Brad Shreve: 0:47
Welcome Representative Sims and thank you for allowing me to call you, Brian.
Brian Sims: 0:51
Brad Shreve: 0:53
You know, I want to tell you it’s really awkward having you as a guest on Queer We Are considering that you’re not gay.
Brian Sims: 1:02
You know, I tell my friends, I’m probably the most professionally gay person that many of them know.
Brad Shreve: 1:07
Do you know who I’m referring to?
Brian Sims: 1:11
Brad Shreve: 1:12
I’m not going to mention the guy’s name and some outspoken Maga guy. And he is claiming that you are not gay, that you have been pretending I guess for 10 years, pretending to be gay so that if somebody says something against you, you can say they’re being homophobic?
Brian Sims: 1:32
Well, it sure hasn’t stopped people from saying things against me. And it’s not always homophobic, although a good deal of it is But uh, yeah, you know, I’m not going to be giving out any references anytime soon. But I’m, I’m securely confident in my homosexuality.
Brad Shreve: 1:48
Well, I will tell you, he said he wants proof a public display. I don’t anticipate you doing that based on what you just said.
Brian Sims: 1:55
Well, the closet makes people do stupid. Isn’t it sounds like that’s, that’s something he might be experiencing?
Brad Shreve: 2:01
Well, that’s kind of what I thought and I hate to I have started out on what some might consider a negative note, but I don’t consider it negative because it really made me laugh. Every time I think these folks are not going to surprise me any longer. They prove me wrong,
Brian Sims: 2:14
Isn’t that he truth.
Brad Shreve: 2:15
We’re going to put that conversation away for now and talk about a whole lot more. But first, let’s do the introduction. I’m your host Brad Shreve.
Brian Sims: 2:25
And I’m Brian Sims,
Brad Shreve: 2:26
and Queer We Are. Welcome to Queer We Are where you’ll hear inspirational and motivational yet entertaining stories by LGBTQ entertainers, athletes, politicians, activists, or maybe even someone right there in your neighborhood. I’m Brad and I’ll discuss with queer individuals about their successes, their challenges, and what they learned along the way. Pennsylvania State Representative Brian K. Sims is a distinguished policy and civil rights activist who has served City Central Philadelphia for 10 years, he has served as both President of the Board of equality Pennsylvania, and chairman of gay and lesbian lawyers of Philadelphia. And you know, Brian, based on that, I think it’s safe to say you’re gay.
Brian Sims: 3:35
Yeah, pretty gay.
Brad Shreve: 3:37
So let’s talk about the primaries. You have been outrageously popular in your district, like most politicians would kill to be as popular as you are. You Your First Election, you unseated someone who had been in office for 28 years 2018 For that election, you won by 90% of the votes. The election before that it was eight, or actually the next election was 83%. But this year, you gave up your seat to focus on a bid to be lieutenant governor. And I’m sorry to say you lost the primaries. So you won’t be back in session next year.
Brian Sims: 4:12
I will not be for the first time in a decade. I won’t be I won’t be going back to session with the Pennsylvania House.
Brad Shreve: 4:18
Are you going to miss it?
Brian Sims: 4:20
Oh, you know, as you can imagine, there’s a lot about it that I will miss for sure. It has been visa been, you know, very dramatic and traumatic years. I don’t think I ever expected that I would spend any time in office, let alone 10 years and office in, you know, what has historically been the most gerrymandered legislature left in the United States. And so yes, I will miss the environment by I will miss my constituents, I will miss some of my colleagues. But it has been a it’s been a it has not been an easy decade.
Brad Shreve: 4:54
So what is it about being an office in politics that attracts you? Is it a power trip?
Brian Sims: 5:00
Oh, you know, it is for a lot of people and and I, the way I often describe it is I think about about two thirds of my colleagues. Maybe 75% Are people whom probably at a very young age, thought that they belonged in the front of the room thought that their voice deserved to be heard. There are people who I think learned to sort of value the adulation and attention from others. And politics is one of those places one of those professions where where the wrong person for the wrong reasons, can really find that. I find that the remaining third are there for the reasons that I was there that I was I was very upset about how things were being done. I tried very hard to change how they were done in many different ways, including electing better people to Office. And after years of trying to elect somebody who was out to our legislature, my my good friend sort of sat me down and said, You are the person you are looking for. And I didn’t agree with them at first, but ultimately, of course, I did. And and, you know, was able to, as you said, unseat a 28 year incumbent. But I, I did so because LGBTQ civil rights equality work is sort of the work of my life. And it was a very functional thing that we needed to do to elected our legislator.
Brad Shreve: 6:20
So what’s next? I presume you’re not gonna be sitting watching Netflix for 12 hours a day eating bonbons?
Brian Sims: 6:25
Brad Shreve: 6:25
What’s next for Brian Sims?
