The third annual Northern Virginia Pride Festival (“NOVA Pride”) is this weekend — Saturday, Oct. 1 from 12-8 p.m. at the Bull Run Special Events Center in Centreville, Va. (about 25 miles west of Washington on I-66).
Kyle Rohen, who has been involved with the entity for about four-and-a-half years was formerly its chief operations officer and vice president but now works as family, events, life and outreach director.
“I’m incredibly excited about it,” the 31-year-old Breaux Bridge, La., native says, citing job and housing discrimination, LGBT senior issues, HIV and medication issues, transgender rights and more as pressing concerns. “Pride is still vital because marriage was not the final frontier. Pride is often dismissed as just a bunch of naked people running around wearing rainbows. Sure, that’s a big part of it, but it’s also about showing our strength as a community while furthering the goals of tolerance, acceptance and equality for all.”
Between 5,000-10,000 are expected Saturday for games, food, a photo booth, karaoke, prizes, games for all ages, and more in a pet-friendly environment. Free transportation is available to and from the Vienna Metro station and there’s plenty of free parking at the event site. Full details at novapride.org.
Rohen works by day in health and safety. He and husband Seth Koberg live in Herndon, Va. He enjoys reading, movies and video games in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out to my friends when I was 13, most people by 16, mom at 17 and fully later that year. I wasn’t able to tell my father before he died because I wasn’t sure how he’d take it.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Marsha P. Johnson because she was fierce and tremendously underappreciated by the LGBT community for her role in Stonewall. Contemporary LGBT hero would be Peter Staley for his tireless efforts in HIV/AIDS activism through the worst of the epidemic.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I don’t go out very often, though I do enjoy Green Lantern. Cute bartenders, good conversation, music is at a great volume so to not require yelling at the person next to you, great drink prices.
Describe your dream wedding.
I got the wedding I wanted, actually — simple, courthouse, with a small reception for close friends and family. We were very pleased with how it turned out.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Judicial reform, specifically focusing on the disparity in sentencing based on race of victim or perpetrator and push for the repeal of the death penalty.
What historical outcome would you change?
I wouldn’t change a single historical event. The chain reaction resulting from changing an event could end up being significantly worse than the original event.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The announcement of Freddie Mercury’s HIV diagnosis followed by his passing the next day.
On what do you insist?
Honesty and differentiating between opinions and facts! I get so irked when I hear someone say something like, “Well it’s just my opinion that X politician has personally stolen billions” or whatever — that’s a declarative, not an opinion. An opinion is, “I like her policies better,” not something that can be substantively shown as false.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I shared the commercial for the NOVA Pride Festival!
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“You’ll Never Believe This Nonsense, But Buy It Anyway”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Rail against it. That’s a terrible idea.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I’m not sure, honestly. My beliefs fall somewhere in the agnostic field.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Take a breath and keep your head up. Things will always get worse before they get better and the groundwork you’re laying right now is building upon the wonderful work we’ve inherited from the Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattachine Society. Do it for them. Do it for future generations. Recognize there’s a great chance some of what we’re fighting for won’t be realized in our lifetimes but that we’re constantly striving to make the world better for the future.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
Absolutely nothing. I like my feet intact!
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That we’re all supposed to be thin and neat. Sometimes I don’t want to wash the dishes or immediately wash clothes so they’ll sit for a day. I’m way too busy sometimes and like my down time.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
It’s kind of a cliché, but “The Normal Heart.” I thought it was a vitally important portrayal of the AIDS epidemic for those who for whatever reason avoid documentaries like “We Were Here” or “How To Survive a Plague.”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Monogamy. I take the Dan Savage view of it that the odds of a marriage having infidelities is infinitely high, so it’s better to be prepared and/or make allowances for such things well in advance to avoid those relationship-ending scenarios.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I have a guidebook written in English about Japan that was published in 1945 for the 1946 touristy season, which came out before the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. It’s surreal to read about the festivals that would have occurred and the excitement with which they’re written about.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
Nothing other than what I knew already. I’ve been pleased with the trajectory of my life thus far, even the terrible things. It’s all led to a unique experience that has shaped my worldview, and I wouldn’t change that.