September 12, 2018 at 1:46 pm PST | by Mark Gonzales
I refuse to choose between identities

Mark Gonzalez is chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. (Photo courtesy Gonzales)

Every now and then, as LGBTQ leaders, we come across a question that pops up seemingly at random: Am I an LGBTQ leader, or am I a leader who happens to be LGBTQ? If you add in the fact that I’m also Latino, then that question gets another whole layer of complicated.

It’s a dilemma that people of many demographics face in their lifetime. Are we Latino leaders, or leaders that happen to be Latino? Are we African-American leaders, or are we leaders who happen to be African American? In an age where one’s identity is blurred, yet still significant, and during an election where our collective ability to freely express our identities is at stake, we must reconcile that when faced with the choice between our identities and our political affiliations. It’s our duty to look that dilemma in the eye and say that that we refuse to choose.

I am not an LGBTQ leader or a leader who happens to be LGBTQ, I am both an LGBTQ leader and a leader to all my constituents who happens to be LGBTQ.

Separating a piece of your identity from your role as a leader is a slippery slope. It is a part of you. But if forced in to a bind where I am told to choose a piece of my identity over my larger role in the community, I take a step back and say that I live in a country founded by people who refused to conflate their identity with their role in society—and I follow their lead.

Los Angeles has been lucky to have LGBTQ elected officials who are open and honest about their sexual identity, are active in the LGBTQ community, and effectively lead their administrations with mastery and passion.

Even after serving successfully, though, there are those that still face the old homophobic tropes that should have died out long ago. Is it fair? Absolutely not. Should it light a fire under us? Absolutely.

This is why these midterm elections are so important. It is why we must support good Democrats like Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffery Prang and 45th Congressional Candidate Katie Porter. Our rights are on the verge of being stripped away by those who would keep us down and we in the Los Angeles County Democratic Party are not resting until the electeds who would marginalize us are gone and replaced with people who would raise the community up rather than put people down.

With that fire lit under us, we at the LACDP have hit the ground running to make sure that Los Angeles leads the way as it always does. We installed regional headquarters throughout the county to focus on reaching out to each area of L.A. and we organize trainings for our leaders and the troops on the ground to spread that message of hope and positivity that prevails in the Democratic Party. It’s a message that just so happens to prevail against the Republican message of fear, divisiveness, and regression as well.

It’s that message that is spreading far and wide throughout California and the United States. Because it matters more than ever, our local Democratic Party has an army of volunteers and activists fighting for our sisters and brothers in every community, because we know that we do not have to choose between fighting for ourselves and fighting against all inequality.

Taking back the House is not the end-all—but it is the most important next step. We have a glorious opportunity to bring back representatives who actually represent – not to mention representatives who will confirm judges who are truly just.

If we win, will that age-old question of choosing between our identities be completely done away with? Probably not. But if we just register one more person to vote, take one more person to the polls, or just convince one more person that their vote really does matter, maybe we can get one step closer to reconciliation.

If we all do our part and work like we never have before to elect good Democrats up and down the ticket on Nov. 6, someday our posterity will no longer be faced with choosing between being an LGBTQ American or an American LGBTQ. We are both, we are proud of it, and we will be heard on election day.

To find out how to volunteer with the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, please email us at

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