Mark Zumbach oral history


Mark Zumbach


Zachary P. Dale

East Carolina University


July 14, 2018

Cary, North Carolina

ZD: It is Saturday, July 14th, at 3:04 PM. Zachary Dale's conducting this interview and we are in Cary, North Carolina. I will turn it over to my interviewee to introduce themselves.

MZ: Hi, this is Mark Zumbach. I'm a founding member of the ECGC, East Carolina Gay Community. I live in Raleigh, North Carolina, excuse me, Cary, North Carolina, and I'm looking forward to this interview.

ZD: Do I have verbal consent to conduct this interview?

MZ: Yes, you do.

ZD: Awesome. Thank you so very much for agreeing. Let's get started. I want you to tell me a little bit about your life before you came to ECU.

MZ: Okay. Let's see, my parents are from Upstate New York. I'm the oldest of five children. My mother was a Roman Catholic, my father was a Methodist when they married. When IBM decided to relocate their plant in the Research Triangle Park my folks moved down mid '60s, 1967 I believe is the year. I grew up in the south although sometimes I think I'm a northerner, sometimes I think I'm a southerner, but there's a few things in my life that have confirmed that I'm definitely a southerner. (1:32)

MZ: Again, oldest of five children, although my sister and I are very close in age. We're just nine and a half months apart, so we were very close growing up. In fact, graduated the same year from high school and both went to East Carolina University. She and I were both active in theater, although I was definitely more driven to the visual arts, which is what I started at East Carolina in as an art major. I'd been kind of a shy child at first, and then I really think sort of through the theater and through getting involved ... Well, I kind of blossomed. In some way I blossomed, in other ways I didn't at East Carolina.

MZ: I did have kind of an early calling to social peace and social justice issues. I've changed my opinion on it over the years, but my sister and I were both active in the right to life movement through the Catholic Church. We were young youth advocates for ... I mean, I guess we'd call them anti-abortionists now. I've definitely flipped my opinion on that over the years. Aside from that I was a huge advocate of women's rights and the rights of poor people, and obviously the civil rights movement. I always had this concept of peace and justice, although I was a little more conservative when I first started at ECU. (3:28)

MZ: It's always hard looking back, but I probably suspected, I probably started realizing that I was gay, although we didn't really have a name for it at the time when I was in junior high school. At least I knew that I was different. I was also, between having siblings who were so close in age and also a big friend circle, I was in a circle of friends that didn't really date and so we would go out as groups. A lot of us were involved in the Catholic Youth Organization, CYO, which was originally founded to create a safe environment for young Catholics to meet other young Catholics so that they wouldn't necessarily go and marry outside the faith. One thing that it did is it provided some cover, I think, for those who didn't really want, didn't feel compelled to date, or didn't want to date. There was not a real strong pressure to date. The few times that I went to a dance or a prom I usually asked a friend to go. (5:00)

MZ: I was kind of a late bloomer. I didn't really come out until I went to college. Now, by the time I got to ECU I knew that I was gay I just still hadn't quite put the verbiage around it. It was my first semester there ... Well, actually I was home for Christmas break after my first semester, when I went out one evening with someone who was a year behind me, so he was now a senior in high school. I was a freshman at ECU and this classmate from high school, Edward, and I went out to visit and have dinner. Anyway, that was the first time I had sex. We both came out to each other and, yeah, then found a place to park and, yeah. I was a late bloomer. By today's standards I'd say I was a late bloomer, although there are others that would say that, "Oh, that was early."

MZ: Let's see, let me think what else to tell you about. I would say that just the background of what was going on in the world. One of the things that happened my senior year in high school was there was a huge fire at one of the gay bathhouses in New York City, the Everard Baths. That was one of those first big news stories that I really paid attention to. Knowing that that was my community, although not having any point of reference. I mean, I'd never been to New York at that ... Or, I had been to New York as a student on a student trip, but not as a gay person. Just recognizing that, yeah, there were issues that our community was dealing with that were bigger and outside of Cary, North Carolina. (7:29)

MZ: I was definitely awakening to the social ills in the world. There had been a big Time Magazine cover too about what is gay? That was probably my junior year in high school, and that too, I was like, "Okay, that connects with me in some way, but I don't know exactly how." Yeah, I think it was then in that first semester at ECU that I met Chad Hughes, who we'll talk about in a bit, and he and I became good friends and have remained friends over the years.

