I met Floyd recently at Oklahoma City’s Habana Inn on a Saturday afternoon, just minutes after 30 gay men paraded around the pool in hats bedecked with plastic flowers, tassels, and shiny pink ribbons. Floyd, out of breath, motioned me to the deck chair beside him.
The party went on, revolving around us, our conversation interrupted by introductions, a beer thrust into my hand, appraisals of men’s torsos, greetings to newcomers, and toasts hailing the first unofficial day of summer.
Floyd Martin, a large man, has a presence far greater than his girth. In the same way a planet will attract smaller rocks as its moons by the sheer gravity of its presence, Floyd too holds court, not by any pronounced effort, but by default—if Floyd Martin is in the room or sitting beside the pool, all eyes and ears are drawn to him. The moment I sat down, Floyd was all business.
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“Randy, I’ve got stories you wouldn’t believe,” he told me. “The history of gay people in this town—it just goes on and on and on. Now, take Willowswish, for example. That’s at Lake Murray, and that’s been going on since 1969. It’s all gay men out in the woods and it’s as wild or as mild as you want it to be. If you want it to be wild and trashy and sexy, it can be. And, if you want to sit and drink with your friends, it can be calm, too—you know, whatever you want it to be. But, it’s not nearly as wild as it used to be.”
Still out of breath but not letting it stop him, Floyd spoke with a lightly affected Oklahoma good-old-boy drawl I couldn’t quite place until I knew his roots. Floyd grew up in south Oklahoma City, and by high school he was thrust between two worlds: living out near the airport but bussing it to Classen High on the north side Monday through Friday. In the afternoons after school, he spent his time bagging groceries at the local grocery store where he tried “really hard to be a redneck south-side boy.” But during the school day on the north side, it was the 1980s—all punk kids and Cure babies, Boy George and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Floyd’s first crush was Tony Rios. Floyd says he wasn’t sure at age 14 if he was gay or straight, but he saw Tony in first period on the first day of his freshman year and knew he had to meet him. “He was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life, and I thought, ‘I’ll be getting some of that’—which I did,” Floyd said. From first period to the sixth, Floyd was as out as a gay man could safely be in Oklahoma in 1985. He was flamboyant and outspoken in the school newspaper and as student council president, but each day the bus ride home effected a transformation. He worried about his friends at the grocery store and what his mom would think—and especially his dad.
It wasn’t until he was 23 that Floyd finally came out for good while watching a Rock Hudson special with his parents. He broke down during a commercial break.
“My mom, you know, I always thought she’d be the easiest and my dad would be hard,” he said. “You know, I was Junior, I was his only boy, but instead it was my mom—you know, it was 1990 and she freaked out because of AIDS—but my dad, he just looked at me, and said, ‘I always knew I had a special son.’” Today, Floyd lives in a house in Yukon 30 feet behind his parents’ home.
Floyd’s coming out was largely in sync with the changing times. Oklahoma City’s first gay pride parade was in 1987. Floyd was there, involved in the planning and production, by 1989. And he’s been there ever since.
“My first gay pride [parade] was 25 years ago this month, and it was amazing,” he said. “By then I had a boyfriend. He was in the Air Force, and we were this really cute, obnoxious couple.” As he spoke about pride, Floyd’s voice rose and fell, battling a mix of emotions, his attempt to entertain and be funny losing out to the emotion he felt the first time he saw hundreds of people gathered in support.
“Anyway, my boyfriend and I walked to the parade, and you know how for the Oklahoma City parade you come down 39th Street and you come atop that hill right where the Homeland used to be? Well”—he paused and then went on—“when you get atop that hill and you see so many people with so many flags and everything, it was just the most amazing feeling in the world, that there’s that many gay people in your hometown. It’s just overwhelming.”
At the dead end of N.W. 39th Street, just west of Pennsylvania Avenue, on what we gays call “The Strip,” Floyd found a second home.
Eventually, he realized he’d have more fun if he weren’t helping to organize the event and went solo. “Now I usually wear a gay pride flag and just walk around and visit everybody,” he said. But Floyd doesn’t just wear a t-shirt and shorts and wrap a rainbow sash around himself. No, the rainbow flag is his outfit, wrapped loosely around his body as a dress of sorts, his lips and face painted to match.
As Floyd makes his way through the crowd, he is his own one-man pride parade, both the King and Queen of Pride, south-side boy and north-side femme fatale. There is the parade on the street with its floats and its politicians and its drag queens and its twinks in Speedos, and then there is Floyd on the sidewalk, parting the waves of the crowds with the sheer force of his hard-earned gravity, shouts and laughter and cheers following in his wake
Originally published in This Land, Vol. 5, Issue 11, May 15, 2014.