When Michael Rogers moved to Washington in 1996, he was convinced it would just be for a two-year gig with the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. A native of Suffern, N.Y., (a suburb of the Big Apple), Rogers always felt like a New Yorker at heart.
But upon arriving in D.C., it was love at first sight.
“Within two weeks I knew I would stay,” Rogers says. “I’m totally into politics, so of course there’s that, but I just really love the city, the people are amazing and I really love the scale of D.C. It was one of those things where I didn’t realize how much I didn’t like New York until I left it. You kind of think it’s the center of the universe, but here I’m on the top floor, I have a balcony with an incredible view … I think it’s the most beautiful city in America.”
Rogers, managing director of Raw Story Media, started his career as a fundraiser in public television. He later worked for New York’s Harvey Milk High School and Greenpeace before coming to Washington with the Task Force.
By 2004, he was burned out on fundraising and was becoming increasingly frustrated with the Bush administration. The wheels for his later work quickly started turning.
“They were basically using marriage to hurt gay people,” Rogers says. “They were using us as a tool to get elected. I was working from home and had a lot of time on my hands, so I ended up setting up a website to start exposing these people.”
Rogers eventually made a name for himself as a blogger who became successful at outing closeted Republicans. His biggest claim to fame was breaking the story of former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig’s being gay months before Craig was arrested in a Minnesota airport men’s room. Rogers got a tip a year before from someone who claimed to have had sex with Craig. That started a lengthy investigation in which Rogers corroborated the story with Craig’s arrest.
“I would never go on a story like that with one source,” Rogers says.
He eventually joined forces with John Byrne, who founded Raw Story. Byrne found Rogers’ audio files online of former U.S. Rep. Ed Schrock (R-Va.) soliciting sex from a male prostitute in 2004. A six-hour phone conversation between Rogers and Byrne confirmed they were kindred spirits.
Rogers is also the director of Netroots Nation’s Netroots Connect program, an umbrella group for bloggers.
The 47-year-old Rogers, who’s single and lives in Adams Morgan, is a self-described news junkie and enjoys “putzing around” his workshop and spending time with friends in his free time.
Rogers says he’s “highly honored” to have his Queery published after last week’s subject, his friend Diego Sanchez.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been out since 1986. The hardest person to tell was my friend Chris, because he was the first. He laughed and said “the Streisand and Midler records made that clear a while back.”
Who’s your LGBT hero?
There are so many to pick from. Ann Northrop comes to mind, the first fearless woman I met. She is my friend from the Harvey Milk School days with whom I was arrested in 1989. She takes risks knowing the consequences and takes them anyway.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
At home, relaxing with friends.
Describe your dream wedding.
Not something I’ve dreamed about, it’s only recently that we can even think about it.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Justice for all.
What historical outcome would you change?
Failure of the 1978 Washington, D.C. Voting Rights Constitutional Amendment to be ratified by the states after it passed Congress.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Billy Joel, Madison Square Garden, 1981. My first concert ever. I held the lighter in my hand during the entire show, just so I wouldn’t miss the moment.
On what do you insist?
Respect for our animal friends.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
Just in time. Check out our #nn11lgbt IT GETS BETTER vid. Tx @carlosqc and the gang! Love! http://t.co/OXue2P8 #ny4m #lgbt
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“He Changed the World: One Keyboard at a Time”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Stay the way I am. There’s no such thing as the “straight community.”
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over” and when you die it’s over.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Ignore the online army at your own peril. The days of the moneyed people calling all the shots are over.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My best friend John; he’s been there for me when I needed it most. I try to do the same.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That you can pray away the gay.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Outrage,” isn’t it everyone’s favorite?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Suits and ties.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I hope some day to be worthy of a tombstone that says “The world is better because he dwelt upon it.”
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
How much I would learn by the time I was 40.
D.C. is a company town. If the nation’s capital were somewhere else, I’d move there.