This yr, for the primary time, Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction formally acknowledged June as Delight Month — an effort spearheaded by Evan Glass, the primary overtly homosexual member of the Montgomery County Council.
At occasions, Glass, 42, posed with drag queens and marched triumphantly by way of city facilities holding his husband’s hand. Behind the scenes, nevertheless, the at-large Democrat was battling a deluge of hate-filled messages.
It started in Could, after Glass introduced through e mail the satisfaction occasions he can be internet hosting in Montgomery, a county of 1.1 million folks simply outdoors Washington. The primary response he acquired from a constituent questioned his efforts to prepare “tranny queer satisfaction gatherings.”
Greater than 300 crucial emails adopted. One known as Glass a “pervert.” One other a “soiled pig.” A whole bunch of individuals known as his workplace or left damaging feedback on social media. The outpouring intensified when the county authorities lowered a POW-MIA flag that usually flies outdoors its workplaces in Rockville and raised a rainbow-colored satisfaction flag as a substitute.
The dimensions of the backlash shocked Glass and different overtly homosexual politicians in Montgomery, which is extensively regarded as one of the vital progressive suburbs within the area.
Some advocates, nevertheless, stated they have been disillusioned however not shocked, particularly given a latest uptick in anti-LGBTQ hostility on the regional and nationwide ranges. Most just lately, two transgender folks have been killed within the Washington space, renewing anxieties across the risks confronted by members of that neighborhood.
Glass was one in all 33 Democrats who sought Montgomery’s 4 at-large council seats final fall, an unusually giant subject spurred by a brand new public-financing choice and new time period limits that compelled three incumbents out of workplace.
Within the November election, the Lengthy Island native led the crowded pack with 19.2 % of the vote.
Glass, who lives along with his husband, Jason Gedeik, in Silver Spring, says he has encountered homophobia earlier than. As a reporter for CNN within the early 2000s, he lined the proposed Federal Marriage Modification — an effort by the George W. Bush administration to outline marriage strictly because the union of 1 man and one girl — and spent his days speaking to among the most conservative members of Congress.
However that have didn’t put together him, he stated, for the vitriol that arose as he kicked off Delight Month and that grew louder when the POW/MIA flag was lowered on June 10.
Whereas Glass had pushed for the rainbow banner to be displayed, he was not in control of the occasion and didn’t make the choice to exchange the flag that honors prisoners of conflict and troops lacking in motion.
“I solely discovered in regards to the swapping of flags as I walked out to the plaza,” Glass stated. However “as the primary homosexual member of the council, I used to be the face of satisfaction. And whether or not somebody agreed with or disagreed with the celebrations that occurred, I used to be the individual they turned to.”
Barry Hudson, a spokesman for County Government Marc Elrich (D), stated the federal government meant to fly each the POW/MIA flag and the rainbow flag on the middle flagpole, but it surely might accommodate just one flag. After an outcry, Elrich’s workers lowered the county flag, which flew on a separate pole, to make room for the rainbow flag, returning the POW/MIA flag to its authentic place.
The change did little to stem the flood of criticism towards Glass.
For the remainder of that week, indignant calls to his workplace have been so vicious and constant that the council member instructed his workers members — most of whom determine as LGBTQ — to let all of them go to voice mail. Valeria Carranza, Glass’s chief of workers and an overtly homosexual girl, deleted Instagram and Twitter from her cellphone and inspired the remainder of the workers to do the identical. The Montgomery County Police Division began sending officers to satisfaction occasions the place Glass can be current.
About half the messages got here from veterans and their supporters, with the remainder from folks against Glass’s efforts to prepare satisfaction occasions and, usually, to his sexual orientation, his workplace stated.
“Getting this sort of hateful suggestions was actually, actually disheartening,” stated Carranza, 31. “Day-after-day, it felt like a private assault on our identities.”
Former state senator Richard S. Madaleno Jr., who represented Montgomery County and was the primary overtly homosexual individual elected to the Basic Meeting, stated he was “completely shocked” to listen to what occurred to Glass and had by no means skilled comparable pushback.
Madaleno, who now serves as Montgomery’s funds director, stated he believes that underneath President Trump, some folks have felt extra emboldened to criticize public officers from underrepresented backgrounds.
“Individuals now be at liberty to say no matter they need,” he stated. “They’re lashing out, and sadly, council member Glass has been a handy goal.”
Some advocates, nevertheless, argue that deep-seated hostility towards LGBTQ people existed in Montgomery lengthy earlier than Trump.
“So many people in liberal bubbles assume this concern is settled, however no, nothing is settled,” stated Mike Knaapen, president of the LGBTQ Democrats of Montgomery County. He identified that till this yr, the county had made no organized effort to commemorate Delight Month, and he stated there are nonetheless few bars or public areas within the county the place members of this neighborhood can comfortably collect.
Partap Verma, who will quickly assume his place as the primary overtly homosexual member of the Montgomery County Planning Board, agreed.
“I wish to assume we’re a progressive society that doesn’t want to speak about this stuff, however what’s evident right here is that we’re nonetheless not there,” stated Verma, an lawyer for the Division of Homeland Safety.
Delight Month is over, however Glass stated homophobic messages have continued to stream into his inbox. The council member, who has been public about his sexual orientation since 2000, stated he’s studying each e mail and remark and has no plans to cover or play down his id.
On July four, Glass walked in Takoma Park’s Independence Day Parade, his husband at his facet.