Jack Harrison-Quintana is a great example of someone willing to start at the bottom to get a foot in the proverbial door.
He started as an unpaid intern at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force shortly after finishing his undergraduate degree at Georgetown University and is now the Task Force’s policy institute manager where he worked on a national transgender discrimination survey and several other books and projects.
“One of the most important things is just showing up and being in the room and holding on as long as you can,” he says. “That’s the track I took and it definitely worked.”
On Tuesday, he’ll be a panelist at “Opening Dialogue & Challenging Assumptions,” a discussion of LGBT youth and homelessness at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church at 4201 Albemarle St., N.W., from 6-8 p.m. Calvin Gerald, Ruby Corado and Brian Watson will also be on the panel. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to attend.
Harrison-Quintana, a 26-year-old Signal Mountain, Tenn., native who says he “oscillates between gay, bi and queer” in terms of his own identity, says trans work is his biggest passion in the world of LGBT activism. His first serious relationship was with a person who transitioned shortly after they broke up from male to female and he’s had other close relationships, he says, with trans people. It led, in part, to his work for about five months in 2007 in Cambodia where he helped women activists there clean up their English on grant applications to the U.S. and the U.K. He started the aforementioned survey project at the National Center for Transgender Equality upon returning, then went to the Task Force, which was jointly working on the project with NCTE.
Harrison-Quintana is single and lives in Columbia Heights. He enjoys reading, Dungeons & Dragons, live theater and collecting and watching “My Little Pony” in its current fourth generation reboot which he says is refreshingly broad in its queer perspective.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out when I was 14. It was pretty smooth; nobody was surprised.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Transmasculine forefathers like Jack Bee Garland and Lou Sullivan; Chicana feminists, Cherríe L. Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa; and my mentor and best friend, Dr. Jaime M. Grant.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I spend a lot of time at Chief Ike’s Mambo Room, especially on She.Rex night, which is my favorite D.C. party.
Describe your dream wedding.
I’m more likely just to have a really fun party but I’ll have some delicious fluffy cake. Oh, and there will be toasts. I like toasts.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Racial justice and D.C. statehood, which of course aren’t mutually exclusive.
What historical outcome would you change?
Colonization of the global south; genocide of indigenous people; partition of the Korean peninsula. How many do I get to pick?
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” It came out while I was working at a feminist organization in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and only one bookstore in the city had it. We had to wait until the moment it was released in London and I was leaving on a short jaunt to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, just hours after that so right after the doors opened and we all hurried to get our copy, I ran all the way across town and boarded the bus on which I read it and openly wept the entire ride.
On what do you insist?
The existence of male bisexuality.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“I love an ensemble cast.” -@jch59
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Tabletop Whimsy: The Jack Harrison-Quintana Story”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Laugh at the people who think heterosexuals have more fun.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
The collective unconscious.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Invest first and foremost in mentoring your own replacement; prioritize the leadership of people of color and trans folks.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
The chance to have seen Kate Bush live at the Hammersmith Odeon; the ability to visit Hong Kong in 1969.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That queer men and queer women don’t mingle.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
John Greyson’s “Zero Patience” (1993)
What’s the most overrated social custom?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Now that is a good question. And kind of an embarrassing one, but I’ll be honest and say The Task Force’s own Susan J. Hyde Award for Longevity in the Movement given at Creating Change every year.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
I was a pretty smart kid, but I wish I’d known that I’d be so much happier with Zoloft.
Not too big, not too small.