July 14, 2011 | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Queery: Dana Beyer

Activist Dana Beyer (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Dana Beyer is one of those how-has-she-done-it overachievers whose resume is staggering even by Washington standards.

The long-time LGBT activist has been active on the boards of several national and regional groups, has run twice for state delegate in Maryland and is now devoting her time volunteering as executive director of a new group, Gender Rights Maryland, that is working toward getting a comprehensive gender identity anti-discrimination bill passed in Maryland by the end of the 2012 legislative session. Beyer started her career as an eye surgeon but after years of working both in the U.S. and abroad, burned out from overwork and neglecting to deal with what she says were traumatic adolescent issues that had inspired her to become a doctor.

Does she feel her current endeavors are more her true calling? It’s not that tidy, says Beyer, who’s transgender.

“I didn’t end up where I am today with the LGBT activism deliberately,” she says. “But the medical background and having spent so many years of my career as a physician means I’m pretty well versed in the biological and psychological underpinnings of sexuality and gender and this makes me a more effective advocate. … I also don’t just sit around and dither. … I’m very much inclined to just go ahead and do something. It gets me in trouble sometimes politically … but I think my life has come together at this point where I can use it all productively.”

Beyer, twice divorced, has two adult sons from her first marriage. The New York native is a long-time Chevy Chase, Md., resident and enjoys traveling, reading, studying her Jewish faith and running in her free time. (Photo courtesy of Dana Beyer)

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I came out to my parents at 11, but the most difficult day was visiting them in Florida as Dana for the first time. I had no idea if the door would be slammed in my face upon arrival or I would be welcomed. By the time the visit was over my parents were debating which of my great aunts I most resembled.

Who’s your LGBT hero?

“LGBT hero” covers a lot of ground, so let me narrow it down to “LGBT role model.” In that case I would name Amanda Simpson, whose race for the Arizona Legislature in 2004 gave me hope that a trans woman could get elected in this country.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?

Wherever the committed activists choose to congregate, either to brainstorm the next action, support a promising candidate or simply to unwind.

Describe your dream wedding.

I had always wanted that fairytale wedding with the classic white dress, yet, interestingly, in neither of my weddings did the bride dress traditionally. And having come as far as I have, should ever I marry again, I don’t believe the dress I wear will mean as much as I thought it would when I was 7.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

I would have to say I care most about the progressive cause in general, but noting all that has transpired since 2006 when the Democrats took back Congress, I would focus on the lack of willingness among progressives and liberals to fight, and fight back, for their beliefs.

What historical outcome would you change?

Whatever the events were that started our ancestors on the road to institutionalizing misogyny.

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

If I may stretch out the definition of “moment,” the summer of ’69 – Stonewall, Woodstock, the Mets, Apollo 11 and first love. And (literally) bumping into Clarence Williams III of “The Mod Squad” on Fifth Avenue.

On what do you insist?

Respect

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

The U.S. women’s remarkable, magical, unfathomable, shorthanded, extra-time overtime, penalty kick victory against Brazil in the World Cup quarterfinals in Germany.

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“Boychik”

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

I would defend the rights of all to live their lives to the fullest, just as I do now.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

I have an Einsteinian view of the multiverse – I’m in awe of its immensity, its complexity and its beauty.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Lead. Take the risks you’re paid to take and hold yourselves accountable to the community that you represent. Give it your best and do not fear failure.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

Love

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

I am most annoyed by those who know little of their religion who loudly proclaim that the Bible finds LGBT people to be immoral, unhealthy, demonic and deserving of death. We give a blank check to preachers to use their particular bible to spread fear and hate. I don’t believe that was the original intent of the founders.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Imagine Me and You.” Sorry, I’m a romantic.

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Lesbians and toasters.

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

Any recognition by my peers of my work.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

That my paralysis and fear was not a fear of failure, but a fear of success. I knew that changing sex and gender was both the most difficult and exhilarating journey a human could take, and was afraid I would fail. It seemed like “the undiscovered country,” while in reality it was simply life and worth the risk. Failure would have just been more of the same.

Why Washington?

I interned here in the ‘70s, then moved back to be near my children after my separation and never left.

 

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

2 Comments
  • Y’know, I have to say that while it’s great to see you interviewing Dana for this feature, you folks at the Blade should know that when it comes to interviews one size most certainly does not fit all. Speaking as someone who’s not only interviewed many gay, lesbian, and trans people on my Internet radio show, but also Dana herself a time or three, some of your questions make me scratch my head in amazement.

    Why would you ask a trans woman “If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?”? Did you even ask Dana if she’s lesbian before asking that question? Many trans people change their sexual orientation when they transition, although of course many don’t. This is a great example of a question that’s a good fit for a gay or lesbian person, but makes little sense to ask of a trans person. A better question might have been “If science discovered a way to change gender identity…”.

    And then there’s “What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?”. Dana doesn’t even live in DC, she’s a Maryland-based activist and political figure, so what exactly was the point of asking this one?

    Trans people deserve to be interviewed in a way that fits with who we are and how we live our lives, not with cookie-cutter questions written for gay and lesbian subjects.

    C’mon, you guys are better than this. I know you are because I’ve been reading the Blade for far too long not to be absolutely convinced of it. That said, the Blade really needs at least one trans reporter on staff so that stuff like this doesn’t happen.

  • While I agree with Rebecca critique of the cookie-cutter approach to interviewing, as one who has come to know Dana over the last few years, I am delighted by both the Blade’s attention to Dana’s work and Dana’s matter-of-fact approach to your queries. We need more leaders in our communities– the L, the G, the B, the T, and the Q, and the LGBTQ together– with such candor about the movements and openness about their lives.

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