. I think the worst part is before one comes out, as we fabricate all these horror stories in our heads about how folks are going to react. When that all did not come to fruition, as was the case with me, it was a huge relief. I did not get thrown out of the house, like many teens do, which I think is horrible. What kind of parent would throw their kid out of the house, and disown them over their sexuality A rotten parent, that’s who. I feel pained every time I hear these horror stories, still to this day, as it is so unnecessary. Fear and religious persecution are evils that we must overcome still, sadly. With the toxic political environment here in America, it makes it all the more imperative that folks still in the closet know they have allies and are there to support and uplift whenever the time comes to divulge “the secret.”
KB: What do you think of all the religions out there who still see being gay as a sin?
As I have said over and over, and many times before, I have no use for organized religion. Religion is the scourge of society. We would most certainly be much better off without it. Religion, as far as I am concerned, is one of the world’s worst evils.
I was raised Roman Catholic. I was the last in my family to continue the traditions. I was attending Mass one Sunday morning, about a year or so after coming out. The priest went off on the sin of homosexuality, and how evil it was, during his Homily. At that point, something clicked inside. I had heard this garbage spewed in church before, but let it slide. That Sunday morning, I did not. I got up in the middle of the Homily and left and I made it known as I was leaving the church how disgusted I was mumbling under my breath as I made my way down the aisle to the main doors in front. Needless to say, I got many dirty looks. From that day forward, I never stepped foot in a church again to attend Mass, nor will I ever again in the future. It is an institution that is 200 years behind the rest of the world. I have no use for it.
Now, I am much more of a spiritualist. I do not believe in the man-made precepts of organized religion. As I said, they are useless, condemning, judgmental, and overall repressive, and not tolerant of anyone’s individuality.
I do not believe in heaven or hell. They are just man-made concepts to control people with the threat of eternal damnation. I believe all people simply cross over to a different realm of consciousness, regardless of what kind of person they are in their human manifestation. A soul simply goes home and keeps coming back until they get things right. I have spoken to many spiritualists over the years, and I know this is the case, as I have been told things that only I would know. Let’s just leave it at that. I know many do not believe in the power that some folks have to tap into the world beyond the veil, and that is fine. I believe it, and that is all that matters really. I always wonder how someone would believe in a benevolent entity up in the sky somewhere, but not in the power of someone to communicate with those on the other side. I guess it all depends on one’s faith, what they believe, and who is telling them what to believe. That is what bothers me the most about organized religion. People are sheep and believe what some priest or some other religious icon will tell them as truth instead of seeking their truth about what is and is not. Religion causes such a waste of the human mind.
KB: Did you ever have hate experiences or accidents?
Yes, I have, and it was my only one, luckily. I have posted about the incident on my Facebook page. When I first started my magazine, Diversity Rules, I got an anonymous email, threatening physical harm to me if I did not stop distributing it. I provide the full text of the email below:
“Dear Mr. Koury, it has come to our attention that not only have you been spreading your heterophobia filth throughout the region but also include your faggoty shit where young children have access to it. They don’t know what even normal sex is in their impressionable minds. You will stop distributing in these areas and keep this shit in gay bars, etc. We have your name, associates, phone numbers, where you live and where you work as well as your routines. You are giving an even worse impression of homos when you freely distribute among kids. It’s called recruiting and you will stop if you know what’s good for you. You see Mr. Koury we are everywhere. We have also infiltrated your queer organizations and distributorship. You boast of 10,000 issues a month. It’s only 1/2 of that as our people destroy the rest. We are invisible and we are legion. We are 14-72 years of age. We are in your schools, law enforcement, churches, and government (national and local) and we are everywhere. If you continue in the indiscriminate distribution of your filthy rag someone, an “associate” perhaps will come up to you unexpectedly to render you a personal tune up!!!!! If you’re smart you will take heed of our message. The Mar/Apr edition will be the last one that you distribute indiscriminately. Mark my words. Also, if you think “hate crime” legislation will stop our actions you’re wrong. Dead Wrong. In the present economy, we can hire almost anyone to do whatever needs to be done. Have a day.
Your Worst Nightmare”
The police tried to track the homophobe down, but they were unsuccessful, as whoever it was, was smart enough to originate the email on a 3rd party computer, at an Internet café, and likely deleted the account after they sent it. Needless to say, I did not stop doing what I was doing. It only emboldened me more to continue to say “fuck you” to the homophobes and continue to piss them off. Lol.
I have not had any other instances since then. I think they know better, honestly. Being in a high-profile position in local government I think also helped keep them at bay a bit.
There was another instance, a more humorous one, that I remember as well. When New York State legalized gay marriage, I asked the mayor at the time if he would be okay with opening City Hall on a Sunday, which was the first day folks could get legally married in NY. He was fine with it and was very supportive of the idea and married the first couple in the City of Oneonta. In NY State there is a 24-hour waiting period after a couple gets a marriage license. I managed to arrange with a county judge to be on standby to waive the waiting period for each couple getting married. Three couples got married that day. After that, I organized a wedding reception type party at a local venue, complete with cake, champagne, entertainment, etc. It all turned out marvellously.
The humorous part of the story dealing with homophobes was that there was a city council member who was a religious nut job. He sent the mayor an e-mail threatening a discrimination lawsuit if anyone came into City Hall to get something else and was denied service. They had planted people to come in that day for a straight marriage license, and a dog license. Crazy, huh? The extent these idiots will go? Needless to say, I did those all the while issuing marriage licenses, and marrying same-sex couples. I have to say that was probably my most memorable experience being the City Clerk in my 22 years there. I was brought to tears after the mayor married the first couple. He came over and hugged me after he married them, and said, “Good job today.”
KB: Homosexuality is still a crime in many countries around the world. How do you feel about this?
I am greatly saddened by it. There is not much I can say. It is disgusting, and repulsive that people are put to death and imprisoned in some countries over being gay. Nothing is stopping that from happening here if we allow these putrid MAGAT Republicans to gain any semblance of full control or power. Sadly, they have done some horrible things in many states, and I get so angry every time I think about it. We must constantly work to change this despicable situation each day, all over the world.
KB: What would you like to say to all the homophobes out there?
Basically, in a nutshell, FUCK OFF. They are on the wrong side of history. History will judge them in a very bad light. I am confident that someday they will be relegated to the dustbin of history. I despise them. I am reviled and repulsed by them. I want nothing more than to see them be returned to their cold, clammy caves, and holes in the ground. Sadly, America got stupid in 2016 and voted for a bigoted, fascist-inspired fool, who uses fear to govern and run for office, only to achieve selfish, self-centered ends. While bigots, homophobes, and racists have always existed, he gave voice to them and empowered them to speak boldly and be much more brazen in their hate. It will take a few more election cycles to relegate them to their caves and rocks, but I truly believe it will happen. America is not what they represent.
Check out Jim’s author page: HERE
Check out his magazine: HERE
Find him on Facebook: HERE