Topher Hoffmann moved to Washington about two weeks prior to the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016. He saw a Facebook event page for an anti-gun gay group forming and showed up.
“I didn’t have a queer support network yet and needed to channel my grief in a healthy way,” says the 27-year-old Buffalo, N.Y., native.
Gays Against Guns (GAG) is a national organization that “names, shames and blames the gun lobby, violence profiteers and their GOP benefactors on Capitol Hill. The GAG-D.C. chapter, a volunteer group that has a 15-member core and 100 on its e-mail list, “leverages its proximity to the national political scene by taking political theater, direct action tactics to the grounds of the Capitol.”
On Saturday, March 31, the second annual GAG Ball is from 6-10 p.m. at the Living Room D.C. (1008 Vermont Ave., N.W.), a tea dance that celebrates the intersectionality of queer life and the anti-gun movement. Tickets are $17.89 on Eventbrite (the ball also has its own Facebook page) and all proceeds go to expanding GAG-D.C.’s efforts including “calling attention to the gun lobby apparatus and the (National Rifle Association’s) stranglehold on our democracy.”
Hoffmann supports what he calls “sensible” gun reform. He’s not opposed to gun ownership but says semiautomatic rifles and other weapons designed for the military need to be banned.
“Gun violence prevention is important to me because it’s a public health crisis,” Hoffmann says. “I believe addressing it opens the door to other salient issues including money-over-morals attitudes, police brutality and excessive militarism, toxic masculinity, racism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia.”
Hoffmann works as a public health research analyst and came to Washington for work after several years in Pittsburgh.
He’s single and lives in Mt. Pleasant. He enjoys reading, exercise and video games in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been out for 11 years. The first person I came out to was when I was 15 in 10th grade algebra class. My parents were the hardest to tell. They hadn’t met a gay person (that they knew of) before me. I’m proud of them for how they’ve educated themselves and today they’re advocates.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Historical figures: Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, James Baldwin, Oscar Wilde, Alan Turing. Also: Edward Sotomayor Jr., Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, Josh McGill, and all of the heroes of Pulse (RIP). Living inspirations include Danica Roem, Brian Sims, Jonathan van Ness and Alaska Thunderfuck.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Trade and Uproar.
Describe your dream wedding.
Something laid back and not a big deal and intimate. Like a day brunch at a distillery or museum with smart, casual attire and an after-party at a friend’s house or local bar.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Overturning Citizens United, reforming the justice system, fighting white supremacy and promoting civic engagement and voter turnout.
What historical outcome would you change?
The 2016 presidential election comes to mind.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Christina Aguilera showed gays unapologetically kissing in her 2002 music video for “Beautiful” — and with tongue! I was in middle school at the time and only I knew I was gay back then, so that was a big pop culture moment to me.
On what do you insist?
Open, straightforward and honest communication.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I posted a picture of an unbothered pug wearing sunglasses, a bow tie, giving the peace sign and holding a glass of Champagne.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Walk with a Purpose (and other tips for pretending like you know what you’re doing)”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I would welcome all of the formerly straight people to our community.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I’m not affiliated with any man-made religious institution, but the human spirit is undeniable. I believe all living beings and the universe are connected in a spiritual sense.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
An attack on any of us is an attack on all of us, but a victory for some of us is not necessarily a victory for all of us. Don’t leave queer people of color behind. Don’t leave out trans and gender non-conforming people. Use your unique position in society as an LGBT person to transform, heal and build a future with less oppression.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My family and friends.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
Gay and bisexual men have this self-stereotype that we’re all shallow, status obsessed and only interested in sex. If that’s how you think of the community then yes, that’s all you’ll see, which will reinforce that image; it’s like a negative feedback loop.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Shortbus.” Just thinking of that scene with the three-way and “The Star-Spangled Banner” makes me laugh to this day and it’s been years since I first saw it.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Wearing deodorant and antiperspirant constantly. Let those pits breathe.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
Being queer connects you to a global community and gives you magical responsibilities. Don’t let anyone make you forget that.
Washingtonians want to make the world a better place and we care about civic engagement and building community. Some are turned off by how much we talk about work, but that’s a testament to how much we care about what we do.