Partial Transcript: Megan Lee Myklegard: Hello this is Megan Myklegard we are at the University of
California at Berkeley I'm here with Crysta Highfield. Would you like to
introduce yourself with the date of birth and place of birth?
Crysta Highfield: Okay. My date of birth is the 19th of October, 1984 and I was
born in Dallas, Texas.
Keywords: born; parents
Partial Transcript: So anyway, it went kind of unquestioned and unchallenged in my family
that this was a completely fine way to be. It wasn't until I got to high
school that I realized it could actually be a problem. Like I did the mental
disconnect that people claim when they use gay as an insult. They're like "No
I'm not actually saying he's gay I'm just saying he's gay."
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: Was there any other person besides the boyfriend you dated in high
school who talked to you about bisexuality or anything related to the LGBT community?
HIGHFIELD: Yeah, I actually I had a friend later in high school who came out as
bi and was dating a girl but she actually was dating a guy at the same time so
it kind of did reinforce what that first boyfriend had told me.
Keywords: bisexual; boyfriend
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: [laughs] Did you have any religious influence in your childhood?
HIGHFIELD: Not much. My family doesn't engage in any religion in any strong way,
and my mother had a very intentional idea about exposing us to all kinds of
different religions so that as adults we could choose.
Keywords: adults; choice; religion
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: So when you got into college, did you seek out a LGBTQ+ community or
did it seek you out?
HIGHFIELD: I've always somehow just found myself in one. I don't know if that's
an unconscious seeking on my part, or an unconscious, or conscious recognition on
Keywords: ally; college; LGBTA
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: [laughs] So what was the moment that you labeled yourself as bisexual?
HIGHFIELD: It was probably the end of my sophomore year or maybe my junior year
because I felt so damn awkward that I was going to the LGBTA meetings and I had
been calling myself straight so people labeled me an ally and I understood that
an ally was not LGBT and I was like "But, but, but."
Keywords: bisexual; label; straight
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: What sort of things did you talk about in these LGBT meetings that
you went to?
HIGHFIELD: What did we talk about? A lot of it was just social, it was just a
time and place to meet with friends and chat with people and you'd talk about
your dating life or not.
Keywords: events; LGBT; LGBTA; meetings
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: Do you notice a difference in terms of the LGBT community in Virginia
Tech versus the one that you find here?
HIGHFIELD: Yeah definitely. Um, I felt it at least— for one thing, maybe its
just a natural kind of um distilling process again— I always find myself in a
very LGBT+ friends group.
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: Were there any specific professors or faculty at Tech who you felt
that you could talk to about LGBT, or were there any that, any professors or
faculty, that you knew were LGBT at the time who were like influencers to you?
HIGHFIELD: I knew that Karen DePauw was there. She didn't feel like someone I
could directly talk to because she seemed too high up.
Keywords: communicate; connect
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: You mentioned before that you like to keep your professional and
personal lives separate, but in your experience in the professional world has
anything about your identity ever come up?
HIGHFIELD: Well, I ended up in this program— I joined a very small program, and
there was only one person in the program who was openly gay and I don't know if
this was just silliness on my part, but I was very afraid— he was a bit younger
than I was— and I was a bit afraid that coming into a small program and him being
the only person who was openly gay would put pressure on him or exclude him in
Keywords: inclusive; job
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: Has there ever been a time where you felt like because you're queer
you struggle with what sort of identity you're supposed to have in terms of like
HIGHFIELD: Uh, a little bit but mostly it's in the opposite direction of what I
think people tend to.
Keywords: beauty; identity; look
TRANSCRIPT: CRYSTA HIGHFIELD
Date of Interview: June 23rd, 2015 Interviewer: Megan Lee Myklegard Place ofInterview: University of California, Berkeley Length: 1:23:59 Transcribers: Megan Lee Myklegard
Megan Lee Myklegard: Hello this is Megan Myklegard we are at the University ofCalifornia at Berkeley I'm here with Crysta Highfield. Would you like to introduce yourself with the date of birth and place of birth?
Crysta Highfield: Okay. My date of birth is the 19th of October, 1984 and I wasborn in Dallas, Texas.
MYKLEGARD: Wonderful. Okay, would you like to tell us from the beginning of yourlife, how were your raised, what kind of environment you lived in, and just talk a little bit about your family and your home?
HIGHFIELD: Sure. So my parents moved to Texas a bit before I was born, fromFlorida and before that both of them had lived different places. It was a pretty conservative area but my parents were both very liberal which was quite nice for me. I guess actually I'd like to ask like should I be trying to stick to a 1:00topic, or just ranging wherever I want because life history will take forever if I tell everything that I could ever tell. [laughs]
MYKLEGARD: [laughs] Usually people go with experiences related to LGBT, but ifyou have any information that you think is important that you want to be in Newman library forever, feel free to say it.
MYKLEGARD: Because I've got all the time in the world, so it's really up to you.
HIGHFIELD: Okay. Well I have, I think, plenty of fun stuff that's on topicenough anyway. I think my mom probably knew I was queer before I did. I was so unthinkingly bi that I, from an extremely early age, just assumed everyone else was too, and that straight and gay were just kind of the choice you made eventually based on who you wanted to be with. And my mother picked up on that I think, and did nothing to disabuse me of it. So that was always kind of 2:00unstated. It was never once challenged in my home the idea that anyone could love anyone and that that was always okay and that anything that said that wasn't okay was strange. Like so the couple of times that I ran directly up against it like once my brother and I had a terrible sibling rivalry just like all the time, and I was more social than he was. So I would hear him insulted by other kids. And one that I picked up and brought home was that my brother was gay. I heard that as an insult I knew that he was upset at being called gay— I didn't really know why it was an insult because in my family the only times those words came up were not in insulting ways at all— but one time I came home, I was having a fight with my brother and I just wanted to be really mean. And so I— instead of insulting him I turned to my mom and said "Well you know," my god I 3:00must have been like six, I was like "Well you know he's probably gay anyway." And my brother, I don't even remember how he reacted except that like for me it was a frozen moment, I was just like "What did I just do? Like he is so angry." And my mom just completely calmly without missing a beat said "Well Crysta, if that's true what would be wrong with that?" I was just completely stopped in my tracks. Just like, "Wow what would be wrong with that? Hey why are those kids using that as an insult? That doesn't make any sense." And it was just a funny little— I immediately just stopped. And she didn't make a big deal out about it she didn't get mad at me she didn't scold me didn't punish me she was like, "Crysta, examine your six year old beliefs." And it was great. So anyway, it went kind of unquestioned and unchallenged in my family that this was a completely fine way to be. It wasn't until I got to high school that I realized it could actually be a problem. Like I did the mental disconnect that people claim when they use gay as an insult. They're like "No I'm not actually saying he's gay I'm just saying he's gay." You know like, whatever the heck that means. It didn't cross people that were actually 4:00like judging people and being mean based on that, I didn't think about it. And then I started dating someone. I started dating a guy and didn't think to hide the fact that I like girls, didn't even occur to me. And he was who kind of taught me homophobia in a way. [laughs] So he was very harsh and said that bisexuals just want it both ways. Or it's just a stop on the train to gaytown or he said I was just trying to date two people at once and that must be what I was after. And I was very confused, none of those things sounded like me to me. So I decided I must not be bi because I wasn't just trying to have it both ways, and 5:00didn't feel like I was on the train to gaytown, I was pretty sure I liked guys. And I wasn't trying to date multiple people at once I was pretty happy that I had one person to date. So I [thought] "Oh, I guess this is that point where you choose are you straight or are you gay? I guess I'll choose straight I'm dating a guy anyway so sure I guess this is— I always knew people called themselves straight or gay and this must be it. You meet a person and then you pick which one you wanna stick with." So I did [laughs]. I started calling myself straight, I had never thought to call myself straight before. I had never thought to call myself bi before either. So I started calling myself straight which was another funny home experience, because I for some reason in some conversation was talking to my mother — "Oh well, but I mean I'm straight so I guess I just don't know, I don't understand or I don't know if I should be talking about that." And she's like "Really?" and I was like "Huh?" and she's like "You're straight?" [laughs]
