Carter Wagner and Nicole Wagner

Recorded July 27, 2021 Archived July 27, 2021 34:41 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: chi003602


Carter Wagner (18) talks to his mother, Nicole Wagner (51), about his life since their last StoryCorps interview in 2016 and his hopes for college and the future.

Subject Log / Time Code

CW talks about listening to his last StoryCorps interview again, hearing his 13 year old self.
CW and NW talk about the reaction they got from people when their story played on the radio.
CW talks about being a part of the Queer Affinity group in high school.
CW talks about going to college.
NW offers advice to parents whose children are coming out.
NW talks about her hopes for CW in 5 years.
CW talks about his excitement about Pete Buttigieg running for president in 2020.


  • Carter Wagner
  • Nicole Wagner

Recording Location

Virtual Recording

Venue / Recording Kit


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00:05 Hi, my name is Carter. I'm 18. Today's date is July 27th, 2021. This is being recorded in Chicago, Illinois. And the minor your partner is Nicole Wagner and she is my mom.

00:21 My name is Nicole Wagner. I'm 51 years old soon to be 52 next month.

00:27 The date is July 27th. 2021 Chicago, Illinois. I'm with my son, Carter. And I am his mother.

00:35 And my name is Bill Healy. I'm 38. Today is July 27th. 2021. I'm in Chicago. And I'm with Carter and Nicole Wagner. And yes, I met Carter, when I came to your school a while back, you were in eighth grade, I think and tell me podcast is wool play the old story or at least most of the old story and then we'll come out of it and will hear your voices. And I think it sounds like your voice is changed a little bit. And so, I think you might need to say this is Carter. So do you mind saying, like, this is Carter. I'm over how old you are or what grade? You're in, graduated, high school. I'm getting ready to go off to college.

01:27 Yeah, and when you listen back, like what do you, what do you hear?

01:35 I definitely hear a higher voice. Yeah, it was a little like, I mean, like I said, I know that's why I sound like an especially like, you know what, I run into people. I haven't seen since, you know, I was in Middle School. There's definitely a little bit of like, oh my God people age. But yeah, it was just like so funny to hear like how fresh everything was, you know.

02:00 The more times you do. I tell the story and also will take a lot of weird people. It's kind of like expected that you're coming out story is such an important occasion that like a lot of times especially like, how did you come out? I told that story so many times and to the like here, myself Talent a few months, probably after it actually happened was really, really bizarre and like fun. And I'm happy that I did it because I have a record of like, is essentially like the audio Diary Of Life.

02:31 And Nicole listening back to that conversation for you. How did how did you feel this thing that you say? This is Nicole?

02:42 Loved every. I just loved every minute of it. It just I was I mean I am so proud of him and I was so proud of him and just to hear his story cuz I we had that I hadn't heard of before. Really? How he came out. We had never like really discussed it very deeply. We just he decide I'm gay and was like your love. You lets, you know, move forward. We never liked went back to the roots of it. So hearing that story again, I was just in and like, some of my favorite parts were like, oh, I just told this person and I was just, it was great. It was great. I loved it.

03:31 And listening to it. Now, five years later. Do you do here? Like how Carter's changed and you are have you changed like in your relationship in the past 5 years? You hear that in the in the audio listening back or what? Do you hear when you listen to that?

03:52 And I do.

03:55 Definitely learned a lot in the past five years. I think things and Society have definitely fast-forwarded like so much like coming out. Gay is like especially in Chicago. I have to say, I mean, we do live a little bit and I'll bubble is like no big deal. Whereas like I'm learning about all kinds of other people like trans, you know, transgender and my kids Carter and a sister. I have taught us so much.

04:26 And I think our relationship has just grown and

04:32 As he's grown up and matured and learns, and

04:38 I never realized how sarcastic I was, I was really sarcastic in that interview and listening back. I was like, wow, I wouldn't want to hang out with me. But I happy she put up with me and and I and I do feel like I agree that you're there are like a whole new set of challenges that's like happened in the past five years, but I'm really happy with how we are a family and what we know and what we don't know and like and I'm in a lot of the I didn't mention her a lot in the original interview, but I owe a lot to my sister and like my view of the world. And how I I understand identity and my personal identity and have others expressed their selves and working to understand everyone's

05:23 And did you get any reaction when the story first aired on the radio?

