Robert Castillo & John Pennycuff


1) Birthdates:

Robert: 1967
John: 1964

2) Birthplace:

Chicago, Illinois (both)

3) Date you first mark as getting together as partners:

March 19, 1991 as a couple
October 1, 2003 as domestic partners
February 5, 2004 as husbands. :- )

4) City/state where you live currently:

Live together in Chicago, Illinois

5) Education:

Both have some college but did not graduate

6) Careers:

Robert: Customer service
John: Event coordinator

7) Did you serve in the U.S. military?

No (both)

8) How do you describe your sexuality and your gender?

Queer male (both)

9) Do you have children and/or grandchildren?

No (both)

10) If you are GLBT, please describe when you first “knew”:

Robert: Attracted to boys in grammar school.

John: Discovered attraction to boys while in high school.

11) Who did you first “come out” to and when?

Robert: I came out to my softball/football friends at Congress Pizzeria in late ‘80s, and all were pretty cool except my best friend, George, who did a little soul searching but eventually did stand by me.

John: I came out to Robert in 1991 and my friends shortly after. Most were supportive, but I lost one friend, Ron, whom I had known since I was five years old. Guess he couldn't handle my being gay.

12) What troubles did you face as a GLBT person?

Robert: I worried about losing friends and I did get fired for being "too gay" at a previous messenger company. Our home has also been targeted for hate mail and we have had numerous rainbow flags either stolen or destroyed, and have been verbally and physically threatened on occasion.

John: I worried about losing close family members and having access to a family members; have had anti-gay graffiti at my work place; and have been verbally assaulted, threatened, etc.

13) If you are not GLBT, describe how you came to be an ally:

If we weren't queer, we would probably have been allies anyway. :- )

14) Did you have mentors in the Chicago GLBT community?

Robert: My friend Steve helped me to "come out" and introduced me to the Bistro Too nightclub.

John: Robert was my mentor (aaawww!!).

15) Involvement in organizations (GLBT and/or mainstream):

Ambiente Pa’lante (founder)
Association of Latino Men for Action/ALMA (board member)
Chicago Organizing Committee for National Latino/a Lesbian and Gay Organization/LLEGO Conference (volunteer)

Grace United Methodist Church of Logan Square (lay leader)

Logan’s Queer News (co-founders)
Queer Nation (volunteers)
AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power/ACT UP Chicago (volunteers)
City of Chicago Advisory Council on LGBT Issues (volunteers)
Neighbors for Rey Colon (volunteers)
Unity Park Advisory Council (volunteers)
Emergency Clinic Defense Coalition (volunteers)
Logan Square Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Neighbors (volunteers)
Equal Marriage NOW! (volunteers)
NEIU GLBA (volunteers)
Coalition Against Bashing (volunteers)
Donors to many organizations and campaigns

16) When you were coming out, what were your favorite Chicago GLBT bars?

Both: Bistro Too (late ‘80s-early ‘90s), Paris Dance (early ‘90s)

17) What were the key issues faced in the GLBT community when you first came out?

Both: HIV/AIDS, anti-gay violence, discrimination.

18) What issues do you see as key in the GLBT community today?

Both: Couples rights, Don't Ask/Don't Tell, and acceptance of LGBTs of color in their respective communities.

19) How have AIDS and/or other health issues impacted your life personally?

Robert: Danny Sotomayor was my inspiration for becoming an activist, and I have lost a few friends and loved ones to the disease and other health-related issues. I believed in the early years that we could stop AIDS from taking a huge toll and was reason became active in ACT UP.

John: I lost two of my closest friends to health-related issues: Gerardo Montemayor and Ken Pederson.

20) How would you describe the “diversity” within the Chicago GLBT community?

Both: This community has a long way to go before it is truly diverse. It is still pretty segregated based on gender, income, and race.

21) If you consider yourself a “political” activist, how do you define this?

Both: We have volunteered in political campaigns and have lobbied legislators for various issues – AIDS, gender identity, equal rights, etc. And we also take to the street to protest if we have to.

22) Describe what you feel your personal legacy is to the Chicago GLBT community.

Robert: My goal has been to make this world a better place for LGBTs than when I entered it, and I'm most proud of my work to help pass the gender identity amendment. I think I have kept my integrity intact in the work I have done.

John: I did what I could with what I had.

Both: Getting married was a high point of our lives!!

23) This project is also about “defining moments.” Please discuss some of those in your life.

Robert: Getting married in San Francisco; coming out to my father and mother; passing the gender identity amendment; losing a good friend to a drunk driver; losing my father; losing friends Gerardo and Ken.

John: Getting married; protesting with Queer Nation; taking Robert to my family reunion; coming out to my family; long-term relationship.

24) Additional comments and memories.

Both: Gerardo Montemayor was a hell of an activist and we miss him!!!!!!!!!!! Kudos to Lisa Pickens and Neena Hemmady and WAC (Women’s Action Coalition) for all their hard work over the years.

Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City's Gay Community, the book is edited by Tracy Baim and features the contributions of more than 20 prominent historians and journalists. It is published by Surrey Books, an Agate imprint, and is hard cover, 224 pages, 4-color, with nearly 400 photos.
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