HIGHFIELD: And I [said] "Yeah" and she was like "Oh, oh okay. Sure, okay." AndI went on about my life and considered myself straight for quite awhile which is funny because if anybody asked me, and some people did, if I only liked guys I 6:00would say "No. No. I like guys and girls." And they're like "But you're straight?" "Yeah, yeah, I'm straight I just like guys and girls" and "Neh." So I was spreading all kinds of weird impressions at that point just completely oblivious to the fact that I was using terms completely different from anyone else. Yeah, and I realized later, during this period— I didn't realize it at the time— but during this period I was having lots of conversations with members of my extended family where for some reason— completely thought it was just really nice of them— for some reason they kept telling me how completely okay with gay 7:00people they were. They didn't have a problem with it. My grandpa, bless him, sat me down to tell me that he really had no problems with homosexuals. He just didn't get the gay pride parade thing. He didn't understand why men in underwear had to be hugging each other in public, but other than that he was completely fine. And I was like "Wow that's great grandpa! That's really nice!" I had a lot of conversations like that and didn't pick up on the fact that they were trying to tell me [laughs] that I didn't have to call myself straight. So that actually— that phase where I was calling myself straight lasted through my freshman year in college. Where I just happened to be dating guys, it was so much easier in high school to date guys. The girls I liked were mostly straight 8:00so it didn't seem to make sense to go barking up those trees anyway and I had this bizarre feeling that you know, you just make your choice and everyone was bi, at some level in my mind still, and so you just had to make a choice at some point and I had made it so it was fine. I got to college and I had friends who were involved in the LGBTA, I was straight but they invited me along I thought that was cool. And I became active with the LGBTA my sophomore year because I— a friend of mine invited me to help him advertise an event. And so I went out on campus with the fliers you know the ones that everyone tries to avoid and you're trying to hand them out and so there I was smiling handing out fliers for the Big Gay Luau and a few people would crumple them up and throw them back in my face or say ugly things. Most people were fine most people just avoided the fliers like everyone avoids all fliers, or took them and were like "Huh," or took 9:00them and walked off maybe to come back to the event. Some people took them and dropped them right on the ground as soon as they had read them, but a wide variety of responses. Um but the ones that threw them back at me made me realize that I didn't want to just kind of float on the through college and not be involved. That if there was that strong of a backlash for me just advertising an event they could come to or not, that I wanted to be involved in the LGBT at Virginia Tech. So I guess I kind of just kept talking well past the family history part.
MYKLEGARD: Oh no no, that's fine that's fine. I do have a couple questions fromwhat you've already said.
MYKLEGARD: So you mentioned that your mom picked up on it, was there a certainpoint that you noticed that she had picked up on it?
HIGHFIELD: No, it wasn't until college when I was reflecting back and thinkingabout all those conversations where everyone told me that they were completely fine with homosexuals and I was like, wait those conversations came out really out of the blue like where did they come from and why did people just 10:00spontaneously decide to have this conversation with me? And I started tracing back further and further and realizing that my mom probably wouldn't have felt prompted to so openly support LGBT issues if she hadn't felt like she was communicating to me. And continuing to be retrospective back, I realized how obvious some crushes I had had were, that I was too young to really perceive as crushes and it wasn't until I was an adult and having crushes and actually behaving not too dissimilarly from when I was four or five, eight, nine years old. Following people around like puppies, and what not, that I realized I had some really big crushes on girls that I had considered my friends, but that I had really just like completely turned into a puddle of worship around those 11:00particular girls. And any parent who ever thinks that their kid has like a flirty crush on somebody would have picked up on the fact that I was totally flirty crushing on both my girl friends and my guy friends. So [sighs].
MYKLEGARD: Was there any other person besides the boyfriend you dated in highschool who talked to you about bisexuality or anything related to the LGBT community?
HIGHFIELD: Yeah, I actually I had a friend later in high school who came out asbi and was dating a girl but she actually was dating a guy at the same time so it kind of did reinforce what that first boyfriend had told me. And then there 12:00were— there were people who were kind of flirting with the idea of bisexuality. Most of them I've lost touch with so I don't know if it was kind of the "Oh you're going through a phase," type thing that everyone said it was, or if they were actually bisexual. But in high school, again, I was calling myself straight but in my group of friends people were pretty open and friendly. We had a few, for whatever reason the girls would be kind of flirty, bisexual phasey, whatever people would call it back then. And some of us were actual bisexuals and some of us may not have been, but again I lost track of a lot of people. Guys wouldn't, so they were either "I am straight." Or they were— well, it wasn't until very late in high school that anyone came straight out and said they were gay, but there were some friends we knew were gay and we knew were dating each other 13:00that we tried to be supportive of without just saying like "Listen, we know you're dating, stop just pretending you happen to meet each other on the sidewalk as you walked up to this party. Like, come on it's fine." I had two friends that when they finally— it was funny because they had been dating for awhile we all knew they were dating we were all fine with the fact that they were dating but they wouldn't tell us so we didn't want to be pushy and then we're at a bowling alley party— geekiest party in the world it was great— they're sitting next to each other and they were like rubbing knees under the table and everyone's like "Okay, oh brother. Why do we have to keep pretending you're not dating?" and then at the party, during the party they're like "We have something 14:00to tell you. We're gay." And we burst out laughing like "Ah finally. Thank god! Congratulations!" These poor guys they're minds were like boggled cause they had been so afraid to tell us all, afraid of the response, and we were all just like "Thank goodness we don't have to pretend that you might actually ask Kelsey out to the prom or something. Like for goodness sakes. [sighs]" But yeah, it was a fun kind of insulated group of friends. But it is a little sad to look back and see that even though our group of friends that was and would have been very supportive, that kind of perceived pressure to not come out. And then there were doofs like me who didn't even quite understand any of it. [laughs]
HIGHFIELD: The process it was just always floating through not realizing thatnot everyone was bisexual. [laughs]
MYKLEGARD: [laughs] Did you ever feel, when you were dating like your boyfriendin early high school, did you ever feel sad that he was saying these things or were you truly oblivious?
