Rashad Taylor’s 24-hour journey out of the closet

Seven days ago, Rashad Taylor woke up in his temporary Baltimore flat, pulled on a fresh pair of pants, and found a $10 bill in one pocket.

State Rep. Rashad Taylor, D-Atlanta. Aaron Gould Sheinin, asheinin@ajc.com

State Rep. Rashad Taylor, D-Atlanta. Aaron Gould Sheinin, asheinin@ajc.com

“This is going to be a great day for me,” Taylor thought. From chicken entrails to Internet surveys, omens have always had a place in politics. Most of them have been wrong — as was Taylor’s leftover greenback.

The hefty, 30-year-old state lawmaker and political operative from Atlanta was about to begin the worst day of his life — 24 hours of personal and political crisis-management that would span three cities and involve much of Atlanta’s political elite.

Taylor is an up-and-comer. A Washington-born graduate of Morehouse College, Taylor has served as political director for the state Democratic party. He was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2008, and served as deputy manager of Kasim Reed’s Atlanta mayoral campaign the next year.

For the last several weeks, Taylor has lived in Baltimore, laying the groundwork that will allow Catherine Pugh, a Maryland state senator, to run for mayor. Last Thursday, still under Alexander-Hamilton’s benign $10 spell, Taylor had just finished a satisfying conference call with pollsters.

At 1:10 p.m., an email arrived, forwarded from Atlanta. The message was written by a former friend of a friend, and had been sent to many of Taylor’s colleagues at the state Capitol. It contained serious assertions — only one of which was rooted in hard fact. Taylor is gay.

Ask Don Lemon at CNN. Secrets are hazardous in any occupation. But they are absolute poison in politics. And Taylor’s was doubly dangerous. His secret not only threatened his personal career in Atlanta, but a $1.5 million, chance-of-a-lifetime campaign in Baltimore.

Personally, Taylor had come to grips with his sexuality three or four years ago. Yet only a few friends in Atlanta knew. Taylor immediately called them for advice. It quickly became clear that he would have to step out of the closet. But there were things to be done first.

“So while I’m on the phone with my friends trying to assess the situation, I’m essentially racing to Washington, D.C., to have a face-to-face conversation with my mom. What I did not want to do was have this conversation over the phone,” Taylor said.

And then he ran out of gas. When it rains, it pours.

He was rescued by his brother-in-law. But the respite was brief. “If I had to make a list of things that I did not want to do in my life, probably below ‘suicide’ would be having that conversation with my mother,” he said.

But it went well. She chided him for not telling her sooner. He said he didn’t want to be a disappointment. She said he never could be — the only right answer.

The next essential conversation was between Taylor and his candidate. Which required a late-night trip back to Baltimore — this time with a full tank of gas. The 45-minute return was filled with more phone calls with more Atlanta contacts. After breaking the news to his mother, every conversation became easier.

“It was just intimidation and harassment. It had to stop. My pastor said the only way to kill rumor and gossip is with the truth. Nobody talks about what everybody knows,” Taylor said. “The only thing [the sender] had was the fact that he knew that I was gay.”

What Taylor had planned in Atlanta for the next day was unusual.

Whether in Baltimore or Atlanta, the worst thing a political operative can do is attract attention away from the candidate. “I didn’t want to become a story,” Taylor said. Pugh, the future candidate for mayor of Baltimore, didn’t blink, Taylor said.

Pugh gave him leave to book a 6 a.m. Friday flight to Atlanta. Taylor bought two tickets — one for his mother, who insisted on coming. Virtually sleepless, he wrote his coming-out speech on the plane.

Upon landing, it was a shower, a change of clothes and microphones assembled in the downtown Atlanta headquarters of Georgia Equality, the gay and lesbian rights group.

Behind Taylor was state Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), who gave Taylor his first job. And state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell) — Taylor had run her first campaign. A spokesman for the mayor of Atlanta was there, as was Kasim Reed’s ’09 campaign manager.

“I am a gay man. Though this is not the time or the way I wanted to come out,” Taylor began.

Based on the reception given two lesbian members of the General Assembly, Taylor said he expects no problems when he returns to the Capitol in August. He doubts we’ll see any change in his policy positions.

But the lawmaker expressed some anxiety about what some voters might think. His House district stretches into south Atlanta. “There are definitely issues that we’ve got to address in the African-American community as it relates to sexual orientation, as it relates to mental health,” he said.

Taylor closed his traumatic 24 hours by heading to City Hall for a quick chat with the mayor. “He did nothing but offer his full support,” Taylor said.

If there was any unspoken subtext in the room, it had nothing to do with sexual orientation. Taylor had supported Khaatim Sherrer El, the Atlanta school board president who last week agreed to step down — under pressure from Reed.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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38 comments Add your comment

Rick

June 1st, 2011
6:43 pm

Good for you!

