by Brett Gray
In 1985, freshly graduated from Texas Tech University, I set off for Washington, DC, and life as a legislative aide to a U.S. Senator. It was a dream first job. An opportunity to learn about our legislative process, connect with colleagues and friends for life, and to be surrounded by so much power and influence. For a small town guy, it was sensory overload!
Despite living in a very LGBT-friendly city, I was very much in the closet (though in later years, I realize that virtually all of my friends and colleagues seemed to be much more aware of my orientation than I!). After several years on the Hill, I moved to the 'private sector' to work for a large public relations firm. There were two out guys who worked in my office, and I marveled at their bravery to be so honest about who they were.
I made a few gay friends in Washington, and event dated a bit but, at the same time, I was deeply ashamed of my orientation, and remember waking up some mornings to a sense of dread. For a variety of reasons, I had grown up believing that being gay was wrong -- and always felt a bit different from most other kids. I grew up in a loving family, was popular enough, and a good student - but much more comfortable with a book than on an athletic field.
After seven years in Washington, I had an opportunity to transfer to Dallas, and the moved excited me because I would be closer to my family and college friends. Soon after I arrived I came out to a friend from Washington who'd moved to Dallas a few months prior to me. She introduced me to Jerry Birdwell and his partner Kevin, who asked me to help provide communications counsel to Jerry's campaign for state judge.
Through that relationship I soon met many men and women and at their invitation, attended my first Black Tie Dinner in 1992. Wow wow wow wow wow!!! How could there possibly be so many cool, well-dressed, distinguished and smart LGBT folk in Dallas? They weren't hiding who they were -- they were celebrating it! I was smitten. That event was a catalyst for me, and little by little, I began to come out to more people - straight and gay - and largely found acceptance.
In 1996 I met Kathy Hewitt, and over dinner with mutual friends, she recruited me to help with PR for OLCS' AIDS Lifewalk. (I don't think she asked me to volunteer - she told me!) Not only was that experience a pathway to activism for me, but I met my handsome husband Kindred Lee Roach, who also was on the board.
Kin and I have been together for 18 years now, and we got married officially in August 2013 when we were in Santa Fe. He's been with me through thick and then, supported my career, and been a friend and confidante. He's also been a terrific advocate, and supported me in my volunteerism. After AIDS Lifewalk, I was recruited for a position on the Black Tie Dinner board, which has been my favorite volunteer experience. I have served on several other boards, including Resource Center where I am an active board member today.
Even though I may dream of Santa Fe or life on the West Coast, I am privileged to live in Dallas. We may not have rivers, oceans or mountains, but our people assets - especially the LGBT community - are the best part of the landscape.