Metro Weekly

You Got Out. Now it’s Time to Give Back.

There's no limit to what we can add to elections in those places we once called home. Pick a race and go all in.

Waving flag in support of LGBTQ people at Boise Pridefest 2016 – Photo: Dreamstime

Hooray for the Super Bowl! Didn’t watch it, but I hear Rihanna won. So, go Team Rihanna! I’m thrilled she got all the goals or whatever. This wrinkle about extra points for pregnancy is entirely new to me. Guess it’s a Title IX thing. Regardless, here’s to Rihanna’s Super Bowl victory!

Aside from the sodomy, I fit the gay mold by having zero interest in sports. Granted, loads of queer folks love the stuff. The sporty spices have their own global sports gatherings, teams, leagues…. Whatever it is, we have it. Lesbians probably invented all of it, while getting credit for little of it.

I won’t apologize for being a cliché. As gay men go, I absolutely meet the definition of cliché: “a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation.” Thank you, Merriam-Webster.

Another cliché that fits very comfortably is being a D.C. transplant with an interest in politics. Actually, politics is my sports.

As a child, I’d watch my father yell at the TV during a game. I found it off-putting. I’d likely leave the room and go play with my Six Million Dollar Man “action figure,” tucking him into his Kleenex-box bed. I didn’t get it. It’s a ball. Might be oblong or round, of varying colors or sizes. Or even a puck. And it goes into a goal or an endzone or a basket or whatever.

Then, years past childhood, I found myself yelling at a TV in much the same fashion as my football-loving father. It was likely a presidential debate. “OMG, that motherfucker is just flat-out lying!!” I’m sure I gestured my hands like a madman.

That’s part of what makes D.C. so comfortable. While the District has generations’ worth of cultural and institutional history, it also attracts a certain sort from far and wide. Another cliché is that D.C. is Hollywood for ugly people. Ouch. I prefer to think of D.C. as the adopted home of plenty of class presidents. Much of my own lackluster career may be predicated on having attained merely student-body vice president. But my political passions are certainly as deep as anyone’s sporty mania.

Living in Washington, I am not alone. Not by a long shot. In the District, sports bars will surrender their walls of TVs to election coverage. We’re an industry town, and politics is the industry.

Accordingly, I am surprised that there is not more citywide LGBTQ political momentum. Our folks are political, no doubt. But it’s a fount of energy that seems to spray locally. We have Council races, the ANC mosh pit, and the like. Our GLAA (née Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance), Robert’s Rules of Order in hand, can take credit for a lion’s share of our progressive legislative culture.

But the city and its close-in suburbs are, at least for now, reliably lefty. Once upon a time, we had Republicans on the Council, but even they were as left-leaning as any Republican could get. Now it’s a fight between center-left, moderate-left, progressive, and nearly Green. We’re good.

Our biggest fight is simply getting recognized for the full-fledged Americans we are. D.C. statehood is a long slog, and we should all be pledged to make it a reality.

In the meantime, however, there are so many more fights beyond our borders. And they could use us more than ever.

Collectively, the D.C. queer community has unparalleled political expertise. We are marketers, fundraisers, speechwriters, and pollsters. Many of us landed here for precisely this reason. And many of us landed here because the places we used to call home did not share the progressive values enjoyed in Washington.

I’ve lived in plenty of places that don’t need anything I have to offer. Portland, Oregon? Rainy, but fine. Springfield, Virginia? Too close to make much difference. Brussels? Likely better off than us. Tunis? That’s a different, yet similar, argument that I won’t be making today. But Florida? Florida is desperate for some help from its D.C. diaspora.

So is Wisconsin. And Texas. And Kentucky. And the Carolinas. On and on.

The Victory Fund or the Human Rights Campaign have this covered, you might counter. Indeed, these organizations and others like them do incredible campaigning from sea to shining sea. But there is a grassroots element that obligates us laypeople.

Did you emigrate from a locale you regard as hostile to the queer community? Did you leave behind drag queens who’d really like to host a storybook hour without the threat of Neo-Nazis crashing the party? They need our help.

Donald Trump — for all his bloated corruption, casual cruelty, and delusional narcissism — did teach America an indisputable lesson: Anything is possible. If he could stumblebum his way into the White House over the vastly more qualified candidate, who’s to say what is and is not possible? He blew up every convention, including the convention of feasibility.

That being the case, there’s no limit to what we can add to elections in those places we once called home. Find a handful of home-staters, wherever that may be for you. Then pick a race and go all in!

God knows it was thisclose for Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin. Could D.C.’s queer Wisconsin cabal have made up for that single missing percentage point that would have let him beat professional knob Ron Johnson? Barnes had his own great team behind him, but might he have gone further if all the queer D.C. Wisconsinites were fundraising and writing letters to constituents? It wouldn’t have hurt.

Same goes for Beto in Texas and Charles Booker in Kentucky. And so many others.

My own attention turns to Kimberly Walker, who recently lost her congressional race for Florida’s 12th District. As a Black, lesbian, Democrat, I knew she had little chance in this district — despite being an Army and Air Force veteran with master’s in information technology.

I spent my high school years in this district. It’s not gotten any better. I’m partly to blame. I bought a Walker for Congress T-shirt and not much else. If Walker chooses to run again, I invite her to D.C. for a grassroots fundraiser with all my Florida transplants, poli-queers, and anyone else I can browbeat to attend an event and pitch in.

Friends who still live in this district or thereabouts regularly share sad stories of being decent people in hostile territory. Many of us got out and don’t have much interest in looking back. But our country will be a monumentally better place if we do.

Will O’Bryan is a former Metro Weekly managing editor, living in D.C. with his husband. He is online at

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