Brian Bond is Democratic National Convention Committee Director of Public Engagement

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Philadelphia Gay News:
You have one of the most unique positions to see what the LGBT community has been through politically: from being a grassroots political activist in Missouri, coming to D.C. as an out gay politico, helping to create Victory Fund — which was the first organization to actually try to be a candidates’ college — to the White House to the DNC and now being an exec of the Democratic National Convention. Tell me about what it’s been like on that journey.


BB:
Probably the most inspiring moment I’ve had in a while was literally watching the platform process in Orlando a couple weeks ago. The appreciation and inclusion of the LGBT — and I emphasize transgender — support that was within the standing-committee delegation was amazing. You know as well as I do the long journey that has been going on for a very long time to get to the point where it’s not just whether LGBT issues are included in the platform, but how much to include or tweaking certain words. It was just amazing to see how embraced the community is, especially in this last platform process.

PGN:
I did an outline where we’ve been with the Democratic Party that goes back to 1976, when Jimmy Carter for the first time tried to get an LGBT plank in. Carter’s team scoffed at that. Today we have probably most progressive LGBT platform we’ve ever had. Can you explain what that feels like seeing that genesis and it being in your ballpark?


BB:
As I was watching the platform process, I was thinking back. I truly stand on the shoulders of many, including you Mark on the agenda you’ve pushed over the years, especially broader than just political and social. But I think people like Jean O’Leary from California who passed away several years ago, and others led these very fights for this platform. It was never an issue of inclusion than it was our issue to take us out of the shadows and out of the closet and include us in the process visibly. That transition has been happening. I think of 1992 when nominee Clinton actively began that process and I remember to this day when he said the words “gay” and “straight” at his acceptance speech and the crowd went nuts.

PGN:
You’re a pioneer who’s been through that entire time period. We don’t have anyone today who was there then and now and gone the full route. You realize of course that in a sense you are the political role model that young LGBT people will be looking at in years to come.

BB:
I think role models are those people on streets and in the states doing this work every day. We do have an amazing platform. We are a part of the fabric of that document. One of the things the platform points to is all the work we still need to do in the states to ensure full equality. It also includes electing Secretary Clinton as the next president of the United States, taking back the Senate and House and turning some of the state legislatures and governorships over so we can pass a more progressive agenda. That doesn’t mean as a community we wont have to continue to push but at this point we’ve got to build the base to elect candidates that will work toward the goals of that platform.

PGN:
I’m now speaking with one of the director of the DNC who once was the guy trying to get gay people elected throughout the country. When you look at this convention and the overwhelming number of LGBT delegates, the largest trans delegation we’ve ever had, can you say, “Job done”?

BB:
I can never say, “Job done.” I remember working with Rick Stafford in ’92 to try to get us over the 200 mark in delegates, standing committee-members and alternates. We did that. That education process, while a little nerdy, of working with state delegations is a crucial part of integrating LGBTQ individuals into the party structure in larger policy discussions. Having people like Rick Stafford, Raymond Buckley and others work with supportive state chairs, who have lots of priorities to make sure we’re included in the process during delegate selection, brings new leaders into the party.

PGN:
We were starting at 0 or 10 percent and we were looking to expand our community and its fight for rights. Now we have young millennials entering the LGBT community who want to see change immediately. What do you say to them?

BB:
From day one of President Obama’s administration, he encouraged people to push collectively to do better. It is activists’ job to bring issues to the forefront and push. I think that’s an important component of this. We have to have people both working on the inside and the outside to bring about real change, which is what this community has done very effectively.

PGN:
You have been the go-to out gay man in the White House during probably the most pivotal administration for the LGBT community, the Obama administration. What was one of the hardest issues for you to deal with?

BB:
I think the hardest issue to deal with was people’s expectation of how fast things could move or not move. The president couldn’t just wave a magic wand. I think the president used exactly the right strategy to ensure [the repeal of] “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was not only enacted as law but also to ensure that the armed forces were in a space to embrace and move forward. People want change quickly, and sometimes it doesn’t happen quickly. But if you look at what the president said in his first Pride event, he said, “Don’t judge me today, judge me at where we end up at the end of this administration.” I could not be prouder of Barack Obama and Joe Biden and the entire staff of the Obama administration for moving the ball forward. I would add electing Secretary Clinton as the next president is crucial to keep progress moving forward, especially involving some of the executive orders.

PGN:
What surprises do the LGBT delegates have in store for them this week?

BB:
This is probably the most forward-thinking and inclusive convention we have had as we journey down this path of equality. I expect people to enjoy themselves but also hopefully leave feeling extremely proud of the party and motivated on the work we have ahead to get the job done to get sec Clinton across finish line in November


PGN:
If you’re talking to a young LGBT delegate this week who’s charged up to fight for Hillary, what do you tell that person they should be doing after November?

BB:
The first priority is to elect a president who cares about us and will fight and continue the progress we’ve made. And then I’d tell them to take that energy and continue to mobilize and use the relationships they built in this campaign to continue the discussion and build out a stronger program. Let me be clear: Many states have amazing programs, we just need more activists, more people, helping to get the issues across the finish line and educating legislators or changing legislators, if we’re going to bring about real progress.

PGN:
What will be the LGBT issues facing the new administration?

BB:
Hmmm. I can’t answer that. I feel very confident where the administration will lead us on LGBTQ rights. I think what she is going to need is a legislature, a Congress, that will help her to do so. I think that challenge is figuring out how now to focus on the election and turn the Senate and House and state bodies.

PGN:
You’ve seen the nation change tremendously and one of the changes was President Obama’s second inauguration speech. That changed this country more than anything else, and put our civil-rights struggle equal with other civil-rights struggle. Who is responsible for that line: “Through Seneca Falls, and Selma and Stonewall …” ?

BB:
In any number of speeches and I honestly give the president responsibility for that. He understands the role he has played in our progress.


PGN:
What was your feeling when heard him say that line?

BB:
It was extremely powerful, especially for those kids in states around the country for them to hear the president in front of the world in his second inaugural speech to include us as part of the fabric. What has been accomplished over the last seven years and what will be over the next eight truly can save and change lives.

PGN:
What was most emotional moment for you as out gay man while working in the White House?

BB:
The moment that touched me the most was when the president was taping his “It Gets Better” video. In the middle of his taping, he stopped the camera and said, “Let’s go back. It’s really important for me to talk directly to the kids here.” At that point, I somewhat lost it. I believed in him from the beginning but it was clear that, as a parent and leader of the free world, he knew his role in saving lives and lifting people up. I will be grateful to him for that for rest of my life.

PGN:
There’s going to be many LGBT delegates, but some people might not know the number of LGBT people who’ve been working on the convention committee itself. You’ve created an incredible group of millennials who are so full of energy and you were polite enough invite me to come in and do a gay Pride lunch and talk, and I was overwhelmingly impressed. Do they ask u about what it took someone like you to get to the position you’re in?

BB:
I don’t think we’ve had time to do that. They’re pretty busy. I do need to commend Leah Daughtry who has made a commitment to ensure her staff at the convention looks like America. You saw the sampling in room that she has done that for the LGBT community, from leadership through every department of the DNC committee. I also do want to say when I talk about the work we have to do in the states that we still have so much to do within the trans community, but also within our own community to ensure it looks like the community — that it is diverse, broad and has so many gifts. I think we elders, if you will, of the party and the community, have a responsibility to work hard every day to ensure the LGBT community is representative of the broader community. That is work that definitely has to continue if we are to ensure people’s voices are heard.

PGN:
How was it for you, knowing your boss, President Obama, was there 100 percent on all the issues but at times politically had to navigate them, while millennials, wanting things instantaneously, and bloggers and LGBT media were harassing you on what the holdup was?

BB:
I knew where we were going to end up and we had to keep pushing. The president said point blank, “Push from the outside,” but at the same time there has to be a realization you can’t wave a magic wand. I think collectively the inside game and outside game are extremely important to move the ball forward. We never lost faith in the president to get this done. It also helps when you have advocates in the White House like Valerie Jarrett, who from day one understood the dynamics of electing the first black president of the U.S. and the empowerment of that, yet at the same time saw what happened in California when marriage rights were taken away all in one night. She grasped that from the beginning, which is why I think we had such an incredible champion in her last the last seven years. I truly believe electing Secretary Clinton is extremely important to keep progress moving forward.


PGN:
This Last question is one that haunts me to some extent often. You and I have been at the beginning stages of creating LGBT community, in this regard LGBT political community. In an interview we did with Barney Frank, he talked about how he always wanted to go into politics but because he was gay and in the closet he thought he never could. It was banged home to him when he went to work for President Kennedy. In the office, he’d often hear “queer” and “faggot” tossed around. He thought he would never have a political career. We’ve gone from that to the point where we’re at now where not only is the president of the U.S. positive on gay issues, one of the people running the convention — you — is gay and we have gay people running a presidential campaign. From 1976 to now, we have gone from almost 0 to almost 100. How do you explain that success to people?

BB:
I think at the end of the day we all want to be treated equally and we want to be judged on our merits. I think we are not 100-percent there yet but when you have people like Robby [Mook, Clinton campaign manager] in the role he has and many others around country, the number of LGBT elected officials, those barriers are coming down. They’re not done but they’re coming down. At the end of the day, we should be judged on our merits. That’s our ultimate goal of where we’re headed.


BB:
Here’s one thing I should mention. President Obama placed a very strong emphasis on his HIV/AIDS strategy, so continuing that work and not allowing HIV as an issue to fall by the wayside is important to me personally, as somebody who’s positive, but also for kids out there who we still need to continue to educate.

PGN:
That’s one of many issues deal with, alone with the endangered seniors living in housing who are harassed every day. There’s still a big agenda out there and we still have to kill racism, sexism in our own community. You’ve handled all these issues during this time and knowing you were a grassroots worker out there and seeing you today, I have love in saying that. I am proud to say it’s been wonderful to be on this road with you and, Brian, you have a lot more miles to be traveling in the next few years.

BB:
We’re not done yet.


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