Skip to content
Who's in the Video
John Cameron Mitchell directed, starred in and co-wrote, with Stephen Trask, the musical film Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001), for which he received the Best Director Award at the[…]

Awkward fumblings, outrageous coincidences, and finding a place in the world as a gay man.

Question: Who was the first person you came out to, and how rndid that experience shape you?

John Cameron Mitchell:  I think I told a woman that was rnon top of me.... There was a guy, the first guy that Irn had sex with was at a, on a speech tournament trip, you know, I was in rnAlbuquerque and the trip was through Roswell and we sort of, unspoken, rnyou know, got the same bed in the motel and kind of fooled around, but rnthere were people in the other bed so we had to be very quiet and I rndidn’t really like him that much, he was kind of, you know, silly, but Irn sort of had to get this over with.

And years later I went back rnto my college, or my high school, my drama teacher, I thanked her for rnthat, you know, helping me get through that, she was sort of embarrassedrn and I said, “This guy, Danny, was, I remember, and a few sort of rnfumbling attempts,” and then at the school, she wanted me talk about rn"Hedwig," which was very strange because it was a very conservative rnCatholic school and she could’ve got in trouble and she wanted me to rntalk about being gay and Matthew Shepherd and, you know, it was in rnEnglish class, all the kids were silent and terrified and then the bell rnrang, they all left, and a couple people stayed—you know, like the punk rnrocker and the little homo and the little musical theater girl, and my, rnyou know, my people.  And some more kids stayed and we talked about thisrn and that, it was very exciting.  And I was remembering what it was likern at that age, you know, to hear somebody different, you know, at rnthat—talk with authority or some, some empathy.

And then there rnwas a teacher in the back of the room, sort of sitting back there rnlooking kind of like a narc, you know, and he came down, I was like, rn“Oh, my drama teacher is going to get fired because this is a Catholic rnschool and priests are in charge and some of them are molesting people.”rn It was just like this nightmare of Catholic rigidity and misogyny.  He rncame forward, and he was kind of a well-built, big guy and I said, rnreached out my hand and said, “I’m John Mitchell,” and he said, “Don’t rnyou recognize me?  I’m Danny.”  It was the guy from the Roswell motel rnroom.  And he said, “I’m a student teacher here now.”  And I looked at rnmy drama teacher and she’s like, didn’t know what was going on.  And he rngot all nervous and then I said, “Walk me to my car,” and then I said, rn“We should have dinner,” and he’s like, “I can’t, I can’t, you know?”  rnAnd I was like, “Oh, God, get me out of here.”  And we, I said, “How rnabout lunch?”  And he said, “I could do that.”  You know, and we hung rnout and the next day, and he suddenly was really cool, he was, he had, rnhe was gay and he had gone to San Francisco for many years and got rnmarried to a guy and wanted to come back and teach at his old school, rnthis conservative school, because that’s where he thought he was needed,rn you know?  You know, he might very well get fired from that Catholic rnschool, but he was, left that up to them.  And I was, like, looking at rnhim and thinking about my drama teacher and it was like, these are rnpeople who are really doing the good work, you know? They’re not rnpreaching to the converted, they’re in a place where they’re needed rnrather than just shoring up with like-minded people and hiding off in rnyour Web site or your town that’s safely liberal or this, or safely rnconservative, or whatever it is, they’re actually interacting and it wasrn very moving, you know?  And I realized how much importance that can rnhave for those kids that come in contact with those cool people.

Recorded on May 3, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen