I knew from an early age what made me different. I knew, too, how it could impact my future when I watched my home state pass a constitutional amendment saying I couldn’t get married. I knew, also, what needed to change so my love would be accepted and treated fairly.
Since watching that wave of homophobic legislation in school, I have watched politics like most of us in Louisiana watch football. I’ve kept up with changes and rooted for my preferred policies. After witnessing the broken disaster recovery system in this country when my home flooded I finally decided to do something instead of watching from the sidelines. Now I am running for Congress against someone who outed his Republican opponent as gay in his first election.
Running for high office in south Louisiana as an openly gay Democrat has been quite an experience. Encouragingly, I have gotten more pushback when coming out as a Democrat than as a gay man. There have certainly been challenges to being an openly gay candidate, including from several places I thought would be friendly. A shocking number of Democrats still harbor hate in their hearts. Most reactions have been encouraging, however, and my experience has made clear that it is possible for openly gay candidates to win in any part of the country.
I look forward to being the first openly LGBT person elected to Congress from the south, but it is a shame that it has never happened before. As with every new first, I recognize that I stand on the shoulders of all who came before me. I hope that my campaign shows both how far the LGBT community has come and how far we have left to go.