Greg Seaney-Ariano: From archeologist to ACT UP to amateur athlete
by Suzi Nash
May 09, 2013 | 1277 views | 0 0 comments | 117 117 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Are you ready for some football?! Not the kind where big guys with names like Refrigerator crash into each other, but the kind where teams of people actually hit a ball with their feet, known here as soccer. Spring is almost here and the Philadelphia Falcons are looking for a few good men ... and women. No experience necessary. Just ask player Greg Seaney-Ariano.

PGN: How long have the Falcons been around?

GSA: The club was founded in 1989. At the time, if you were from Philly, you’d have to go to New York to play. Then someone realized that there were enough people commuting from Philly to form a team here.

PGN: Is it a boys’ club?

GSA: No, we are open to everyone and have a really strong women’s team. In fact, we need some more guys.

PGN: So let’s talk about Greg. You have a lilt of an accent; where are you from?

GSA: I’m from Florida — North, not South.

PGN: Is there much of a distinction?

GSA: Oh yes. North Florida is a real redneck culture. It’s basically an extension of Georgia. I spearheaded the first Lesbian and Gay Pride Week back in 1991. We were right near the southeast headquarters of the KKK, and they showed up at our first Pride event. Fortunately, I’d made sure the police were there. The police’s community liaison was related to Tom Petty and, when he found out the KKK would be there, he made an appearance. That was a great surprise! It has its problems but it’s also some of the most beautiful land you’ll find, with crystal-clear water springs everywhere and amazing state parks.

PGN: Gators?

GSA: [Laughs.] Lots of gators!

PGN: What was life like growing up?

GSA: My mother is from Colombia, South America, and my dad was Scottish-Irish. My dad was a pharmacist, my mother was a stay-at-home mom and a very civic-minded person, an activist. To give you an idea of the culture there, when I was a kid, my mother was not accepted into the Women’s Society Club because she was Latina. But she fought her way in because she was a charter member of the organization in South Florida.

PGN: Siblings?

GSA: I have two older sisters.

PGN: A fun childhood memory?

GSA: Being in Colombia. There was one of those rustic beaches with cow skulls dotting the sand and there was an abandoned house where people used to string up hammocks. I remember swinging in them with members of my family.

PGN: What were you like?

GSA: I was a nerdy boy, but I also followed in my mother’s footsteps and was very community-minded.

PGN: Who was your best friend in high school?

GSA: Ann McKinley. A brilliant person, she introduced me to Abbie Hoffman, Emily Dickinson, Richard Brautigan, Anais Nin, the Grateful Dead, fabric-dying and many lifelong friends. She’s now a poet in Minneapolis and has been one of the most powerful influences of my life.

PGN: And what about higher learning?

GSA: I did some academic hopping. I started at the University of Florida and then, for financial reasons, dropped out. I later transferred to Florida State where I studied anthropology, then back to U of F, and I also studied abroad in France for a bit. I graduated with a BS in anthropology and a minor in women’s studies from the University of Central Florida. Something I’m really proud of is that, while I was president of the University of Central Florida’s LGBT student group and working as a library technician, I helped to infuse the Florida University System with LGBT materials, making it possible for students across Florida to find images of themselves in the library.

PGN: That’s a big deal! What were some other high points during that time?

GSA: [Laughs.] There were a lot. I was arrested for civil disobedience at the University of Florida during an anti-apartheid demonstration. I became an archeologist and, in the process, helped to uncover Fort Mose (pronounced “Moh-say”), the first free black settlement legally sanctioned in what would become the United States. The Spanish treated their slaves differently and allowed them to earn their freedom, so a number of them established a small free colony on an island near St. Augustine. I also worked on a dig at the Fountain of Youth site. I did some construction work — it was better pay — and I lived in Jamaica with a friend until my money ran out, then I hitchhiked to a Radical Faerie community in Tennessee, moved to New York City for a summer, met Harry Hay and Larry Kramer and became involved with ACT UP. I returned to Florida and became a substitute teacher and pizza-delivery person at the same time.

PGN: That’s a riot!

GSA: Yeah, students would answer the door and yell back to their parents that their teacher was at the door. They were always relieved and amused to find I was just delivering their pizza!

PGN: How did you end up in Philly?

GSA: Love and heartache. My ex-husband — an amazing guy — and I were together for 10-and-a-half years and during that time we moved to Chicago. While there, I worked in the Arts Administration Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I was also lucky enough to be on the City of Chicago’s Advisory Council on Gay and Lesbian Issues. We facilitated discussions and held events, and built a coalition confronting racism in the LGBT communities of Chicago. We then moved to Philly and I went back to school and got a degree in multicultural diversity training from Temple and a second master’s in organizational dynamics at Penn.

PGN: From construction worker to archeologist to librarian, you could have your own Village People group. What were some of your other or odd jobs?

GSA: I was a house boy in Key West for a time, I worked in a Cuban restaurant, I was a lifeguard. Not odd but I also worked for American Jewish Congress and I co-managed a ceramics studio. I’ve also served on the local National Latino AIDS Awareness Day Committee and I worked with ASIAC [AIDS Services in Asian Communities] connecting consumers with interpreters for medical appointments.

PGN: [Laughs.] Wait, what does a house boy do?

GSA: He does everything until the owner gets his lazy butt out of bed late in the afternoon!

PGN: How did you go from nerdy boy to jock?

GSA: Oh, I wouldn’t say I’m a jock at all. I play recreational soccer in the pick-up games. When I was a kid, I did gymnastics and swimming.

PGN: What position do you play?

GSA: Anywhere I can get the ball! We’re very informal.

PGN: I understand it’s a very diverse group.

GSA: Yes, and you don’t need any experience. I’m proof of that! We have casual games and more competitive teams, we have LGBT and straight players and people from all walks of life.