ZD: What inspired the creation of the East Carolina Gay Community?

MZ: Essentially there was an unnamed student, we still don't know who it was, wrote a letter to the Fountainhead and it was basically outlining the pain of what it is to live in the closet and be a student at a rural southeastern ... I mean, ECU was rural at the time. I mean, it's much different now, but back then you basically drove through a lot of cornfields to get to ECU. I'm constantly amazed at what it's like to get there now versus all the little back roads you had to take. This unnamed student wrote this letter. I mean, some would call it a cry for help. I mean, some read it as basically a suicide note and it did read that way in some ways. (9:24)

MZ: That inspired Chad Hughes to ... I mean, he turned around and wrote a follow up letter and basically stated that there was a need for a student organization on campus and he'd already done the leg work. I mean, at that point he had figured out that the student government wasn't going to give us space to meet on campus and he'd found a space at the Newman Center. In his letter to the editor he announced that there'd be a meeting to discuss the formation of a group and he had the time and the place. Then it was really this other group of us who kind of rallied around him and came together for that very first meeting. Of course, none of us really knew what to expect.

MZ: It was a little scary. I mean, for some of us, it was the very first time we said aloud to anybody else, "Hey, I'm gay." Or, "I think I might be gay." I still remember, I mean, there is a that funny tummy feeling, those butterflies in the stomach that I remember getting walking there, because I realized just the crossing the threshold for that specific meeting was making a commitment to something but I wasn't sure what we were making a commitment to. Yeah, it was a little frightening, but over the years, I mean, it was always fun when someone would show up that you always suspected would. (11:29)

ZD: How did the Newman Center get involved with the East Carolina Gay Community?

MZ: Yeah, so that too was one ... As I mentioned, at the time to get space on campus you had to go through the Student Government Association. You had to be an official student organization and you had to go through the SGA to get ... Was it, student government, yeah, SGA. You had to go through the SGA to get a space on campus, and so we were not ... Not only did we not, because we were just forming so we didn't qualify, but it seemed they were making it a little extra hard for us as well because those rules can always be bent for new and forming organizations. Just nobody was stepping forward to make space for us. (12:31)

MZ: Chad was attending mass regularly through the Newman Center. They would have a regular Sunday morning mass on campus for Catholic students. Chad approached Sister Helen Shondell or Sister Happy as we called her, and she agreed immediately to provide space in the Newman Center. When I say Newman Center it strikes up this, when you hear Center it sounds like this beautiful, sparkling building. This was a little 19, 18, 1930s bungalow off campus house that was, I believe it was at the end of 9th Street. The house is not there any longer. I think the last time I was in Greenville that whole section of road has been redeveloped. It was conveniently close to campus. It was just off campus. If you crossed the parking lot from the backside of the student center and got to the other side of the parking lot right to 9th Street, then it was that last little row of houses there. It was the very last house on that road before you hit this chain link fence that was the campus. It was convenient to campus. (14:05)

MZ: Sister Jane and Sister Happy were extremely supportive. They considered having the ECGC meet on campus or meet at their house was part of their outreach and part of their mission work and part of what they were there to do. Then not only for regular meetings, they opened the house up to us for other events and for any time we wanted to come. They made us very welcome. Although I had been raised Catholic, I was not a particularly churchy Catholic, but I would go to mass every once in a while just because I liked Sister Happy and Sister Jane so much. It was kind of like go and hang out with them. They were quite fun, quite lovely people. I should also say that they were what we called in the day plain clothes nuns because they did not dress in habits. They wore street clothes so they were quite approachable.

ZD: In what ways did ECGC engage with ECU's campus?

