Teresa Davis, who has been a Charlotte, N.C. resident for over 15 years, has led an exciting and fulfilling life.
Davis served as the president of the Charlotte Business Guild (the predecessor of the Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce), as well as having served on the board of the Charlotte LGBT Community Center for over five years. She, alongside her life partner of 20 years, Victoria Eves, has been a longtime pillar of the Charlotte LGBTQ community.
It’s been a little while since qnotes had a chance to sit down and chat with Davis, so, qnotes wanted to catch up with what she was doing now. With National Coming Out Day around the corner, qnotes thought it would be interesting to get some insight from an individual who has had some experience being both in and out of the closet.
Along with a few more interesting tidbits about herself, Davis discussed how she has dealt with life (before and after she came out).
When did you first realize that you were attracted to women?
I was about three- or four-years-old. My brother was 10 years older, so I knew I was attracted to his girlfriends and actually thought I could be a better date to them, LOL. But, I also knew through instinct that I would get in trouble if I even remotely expressed any overtly gay feelings or emotions or actions.
What did you do after law school?
In 1992, I graduated from law school and joined the Air Force. “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” was in place, so had anyone found out I was gay, I would have probably been fired.
During our chat, you mentioned having dated guys for many years.
When did that stop? In 1995, the Air Force sent me to Okinawa, Japan. It was then when I decided that it was time to stop dating guys and pretending that I was straight.
What prompted your coming out?
In 1997, I won a huge case, and as a reward, I started dating women. While serving in Okinawa, we had a group of gays and lesbians in the military, and we all hung out together, secretly. My girlfriend, who was very high in command at one of the Okinawa bases, was one of the unofficial leaders of our little underground group. I remember being terrified that we would get caught.
After leaving Okinawa, where did you go?
In 1999, the Air Force made me leave Japan, so I selected Washington, D.C. so I could engage in LGBTQ activities without worrying so much about getting caught. That year, I met my current spouse — Victoria Eves — and we immediately began dating.
How were things professionally regarding your being out?
I joined the U.S. Department of Justice under Janet Reno; [Bill] Clinton was the president, so government agencies were encouraged to be inclusive. LGBTQ discrimination was prohibited, so I was out at work. But, I was still in the Air Force Reserves, and I was not out when I would put on my uniform and report for reserve duty.
Compared to before you came out as a lesbian, how has your life changed?
What’s changed? Everything has certainly changed for the better. I immediately became more successful at work — winning cases. That’s what happens when you aren’t living a lie. Granted, I was not “out” to the Air Force, but I was no longer dating guys and leading them on just to protect my “cover.” What’s stayed the same? My goals and ambitions, a thirst for fun and laughter, and my insistence that I try my best at everything I attempt (I certainly tried hard to be straight.)
Regarding your life (before coming out) — if you could’ve been out without fear of repercussions or implications, how do you think your life would’ve been different?
I would have been more successful and confident, which would have made me even more successful and confident, which would have made me even more successful and confident…
Did you experience any challenges upon coming out?
The sheer terror that I would lose my job and then disgrace my mom and dad.
How did you deal with that?
I prayed a lot — all the time.
What would you tell someone who’s struggling with coming out?
Don’t put your life and/or safety or even career at risk by immediately coming out upon reading this. Waiting a few weeks or months probably won’t hurt. But, sooner than later, you can’t get as far in life if you are living a lie. Of most importance: you can come out in steps. First, you come out to yourself. Then, you come out to close friends, as a way to test the waters. All the while, you seriously evaluate how far you can go in coming out. Also, get involved in volunteering for an LGBTQ organization or event. You don’t have to identify as LGBTQ; straight folks are welcome as long as they are willing to work hard and be dependable. This does not work in two larger cities in which I’ve lived, where you are shunned and treated like an intruder if you ask to volunteer. But in Charlotte, you can volunteer for Pride, the HRC Carolinas Dinner, the possibilities are endless. And by volunteering, you can hang out with LGBTQ people AND make a difference in our community without really outing yourself…unless and until you are ready.
Are there any special activities you and Victoria like to do?
We LOVE trying new restaurants and taking trips abroad. Our favorite activity is visiting North Carolina wineries. Driving to them is an adventure, and the grounds of some close to Charlotte are stunningly beautiful. You can take a picnic and just relax. AND, you don’t have to be a big wine drinker or a wine drinker at all; the experience has nothing to do with the quality of wines; this is, after all, North Carolina and not NAPA. But, the beauty of the settings, so close to Charlotte, and the amount of relaxation which can be achieved makes winery visits on the top of our list for a day trip.
As a same-sex married couple, what challenges have you faced regarding social intolerance or intolerance, in general?
Well, when we were married in 2013, we DID have to get married in Maryland since same-sex marriage was still outlawed in North Carolina. We look, however, at the positives instead of the negatives. Instead of feeling oppressed because North Carolina can be so embarrassingly backward, we were elated that we could get married. We cherished all the marital benefits (i.e., health insurance) which we obtained. My family, on both sides, is from Rutherfordton County, and while one side has always been very welcoming of Victoria, the other side is still, apparently, very uneasy that I’m a lesbian. As to your previous question about the current state of our country, the one fear I have is that, currently, U.S. citizens feel more comfortable openly discriminating against and even hating people who aren’t like them.
Do you see any children in the future?
Five cats are plenty.
Do you foresee moving out of Charlotte or retiring somewhere else?
Never. We live on Lake Norman, and as much as we’ve seriously considered retiring to France, we are much better off here.
What are some of you and Victoria’s favorite vacation spots?
Anywhere in France, preferably away from Paris so we we can road ramble and soak up the countryside.
What’s your current position and how long have you held it?
I am an attorney for a federal government agency. I currently work exclusively in the area of ethics. I advise clients and train them on their ethical obligations in the federal workplace.
What did you do before practicing law?
I was a full-time music teacher at a music school; and freelance professional pianist.
What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?
I love practicing law, but if I had my own practice, I probably wouldn’t make a lot of money.
How would you describe your involvement in the local LGBTQ community?
Since living in Charlotte, Victoria and I have been very active in the LGBTQ community, but only as participants. We were particularly active in the Charlotte Business Guild, which is now the Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
Do you have a favorite sports team you like?
My favorite sports team is the Panthers, win or lose. It’s all about loyalty.
What’s your favorite cuisine?
My favorite cuisine: steak fries. But that could change next week.
Do you prefer eating out or cooking at home?
I prefer eating out because I love ethnic restaurants which are our windows to the world when we don’t have time or resources to travel.