“Yes, I have loads of time to talk, I am waiting for a yoga class to begin,” is how
hottie Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims began our phone conversation. It was a classic politician’s move of deflection because I spent the entire next 30 minutes imagining him in all sorts of positions. But I digress. Elected in 2012, he was the first openly gay elected state legislator in Pennsylvania and continues to be a strong advocate for LGBT rights.
This year, he will serve as the keynote speaker at the annual Red Dinner, a fundraising gala for the University of Houston LGBTQ Alumni Association benefiting students who have been financially affected as a result of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. The alumni association is determined to offer students financial aid so that no student has to ever choose between education and basic necessities. In addition to the gala, which is sold out, there are two other events that will raise funds: a meet and greet on April 8 at Guava and a Brian’s Bearded Brunch at the Eagle (beards encouraged but not required).
Brian was happy enough to speak to
his future husband me about his advice for LGBT youth, LGBT issues and how the community can get mobilized in this political climate.
What has made LGBT rights such a prominent issue for you?
When I was first getting involved I realized I didn’t have the same, shared experience that many people in the LGBT rights movement had which is a difficult coming out experience. Mine was relatively easy. But I think I can envision the world without LGBT discrimination and I believe it is an issue we are on the cusp of solving.
We keep getting closer to complete non-discrimination. That means that all states and the federal government would have their own laws that protect certain classes of people against certain types of discrimination, like housing, employment, public accommodations, etc. A lot of people saw marriage equality as the pinnacle of civil rights and I don’t. Marriage equality is great but I believe in overt non-discrimination as protected classes and non-discrimination laws.
What type of advice would you give to incoming college students who maybe felt some discrimination from their community or home?
First, I would say look inwards and see the power you have in yourself. The power to come out and live authentically as one’s self speaks volumes. There is a power in being an out, proud, young person especially when the odds are against you. Also, look for LGBT organizations like the alumni center to help you or others in your state or city and let us help you. One of the blessings of being an LGBT person is we get to have a broader definition of who our family is.
Did you get that last sentiment from RuPaul’s Drag Race by the way?
I truly believe that but yes RuPaul did say that. Also, not to be dramatic, but RuPaul has done more for LGBT civil rights than Congress — directly and indirectly. Being a proud, queer person of color that is seen by millions of people absolutely sets a standard and is a role model.
Can I get an amen?
Even with all the rallies happening recently, some people don’t see that as creating physical change like new laws, change in legislation, etc. How would you tell people to mobilize to get actual change?
First thing, these rallies affect change. However, those other people’s views are real and we also need to do the things that they see as affecting change. We have to go to all people and use their language. But there is strength in numbers. I can say that my colleagues and I are scared to death of the populace when we do something wrong. My US Senator has had to change his office because we rally there and he is changing the way he does his job. So, the rallies do work.
Lastly, do you plan on looking into the validity of the statement, “Everything is bigger in Texas,” while here?
I do in terms of BBQ and beer. That’s what I’m looking forward to.
You can donate directly to the University of Houston LGBT Alumni Association.