HIGHFIELD: Um, I felt like it was a little sad. Mostly I was oblivious because Iuh— I was more annoyed than sad because I knew that you could like both girls and guys without being the really negative things he said. It was really frustrating to me to not— like we couldn't talk about it because whenever I brought it up it was like "That just doesn't make sense. That's not true." He would just, just dismiss it completely and just be ugly about it and so it was just— I was more frustrated. Just frustrated and annoyed, but I think that's why I associated it with the label instead of the actual, with actual bisexuality 15:00because I knew it wasn't true of people who liked guys and girls maybe it was true of bisexuals I don't know. [laughs] So I completely separated the label from what I knew to be true which was that it was absolutely fine to like guys and girls. But that didn't mean I was just trying to go out and be a sex maniac, have a guy, have a boyfriend and a girlfriend and cheat on both of them with more guys and more girls and then eventually get out of my phase or whatever one said or the other. I forget there were just so many different little things that were attached to the label bisexual and I don't remember them all but, it was a really long time before I realized that it was just straight up wrong. I knew it wasn't true about people, but I just kinda took that like the term bisexuality must mean all of those things. So I wasn't bisexual I was just a person who liked girls and guys. [laughs]
MYKLEGARD: You mentioned that there were a few straight girls that you liked inhigh school, were you only deterred by the fact that they were straight or do you think that maybe it was these outside pressures telling you about bisexuality and what it really isn't, that kept you from pursuing anything?
HIGHFIELD: I think that more kept me from pursuing calling myself bisexual.Which if I had been in high school saying I'm bisexual, I would have had more opportunities in a way open but I think the reason I didn't pursue was because since those, since I wasn't saying "Hi I'm bisexual." People weren't coming to 16:00me and saying "Oh hey I'm also bisexual." or "Hey I'm a lesbian." And the deterrence was more laziness. I was not a person that liked rejection and most of the guys I knew I could pursue and at least have some level of interest reflected back at me. And it didn't seem worth the effort in a way really— I just wanted to date. I liked both guys and girls so I didn't feel a strong pressure to date one or the other, and it was girls were kind of in the same category as just guys who were out of my league. Like it doesn't make sense to go flirting with them if the most likely response is going to be them pushing you away and maybe making fun of you with their friends. So I didn't go after the football players and I didn't go after the girls. I just went [laughs], I went for the people who seemed more likely to be more interested in me who were the kind of geeky guys in my group of friends. It didn't seem strange to me I didn't— there were a couple of girls that I kind of kept an eye on in the 17:00hopes of maybe if they show any interest in me I can show interest in them, but I just wasn't brave enough and bold enough and willing enough to face potential rejection. I wasn't really afraid of persecution or discrimination it was just the very straightforward, it would really suck to ask someone out and them just flat out say no. [laughs]
MYKLEGARD: [laughs] Did you have any religious influence in your childhood?
HIGHFIELD: Not much. My family doesn't engage in any religion in any strong way,and my mother had a very intentional idea about exposing us to all kinds of different religions so that as adults we could choose. And it ended up just 18:00being we weren't exposed to any religions. My mother was tricked into letting me to go to a bible camp one summer, and it didn't have any direct correlation to this because I was too young for anyone I think to warn me about the sins of homosexuality or anything, but I went to this summer camp for about a week or two and came home and they had a felt board where they tell you these stories about the devil and these terrible felt cutout devil would chase around all kinds of people, it terrified me. And so I came home after a particularly scary felt board storytelling and fell down on my knees and begged my mom to accept Jesus so that she could go to heaven for me, heaven with me. And that was the very last time I went to a church before I think I was in college or whatever like I never went to a church after that cause my mom was like, "Nope. That's not gonna happen in my family." So, yeah. There wasn't much religious 19:00pressure. In my extended family, so we lived in Texas until I was ten and then we moved to Virginia and more of my extended family lives in Virginia. And some of them are quite religious. So when I was in college and I was interacting with them more, because they lived so much closer, there were a few experiences where I had conversations with my cousins where they would be espousing very conservative Christian beliefs and they were getting very big into the love the sinner, hate the sin type situation. And I said I didn't think that homosexuality or bisexuality was a sin in one particular conversation I had with my cousin, and after that I wasn't allowed to talk to my cousin for quite a long time. But that was after I had already kind of formed my own beliefs and identity strongly enough that my only reaction to that was how deeply unfortunate it was that I now couldn't talk to my cousin. And how I had been 20:00quite close to her and it was very sad for me to, to not be able to continue that through. She was in high school at that point so I kind of lost those years. And once she went to college we could talk again. [laughs] But yeah it was quite sad. It didn't kind of affect me, it didn't hurt me, it didn't make me feel uh, I don't know it made me feel sad but it didn't make me feel like it was aimed at me. Somehow it just, it was just an unfortunate circumstance and I felt very bad that my cousin was being taken down that road.
MYKLEGARD: Did you expect something like that to happen when you were speakingto these religious family members?
HIGHFIELD: I was worried about it, like I said so many people in my family hadtold me they were fine with homosexuality that I was pretty sure that everyone knew I wasn't actually straight before I realized that I wasn't actually straight. Because that's not what people meant when they said straight they didn't mean you were bisexual happening to be dating a guy. In my extended family on that side of the family controversial things once you realize 21:00that not everyone's in agreement just kinda don't get talked about. So the people who would be supportive had already kinda declared themselves even though I hadn't recognized it at the time, and so I knew that this other branch of the family wasn't really going to be okay with it. But I felt like they already knew because apparently everybody knew and so it just became one of those topics that got dropped and was never talked about. So when it came up and my cousin brought it up, I wouldn't' have brought it up, I knew it was on dangerous ground. So I didn't try to tell her that she shouldn't believe something I just, I stuck very tightly to, "I don't believe it's a sin and it's not mentioned in the gospels." I 22:00accidentally overstepped because I wasn't that familiar with the Bible cause I wasn't raised in a Christian family, so I said it wasn't in the New Testament and so my cousin went back to her mom and said "Crysta said that homosexuality's not in the Mew Testament is that true?" That's what ended up sparking the whole thing because I had accidentally overstepped and didn't really know about the letters of Paul or whatever. And I had accidentally, again accidentally, kind of attacked a part of their faith. Yeah so, it wasn't surprising— I guess it wasn't surprising to me that that resulted in a certain breech, but it was I thought a 23:00bit over much to not be allowed to talk to my cousin.
MYKLEGARD: So when you got into college, did you seek out a LGBTQ+ community ordid it seek you out?
HIGHFIELD: I've always somehow just found myself in one. I don't know if that'san unconscious seeking on my part, or an unconscious, or conscious recognition on other's parts. But I just immediately, in the set I was in, started gravitating towards the other LGBT+ people that I happened to run into. So that was my freshmen year, my sophomore year I became active in the LGBTA and that kind of became big core friends group, but yeah I also got lucky that, I've just been so lucky in so man ways like it's absolutely bizarre sometimes for me to talk about 24:00how I went through life in so many ways unscathed. [laughs] But one of my lucky strokes was I was an— in the Virginia Tech honors dorm and it tended to attract people from a wider geographic area and I think a wider scope of beliefs so it ended up being a very liberal enclave within the Virginia Tech campus which of course Virginia Tech was kind of a liberal enclave in the Montgomery county campus and Montgomery kinda end up becoming a liberal enclave in Virginia. So I found such a wealth of people who were friendly that it never felt like I was actively seeking people out it just kinda naturally fell into place.
