Pride month hasn’t always held a special place in my heart, growing up in a place where being gay was a pejorative. But over the last few years, as I’ve grown more deeply involved in the LGTBQ community, I’ve taken the opportunity to think carefully about how we use this month not just for visibility, but true progress, inclusion, and unity—within the community and across the general population. This year, I have a unique reflection having been an openly gay candidate for mayor of the second largest city in America. And let me tell you, the picture is not a pretty one. It’s time for us to be honest with ourselves, if we’re ever going to effect real change.
While we continue to make great strides in equality in the private sector—and much more is needed, like the fact that many companies don’t track employee numbers or count LGBTQ as a minority in their reporting because the federal government doesn’t either—the public sector is nothing short of a disaster. Throughout my campaign, I saw some LGBTQ community representatives in the public sector succumb to the worst corruption, malfeasance, and simple unprofessionalism, all in the pursuit of power, instead of helping others. I saw organizations, like the Victory Fund, supposedly dedicated to the community, instead fall victim to the same corrupt mindset that governs Los Angeles. That has to change. And if I’m just one person, at least I’m a person being honest about where we are and what I learned as a candidate.
Here’s what I learned: in politics and public service, if you aren’t a part of the system, you don’t count, gay or not. While there were some noble, kind individuals, they were the exception. Even advocacy organizations seemed to exist for power first, to help the community second. And if helping—even giving a single piece of advice—to a me, as a gay candidate running, didn’t further their power-driven agenda, I couldn’t even get a return phone call…from organizations whose mission is to return phone calls and help people in my very position. I was warned by some, even, that they didn’t want to help a gay candidate at the risk of offending straight allies. And those were the best experiences.
At worst, I was repeatedly told by people in and out of the LGBTQ community that, because of my gender and my skin color, I didn’t “count.” My voice didn’t matter. I was privileged. I needed to give way for other marginalized voices. I’m not sure when inclusion switched from being let’s make sure all voices are represented at the table equally and fairly, to let’s exclude voices (and by the way who gets to make the decision as to who is included?), but what I do know is that no matter what struggle I faced in my life—growing up impoverished, abandoned as a teenager, being gay, mental health, any of it—I was told time and again by supposed leaders in and out of our community that I was an “over-privileged rich white guy” (only the white part is true) who didn’t deserve or need help or visibility. That is, unless I could provide something these power-hungry organizations or individuals sought. They were interested in helping if I could provide power, access, a guarantee of victory, or even a demonstration that I could raise so much money that I wouldn’t have needed their help in the first place.
In addition, I watched members of my own community flock to other candidates not because they believed in their policies—which would have been welcomed—but because of the virtue signaling they wanted to send for themselves. I watched rich, white gay men fetish over other
minority candidates without knowing a single thing because it was the “in” thing to do in insider political circles.
So why say all of this? Because if we’re being honest about Pride month, then we need to be honest about ourselves as a community. We need to stop pretending that our political advocacy organizations always have our community’s interests at heart. We need to understand that the broken system of power that marginalizes the working class of this country includes power brokers in our community who work for their power first, and the community second. We need to know that the call is sometimes coming from within the house.
I’m not angry or bitter over the unprofessionalism and disrespect shown to me as a candidate; I ran and continue to run a noble race with a noble cause of fixing a city I love. I am, however, disappointed that we continue to prop up members within our own community who do a disservice to our very causes. We must insist that our leaders—self-anointed or not—put the LGBTQ community first, and their own power second. We must hold each other accountable, particularly if we are ever to ask those outside our community to do more. How can we expect to ask either political party, or any elected official, or any organization, to treat us with dignity, if we can’t even get those inside our home to do the same? This #pride month, let’s demand more. We deserve it. And don’t forget to vote by June 7.