Last weekend was the annual gathering of The Pennsylvania Society in New York City. This gathering has literally become the meet-and-greet place for the movers and shakers of Pennsylvania, from unions to banks, from energy concerns to the healthcare profession to communications — but most of all, politics and politicians.
Most of the Pennsylvania government is here to wine, dine and party — and, as they like to call it, do business. It’s a lobbyist’s dream. It’s also a place where you expect to see anyone who has any interest before the legislature, the governor or the city.
But to my surprise, of the literally thousands of people involved, only three of us were there. What I mean by that is, there were only three openly gay people present who could be described as there to advance our community through the political process. (Other openly gay individuals were there, but not in a lobbying capacity.)
Aside from me, Brian Simms and Micah Mahjoubian were the only representatives from our community. Here’s a place where it’s easy to get the ear of almost anyone — a city councilperson, Congressperson, legislator, governor or senator. And while it might be all work, and it certainly is, the benefits are lots of free food and drinks from early morning to the early hours of the morning.
We cannot be isolated in our own community: we have to reach outside to where those who have a stake in our future “do business.” We have to become part of that business. The more we communicate, the more they get to know us and get used to us. Yes, get used to us. They need to see and socialize with us to get to know us as people, not merely an issue.
At a major union reception hosted by IBEW Local 98, Mahjoubian danced with his husband. Dancing just like any other couple. And that little act made some people see us in a different light — having fun, people with emotions. For some, it was the first time they ever saw a gay person, let alone a gay person with a major political role who might be able to open a door for them. The roles were now reversed.
Late on Saturday night, my friend Rep. Mike O’Brien and his executive assistant, Mary Isaacson, took me for drinks after the governor’s reception. We were later joined by several more legislators, city councilmembers and the state treasurer. A couple of candidates for governor made their way over to chat us up. As I was preparing to leave, in walked Simms. When he joined us, it was a relief to know that once I was on my way, he’d still be there doing good business for our community. Even though nothing was mentioned or planned, we both knew what could be accomplished.
Here’s a big toast to Brian and Micah for doing the community’s business. You are our future leadership, and you make us proud.
Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He can be reached at [email protected].