MZ: A couple of ways. Probably firstly we engaged in controversy because, as a student organization, we felt it was our right to ask for money so we did. It wasn't completely out of naivety. There was a certain level of, for lack of a better word, there was a certain calculated element to it as well. Because we also knew any time that we did ask for money or did ask to be included that we would be generating news. There was a certain reason to our madness in that and that was we felt like there was no such thing as bad press and that was free publicity. (16:21)

MZ: Now, there's probably a downside to that too because there were probably some folks in the closet who any time they see controversy would run the other direction, but we felt like for those people who were ready to make a leap and ready to kind of find a community it helped to advance the cause. Certainly that was one way we engaged.

MZ: We created pretty early on a speakers' bureau, and that was kind of driven out of ... What started happening is it was either through sociology classes, psychology classes, mostly sociology and psychology, often the instructors would contact somebody that they knew was gay and would ask them to come and speak to the class. There was a marriage and courtship class, and so they were always looking for somebody ... Dr. Knox was always looking for somebody who was divorced to come and speak, and somebody who was newly married, and somebody who was gay. They were always looking for people to come and tell their different perspectives. We decided to formalize it and ask people to come through the ECGC because ... Well, we had a couple of thoughts. One is that it takes one bad speaker to just set the movement back. We didn't want that to happen, but we also felt like if we could control it a little bit more and in the control- (18:04)

MZ: We could control it a little bit more, and in the control I mean we would try to always send one male and one female when possible so that we could get the lesbian as well as the gay male perspective. Even better if we could include somebody who was bisexual, although there weren't that many people who were out at that time as bi because in those days bisexuality was really considered sort of what you said as part of your coming-out process before you were ready to say you were gay. So nobody really believed anybody was bisexual at the time. I mean, I think that's changed over the years, but we definitely had ... It definitely was not the movement it is today.

MZ: I'd also say that bisexuality in the late '70s was really ... It was really viewed more as something coming out of straight swinging society and straight swinging culture than out of the queer community. So yeah, it was kind of a ... There's been a paradigm shift around that as well. (19:12)

MZ: The other thing about the speakers' bureau though was that it provided us an opportunity to do training. And so we developed a speakers' bureau training where we would do ... We'd essentially run through anybody who was interested in being on the speakers' bureau. We'd run through some of the gay history 101 stuff that we felt was important that should be communicated even though most of the time we were in there telling our personal stories, just some of the facts and figures that you might want to have. Some of the stuff around Kinsey's research and some of the stuff around the current thinking around the causes because those were always the questions, but then a lot of the speakers' bureau training was very much around role playing and just how to handle difficult questions, how to handle boring questions, how to handle..

MZ: One of the best ... Some of the best meetings we ever had were those where we'd come back and tell stories about how it had gone and what was the weirdest question you got and how did you answer it. And I still remember Chad Hughes coming back from one of those and saying that some girl had challenged him in class and said, "Well, have you ever made love to a really good-looking woman?" And he said back to her, "Well, no. Have you?" (20:42)

MZ: So, yeah. So, the other way we engaged with the community is that the campus counseling center had several students come to them who were closeted gay and struggling, some of them potentially suicidal or at least had some suicidality. And some of these counselors were really feeling that they weren't quite sure how to handle it. They had the concept. They originally came up with the concept that peer counseling would be good because it would ... they'd have the opportunity to talk to somebody on their level one to one and maybe say some things that they were not comfortable saying to a counselor.

MZ: So, they had the idea. We made it happen. Someone in our group found a couple in Tarboro, North Carolina who was a marriage and family counseling, Claude and Carol Andrews, who provided the training for us. We did over the year ... We did eventually get some money through the SGA to provide some training. So we held a couple of weekend retreats at Claude and Carol Andrews' house where a group of us went and learned the basics of peer counseling, and of course a lot of that was role playing. (22:23)

MZ: And then we had space provided by the counseling center on campus that we would ... We had posted hours. Those of us who'd been through the training would go and keep office hours in there. It was a nice quiet time. You could sit there and study. I don't think that I ever saw anybody. I don't think anybody ever came and talked to me. No. Nobody did, but we did have some students come through, and a couple of them actually ended up joining the group.

