She came to Washington in a special election in 1987. Being called on the House floor for the first time, most newly elected members typically take just a few moments to thank their spouses, their constituents who sent them there and be done with it. Nancy Pelosi did all that, but added at the end “now we must take leadership of course in the crisis of AIDS. And I look forward to working with you on that. . .” A shocking and bold move.
Afterwards, other members privately told her she was insane for even mentioning AIDS. “Why would you bring that up?” Another asking, “why would you even want to be associated with that?” “That’s why I came and that’s why I ran,” she explained. Simply put, she did not come to mess around.
Fast forward some 30 years later to outside of Floriana’s, a well-known, well-liked, neighborhood Italian restaurant in Dupont Circle. A staple of the local community, the entertaining and boisterous barman Dito Sevilla erected on the restaurant’s patio a 17-foot-tall Douglas fir. Sevilla’s Christmas trees are often thematic, and this year the “Pelos-Tree”, as it came to be known, is not just dedicated to her (a three-foot cutout of Pelosi sits atop) but to all the newly elected women members. All of their names — Rashida Tlaib from Michigan, Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar — displayed on flowing red, white and blue ribbons. Last Friday morning, Pelosi herself came by to see it.
The whole thing really should have been filmed. As a small crowd began to gather as word spread up and down 17th Street, what followed, as I was told, was almost an hour of her telling stories, a sort of oral history of the LGBT movement as it navigated its way through the marble halls of Congress.
All told as Pelosi took time to pose with numerous passersby wanting selfies with the Speaker Designate. “She had a ball,” her press office told me. And well-deserved, too. In a role such as hers, often singled out as the go-to punching bag for the entire conservative moment, having sheer praise and positivity thrown at you must be a rarity indeed. Her joy at the event and seeing the tree was real. “Alright boys, it’s been lovely. But I have to get to my day job,” she announced. Next up in that day job, she made clear to those gathered, the Equality Act.
Pelosi also wore that Max Mara burnt orange coat, made famous with her exiting that contentious Oval Office meeting with President Trump earlier this month. Max Mara discontinued the coat some years ago. But the company recently announced plans to bring it back. In a phone call. I asked her press office if her wearing the now iconic coat to the tree event was intentional, “yes it was,” the voice on the other end told me.
Gay men owe Pelosi their loyalty simply because she had our back when quite literally no one else did. And gay men aren’t ones to blindly pledge loyalty. When Pelosi emerged from that meeting with President Trump she once again proved her mettle against perhaps the biggest bully in the country. “Pelosi did not come to mess around,” as one reporter stated. But many of us gay men knew that from the beginning. And for that, she’s earned our continued loyalty.
After all, she still has what it takes. And we still have work to do.
Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer who contributes regularly to the Blade.