Brian Sims: 6:27
Nope, I’m too young for that. Unfortunately, I was 34 years old when I was elected to the House of Representatives. And so I you know, I’ve accepted a position doing Public Policy and Government Affairs work for an equality organization in Manhattan. And I’m going to be working on a bunch of projects with some candidates, with with friends who are attorneys and experts and I’m, I’m, you know, I’m, I’m in love. And so I’m gonna focus on on that a bit. And, and see what it’s like to not have 90,000 bosses
Brad Shreve: 7:05
pardon me for cutting into our conversation for just a moment. I have an update. Since recording this interview, Brian has accepted the role of managing director of government affairs and public policy at Out Leadership. I think Out Leadership is lucky to have him and look forward to his success. Now, back to the interview. You know, I was going to ask you something next, but i You’ve steered me somewhere, I’m going to go instead, you found your current boyfriend during the pandemic, in as crazy as politics was going on? How did that happen?
Brian Sims: 7:42
Um, you know, one of the magical gifts of Provincetown, Massachusetts, I, I am very close friends with the senator who represents Provincetown in the Outer Cape. His name is Julian Cyr. And I was as I often do, I in July of last year, I was visiting Julian, for Bear Week in Provincetown. And Alex, who was my my boyfriend was, had been there the week before, and was was leaving, and we overlapped by a day. And we met each other at high tea, and, and had dinner and, you know, a couple of days later, he came back. And we’ve been dating ever since. Although, as you pointed out, you know, of course, it’s during a pandemic. It’s also during an 18 month long million and a half dollar statewide campaign. And he lives on the West Coast. He’s in a program out there and MBA program and a Master’s of Public Health Program. And so, you know, it’s it’s complicated. A lot of love stories are and so as ours, but we’ve certainly made it work.
Brad Shreve: 8:40
Well, good for you. I’m happy for you.
Brian Sims: 8:43
Brad Shreve: 8:44
But speaking of Bear Week, let’s talk about sex symbol Brian Sims. You’re followed a lot on social media, both Instagram and Twitter. And that’s because love people love you for your politics, but a lot of people for other reasons. And I have seen you mentioned in Bear World Magazine many times and a lot of times in magazines, I LGBTQ magazines, they referred to as hunky Brian Sims, and then it would be about politics. So is that awkward? Or is that awkward?
Brian Sims: 9:18
And there are times it’s very awkward, right? I mean, I, let’s be really clear. Maybe now we are finally producing young queer people who you know, feel comfortable in their skin and have ownership over themselves, their bodies, their sexuality from a young age. But for most queer people, myself included, you know, I was 22 years old when I came out. And so a lot of those, those sort of formative years where I feel like those, that kind of attention would have had more of an impact on me. I was in the closet for you know, and I came out at the end of college, I went straight to law school, I was a football player in college, I was a much, much bigger person that I am now. And I sort of feel like that kind of attention and and that that bit of adulation, didn’t really happen to me until I was in my 30s already, but at a time when I knew who I was and what I believed in and what I cared about what mattered and what doesn’t. Everybody, everybody, everybody likes to feel good in their own skin and deserves to and you know, there are times it is very flattering and there are times it is very uncomfortable. And, you know, as somebody that fights often against the overt sexualization of women at all times, in all places, you know, which is a tool to sort of reduce the, you know, the power of women around us. It’s hard sometimes to, to sort of see that play out in in our communities. But by and large, you know what I have found I found is that if you like my beard enough to want to pay attention to what I’m up to, it’s only going to be about 30 seconds. And before you’re going to hear me talk about women’s reproductive rights and racial and ethnic justice and LGBTQ plus equality. And so if that’s the price of access, I’m okay with it.
Brad Shreve: 10:58
Well, I can tell you, from my viewpoint, it looks like you do eat it up a bit. And I don’t blame you. I mean, I still, when I’m walking down the street, if, if somebody’s into me, i and i can tell I love that. And you know what you’re talking about sexualizing, my husband and I are monogamous. And we will walk down the street or being in a store or whatever. And he’ll say, Ooh, there’s one for you that’s you’re type, you know, and we’ll do that. And people are like, how can you all do that? And we’re like, we know, we’re thinking about it. So why not just be open about it? And it’s a big laugh to us. So that’s all my
Brian Sims: 11:36
well, you know, my, my boyfriend and I are not, are not, we don’t look like one another where we have different. We have different types we’re into, we’re into different people. And, you know, so it’s in a very similar vein. I mean, I know what his his type is. And he knows what my type is. And, and, you know, is it is it the strangest thing for him to go? Wow, I bet you think that this waiters probably really attractive, and yeah, that’s part of part of loving somebody and knowing what they like and what they don’t like, you know, similarly, probably to you and your husband, I think he and I think it’s fun and funny. And that’s kind of the extent of it. Yeah, there’s a lot of fun. And, you know, I’m a five foot five white guy, and my husband is a six foot three black guys. So we both know what we’re into. So back to politics, you are what my dad would call a rabble rouser, you like to stir the pot a little bit, or at least you tend to, and I’ll say you’re passionate. But the other guys don’t like y’all that much. However, much of politics is about compromise. Is that difficult? There are days it’s difficult. Certainly, you know, I, when I was elected a decade ago, my state was the second largest state in the United States that had never elected an openly LGBTQ legislator. And that matters for a lot of feel good reasons, and the optics reasons and in a representative democracy, certainly people should be