Evan, in his own words: “When I think of my sexual identity, I try not to think of myself as a gay man, but rather a man that just happens to be gay. For me, to be gay is to be yourself. I like rap music, Mini-Wheats and 19th century French impressionism, collect political buttons and talk about pugs all the time. While there are some things that interest me that some would see as synonymous with being gay, there are many that aren’t. With that, there’s no cookie cutter definition of what it means to be gay and there shouldn’t be; everyone is different in their own unique way.
Figuring out when I first acknowledged the possibility that I was gay is something that’s been an ongoing endeavor. Sometimes I think I’ve always known. Other times I think it was middle school or college when I came to realize it. But what set off my eventual decision to come out was being hit on by another guy for the first time at a party in October of my sophomore year of college. At first, I was embarrassed because others heard what he said. I always thought other people suspected I was gay and for people to hear another guy say something suggestive to me would only intensify suspicions. It was a frightening prospect considering how when I was growing up in small town North Carolina, whenever someone insinuated that my orientation was anything but straight, it was always in some negative connotation. “Fag” and “homo” are two words that instantly come to mind. After that guy’s initial compliment, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It stuck with me for days, which turned into weeks and then months. Initially, I thought it was just a phase, one single attraction. But by February, I began to realize that there were other guys and that’s when with certainty, it hit me: I was gay. In a near instant, I thought my life was over. From rejection by friends and family to an inability to launch a career in politics or possibly hold public office, I had reasons to believe that everything I had worked for and built up over the years was wasted; complete and total rejection and castigation were an imminent reality. I stopped caring about anything and coupled with other problems I was dealing with, I saw almost nothing redeemable about myself. For those that had perceived me as gay and taunted me for it, I didn’t want to come out because I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of knowing they were right and for that, I said nothing to anyone. By May, I couldn’t take it anymore. When something becomes the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning and the last thing you think about before you fall asleep, you have to say something. And with that, on May 12, 2011 for the first time ever, I told another person, my friend Erik, that I was gay. It was one of the most emotionally intense moments I’ve ever encountered. It was relief, ecstasy, disbelief and shock all at once. In the following weeks and months, I came out to friends and family one by one. Some were shocked while some told me they knew all along. Regardless of whether or not they knew, the responses from the people I cared about the most were all the same: Love. Coming out was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. If not for peace of mind, for assurance that I’m loved.
Like many people living in DC, politics is an enormous part of my life. I eat, sleep and breath it; I always have and I always will. But what makes me different from many other members of the LGBT community is that I’m a Republican. When I first came out, I found myself not only coming out to my Republican friends as gay, but coming out to my gay friends as Republican. The former was incredibly supportive, loving and accepting of me and told me that I was the same person I had always been. The latter however, responded a bit differently. While some were as compassionate and understanding as my Republican friends were, a surprising number of LGBT people conveyed their discontent. Being a Republican was one thing, but being a gay Republican was another. One person went so far as to tell me that I was sick, a disgrace to the LGBT community undeserving of support; an “Uncle Tom.” Even in the days leading up to me writing this, another gay person (not knowing I was a Republican) told me at a party attended by mostly gay Republicans that most in attendance were “…basically self-hating, clueless people.” Crassness aside, it was insulting to assume that gay Republicans are oblivious to the fact that many Republicans are behind the times on LGBT issues. As a person that works in Republican politics, I know this better than most and it’s one of the mostly profoundly difficult obstacles I face, both personally and professionally. Despite this, I remind myself daily that if I and other pro-equality Republicans leave the GOP on the basis of LGBT rights, then there wouldn’t be anyone left to help change the party from within. Since coming out, I’ve talked to many Republicans and conservatives I previously knew to be unsympathetic to our causes. But after talking with them about the struggles I and others face and a reminder of the Republican Party’s dedication to the principle of limited government, I began to see opinions shift. Playing to their political sensibilities has been key, but what seemed to be the most effective in changing hearts and minds was relaying how, despite being gay, I want the same life that many of them want; one that involves having children, family trips to the beach and the white picket fence sort of life shared with another person that just so happens to also be a man. Essentially, the family values that so many Republicans hold dear are ones that I hold as well. With that, stereotypes are broken. Seeing opinions change, from friends and acquaintances to even my own family members, I’ve learned that though the challenges I’ve encountered have been difficult to bear sometimes, they make you stronger and provide you with the leverage you need to help bring about the change you want to see. The change we’ve encountered thus far has been slow, but slow progress is better than no progress and I’m proud of it.
Last but not least, there’s the D.C. gay scene. It’s a plethora of guys from all sorts of backgrounds from which I don’t know where to begin. The LGBT population is enormous, with nearly one in ten residents identifying as LGBT. Many like myself are from small town America that made the move to the city for work, but many also went to school in D.C. and have lived here for years. Of all the DC gays I know, they’re mostly young professionals working in the private sector and at all levels and branches of government. They’re driven, career-oriented people, but definitely know how to have a good time. Weekend brunch is a way of life and trips to gay havens like Rehoboth Beach and Provincetown are relatively frequent. Relationships happen, but D.C. is a transient city where people come and go all the time; it’s not the most conducive place for a person wanting a relationship. Overall, while the gay crowd in D.C. has some defining features to it, it’s very diverse and within it there’s a niche for everyone. I’m still finding mine and while it’s sometimes a bit confusing and scary, it’s one of the most, if not the most, exciting journeys I’ve ever been on.”