First, a question: If Washington has everything on the books one could pretty much hope for by way of LGBT rights, why is GLAA still needed?
GLAA, founded in 1971 as Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, is an all-volunteer, non-partisan, non-profit political organization that defends the rights of LGBT Washingtonians. There are about 20 active members and 150 who are periodically engaged. Guillaume R. Bagal, its president for the last year and a half, says there’s more work to be done.
“While the District is more progressive on LGBT issues than many other jurisdictions, we still have a long way to go in making sure that existing … protections are accessible to the more vulnerable members of our LGBT family,” the 32-year-old Greenville, N.C., says. “We are just scratching the surface when it comes to LGBT cultural competency … which is unacceptable given how many LGBT people live (here).”
Passing laws, Bagal says, is only part of the story.
“Once (pro-LGBT) laws are passed, are they actually being enforced and evaluated,” he says. “We also have to do better (at) folding the lives and experiences of trans people, immigrants and other minority groups into the baseline assumption from which we are writing these laws.”
GLAA has its 47th annual Anniversary Award Reception on Thursday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Policy Lounge (1904 14th St., N.W.). This year’s honorees (chosen by GLAA members and officers) are Check It Enterprises, Council member Mary Cheh and Whitman-Walker’s Don Blanchon. Tickets are $50 ($25 for students and seniors) but several patron levels are available. Details at glaa.org.
Bagal joined GLAA two years ago recognizing its mission is “one that I feel honored to carry on.”
He’s engaged to Bobby Gondola and splits his time between Providence, R.I. and McLean, Va. Bagal works by day as assistant director of policy at Whitman-Walker Health. He enjoys concerts, photography, coffee and cooking/baking in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out to most people when I was about 20. I waited another decade to come out to my biological father; living an ocean apart since I was 11 made it somewhat less of a priority until I proposed to the most amazing man I’ve ever met. He didn’t take it well (my dad, Bobby said yes!) but he’ll come around eventually.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
James Baldwin because of his unique contribution to American literature and the civil rights movement, all while navigating intersectional identities.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
The Fireplace. It gets a bit crowded (intimate?) sometimes, but the music is always good and the drinks are cheap and strong.
Describe your dream wedding.
The black-tie Newport wedding Bobby and I are having this August, with everything from foie gras appetizers to a gourmet French fries food truck.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
All issues directly or indirectly affect LGBTQ people, but our broken education system is an issue I’m very passionate about and wish to meaningfully take on — once I’m consistently sleeping more than five hours a night.
What historical outcome would you change?
As far as changing recent history, definitely Ivanka’s dad winning the 2016 election.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Seeing “Hamilton” on Broadway in New York with Bobby. I still get a little teary-eyed thinking about Angelia reaching for Hamilton’s hand when I listen to “It’s Quiet Uptown.”
On what do you insist?
That Bojangles is superior to Popeye’s. Sorry not sorry.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
Pictures of my friends and me conducting a season special’s quality check at Popeye’s, almost exactly a year after Burger King acquired them. You see, we worry about things that matter.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“No, You Can’t Just Call Me G”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Advocate against it. But what if a gay guy and his straight girlfriend think they are soul mates? Nah, they may end up not being sexually compatible at all and now we’re dealing with sacrifices and guilt and resentment. Yeah, definitely not a science area we should meddle in, even though I would “go straight” for Issa if she was interested.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I’m Catholic-light, very light. Mostly believe in just being a good person and trying to make the world a more equitable place.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Listen more, talk less.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
A never-before-released Amy Winehouse album.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That I must be friends with that gay guy you went to school with who may now live in the D.C. area.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Everything about Valentine’s Day.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
First place prize in a major portrait photography contest.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That being gay and out would be as awesome as it feels today.
It’s a phenomenal place to be working on policy issues. The breadth and depth of expertise in people I encounter daily continue to blow me away.