Meet Dave, Queerty’s Eyes and Ears At Obama’s Inauguration

Editor’s Note: We here at Queerty are excited to introduce to our readers Dave Valk, Queerty’s very own Inauguration correspondent. Dave is a 21-year-old senior at UCLA (where he helped organize a fun underwear model shoot in which he also participated) and helped plan some of the protests here in Los Angeles that followed the passage of Proposition 8.

The L.A. Weekly has dubbed him one of the “new generation of gay leaders” and we wholeheartedly agree, which is why we’re sending him to Washington to give you his own unique take on everything from inaugural balls to Rev. Warren’s invocation.

Dave will be reporting live both here on the site and also via Queerty’s Twitter account, which we hope you’ll follow for a boots-on-the-ground, up-to-the-minute perspective that you won’t find anywhere else.

Hey, what’s up everyone! My name is Dave Valk and I’ll be your Queerty correspondent for the inauguration.

I’m also the writer of the blog, “a guy named dave,” which I wrote for the past year as a means to keep in touch with friends while I was studying abroad in London and then Cape Town, South Africa. At the moment I’m a senior at UCLA majoring in PoliSci/Sociology, but every once in a while, I get the itch to ditch town and travel somewhere far away. So I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to head over to DC—where I actually interned the previous summer with the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund— especially for such an important occasion.

As I’m certain it was for all of you, this was an incredibly impacting election for me, as well as other young gay men. This was my first time voting in a presidential election and I was excited to place my vote and confidence with President-elect, Barack Obama. However, election-night was especially poignant, as I found myself glued to the TV and my laptop, crying joyously for Barack’s election—our election—and yet crying very desperately as I tried to grab more information about the status of Proposition 8. I recently had to re-watch his acceptance speech on Hulu because I never got to fully enjoy it. As he approached the stage, it was announced that Prop 8 would pass.

There’s something funny about Prop 8, actually, even though it’s a stain our state’s impressive record for pushing our country—and the rest of the world for that matter— toward a more humane, progressive society, I have to admit to you something: as I held up signs on Santa Monica Boulevard all of election day, in the back of mind, I really did hope that Prop 8 would pass. Yes, that is right. I really wanted Prop 8 to pass.

I wanted Prop 8 to pass because I knew that if it did, the very next day, all of Los Angeles and eventually all of the world would be in the streets. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, I just knew it was true. And sure enough, on November 5, I found myself at the forefront of the new gay rights movement that has enveloped the hearts and minds of not just Californians, but all people who look to our State as a beacon of truth, where the possible and right may come to be. I watched the leaders of our gay community fail to step into action. And I watched young women and men step up as people with fresh voices and ideas of how to move forward. It was exhilarating and it was exhausting. But it sure as hell was fun. And now, as I go back to our nation’s Capitol, I will be thinking about all the work we must continue to do, not just for the equality that is so deserved by LGBT Americans, but all Americans.

I was recently asked what I thought about Rick Warren being asked to give the invocation prayer by Obama. Do I feel betrayed? Am I upset? Am I angry? No to all of those. In fact, I’m actually quite happy! What!? But how??

Besides my year abroad, I have spent my entire life here in Southern California. I was born and raised in Mission Viejo, a beautiful little suburb of Orange County. From our jacked-up soccer moms to our Spanish-styled track homes, I assure you, it’s not that fascinating. But just down the street is a little place called Saddleback Church, a non-denominational, largely inclusive mega-Church where many of my friends were members. And now, as Rick Warren will take an international stage, I again see that I have one leg in this largely traditional mindset, and another here in forward-thinking Los Angeles.

But how can I think it’s so great that Rick Warren would be selected when he has been so homophobic! It’s a slap on the face to LGBT Americans who supported Obama and put him in office!!