MZ: Yeah. That was ... It was kind of ... Looking back, I'm kind of impressed with the counseling department, that they had seen this need and had made that happen. Now, I will say in retrospect, to get to the counseling center, you did have to walk past the student bookstore, which was a pretty public area. So anybody who saw you going in there knew there was only one place you were going if you were going to the counseling center. So, it was not the most discreet place on campus. It could have been located a little bit, but yeah. (23:41)

MZ: One of the other ways we talked about engagement is we were always looking for opportunities to promote the organization, and so there was this Best Darn Organization on Campus contest that was started by the Burger King. The Burger King franchise, or at least one of the Burger King franchises in Greenville at the time. And the manager had decided to host this contest, The Best Darn Organization on Campus. We were going ... I think you and I talked about this earlier. It was a color TV, but we were going for the cash prize equivalent of the color TV, but the idea was any time someone ordered a Whopper, paid for a Whopper at the Burger King, they got the opportunity to vote for one of the participating organizations, and the ECGC was one of them.

MZ: And we were encouraging all of our members and all of our supporters and all of our friends to go to the Burger King and vote so that we could win. And we were winning. We were out ahead, but we got word back that the manager was worried that the ECGC would win, and so she had gone to a local fraternity and encouraged them to come and get their family members and get their ... everybody to buy Whoppers and vote for the fraternity so that they would pass us, and they did. They were then way out ahead of us. (25:27)

MZ: So it happened that the last day of that contest, Bill Brock, the owner of the Paddock Club, went out and bought ... I think he bought like 200 dollars' worth of ... either 200 or 200 dollars' worth of burgers to push us over and be the winners. And then he re-sold the burgers at the Paddock Club. So, yeah. So I still remember ordering a couple of one dollar Whoppers at the Paddock Club.

MZ: But we won Best Darn Organization on Campus, and that was one of our flags to wave that year [laughter] counted that among our accomplishments.

ZD: Oh, goodness. So tell me how ... We'll back up just a little bit. Tell me about how Edith Webber came into the picture.

MZ: Right. So, Steve Haeberle was our first faculty ... As a student organization, you had to have a faculty advisor. That was part of how you were an official organization. If you didn't have a faculty advisor, you were not an official student organization. So, Steve Haeberle was our original faculty advisor. He was gay, but he was also ... He was ... What's the word? Is it adjunct professor or temporary? I mean, he was there on a limited contract, and so he was only there a year. When he left, we were really struggling because we couldn't find anybody else who would step forward. And one of our members, Sam ... Sam's last name has gone out of my head, but when it comes back to me I'll shout it out. But Sam knew Edith Webber, and he said she's just this forward-thinking, just great ... I can't even remember what she was a professor in. (27:31)

ZD: I think it was English.

MZ: Yes, yes. And so he said, "and she doesn't care." So anyway, he approached her, and she agreed. She said, "Absolutely." She came to a couple of meetings, and she was just delightful. I still remember that year we gave her, for Christmas ... Sam had found a lovely album back then. Music was not on MP3s. They were on these black discs called records. We had found ... Sam had found a lovely version of Pachelbel's Canon and other chamber music that I still remember, that was ... We pitched in to get that for her for Christmas.

MZ: Yeah, so she was our faculty advisor for a couple years. Yeah, it was ... Yeah, it was out through connections. I mean, it's just like who knew ... Who could go and strong-arm someone? But it didn't take much strong-arming. She was like ... Five minutes in the room with her, and she was just this warm person and you could tell was just like an old hippie at heart.

ZD: Well how was ECGC, if there was any, engaging off campus? (29:04)

MZ: Yeah. So, I've mentioned the Paddock Club. I mean, one of the things that is fascinating to me about Greenville is that when you think about ... I mean, Greenville was basically a tobacco town and was kind of hard to get to and relatively rural, but it did have this, what had been a teachers' college that was now an official university. But it had this gay bar, the Paddock Club, which was ... There had been a couple of bars that had come and gone in New Bern and a couple that had come and gone in Wilmington, but by and large, I mean, there was nothing east of Raleigh.

