OUTStanding Virginians: Guy Kinman
Photo: One of the billboards in Kinman’s campaign
This is the second in our series of interviews profiling Equality Virginia’s 2013 OUTStanding Virginians. The nominees will be recognized at EV’s 2013 Commonwealth Dinner on April 6th. You can find more information about the event here.
Guy Kinman has lived a long and fulfilling life. His efforts advancing LGBT rights has been monumental and will forever leave a mark in not only Richmond, but Virginia as well. Kinman has recently been nominated for Equality Virginia’s OUTstanding Virginian award, and unsurprisingly to everyone who knows Guy, he wouldn’t take full credit of this award. He has credited his inspirations to such individuals as Sam Garrison of Roanoke, who master planned a similar billboard project which inspired Guy to do the same.
The well-spoken 95-year old former Air Force champlain, after a lifetime of self-discovery, found his calling when he finally accepted he was gay after a ten year marriage. He spearheaded a billboard campaign in the 80’s. This campaign brought an innate confidence and hard-earned fearlessness, along with a “we are all equal” nature to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement.
Kinman’s Military photo
In December of 1985, Kinman, after he was elected president of the Richmond-Virginia Gay Alliance, led a campaign in which billboards were placed across Richmond with subtle, provocative messages, in hopes to spread gay awareness to the community. Given the era, this tremendous operation bordered on extraordinary. Kinman’s life-spanning commitments to his vision of equality is staggering, being a wise elder to the movement he began in his sixties, Kinman is a self-described “inveterate suggester,” admitting he can “drive people wild because I’m always phoning and tactfully making suggestions.” The impact of his suggestions are still being felt today.
1 – How did you react when you found out you were nominated?
I was very gratified…After ten years of trying to be straight when I was married to a wonderful woman, when I had a chance to help work with my brothers and sisters…it seemed like my life had made sense. In other words putting up those billboards was a time where my life came together so honoring that time, not me, but that time is very important to me. I feel that it is wrong though to think that one person was all that important…Day after day, while we were working on the billboard project, I was inspired by how excited the men and women I knew were that we would at last have a chance to say, Hey wake up, we are human beings. It was terribly inspiring to me…When I went to bars at that time, I never got so many hugs and kisses in my life…We could at last stand up for ourselves.
2 – Are Equality events like this important in VA?
I think it’s important in Virginia. But, and this is not a thought unique with me, this has been thought up by James Parish and others…I think there are other types of events that we need to have. I’m not smart enough to think of these right now but I do think there should be five or six special days during the year…The answer is this is not the only day. For instance, there is a day where we should celebrate the straight people that have inspired us. Now there we got it for a whole day straight people who have inspired us. Equality Virginia said that this was the first time we had honored our straight allies, but we do know that always, Equality Virginia and the rest of us have, in our minds, know who they are and invite them to the dinner… may I list a couple of other things…One, I think there’s a place for a series of meetings, perhaps at the gay community center, for gays and lesbians to tell their stories, I’ve had my chance, let’s hear other people. There is also a time when we should salute straight people for their changes.
3 – Is there one particular action or step you made that you think made the largest impact for the community?
No, I can’t think of one. I think in the end we’ve all inspired each other. I am deeply honored to be with the other people who are being honored…I know I am going to be fascinated with their stories. Several of them I don’t know and I am delighted with those people and our own publishing entity that’s being honored, I’m just honored to be a part of this. No, I don’t think there was any one thing because I wasn’t the only person…There is a time to praise people but there’s a time to say thanks with a broader brush of the paintbrush…Yes, there were people who inspired me…who were in the project…Yes, there were people who inspired me who were not in the project.
4 – What do you hope will happen in VA within the next 10 years for the LGBT community?
I hope that lesbians and gays will gain more confidence in being their own spokesman. And in realizing that these people whom we assume are heterosexual pull on their socks just as we do, one sock at a time. When gays concentrate too much on appearing at the legislature hundreds of us..we are also as if we are hat and hand…my desire is we realize our confidence and we become more sophisticated…I hope this next year we will meet our legislators before the General Assembly…that you will suggest that they go two by two and invite the legislature to bring somebody and make it [the] four of you…I hope we talk with these people we’ve thought of as enemies and make them friends.
5 – And advice for young or up and coming members of the community that want to make waves
Don’t hold on to any old stereotype as to what older people are like…You will discover that these older gays have had an effect and people are more willing to change. I live in a retirement community, and after Christmas several of my friends said ‘wow, we had quite a Christmas. My granddaughter came home and she brought a girlfriend, and you know what? They are getting married and boy is her girlfriend a unique person.’…We have discovered that we are human beings and that we weren’t some caricature after all…I am motivated by being nominated to rethink what this has all been about. And for that I am eternally grateful. Our future is in knowing that we’re searching with maturity to follow our emotions and our minds to find the right person…to be content.
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