Diego Sanchez has lived in a lot of places. The 54-year-old legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was born and adopted in Frankfurt, Germany and lived his first few years in Washington.
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But he mostly grew up in the Panama Canal Zone and in Georgia. By his 20s, he was in New York City, then Atlanta and finally to Boston where he splits his time with Washington. There was also a year in Milan. He lives now in Washington’s Columbia Heights neighborhood but retains voting and residency rights in Massachusetts.
Sanchez, who’s transgender, enjoys playing guitar, writing songs, reading biographies, playing tennis, golf and squash and watching what he calls “trash TV” in his spare time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
At age 5 in 1962, I told my parents I was born wrong. Their loving acceptance and support in dually socializing me as a boy and girl made disclosure to others later a cakewalk. Parents’ love mattered most to me.
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Who’s your LGBT hero?
It can’t be easy to be the smartest man in Congress — voted by others who know. Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) fights fearlessly for our rights and for the good of our country. I admire his courage, tenacity, refreshing wit and towering intellect.
What is Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Since I was a kid and even now, I enjoy the Jefferson Memorial at night to center me.
Describe your dream wedding.
Anyone’s but mine — as long as I’m invited.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Eliminating health care access disparities, delivering workplace equality and establishing affordable adoption rights. I’d literally be dead if I had not been adopted.
What historical outcome would you change?
The Holocaust; my Mom was a survivor thanks to my Dad’s World War II Army liberation action.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Nelson Mandela’s liberation and how he selflessly gives the world himself. I’m grateful to have met him in Massachusetts.
On what do you insist?
Honest and honorable living and full equality for LGBT people. God did not create tiers of humanity.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Survive, Succeed, Excel: Lessons From a Man First Seen as a Girl then Realized as Himself.”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Advocate for a toggle switch. I’d want gay and lesbian people to be able to come back if they left for a bit, and vice versa.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
God and spiritual presence of our angels, the people who have passed and watch over and guide us from heaven for eternity. I hope I get that job in time.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Listen intently more than you speak. Think and feel before you act. Live honestly, honorably and with integrity. Don’t assault your allies.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My people and my animal companions.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
I have one for each letter: That all gay men are fey and have style sense; that all lesbians wear tool belts; that bisexuals are undecided or in denial; and that all trans people are gay.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
Fave? “Fluffer,” but most meaningful to me is “Boys Don’t Cry” with Oscar winner Hillary Swank as Brandon Teena.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Applause. Have you ever imagined yourself from another planet and watching people applaud? I have struggled with it since early childhood.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Chris Crowe calling me his “Yoda.” It matters a lot.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
A lesson learned at 31: “Do you want people to know how smart you are or do you want people to do what you want them to do?”
Congressman Barney Frank asked me to be the first openly transgender Capitol Hill legislative staffer by working for him in D.C. I couldn’t resist and I love having him as my boss because of the work we get to do for his constituents on a variety of issues close to my heart — health care, veterans, labor, disability, civil rights and more. I’m blessed to be here.