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Barclay, Paris  (b. 1956)  
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An award-winning television director, Paris Barclay is also an activist for glbtq rights, including marriage equality and the opportunity to adopt children as he and his husband have done.

Barclay began life far from the glamour of Hollywood. Born June 30, 1956 in Chicago Heights, Illinois, he grew up in the neighboring lower middle-class suburb of Harvey.

Existence for his family was not easy. Barclay's parents married young and had seven children, for whom, Barclay wrote, his father "worked virtually around the clock to provide." His parents' marriage was not a happy one, but the couple remained together for some two decades because divorce was not particularly well accepted socially in that day and in their community.

Despite the unpromising circumstances of his early life, Barclay excelled at both academics and sports at school. He was recruited to be a scholarship student at the La Lumiere School for Boys, an exclusive, all-male Catholic boarding school in northern Indiana that was seeking to increase the diversity of its student body by recruiting exceptionally well-qualified minority students.

As the first African American there, Barclay felt more conscious of his racial difference than of his sexual difference. As he told Randy Shulman of Metro Weekly, "I . . . spent a lot of time separated even more because of being black than because I may have potentially been gay. Eventually, I overachieved to make up for it and became the number one student in the class."

Barclay's accomplishments at La Lumiere went beyond the classroom: he took an interest in the performing arts and began writing music.

In the class ahead of Barclay's was future Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, with whom Barclay worked on the football team, the student newspaper, and in productions of the drama club.

Both young men graduated first in their classes and went on to Harvard University, where, wrote Barclay in an open letter to Roberts in The Advocate, for which he was a columnist for several years, in September 2005, "we separated into worlds that rarely connected" despite the close connections of their high school years.

Noting that when Roberts had been nominated to the Supreme Court he had been "inundated by calls to comment on [Roberts's] character and [their] school days together," Barclay conceded that "none of us [from La Lumiere] has any idea who you are today . . . [or] what the crucible of the Supreme Court will make of you."

He expressed concern about Roberts's anti-choice positions; nevertheless, he saw reason for hope in Roberts's having done "pro bono work on a Supreme Court ruling that to this day helps protect gay people from discrimination," evidently a reference to Roberts's consultation with attorneys who argued the landmark case, Romer v. Evans.

Barclay expressed the wish that Roberts would "turn his back on political pressure, embrace the true freedom of a lifetime appointment, and decide the cases before [him] with a deep sense of the equality of all the people that our Constitution uses as a touchstone," but he described himself as "hoping and praying" for rather than expecting such an outcome.

It was while Barclay was at Harvard that he recognized his homosexuality and "had [his] first real boyfriend." Unfortunately he also had his first experience of violence when he was badly beaten after leaving a gay bar in South Boston. A sympathetic taxi driver delivered him to Harvard Square without charging a fare.

Looking back, Barclay told Shulman, "the lesson is that there are horrible, negative, evil people in this world and then there are cab drivers who will get you safely to where you are going for nothing. That's the balance of the world. And I want to be on the cab driver side if I can."

At Harvard, Barclay majored in English literature. He also developed his own creative talents, writing over a dozen musicals, two of which were produced as part of the university's prestigious Hasty Pudding shows.

After his graduation in 1979 Barclay went to New York, where he worked as an ad copywriter while continuing to write musicals and studying with Stephen Sondheim to improve his craft.

Barclay's On Hold with Music was produced off Broadway in 1984. It was not a success, but, reflected Barclay, "the best thing that came of it was that Sondheim sat me down and just went through, in detail, what was wrong with it. He basically tore it apart—but in a very educational way."

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Paris Barclay in 2009. Photograph by Peter Berg.
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