PGN: Is it more diverse because soccer is such an international sport? Did your Colombian background compel you to play?

GSA: [Laughs.] It’s probably more my size, or lack thereof, that brought me to soccer as opposed to football or rugby! But yes, we do have a lot of international players.

PGN: So you’re saying size doesn’t matter?

GSA: Oh no! You said that, not me!

PGN: You’re also involved with Philadelphia Family Pride. Do you have any kids?

GSA: [Laughs.] Yes! I have joint custody of two cats with my ex-husband. Actually, I would like to start a family, so I joined PFP because I wanted to create a support network before a child enters my life.

PGN: Most people probably don’t know that they can get involved with Family Pride with or without a family.

GSA: Yes, it’s important for us to have role models, guidance for parenting. I’m currently going through the foster-to-adopt process, so it’s nice to be able to talk to people who have been through the process or just have plain old parenting advice for a gay dad. Something exciting we have coming up is a picnic for single parents, prospective parents or those who want to meet someone with a child/children.

PGN: What’s a recent accomplishment you’re proud of?

GSA: Eight years ago I decided to serve my country and enlisted in the Navy as a reservist Yeoman. When I signed on, it was not legal to be openly gay in the services, so I had to go back in the closet. It was character-building, enlightening and stifling all at the same time. Gotta love it. Hooyah! In a way it was refreshing. Because gay activism had been such a huge part of my life, to put that away allowed me to be in the company of men where sexuality wasn’t a factor. There was a strong sense of brotherhood for its own sake. It was a great experience. I just finished eight years of service this Easter and decided not to reenlist. I need the time to prepare for a family. But it’s something I’m proud that I did and I wish other LGBT folks would step forward and serve as well.

PGN: And what’s your day job now?

GSA: I work for the City of Philadelphia in the Department of Public Health in the AIDS Activities Coordinating Office as a program-analysis supervisor. I have worked there for 10 years with some wonderful, dedicated people and would like to take this opportunity to say, Gentlemen, wake up! Please get tested, know your status, use condoms! And on a side note, wash your hands, sneeze into your elbow and stay home when you are sick.

PGN: What surprises you about the stats that you see?

GSA: That there’s not more funding and education about AIDS. But we have a great new health commissioner who understands the epidemic and is dedicated to fighting it.

PGN: What do you do outside of work?

GSA: Well, I’m currently doing some ceramics at the Clay Studio, but I’m not sure for how much longer. The vice president of the studio this past week refused to fire a piece I was making, a birthday present, and I find censorship in art heinous. Creativity should not be stifled.

PGN: Too true. Well, let’s get to some random questions. Favorite book?

GSA: “Patience and Sarah” by Isabel Miller. The most influential book of my life, a biography of Mahatma Gandhi.

PGN: A food you wish was banished?

GSA: Cheez Whiz. Well, I don’t know, I pretty much eat anything.

PGN: When did you come out?

GSA: I did the study-abroad because I wanted to get away from my friends because I believed that they had preconceived ideas of who I was. I wanted a fresh change but it was difficult in France because I had a roommate who was a complete womanizer and I didn’t feel comfortable coming out then. I did manage to sneak out to a few nightclubs. My first time in a gay bar was in Cannes. I saw a drag performer doing Tina Turner, singing “We Don’t Need Anther Hero,” and no one was speaking any English so it was surreal. At some point when I came back, I went to an LGBT event on immigration at FSU. I was appalled at the amount of racism and lack of compassion. I’d assumed that because they were gay, they’d have some sense of sympathy for other oppressed people, but no. I began to hang out more with a left-wing, feminist, hippie crowd than the gay crowd. I also began introducing multi-racial educational programming in LGBT events. Part of my coming-out was when I decided to hitchhike to the Short Mountain Sanctuary, which was the headquarters for the Radical Fairies. I think that was right after I had to drop out of the university.

PGN: And the family?

GSA: My mother was upset, she cried. She thought it was something she did, but immediately said that she loved me no matter what. My dad wasn’t around. He killed himself when I was 21. He was a pharmacist who’d fallen into the professional hazard of addiction.

PGN: Hmm, I’ve heard of doctors who get swept into the accessibility of drugs but I never even thought about it being a problem for pharmacists.

GSA: Yes—so know your triggers, people, and avoid them.

PGN: Did you have to deal with repercussions from his addiction?

GSA: No, we were completely oblivious to it. He was highly functional.

PGN: So have your anthropology and women’s-studies degrees come in handy?

GSA: They definitely came in handy during boot camp! It was an unapologetically masculine crowd, which was somewhat refreshing. Having been surrounded by hippies and feminists for so long, the juxtaposition was an interesting experience.

PGN: What was the hardest part of boot camp?

GSA: The sleep deprivation. It was interesting because there are actually some good things that come out of it. Sleep deprivation has been proven to remove your social barriers, much like alcohol, so as they try to program servicemen to create cohesiveness, it helps people bond better. The walls come down when you get loopy.

PGN: What’s your newest endeavor?

GSA: I’m currently on the entertainment committee for Hawthorne Park at 12th and Catharine. We’re going to be doing some fun things there — jazz nights, a flea market, movie nights, etc. In fact, that’s where we’re doing the Family Pride picnic. Sunday, May 19 at 11 a.m. Bring a picnic lunch and have fun!

PGN: When does soccer season start?

GSA: It’s started already! We play in Edgely Fields at Fairmount Park, Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and we have a big tournament, the Liberty Bell Classic, coming up Memorial Day weekend. Lots of soccer, plus food, friends, parties and prizes. Come one, come all!

For more information on the Falcons or to register for the Liberty Bell Classic, visit www.falcons-soccer.org. For more information about Philadelphia Family Pride, visit www.phillyfamilypride.org.

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