MYKLEGARD: So did these people, they were just friends and they were like "Hey,come to this meeting with me?"
HIGHFIELD: Yeah, so it was a particular friend my sophomore year. A new person25:00moved into the dorm and he was two doors down from me and he knew my roommate. So they were acquaintances from high school. So that gave me a little bit of ammunition to gently tease him which started a friendship.I wasn't teasing him based on any particular characteristic just I had an inside source of knowledge that he didn't know about so I'd get to tease him about high school stuff when I didn't go to his high school and he was like "What?" and he was already active with the LGBTA. So once we became friends he was just like "Hey, I'm doing this thing with the LGBTA do you wanna do it too?" and I was like "Yeah sure why not?" Yeah that was about it. That was him being like "Hey I'm advertising the Big Gay Luau, would you like to advertise the Big Gay Luau with me?" I was like "Sure, why not?" Again just 26:00completely blindly not even thinking about the fact that I was in southwest Virginia and maybe, holding signs and giving out fliers for something called a Big Gay Luau wouldn't be the most friendly, wouldn't be as accepted as handing out a flier for whatever other event. Didn't occur to me, until people were throwing them back in my face. And I was like "Huh. Turns out there's discrimination in the world." [laughs]
MYKLEGARD: [laughs] So what was the moment that you labeled yourself as bisexual?
HIGHFIELD: It was probably the end of my sophomore year or maybe my junior yearbecause I felt so damn awkward that I was going to the LGBTA meetings and I had been calling myself straight so people labeled me an ally and I understood that an ally was not LGBT and I was like "But, but, but." So I felt really awkward about being labeled ally, I felt like I was lying for the first time. I never 27:00thought I was lying when I said I was straight, I just, I wasn't trying to actually choose the label straight I was just trying to not choose the label bi. But when I was being called an ally and introduced as an ally and when people were saying "This is Crysta, she's like the best ally!" I was starting to feel super dishonest. And so eventually I had to start being like "I'm not really, I like guys and girls, you know, I like guys and girls right?" Everyone's like "Huh? You said you were straight?" and I was like "Yeah, but I like guys and girls." And they're like "Well that's not straight" and I was like "What?" [laughs] So then it was, it became a slightly awkward thing because I had been a member of the LGBTA for like a year, I had been going to events, I had been going to protests at Liberty University and I had been 28:00kinda letting people call me an ally I had called myself straight without, without really thinking that I was lying. But also without ever thinking that I didn't like girls. And so sometime, sometime near the end of sophomore year or maybe the beginning of my junior year that I was like "I have got to clear this up." And if that means me accepting a label that I don't like, then that's just what it is. But I have to, I have to have people understand that I'm not straight the way they're using the word straight and it turns out I don't get to just make up my own definition of straight, so. I was actually super pleased when it became more popular to just call yourself queer, because even— and maybe its because I never quite got over my bad associations with bisexual, but I just liked that I didn't have to tie anything super tight into a set identity in calling myself queer. So that's what I really call myself. I 29:00just don't always do it in,—I call myself bi in settings where I want to simplify for people but in the LGBT community and my group of friends I more consider myself queer and call myself queer. But yeah, so. And I started I don't know, actively saying "Hey this is— we're gonna have to stop considering me an ally and straight people. Like we need to stop that." Yeah.
MYKLEGARD: Did you tell your mom or your dad or anyone in your familyimmediately when you sort of had this realization like "Oh, I'm not straight." Did you immediately go to them?
HIGHFIELD: I don't know that I immediately went to them, I had a conversation30:00with my mom not too long after because as soon as I realized that I had been causing so much confusion [laughs] in my refusal to use words the same way everyone else was using words I thought back to that conversation where I had told my mom I was straight and she had been confused. And I think she and I had even had conversations before and then after about girls that I liked. So I knew that she knew that I didn't mean straight the way that everyone else meant straight, but I realized that—and I think that that was actually another thing she never pushed back about whatever terminology I chose to use. And maybe that was actually a source of confusion for me because if my mom knew that I liked girls, but thought it made perfect sense to call myself straight then, yeah. So I did have a conversation with her and she thought the whole thing was 31:00quite funny and then we just went on as normal. There was a time I brought a girl home and wasn't really advertising like "Hey, this is my girlfriend." Because she and I were in a kind of, I don't know tenuous place I guess, but my mom was like "Hey I like your new girlfriend." And I was like "Thanks mom, like I like her too. She's really nice." My dad, bless him is oblivious to everything. I'm sure that I've talked to him a few times about being bi and it just zips right out of his head as soon as I'm with a guy. So I'm married to a man now and I think my dad would be a little bit surprised, but not displeased, just kinda like "Oh, huh." If I brought up again, "No, still bi." Turns out that doesn't actually change much. So yeah, he's a funny guy. He's super friendly and open minded, but it just doesn't even make a dent in his mind it just floats right back off again.
MYKLEGARD: What sort of things did you talk about in these LGBT meetings thatyou went to?
HIGHFIELD: What did we talk about? A lot of it was just social, it was just atime and place to meet with friends and chat with people and you'd talk about your dating life or not. There was always a fun membership arch where at the beginning of the year there'd be so many more members than at the end of the year and there was the joke that were— well it wasn't really a joke, but the friendly joking jovial observation— that people would come at the beginning to find somebody to date and once they were dating they didn't need the LGBTA meetings anymore. So they'd uh, they'd just stop coming. So there was a huge social aspect to it. And if there were events, and I don't remember many of them specifically, but there would be regular events so we'd talk about the planning 32:00of them and who was going to volunteer and how we were going to advertise. Then if there was a bigger outside thing like when we did a few protests with Equality Ride, that would be the subject of some meetings for awhile; about what was going on and how to volunteer and what the time commitments would be. Yeah so mostly just social and organizing events if there were going to be any events.
MYKLEGARD: What was your favorite, like favorite part of the experience being inthose clubs?
HIGHFIELD: I loved the social aspect I loved having a group of people andespecially once I got over the awkwardness of having accidentally self labeled as an ally, just having a group where when I went in the assumption was close to correct. Like people might think I was a lesbian people might think I was bi people might think that I was a very friendly ally, but like the initial assumption was somewhere close to my actual identity. So there were never any 33:00accidental like "Oh, you assume I only like guys now I have to correct you." Which isn't necessarily the case in the general population, I walk into a crowd in any general population they're going to assume I'm straight and that's okay, it's not a big problem, but then if something comes up and I have to explain it's just kind of like an [scoff] like it's fine I'm going to— I'm not ashamed I'm not afraid, I'm going to correct you or say what I have to say to explain whatever it is we're talking about but, it was so nice to be in a group where that just never happened. Where whatever assumption was made about me was close enough to correct that any— if any correction were ever going to be necessary it would be so gentle like "Oh, actually I'm dating a guy right now." "Oh, oh, oh okay." Like it was just nice, it was very nice.
