With Pride this weekend, it’s a busy time for Baltimore’s gay community center — officially known as the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland or GLCCB. It’s the organizing agency and events are planned throughout the weekend (baltimorepride.org, glccb.org).
Matt Thorn was a board member of the organization while working at Equality Maryland upon arriving in the city in 2011. In March, he became interim director of the Center. As of Monday, he’ll be its official director.
“I think there is and always will be a need for a gay community center,” the 26-year-old Newburgh, N.Y., native says. “I think the roles they play are changing because of how accepted the LGBT community is becoming but there will always be a need for these kinds of spaces in metro areas. I think the original intent, we’ll say back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, was for people coming out and having that safe haven but I think now we’re seeing the transition back more to actual community services such as HIV support or mental health support and also just being a place where you can go out and just do things together. … Like last night we had our Pride event with the Orioles. It’s important for people to see us, to know we’re here and to realize we’re just like everybody else. That’s still important.”
Thorn came to Washington to attend college at Catholic University in 2004 and worked on Capitol Hill until 2009 doing legislative correspondence and research in the office of former U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.).
Thorn and husband Michael LeMasters married in 2012 in Washington and live together in Baltimore. Thorn, a self-professed “workaholic,” enjoys travel, dinners and drinks with friends, Texas Hold’em, rowing on the Chesapeake Bay and time with their five dogs.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I have been out since I was 20. The hardest person to tell was my sister.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Lorri Jean, the CEO of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center. Having met her several times I am always continuously fascinated at the work that she has accomplished and continues to do in L.A.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I have always been a fan of Nellie’s. I enjoy the sports bar atmosphere. For Baltimore, I have always enjoyed Club Hippo.
Describe your dream wedding.
I had my dream wedding. Just marrying my husband was the dream.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
I am passionate about a lot. I would say immigration and Chesapeake Bay conservation. When I worked on Capitol Hill my boss was head of the immigration subcommittee and I did a lot work and research on the issues surrounding immigration. Since moving to Maryland and rowing on the Chesapeake Bay it has become dear to my heart and I think we must always keep focus on the impact that humanity has on the environment.
What historical outcome would you change?
I don’t believe that history should be rewritten because our history is what has brought us to today. However, one of the most devastating historical aspects for the LGBT community was the neglect of President Ronald Reagan toward the HIV/AIDS crisis in the ‘80s and I wonder that if he had acted differently and sooner what that outcome would have been.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
When I had the chance to meet and hang out with Josh Charles from “The Good Wife.” He was just an awesome guy and so supportive of marriage equality. We had a good time just talking about politics, life, culture and more.
On what do you insist?
If you have something to say, say it to my face. I don’t always follow it myself but I try to be as honest with people as possible.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“Pride Sunday lineup…. The MAINSTAGE! Check it out! Welcome first time host of the mainstage….fab and too funny Cory Holland!”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“No Time for Bullsh*t!”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Personally I would do nothing and I would encourage those who would consider it to really think about what it would mean to them. It wouldn’t just be about changing sexual orientation. There are always more ramifications when you attempt to change something that is inherent to who you are.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
Peace and comfort.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Don’t become narrowly focused. Always know that our movement is larger than sometimes we acknowledge.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
For a young person struggling with his/her sexual orientation or gender identity to let them know that it will be OK, that we who have done it so many times before are here for you and will help guide you.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
I have a problem with stereotypes to begin with. I don’t think anyone should judge anyone based on how they act or what they say. There is always more underneath the cover.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Shaving, I wish I could just wake up and have it the way I wanted.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I would love an Academy Award.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
Life is going to be an amazing ride but make sure you have your seatbelt on. I don’t think I would go into any detail because I wouldn’t trade any of my experiences, both the good and bad, for anything. It is what has made me who I am today.
I love Washington and Baltimore. The State of Maryland is such an eclectic place. You can get to the mountains and the beach in a matter of hours and have two metro areas that are distinct and offer so much.