The D.C. Center, the District’s LGBT community center, is expanding slightly.
EJ Dean, an AIDS activist originally from Empire, Mich., moved here three weeks ago to accept a part-time position as HIV program associate, a continuation of the work Dean was doing at the Kallen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York. The 31-year-old Dean, who’s gender non-conforming and identifies as queer, is also going to school full-time to finish a degree in human relations at Trinity Washington University. Dean got involved in in activist work as soon as it became possible.
“Being a queer person and since I have never been someone who dealt with inequity quietly, I’m not sure if I really stumbled into it or just started doing it as soon as I could. Then each time I found out about another opportunity where I’d be able to help, I’d move toward that. When I was younger, a lot of it was just making queer safe spaces and open mic nights and places where people could be themselves and know it was alright.”
Dean, who went to college in Pittsburgh and has also lived in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Montclair, N.J., enjoyed the last year in New York but never thought of it as home. The Center position appealed to Dean because of the opportunity it provides to educate.
“I’ll be building, growing and expanding the HIV programs,” Dean says. “Education is often the piece that gets left out and it’s the most important piece. People need to be able to access information and make change themselves. That’s what drew me to the Center. Making sure people have equal access to knowledge.”
Dean and partner Trina live in Adams Morgan and enjoy writing, music and cooking. Dean also enjoys making minimalist tables in reclaimed wood.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out to my parents when I was 15. Let’s just say they did not throw me a party.
Who’s your gay hero?
I am currently learning everything I can about Larry Kramer, the founder of ACT UP.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
So far, my favorites are Busboys & Poets and Red Derby.
What’s your dream gay wedding?
A legally recognized celebration of our commitment to one another shared with everyone we love — currently unavailable in 45 states.
What non-gay issue are you most passionate about?
I am passionate about all people having equal access to health care, education, jobs and housing. But considering a high percentage of queer people are under-employed, uneducated, homeless or do not have access to queer friendly (if any) health care, I consider these gay issues.
What historical outcome would you change?
An emergency evacuation of New Orleans would have been systematically organized before Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
On what do you insist?
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“Checking out ‘Hide/Seek’ at the National Portrait Gallery.”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Work in Progress”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Fight to the death to pass a law that would make the use of that discovery illegal.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
Liberation: a place where power and scarcity do not exist.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Share your power. Susan B Anthony said, “Organize agitate, educate, this must be our war cry.” Why do so many neglect to educate?
What would you walk across hot coals for?
Today: ENDA and an HIV Vaccine.
What gay stereotype annoys you most?
That gender identity somehow reveals sexuality.
What’s your favorite gay movie?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
My tattoo of 1856, the bill number of One Kalamazoo Campaign non-discrimination ordinance I worked on and helped to pass in 2009.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
Social constructs are imaginary.
Trina and I find D.C. to be the place that we want to establish roots. The opportunity to be out and queer and make change happen exists for me here. I am honored to be doing so along side David Mariner and the many volunteers of the D.C. Center.