Max Barger has dabbled in lots of things — he started his career as a reporter and also worked as a singer/dancer/actor before going to law school in the early ’90s and also earned a master’s of business administration degree. That led to lots of moving around. Barger, who grew up on an Indiana farm, shifted around to Los Angeles, St. Louis, Hilton Head, S.C., and more before coming to the D.C. area four years ago. The Bethesda firm he joined downsized and in March he joined the gay-helmed general practice firm Ackerman Legal where he does estate planning and probate law.
His coming out process was almost as circuitous as his career path. He’d come out years earlier but was, as he puts it “lovingly shoved back in the closet by family and friends who thought they were trying to help me.” This led to frustrating attempts at “ex-gay” therapy, inspired by his conservative and religious Midwest family.
“They were very loving and caring and sincere,” Barger says. “But they were sincerely wrong and I was gullible enough to want that. I wish I could have just had the courage to say no.” Barger eventually made peace with his sexual orientation and says he has a great relationship with his family now. He met his partner of four years, flight attendant Edwin Rosario, at a barbecue hosted by mutual friends. They live together in Arlington with their dog, Gizmo. Barger enjoys singing in the church choir, running, reading and blogging on legal issues and enjoying wine and music. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been out for about a decade. The hardest person to come out to was myself. Admitting it to myself, saying, “I am gay, this is who I am,” was a difficult inner dialogue. After getting over that, although it wasn’t easy to tell my family and loved ones, it was much easier than embracing it and reconciling it in my own mind.
Who’s your gay hero?
No doubt about it, Larry Slagle. Larry is a septuagenarian and fellow Foundry UMC member. Larry’s quiet courage, bravery and perseverance, being a powerful man, who was also gay during a time when it was dangerous to be gay (or should I say “more dangerous?”), is nothing short of inspiring. Unnoticed, Larry blazed a trail, making it easier for all of us. Never outspoken, simply wise and full of integrity.
What is Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Wherever the next Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CAGLCC) Network Thursday event is happening! October’s is at Gucci in Chevy Chase.
Describe your dream gay wedding.
Now that it is possible, an intimate ceremony at Foundry UMC with Pastors Dean and Dee officiating, followed by a reception on a rooftop with a fantastic view of D.C. and in D.C. – the city that lets us get married.
What non-gay issue are you most passionate about?
Personally, my family and beginning the transition of taking care of my parents after their decades of raising and protecting their children. Professionally, educating people about protecting their assets, minimizing taxes and putting a plan in place. Socially, ending the acrimonious nature of politics and extremism.
What historical outcome would you change?
Modern history – the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. Ancient history – Isaac and Ishmael. I’d make them, their mothers and their father all one big happy blended family.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
I was tiny, but I still remember it – President Nixon’s resignation speech. My Dad sat me on the floor in front of the TV and said, “Watch this. This is important. You will always remember this moment.” I still do.
On what do you insist?
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
Answering that question would expose my dismal lack of posting anything recently.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Official Book Club Selection.” Although I think that’s been taken already.
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I would not wait for that to happen. If I thought that there was funding to research it, I would work to keep such harmful, hateful research from going forward.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
Really? In a couple sentences? This is more like a dissertation topic. Suffice to say, my spiritual life is very important to me.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Do good. Harm no one. Stay true to the tenets that first motivated you to lead.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
As an attorney, my answer is always “it depends.” So what are the circumstances in which said hot coals are the obstacle? Is someone’s life threatened if I don’t cross? Clearly, I’d cross for that. Or is the lure untold wealth on the other side of the scorching walk? What’s my motivation? Am I over-thinking this question?
What gay stereotype annoys you most?
That all gay men are sex hounds, motivated primarily by a base desire to have sex with every man who walks by them. The LGBT community’s gay stereotype that annoys me the most is that since we are gay, naturally we are all dyed-in-the-wool Democrats and support the entire Democratic platform. Let’s have a conversation before jumping to conclusions.
What’s your favorite gay movie?
“Broken Hearts Club” – Dean Cain, John Mahoney, Zach Braff. I laughed, I cried, it was better than “Cats.”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Tipping. We should pay a worker his wage, not hide it in a tip. Tipping is nothing more that civilized bribery.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I want to become a fellow of the American College of Trusts and Estate Counsel. I also aspire to earn the designation of accredited estate planner and estate planning law specialist.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That I did not need to be ashamed of my personal orientation.
I moved here for a fantastic career opportunity and I am staying because of the fantastic relationships I have developed.