represented, you know, in their, in their legislature as well. But it also has a very real impact on legislation. And what I found from my colleagues is that, you know, you there are a number of ways to try to, to try to change your mind to try to get my my very conservative, very Republican colleagues, to support some degree of equality or to back off of their attacks on other people who aren’t like them. My legislature is historically one of the most vitriolic conservative legislators of its kind in all of America. When you see the most rabid attacks on trans people, on women of color on students, all of it anywhere in the country, you’ll see it mirrored in Pennsylvania as well. And so to some extent, you know, I, I have felt like I have had to rise to a lot of challenges that were I was this the only person of our kind there to fight back. And, you know, I’m I part of the reason I was elected is because I’m not somebody that tolerates bullies. And I work with a lot of legislative bullies, not people who disagree on the policy of extending protections in the human relations acts to this group or that to actual people who hate us. And more importantly, they hate people that are even more different from them than we are, you know, I it’s not lost on me that I look just like the vast majority of my colleagues who are attacking LGBTQ people attacking women and attacking people of color every single day. And so it has seemed like more of those those privileges. In earn, I woke up in this body this morning, that grants me wrongfully those privileges and a lot of places and the only thing I know to do with that privilege, is to fight the systems that have created it and perpetuated it. And that’s what I’ve, I’ve had to do in my career. There are days where collaboration is the name of the game, there are also days where standing up standing firm and letting people know who you are, what you are and why you are and and being unequivocal about it matters. But I’ve also, you know, brought I’ve had I a couple of years ago, I gave a speech on the House floor where I from the Republican side of the room for about 10 minutes where I literally begged, I begged my Republican colleagues, I told them how powerful they were, I told them how important they were. I told them that they had an opportunity to be the most valuable individuals and this marched for civil rights in the Commonwealth history and 100% of them voted no. So part of this is knowing who I’m dealing with and what I’m dealing with. I’ve had to be the tip of the spear in so many situations for progressive equality in my state but also the sort of face that the shield when Republicans want to want to fight back in the ways that they do and you know, I’ve I’ve got some scars from it and I’ve earned every one of them.
Brad Shreve: 15:40
What we’re seeing the backlash right now that has a A lot of people are upset and scared. And it doesn’t surprise me because whenever you’re doing well is when things get stirred up. Back when you were your first term in office, you weren’t allowed to speak on the floor about marriage equality because one of the other representatives said, I don’t know the exact words, but you were going against God’s law.
Brian Sims: 16:01
Yes, yeah. He objected to me speaking.
Brad Shreve: 16:03
Yes. So now, you just said that you were speaking on the Republican side, we now have marriage equality. The polls show the vast majority of Americans 70% support marriage equality, including most Republicans, Did you think we’d come this fast so far?
Brian Sims: 16:20
I don’t consider it particularly far to be entirely honest with you. And I say that almost begrudinly, obviously, marriage equality is so important. I’ve performed a number of marriages, and I hope to get married one day, and there is a very strong case to be made that the the institution of marriage, being inclusive, has had a created a cultural shift, and a lot of places that are opening up, you know, room for other LGBTQ civil rights. But let’s be really clear here. non discrimination is the name of the game. The the pinnacle for LGBTQ plus civil rights is including sexual orientation and gender identity, both real or perceived in federal non discrimination protections and statewide across the country. And you know, most states have those protections. Mine does not. And so until we’ve actually banned discrimination against LGBTQ people, until we have included LGBTQ people in hate crimes legislation until we ban conversion therapy, we’re not that far. And I am, you know, I am grateful that the the public base of LGBTQ rights and equality is is the largest it has ever been. And we are seeing now in ways that we were never seen before, but it has not fully equated to equality. We’ve come We’ve come far optically. I don’t know that we have come far legally.
Brad Shreve: 17:49
About 10 years ago, you said we would see a gay president in 10 years, the 2024 elections coming up. Do you think Secretary Pete or somebody else has a chance? Or do you think you’re being overly optimistic?
Brian Sims: 18:02
Oh, yeah. Secretary Pete certainly has a chance. He has earned a degree of support around this country from people that that had traditionally I’ve never had the opportunity to support an LGBTQ candidate before. I, you know, I believe that the the job that Joe Biden has shown us that he has done in this last term, to me indicates that he is earned and deserved, and I want him to be reelected, that said, you know, we just elected to lesbian governors, and Maura Healey and Tina Kotek. Jared Polis was just reelected governor in Colorado, so we will have more out, you know, out executives in the country than we have ever had before. And, you know, those are the kinds of positions that we were from which we draw presidential candidates.
Brad Shreve: 18:47
Back in the day, Tip O’Neill, who for those that aren’t old enough, was the Speaker of the House for about 10 years starting in 1977 or so. He and Ronald Reagan would go out and have beers together. They were good friends. Tip was a Democrat, obviously, one of the heads of the Democratic Party, and he was on the floor, and he was just tearing Reagan to shreds. And so the press asked him about that, you know, how can you do this guy’s your friend, and Tip said this, that’s just politics. After six o’clock, we’re buddies. We’re friends. I would love to see those days again. And I hope so. Will we?