MZ: So, the fact that Bill Brock had founded this little gay bar in Greenville, North Carolina of all places, and it was pretty well known. I mean, he ... People came from all over. People drove for miles and miles and miles to get there because there was nothing else.

MZ: But that was certainly one of the ... That was one of the locales where we would socialize when we weren't ... those of us who were members of the ECGC. I mean, it was another place for us. We would often go there on a ... I mean, that was obviously a big hangout on Saturday night. There was also a house that was behind the Paddock Club that a lot of the guys who either worked at or performed drag at the Paddock Club were all roommates. And they called it Brock Manor. And so there were often parties there. (30:55)

MZ: I still remember ... I mean, that crowd was a little bit wilder. Most of us were ... They were having a big party there, and I remember one party there that Chad and I had invited Sister Happy and Sister Jane to come with us. And we walked in, and I still remember Greg, this tall lanky drag queen, and his back was to us as we walked in the door. And as he turned around, he had this huge bong in his hands, he was taking a huge hit off of, and he makes eye contact with Sister Happy and Sister Jane. And he just, in one movement, gets that bong behind his back to hide it from them and then try not to exhale all this smoke that's in his lungs. Says, "Well, hello, Sister Happy and Sister Jane"

MZ: They were not fooled. They knew what he was up to. Yeah, the ... Let's see. So, I also ... There was a group of us drama majors who had ... either art and drama majors who had rented a house together, and we would often throw parties there. And a lot of the members of ECGC would come there and hang out as well. Other than that, I tell you what, between the bar and school ... Yeah, I was just trying to think. Did we do much of anything else? I can't really say. I mean, there were ... Occasionally we'd put a little picnic together or something. I mean, Greenville does have a couple of lovely little parks, but by and large, we were pretty campus bound. (33:06)

ZD: What kind of conflict, if any, did ECGC experience on campus?

MZ: Yeah. So, it's one of those things that there's always the ... When you've got a fairly rural ... Well, I would say this is probably true of the times, but it was a pretty rural mindset, and so on the one hand, if you stayed kind of quiet and out of sight, out of mind, there wasn't a whole lot. We knew that ... Those of us who were coming out knew that we were poking a sleeping tiger in some ways, and so we definitely saw a rise in animosity, animus towards some of our members as we started getting well known. I mean, I think it's obvious from the newspaper clippings at the time that any time we were in the news, there was almost always ... Even if it was just a little blurb about either we were denied funds or ... If we were denied funds, then there was just all this anger that we had even asked, and there was a lot of backlash about that. If we were approved funds, then there was a lot of anger and backlash about that. (34:35)

MZ: I will say that overall, as negative as it was, there was quite often a big counter than outpouring of people coming forth, and even if they weren't gay or lesbian or bisexual or trans, I mean, there was always a group of people who stepped forward and would write letters and would speak out and say, "You're backwards thinking. This is the way of the world." And that, too ... I think that probably kept us sane, was the fact that it wasn't just all negative. I mean, as much negativity as we got, there was always a lot of support as well. I know there were ... As the awareness came up, I don't know of ... I don't really recall of any physical violence that actually happened, but I do know that a lot of our members dealt with a lot of taunting and a lot of harassment. I certainly took my share of hate mail and hate phone calls, some death threats in the middle of the night. I .(36:01)