MYKLEGARD: Did you have like any other negative experiences besides the paperthrowing ordeal?
HIGHFIELD: Oh sure. So when I went with Equality Ride to Annapolis, Maryland afriend of mine and I were walking and there were people yelling out the windows for us to make out and stuff, which was really obnoxious, and at Liberty people actually drove by and yelled "Faggot" at us a couple of times. Lets see, so those kinda stood out to me. Nothing super, super negative. I've never been like physically attacked or even really strongly directly targeted for verbal abuse or anything. But yeah just little instances where I was really strongly 34:00identifying with a group, like Equality Ride we wore matching t-shirts, you knew if we were involved in the group. So when I was taking part in like an actual activity like wearing an identifying t-shirt, like "Hey, I'm with the Equality Ride," or handing out Big Gay Luau fliers it was only in those instances where I ended up getting some backlash thrown at me.
MYKLEGARD: Were there ever any space at Tech that you felt uncomfortable being LGBT?
HIGHFIELD: Hmm, I almost forgot this. This wasn't a specific space, but onething I did a lot with the LGBTA was I put up fliers. Um and there was one place I would put up fliers, I'm forgetting the name of the hall now I remember it was where my materials science professor had his room because he'd said he'd try to keep an eye out for me. But I would put up fliers and they would be teared down 35:00within a day. And I made it my task to go there multiple times a day and try to put those fliers back up because if they were going to yank down my fliers I was going to make them do it a lot. So I never felt completely comfortable in that space because I was kind of waging a silent anonymous war with someone and I had no idea who it was. I didn't know if they were seeing me put up the fliers because I was never seeing them take them down. So I was always a little bit nervous that I was putting myself in a situation— I didn't know how antagonistic they were. I knew they were antagonistic enough to go through as many times as I went through to tear down what I was trying to put up. But I was 36:00always a little bit afraid that they either had or would identify me by watching to see who was putting up the fliers. That was very nervous, but it was actually quite nice to know that one professor who had his office in that building. He wasn't an official SafeZone, but he knew I put up the fliers because I had run into him with them. And I had that momentary fear like "What if my professor's the one who hates them." And he's like "Oh, Crysta what're you doing here? Are you here for office hours?" and I was like "No I'm putting up these fliers." And uh, he was like "Oh, okay!" and he took a flier and I was like "Thank Goodness he's not the one." And I told him how I had been having trouble with the fliers being pulled down and he said he knew there were some people who were quite negative. He never said who, but he said he thought he might have an idea and he said he'd keep an eye out to see who was pulling down the fliers. He never told 37:00me if he did see them or who it was, but it felt good to know there was somebody in that building who at the very least if something happened would have a decent idea of what had happened and why. And I guess, there was no other place that felt particularly bad like space-wise. There'd be like, if you were at an event like sometimes you would get some animosity but it wasn't— like if you did it in this quad versus that quad. It was just when you were with the specifically recruited LGBT circus, and you knew people might you know aim some ugly words in your direction as they cross the Drillfield.
MYKLEGARD: When you were dating girls in college, like say you had a girlfriend,did you feel comfortable walking around the town or the campus? Like holding hands or being affectionate?
HIGHFIELD: I have never been much of one for PDA so I never felt like I hadto alter what I naturally did. But I have never been comfortable like kissing in public or anything anyway so, I would walk holding hands, but I would also walk 38:00holding hands with friends so it never felt any different or any more uncomfortable to me.
MYKLEGARD: Do you notice a difference in terms of the LGBT community in VirginiaTech versus the one that you find here?
HIGHFIELD: Yeah definitely. Um, I felt it at least— for one thing, maybe itsjust a natural kind of um distilling process again— I always find myself in a very LGBT+ friends group. And here I've found myself in one again which I love of course. It's to the extent where I actually have very few straight friends 39:00and I've never quite been able to tell if that's because less people consider themselves straight here or like I said kind of a distilling process. Like the people that I make friends with and stay friends with tend to be LGBT people. So to me it's felt like, I used to feel like I was in part of a fairly small LGBT group in an okay environment and now I just kind of feel like I'm in an LGBT environment. I feel like there's a bit more kind of mixing in a way. Like I go to contra dance here, and contra dance is a kind of folk dance it's a social dance you switch around partners. There's somebody who leads and somebody who follows, and traditionally the man leads and the woman follows, but in the 40:00Berkeley contra dance scene they don't call it the man's role and the woman's role they call it the lark role and the raven role. And everyone's encouraged to take whatever role the want, and it's not an LGBT specific group and that's what makes it feel so special to me like they've made it more gender role friendly and fluid space and there's overlap with a specific group that is the queer contra group. But I just love that those— there's so many kind of queer friendly groups and spaces that aren't specifically queer groups. And in, at Virginia Tech I felt like it was more like you had the queer groups and you had the not queer groups and if you were going to be a queer person in a not queer group that could be very fine on an individual level, but it wasn't like an intentionally friendly space. It was purely dependent on who happened to be there. So I love that here there are groups that are not queer specific, but that go out of their way in a way they buck the tradition of what that group would do to make sure that it stays a queer friendly space. And that feels different, that I love.
MYKLEGARD: Were there any specific professors or faculty at Tech who you feltthat you could talk to about LGBT, or were there any that, any professors or faculty, that you knew were LGBT at the time who were like influencers to you?
HIGHFIELD: I knew that Karen DePauw was there. She didn't feel like someone Icould directly talk to because she seemed too high up. I didn't really know the sexual orientation of my faculty or staff unless they were married. There was 41:00nobody I felt specifically I could or should go talk to. There was the one materials science professor through my own kind of experience of holding up my flier, and him specifically offering to keep an eye on who was pulling them down I felt much more comfortable with him after that. But in general I didn't, didn't talk to professors. But again, a lot of that's more personal characteristic. I think because in the same way I don't really engage in PDA, I just don't mix what I consider personal with what I consider professional. And when I'm a student, the academic realm is my professional realm. So I wouldn't talk to my professors about anyone I was dating. I wouldn't generally talk to them about what I considered my social issues. By which I mean the issues I care about. It didn't matter if that was LGBT rights, or animal rights, or human rights, 42:00or trade policy, it's just I didn't cross those lines. If you were my Intro to Transportation Engineering professor, the only thing I was going to talk to you about was transportation engineering. And I found my kind of social supports and outlets outside of that. So, a local episcopal priest who was out was a friend and support of mine. And then a local lesbian couple that we considered the den mothers of the LGBTA, I would talk to them and gain support from them. And then there was, I think a Unitarian church that started up a specific LGBT bible study that I attended for awhile. So I kinda, I gravitated towards those three as adult influencers and support. But all of them, though they kind of had ties to the university or the university community they weren't in my academic sphere.
MYKLEGARD: What sort of things did you learn about at the bible study? Like whatmade you gravitate towards that?