05:29 I'm just from like close. Like, we don't like family friends. And then, I also found out that as you mentioned, we first met, when you came to my middle school class for a school project. I was working on. And apparently, I'm not sure if they still do it, but for at least the next three years, my they use my smartphone podcast as an example in class. So maybe like a family friends Bar Mitzvah and I'll be there in then some candy crush me and they're like, are you Carter Wagner?

06:05 And did that make you self-conscious to that make you proud. How did I make you feel proud?

06:13 I think objectively. I'm really happy. I did it and Anna and I and I think it's like a great experience and the other than me thing record. I definitely felt like a little uncomfortable. When people lie just be like, oh, okay. I don't know how to respond to that. So like a little bit of that but I'm happy that it was like uses an example in class and I think I mean, I think we both would have liked likes a little heads up that maybe they were using Carter as part of their curriculum. Do you know what that would have been nice? Just what he would have known cuz I I mean, of course Carter would have said yes, and we would have said yes as a family but it just would have been nice. So, you know what a little heads-up, you know.

07:00 So but but I remember I was like driving and I was getting phone calls from people who had we're listening to it or hit. Just listen to it on the radio. So that was that was great. Yeah. I mean it's a very public

07:20 Weight of being the way, I mean, to have your story out there and

07:26 Yeah, they were there. Any misgivings or did you ever feel like besides that? I don't, I don't think so. I thought it was that everything was really positive. And I think that just goes to show like who is around like that like we found ourselves with but you know, like who was listening, who's paying attention and also just like, you know, being in Chicago is pretty awesome.

07:49 And also you said your teachers used it as an example of like how to tell your story, or how to, how to podcast but also did anyone who is gay or questioning your sexuality, anyone like that? Come to you and say I heard your story and that helped me a queer and who were, you know, and you know, I always try to be like for resource and liked it and in high school. I was the head of my school Square affinity group. And so I I definitely try to do work with a meeting, sure that everyone especially younger kids feel comfortable and I'll be awesome.

08:38 And how was your high school experience? You talked in that piece about wanting to go to high school to meet meet other boys. What, what was high school like for you? Maybe not that as much now, as much as she thought it would be, but I still had a great High School experience ended up going to Francis, Parker Park in Webster on cell. And I took some growing pains and do you know, fresh when you're into a k through 12 school in like being, you know, part of that group of new freshman of the great. It's definitely a hard experience. You find your footing with him and then over time. I think I really just became more comfortable and

09:38 Okay, question. Do you think you being gay coming in?

09:46 As a freshman, had any impact on your social experience. And I love my friend when I was starting freshman year. I was like trying to hang out with like, you know, these groups the guys and I and I don't think it was really my sexuality. It was that, you know, as a freshman, I kind of was in this weird spot of like,

10:14 Everything I did or mentioned. It was like, almost like overcompensating for like not being queer when I was younger, but I got for like, not being it like fully expressing myself in like 6, 7th grade.

10:27 So that when I did like I'm at school and I was like, no trying to make an impact. I like kind of slade up a little bit of, like, my sexuality, like I remembered health class. I would always bring it up, like, maybe like once every other class and then I definitely think that it didn't rub people the wrong way, but it wasn't like my true self. And, and I didn't really fit in with that group would like the group's people. I really wanted to fit in and I think it wasn't really a loan with a hindrance and I don't think he would like actively, like I was like, excluded or anything for like the fact is like, like being like homosexual. I think it was more, so like my personality that went along with it and I definitely like, you know, change to return, it wasn't like for that reason that I'm different now and I don't think it's completely genuine at the time, but it's definitely like your looks.

11:15 Is that answer your question to call?

