Sharing LGBT stories with StoryCorps: He dropped me off in the middle of the night with a $5 bill
As part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the March on Washington on April 25, 1993, the Task Force is joining with StoryCorps to share real-life stories about LGBT people as we approach that anniversary date.
Today we share the story of Bryan Wilmoth who is the oldest of eight siblings. They grew up in a strict, religious household. Over the years, all of the siblings have become estranged from their parents. Bryan, who is gay, was the first to get kicked out. At StoryCorps, he told his younger brother, Michael, what happened.
Bryan Wilmoth (BW): Dad found a love letter from a guy in my box of things. He read this letter and lost it. He took me for a ride and dropped me off in the middle of the night with a $5 bill. That’s sort of all I remember–sleeping outside in the country that night. And I really missed my brothers and sisters when I left home. I remember hearing that if you guys talked to me, if I’d call the house, that you’d get a beating because Dad didn’t want you to “catch gay.” And you guys believed that.
Michael Wilmoth (MW): Granted, it was a fear-based belief.
BW: Of course, but you know it was still something I had to try to fix. And so, as each of you guys moved out or got kicked out of the house…
MW: Or ran away …
BW: Or ran away, in your case. I would make an effort to try to contact you guys and be a big brother again. At first you were really resistant. You didn’t know anything about gay people.
MW: Didn’t want to.
BW: Didn’t want to. And it took a long time for our relationship to build. But, after you started to accept it, every time you met another gay person, you would say [Laughs], “Oh, you’ve got to meet my brother,” and hook me up with every guy that you thought was gay.
BW: I always thought that was really sweet. And that’s when we started coming back together, you know, as brothers and sisters. Bryan, Pam, Chris, Mike, Jude, Amy, Josh, and Luke-Henry. Now, Luke-Henry I didn’t even know because he wasn’t born till I was like 19 or 20. And I hadn’t seen him since…ever. And I got a call and the voice on the other end said, “Bryan? This is your little brother, Luke.” By this time, you know, he was estranged from mom and dad, too. And he wanted to go to the University of Dallas. So I took my savings, which wasn’t a lot, and I bought one, one-way ticket and one round-trip ticket to Dallas. Mind you, this is a Catholic school, and I’m the big, gay brother. I’m running around getting him set up for his dorm room. And we go through this whole weekend, and at the end, I gave Luke a hug and a kiss and told him how much I loved him, and he started walking away. And I was just watching after him, like, Wow, I really finally got to be a big brother. And at that moment, he turned around and mouthed, “I love you.” It was the most beautiful moment I had ever experienced. And I called you from the hotel, sobbing. Do you remember this?
MW: Yeah. You brought eight siblings that were so far apart to be as close as we all became.
BW: I just want you to know how much it means to me that you have loved me like this. And for that I will be forever grateful. It is what I built the foundation of the rest of my life on.
MW: And let me say that forty minutes isn’t enough. I could do this for four hours, four days, four months. You’re a good man.
BW: Well, thank you, Mike.
You can listen to the full audio here.
Since 2003, tens of thousands of everyday people have shared their life experiences in a StoryCorps recording session. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, and millions listen to our weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition and at storycorps.org. Since its start-up, StoryCorps has:
- Recorded more than 45,000 interviews with nearly 90,000 people nationwide.
- Visited all 50 states and hundreds of cities with our traveling MobileBooth, StoryKit Program, and Door-to-Door Service.
- Created the National Day of Listening to encourage people to record and preserve interviews with loved ones during the holiday season using our free Do-It-Yourself Recording Guide at nationaldayoflistening.org.
- Received a Peabody Award, the highest honor in broadcast journalism.