Ryan Newcomb knows what it’s like to work in environments that aren’t so gay friendly. Though he wasn’t out at the time, he worked as an intern, then an appointee in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush. He also worked for the Boy Scouts of America, a position that — while he admires much of what the organization does — did get to be a problem for him over time.
“It obviously was an organization that was not OK with my sexuality,” the 27-year-old Fort Worth, Texas, native says. “I hope it will change one day and I’m excited to see the strides it has made recently because it’s an incredible organization that inspires a lot of kids to lead good lives.”
The Bush admiration started earlier — he remembers then-Gov. Bush visiting his sixth grade class, a seminal encounter that inspired him to follow and pursue politics. He says it “rocked the boat” a bit in his Democratic-leaning family. Newcomb says he wishes Bush’s gay policies had been different but “at the same time, I’m proud of having that on my resume.”
After four years away, Newcomb came back to Washington in 2010 and works now as area director for Maryland and D.C. for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org). Although it’s not LGBT specific, Newcomb, who’s gay, says it’s time to “break the stigma” associated with suicide.
“People need to know it’s OK to seek help … and that this is not something to be ashamed of,” he says.
Newcomb is single and lives in Chevy Chase, Md., with his two dogs, Dallas and Reagan. He enjoys traveling, reading, spending time with his niece and music of all kinds in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
For about four years now. The hardest person turned out to be my incredible mother. She is an amazing woman and has been a rock for me, but is coming to terms with it on her own.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
So many people, but my heroes are those around me who have gone through the tough times and fought the incredible fights in their own lives as individuals. My pastor, Dean Snyder, and Jeffrey Johnson (founder of D.C. Gay Flag Football League) especially.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I have to give a shout out to Doug Schantz who owns and operates Nellie’s Sports Bar, because it’s an incredible place for sports, socializing and a great time.
Describe your dream wedding.
In a country church with a gospel choir, tons of flowers and every seat filled with all of our loved ones. I think the relationship is more important than what the service is like, for sure.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Raising awareness and breaking the stigma around mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
What historical outcome would you change?
In more modern times, the assassinations and deaths of President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert who were two of the greatest leaders and thinkers our country has ever known.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Having met several former Presidents (Bushes 41 and 43 and President Clinton) in my former political work; and meeting Joan Rivers a few years back at a White House Correspondence Brunch. She was absolutely hilarious.
On what do you insist?
Structure and cleanliness. But foremost, being candid and honest to everyone, always.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unaware. Hebrews 13:2
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
Not sure a title would be appropriate. After all, they say, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” right?
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
First, I would be in disbelief. And then I would change nothing, because God made me the person that I am and I cannot ask for more than that.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe in my Christian faith and a loving God who accepts and loves all people regardless of their sexuality or color or position in life. In that, I believe in and hope for everlasting peace after this life.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Don’t ever become like the opposition. Like Nixon said, “If you hate your enemies, you can destroy yourself.”
What would you walk across hot coals for?
For my family, my parents, sisters, brother-in-law and my niece. And for my D.C. family, people like JJ and Randy, who are my rocks. Randy especially, has walked on coals for me, figuratively, as a friend and that means the world.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That you have to lose your masculinity to be a gay man.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Far From Heaven”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
I think our five-day work week in America would do well to become a four-day work week, like much of Europe. It would be healthier and better for our longevity and stress levels.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I’d love to win a political election someday, if that counts as a prize.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That it truly does “get better” and that while my life wouldn’t always be easy, every step I take is worth the good fight. And that God has a plan that is bigger than my own.
The culture, the scenery, the history and the people.