11:24 I can ask a few more, but if you want to think about it, not really any long-term stuff. It's still, I mean, it's it's still hard. We can maybe we'll stay in college and then we'll be like a 10-year later storycorps and you'll be like that. You have any boyfriend in college and I'll be like, college is difficult. But yeah, nothing really in high school and its, you know, it's amazing to be a part of

12:04 And you know normally storycorps we don't ask people to do this, but I am going to ask you just to say it just kind of found, you know, since this story aired. I was the head of my my high school's. You said I'm not sure how you refrigerate a GSA bad as Mike clear up in the group. Even if you could say, since the story are there since this is on the radio or since that first conversation became be, one of the heads of our high school spear finity group and doing that. It was actually only for my sophomore year that I was active member. And being a part of that was planning amazing events, like our schools Pride week celebration where we would you know show queer short films.

13:04 Latino teachings and worked in collaboration. With some faculty to do drag, queen Story Hour for the younger kids and doing just like events like that for the school. And then also throughout the year. We would hold bi-weekly affinity group meetings, where all students are questioning could come to save space and discuss, you know, what was going on in the school for pier students. How, how's the curriculum supporting us? How the social scene supporting us? How is everyone going on with their personal Journeys,? Just making sure that we were resource. And then junior year. I was not able to be the queer Fendi had because I ran to be the director committee Affairs, so that the person is in charge of all the debris, so I couldn't do both. And then after that, I ran and was elected as my schools.

13:58 And I believe, first openly gay president.

14:02 Stop.

14:04 I haven't asked you to say that again, but could you say it to order a little bit? Like we're only going to have a few seconds ago. I ran a queer, affinity group and I was elected to be his Heir. I will became the head of my school spear finity group. And then after that was elected, as Mexico's first openly gay president.

14:36 Yeah, and Nicole. Does that make you proud? If you could talk to Carter, like tell Carter about what the you tell him all the time, but

14:47 I mean, Carter went in to talk to Carter a little bit.

14:54 What was the mission that you were going to be president of the school? And you did? Oh, he doesn't want that on there.

15:04 Okay, that's fine. If you don't want that, you have grown and matured and really won over the school at graduation. They were cheering for more years.

15:23 And he just, he just has to stay really warm and welcoming and inclusive way about him that he's, you know, inclusive with everybody and just do Joy. I think to be with

15:40 And where you going to college? Just out of curiosity, we won't use it. I'm going to Tufts in Boston. I was deciding between a few that I was going to, you know, if I really too. And I wanted something with, you know, like a good political science program and then also just like,

16:05 Good accepting space and then also I wanted something that felt like a campus, you know, like being close to a city would be perfect for me, but I wanted to feel like I was on the boxes and a few others and I'm just very excited when you leave.

16:24 Wow, can you say that. Just for like an audience of people like that in a month? I'll go away to college and and then tell us how you feel about. You. Spoke about 5 years ago, about what you imagine high school would be like in terms of being gay. Being queer. What about college? How do you imagine? That'll be, I'm mostly imagining college that it won't really so. In high school. I was about to T-Mobile at what would it be, like, like, what is going to be going to be like being gay? And I'm hoping that college, it won't really be that much of a factor in my life outside of, you know, who I am, you know, attracted to or, you know, who. I, I think I have made a lot of friends in clear spaces, and I also have made a lot of, you know, straight friends, who enjoy those clear spaces as well. Like, I have a group of friends in high school now, and we talked about drag race and it's both straight and queer.

17:24 And that's a lot of fun. And I've also you do with Tufts one of the benefits and I'm really appreciating right now. Is there so much activity going on before even at campus keep on texting Dave. So, you know, I already have made many friends. I think I said, the beauty of going to college with in the social media age. And also like one of the two most popular groups, like people are talking. The most is like our overall group chat with the entire Leon 1600 class a 600% class. And then the second most is the queer group chat. So it I think it's going to be a lot of fun. And you know, there's definitely already at Community there that I feel part of and I'm excited.

18:08 And Nicole. One of the things that really moved me about this story was hearing how accepting and not even excepting is one along. Expecting that? How much you Embrace Carter and his fullness send you? I mean, I remember it. So vividly a rainbow cake, you got the distance. It's kind of the ideal version of what you'd want that story to be and yeah, I have you what it, what advice would you have? Not that you're in? The business is giving out advice or what would you tell their parents of young? People who are coming out at at a young age?

