Celebrity: Who is Montgomery Maxton? (Part 3 of 3)

Both criticized and idolized, Montgomery Maxton seemingly ignores both. As an openly gay man, he's a likely candidate to champion for civil rights, though his upbringing might suggest otherwise.

In this, the third installment of my chat with the artist, we discuss his passion for activism, and how others can get involved.

One might think that a man who grew up on a six acre estate called Ivy Manor might be a bit...sheltered from the world. Add a strict religious upbringing to the mix, and exposure to a family member who was less than accepting of all people, and it might make sense that a child would grow up to be the same way.

If you study his art, you learn that Montgomery Maxton finds beauty in all colors, shapes and sizes. His photos quietly reveal what his activism shouts - that we all have worth.

"Harlem Happenstance"
©2015 Montgomery Maxton Photography

Lazaro: How did you become drawn to (and so passionate about) civil rights?

MaxtonI became active in the civil rights movement long before I knew anything about the denial of rights to gay people. I started seeing, when I was very very young, that black people were treated differently, and it didn’t make a bit of sense to me. Since there’s no making sense of racism there was no other choice but to fight it. I didn’t know any black people; there were none in our town, or in my school, not until I got to high school. 

Lazaro: You confronted your grandfather when you were a teen after he made a racial slur. It must have taken a lot of courage to stand up to him that way.

"He who wears the crown bears its weight"
©2015 Montgomery Maxton Photography

Maxton: It made no sense - and I get frustrated when I’m confused.

Lazaro: There has been much progression in the past 60 years with regards to equal rights. Yet there seems to be as much hate in the world as ever...

MaxtonI’ve always said that racism doesn’t go away, it just changes with the advancements of civil rights. Bigots will never stop being bigots in a collective way. Some people change, but as a whole, they don’t. They’ll associate with each other, they’ll plan and execute with each other...when everyone around you is like you, then you only see what you see. So now racism has evolved in the form of police killing black men (this has always happened, but with social media it is the new face of old racism), of churches being burned, of the continued economic suppression of black people.

©2015 Montgomery Maxton Photography

Lazaro: ...and now we have a nation divided over gay rights.

MaxtonIt wasn’t until I was about 19, in 1999, the same year I came out, that I started noticing the discrimination toward LGBT persons (back then it was acronymed GLBTQ). When I met my first partner Brent in 2000 we had to cause an uproar of sorts just to get invited to my brother’s wedding as a couple. We were told to “keep it civil”... I look back at it now and laugh, but at the time and for years afterwards I felt it was wrong and it made me realize that I would be treated differently for who I was.

©2015 Montgomery Maxton Photography

Lazaro: There are definitely more advocates for LGBTQ rights popping up. Facebook was a rainbow of colors a few weeks ago...

MaxtonNow that we "flaming queers" can wed, everyone’s going to be dying to get to our awesome Vegas-style weddings. Our divorces will be epic, too. That Divorce Court show on television will have to do mini-series on our divorces instead of 15 minute segments. 
But seriously, marriage equality is just the tip. We need to be protected from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations, because believe me, it happens. In 2000, my boyfriend and I were asked to leave the Olive Garden once, in Kentucky, because a man at the table next to us didn’t like the fact that two men were dining together. In 2001, myself and three others were fired from a Credit Union in Cincinnati for them suspecting we were gay: the gay witch hunt. 

Lazaro: So what do you do in that case?

MaxtonI’m writing a memoir about growing up gay in Cincinnati, which is notoriously bigoted (well, was, but in places nearby still very much is). I can assure you these incidents will be touched-on in great detail.

Lazaro: How can the rest of us get involved?

Maxton: Speak-up, tweet, call-out people who say derogatory things. Bigots say that we’ve turned into a crybaby nation, but that’s just them trying to cover for their behavior and statements…what’s really happening is that we’re finally started to shame them and they’ve been backed into the corner. It’s called deflection.

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