David

June 1st, 2011
6:55 pm

Not buying the whole victim motif…Sorry.

Cutty

June 1st, 2011
7:11 pm

Why not disclose this information prior to being elected and run on your merits? Integrity matters just as much when the spotlight isn’t shining on you. If Morehouse taught you anything brother, it should’ve taught you to Shun not the struggle!

If that email hadn’t come out, dude would still be living a lie. Not much integrity there.

Poetry Jones

June 1st, 2011
7:14 pm

“The message was written by a former friend of a friend, and had been sent to many of Taylor’s colleagues at the state Capitol.”

Galloway, your delicate wording is laughable. The email was written by the former partner of Taylor’s current partner. There’s an ick factor here that cannot be ignored.

iRun

June 1st, 2011
7:48 pm

He was NOT living a lie!

His sex life and romantic life isn’t our business. The sex/romantic life of ANY single man is never our business. For someone to put his very personal and private business out for public consumption when it had NOTHING to do with his work (ie, no trading sexual favors, no hiring prostitutes with public funds, no bribery) is extremely mean.

It doesn’t matter who the person was who sent out the email. They took personal/private info unrelated to the man’s work and emailed it to his entire workplace!

I mean, really?

Under the circumstances I think he did the right thing. He addressed it and hopefully now he will leave it alone. Because it’s only his business.

Geez…

SWATS VOTER

June 1st, 2011
7:49 pm

Thank you for your courage.

Nick

June 1st, 2011
8:42 pm

@iRun

What exactly is the ick factor? Has he been alleged to have misused his office? If not, who cares if he is gay or not? It shouldn’t matter as long as he is serving his constituents well. He deserves to have a private life.

jaysen smith

June 1st, 2011
8:48 pm

This was an unfortunate situation for Representative Taylor. It takes a very low and cheap person to out someone. He handled the situation in a very professional manner. His sexuality should not be an issue. The only thing that matters is that he represents his district well.

homeslice

June 1st, 2011
8:50 pm

jesus, son of god, was/is a gay black man….

rp4u

June 1st, 2011
10:12 pm

Rashad is my state representative and I couldn’t be more proud of him. He has always stood up for women, the poor, and the LGBT community. He is a legislator that doesn’t mind rolling up his sleeves and getting real work done for his district. I applaud his honesty about his sexuality under this crazy circumstance but I think that will give him an opportunity to be even more part of a progressve coalition championing causes that affect us all

Terri

June 1st, 2011
10:17 pm

The fact that the man is gay has nothing to do with his merits, his integrity or his professionalism. The fact that he chose not to disclose that is not “living a lie” as many people are trying to put it. Not divulging information that can, and most assuredly will, be used against him is not lying but being cautious about what we reveal about ourselves. Who this man sleeps with in the privacy of his own home has nothing to do with constituents, Point blank and period. The homophobia that is present in politics and society alike is why he kept it a secret, which is an indication of the sad world we live in, not how this Taylor can do his job. It’s sad that a person’s sexual desires can hold him back from his potential, especially since it is not on his own accord. As public as a public figure’s life is going to be, as a human being he deserves as much right to keep his private life private like you and me.

paulo977

June 1st, 2011
11:01 pm

jaysen smith
“He handled the situation in a very professional manner. His sexuality should not be an issue. The only thing that matters is that he represents his district well.” Darn it , of course. Can’t believe we’re having this conversation now tha it seems we are catching up with Europe and the other progressive nations!!!!

PatDowns

June 1st, 2011
11:22 pm

@ Galloway – “Taylor is an up-and-comer.”

The jokes are too easy for your choice of words.

You’re such a homer, Galloway. Only a diehard liberal like yourself would consider Taylor of any political signifance or importance. His only influence is in urban markets with a vast minority population and those who believe government is responsible for citizens’ lives from cradle to grave.

Guess your next blog entry will be in defense of the Weiner.

There is a sickness in GA

June 1st, 2011
11:39 pm

@PatDowns “His only influence is in urban markets with a vast minority population…,” probably what you thought about Thurbert Baker too.

The Centrist

June 2nd, 2011
6:05 am

Pat Down. So tell us factually, besides being a liberal, what did Weiner do? Just asking.

khc

June 2nd, 2011
6:58 am

as if people have a choice on orientation

kfc

June 2nd, 2011
7:48 am

“as if people have a choice on orientation”

the numbers are starting to prove otherwise – our “all about me” society promotes the lifestyle choice.

John K

June 2nd, 2011
8:00 am

He was not living a lie. His private life is just that. Unless he was using his office for any sort of illegal activity, his life is just that.

kfc, it’s not a “lifestyle choice.”