18:56 Just so maybe. Can you repeat the question little bit psycho?

19:08 Just a lot of them to let them be themselves and to love them. Unconditionally, and I realize that

19:17 I mean Carter and I and our family is very privileged and I think that plays it's a lot easier for us. But you know, Carter's Carter, whether he's gay or straight or

19:34 You know, whoever he is and I just said, I really don't have any like, concrete advice just to be open about you and you have help people figure out. How are, you know, how to get through this too. Sometimes people just need that little bit of help and you have a lot. And a lot of, you know, in the, a lot of you have to do, do a lot of

20:05 Learning to along the way.

20:10 Do you think that's why Carter do you think there's more? There could talk to your mom a little bit. Tell her.

20:15 I think, that's right. And I think also.

20:18 A guiding you definitely with me like put your flight. No listening back. I think I I was really upset about you not wanting me to come out until people have gotten an opportunity to know me and we still I'm still not sure if I like totally agree with that. But at the same time like you definitely cared a lot and making sure that like I was going to do the best even like not what was easiest but what was going to be the best me in the long run. And so it's about you know, like I think

20:51 What you kind of did was like accepting me and making sure that I felt safe and comfortable but also guided me to like, you know, you do my best with in that and not letting you know.

21:02 The fact that I'm queer. And you also telling me you don't figure out something that didn't make it like homophobic for you, not for you to be too nervous about me coming out, it just make you like a little bit of a cautious parent and making sure that was like getting the best for me. I was not a bully.

21:20 And Carter, is there anything that you are particularly proud of in the way you you came out or in the way you carry yourself during those years or anything that you you wish maybe had done a little differently or what advice do you have for?

21:38 People people. I mean, just thinking back, like I came out at such a young age and like that is that is like still weird for me to think about like that. I was 12 or 13.

21:53 When I actually came out.

21:56 And I think now was just, like, bizarre for me is when I'm like, it's not often that I'm talking with middle schoolers. But like, you know, if it's like, I've had conversation was like, I was like my cousin who also came out was like 12 or 13 as well. And I was probably, you know, 60-minute happen and I was like, she's too young. And then I like, how does she know? And then I was like, oh wait, that's how old I wasn't. So it's kind of like you don't have some of these things are like ingrained in me that like, you know, I'm supposed to think that, like, I even a lot of people, I know, like might have set up a time or, you know, some of your friends might have said, like, I was twelve or thirteen. That's too. That's too old has lots of kind of like in me and that's like, what? I think a lot of people feel and then I was like, wait, I just want personal experience to fall on. Why did, why would I even go to that?

22:50 And yes, I think the best is kind of like, reflecting on that, but I'm happy. I did. I'm happy to come out and at that age and Anna, and I also think that not really anything I would have done differently. Yeah.

23:14 In what way like people come to your like, when they like it before they come out, they go to Carter.

23:21 Not the gay Godfather.

23:27 I don't know where she got this idea.

23:42 You know that very close. We found out on Instagram. It was a very big deal.

23:55 Tell her daughter. So what was how many years later? Was that a little bit more?

24:16 And just to verify what the what you were saying on Instagram, you know, I probably started it for the Parker weekly. Do you do a podcast that's like not to that was a one-time thing. I did a podcast.

24:42 I always thought he should. You featuring podcast early. Do YouTube videos, but he I couldn't. I couldn't figure out.

24:53 And I didn't really end up doing that. It wasn't like a resume thing, either like that. Didn't go on there, but I respect her or school's newspaper, but I did not end up really doing much with that position or keeping it. And you could just talk to each other and say like in 5 years if we come back to you and say, have a conversation like this again, like where where do you imagine? We talked to your mom and talk to her.

25:33 And you can say your hopes, you know, I'm in your hopes.

25:42 I do hope that you'll have find somebody and have a meaningful relationship cuz I think you deserve it. And I think you're a wonderful person. And I think whoever captures your heart will be very lucky.

25:58 Very fortunate.

26:01 But I mean, I see so much for you besides just having a boyfriend. I mean, I can't wait to see what your future holds and where you went off and what you end up doing.

26:12 You know, president of Francis Parker today, president of the United States tomorrow.

