Editor’s note: The deadly mass shooting Saturday at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub prompted this submission.
“Why do you have to bring up the LGBTQ+ thing?”
“Marriage equality is the law of the land; now what else do you want?”
These kinds of comments, which I had heard often when I first entered the race for San Diego County sheriff, come from non-LGBTQ+ and LGBTQ+ individuals.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential run as the first openly LGBTQ+ candidate and his sudden rise in some polls led to a Time magazine cover with his husband titled “First Family,” basically asking: Is America ready to elect an openly gay man as U.S. president?
In light of the social and legal progress that transgender, lesbians, gays and bisexuals have achieved in recent years, many tend to think that a person’s sexual orientation no longer matters (our society is still grappling with the gender identity movement).
I can see why some people question the necessity for public officials, professional athletes entertainers, etc., to say that they are LGBTQ+.
Aren’t we, after all, living in a post-LGBTQ+ world? Except for Qatar. Does it really matter? I think it still does.
That’s why when I am asked about my sexual orientation or comments are made regarding LGBTQ+ issues, I unhesitatingly say that I am gay.
I think that it still matters because in addition to the questioning comments that I have received, I’ve gotten many more emails, phone calls and remarks from individuals, young and old, who said that my letting them know that I am an openly gay male gave them some inspiration for their own personal struggle with sexual or gender identity.
I’ve had conversations with individuals who say that my public acknowledgment of being gay in a very conservative profession has helped them on their journey of coming out. I’ve had several parents of gay and transgender kids ask me how to deal with their child’s situation.
I’d like to think that my openness will influence LGBTQ+ teenagers, especially those contemplating suicide, to see that that our society is progressing toward greater acceptance and equality, even with today’s turbulent politics.
I want to remind them that things will get better because we and our allies won’t forget the battles, the lives lost and the pain suffered that has resulted in a more inclusive society.
As for my own profession, I would have to say that law enforcement still has a way to go with its homophobia and transphobia. I know that there are closeted law enforcement officials today uncomfortable with coming out at work because they believe that doing so would be detrimental to their career.
There is hope, however. During my public service, I encountered several LGBTQ+ youths who’ve told me that they’ve never considered a career in law enforcement because they didn’t think that they could be gay or transgender and be a police officer. They now think differently.
I hope that they will join the ranks of law enforcement so they can help change the culture from within.
Electing qualified, principled members of our community to public office is important because homophobia and transphobia continue to exist in the United States.
Right here in San Diego County, we have a congressman, Darrell Issa, who has consistently gotten an “F” rating from the Human Rights Campaign for opposing both marriage equality and laws that protect the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination in employment and housing.
Issa has even supported constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and defining marriage as between one man and one woman. On the national front, we had a president who had banned transgender people from serving in the military, essentially saying that they are divisive and a financial drain on the country.
In the 35 years that I served in law enforcement, being gay has informed both the way in which I’ve treated my co-workers and the way in which I have approached the general public.
Being gay has made me more resilient, more accepting, more compassionate, more cognizant of the worth that can be found in everyone I come across.
So yes, while being gay is not a qualification for public office, it matters because it is a part of my character. It matters because I want LGBTQ+ people to be seen for more than just a caricature of who we are, that we are seen as real people: mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, students, military veterans, athletes, workers in all fields and professions.
Dave Myers, a former commander and 33-year veteran of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, ran twice for sheriff.