Eric Peterson lives in Washington but has a special place in his heart for Rehoboth Beach, Del.
He started vacationing there around the time he came out in 1996 when Rehoboth writer/comedian Fay Jacobs, whom Peterson calls his “adoptive lesbian mom,” and her partner Bonnie “recruited” him.
“They brought me to Rehoboth to show me that gay life could be wonderful,” the 46-year-old son of a U.S. naval officer says.
Peterson has been volunteering the last two decades with Sundance, CAMP Rehoboth’s annual Labor Day weekend event.
“Rehoboth seemed magical to me,” Peterson says. “CAMP Rehoboth … is a large part of the reason why. They’ve been working to make Rehoboth a welcoming and inclusive place for all people for 30 years.”
Sundance 2017 — Rainbow XXX: Solar NRG is the 30th annual event and about 1,000 are expected this weekend (Sept. 2-3) at Rehoboth Mall. On Saturday from 7-10 p.m. a silent and live auction will be held with cocktail buffet and open bar. On Sunday, Sept. 3 from 8 p.m.-2 a.m. is a dance party with out DJ Joe Gauthreaux. All proceeds from Sundance go to CAMP Rehoboth, a non-profit that works to “create a more positive environment” in Rehoboth Beach. Details at camprehoboth.com.
“Rehoboth Beach is a little queer oasis but the rest of Sussex County, Delaware is not,” Peterson says. “Trans people, queer youth and those living with HIV are still very much in need of an advocacy organization like CAMP Rehoboth and it’s really heartwarming to see so many people who benefitted years ago continue to give so generously.”
Peterson, who’s single, moved to Washington in 1992 and lives on Capitol Hill. He works by day as a diversity and inclusion consultant and also sings in the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington and co-hosts the podcast POPeration! (poperationroom.com).
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Since 1996. My father, a naval officer who grew up in the Idaho panhandle, was the hardest to tell. But as soon as I did, he told me stories of all the gay men and women he’d ever served with.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
James Baldwin. Given what we’re currently dealing with in our country, he’s not just a hero; he’s a prophet.
What’s Rehoboth’s best nightspot, past or present?
I remember drag shows at the Renegade fondly, but these days I love happy hour at AquaGrill.
Describe your dream wedding.
I’d need to find a dream husband before I worry about planning a dream wedding. If and when the time comes, I’ll put my friend Sidney in charge; the only thing I’d care about are that my loved ones would be present.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
These days, it’s resisting the administration of Donald Trump however we can.
What historical outcome would you change?
The 2016 election seems like the obvious choice.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Seeing Liza Minnelli in concert in the mid-’90s when I was still in the closet. It might have been the final straw.
On what do you insist?
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
A note of sadness about the #TransMilitaryBan.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Tawdry Tales, vol. 1”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Destroy the formula with fire.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
That almost every person has the capacity for good.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Not to forget that the least visible in our community are the most vulnerable.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
I’m OK over here on the cool ground, thanks.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That anyone still thinks it might be a phase.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Asking people you’ve barely met what they do for a living.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I wouldn’t say no to an Oscar, I guess.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That being vulnerable is the only path to being strong.
I’ve been volunteering at the Sundance auction for almost 20 years; it’s my Labor Day tradition. I wouldn’t miss it.