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Washington Blade: LGBTQ News, Politics, LGBTQ Rights, Gay News: Activist and Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf talks with Chasten Buttigieg about his new memoir

Brandon Wolf, press secretary for Equality Florida and a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, discussed his new memoir during an event with Chasten Buttigieg on Wednesday at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.

It was at once both deeply personal and unambiguously political, perhaps owing to the fact that the two have both published memoirs and spoken about how their struggles with challenges like homophobia, violence, racism, and poverty ultimately informed their work as activists for issues like LGBTQ rights, gun control, and mental health.

Following the conversation and an audience Q&A, Center for American Progress Senior Director Nick Wilson shared information about the organization’s work on gun violence prevention. Signed copies of Wolf’s memoir, “A Place for Us” and Buttigieg’s memoir, “I Have Something to Tell You” were made available for purchase.

The relationship between the personal and the political emerged as a theme from the moment Buttigieg kicked off their conversation by asking Wolf for his thoughts about the importance of honoring and celebrating Pride, both individually and collectively for the LGBTQ community.

Wolf said his journey of coming to terms with his intersectional identity as a gay Black man was often very difficult and painful. “So for me, pride is personal because it is the manifestation of what I’ve worked so hard for — which is to live a life that I can be proud of,” he said. “It took me a long time to get to a place where I can say I am really proud of who I am.”

Pride is “about a celebration of self [and] a celebration of community,” Wolf said. At the same time, “Pride is also a protest. It’s always been a demand for justice for all people, equality for all people, a world where freedom actually means something.”

Despite the progress that has been won since activists formed a nascent movement for LGBTQ civil rights with the first Pride demonstrations more than 50 years ago, Wolf said the calls to depoliticize LGBTQ lives and identities are misguided. Big box retailers might debut rainbow colored logos in June along with their seasonal Pride merchandise, he said, but the community’s most fundamental freedoms are still “being debated,” “being called political,” and “being litigated at all times.”

Leading into a question for Wolf about his experiences writing the memoir, Buttigieg said, “One thing I’ve always admired about you from the moment we’ve met is how vulnerable you are.” He then turned to the audience, “this book, it reads like you’re sitting across from Brandon.”

Wolf responded that “a lot of people have questions about politics and campaigns and candidates” — especially since “everybody wants to figure out what the hell’s going on in Florida at all times” and given that he works for Florida’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, having risen to public attention for his activism after surviving what, at the time, was America’s deadliest mass shooting. (It remains the country’s deadliest incident of anti-LGBTQ violence.)

The answer to these questions, Wolf said, “is really not that complicated: It’s authenticity.”

The word, he said, represents the organizing principle of his life and work — the only way “to mobilize people and motivate people to want to live in a better world.” And authenticity, Wolf said, means vulnerability.

“I chose to be extra vulnerable in this book,” he said, adding, “I won’t give it all away; you have to read it to find out.”

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