Brian Sims: 19:29
Yes, yes, we will. We don’t live in them right now. The one thing that I’ve learned in these last 10 years that calls for bipartisanship without understanding the underlying party’s platforms are calls for weakening civil rights, their calls for weakening education, funding their calls for weakening the expansion of protections for a lot of people in this country that deserve it. We’re not in a place where bipartisanship is a good thing I and that really, really frustrates me. But yes, we will be and I actually think for a couple of different reasons. One is the Republican Party isn’t going to go away. It needs to get better. Do you know are there indications that finally the the GOP is beginning to shirk off the the Maga Trump brand? Maybe, but maybe they’re doing it so they can they can absorb a DeSantis brand, which is just as heinous. If you ask me.
Brad Shreve: 20:19
I think more. He’s smart.
Brian Sims: 20:20
He is smart. And I have a lot of family that are Republican and they are good people. They’re not good people despite being Republican, they are good and they are Republican. They believe in equality. They believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, they believe in education. And you know, they they’re they’re not myopic in their worldview. They’re not hateful about other people. But that’s not the pillars of the Republican Party right now. It just Do I think we will get there? I do, in part because I actually think that Democrats are going to be in hefty control of a bunch of states and the federal government for quite some time after this the sort of full fallout of the Maga generation and it will force the Republican Party I hope to sort of look in the mirror and figure out what what are their strengths and where, where have their weaknesses lie, because, you know, basing an entire party platform on vitriol, hatred and misinformation does not a National Party make. Right now we are electing more women, more people of color, more second generation immigrants, more LGBTQ people to office than at any time in our history. And what the data shows me is that those types of experiences those types of people, when added to legislative bodies, especially where they’ve not been before, create a ripple effect of equality. And, you know, we’re the sort of antidote to a lot of what’s going on. And so I do, I do envision this future, you know, 15-20 years from now, where we’re looking back at this era as the time when we finally had to reset a lot of what, you know, America’s values mean with respect to our constitution with respect to our elections with respect to outside involvement, or engagement from other countries or companies. And there’s a chance that this could be the beginning of a renaissance and American government.
Brad Shreve: 22:08
Thank you, I needed that outlook. And I think I agree, actually, I will, I do agree with you, especially with the changes of the hearts and minds of the American people. And then I do credit marriage equality, because all of a sudden, people they didn’t know we’re gay or getting married. And they’re like, he’s kind of normal. And I think it really, when you have friends and family that are out, it’s kind of hard to hate them.
Brian Sims: 22:30
It is and you know, part of not allowing us to be married part of like, refusing to recognize our partnerships and our relationships, was continuing to maintain that isolation that that the proverbial they want LGBTQ plus people to feel, you know, it’s it’s significantly harder to look at somebody in a loving, caring, committed relationship, but think they aren’t worthy of care and love and commitment. You know, our marriages did did shine a spotlight on America of our values and the best of our relationships. I think sometimes, not always. But I do I certainly think that marriage equality has had a greater impact on how Americans view us overall, than it has had say, a legal impact for LGBTQ plus Americans.
Brad Shreve: 23:20
Well, along those same lines, a while back, somebody wrote to the Washington Post, that they were gay, and they were Republican. And they felt alienated from the community. What they said is they he wanted people to understand that his conservative views are on small government, low taxation, and a strong national defense and that outweighs anything else. I disagree with that. But those things that he just listed, those are conservative values. And we have the Republican Party is not conservative in any way, shape, or form these days.
Brian Sims: 23:52
No, and those are things frankly, the Democrats have done significantly better, significantly better.
Brad Shreve: 23:59
Yeah, the Democrats are always talked tax and spend, tax and spend, and Ronald Reagan, there were more government offices after he left than when he started. And we don’t even have to talk about deficit.
Brian Sims: 24:10
Exactly. Right. It’s it’s an argument of fiscal responsibility. I don’t think there’s an argument to be made. The Republican Party’s fiscal policy is radical as, as all get out, you know, there are times I want the Democrats, national fiscal policy to be significantly more aggressively progressive than it is I wouldn’t even call it a progressive agenda. But to I think the old talking points about what defines a Democrat and what define the Republican, if they’re stacked up against the data about those issues would make it very clear that there really is only one functioning National Party right now.
Brad Shreve: 24:43
Very true. Now, that same person said in the letter that they wrote, oh, how do I explain that gay marriage should be supported by true conservatives. And again, true conservatives, and I gotta say, I agree 100%. It confuses me? Because to me, marriage equalities should be totally a conservative issue, because it’s about getting rid of big government, which they claim to be well, and true. Conservatives are we just don’t have that many of them.
Brian Sims: 25:09
Well, you know, are lucky, ironically, say blessed to live in a country where the laws are very clear that nobody will be treated differently under the law based on anybody’s interpretation of their own faith, any selective interpretation of their own their own faith. There is not a secular reason to deny marriage equality to anybody. There’s not there isn’t there isn’t there are no non religious reasons to deny marriage equality to anybody, the only opposition and whether people decide to admit that this is the root of their opposition or not are couched somewhere else. The only opposition is, is Christian religion, religious opposition that was then embedded in our laws as so much of our laws are embedded with. And so for somebody that believes in small government, for somebody that believes in the separation of church and state, it seems fundamental that they would they would think anybody else’s decisions about their own personal relationships, or their own, you know, should we be outsourcing sanctification of those relationships to churches? Probably not. But as far as I’m concerned, every single marriage performed in this country is a civil union. And if you go out and decide to have it recognized before your god or your church, that’s a phenomenal marriage go to it. And it has never made sense to me that conservatives somehow think that this was was an overreach of government versus recognition of the implications of small government and local government.
