Christine Quinn is the current Speaker of the New York City Council, one of the most powerful positions in city government after the Mayor. Quinn is the first female and first openly gay person to serve as speaker, which is a position that was created in 1990 as result of a revision in the city charter. Quinn was elected to the city council in 1999. After serving on the city council for almost seven years, she was elected city council speaker in January 2006. Quinn entered politics to manage the city council campaign of Thomas Duane in 1991, after which she served as Duane's Chief of Staff for five years. Quinn later became the Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project and was appointed a member of the NYC Police/Community Relations Task Force by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Question: What is your coming out story?
Christine Quinn: Well, my coming out story probably like most people’s is a process, an evolution. It’s not like you wake up one morning and you’re brushing your teeth and all of a sudden there’s this, "aha" moment and you figure everything out. And when you kind have done it, come out to speak and you look back and you see different moments in your childhood and your life differently.
You know, some people talk about knowing when they were six or seven or eight that they were LGBT. It wasn’t exactly like that though. Like I said, when I look back now, I can see things in a different perspective and can see how and why different things happened or felt a certain way. You know, it was an issue that kind of rattled around in the back of my mind, so to speak, a lot in high school and I think I did a pretty good job of just pushing it out. And I remember in college a day sitting in my dorm room, and, for a host of different reasons that I won’t go into all the details on, I kind of fully admitted to myself for the first time feeling I had had for this other female student. And I remember saying out loud: "This is not going to happen to you. You have enough challenges, enough problems like everybody else. This is not happening."
And I, for the next five years, four or five years, made it not happen. And was very conscious and focused and deliberate on it not happening. And then, you know, in this school of thought that there are no coincidences, started doing political work in my 20s in New York City, housing organizing, and I met Tom Duane who had run a couple of years before as an openly gay man, for the council. And we were doing tenant organizing together and he asked me to run his campaign. And he was running to be the first openly gay and openly HIV positive member of the City Council and it was, you know, in the course of running his campaign that it became impossible to keep up that denial, and that deliberate pushing down of who I was. And in the course of his campaign, you know, came out to him... it was a funny story, we were on the subway going to go back to something I had said before, to a meeting of the Rent Guidelines Board and I said, "I need to meet with you later, I need to talk to you, Tom." And he said, "Oh god! You're not quitting!" And I said, "No." And he said, "Oh, what? Are you a lesbian? Okay, yeah, fine, let’s keep going to the meeting." And was very kind of like, you know, nonchalant about it.
And then it continued after you know that over the course of probably the next year or so telling different people who were important in my life.
Recorded on October 28, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont
Directed & Produced by Jonathan Fowler