HIGHFIELD: I was interested, I was curious. Actually I think before I joined thebible study I had taken an Intro to the New Testament class or something, History of the New Testament at Virginia Tech and found it super interesting. And it was very specifically about the historical context and the facts known, and tried very hard to stay away from the beliefs associated with these texts. So that was fascinating, and I kind of wanted to study the religious side of it a little bit and learn more about that cause it was kinda outside of my 43:00experience. But I wouldn't have felt comfortable going to a church because I knew that there was a strong likelihood that a lot of my beliefs would clash and that I'm not, I don't like conflict I don't like to cause conflict, but I'm also not willing to just kinda pretend to agree with something that I don't. So I knew if I went into that context I would be creating conflict, and I didn't want to. So I went because I was very glad for the opportunity to learn and experience kind of a community of faith without having to worry that I'd be a disruptive element, that they wouldn't like that I was there, that if I questioned things I would get pushed back out of it. So it was a group that I knew would be fine with all of my doubts, all of my questions, all of my pushback and would still be interested in letting me participate and be there and get whatever out of it I could.
MYKLEGARD: What sort of things did you get out of it?
HIGHFIELD: Well, it was really interesting [because] it was one [pause]— well first it wasa friendly group, and it taught me that there were friendly groups that were Christian oriented. Which I knew, I had met friendly individual Christians, but because of the Christians in my family were so conservative and again there wasn't open conflict, but it was because we don't open the conflict. Like I was very certain of where their opinions lied on, on LGBT issues. Shit I lost the train of my thought— oh so I learned that there were communities of faith that weren't like that, which I had heard of and I knew in an intellectual sense but I didn't really know in a personal sense. It's very different to be told that some Christian group out there loves everybody, versus kind of going to 44:00bible studies and feeling the friendliness and acceptance and love. So it was very nice to know that if I did move in a religious direction that I didn't have to feel like I just needed to find one that I could wiggle by in, that I could find one that would actually embrace me and that was very positive. We did a little bit more kind of bickering with the things we didn't like about the bible than I would have necessarily intended to have in a bible study, so there wasn't actually a ton of studying the bible. There was a bit of bickering about our least favorite stories in the bible. [laughs] I didn't end up sticking with it long term because it was just kind of a big time commitment and I always over commit academically. Yeah in general I think the biggest thing was just that it was just a positive experience and it gave me an actual touch point for yes these positive experiences can be had if you choose to seek them out.
MYKLEGARD: You mentioned something about den mothers.
MYKLEGARD: How did the group meet them? [laughs]
HIGHFIELD: I don't know, they were there before I was there. I assume they'restill there and still involved in the LGBTA. They live very near campus, they're actually at least tangentially associated with the Unitarian church that came and did the LGBT bible study with us. And I think that they just know that there's a need for adult members of the community to show support and love, because a lot of people come in without it and needed adult guidance that can reaffirm and validate worth and value. So I think they just kinda— I mean this is an assumption cause I don't know at what point they became associated with the campus group, but I kinda feel like they— in my mind in my completely created history they just saw the need and rose up to it. As soon as they were a 45:00part of it, nobody would be willing to let them go like they're just so wonderful.
MYKLEGARD: Do you still keep in touch with anyone from that group?
HIGHFIELD: Some, I'm on the email listservs, I'm in the Facebook group so I hearabout events and if I ended up back in Blacksburg I would want to be able to pop in. But uh, mostly it's through Facebook. I'm still friends with a lot of people who were students at the same time I was students, same time I was a student. And some of them have moved out here to the bay area so I'm actually still very close in contact with in fact the person that I— that first introduced me to the LGBTA. He moved to the bay area and we've stayed close, and stayed friends. Yeah 46:00another friend of mine that I went to the Unity conference with and met through that, lives in South Bay and I still keep in contact with. And when people swing through town, they kind of email around and sometimes would meet up. So that's the kind of contact, very standard 2015 contact of you stay Facebook friends with people and if you end up in the same region of the country you get coffee.
MYKLEGARD: So do you do any sort of activism work now where you're at?
HIGHFIELD: Not right now. Trying to think if I've done any since moving here. Idon't think I have, I'm more involved in work with very low-income communities right now because that's the direction my studies went. Yeah I guess I haven't really been involved in any activism. I send donations every once and awhile and I guess that's been about it.
MYKLEGARD: You mentioned before that you like to keep your professional andpersonal lives separate, but in your experience in the professional world has anything about your identity ever come up?
HIGHFIELD: Well, I ended up in this program— I joined a very small program, andthere was only one person in the program who was openly gay and I don't know if this was just silliness on my part, but I was very afraid— he was a bit younger than I was— and I was a bit afraid that coming into a small program and him being the only person who was openly gay would put pressure on him or exclude him in some way so I made a point to with my fellow students pretty early on be like 47:00hey just so you know I like girls and guys too. Which I've never quite mastered, the coming out seems so unnecessary to me, that I never knew how you were supposed to do it. But yeah, so here I've actually within my newer group of friends I went ahead and made a point with my other students to be like "Hey, I like girls." Just so that, if there was any tension nobody would end up feeling super alone and there would be somebody to talk to. Yeah but with my professors it hasn't come up I don't think I would think to talk about it. I try to not avoid it, but again it's just not something that tends to come up. I think I kind of radiate a certain level of conservativeness and people don't tend to want to break like, somehow they sense that I don't break the boundaries between academic and social and so they don't either. Even in a place like Berkeley where we do end up talking social justice and sustainability and what not in our classes all kinds of, of topics that bridge academic and social interests. But still. I stick to whatever the topic of the class is. 48:00
MYKLEGARD: Has there ever been a time where you felt like because you're queeryou struggle with what sort of identity you're supposed to have in terms of like outward appearance?
HIGHFIELD: Uh, a little bit but mostly it's in the opposite direction of what Ithink people tend to. I get a little frustrated sometimes and I try to push back against how easy it is to assume I'm straight. Like I think I mentioned, I ended up marrying a man and so in so many ways the instant assumption is this is a straight person. And I've had some people in the queer community basically 49:00identify me as straight even though they know I like girls, just because it's like a chosen— I have a joke with a few of my friends that I'm a practicing heterosexual. And so sometimes I rail against how I just come off as straight, just straight up come off as straight. But then I have— so I want to, I think like ah I want to wear rainbows or I want to be edgier or I want to go back to when I had a buzzed hair cut so that there's a quicker assumption that "Hey maybe this person isn't straight." But I try to push back against that internally too because I don't really want my— I don't want to feel like 50:00I have to express my identity through how I look. So yeah I try to kinda keep myself on a middle road. But it frustrates me a little sometimes that I know I come off as straight and since I keep kind of a separate I don't go around handing out cards like "Hi, I'm Crysta I'm queer. Hi, I'm Crysta I'm queer." That people naturally will assume that I'm straight. But yeah, there's also so I think another point of the question is if I tried to, through my appearance push my identity more or this aspect of my identity I do feel like it could be damaging to my employability. Maybe that's a little silly, but I just feel like I would have to go a little bit far, especially being married I'd have to do something maybe not extreme but something pretty like solidly identifying to 51:00have people be like "This married person clearly isn't straight." So yeah I think about that, I think that if I went back to having a buzzed hair cut, if I wore rainbow earrings everyday like I don't know, I would just have to go further to combat how easy it is to assume that I'm straight. And by pushing that far, I could become less employable just because pushing any identity visually is a little bit to me I think distracting in a workplace, or at least can be or can be perceived. That's another— sorry, jumping back a few topics— this is actually something I like about Berkeley though and the whole bay area, I think you can do that more. Like I remember— like I have a pierced nose obviously not 52:00obvious from a voice recorder— when I lived in Virginia I felt like that was something I was definitely going to have to change when I went to get a job. I had studied engineering, some engineering companies have written out policies against facial piercings. So I'm like "Okay this was fun, this was something I did because I knew I was drifting towards a more like easy to assume I'm very conservative, I'm living in Southwest Virginia I'm married to a man like I'm a petite unassuming woman who tends to be kind of quiet a lot of times, it would be so easy to assume things about me" and a nose ring as small as it is was a little symbol of like "No, look twice. Think about it maybe I'm a little bit less conservative." So in Virginia that was like the nose ring was specifically meant to be a push-back against how easy it was to assume a certain identity of me. 53:00Here it's just completely normal. Here having a nose ring means nothing at all. And in a way that's very nice, and I feel like I could push visually at my identity a little more than I do. Anyway, don't know if I'll work in California so I stick to a middle ground.
