Brian Bond is Democratic National Convention Committee director of public engagement.
PGN: Tell me about what your journey has been like, going from a grassroots activist in Missouri to helping create the Victory to the White House, the DNC and now as an executive of the Democratic National Convention.
BB: Probably the most inspiring moment I’ve had in a while was literally watching the platform process in Orlando a couple weeks ago. The appreciation and inclusion of the LGBT — and I emphasize transgender — support that was within the standing-committee delegation was amazing. You know as well as I do the long journey that has been going on for a very long time to get to the point where it’s not just whether LGBT issues are included in the platform, but how much to include or tweaking certain words. It was just amazing to see how embraced the community is, especially in this last platform process.
PGN:Can you explain what it feels like seeing the evolution of LGBT issues in the party’s platform, and it being in your ballpark?
BB: As I was watching the platform process, I was thinking back. I truly stand on the shoulders of many, including you Mark on the agenda you’ve pushed over the years, especially broader than just political and social. But I think people like Jean O’Leary from California who passed away several years ago, and others led these very fights for this platform. It was never an issue of inclusion than it was our issue to take us out of the shadows and out of the closet and include us in the process visibly. That transition has been happening. I think of 1992 when nominee Clinton actively began that process and I remember to this day when he said the words “gay” and “straight” at his acceptance speech and the crowd went nuts.
PGN: You realize of course that in a sense you are the political role model that young LGBT people will be looking at in years to come.
BB: I think role models are those people on streets and in the states doing this work every day. We do have an amazing platform. We are a part of the fabric of that document. One of the things the platform points to is all the work we still need to do in the states to ensure full equality. It also includes electing Secretary Clinton as the next president of the United States, taking back the Senate and House and turning some of the state legislatures and governorships over so we can pass a more progressive agenda. That doesn’t mean as a community we wont have to continue to push but at this point we’ve got to build the base to elect candidates that will work toward the goals of that platform.
PGN: When you look at this convention and the overwhelming number of LGBT delegates, the largest trans delegation we’ve ever had, can you say, “Job done”?
BB: I can never say, “Job done.” I remember working with Rick Stafford in ’92 to try to get us over the 200 mark in delegates, standing committeemembers and alternates. We did that. That education process, while a little nerdy, of working with state delegations is a crucial part of integrating LGBTQ individuals into the party structure in larger policy discussions. Having people like Rick Stafford, Raymond Buckley and others work with supportive state chairs, who have lots of priorities to make sure we’re included in the process during delegate selection, brings new leaders into the party.
PGN: What do you say to millennials who want to see change immediately?
BB: From day one of President Obama’s administration, he encouraged people to push collectively to do better. It is activists’ job to bring issues to the forefront and push. I think that’s an important component of this. We have to have people both working on the inside and the outside to bring about real change, which is what this community has done very effectively.
PGN: You have been the go-to out gay man in the White House during probably the most pivotal administration for the LGBT community, the Obama administration. What was one of the hardest issues for you to deal with?
BB: I think the hardest issue to deal with was people’s expectation of how fast things could move or not move. The president couldn’t just wave a magic wand. I think the president used exactly the right strategy to ensure [the repeal of] “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was not only enacted as law but also to ensure that the armed forces were in a space to embrace and move forward. People want change quickly, and sometimes it doesn’t happen quickly. But if you look at what the president said in his first Pride event, he said, “Don’t judge me today, judge me at where we end up at the end of this administration.” I could not be prouder of Barack Obama and Joe Biden and the entire staff of the Obama administration for moving the ball forward. I would add electing Secretary Clinton as the next president is crucial to keep progress moving forward, especially involving some of the executive orders.
PGN: When you left Missouri and came to D.C., did you ever have any expectation that we as a community would be where we are today?
BB: No. Like many, I never expected many of the advances we’ve seen in our lifetime. To be able to marry my husband, Derek, and to see our men and women serving in the military, including transgender servicemembers … But what I would say, as somebody from a state like Missouri originally, is we still have a lot of work to do and as a community we need to take the excitement coming out of what we do on the national level and build strong, strong state programs and make sure our brothers and sisters in every state are afforded equal rights under law.
PGN: If you’re talking to a young LGBT delegate this week who’s charged up to fight for Hillary, what do you tell that person they should be doing after November?
BB: The first priority is to elect a president who cares about us and will fight and continue the progress we’ve made. And then I’d tell them to take that energy and continue to mobilize and use the relationships they built in this campaign to continue the discussion and build out a stronger program. Let me be clear: Many states have amazing programs, we just need more activists, more people, helping to get the issues across the finish line and educating legislators or changing legislators, if we’re going to bring about real progress.
PGN: You’ve had an incredible political career. What’s your next role likely to be?
BB: Right now my priority is helping support the team here on ensuring most innovative, forward-thinking and best convention ever.
PGN: In President Obama’s second inauguration speech, he used the line, “through Seneca Falls, and Selma and Stonewall …” Who was responsible for that line?
BB: In any number of speeches and other initiatives on the part of the president, I honestly give the president responsibility for that. He understands the role he has played in our progress.
PGN: What was your feeling when heard him say that line?
BB: It was extremely powerful, especially for those kids in states around the country for them to hear the president in front of the world in his second inaugural speech to include us as part of the fabric. What has been accomplished over the last seven years and what will be over the next eight truly can save and change lives.
PGN: What was most emotional moment for you as an out gay man while working in the White House?
BB: The moment that touched me the most was when the president was taping his “It Gets Better” video. In the middle of his taping, he stopped the camera and said, “Let’s go back. It’s really important for me to talk directly to the kids here.” At that point, I somewhat lost it. I believed in him from the beginning but it was clear that, as a parent and leader of the free world, he knew his role in saving lives and lifting people up. I will be grateful to him for that for rest of my life.
PGN: How was it for you, knowing your boss, President Obama, was there 100 percent on all the issues but at times politically had to navigate them, while bloggers and LGBT media were harassing you on what the holdup was?
BB: I knew where we were going to end up and we had to keep pushing. The president said point blank, “Push from the outside,” but at the same time there has to be a realization you can’t wave a magic wand. I think collectively the inside game and outside game are extremely important to move the ball forward. We never lost faith in the president to get this done. It also helps when you have advocates in the White House like Valerie Jarrett, who from day one understood the dynamics of electing the first black president of the U.S. and the empowerment of that, yet at the same time saw what happened in California when marriage rights were taken away all in one night. She grasped that from the beginning, which is why I think we had such an incredible champion in her last the last seven years. I truly believe electing Secretary Clinton is extremely important to keep progress moving forward.
PGN: From 1976 to now, we have gone from almost 0 to almost 100 regarding LGBT political visibility. How do you explain that success to people?
BB: I think at the end of the day we all want to be treated equally and we want to be judged on our merits. I think we are not 100-percent there yet but when you have people like Robby [Mook, Clinton campaign manager] in the role he has and many others around country, the number of LGBT elected officials, those barriers are coming down. They’re not done but they’re coming down. At the end of the day, we should be judged on our merits. That’s our ultimate goal of where we’re headed.