'My Uncle told me that there was no shame in who I was, that yes, life will be hard but that it’s okay to be who I am. To stand tall as a gay man.'

Richard Dominguez, 1954-2008
Story & Recording by Patrick Johnson

My uncle Richard Dominguez was born in Los Angeles, California and resided in Las Vegas, Nevada with his partner Herbert (Burt) Earl Synder for eight years prior to his passing.

Uncle Richard was a graduate of the University of Southern California. He was in management at AT&T and retired after becoming disabled due to AIDS.  He was an animal lover and was dad to his beloved terriers, Cagney and Lacey.

I never really knew my Uncle Richard personally.  He was sort of the distant relative that I knew existed and seen a few times here and there but never really knew untill I turned 16 in 2003.  I came out to my Mom and Dad, and I was very fortunate because I was given love and acceptance.  My Dad (Uncle Richard’s brother) told me that he loved me for who I am.

I don’t remember how long after I told them that my Dad woke me up one weekend and said to get ready.  He didn’t tell me where we were going.  We drove for hours.  My Dad, who is a man of few words, still wouldn’t tell me where we were going after I inquired.  After hours of driving, we finally pulled up to a random house, and that’s when he told me we were visiting my Uncle Richard and Burt.

We sat around, talked, had dinner.  Then my Uncle Richard said he wanted to talk with me privately.  We went to his office and the first thing he said to me was: “Your Dad brought you here, because he loves you.”

I instantly broke down crying.  My Uncle told me that there was no shame in who I was, that yes, life will be hard but that it’s okay to be who I am.  To stand tall as a gay man.  He told me his life, much of which I have forgot after all these years.  He taught me the importance of safe sex.  He said when I get married, he wanted to be there.

Sadly, I never saw my Uncle Richard again after that day.  But we spoke on the phone a few times through the years.

When he died, I felt a certain heartbreak that I hadn’t felt before, or since.  How I wish he was here today; there’s so much I would love to talk with him about.  Funny though, to this day, he’s one of the greatest influences of my life.