MZ: I do recall one incident where one of our members was walking across campus, and someone yelled "faggot" at him. And he had had enough. Now he looked kind of slight, but he was actually a soccer player. So he was pretty athletic. And he said, "What did you call me?" And the guy repeated it, and he went after him and beat him up. And then as he's leaving, the guy crying on the ground, he says "Now go tell your daddy you got beat up by a faggot!" So we howled about that story. Yeah, so I will say, I think that there was the outward stuff, the hate letters, the hate mail, the phone calls. But I think some of us, and I definitely experienced a certain chilling effect among some people and some groups. I knew, in some situations, that there were people who were turning a cold shoulder in all likelihood because they were gay themselves and did not want to be associated, and did not want to be perceived as being queer. There were times that were definitely pretty lonely. I often have said that if you think that going into gay activism is a good way to get laid, you're absolutely wrong. It is not. And I definitely found that it could feel a little lonely at times. I wouldn't change it. I think it was important to do, but it was definitely ... There were some definite lonely, lonely stretches where it just felt like ... In my low moments, I could definitely say that I felt like there were times when I was going, "Why the hell am I doing this? Nobody even really cares." But that was pretty self-pitying. (39:10)

MZ: I'd have to say though, when I think about it, as stressful as the backlash was and as stressful as the harassment from the fraternities and the ... It always felt like the balance was always more tipped to the positive. There were always more people coming from the other side who were in support and positive. And that's really always ... I shouldn't say always, but it definitely has been a beacon in my life, always trying to look for the positive. Yeah.

ZD: So did you all experience any kind of conflict with SGA, student government association?

MZ: Yeah, well ... Yes. Obviously there were ... The couple of times we asked for money ... We felt it was important ... Often a lot of what we were doing ... So for instance, as I've mentioned, Sister Happy and Sister Jane were offering the Newman Center to us. So there was no expenditure there. Most of what we were doing didn't cost anything, we knew how to do things on the cheap. But we always felt it was important as a student organization to do what every other student organization did and ask for some funds, because it was just important to be validated as an organization. (41:12)

MZ: And we knew we were stepping into some political fray when we did that. I think the first time we asked for money, I think the first round we only asked for 50 bucks, or maybe it was $150. But it was a relatively small amount. And we were voted down almost immediately. Cameron and I, another student and I, both ran for student government and got on student government. Part of our strategy ... We did it because we felt it would be important to represent the student body as well. But, we also did it in part, our agenda was if we were on the student government, we could maybe impact the funding. At least we'd have more of a voice.

MZ: And I recall one of the meetings where the debate just ... I think you mentioned it was 45 minutes, that was what was reported. It was brutal at times, just the nasty stuff that came up in that. We were turned down several times. We also knew through the grapevine that the vice president of the SGA was behind the scenes stirring the pot against us, was extremely vitriolic and homophobic. We also knew through the grapevine that a not completely out professor at ECU took him aside at one point and said, "There are people in your life who are gay who are not approving of the way you are behaving, including your advisor." (43:19)

MZ: So yeah, it was ... Now I mean in most of the 70s, like '79 and '80, it was extremely contentious with student government. We did finally get some funding. And then it was just the student body backlash. Now, when we kind of reformed ECGC in the ... Because it went through a little hibernation period in the early 80s and then kind of came back in '81, '82 ... It was not as bad. We seemed to then be able to get ... Maybe we were asking for less money, maybe the way we were couching it for very specific things, like for pamphlets and stuff like that, it ended up it was not nearly so contentious the second time around.

MZ: But, one thing I will say, and this is one of those things ... Those early days when they kept voting us down, one night after Chad Hughes and I had been out at The Paddock Club with our friend Terry we were sitting in the Sambo's, which was a 24 hour diner-like restaurant that a lot of people went to, and Bill Brock, who was the owner of The Paddock Club stopped by the table and asked Chad if he was the student who had started this student organization. And Chad said yes, and Bill put $200 on the table and said, "I know you've been turned down for funds. Put this toward your organization." (45:24)

MZ: So yeah, that was one of those ... Bill Brock, in addition to buying the hamburgers for us, he was quite supportive of the organization behind the scenes. I don't think a lot of people really know how generous he was. Many years later when a lot of guys who had been employees or customers of The Paddock Club had been kicked out by their families when they showed up with HIV. Bill basically paid their expenses. He put them up in an apartment and paid their medical bills when everybody else had isolated them. So yeah, that was ... I definitely think that he deserves quite a lot of credit for at least helping us limp along that first couple of years.