26:19 It's fine. I ran a know. I ran an Instagram called teams for Pete and it was a yeah. And during the campaign to buy the campaign was fun, but I did not run people to judge his Instagram.

26:52 Mi hope.

26:57 My Hope and five years is that.

27:05 I hope that.

27:08 Is this a hope for me? Her hope for her? I don't understand. That may be hope for you. But also hope for your relationship.

27:16 I hope in 5 years, that.

27:22 I mean, I guess I hope. I hope they're the same things that you hope for and that you know, I I'm you know, happy where where I end up and and then I think for Anna and that also I like have more of an idea of like what I want to do in life and what I want to go and you know, how they look like a sheep bat. And and then Matt My Hope for like us and our relationship is that I'm still coming in for the holidays and I'm still calling you and we still got to talk all the time and that we just get to like build more and more.

27:58 I agree. I mean, I think one thing about that. What happened with the coronavirus is that Charter was home all the time, all the time.

28:11 And I loved every minute of it and my sister came home and it was just as bad as it could have been. That was like the Silver Lining is that we really got to spend time together. And I think it's going to be that much harder. Letting him go off to college. Although I'm so excited to see what he says. I'm a little bit excited, but I'm very excited for you.

28:40 Yeah, I mean, I think that's all the questions I have. Is there anything else that you two want to talk about or anything else that you want?

28:49 I did 250 this in. This is my favorite one, truly something about it, resonates with me and I didn't come out until I was twenty and I think I can't even imagine what it's like, not as younger person. So I don't know. You're teaching younger Generations, but it feels like

29:20 For me as an older gay man. It's like I'm learning through your experience, what it it. Looks like. That's really special. Thank you. What are you going to do? What, where, what are you going to do next? That's storycorps?

29:37 You know, I this is just a part-time thing for one day, a week thing. And I work with this group called The Invisible Institute and we make podcast. We were just finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and audio. This past year. Thank you,, buddy. It's the podcast about. A mom whose son was killed and she investigates his his murder and disappearance dark, but it's yeah, man, it's a mother's love for her. So I'm really cuz she's supposed to go to somebody., I can send you a link to. Yeah, but that's kind of weird.

30:37 Podcast.

30:48 High castle.

31:01 Maybe maybe, well, you know, but if there is anything that I can do, I'm happy to help. I don't know what I can do. Now will scrub the internet when your presidential campaign is tearing Out full of figure out a way to

31:37 Now, that's actually, you know, since you do want to run for office someday, I'll ask what, how what are you only recorded thing here. What why, why do you want to be president?

31:55 I don't know if I want to be president. This is her dream for me. But like hypothetically, let's say I was like

32:06 It's okay to want to be president. That's not a bad thing.

32:11 You're doing it for the right reasons. No comment to see a gay man, yet, you know, that far into the presidential election and get that Farms. The primaries was just something that I didn't think was possible and you know, he didn't win and I'm very happy with Joseph and the Amazing Race.

32:55 It out, just to see someone who can do represented me and my identity for the first time really, I guess there have been other crew can this before, but just see someone be that successful was really inspiring to me. And so I hope that just like in that very public way of, you know, taking my ideas would also like, you know, having my identity be a, you know, I guess not on display but like being like that role model positions that definitely say, he's a role model for me to be able to see that as well. And like it's then there are other we're politicians to who, I mean, oh really, really excited to see

33:36 You don't work and and then and then also just like any more of like a if I were to be thinking more like a like bureaucratic way. There's just

33:46 I mean, I'm sure any type of policy debate is going to be vastly different and you know, 27 years was like the earliest I could ever run which of course I'm not going to run them. But you know or would ever. I don't know. But I think that it's there just like

34:04 There's a lot that I try to do with, you know, but I worked like Lauren Underwood and I really believe in like the cause as she fights for Universal Health, Care structure and thing. And think that I see that, I like my help out now with Ivan. So if I could, you know, working Champion that as well, I think that'd be awesome.

34:26 Best. Is there anything that you want to ask before we?

34:33 Alright, well, thank you again for both of you. And we need to take a picture or anything or do we?