Bryce Romero has an interesting spin on the merchandise that his employer — the Human Rights Campaign — hawks at its three shops (in Washington, Provincetown and San Francisco, the latter in Harvey Milk’s old Castro-based camera shop). In gay hubs, the T-shirts and stickers are a way to show LGBT support but elsewhere, the yellow-and-navy equal logos are sometimes a way for gays to be out to each other without necessarily being out to anyone else.
“In some cases, it’s like the secret handshake,” the 28-year-old Scottsdale, Ariz., native says. “Some people don’t have the liberty of being in a place like D.C. where it’s OK to be openly gay. In a number of places in the Midwest and in the South, wearing your HRC merchandise is a way of identifying yourself without being identifiable.”
Romero is HRC’s consumer marketing assistant and works at the agency’s main office in Washington where he’s lived for just more than a year. He guesses the group takes in about a million dollars each year in merchandise, the profits of which go back to the organization. In addition to the usual sweatshirts and key chains, the company sometimes makes collectible items such as Christopher Radko Christmas tree ornaments and Kenneth Cole-designed shirts.
His work with HRC — a bit different than what he studied getting an undergraduate degree in PR/advertising and a master’s in international communications — is a way to help the organization continue its work.
“I have an underlying passion for global change and effecting change and moving momentum forward,” he says.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve never been unofficially out of the closet. At the age of 5-6, I was already sporting Billy Idol hair and wearing the child equivalent of sorts. Officially, I’ve been out since about the age of 14. The most difficult person to tell was probably my college roommates in Texas. There’s always a bit of fear telling that to someone with whom you’re going to be sharing close quarters particularly at a Christian university in Texas.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Do I have to pick just one? Truthfully, I’m inspired each and every day by our interns and those LGBT folk younger than me who wholeheartedly live their lives openly and honestly. Also, Sylvester because he worked those sequined dresses like a true DIVA!
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Cobalt? Anywhere on 17th Street to be honest as I always know I’ll run into a friend.
Describe your dream wedding.
It’d be an elegant sunset wedding surrounded by friends, family and loved ones in one of my absolute favorite places in the world— the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. There’s something uniquely special and incredibly magical about the game reserve — I couldn’t imagine getting married anywhere else.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Well I’m pretty much a professional homosexual so there’s not much time for much else, however I’ve got a huge soft spot for animals.
What historical outcome would you change?
Having just finished a book about James Garfield, I started thinking about this yesterday! Truthfully, history happens and changing it seems inauthentic to our progress as people.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Ellen DeGeneres’ coming out. It’s terribly cliché but, to me, it put America on its current trajectory toward greater acceptance of LGBT Americans as well as starting a conversation about equality. That’s pretty damn cool.
On what do you insist?
Laughter, smiles and congeniality.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
FB: “Bryce Romero would marry the night but there’s no morning-after pill.”
Twitter: “Link to the BuzzFeed picture of Hillary Clinton … and turn and work and serve hunnny”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“What Color Should I Wear To Bed?”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Heck no, I wouldn’t change. Somebody has to bring the glitter to the party.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
Oh I’m totally a firm believer in the paranormal and spirits.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Don’t compromise but compromise. This isn’t a you-or-me issue but rather a you and me issue.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
A half-full glass of water. Or for the ability to keep my mother alive for as long as I live.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
We’re liberal in all facets of our life.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Paris Is Burning” with “Prayers for Bobby” coming a very close second.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Beating around the bush — just get to the point. Patience is not a virtue I’ve been known to possess — ever.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
If I have to go to a black-tie reception to collect the trophy or prize, I wouldn’t want it. So maybe a “World’s Best Friend” award?
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
How to drive, how to love and how to shake off the past.
Certainly not the weather, that’s for sure! There’s nowhere else quite like the swamp and I would be hard pressed to trade the passionate people, vibrant nightlife, cultural amenities and cheap booze for anywhere else. All kidding aside, Washington really embodies that notion of a cosmopolitan city — it’s everything!