Andre is the Executive Director of The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada
By the time I was 17 years old, I decided that what I wanted to do for a living was to help people, I had already felt deep seeded rejection by my peers at school and at church, because I was perceived to be gay. The loneliness and isolation I felt was something I knew I didn’t want others to feel. I wanted to “be there” for others, so, I decided to study Psychology to embark upon my journey.
My career didn’t show direction until I came out and eventually do work focused on recruiting foster and adoptive parents in the LGBTQ community, and volunteering for the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) steering committee of Las Vegas. At the time, in 2018, when all of these variables converged, I never imagined that I would go on to work in Washington DC as a policy analyst for the National Alliance to End Homelessness after earning a Masters degree in Public Administration; or that I’d become an advisory council member of HRC’s All Children All Families program; or that I would become an advisory board member of Cyndi Lauper’s 40 to None/True Colors project focused on ending homelessness for LGBTQ youth; or that I’d spend a day with her and others, lobbying Congress and the Administration, and participating in a Congressional briefing alongside her, the President of HRC, and the Center for American Progress, all the while taping an episode of her reality show, Cyndi Lauper: Still So Unusual. And I definitely didn’t see becoming the Executive Director of The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada.
As a black man you’re faced with many challenges – just because of the color of your skin and all the biases, bigotries, prejudices, stereotypes and discriminations that comes along with it. You add the identity of gay and it brings up additional bigotries, prejudices, stereotypes and discriminations. And on the job, while navigating one’s career and intersections can make for a dizzying journey.
I can’t point to many instances where I can say I was hugely discriminated against or passed over because I am black and gay, but subtly, I can point to infinite examples – examples that don’t have words, but are wrapped around feelings, instincts and just knowing. Whether its backhanded comments about how eloquently I speak, or how I ‘carry’ myself. Or when I’m told that I’m either not black enough, or just the right kind of black that would allow me to become the ED of The Center. At times I’m digestible, other times I’m dismissed, but ultimately, I am supported by individuals and a community that are rooting for me and the success of The Center.
I’ve been incredibly blessed and grateful to have had a career that has allowed me to play a part in moving the needle on LGBTQ inclusion and equality on policy and practice levels. Looking back at some of my proudest accomplishments I must include:
- Implementing HRC’s All Children – All Families at the Clark County Department of Family Services
- Promoting family intervention, across the U.S., as a viable intervention for ending youth homelessness.
- Implementing a mandatory all-staff training, at Clark County Department of Family Services, on LGBTQ competencies.
- Playing a role in the development, advocacy and passage of AB99 legislation, in Nevada, that requires in part, providers and foster parents in child welfare and juvenile justice to be trained on LGBTQ competencies.
What I’ve come to learn to accept is how important it is to others that as a gay black man I am the ED of The Center, because with that brings hope to others; faith in others in an otherwise unjust system, and pride in someone that looks like me.