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