Sterling Washington jokes about the time he became a “professional homosexual” when he went to work for Us Helping Us.
He’d previously been a presidential appointee (he was an assistant in the Office of Administration) in the Clinton White House, he then worked in IT work for several years, went back to school at Howard to get a second degree, then landed at Us Helping Us working in development. Since July 2008, he’s been resource and grant development manager at the International Federation of Black Prides. Previously he served on the board of D.C. Black Pride.
Washington, a native Washingtonian, says the Federation does important work.
“Each of the Black Prides have advocacy projects they execute in local communities that could be anything from HIV work to youth empowerment to pushing for pro-LGBT legislation,” he says. “I think that work is very important.”
Washington is also a singer and sings tenor in the choir at the National City Christian Church in Thomas Circle. He loves opera and jazz and dreams perhaps one day of living in Vienna.
Washington grew up in the District’s Shepherd Park area and enjoys watching TV, reading, dining out with friends, acupuncture, walks in the woods and playing the piano in his free time. He’s single, though he’s recently been dating someone more regularly. (Blade photo by Michael Key)
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been out since 1994, when I was in undergrad at GWU. The hardest person to tell was my mother, who took the news better than I expected. Since she insisted on telling my father herself, I was spared the stress associated with telling him. Although they were a little resistant at first, both of my parents grew to accept my sexual orientation over time.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
This is difficult to answer because there are so many. Dr. Zachary Gabriel Green, a clinical psychologist and an expert on group dynamics, is definitely one of my LGBT heroes. He has done amazing work around identity-based conflicts and leadership development, publishing numerous papers on those subjects. Dr. Green and his husband, Dr. Rene Molenkamp, really helped in my coming out process and they remain good friends of mine. There’s also the late Bayard Rustin, who was an extraordinary community organizer. Like Rustin, I am an activist and singer.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
It’s a tie between The Andalusian Dog and “The Deep End” at Club Andalu. The former was around in the late ’90s and was located near 14th and U streets, N.W. The latter had its heyday in 2002-2004 and featured the music of DJ Mandrill, who is fantastic.
Describe your dream wedding.
My husband and I would wed in a romantic outdoor setting, followed by a lavish reception and dancing under the stars.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Environmental issues. In fact, I Tweet a lot more about environmental issues than LGBT issues. Environmental degradation impacts every living thing on the planet.
What historical outcome would you change?
The 2000 presidential election, which remains the most disappointing election of my life.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The release of the “Star Wars” prequels, although Episode III was the only one I really enjoyed.
On what do you insist?
Understanding and respect for other people’s culture and religious beliefs.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I Tweeted a petition in support of the Community Renewables Act of 2012, which is coming before D.C. City Council.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“On My Journey Now” would be the title. It is inspired by one of my favorite African-American spirituals.
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Nothing. To quote the late Frank Kameny, “Gay is good.”
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
A loving and inclusive God and an afterlife.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
My advice is to attend a Tavistock group relations conference. These leadership conferences use experiential learning to uncover the unconscious processes that affect how organizations operate. I’ve been to at least five of these conferences, four as a member and once as an administrator. I have learned something new about myself every time and acquired knowledge and skills that improved the effectiveness of organizations in which I served.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
Since I’m a foodie, I’d walk across hot coals for a great meal.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
The assumption that LGBT people are trying to convert all heterosexuals to our sexual orientation. Sure, we’re trying to convert some of them, but not all!
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Latter Days” is my favorite, although this changes often.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Answering one’s cell phone or texting back as soon as someone calls or text messages you. It is important to have personal time. Besides, it is not appropriate to answer the phone or text everywhere.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I would like to receive the designation of Kammersänger by the Austrian government. It is a title given to a distinguished singer and it is rare for an American to receive it.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That the popular images of LGBT people in the media are not reflective of the entire community.
Well, I was born here and just never left. While I do not plan to stay here forever, Washington is a nice place to live, despite my occasional frustrations with the city.