Though he’s in St. Petersburg, Fla., on St. Patrick’s Day proper for a work conference, Vin Testa, president of the Dignity Washington board, says it was important for the local LGBT-affirming Catholic group to have a presence in Washington’s official St. Patrick’s Day parade Monday.
He says despite the cold, the reception they got from the crowd “was wonderful.”
“People were cheering and waving and they made us feel very welcome,” says the 27-year-old Wallingford, Conn., native (who’s one-quarter Irish).
It was Dignity Washington’s third time in the parade.
“It’s very important for people to know that LGBT-identifying people want to be part of the greater church community,” Testa says. “We practice our faith just as any other Catholic would.”
Testa says he used to see St. Patrick’s Day as a party opportunity when he was younger. He still likes to remember to wear green and enjoys the spirit of the day. Having grown up Catholic, Testa found Dignity online while looking for affirming churches. He makes announcements at each week’s Mass, held every Sunday at 6 p.m. at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church (1820 Connecticut Ave., N.W.). Details at dignitywashington.org.
Testa teaches 11th grade math and special ed at D.C. Public Schools. A former Blade “most eligible single,” Testa is now “seeing someone” but leaves it at that. He lives in Capitol Heights, Md., and enjoys dancing and kickball (“Is eating a hobby?”) in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I have been out since February 2010. I was a junior in college and (sigh) I came out on Facebook. I was fortunate to have supportive family and friends, so I would say the hardest person to tell was myself. So many people knew before I was confident and comfortable enough to say it.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
My cliché LGBT heroes are Ellen and RuPaul — Ellen for her kindness and Ru for his courage. But my true heroes are those who came before us and actually had to fight for equality — Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Harvey Milk, etc.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I will always have a place in my heart for Apex because it was my first D.C. gay bar experience. Since that closed, I have enjoyed Cobalt and Town the most.
Describe your dream wedding.
A big wedding at the National Cathedral followed by a reception full of dancing and celebration. And a sushi chef.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Any issue that involves resistance against the new regime.
What historical outcome would you change?
The outcome of the 2016 election.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The death of Michael Jackson. I remember exactly where I was, who I was with and how people around me began to react.
On what do you insist?
Respect and timeliness.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
At the time I write this, it was homage to my mother for International Women’s Day, indicating how hard she has worked to get where she is today.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“You Wouldn’t Believe it But it’s True”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Convince Justin Timberlake to change his.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I would like to believe that we encounter all those who left the physical world before us. Part of me also believes in reincarnation and having several chances in the world.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Unite. When you say “equality for all,” mean it. Don’t fight for gay, white, cis-male equality, while ignoring women, the transgender community, people of color, etc. We can only rise when we lift each other.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
Student loan forgiveness.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
It’s not a stereotype — it’s more of a truth — but I’m tired of the racism within the LGBT community. Sometimes it’s veiled by “preference”; other times it’s quite blatant.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
I have loved “To Wong Foo” for years, but even more so since I got to meet Julie Newmar a couple of years ago at RuPaul’s DragCon. She signed a picture for me and I had her write, “To Vin, Thanks for everything, Julie Newmar.”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Bachelorette parties (sans gay men) at gay clubs.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
If I weren’t a teacher, I would be an actor, so I covet the Oscar.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
I wish I had known that it was OK to come out then, instead of later.
I always say that Washington is the perfect amount of city. It has an excellent balance of busyness and history. I also have never felt more comfortable, confident and more loved than I have since I’ve been in Washington. The community here has built me up.