When my son came out to me when he was 14, I totally accepted him. After all, throughout my life, most of my friends had been gay or lesbian.
I worried, however, about the kind of world that he would live in; I knew there were so many challenges LGBT people faced that the rest of us did not face, and that scared me.
Over the last 12 years since he revealed his truth that day, Duke has dedicated himself to making a positive difference for his community. He’s never shied away from the tough fights, and for that I have so much respect and admiration for him.
At the age of 17 he was elected the first openly gay president of his high school’s student council. At 20, he served as a surrogate on President Obama’s re-election campaign and was invited to the White House after the election in recognition of his efforts. Soon after that he was appointed to the Board of Directors of OUTFEST, the youngest Board member in its 35-year history.
In 2015, at the age of 22, he made the brave decision to run for West Hollywood City Council. He didn’t win, but Morgan (my husband and Duke’s father) and I felt so proud of him for putting himself out there and dedicating himself to public service.
Since then, Duke has continued to play a big role in local civic affairs. He served on the Board of Directors of the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, which builds much of the affordable housing in WeHo. Over the last three years he has been a city official on the West Hollywood Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board, where he currently serves as Co-Chair.
He also, in 2017, was one of the founding organizers of the L.A. Pride Resist March. The march was organized in lieu of the annual parade as a demonstration of LGBT opposition against Donald Trump, and attracted over 100,000 participants.
This is someone who is passionate about creating positive change and I am so thrilled, as his mother, but also just as a citizen, that he has made the decision to run for City Council again.
We need a new generation of leadership to step up at this time of challenge for our city, our state and our country. I have no doubt that my son will make a superb City Councilman.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been out since I was 14. I had it pretty easy compared to most kids, but I’d have to say that the hardest person to tell was my Dad. I told him in a handwritten letter.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Cleve Jones. Cleve and I worked on the boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel, and as a member of the West Hollywood Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board, I was able to honor him with the city’s Rainbow Key Award.
What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?
Tom Doherty’s Café D’Etoile. It’s one of the last old school institutions left in LA, and one of the last “gay restaurants” in West Hollywood.
Describe your dream wedding.
On the beach in Maui, Hawaii with a small group of friends and family.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Homelessness, rent control, the need for affordable housing, aging in place for our seniors — all tie back to housing.
What historical outcome would you change?
Donald Trump being “elected” president.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Meeting President Obama at the White House in 2012 after working on his re-election campaign on the same day as the Sandy Hook tragedy.
On what do you insist?
Conviction. The philosopher Dante once said that “the darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I posted about the news of the Russian oligarch who paid Trump lawyer Michael Cohen half a million dollars right after the 2016 election.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
Sounds super corny, but “A Young American.”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I would never change. I truly feel blessed to be gay.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I’ve always had a strong belief in a higher power — God, the law of attraction, the universe, whatever you want to call it.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Remember the lesson that Harvey Milk always said that it’s not just about the gays, but “the us’s”- we’re all in this battle together against the status quo, and if we fight together we will win and create real change for the future.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
For Donald Trump to no longer be president.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That we are all the same kind of person and easily definable. Our diversity is a strength we should celebrate and cherish.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
I saw “Love, Simon” twice in the theater last month and spent almost the entire time crying throughout each screening. I couldn’t help but think what a difference it would have made for me to see a film like that when I came out at 14 just 12 years ago. The world has changed so quickly, and thank God for that.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Not talking about politics at social functions.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Knowing that I’ve had a positive impact.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That so many of the things that you think matter actually don’t.
Why Los Angeles?
West Hollywood, the urban village at the center of the second-largest city in the country. Can’t imagine that it gets much better than that.