Joey DeRuy says being gay was such a non-issue during his coming-of-age years, he truly doesn’t remember much about it and says he never really had a coming-out experience.
“I just remember getting sexual in Kenya,” the 35-year-old Helena, Mont., native says. “My African name, which I can’t remember how to spell, meant brotherly love. I don’t remember much about it. I just know that as I was coming of age, it was just more about guys than girls nothing about it really seemed any different. I started dating, would bring guys home to meet my Dad. I was just sort of raised in an environment where that was no different than it would have been for a heterosexual kid. I didn’t really realize this was an issue for anybody until I was a young adult in Texas and I saw so many kids struggling with this. There may have been people in my family who objected, but if so, I was completely oblivious to it and my parents always knew and were supportive.”
DeRuy, a full-time artist and painter, says he’s gradually realized being an artist gives him a pass in a lot of people’s minds.
“With conservative people, it’s almost like if you’re an artist and you’re gay it’s OK but if you’re a gay accountant, then you’re going to hell,” he says with a laugh. “People are more forgiving when you’re from the creative side.”
After more than a decade in San Francisco, DeRuy moved to Washington in April. He’d painted an Uncle Sam portrait in his trademark figurative portraiture style and “a private collector who works in politics” whom DeRuy declines to name, persuaded him to come here to work. Since then, he’s been networking and continuing, of course, to create art, which he does Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and has for the last 15 years. Seven large pieces and several smaller ones are part of a poetry/art show “One Night Stand” that opens tonight (Friday) at the D.C. Center (1318 U St., N.W.) from 6-8 p.m. DeRuy’s pieces, all for sale, will be on display through the end of January at the Center. Half of what sells will go to the Center. DeRuy says his prices vary radically depending on who’s buying, market demand at any given time and the size of the piece. Visit him online at joeyderuy.com.
“I love it,” he says. “It takes a lot of work and a lot of discipline and you have to be a really strong person to do it just like anybody who generates their own work. But it’s really not any different from any self-employed person. It has its moments of not knowing what you’re doing, but I feel very honored and grateful to get to do it.”
DeRuy is single and lives in Logan Circle. He enjoys theater, the gym, picnics, sports, travel, meeting guys, people watching, being in nature and sketching in his free time. (Blade photo by Michael Key)
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I have always been out — I’ve never had an issue telling anyone.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Black Cat, the Drafting table, Blackjack/Pearl Dive Oyster Palace.
Describe your dream wedding.
A wedding that has equality. No “gay wedding” or “straight” wedding, but just a marriage between two people. A marriage on the beach sounds nice.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
What historical outcome would you change?
That the U.S. never had slavery. That when we came to the new world, it was free for everyone.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Technology. The big switch from analog to digital TV is under valued.
On what do you insist?
Pick up your garbage. Pick up garbage that’s not yours. Don’t litter. The community will grow and gain as a result.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“Party’s over” captioned to the photo I posted of the art tents being broken down from Art Basel Miami last weekend.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“The Famous ‘Un’famous”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Nothing. It never registered with me that I needed a cure for myself and would never want to change my life’s plan.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
Yes. Very much so.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Stop self and community judgment.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
Dating the perfect guy.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That it’s all about sex and drugs.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Ma Vie En Rose”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
The way that we connect. Social media, texting, it’s great, but I miss the old days when people went into public spaces and engaged each other.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
My award for most runs of the season from my softball team.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
Better confidence and awareness of self and the world. The bigger picture. How to better utilize money and take care of myself better.
It’s an experience, and an interesting one at that! As a political city, it is different than what I’m used to. I find a challenge out of one’s comfort zone to be as valuable to learning and growth as being safely nestled way in the arts community. There was an opportunity to come here to make art and I accepted. I hope to experience as much of the U.S.A. and world as possible.