Dawg

June 2nd, 2011
8:08 am

I love how people want it both ways….sexual lifestyles are to be private but yet rights, preferences, parades, classes in school, etc. are all being taught these sexual lifestyles. If who you sleep with is private why have we created an entire class and category in society based on who you sleep with?

GRAY GHOST OR WHITE KNIGHT

June 2nd, 2011
8:38 am

LGBT, but what happened to Q. ?

Questioning was a fifth category some few years ago.

What happened ??

DecaturHater

June 2nd, 2011
8:41 am

who cares that he’s gay….the big thing I’d have a problem admitting to is working for Vincent “soapbox’ Fort

pw

June 2nd, 2011
8:48 am

Being a gay man in this society is difficult. Being a black gay man in the african american community is brutal. He should not have been forced to remark on anything to do with his sexuality as that is his personal business. His courage and grace are to be admired.

4xtra

June 2nd, 2011
10:35 am

this really is no big seal..it really isn’t.
Being gay in Atlanta is SO common it is practically the norm here.
As a matter of fact half these fake gansta thugs running around Atlanta with their pants
saggin and trying to look tough all day long are gay. At least THIS guy is honest about it..

RIRedinPA

June 2nd, 2011
12:57 pm

@Cutty – Did you or someone else ask him if he was gay and he answered no? Because that’s the only way he would be ‘living a lie’ as you put it. Why is it a gay person has to disclose their sexual orientation or they are somehow being dishonest but say, Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney do not? How about if heterosexuals running for office had to disclose all of their fetishes or kinks (not comparing being gay here to having a fetish or being kinky) for the public to consume and judge? Because it’s not of our business and has little bearing on their ability to govern (unless we’re talking farm animals or something off the map like that).

Thank God this country is progressing here and people with attitudes like yours are its past and not its future.

D

June 2nd, 2011
1:14 pm

His mother didn’t know he was gay? Had she never met him before? It’s nice that they were able to be reunited finally after being separated at birth.

Samoth

June 2nd, 2011
1:29 pm

Representative Rashad Taylor’s sexuality isn’t important. What is important is his genuine concern and energy that he has that drives him to doing his job to the best of his ability, with the best interest of the citizens of this state, this district, his city. A person’s sexuality isn’t any more important than being able ride a bike down the street. The focus should not be on a person’s sexual preference but on his motives and ideas for the betterment of the state.

Diana

June 2nd, 2011
2:26 pm

“If who you sleep with is private why have we created an entire class and category in society based on who you sleep with?”
I think it’s called marriage … when you get married, you proclaim to everyone you invite to the wedding that you and the person you’re sleeping with are in that certain class and category of “married.” Being gay is different because most states don’t recognize gay marriage and people are prejudiced against it. It’s not “teh gay” that creates the class and category, it’s the prejudice, bigotry and discimination that excludes people from it. Kudos to Taylor.

Caryn

June 2nd, 2011
4:31 pm

Great story telling Mr. Galloway, but why is this even news?

PatDowns

June 2nd, 2011
4:38 pm

@ There is a sickness in GA
June 1st, 2011
11:39 pm

Nope. When Baker ran for the statewide office of attorney general, he could not afford to be on the extreme left. He came across as moderate. Well, at least moderate for a democrat.

When he ran for governor, different story. No Dem was going to win. You need to be asking why your own party would pick King Roy over Baker.

PatDowns

June 2nd, 2011
4:41 pm

@ The Centrist
June 2nd, 2011
6:05 am

Oh, how about Weiner continuing to avoid answering the question about whether the photo was of him?

green green

June 2nd, 2011
5:31 pm

Geez, when will “hefty” not be part of a story?

ga female

June 2nd, 2011
11:31 pm

If he didn’t want to be outed, maybe he shouldn’t have over plucked his eyebrows. His eyebrows are a sure sign that he also enjoys crossdressing or is a drag queen. So next we may see that he was the big fat girl giving BJ’s, in a vice sting on Jupitor.

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shelley wynter

June 3rd, 2011
1:17 pm

good for Rashad good guy. just bad it was forced. Soemthig like that you kinda want to do on your own time. Who is next-V. Fort?

ABilly Jones-Hennin

June 3rd, 2011
4:40 pm

Thank you Brother Taylor for making the disclosure. By so doing, you have become a role model for other African Americans who may fear that disclosing their sexual orientation is a negative. Some will distance themselves from you, but MANY will support and love you. Love to your Mother also for embracing and accepting you unconditionally. I hope one day that you and I can have a face-to-face talk. And remembe, “It Gets Better.” ABilly Jones-Hennin (jonesabs@aol.com)

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