My earliest sense of what it meant to be gay in the nation’s capital came more than a decade ago when I was a summer intern. I was a few blocks from Union Station when a congressman walked by and gave the reporters I was standing with a big, floppy wave hello.
“You know what they say about him,” said one of them, the inflection of his voice rising to a squeak so there could be no mistaking what he meant.
I didn’t know, in fact. I wasn’t even sure what the congressman’s name was. But the message was as clear as it was unsettling for a 20-year-old struggling with his own sexual identity: There were plenty of gay people in Washington, even at the highest levels of government. But instead of being widely accepted, they were usually whispered about derisively, suspect characters to be mocked and maligned.