For many who follow LGBT issues, Bishop Gene Robinson needs no introduction.
He is widely known for being the first openly gay bishop consecrated in a major Christian denomination, the Episcopal Church. His controversial ratification, covered widely in mainstream media, was a major turning point in the national grappling with issues of faith, the Bible and homosexuality. He has been interviewed by the Blade and many other outlets and his story was memorably presented in the 2007 documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So.”
Robinson, a 68-year-old Lexington, Ky., native, lived most of his adult life in New Hampshire but moved to Washington two-and-a-half years ago after retiring. He now works as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Robinson was named one of this year’s Capital Pride Heroes. He’ll be honored with Alexandra Ernst, Paul Kawata, Justin Markiewicz, Heather Mizeur and others on June 3 at 7 p.m. at the Carnegie Library (801 K St., N.W.) at the annual reception. Tickets are $65. Visit capitalpride.org/events/heroes-gala for more information.
“It’s especially meaningful to me because it’s an honor bestowed by my new community and my new home in D.C.,” Robinson says. “As they say, a prophet is seldom honored in his own country, so this designation is a special honor for me.”
Because of a busy speaking schedule, Robinson has missed Pride the last two years. This will be his first Capital Pride.
“So I’ll be attending this one in style,” he says with a laugh. “Very exciting and fun.”
Robinson is single and lives in Logan Circle. He enjoys music, theater, biking, cooking, the beach, reading and walking in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Myself. Because I believed all the awful things taught to me by the church and society. That was 30 years ago.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
One of many: Evan Wolfson, because even when the LGBT community was afraid to push for marriage equality for fear of backlash (early ‘90s), he was saying that anything less than full and equal marriage rights would relegate us to second-class citizenship. He was right. And it’s about to happen!
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I’m not much of a late night person, but my neighborhood bar is Number 9. I’ve met some great people there.
Describe your dream wedding.
I have to pass on this one.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
I am committed to undoing the systemic racism that plagues this country. Of course, racism isn’t a “non-LGBT issue,” because people of color are LGBT too. We will have matured as a community when we begin to work for “justice for all,” rather than “just us.”
What historical outcome would you change?
So many outcomes, so little time! I would change the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” ruling. It has nearly ruined politics and this democracy. With such a decision, SCOTUS makes a mockery of “We the People.” For now, we live in a country for “We the RICH People.”
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The Beatles. I’m old enough to remember when their songs were coming out one at a time. Now they are part of the fixed canon, along with Beethoven, Bach and Brahms.
On what do you insist?
Northern Quilted Toilet Tissue, unrolled from the top.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“DRAFT/Work in Progress”
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I’m not on Facebook (it’s a long story). My last (re)tweet: “Ireland vote is not religion vs. secularism. More like religion as pretext for discrimination vs. religion as vision of human dignity.” Follow me @BishopGRobinson
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Mourn for all those who would consider such a thing (unless, of course, they were opting to become gay and fabulous).
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe that there is something at the very center of the universe (known by many names) that is personal, knowing, purposeful and irrevocably in love with humankind.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Study other movements for justice (1960s civil rights movement and today’s BlackLivesMatter, Dreamers/immigration reform, disability rights, women’s rights, trans rights) and glean from them knowledge and wisdom for our own movement. Look for clues on how to be resilient in the face of hardship. Be in this for the long haul.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My experience of being consecrated the first openly gay/partnered bishop in historic Christianity was a bit of a “walk across hot coals.” Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
Not a stereotype: Gay men who describe themselves as “straight-acting.” In the end, this is a statement about self-loathing.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
I’m embarrassed about this, but “Latter Days.” It’s about religion, coming out and finding true love. My favorite new LGBT movie is “The Way He Looks,” a sweet film from Brazil about a blind teenager who falls in love without ever “seeing” the object of his affections.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
The notion that it’s now OK to send thank you notes via email (if you send one at all). Makes me crazy! Whatever happened to the graciousness of taking out a pen and paper, and taking the time to WRITE a thank you note? Call me old fashioned. I am!
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I’ve been blessed to have gotten lots of trophies, awards, degrees and honors, but what I cherish the most is respect and appreciation from my own tribe: gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That I am loved by God for all eternity, just as I am, and nothing, absolutely nothing, can change that.
Because I’m a news junkie, because the government has the capacity to do the very best and the very worst, and I want to be a part of making it better. Because D.C. has the best-looking men in the country. And because I love the height restrictions in D.C. and the feeling of openness it allows — sort of like big sky country, but for a city!