Brad Shreve: 26:32
Well, and if they want to use history to back them up, the whole concept of getting married for love is actually new. Oh, it was always an economic contract.
Brian Sims: 26:42
If I remember correctly, women, women could be denied a mortgage until 1974. I think women could be denied a bank account into the 1970s. You know, this idea of like, you know, stand by your man is a ridiculous lie that ignores the fact that women really did not in many places have legal identities that allowed them to stand on their own, and they had to couch or hide their rights and the rights that were granted to them through marriage.
Brad Shreve: 27:09
I don’t remember who said it, it was somebody I really respect the other day had been studying the Titanic. And they said that what you saw in the movie where the third class citizens were behind gates, and that sort of thing, totally blown out of proportion. And from what they’ve been told, or were told from people that were familiar with what happened, a lot of those people died because of economic reasons. And that is, the men were allowing them women to get into the lifeboats. And the low income individuals, the wife is like, I can’t survive, and they stay behind with their husbands. And I believe that
Brian Sims: 27:47
I do too. I do too, presented with a life as a without a legal identity in any way. We’ve seen lots of people make decisions about their families and about their own sort of protection, that that none of us would ever want anybody to have to make, let alone a loved one.
Brad Shreve: 28:06
Exactly. So I think I made it clear. I don’t hate conservatives, true conservatives. I don’t agree with their policies, but I do respect them. Because if I talk to somebody that’s sane, they can give me the logic and I can see their logic. As I said, most Republicans today are not conservatives, and definitely not the Maga crowd.
Brian Sims: 28:25
Brad Shreve: 28:26
So I’m confused by the Log Cabin Republicans, as well as most everyone I know. They were denied a booth as the Texas GOP convention this year. They’re always dismissed at every convention. Yet they put out a press release in 2020. Insane. The Log Cabin Republicans is proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for reelection as president. And you said the Republican Party is not going away. And I agree, but there are a lot of conservatives right now. They’re saying they want to split away from it. And I totally understand that. Do you understand their logic in staying? to me they’re just masochist. I don’t get it. Yeah, no, I actually agree completely, that it’s masochism. I’ve wondered over the years. And listen, our every one of us can find people in our lives that have dealt with very serious trauma, and have not used that trauma to then hate themselves and sort of self flagellate in ways that we see from the Log Cabin Republicans every time every now and again, I think that they must just fold because you cannot worship a God that hates you and the way that they do you know, it, it blows my mind some days that there are people that are so willing to aggressively, you know, sort of hand over their integrity for somebody who has no integrity. But it’s something that we see, I listen, I think there are far less of the sort of log cabin style Republicans than they would have us believe. But one seems like one too many. It’s like there’s there. Maybe there aren’t enough hugs or enough therapy in this world to make somebody stop doing something so heinous to themselves and to the people around them. But I think those people find sort of a joy in the attention that they draw and listen, people do really stupid things for attention. And I think that that’s what we’re seeing what we’re seeing generally from the Log Cabin Republicans, I think every couple of years, they they probably fold and then you know, a couple of people who hate themselves and each other get together in a room and pick up the mantle of log cabin Republican once again, what can we do this so outrageous that people will pay attention to us and what we could do is endorse the president that’s, you know, that’s aggressively opposed to our own equality. And they’re they should be laughed at. I don’t know if they should be mocked, but they should be laughed at Do you enjoy this show? If so, tell a friend, because the number one way podcasts grow is word of mouth. So pass it on, so others can enjoy Queer We Are while I was doing some research on you, I don’t know how I missed this because later I found in quite a few headlines. I was listening to The Gayest Episode Ever, which is a podcast I highly recommend. And on that podcast, they talk about episodes of TV shows, and how they handled gays and lesbians when they had them on the show. And usually, it’s old sitcoms, and other shows like that. And they were talking about an episode of Coach. For those that don’t know, it was a sitcom about a university coach. And he found out one of his players was gay. And in their conversation, they brought up that in 2000, you were the captain of the Bloomsburg University football team. And you came out, you are the first and still are the only NCAA football captain to have been openly gay. How did the team respond?
