PGN: I understand you were born in a place that’s been in the news a lot lately?
WK: Yes, I was born in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. My father was in the Navy.
PGN: Was your mother in the service?
WK: No, she was a homemaker, but she died in a car accident when I was 6. When I was 8, my father remarried, so my stepmom was the one who mostly raised me.
PGN: Did you travel around a lot?
WK: No, we left Cuba when I was 1 and moved to Virginia. When my mother died, my father left the Navy and we moved to central Pennsylvania. I recently went to Virginia Beach with my boyfriend and we went to the spot where the crash happened. Since I was young, I didn’t really have a perspective of where it occurred. I was surprised to realize that it happened pretty close to where we lived in the enlisted housing. At the time, the enlisted families were housed in trailers. The trailers weren’t there anymore, but the gates to the base were, and it brought back a lot of good memories.
PGN: What were you like as a kid? Athletic?
WK: Not really. I did a little Little League, but I was the skinny kid that never had the growth spurt. Most of the kids in my age group were twice my size. I also suffered from asthma as a kid. When I got to college, I seemed to grow out of it. [Laughs.] I think being away from my family of smokers probably helped. I did do some wrestling as a kid because with that, they matched you by size and weight, not age.
PGN: So you have siblings?
WK: Yes, I have an older sister and two younger brothers.
PGN: Where did you go to school?
WK: I went to high school at Red Lion High and then attended Lebanon Valley College — the same school as our new governor, Tom Corbett, and Philadelphia writer Natalie Hope McDonald.
PGN: And how did you end up in New York as Mr. January in the 2004 Hockey Boys Calendar?
WK: I’d gone up there on bus trips while I was in school and fell in love with the city. I lined up a job, graduated college on a Saturday and started my new job in New York that Monday. I lived there for six years and started playing with the gay and lesbian hockey league. I joined the board and did a photo shoot and interview for the “Jock” issue of Instinct magazine. I was also on the “Puck Buddies” segment featuring the NYCGHA [New York City Gay Hockey Association] on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and did a little modeling, which is how I became Mr. January.
PGN: What possessed you to play ice hockey?
WK: I went to see my cousin play ice hockey and it looked like fun. I saw an ad for a gay hockey association and called them up. I had never played ice hockey before, so I was what they called a tripod.
PGN: Tripod sounds more like a name for Mr. January.
WK: [Laughs.] No! They call skating newbies tripods because you’re always leaning on your stick. But over time I improved and really got into it. I even tried to start a hockey team here, and was able to assemble enough of a team to go to the Gay Games in Chicago — we placed third — but we weren’t able to sustain the team.
PGN: And now you’re the commissioner of the flag football league.
WK: Yes, I’m really proud of the group. We’ve gone from small pick-up games to league play with set teams and referees and rules and bylaws, and we just got designated as a nonprofit with 501(c)3 status.
PGN: It seems like a fun league.
WK: Yeah, we do things a little differently. The teams rotate every spring and fall so that players get a chance to make new friends. Captains also pick their teams in a private draft so there are no flashbacks to third-grade gym class and the dread of being picked last. Everyone is welcome, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or skill level. The team names are based on the captain’s color choices, so that’s how we end up with names like Shady Pines and Oxy Maroon. We also do a jocks’ night for athletes and athletic supporters every third Friday at Tabu.
PGN: Outside of the team, what do you do professionally?
WK: I work in sales for a retail maintenance company, and I just got promoted! I was working in the corporate side of retail as a facility director, taking care of stores nationwide and, when I got laid off, one of the vendors who had worked for me asked me if I’d consider doing sales for him. It turns out that I’m very good at it and really enjoy it.
PGN: What was your worst sports moment?
WK: When I first put together the Philadelphia ice hockey team, we had to play in a mixed league against straight teams and we heard some derogatory comments and received a few uncalled-for hits from some of the teams. After one game, someone left a dildo outside our locker room.
PGN: I saw the “It Gets Better” video the team did and your segment was very moving. I guess coming out was difficult.
WK: Well, I come from a very blue-collar background. I was the first one to graduate from college. When I was in high school, my little brother told my father he’d heard a rumor that I was gay and my father responded that if I was a faggot, he was kicking my ass out as soon as I turned 18. When I did turn 18, I kept it hidden because I was afraid. I didn’t know where I’d go or what I’d do. My sister was accepting and, later on, I did come out to my father. At first it wasn’t accepted, but tolerated, but now he’s come around. There was a thing on Facebook about the recent teen suicides and he posted, “I’m so glad my son was strong enough to withstand the bullying and my ignorance as he was growing up. I’m proud of him and his accomplishments in life and I love him for all that he is.” It took a long time, but it’s allowed us to renew our relationship as father and son. Something that I’m really excited about is that in March, Dan Savage, who started the “It Gets Better” campaign, is publishing a print version of the project. After Dan saw the GPFFL video, his editor approached me about using the story about my father and me in the book.
PGN: So how long have you been with you partner?
WK: We met over the summer in Rehoboth, so it’s relatively new. His name is Rex and he lives outside of D.C., but we’re hoping he’ll be able to move up here in the not-too-distant future.
PGN: What’s an item you still have from your childhood?
WK: I didn’t have them growing up, but last Christmas my little brother gave me a special present. When my dad was in the Navy, if he was away on a ship for a long period of time, my mother — birth mother — would record her voice so he could listen to her while he was gone. My brother had the tapes and he burned them onto CDs for me. She also wrote letters to him that my brother copied for me. It was priceless to hear her voice and her words once again and know that she loved me.
PGN: Celebrity encounter?
WK: When I was in New York, I interned with “The Lion King” on Broadway so I met the director, Julie Taymor, and a lot of Broadway stars.
PGN: Do you sing and dance?
WK: No, I can’t carry a tune. I can sort of hold my own dancing. When I go to Rehoboth, one of the things I like to do is participate in the drag volleyball tournament over Labor Day. This year, we were the Girls of the Gaga Galaxy: While I have my butch hockey-playing, football-commissioner side, I don’t mind dressing up in drag and having fun.
PGN: What haven’t you done? Fashion, theater, sports ...
WK: [Laughs.] I’ve done a variety of things. I worked at Coach in New York, and Charming Shoppes, Lane Bryant and Fashion Bug here. I’ve always told my friends that while I’m motivated and driven at work, I always want to make sure there’s a balance and time to do things I enjoy, like being part of the flag football league and other organizations like the DVLF and MANNA. It makes life more fulfilling to be able to give back.
For more information, go to www.phillyflagfootball.com.
To suggest a community member for “Family Portraits,” write to email@example.com.