Ernest McCarley, known to many simply as “E,” got involved with local HIV charity work almost through happenstance. For about seven years he was, as he puts it, the “bald head and smiling face” at the coat check at Bachelor’s Mill.
It was a great way to meet a lot of people and McCarley soon found himself donating time and money to Us Helping Us, the Center, the White Attire Affair, the D.C. Coalition and more. But the epidemic also resonated with McCarley. During the decade he lived in Atlanta, he’d lost several friends and even found himself attending “about a dozen” funerals his first year in D.C.
“It’s not always a lot,” he says. “Sometimes just $50 here or $100 there, but I try to help however I can. It’s so devastating and has lingered so long.”
McCarley, 48, is a field operations manager for Classic Concierge. He and his partner — whom he declines to name because he’s in the Army and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is still being enforced — recently moved from D.C. to New Carrollton, Md., mostly, he says, for more space.
The Buffalo, N.Y., native enjoys traveling, interior decorating and entertaining with family and friends in his spare time. He also likes cooking and home improvement shows.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Fifteen years. Telling one of my three sisters was the hardest. One sister asked while the other said she knew. When I asked why she had never brought it up, she said, “What was there to say?” and we both laughed.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
My hero, not just my gay hero, is my partner.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
The Bachelor’s Mill (when the coat check guy was there- LOL), the Fireplace and Ziegfeld’s.
Describe your dream wedding.
A big white church wedding with 400 guests to be featured in a national magazine.
What non-gay issue are you most passionate about?
The U.S. is the richest country in the world, but according to the World Health Organization, it ranks number 37 out of 190 countries in overall health care. Something is seriously wrong with these facts. I believe that a great health care system should be available to every American citizen given our resources and abilities.
What historical outcome would you change?
Slavery having led to African Americans being viewed as second-class citizens.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The election of the first African American as the president of the United States. I never conceived it would actually happen in my lifetime. As a black man in America still going through my struggle to belong and be viewed as an equal, I am still amazed by it. During the inauguration I cried.
On what do you insist?
Organization and fairness in both work and play.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
A happy birthday wish to my dad and stepmother who share the same birthday. I also thanked my friends for coming out to celebrate my birthday last week.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Black Diamond (A Glimmer from the Dark)”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Nothing. My God has made his people imperfectly perfect as they are.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe there is a place called heaven where love, peace and harmony will be found again.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Always lead by example and educate our LGBT youth on the struggles we had to endure to get to them to this point in life. Also, advise our youth not to takes these privileges for granted; they came with at a price and there is more work to be done.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
The love I share with my partner and family. The love and support I receive from them is unparalleled for many in our community. I am truly blessed!
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That all gay men are flaming queens. No disrespect to effeminate guys … there is room for all of us. Variety in our community is what makes us unique.
What’s your favorite LGBT-themed movie?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Tipping. Unfortunately, life and services have become more and more expensive. However, customer service, many times, has gotten worse. It is my pleasure to tip for great service, but not just because you came to work and touched on the surface of doing “your job.”
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
To one day be recognized as a great philanthropist who gave much toward a cure for HIV/AIDS, which has taken too many of my friends and cancer, which took the life of my dear mother as well as my partner’s mother.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
I wish I had known my father’s philosophy on saving and financial planning for the future.
With the exception of one sister, all of my siblings attended college in D.C. and decided to reside here after graduating from college. Likewise, they all have children and are raising their families here. So moving to Washington not only provided me with better career opportunities, it provided me an opportunity to reconnect with my family and be a part of the “village” that it takes to raise children today. I also found that there was a great voice for the LGBT community here called Washington Blade.