Brian Sims: 31:57
Oh, they were wonderful. They were wonderful. It’s part of the reason that the story and sort of indoors is because it while Yeah, it is about my coming out. And you know, doing some of the football team, my coming out story is really the story of you know, 50, 60, and 70 guys, and how they handled it. And what they did with that. And, you know, I, my football team, after I came out to a couple of the guys on my team, my team called the meeting the seniors and the starters gathered up everybody. And they said, listen, the captain of our football team is gay. If you have a problem with that you have a problem with us. And you should go. And nobody did. They, you know, one of my close friends and a teammate who has since passed away, said to the room, I know some of you have issues with this, I know that my faith tells me I’m supposed to have issues with this, if you have questions, if you’ve got issues, you don’t take them to Brian, you take them to us. And I you know, I didn’t, I didn’t learn the full extent of how they did that. And even what they did for several years, those guys are all still my best friends. You know, I’m 44 years old. This was literally half my lifetime ago, I left when I was 22. And all these years later, these guys are all still my closest friends. And in part because they tell this story a lot as well. And while they liked me, and you know, obviously I play a role in the story, mostly, I think they tell it because it reminds them and it reminds the people around them that you know that they’re supporters of equality, and they want people to know that, you know, if you sit silent, and you know, oftentimes people don’t know what your values are. And I think a lot of them found that people in their lives would think that they would not be supportive of LGBTQ equality. And so they get to, they sort of tell this story as an indication of that they are. And one of the great byproducts is a lot of those guys went on to become teachers and coaches themselves. And so now if you’re, you know, the gay kid in eighth grade getting picked on you don’t have to go to the you know, the the counselor or the vice principal, you can go find the head football coach. And and he’s gonna sit everybody down, and he’s probably going to tell this story. And so it’s it’s had a ton of lasting impact. But that impact is because of my team.
Brad Shreve: 34:01
Well, I was thrilled when I heard that response. I think it’s awesome. But how about you? After you came out? Let’s say in the locker room, were you’ve ever feeling timid, that somebody might think that you’re looking at them? And kind of like guys straight guys? Always? Yeah, focus at the wall.
Brian Sims: 34:20
You know what? I know, I was not. I was legitimately first of all football locker rooms are disgusting. They’re just, it’s not. It’s not the Falcon video that I think people like to envision. No, it’s It’s, they’re disgusting. They’re gross. And so are the players. You know, we’re all we’re all kind of filthy. I also used to joke with my teammates and say that I played football instead of soccer so that I wouldn’t hit on my teammates. Football players weren’t exactly my my, my type or my thing. And I wasn’t really all that interested. And I think my teammates did a good job of making making me comfortable. And by that I mean that we joked about it. We made probably made fun of it a bunch, but that was the standard in the room. And so I think they worked to make sure I wouldn’t be uncomfortable.
Brad Shreve: 35:03
Back to being a rabble rouser. You posted on Facebook. A while back when Mike Pence came to your city, you posted a picture of you giving the finger and said that it’s your official welcome to Mike Pence. You’re also known for when you get angry dropping the F bomb a lot. What do you say to those that say that’s not good behavior for a politician?
Brian Sims: 35:24
Oh, you know, and there are times it’s not good behavior for a politician if I if I 100% thought well, I’m always right. And they’re always wrong. I’d be I wouldn’t be learning anything in this life. What I do know is that our opponents they point to demeanor as a code for for saying don’t fight back and you know on a day The basis I fight my ass off for equality on at every single level against people who for the last decade of my work have been opposed to every ounce of equality to pretend that that doesn’t that’s not worthy of contempt or to pretend that that’s not worthy of even some rage from time to time is silly. And it would make me the kind of robot politician that I think some of them often are, and is why they’re able to divorce their feelings about what they’re actually doing to real people from, you know, from their daily demeanor, and some things are worth an F bomb. I’ll give you the mike pence example, the day that I flipped the bird at Mike Pence. I actually wasn’t in Philadelphia, I was in the capitol for a session and he was in my city doing a multimillion dollar fundraiser. That was the same day that NPR released the audio of all of those kids in cages, all the families that have been separated along the border, and that we know that it took the Biden administration over a year to finally link all those kids back up with their parents. If you’ll remember an NPR snuck in a recorder. And it wasn’t, it wasn’t video, it was just audio. I had left the capitol that day, I was driving to where I stay in the capitol after session. And I was driving in my car. And I had just heard the news that Mike Pence was in Philadelphia doing a multimillion dollar fundraiser. And the next segment that NPR played was that audio. That minute and a half, two minutes of 1000s and 1000s of kids crying in a cage in the United States. And I was, you know, I And talking about fury and rage and profanity. I watched the was furious. And I 100% feel justified in that fury and in that rage and pretend otherwise, wouldn’t would make me not the person I am. And so yeah, I was very, very, you know, I was I welcomed to Mike Pence to Philadelphia in the most Philadelphia way I knew how, and then told them to get the hell out. And I meant it. video the other day when it was discovered that one of the Republicans in your house had COVID. And their side of the aisle were taking protections, protections, and they didn’t tell the Democrats at all. Yeah,
Brad Shreve: 37:52
that video of fury in your face? And I think it’s seven minutes long.
Brian Sims: 37:58
It might even be a little longer. Yeah,
Brad Shreve: 38:00
I mean, totally justified. And you were demanding that there be an investigation? How did that turn out?
