When Mike McMahon married his partner, Ray Valido in February 2013, it didn’t take long for the repercussions to be felt.
In July of that year, he was fired from his part-time position as director of liturgical music at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Arlington. The following month he left his full-time job as president and CEO of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, a mostly Roman Catholic organization.
“While I knew in my heart that my ministry within a Roman Catholic environment — and thus my livelihood — could be at risk for marrying my partner, my dismissal still came as a shock,” the 64-year-old Pittsburgh native says.
An unofficial don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy was in effect he says, and many people at the church knew he was gay. But he has moved on and is pragmatic about it today.
“I can honestly say that the blessings have far outweighed the pain,” he says. “I’ve been set free to be myself in every aspect of my life.”
McMahon is now minister of music at National City Christian Church (nationalcitycc.org) in Thomas Circle. And on Sunday, Nov. 1 he will be ordained, which he says is “just another step in a life-long journey of ministry.” He had considered it earlier in life as a Catholic, but left shortly before he would have been ordained. He plans to stay at National City but be more “deeply engaged in the overall ministry of the congregation,” including a special outreach to LGBT members.
McMahon has been in the D.C. area for 30 years. He lives with Valido in Silver Spring, Md., and enjoys concerts, plays and working out in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Coming out has been an evolving process for me, beginning when I was 23 and increasing gradually over the course of my life. I left the closet completely behind after marrying Ray in February 2013, being fired from my part-time position as music director in a Catholic church and leaving my full-time position as leader of a national Catholic organization. Like many others in our community, the most difficult coming-out conversations were with my mother. In the end, of course, love prevailed, and we had a wonderful relationship until she died in 1996.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Two that come to mind are Bishop Gene Robinson, a faithful and courageous gay Christian leader, and the late Father Mychal Judge, a gay Franciscan priest, chaplain of the New York Fire Department and the first casualty among first responders at the World Trade Center.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I’ve enjoyed going with my husband Ray after a long work week to Bear Happy Hour at Town, where I’ve found people to be very friendly.
Describe your dream wedding.
For me a “dream wedding” means a celebration where love is both real and evident regardless of size or locale. Ray and I were married in our own living room with just eight people present. For me it was a powerful, “dreamy” event, because we were surrounded by people who loved and supported us, and we were able to commit ourselves to one another in the context of the Christian faith that guides our lives.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
I care deeply about social issues, particularly immigration and racial justice. As people who have felt the sting of discrimination and injustice, I believe that we in the LGBT community have a unique ability and a special responsibility to advocate for those who experience the effects of racism, xenophobia and economic disparity.
What historical outcome would you change?
I would change recent Supreme Court rulings on campaign financing, gun control and the death penalty, all of which have had negative effects on our society.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Although I didn’t attend it, the Woodstock Music Festival (1969) had a huge influence on me because it celebrated some of the social movements that have continued to influence me throughout my life, particularly the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s.
On what do you insist?
This I believe: that all people are created in God’s image, regardless of who they are, what they look like, where they or their ancestors came from, what is their legal status or whom they love. I believe that all should be welcomed and affirmed in our society and in our churches.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I posted about my most recent contribution to HuffPost, where I have a blog about being gay and Christian.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Embracing Sexuality and Spirituality”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I would continue to marvel at and give thanks for the person that God has made me to be, just as I am.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe that God has called all things into existence and will bring all things to fulfillment in ways that I can’t begin to articulate and explain.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Lead from a heart full of compassion and in a spirit of love. Advocate for people at risk, especially young people in need of self-acceptance and LGBT people in societies where their very selves are being criminalized.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
I’m not sure about the hot coals, but I’m willing to make personal sacrifices for my husband and other people I love and for my beliefs and principles. I’ll go the extra mile to be part of a church community that proclaims that all are welcome and that all means all.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
I don’t like any portrayals of LGBT people that suggest we’re all alike. We are an amazingly diverse community!
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
I was most moved by “Brokeback Mountain,” but most delighted by “La Cage aux Folles.”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
I’m often uncomfortable with titles and usually like to be addressed by my first name.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Is there a prize for living authentically or making a difference for others? If there were, those are the ones I’d like to have.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
I wish that I had known in the depths of my heart not only that I deserve to be loved, but that I’m already loved by God as the gay man that I am.
I love Washington because of its culture, history and diversity. I love the impact of the African-American community on this city and the region. I enjoy living in the nation’s capital where important issues are being argued and where far-reaching decisions are made.