My first encounter with Marquita Thomas was at a Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce meeting that was held at Tortilla Republic. I think it was the way she passed the salsa, but it was instantly apparent to me (being new to Los Angeles at the time) that if I was going to achieve anything in this town, I needed to go through Marquita.
She commanded the room and knew everyone. She is executive director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, co-chair of the West Hollywood Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, board member of Christopher Street West, founder of Out and About Events for Women, a writer who has written for both TV and film, an organizer of women’s festivals, workshops and retreats around the USA, like Serafemme, the Queer women of color music festival. She achieved major success as a promoter of Dinah Shore Lesbian Weekend in Palm Springs.
The South Carolina native is in love with SoCal and it has loved her back. She’s opinionated yet charming, has an acerbic and sometimes caustic wit and she’s diplomatically confrontational when she feels she needs to be. She has a distinct and strong point of view. She is not shy about making sure people of color issues are front and center, as they should be.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I had no idea I was gay until 2001, the hardest person to tell was my father because he was so ensconced in the church, I really didn’t know how he was going to take it. I panicked for weeks before telling him but he was shockingly blase about it.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
I don’t know that I have one but someone I admire immensely who just happens to be LGBT is Diana Nyad, a woman who at age 64 and after 5 tries became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark tank.
What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?
I have lived in West Hollywood for two decades and The Abbey continues to be the “go to” spot for a quick round of drinks, lunch or birthday shenanigans. I have seen several incarnations of the Abbey and while it’s not perfect, there’s no better place to start off a Sunday Funday.
Describe your dream wedding.
What makes a wedding a “dream” wedding for me is the setting, I would love to get married in a space with a gorgeous scenic background – green pastures or water in the background, surrounded by loved ones.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
I am very concerned and vocal about the racial and religious divisiveness of this country. The fusion of nationalities, cultures and ethnicities in America is no longer seen as a strength but rather as a scapegoat for all its problems – from economic to public safety.
What historical outcome would you change?
That’s a hard one. I think there have been many times religions and nations have been on the wrong side of history but I think all of history rights itself. To change a historical outcome would change whatever legislative and emotional shift that needed to happen to create progress, a shift that likely influenced change in another area so I’d have to say that I would not change any historical outcome because all progress is intertwined.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Prince. Everything Prince. From “Controversy” to “Purple Rain” to every album after. The talent and spectacle of that man, the passion of his lyrics, his artistry – he continues to be a pop culture moment in and of himself.
On what do you insist?
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I re-tweeted something from the Twitter account @trumpregrets, an account that either re-tweets or posts videos from people who regret voting for Donald Trump
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“The Joys of Trying Everything”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
No, not at all, absolutely not. We are all made exactly as we should be and while there are those who do not celebrate our differences, we should and I do. The world is made so much more interesting by having people who are different in some way.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I was raised Catholic and went to parochial school but I also believe in burning sage and sound healing.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
There is a distinct lack of diversity in the LGBT movement, there is not enough age diversity, racial diversity or gender diversity and we are too quick to reward the same handful of allies whose only activism is being present at our galas instead of recognizing the efforts of people who do the work daily.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
The end to bigotry. We cannot cultivate a healthy and productive society if we are constantly telling millions of people that they are terrorists, thugs, the product of unfit parents, lazy and/or morally bankrupt.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That all gay people are white and look like Neal Patrick Harris.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Aimee & Jaguar”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Social custom? Small talk. I abhor small talk
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
The KCET LGBT Local Hero Award I won a few years ago
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
There are no wrong answers.
Why Los Angeles?
I came to Los Angeles from South Carolina to go to Occidental College. After graduation, I stayed. Who trades in Los Angeles weather, opportunities and nightlife to go back to wheat fields?