Brian Sims: 38:07
I will sort of set the stage as a reminder for folks, you know, when, in the early months of COVID, if you’ve got COVID, you just died. We’re now at a point where people obviously can look to their boosters and their vaccinations. But but it was just several years ago, when of course, we didn’t have any of that to march of March of 20. This was May of 2020, that we’re talking about May and June of 2020. And that was at a time when if you got COVID You died, the Pennsylvania House Republicans had a member die from COVID. We knew nothing about treating it only that if you got COVID Pretty much you die. And we all were in session because the Republicans in Pennsylvania were trying to strip our governor of his emergency powers. They were trying to get rid of the mask mandate. They were trying to reopen our schools in May of 2020. Right as COVID was hitting, and they found out right before a break that one of their members had was positive and had exposed, presumably everyone. But they didn’t tell any of us they told a couple of members of their own that it interacted with them but not us. We come that was a weekend over the holiday break where were a couple of people went back from session and saw their families and their loved ones. We come back to the floor that following Monday, and a hero nurse at a local hospital who knew that she was treating a legislator and that nobody had told anybody told us told the Democrats that that there was a Republican being treated, we went onto the floor immediately to demand answers. And for six hours on the floor. We were denied all of those answers every time a bill came up. Mr. Speaker, we need to know who’s been exposed. When were they exposed? What committees was this person on? What building? Did they work in? What doors Did they hold open for other colleagues? We needed to know those things, it was a matter of life and death and they denied and they they just they just don’t want us the entire time the entire day refusing to answer any questions about a life and death exposure. I went back to my office and I was supposed to record a video about the budget. And instead I clicked on my camera. And I explained in with with every ounce of emotion that I had in the moment what was going on. And I demanded that the Speaker of the House resigned, which he ultimately did go on to do the most powerful Republican at the time and all of Pennsylvania was the Speaker of the House of Representatives. And he and his colleagues, many of whom are still there, decided to cover up a deadly exposure of a virus because they were simultaneously trying to get rid of a mask mandate and open up schools and they they knew that it would counter their message to have all of us you know being exposed. I learned through that. How many of my colleagues had family members that were in firmed had, you know, premature babies, my colleagues learned that I had donated a kidney something that I had kept secret for six months and it was In the darkest day, and my time in office, you know, we all disagree on things, we got that. And you you, you know, while there is a There have been days where, as you pointed out earlier where people could disagree and still get along in my life, I did not know that my colleagues who disagree with every single policy I have would, in a moment have a terminal moment, that truly most critical moment would lie and hide an exposure like that for their own political gain. I did not know that I that we, as a party, were in that valueless to them. I also didn’t know that we as people, we as colleagues, we as other human beings in a space with them, lack that much value that they would expose us all to a deadly virus and try to cover it up.
Brad Shreve: 41:32
Just amazing that they would do that. And I live in the California desert, which is one of the redder spots of California and for those that are surprised that there are red spots in California, take a look at a political map. Land wise, California is bright, bright red, because the desert and the Central Valley, which is the farmland that goes all the way up to the top of California, land wise, it’s all conservative, bright red, is the sliver of blue along the population that lives on the coast that saves us here. During the height of the pandemic, every nobody here wore a mask. I mean, I would drive down to LA and people are wearing masks when they’re pumping gas. For God’s sakes, here, nobody’s wearing masks and our hospital. My father in law had to go to the emergency room twice and was denied because the hospital was so overloaded with COVID patients. They even had the triage in the parking lot. Yet they didn’t believe it was real. We even had a nurse come to the house to take care of my father and lo said I don’t believe in this whole COVID thing. We asked the company to not allow her to come back. The Republican leaders do they believe it wasn’t real?
Brian Sims: 42:36
You know? I don’t know. I don’t know. There. There were days where I thought it would make it intellectually easier for me to bear the heavyweight of what they were doing if they actually legitimately believed it. And then there are days where I could not look at this group of people and believe that they were that intentionally aggressively ignorant. They’re not I mean, my colleagues all all got vaccinated, vaccinated. You know, when the vaccine came out, I introduced a piece of legislation that no member of the legislature could get a vaccine until every single teacher had been vaccinated. And it was way too late. My colleagues heavily got vaccinated. So yeah, I think that they, I think that they, they hate the science, they hate science. They hated the vaccine because they hate vaccines. Do I think that they took it and believed in it? Yeah, probably did. Which makes it even more heinous. What they did that it was, it was both it was both a more immoral and intellectually dishonest.
Brad Shreve: 43:40
Well, I’m gonna steer us off the rails here, because you said something I definitely wanted to get into in this interview. And that’s you donating the kidney, everything I read the person that you don’t need the kidney to. He’s not referred to as a friend. They always say he was a neighbor like he lived 10 blocks away. How well did you know this gentleman?
Brian Sims: 43:58
I didn’t know him all that well. I didn’t, I didn’t know him. His husband worked with a friend of mine. So I knew I knew who they were, I did not know that he was in kidney failure. I didn’t know I didn’t know the extent of health issues he had. At some point, I became aware of the fact that there was a person in my periphery who was very ill. But to give you an idea, when I went in to the the Jefferson Hospital, kidney clinic to to ask about donating my blood because they had this patient. I didn’t know his last name. I said, Hi, you guys have a patient named Allen, who you’ve been trying to match for. And they were doing these like matching parties. And there had been posts on social media, please. You know, we’re trying to find a match for Alan, but I didn’t know his last name. It took them 20 minutes to figure out who I was even talking about. Because I didn’t know any better.
Brad Shreve: 44:48
There are people that won’t give a kid kidney to their family member. What makes you different?
