Candy Marcum: My Story

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by Candy Marcum

I’d always known I was different. I was the middle child of three girls. When my parents would come home from a trip with gifts, I’d usually receive gifts that were more for a boy than a girl. And I loved that. At Christmas, the same thing would happen. I NEVER wanted a doll. I wanted play guns, holsters, coonskin hats (a la Davey Crockett), footballs, bats, baseballs and fielder’s gloves– all this before the age of 10.

In grade school, I was always chosen first for sports and games played at recess. I was called a “Tom Boy” and was proud of the title.

Then something changed as I matured. I became more girly. I wasn’t as interested in playing sports. I was more interested in clothes, hairstyles and being fashionable. What didn’t change however, was being attracted to other girly girls.

I became romantically involved with a girl in high school. I was 15 years old and a sophomore; she was 18 years old and a senior. We met in our Choir Class. Although we both had boyfriends and dated boys, we were having a secret love affair. No one knew except her and me.

This was extremely stressful for me. We did not run in the same crowd, so we had to not only sneak around our parents but also our friends. No one could know. The year was 1966. This was before the Stonewall Riots. This was before the word “Gay” was in vogue. This was before Homosexuality was dismissed from the DSM (diagnostic statistical manual) as a mental illness. There was no message that loving someone of your same gender was okay. It was quite the opposite. Loving someone of the same gender was sick, immoral and sinful.

With all these stressors against the relationship, it lasted for 15 years. I was 30 years old when we broke up. It was painful, but necessary. The relationship had run its course. The year was 1981.

As I was reeling from this break up, I was also starting my career as a counselor. I met a man named Howie Daire who was starting a Gay Counseling Center, The Oak Lawn Counseling Center, and wanted me to come work there. Howie was open about his sexual orientation and wanted to help other people become comfortable with their orientation. We both had a common (and personal) calling to help other gays and lesbians.

At the time, I was in a Supervision Group with a wise and experienced psychologist, John Gladfelter. John told the group of young counselors that you could not take a client further than you had gone yourself. I give the same advice to the Supervisees I train in my LPC/LMFT Supervsion Group today.

My desire to help other gays and lesbians gave me the motivation to come out. I believed then (as I do now) that Gays and Lesbians deserve to have the best mental health treatment around. In order to help others, I needed to “walk the talk. Coming out is nothing short of an act of courage. I wanted to give the message to Gays and Lesbians (and today Gays, Lesbians, Bi-Sexuals and Transgenders) that they are good, healthy and wonderful people!

This is my life’s work. I have been a Professional Counselor for over 30 years. My practice has always been focused on treating the LGBT Community. It is my honor and pleasure to do so.

Back to 1981 and the starting of the Oak Lawn Counseling Center. In 1982, Howie and I attended a Conference in Houston on Counseling Gays and Lesbians. During that conference, we heard about GRID. Gay-related immune deficiency (GRID) was the name first proposed in 1982 that was subsequently named human immunodeficiency virus or HIVin 1986. When Howie and I returned to Dallas, he used our second phone line as an information line about AIDS.

Along with working at the Oak Lawn Counseling Center, I had also started my Private Practice. In 1983, I asked Howie to come office with me. The Oak Lawn Counseling Center changed its name to Oak Lawn Community Services as the AIDS epidemic was ramping up in Dallas. The needs of these young men were more than counseling. They needed housing and help with managing their disease. Many of these men did not have health insurance. They also were not out to their families. They were too sick to work. They needed help from their families.

I bad many clients who would bring their parents into a session and tell them: “Mom and Dad, I’m gay. And, I’m dying”. It was heart breaking. All the families I saw were supportive and loving to their sons. But, there were also many families who turned their backs on their sons. The Oak Lawn Community Services created services and programs to help these men.

The families I saw in my practice eventually brought their sick sons home to die. If the family lived in Dallas, I would go to their houses or to their hospital rooms and counsel them. Again, let me say how heart breaking all this sickness and dying was. In 1986 Howie died of AIDS. His mother came from Port Author, Texas to Dallas to live and care for Howie. I had two other counselors come and office with me. They both died of AIDS.

My friends were being diagnosed with AIDS and were getting sick and dying. I could see there was more need than there were resources. It was this need that motivated me to join the Dallas Insiders. The Dallas Insiders was a group of people who contributed $100 a month to the national organization, The Human Rights Campaign Fund [HRCF) in Washington, D.C. I believed that there needed to be a National focus on battling this horrible virus. 1 believed that HRCF could provide that focus.

After sewing on the board of The Dallas Insiders for less than a year, I was elected Chair. There were several other large cities in the nation that were also creating groups of donors to HRCF. They were called Federal Club. I asked the board to change the name from The Dallas Insiders to the Dallas/Ft.Worth Federal Club. The Federal Club grew and grew. It became (and still is) one of the largest and most successful Federal Clubs in the Human Rights Campaign’s family of Federal Clubs. HRCF changed it’s name to The Human Rights Campaign about the same time we were changing our name to D/FW Federal Club. A man named Don McCleary mentored me as the chair of our Federal Club. Don was one of the most engaging, charming, smart and dynamic people I had evcr met. He had recently been named as “Managing Partner” of a very large Law Firm in Dallas. His new position in the firm was not met with 100% agreement. There were several partners who left the firm because Don was gay. What they or the other partners didn’t know is that Don was also HIV+.

Don and his partner became best friends with my partner, Carolyn and me. For three years we were inseparable. Don provided the opportunity for me to become a board member of the HRC Board of Governors. Don served on the Board of Directors and became Chair of that Board. The four of us went to all the board meetings together We traveled the country opening new Federal Clubs in other cities. We went to Europe twice. We traveled for fun. And, we sent to San Francisco so Don could see his doctors at San Francisco General Hospital for treatment.

Candy Marcum: frequent contributor to Lambda Weekly radio program

Candy Marcum: frequent contributor to Lambda Weekly radio program

In 1996 Don died of AIDS. That was the same year that the HIV Anti-Viral Cocktail came out that turned the tide in the battle of AIDS. Don did not live long enough to benefit from that miracle drug.

In 1998, I was elected to the HRC Board of Directors. In 1999, I chaired that board for four years. It was a very good experience for me. Being involved with HRC was the highlight of my personal growth. I grew personally, professionally and politically because of my experiences. 1 will be forever grateful for that connection. It brought great meaning to my life.

The congruity of being a lesbian, embracing that identity along with being a professional mental health provider has filled me up. These experiences are what make me who I am today-a person who wants to spread the message that it is okay to be Lesbian, Gay, Bi or Transgender.