ZD: So what happened to ECGC after you graduated?

MZ: So I didn't actually graduate. I had dropped out of college ... Well actually my grades were terrible, so I took a year off and then I came back and was in school for another year. And it still was just not happening for me, so I left again. But it was after I left ... It continued for about, I think it was through about 1983 or 1984. But not with the same level of controversy I don't think that we'd had in those early years. And I think it was a little bit quieter than it was the last couple of years. (47:20)

MZ: I think part of what happened ... A couple of things. I think it was always hard to find leadership. Chad had been extremely motivated to form the organization, to bring a bunch of us together to form it. And when he graduated and I stepped up and ran, and I put "ran" in quotes because essentially I ran against nobody else, but ran for president ... We basically put a slate of people together, "Mark will be president, Cameron will be secretary," and nobody opposed it. So we just approved it, and our bylaws allowed for that.

MZ: But essentially Chad had been the first president. It wasn't a cult of personality, but he was definitely a strong leader. And then I stepped in there too. I was willing to be out, and willing to go to meetings and willing to put my name on things, willing to write letters, willing to be the face. I think the couple of years after that it was harder to find people who were willing to do that, because we'd made ... The gay rights movement nationally had made all of these advances. We'd had some successes in California and some setbacks in Florida, but then it was really ... Things were really starting to turn around. (48:56)

MZ: But then the AIDS epidemic hit, and in the early 80s we started seeing that in the speakers bureau that there was this level of hostility that was coming in in the questions, and sort of a new ... Almost an insidious kind of, in the questions there was almost an accusation that, "Well see, you guys have gotten some rights, and now you've caused this epidemic." Because of course at that time, it wasn't even called AIDS, it was still gay-related cancer. I think it was just starting, right about the time I left Greenville it had finally been labeled "AIDS." But it was still very much, it was considered ... You were either gay or a Haitian if you had it, because at that time they still had the belief that it was a huge number of Haitians, which I suppose at the time they were, but . (50:10)

MZ: Yeah, so I think that had a lot to do with it. I think that the early days of the AIDS epidemic set the gay rights movement back a few years, and I think a lot of people who were coming out took a step back. It became a little bit ... It's hard to organize and push for rights when you think your time might be limited. I think that a lot of us at the time were really starting to ask ... Looking at some of the photos of some of the members of the ECGC, and about half of them are gone from HIV. So I think that is part of what happened. And of course, the 80s was kind of a "Me" generation, so maybe people weren't stepping up and organizing as much, I don't know. But there was some great music.

ZD: Is there anything I haven't asked you that you would like to share?

MZ: No, I don't think so. Although I will say, getting ready to do this interview with you I'd gone through some news clippings, and I've been going through some photos and thinking ... I look at some of the animus and some of the harassment and some of the vitriol in some of those letters, and I think, "God, that was ... No wonder it was a stressful time." On the other hand, I really have mostly fond memories of those meetings and those people. Sister Helen and Sister Jane are both gone now, but they were such lovely people. And they really changed my view of the Catholic Church, and what true outreach in ministry can mean. (52:38)

MZ: So I just have really, really great memories about that. I think there is a bond and a closeness you have with people when you're struggling through something together. And that I wouldn't trade for anything. So yeah, I really am ... I'm very appreciative of your project, because it's given me an opportunity to at least in my memory revisit those people. And I think I am going to follow up with several of them.

ZD: Good, I'm glad to hear that.

MZ: So thank you.

ZD: Well thank you so very much for agreeing to this interview, and ... Thank you.

MZ: You're welcome. (53:22)

Mark Zumbach oral history
In this oral history Mark Zumbach discusses his involvement in the creation of the East Carolina Gay Community student organization at East Carolina University and the work of that organization. Interviewer: Zachary Dale. Interview took place in Cary, North Carolina.
July 14, 2018
Original Format
oral histories
Local Identifier
Location of Original
University Archives
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