Denis Dison came to D.C. on a dare. He’d spent most of his early years in Florida but after finishing college, a friend invited him here for the weekend.
“She said, ‘I think you really need to be here,’” he recalls. “‘This is where you should live and work.’ I came to visit, got a temp job that weekend, found a place and started packing as soon as I got home three days later.”
That was 20 years ago. Four years ago, the 42-year-old self-described political junkie joined the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund where he’s vice president for external affairs. He’d worked in editorial and marketing jobs before but he’s been putting his writing skills to use blogging at Fund-sponsored gaypolitics.com and is also a spokesperson for the organization.
“It can be a bit jarring moving from the non-profit world, but I saw this as a unique opportunity to contribute to the greater equality of LGBT people and I’ve always felt if you have the opportunity to work for the community you’re part of, you should take it.” Things are “incredibly busy,” he says. This year’s batch of 147 Fund-backed hopefuls includes six (three incumbents) running for congressional seats.
Dison, who’s gay, has had a few relationships but is single. “I could see myself in a relationship, but I’m kind of set in my ways,” he says. “It would have to be a patient person.” He calls Dupont Circle, where he lives, “one of the world’s great neighborhoods.”
In his spare time he enjoys reading and watching political news and keeping up with the latest Apple gadgets. After this summer’s intense D.C. heat, he jokes that he might move back to Alaska where he was born or Iceland, where his late father was stationed during Dison’s toddler years.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I think I finally told my mother when I was 24. Her response was, “Oh yeah, I thought so.” I think the fact I was considering becoming a Catholic priest probably tipped her off.
Who’s your gay hero?
Harvey Milk was a flawed human being but his life is a case study in change, persistence, hope and courage. As for living heroes, I’d say Houston Mayor Annise Parker for the same reasons. She’s kind of awesome.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Tracks was a personal favorite. They had a disco ball the size of a Volkswagen. And a beach volleyball court. And an outdoor grill where you could buy a burger. Come to think of it, what was all that about?
Describe your dream gay wedding.
I actually don’t dream about gay weddings, though my friends Ryan and Curtis got married in Baltimore in an ancient church and I got to set my drink on Edgar Allan Poe’s grave. That was kind of inspiring.
What non-gay issue are you most passionate about?
Feminism. I think a lot of the world’s problems could be solved by empowering women and girls. Also, the death penalty is insane.
What historical outcome would you change?
The 2000 presidential election in Florida. I’m fairly bipartisan but just imagine what the world would be like today had that gone a different way.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Seeing Michael Jackson in concert at the Gator Bowl in 1984 along with 45,000 other people. I was 16 and it was amazing.
On what do you insist?
300 thread count or higher.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“I’ve spent almost all of July in Las Vegas or D.C., so maybe in August I’ll take a long weekend on the face of the sun.”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Denis Dison: The Authorized Hagiography”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
You mean, I could become a better gay?
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I wonder, but I don’t yet believe. The physical world is mind-blowing enough.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Engage and organize straight allies, too. We’re outgunned and outspent, but if everyone who loves somebody who’s LGBT spoke out, we’d win every fight.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
The repeal of the filibuster rule in the Senate.
What gay stereotype annoys you most?
What’s your favorite gay movie?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Saying “God bless you” after someone sneezes. I mean, it’s a sneeze, not an aneurism.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
The power of compounding interest.
Because this is where my family of friends is and life would be no fun without them. And because I like to complain so, you know, there’s lots of material.