Question: What’s a situation in which your ideas about sexual
preference have been challenged or changed?
John Cameron Mitchell: Well, maybe, you know, I grew up
in a military, very conservative Catholic background and certain things
are considered received wisdom and not to be questioned, and of course
that, you know, can be very comforting for some, but it sort of scared
me. And I knew I was different, in terms of my sexuality quite young,
and having sort of an understanding that I probably deal with that
later, at some point, it was an understanding, that I wasn’t really
ready to do that until the end of college... which was, was a strange
time to come out because AIDS had just hit, you know, and it was a
complicated time and life and death was involved.
But also I was
very excited about entering the world as an adult and a sexual being and
someone who could actually be loved or love someone. Because I wasn’t
really into girls, so I didn’t really have that outlet or opportunity to
feel those things. So I was like the first generation of people who
came out, understanding that safe sex was important. And people just a
couple years older than me were dying, so, you know, even a year older,
and it was very strange. And I was an actor and at that time in the
early ‘80’s, you just didn’t really come out, you know, and still it’s
very uncommon for actors to talk about their sexuality lest they be
discriminated against and people think, oh, well, you’re gay so you
can’t play straight, though if you’re straight and you play gay, that’s
generally a requirement for a major award.
So I thought, it was a strange, you know, intensity about it, it seemed
stupid to be scared and in the closest, you know, thinking about being
in the closet when people were dying and Reagan was doing so little and
it was a, again, it was people who weren’t exactly my peers who were
dying. So it was a very strange, but exciting time to be hitting your
adolescence at, you know, at that very serious time.
you, you know, when you’re young, you think you know stuff and you
don’t. And about relationships, certainly there’s a, you know, you can
read about how things are, how things go, and that’s our first way of,
you know, or now in a more, perhaps more visual, cinematic way. You do
your research on what you’re supposed to, you know, what you’re supposed
to learn about love, about life, about everything. And you have these
pre-formed opinions, and especially now, in this information age,
there’s a kind of false, false wisdom or predigested kind of, "Well,
what do you think?" You know, and it’s like your comment on the, you
know, post a comment on... “Will North Korea attack? You vote!” You
know, and it’s like this sort of false, kind of like, knowledge that
people foist on you and you’re supposed to have it, you know, you’re on
Facebook and you’re supposed to know your sexual orientation at 13.
It’s like, I, nobody really knows what’s going on at that time and
people seem to, you know, seem to know stuff or they have to act like
they do, and they make decisions before they really need to and it’s a
strange, a strange thing.
So I did that a bit, too, and then, you
know, the older you get, you realize the less you know and you know
some things. And I guess the key thing is to... don’t make a decision
based on some fear of the unknown. And I make decisions based on fear
of the known all the time, I mean, that’s what the voting booth is
hopefully for. But if it’s something based on fear of the unknown, it’s
probably a bad decision, that’s the only thing I know.
Recorded on May 3, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen