Who is David Dibble?
David Dibble, 38, was born in Cheyenne and has lived there most of his life. He trained as a paralegal and is currently employed as a case manager for homeless families. He describes himself as an outsider particularly in terms of his politics (left of center) and his sexuality (he is gay); being “out in high school in the 1990s” he “went through a lot of hell.” He remains in Cheyenne, in part, for his family, particularly his 98-year-old grandmother.
Excerpt from interview with David Dibble by Whitney Dow, 2018
Q: What do you think in your identity—what has impacted your experience in the world the most? Your gender, your race, your—whatever it is? What are those things about you that has really impacted your experience and your trajectory through life?
A: [11:06] Well, I think that race and ethnicity probably don’t necessarily figure into that as much as they do for a lot of other people. And I think that the very simple reason for that is because it’s very difficult to come to terms with being a gay man in place as small and as conservative as Cheyenne, Wyoming. And that was something that certainly for a number of years really defined my experience going through life. After I finally fully came to terms with that fact and accepted it, and I realized that it was just there, no different from any other part of me, it’s just sort of receded into the backdrop. And it’s there.
But I went through a lot of hell. Through a lot of hell. Particularly being out in high school in the 1990s. And when you are that different, and you’re one of three in your high school, particularly when you’ve never been part of the in crowd, suddenly you are almost the enemy. And so that particular experience I think has—or at least informed a significant part of my life, much more so than did racial or ethnic identity or religious affiliation or anything like that.
A: [13:26] I think that being gay, I would have to say, much more than being white. Because having spent the bulk of my life around here, and the fact that white people are such an overwhelmingly overrepresented part of the population in this particular area. That’s not really something that creates any sort of differences between people. Perhaps ethnicity does. A Scotsman versus a German versus a Czech versus a Greek. But I think that, at least in those formative years, those late teens and perhaps somewhat into my early twenties, it was much more—I am very different. I might have certain commonalities with everybody else around here in the sense that, yes, I might share a skin color. I might, to a greater or lesser degree share a political identity, which I really never did. I might have been a Republican for a hot five minutes. But that came and went very quickly.
I just don’t see that whiteness ever dictated my sense of self as much as sexuality did, just because sexuality was such a different characteristic from what other people were going through, what other people were experiencing at the time.
Q: Do you feel connected to that Wyoming culture? Do you feel—because you’ve lived—you grew up here. You grew up in a small town, a very typical Wyoming small town. You’re in Cheyenne. How connected do you feel to the culture of Wyoming?
A: [16:39] I don’t. I don’t feel connected to what you would identify as the local Wyoming culture, really, at all. I don’t listen to country music. I don’t dress like a cowboy. I want nothing to do with Frontier Days when it comes around for those ten days out of the year. My politics are generally pretty left of center, not right wing Republican. I am not a gun fetishist. I don’t really have any identification with the local culture of Wyoming other than the fact that I was born here and that this is where my family is. I would probably feel much the same if my family were still in Kansas or if my family were in any other state in the country.
Q: And so what keeps—what makes you—do you feel part of the community? You’ve talked about these things that make you feel very different from the community. Being gay, not identifying with the cowboy culture, not agreeing with some pretty conservative political climate, feeling aligned with the politics. Do you feel part of this community?
A: [19:55] I only feel part of this community in a very basic sense. And that sense is that I live here, and I happen to inhabit the same space. I feel like my mentality and my worldview are so completely different from the majority of people around here that I tend to probably gravitate more towards people who have a similar worldview to mine. But as far as a part of a larger community, I really don’t. I really don’t.
Q: And so what holds you here? What anchors your life here?
A: [20:44] I am very much here—and if she knew that I were about to say this on camera, she would probably slap me senseless. But my grandmother is 98 years old. And she and I have always been very close. And I do not feel until she is gone like I can leave here. I feel a sense of responsibility, because she was such a huge part of my life and such a defining influence on my life growing up from the time that I was a very small child, that in the remaining time that she has left, I don’t feel like I can just sort of abandon her, be like, okay, well, I’m off to greener pastures.
Q: That’s a really beautiful sentiment.