"Our community, our stories" project revealed

"To come from growing up in a period where people sometime treating you as the most disgusting person in the world to where we now can be openly married is just an amazing experience to have."

Posted: Nov 13, 2017 6:44 AM
Updated: Nov 13, 2017 4:29 PM

Rochester, Minn. - Being an openly gay male in Rochester in the 70s was not easy for James Helget.
"When I moved here, I knew maybe about 50 gay men who were open to each other, but they were not out to the community."

"It wasn't a real big issue for me but for some people it was very difficult and they had to be very careful because people were still losing their jobs,” says Helget.

Joyce Gibbs, a retired school teacher, moved to Rochester in 1963 with her two children and husband who was hired at IBM.

Gibss was one of the first African American families in the community that faced racial issues.

"I would have students say I didn't know that they were black teachers.”

Which eventually led her to leave the classroom after 17 years.

"I was challenged directly or when I was attacked one time and I managed the situation the child was removed from the class, but I decided I would not take a job in that class anymore because I didn't want to knowingly antagonize anyone, says Gibbs.

Both Helget and Gibbs say the lack of diversity and many people not having exposure to others from different backgrounds were contributing factors to discrimination.

But say they are both thankful for progress and to be able to tell the stories to the community.

"To come from growing up in a period where people sometime treating you as the most disgusting person in the world to where we now can be openly married is just an amazing experience to have,” says Helget.

"But in Rochester there is a school named George W. Gibbs Jr. Elementary School named after my husband and there's a street called George Gibbs Drive named after my husband,” says Gibbs.

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