Maybe so. And maybe it’s terrible that Rick Warren has ignorantly said that just because he has done AIDS-relief work in Africa, he thus supports and loves the gays. And maybe it’s terrible that he projects an ignorant understanding of the separation of church and state to all of his parishioners around the world. Maybe so. But also, maybe he brings to light the very problems that DO exist within the gay community. Because even though AIDS does not equal gay (how very, very stupid), it is time we own up to the reality that HIV is a disease that torments and afflicts so many people, including so many young gay men. We all saw the reports just a few months ago—the Center for Disease Control announced that HIV was being transmitted among gay men at a rate of 40 percent higher than previously predicted!! The problem is that the boys, gay and straight, are not wrapping it up and are not getting tested. And the fear we must recognize today is that if we do not change this now, in a few short years, our friends – you and me—are going to start dropping dead. This doesn’t have to be our reality; it is something we can change. So again, maybe Rick Warren has more work to do building bridges with young gay men like myself, who grew up with his very own church members, but maybe, just maybe, he can bring out these problems and we can work together to address them.

I have to catch my flight now. I didn’t know I was going to the Inauguration until just the other day. I was feeling kinda random, I suppose. But I knew that if I didn’t go, I would regret it for a long time. I’m happy to take you all along with me and keep you updated on what’s happening. So cheers, totsiens, and see you soon!

Dave Valk

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  • Matt

    After reading this letter, I’m not sure what Mr. Valk stands for. You cried because Prop 8 was passed but secretly wanted it to fail so people would get out in the streets. If you ask me, Mr. Valk, I think that Prop 8’s failure would have been much better than us protesting and being forgotten a month later.

    I would also have to disagree that Rick Warren brings to light the problems with the gay community. He thinks we are pedophiles and animal fuckers. Last time I checked, I didn’t see those as two big problems in the gay community. I have not heard anything about him reaching out to the gay community about HIV or other STD’s.

    Are you still excited for Mr. Obama? A man who seems to have received our votes gladly but has now forgotten us? He flipped flopped on gay marriage as seen on a recent post on Queerty. He sat in a church for 20+ years with Rev. Wright and heard us condemned and then moved on to a church, in my eyes, as having political connections. Mr. Valk, I voted for Mr. Obama as well. But I think we are going to get left out in the cold for another 4 years.

  • BrianZ

    Hmm, so “maybe” Warren is a douche for his bigotry and homophobia, and “maybe” gays have a right to feel betrayed for his selection but “maybe” it’s all good because he’s a reminder that gay men like to have unprotected sex?

    Dude, that’s ignorant, no maybe about it.

  • hells kitchen guy

    I’m sure you’re a nice guy, Dave, but keep your clothes on.

    Are people still going to Twitter?

  • Jock

    Great. I want to get laid so I’ll join the Army! Jeepers, these conservatives are DUMB! Check out this headline:

    Why Do Homosexuals Want to Serve in the Military? For Sex, Of Course
    North Star Writers Group ^ | January 16, 2009 | Gregory D. Lee

    Posted on Friday, January 16, 2009 11:11:53 AM by Dukes Travels

    Now that Barack Obama will be the 44th president of the United States and commander-in-chief, will he do away with the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays?

    Within days of becoming president, Bill Clinton sought to eliminate the long-standing prohibition against homosexuals enlisting into military service. His proposal met such stark opposition from within the ranks of the military that he was forced to compromise with the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Now, instead of a total prohibition of gays in the military, recruiters and commanders are prohibited from asking potential recruits and those under their command if they are homosexuals. Instead, it is acceptable for homosexuals to serve in the military so long as they keep their sexual orientation to themselves. Any admission or evidence of homosexual activity is grounds for a discharge.

  • brcksvg

    Umm. I understand that the guys in Queerty’s Morning Goods have to look hot in their underwear, but shouldn’t there be slightly higher requirements for a correspondent? Like forming a cogent argument?

    Protesting the removal of your civil rights is a lot of things. “Fun” isn’t one of them.

    And a homophobic evangelical is never going to do anything to help address the problems within the gay community. That’s our job.

    You lost me when you used “impact” as a verb.

  • rickroberts

    I think he looks great without clothes. Dave, I’ll cuddle you for days!

  • Cambo Soup

    OMG, why wasn’t I invited when I went to UCLA, Queerty? PoliSci/Socialogy…jock majors.

