Bob, in his own words: “Being gay means never having to say you’re sorry. Oops, that’s what Eric Segal wrote in “Love Story.” Never mind.
Being gay for me has meant having a special and very close community of like souls, both men and women who often have been outsiders, but never let themselves feel they are victims. It has opened up experiences, closeness, choices and relationships I would have otherwise missed. Ultimately, I never felt being heterosexual would assure me of any privilege or choices I do not have already.
I am keenly aware of all forms of stigma, discrimination and unfair laws that separate gay people and couples from others – but that has given many of us a purpose, by trying to dismantle, battle and end those barriers.
When I was much younger, being gay also meant finding someone to fall in love with. After nearly 20 years together now, I am more sure than ever that I am in love more every day with the man I’m with and the man I plan to marry too. I love being gay, and would never consider even slight longing to be anything else.
I’ve been active in gay civil rights most of my adult life. Two decades ago, I opened one of America’s first communications firms to help shape gay-friendly practices and policies in corporate America. I’ve tried hard to be a bridge-builder who sees opportunity and benefit when LGBT people are recognized, respected and reckoned with – and with the aim to achieve our equal measure of rights and responsibilities.
(The gay community in D.C. is) Hard to define or to single out, of course. Most people seem to come to Washington later in life, for school or to pursue career goals. I was born here, and Washington DC always has been my community – or a mix of communities. We tend to be more fixated on politics of course, and more global with a very transient and international bent too.
You might say we were once a small southern town with a lot of pretensions to be a more sophisticated world capital. The men and women who live and work here, gay and straight, are ambitious, smart, and probably not so fashion-forward as other cities or in other world capitals. We tend to work long hours, but also have a love of celebration, travel, good food and good sports.
Coming out is a lifetime of steps. I first began poking my head out with friends and family members in my early and mid 20s after leaving college. While I worked at the U.S. State Department immediately after graduation, and later in the U.S. Senate, being completely open did not seem an option at the time.
Simply put, many of us remained reticent or reserved about sharing our sexual orientation until we knew and trusted someone – since there were clearly barriers and attitudes that stood in the way of advancement and career choices. Nonetheless, whenever I told others, I never even once regretted it. I always felt the burden was lifted, even so slightly, and it gave others the chance to be more honest and open too – whether gay or straight. It always has improved the quality of my friendships and associations since I never found being gay stood in the way of connecting with others and forming lasting ties.”