MYKLEGARD: Is there someone else you're thinking of living and do you ever keepin mind like when you go into a workplace or when you applied to this school, did you keep in mind the sort of LGBT tolerance surrounding the area?
HIGHFIELD: I did. I do in a general sense. I had no worries whatsoever aboutBerkeley, I moved to the Bay area without thinking about the school. I was applying for jobs, I was very happy that I was moving to a place that was in general more liberal. And when I decided to leave Blacksburg, I don't think I 54:00put anywhere on the list that I thought would be too conservative. The most conservative area I considered was San Antonio, Texas. Which I think, is the second least conservative place in Texas that's my perception of it at least. And I, one thing I loved about the Bay area was how just kind of open and friendly and liberal it was. So that, I guess that did play— I didn't really strongly think about it but I think that I wouldn't have moved anywhere that I thought was likely to be more conservative than Virginia. Sorry Mississippi and Alabama but you were right off the list.
HIGHFIELD: Other places that I'm considering now is actually completelydifferent story because my most recent degree was in international development, I'm starting to move away from calling it that now. It's called the Master of Development Practice it's a fairly new program and the way I tend to describe it now because I'm considering both international and domestic jobs is an interdisciplinary degree focusing on social and economic development. But when I 55:00entered it I was very much thinking international development. And that's another reason why I have been seriously considering the buzz again, but haven't done it because if I end up in certain countries, that could be perceived as a very strong statement that I don't necessarily want to make because I will be interested in making sure I'm an effective worker and I won't want perceptions there and cultural stigmatism there to get in the way of my work. So I keep my hair a bit longer right now than I actually want to in case I decide to go abroad and end up in an area. I hadn't really thought about this, I told my stylist last time I saw her that if I get— if I decide I'm staying in Oakland, if I stay here, that the day that I decide to accept that job is the day I'm coming back in to get a pixie cut cause I'm so tired of 56:00having long hair. [laughs] I started growing it out when I moved here because I knew I was aiming in an international, that's funny, it's funny how I don't think about how I make these decisions. But yeah I've been growing out my hair for a few years because if I go international I don't want to be projecting identity in a way that I can't control.
MYKLEGARD: Are there certain countries that you're thinking of going to, andwhich ones are more conservative would you think?
HIGHFIELD: Well honestly most of the countries that I would consider going toI'd worry a bit about them being very conservative. I worked in India over the summer and I loved it and I'd be less worried there. For one thing, I'm in a way so foreign that there's nothing I can do to my appearance that would be much more surprising than just being there. There are completely different cultural 57:00signals sent by cutting your hair. In some areas a woman cutting her hair very short is a sign of mourning or a sign of— I've been told obviously this isn't from personal experience, but a friend of mine told me that it was something you might do if your family was facing trouble as sort of a sacrifice in a way. Like offering, kind of humbling yourself in a way because long hair is the norm and considered such a strong symbol of beauty that if you're willing to cut it all off that's a big sacrifice. So a friend of mine, an American friend of mine who traveled to India who had short hair people assumed that she was in mourning. People had asked her if something bad had happened. So in a way it would just be a completely different signal I'd be sending. Another place I'm interested in working is Brazil. That's in the hopes of going to a place that my husband can also find work because he's a programmer and they have a pretty budding technology industry there. I would expect the place I would be to be less conservative then other countries I'm considering. Very cosmopolitan cities, I'd probably be working right in Rio or Sao Paulo. And I would worry less. I've worked in Peru. That was fairly conservative, people ask me about my hair. Men were very— they really wanted to let me know like they were just being polite 58:00and giving me friendly advice that my husband would find me much more attractive if I grew my hair long and he might leave me if I kept my hair so short. But then I did go to Peru with the buzz cut, so my hair was as short as it could get. But they were concerned, they thought I should really know somehow it had just escaped my notice that men liked woman with long hair so I should really fix that. So, yeah I think if I in a way it's if I go abroad and if my husband goes with me I have a kind of funny shield. I have the equivalent of a beard, the reverse of a beard. Because by having a man with me, I get locked into an identity that I might try to avoid here but I would actually probably just accept the benefits of there. It makes me feel a little bit bad, 59:00in a way I want to be a symbol and an activist wherever I go but if I go abroad for international development I would consider my my activist side to actually be very secondary to the work I'm doing which I do feel bad about but I, it's still completely true it's how I feel about it. I would want to when I can in ways that are kind of low risk support whatever LGBT community I could find in an area, and if I settled in an area long term I would definitely be seeking it out. But my primary goal if I go somewhere to work in international development is the international development work. It's an unfortunate thing that, I at least believe it's true, that if I strongly associate myself as a queer person I could sacrifice my effectiveness as an aid worker or development worker. So, yeah.
MYKLEGARD: What do you think about it would sacrifice the effectiveness of your work?
HIGHFIELD: One thing that's really important to me in development work isworking right with a community. Working really closely with them and trying to form relationships as strongly as you can and I feel like if I strongly identify myself as somebody that they wouldn't want to work with then I would compromise my ability to form those relationships. Its something that I hope that, I don't want to be a kind of be a fly in and fly back out development worker so in my mind maybe it's just justification but the way I'm imagine it working is I get there and I kinda fly under the radar. I'm not and just don't kind of, again separate my work identity from my personal identity and try not to cross those 60:00lines unless I have to to be honest. Because I don't lie, at least I don't intentionally do which always makes me feel really funny again about when I was calling myself straight. I never intentionally lie, if somebody in that context asked me if I was queer I would say yes if somebody asked me my feelings about it I would tell them at least in some form. But letting— I would definitely still let them assume that I was straight. Until I was really comfortable in the community and role and felt like I understood a way I could be more honest about my identity without compromising the work. Because really I think it's possible— its one of the kind of beautiful things about people that we all harbor accidental sometimes intentional biases and assumptions about people, but you meet somebody you really know someone you come to value them, and then if you realize that they hit some categories that you would have assumptions about or biases against then that's a much more I think effective way to challenge those biases. Um, so yeah I'm not a crusading activist but I always hope that through forming relationships with people and being honest that I can slowly, slowly change some opinions.
