Last year at Black Pride, Shannon Garcon was given the Unsung Hero award for his work creating OurPride, an app for community and social events for local LGBT communities of color.
Black Pride organizers had the idea and approached Garcon with the idea. He pulled it off with “a lot of patience, some basic knowledge of code and trial and error,” the “40-something” Queens, New York native says.
Garcon says he was “overwhelmed and honored” by the award.
“After all the trials in my life — homelessness, having family members turn their back on me because of my sexual orientation and all the negative energy I received over the years — to be able to direct that into positive advocacy and to be acknowledged for it meant a lot.”
Garcon, who works by day in information technology, is an activist and founder of the House of Garcon, a ballroom house with 200 members all over the world, and the CDG Community, a new nonprofit devoted to disenfranchised LGBT people. He’s been on the Black Pride advisory board for three years and was approached because of his involvement with the house ballroom community and his work on the board of the Wanda Alston House.
Garcon, who first attended Black Pride in the late ‘80s, says it’s important for local black LGBT folks to “show pride in our community.”
“But also (we need) to understand that the gay community isn’t monolithic,” he says. “The African-American LGBT community has specific and unique needs that are different from the greater LGBT community. Black Pride has a social as well as political consciousness that specifically speaks to (us).”
Garcon is most looking forward to seeing old friends this weekend and the Slay the Vote Ball.
He’s single and lives in Prince George’s County. He came to Washington 17 years ago because of its “many opportunities for African-Americans.” He enjoys tennis, cooking, traveling and politics in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out in 1986 so that is some years and different place than now. The hardest person to tell was my best friend from junior high school.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
As an African-American gay male, there weren’t a lot of black gay heroes for me. Especially growing up in a homo-bashing Pentecostal family. I can say my faith in God that he loves me for who I am, the person he created, has given me strength
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Well the best ever for me was the old Tracks. Right now, my two favorites are Cobalt and the Park on Sunday.
Describe your dream wedding.
It would be at Cap Rocat in Mallorca, Spain with the song “Spend my Life with You” by Tamia and Eric Benet playing in the background. With a few close friends and family.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Prison reform and the transition and re-entry of offenders from prison to community.
What historical outcome would you change?
When the first European slave traders arrived in Africa, I would have warned the Africans. Just the chance to tell them to run and that, “This isn’t going to end the way you think!”
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
When the 2008 presidential election was called for Obama. I was like, “Is this real?” Did this really happen? It was emotional to see an African-American president in my lifetime.
On what do you insist?
That when I’m dealing with people that they are themselves authentic and true.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“I love a man with a good appetite.”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Mommy, There’s a Boy in the Closet”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Not a damn thing! I am perfectly me.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe in God. I believe he has a divine plan for all of us and that every person is a reflection of God. He created us all.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Listen to the ones who are out there doing the work on the ground. Stay tuned to the people and don’t get so caught up in what you “think” people want. Find out what people want.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
A soul mate
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That all gay men are feminine. That just kills me. There’s nothing wrong with being feminine, but we come in all flavors, shapes, positions and mannerisms.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Moonlight” and “Paris is Burning”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
The idea that girls shouldn’t ask a guy out on a date. This is so bogus. If you’re interested in someone, ask them out! It doesn’t matter who’s who. Bottoms should also ask tops out.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Other than the Unsung Hero Award, receiving a plaque honoring me as a House Ballroom Icon and Leadership Award. To be recognized by your peers, to have them acknowledge the work that you have done and continue to do is so humbling.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That you can’t help everyone. No matter how hard you try, there are some people who just refuse to be helped.
Coming from New York City in the ’80s, Washington was the first place I have ever been where there was a large, educated and strong black middle class. I wanted to be a part of that.