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A person. A photo. A story.

This Week: ABilly on Understanding and Standing up for His Sexuality

“I came to the Washington-area from St Johns, Antigua where I was born. I lived in Virginia and Maryland before moving to the District. My early memories of this place were not particularly positive. The city was full of images from the fire and destruction of the riots. Buildings were boarded up and there were so many places that one didn’t go. Still, I used to come in-and-out a lot, and viewed the good parts of the city as a playground.

“When I finally settled here, I realized the true beauty of this city. Many people come here and pick a narrow path in-and-out of Washington. It is only when you take a wide path and take time to explore the city that you really realize how amazing this place truly is. My fondest memories of this city have to do with how the city helped me understand and stand up for my sexuality.

“I was in a heterosexual marriage and had my own coming out experience as a bi-sexual person when I was 36. I guess you can say that I was already an old man when I came out! I was aware of my bi-sexuality long before then, but never found the support network I needed here. I went to a number of LGBT community meetings, but didn’t see any black people. That was amazing to me given that this is a predominantly black city.

“I wanted to create a group for people like me so I started advertising for African-Americans who were interested in joining an LGBT political network. Through that, I became the founder of the D.C. Coalition of Black Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Men and Women, which led me to become one of the founders of the National Coalition for Black Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Men and Women, the Gay Married Men’s Association, and the Gay Father’s Association.

“Of all of my experiences here, my richest one involves being involved with the National March on Washington in 1979. One of the things that I learned about Washington and organizing is that many of the people who live here, often don’t get involved with the big national events. Still, we were able to mobilize over 250,000 people, including many from this city to the rally. I worked to organize and bring people of color to the rally. I remember looking out to a sea of people across the Mall. It was a beautiful sight.

“Now, 32 years later, we have gotten a lot of things that we asked for back then. These days, people tend to focus on don’t ask, don’t tell, but I don’t recall us ever asking for that. Remember, we were all anti-war and anti-military, so none of us were that keen on joining up. But, I suppose we can view that as another success in our long road towards equality. We have made much, much progress, but we still have more to do.”

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“Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer and collector of stories. In September, he launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. Every day, People’s District presents a different Washingtonian sharing his or her insights on everything from Go Go music to homelessness to fashion to politics. Every Thursday he’ll share a favorite story with us”

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