MYKLEGARD: Okay speaking of relationships, where did you meet your husband and when?
HIGHFIELD: We met at Virginia Tech we actually met very early, we went we lived61:00in the same dorm. So we started dating after my freshman year and yeah. We dated non-exclusively for quite a long time and I started hitting some of the assumptions that my first boyfriend made about bisexuals just because I didn't want to stop dating the person I eventually married I really liked him, but I was not ready to settle down and neither was he. So we both kind of decided that we would date non-exclusively because we both felt like— unrelated really to sexual orientation— we both felt like we should see other people but neither of us were ready to say like "Okay we're going to break up and see other people." So it was a pretty fun time. But again, like I even, with the funny situations where I accidentally unthinkingly used words differently than anyone else who spoke English would use words, I've always considered 62:00honesty extremely important so he and I dated non-exclusively but everyone we saw outside of our relationship knew "I'm dating this other person, but it's non-exclusive." It wasn't a run around behind anyone's back like anything crazy or deceptive or anything like that.
MYKLEGARD: When did you guys eventually start dating just each other? I don'tknow the proper word like, non-exclusively?
HIGHFIELD: We started dating exclusively
HIGHFIELD: Right before we got engaged. [laughs] So we actually started datingnon-exclusively for about five years and then we started talking about getting engaged and decided to date exclusively. I had had a big falling out with another person that I was kind of dating and it kinda burned me a bit, and so he suggested— he was more interested in dating exclusively than I was— so after I got burned by this secondary relationship he suggested maybe we just date exclusively. And I said "Okay that sounds good." Sounded relaxing. And then we got engaged and yeah. So that's it. The end of my wild days.
MYKLEGARD: Did both of you move over here?
HIGHFIELD: Mhm. Yeah
MYKLEGARD: Did he— I'm sorry go on.
HIGHFIELD: Yeah we both did. So I was— we were living in Blacksburg I had gotten amaster's degree in Transportation and we were going to join peace corps, but I really didn't want to live in Blacksburg. I was just done with it I had lived there for eight years at that point, I was tired of it. Beautiful town, love it wonderful things wonderful experiences, but I was done. And there weren't job opportunities for me there. He had a settled job he was a couple years ahead of me and had graduated and not gotten a master's degree, so he had been working in 63:00Blacksburg for awhile. But there weren't opportunities for me. So I was like okay we're going to apply for peace corps, but we're not gonna do it from here, let's move. And so we started a kind of negotiation process of how to pick another place to live. And I was like "Wherever, but a big city." And he was like "Wherever, but not too big of a city." And we settled on the Bay area because there were great job opportunities for him here and it, being the bay area, they're job opportunities of some sort for everyone, so I felt like I could be employed out here easily. And we had friends out here already. He had come here for conferences his office had an office here, so we moved out together and then instead of applying for a job I applied for another graduate degree. [laughs]
MYKLEGARD: Alright I only have a few more questions. Is there anything that youthought I might ask that I didn't already?
HIGHFIELD: Anything I thought you might ask, you know I don't think that Ithought too much about what you would ask. So I guess, maybe I expected a little bit more focus on Virginia Tech and what Virginia Tech did or didn't offer specifically. We did touch on it, but I guess I thought it would be a little more focused on that. And I guess I had, whenever people want to talk about Virginia Tech and usually for me, that has been with other Virginia Tech students or alumni because I'm out here I'm not near it anymore I'm used to the shooting coming up. That's something that everyone who asks me about Virginia Tech asks about. So I guess I kinda thought maybe that would come up even though it's not at all related to the subject at hand.
MYKLEGARD: Is there anything that you would like people going to Virginia Technow, is there any advice you would give them or anything you would like for people amongst the LGBT community to know?
HIGHFIELD: I think they'll probably find out everything they want to knowwithout me, I strongly recommend joining the LGBTA if a person hasn't or thinks they might not want to just because I found it such a friendly community. And even though I haven't been there in years I assume that it still would be. And I— because I tied in with all the funniness around words I always struggle with 64:00group identity. I'm not a big buyer into group identity and that probably kept me a little bit out of the LGBTA for awhile because I didn't want to, to be grouped together with anyone. I didn't, I felt like it was kind of a very good thing for me to let go of that fear of being grouped together with people who maybe the only thing I have in common is we both like girls, that's not actually that big of a thing to have in common. But getting over that fear of being like, having my identity kind of reduced down to a letter in a club name once I got over that and just enjoyed that there was a friendly open happy community, I was very happy about that. So anyone who is similar to me is kind of averse to group identity, I would suggest go ahead and give it a try anyway. Cause if you don't like it you can just leave but if it turns out you would like it and you never went then you're kind of missing out.
MYKLEGARD: Okay one more question, and it's funny what you answered to myquestion about what I didn't ask cause I was gonna ask, is there anything at Virginia Tech that wasn't or anything from your time at Virginia Tech that you would've like to see improved in terms of the LGBT community?
HIGHFIELD: I think anything that could tie more of the Blacksburg community intothe University community. Because it was somehow such a really important thing— even though I wasn't the closest associated with the adult members of the Blacksburg community like just to have them there was so nice that I think it 65:00would be so great to have more of that. I don't know if there was, or maybe is maybe has formed since I've left a Blacksburg community LGBT type group completely separate from the University group, but being able to move out of the University setting and into an actual community setting in the city, that would be great. So I don't know, but everything could have changed since I've been there. I really, it's been so long since I've been there we had just set up the resource center when I graduated. Yeah, I like the resource center I think. I hope that that's still going because it's nice kind of have permanent zone kind 66:00of a permanent presence because the only thing that was a little bit I don't know, not I always worried that because we had our group and it wasn't necessarily bleeding out into other groups that we we did a little too much being openly queer when we were with our friends and then being invisible when we were out in the university community. And I always had a little bit of worry that that let the broader community just pretend we didn't exist or pretend that we were very fringe or maintain beliefs that we were, that like the LGBTA meetings were crazy orgies or something who know what they might have thought because they never saw us and when they did see us it was specifically at LGBT events. And they might not know that we were in their classes with them that we were in their other clubs but just not like wearing our LGBT pride shirts or anything. So I guess that I liked that the LGBT resource center gave a permanent presence although it was up in squires and hardly anyone would ever walk past it. Anything that kind of increases a constant statement of like ,"We're here and we're not ruining anything it turns out. Like turns out we're just nice people like everyone else and you already know us you just don't know you know us" and yeah. Get that relationship forming thing going a bit stronger.
MYKLEGARD: Great. Well is there anything else you'd like to add before I stopthe recording?
HIGHFIELD: No I don't think so.
MYKLEGARD: Okay well I forgot to mention the date when I introduced, but it'sJune the 23rd, 2015 and we started the interview at about 11 o clock. Alright, so that's it.
HIGHFIELD: That's it.
MYKLEGARD: Alright, bye!