  • petted

    Guys its a get to know ‘you’ piece and while maybe there could be some better transitions between themes, any improvements would alter the style of the piece from one of Q&A style dialogue to something a little less engaging. He seems to be arguing and rather clearly in my mind that much as we dislike that proposition 8 passed that it’s passing has served as a catalyst to get people more involved in our civil rights struggle. The underlying meme is more or less every cloud has a silver lining though some clouds naturally have smaller or more dingy linings.

    The idea of using Warren as a lens to examine ourselves and our movement is a good point though I think using AIDS as an example was not necessarily the strongest one nor our we the only people who can use Warren as a lens. Honestly rereading it seems like you were using Warren as a point to change the topic/direction of your piece and you did go on to make some good points but (I’ll stop the literary examination here but briefly expand on the Warren as a prism/lens metaphor). Looking at Warren we can examine how we’ve treated other members of our community particularly in light of how some individuals reacted post prop. 8; Warren also serves as a looking glass (yes, yes there’s the term mirror but I’m writing here) for the nation and the world asking them effectively asking them ‘am I like this man who has behaved in such a way to others? Or am I like [insert name of just about any other speaker during the inauguration]?’.

    For a first piece to a rather diverse and critical audience it was very good, that being said its 12:35 & I still haven’t had breakfast…. thus forthwith to the breakfast table.

  • petted

    switch ‘improvements’ with ‘changes’ paragraph 1 line 2
    ‘our = are’ 2 paragraph, line 2

  • mark

    Wanting prop 8 to pass so a rebirth of queer activists will rise, and being happy Warren is selected to be the person giving the Invocation.
    You’re cute in your undies photo, BUT NOT THAT CUTE.

    Just shakes my old queer head at ya, Dave.

  • mark

    btw Dave those young gay men INFECTED, the gutting of ALL queer content and the non-sex education given under the bullsh*t abstinence only garbage, and lies about condoms working Warren spewed…all their shattered young lives are on WARREN’S hands.

    as a PWA since 85′, and a man who survived my lover’s death in 1990, you have NO IDEA how painful it is for me to see another huge rise in infections, when MY GENERATION had been those who dropped infection rates by changing our behavior.

  • Michael W.

    You’re not allowed to have opinions like that around here, Dave. Hopefully you learned your lesson.

    Rick Warren is the devil, there’s nothing good to be gained from the passing of Prop 8 and Barack Obama is an enemy of gays until he does something to really make us feel better (except for PUMAs; I don’t think he’ll ever satisfy them). That’s the conventional wisdom on Queerty and I suggest you reflect that in your correspondence or it won’t be pretty.

  • Dave Valk

    Hi everyone,

    This is Dave Valk. I won’t be at the computer much throughout the inauguration, but wanted to say hello and let you know that I have listened to your opinions and would like to continue this conversation. I’m happy to post here, or if you want, just email me at [email protected].

    Sorry for the errors in grammar– if you’d like, I’m happy to have you proof my writings before I send them to the editor :)


  • mark

    Michael W
    Dave can have ANY opinion he chooses….and so can I, cupcake.

  • rickroberts

    @mark: Mark, Michael’s comments were tongue-in-cheek, I believe.

    I luvs me some Michael W..

  • petted

    @rickroberts: I agree with you Michael’s comments definitely came across that way to me as well.

    @Dave Valk: Glad to hear your enjoying the banter – have fun, but not too much, in DC ;)

  • DCPoster

    Dave, thanks for braving the cold for Queerty readers. Keep up the good work this weekend!

  • mark

    Becareful if you venture near the Dupont Circle bars…creepy Karl Miss Piggy Rove prowled them when Bush was Governor…and the thought of Rove gropping you is a fate I wouldn’t wish even on Mark Foley or Mitch McConnell.

  • Tim

    Really? You wanted prop 8 to pass? Even since the fad of activism has passed? I think it would have been better for the gay community if Props 8, 2 and 102 and act 1 had all failed miserably.

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