For­mer state Rep. Rashad Tay­lor

Only openly gay man to serve in Ge­or­gia leg­is­la­ture re­flects on be­ing outed and looks for­ward

GA Voice - - Pink Dollar -

By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS

Rashad Tay­lor cleared his throat be­fore step­ping up to the mi­cro­phones, wiped the sweat from his brow as nu­mer­ous cam­eras snapped away, then looked up with a broad smile on his face, say­ing, “All right.”

It was May 27, 2011, and he was at a press con­fer­ence at Ge­or­gia Equal­ity’s of­fices at the Phillip Rush Cen­ter, flanked by his mother, other fam­ily mem­bers, fel­low state leg­is­la­tors and LGBT ac­tivists to let the world know one thing. “I am a gay man.” With those words, Tay­lor be­came the only openly gay male to ever serve in the Ge­or­gia Gen­eral As­sem­bly. The de­ci­sion to come out wasn’t en­tirely up to him, though, as the ex-boyfriend of Tay­lor’s then-part­ner had sent emails to state leg­is­la­tors out­ing him two days ear­lier. Tay­lor lost a re­elec­tion bid the fol­low­ing year. At least a dozen openly gay men have tried to win elec­tion to the Ge­or­gia leg­is­la­ture since then, and all have failed—three more will try again this year.

Tay­lor, now 34 and a political con­sul­tant split­ting time be­tween At­lanta and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., looks back on that tu­mul­tuous 48 hours be­fore com­ing out and talks about his political fu­ture.

How did you first hear about the emails go­ing around about you be­ing gay?

I got it for­warded from a col­league in the leg­is­la­ture. We get weird emails from var­i­ous peo­ple all the time as leg­is­la­tors, so it was noth­ing to get an out­ra­geous email about some­thing. My col­league said, ‘what is this?,’ so that was the first that I had heard about it or found out about it.

What were the en­su­ing days like for you?

That same day, I called a good friend of

—Rashad Tay­lor mine, Tharon John­son [who served on Mayor Kasim Reed’s 2009 may­oral cam­paign with Tay­lor], and I told him what was go­ing on and I came out. That was the first step in all of th­ese calls, right? Com­ing out and telling them what was go­ing on to get their as­sess­ment of the sit­u­a­tion and rec­om­men­da­tions on how to move for­ward.

Then I left the cam­paign of­fice in Bal­ti­more and I headed to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., where my mom lived, to have a con­ver­sa­tion with her face to face. On the way I made a bunch of calls back to folks in At­lanta, five or six peo­ple who sort of made up my core in­ner cir­cle. And we got on a con­fer­ence call that evening af­ter I talked to my mom and af­ter I had a con­ver­sa­tion with my pas­tor. I made the de­ci­sion that the next morn­ing I would come out.

The next morn­ing at 6 a.m., my mom and me were on a flight to At­lanta for a press con­fer­ence at 10 a.m., I didn’t sleep the en­tire night. I wrote my speech the next morn­ing on the plane and when I landed I went to my house, changed my clothes, headed over to Ge­or­gia Equal­ity and changed my life for­ever.

It was re­ally based on a con­ver­sa­tion I had with my pas­tor, who said that the only way to kill ru­mor is with truth. You know, Rashad Tay­lor, 34, went back to be­ing a political con­sul­tant and cur­rently splits his time be­tween At­lanta and Wash­ing­ton, D.C. (Cour­tesy photo) no­body talks about some­thing ev­ery­body knows. And he said it would be the best sleep that I’ve had in the past 15 years, and that my life will be dif­fer­ent but it will be bet­ter. And it was true; it was the best thing that I’ve ever done.

What was it that was keep­ing you from com­ing out on your own be­fore then?

You know, I tell peo­ple that it re­ally is an in­di­vid­ual jour­ney where you’ve got to be­come com­fort­able enough with your­self to the point where you can re­veal it to the world. For some peo­ple it hap­pens faster than oth­ers. I’d al­ways ex­pected to come out, I didn’t ex­pect it to be that day or that time or that way but I’d al­ways ex­pected to do it in my own time.

I told peo­ple it was sort of courage thrust upon me. I re­ally came to life and be­came com­fort­able with my­self enough to re­veal it to the world. It’s not how or when I wanted it to hap­pen but I’m glad that it hap­pened. I ac­tu­ally thanked the per­son that outed me months af­ter that.

Re­ally? How so, did you give him a call?

Yeah, we just hap­pened to cross paths and I just told him that look­ing back on it, it was the best thing that could have hap­pened to me.

So then the 2012 elec­tion hap­pens. How long did it take you to get over that loss?

I have on my Twit­ter han­dle that I’m a re­cov­er­ing politi­cian. I’m not sure what step I am in my re­cov­ery, but I can tell other re­cov­er­ing politi­cians that it gets eas­ier ev­ery day.

One day at a time?

One day at a time, that’s right [laughs].

What about your political fu­ture? Are you in­ter­ested in mak­ing an­other run, ei­ther on this level or an­other one?

I loved my time in the leg­is­la­ture and my time serv­ing in of­fice. I did it at a young age, I got elected when I was 27, and I’ve been work­ing in pol­i­tics for a long time, you know? Re­ally since I was 18. So tak­ing a break from elected of­fice I think is gen­er­ally a good thing, it’s healthy and it’s been a good thing for me.

I don’t see my­self go­ing back to serve in the leg­is­la­ture, but I cer­tainly am not clos­ing the door to serv­ing in of­fice again. I think it’s some of the high­est lev­els of ser­vice you can give to your com­mu­nity and your coun­try. I want to keep help­ing good peo­ple get elected to of­fice and I’ll make a de­ci­sion down the road if I want to serve again.

Fe­bru­ary 19, 2016

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