Brian Sims: 44:53
Oh, oh, a lot of things, I guess. And maybe nothing. Not to be cryptic about it. But
Brad Shreve: 44:59
While you think about that I’m gonna say that was fantastic.
Brian Sims: 45:02
Thank you. Now I want to hear you answer the question. I I, every member of my family, I have a twin brother and older brother and younger sister all are married. Most of them have children. My parents are both healthy and and still married everybody else in my immediate family that if something were to happen to them over the next couple of years, and they needed a kidney, they were all in a place where they would have been able to get it from somebody that combined with the fact that my mother is a nurse by trade and my parents are both retired lieutenant Colonel’s in the army but my mother is a nurse by trade and when we were 16 years old, and we went got our driver’s licenses. My parents said yes, you will absolutely check that box that asks if you Want to be an organ donor that understood the science and the medicine and the empathy and organ donation, way back when and so never at any time in my life did my driver’s license not say organ donor, a living organ donor is a whole different experience. And what I came to learn, especially about kidneys, is the difference between getting a kidney from a cadaver and a kidney from a live donor is astronomical, it is the organ for which there is the most impact. And so whereas a kidney from a cadaver could last 7 – 9 years, my kidney as a live donor to Allen will last the next 25 years, it will last the rest of his life. And so, you know, when you’re presented with an opportunity to at at what I can still consider to be minimal risk. Yeah, I’ve got I’ve got a fun scar. But, and I’ve got lesser kidney function than the average person, there are no discernible physiological differences that I feel as a result of doing this. And, and somebody who’s going to live another 25 years on this planet, somebody who has a loved one who has children who has friends and family and a network. And I didn’t give a leg, I didn’t give a ,lung. I gave a kidney. And that was something that would have a huge impact on somebody else, and a minimal impact on me. And you know, your Yeah, it’s it’s hard to ask and have the best for other people if you can’t model it yourself from time to time.
Brad Shreve: 47:04
And what I find amazing about that is anybody else, not anybody, but many who would donate a kidney to somebody and not just the politician, but a lot of people would be boasting about it. You kept that secret? I mean, you didn’t tell anybody until they the Republicans pissed you off? In your rage it came out? Yeah. Why would you keep that to yourself?
Brian Sims: 47:27
A it was a deeply personal decision. It wasn’t intended to be it was not from the moment I decided to do it and knew that I was going to and informed my family and my staff. It was it was intended to be private. It was, I think my recipient would have happily talked about where the kidney came from, but it really was, and I weighed that part of the decision. You know, if when you decide to do something like this, the you have to triage, what is the attention, the support look like? And it became very clear very quickly that the reason I wanted to do this was for him, and for Him alone, and that it wasn’t for the world to hear. And at some point, I knew that maybe hearing the story might make somebody else make a similar decision. And if that’s the case, I’ll tell the story every second, if it makes other people do it. But especially initially, it just wasn’t for anyone else. I let the Speaker of the House know, a Republican who I’m friendly with and the Minority Leader knew. And that was it. And it it, you know, we kept it. It was kept secret for nearly six months, as it as I’m glad that it was, it did come out. Because, you know, I we needed to sort of show our Republican colleagues like how much they’d put us all at risk. But it was still, I’m still glad that I had the opportunity to do it, that it had a real dramatic impact on his life. And that we got to do it in a way that was that was private and kind and gentle.
Brad Shreve: 48:50
Well, it’s nice to see how humble you are.
Brian Sims: 48:53
We all have our moments.
Brad Shreve: 48:54
A lot of people wouldn’t say that. Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about things that are going on that are scaring queer people these days. What are some of the good things that you’re seeing going on?
Brian Sims: 49:06
Oh, elections for sure. You know, we talked about earlier about electing out governors, but we’re electing more LGBTQ people, hundreds, hundreds of LGBTQ people were elected this last this last Tuesday, hundreds around the country. We’ve been hovering around the 1000 mark for the number of out elected officials in the United States, and it should be 21,000 Based on our demographic in the country. And this last election finally pushed us far north of that 1000 mark, not not anywhere near anywhere. It’s a fraction of where it should be. But yeah, we’re we’ve elected a lot of fantastic LGBTQ plus people in this last cycle. And that makes me feel very good about the future.
Brad Shreve: 49:45
Anything specific other than going into office?
Brian Sims: 49:48
Well, you know, I think one of the things that that people are discounting is that and I we talked a little bit about it earlier about how young people have the opportunity to now in many places, not in all places, but to grow up more authentically in themselves. You know, with the data that we see about the support among young people for LGBTQ plus people than the the numbers of people. I think it’s 20% right now of young people identify as, as not straight and not says are not cisgender. And I find that wildly exciting in part because, you know, when we were kept in the shadows when we were shamed and hidden away, it was very hard for us to realize how many of us there were when the LGBTQ plus Civil Rights Movement sort of began and then really honestly picked up. We realized we had strength in numbers. It was sort of the same with the end And it was born. And suddenly queer people didn’t have to out themselves or expose themselves to the public in order to meet other LGBTQ people that can meet each other online. And we really realized that we were in a pretty massive chunk of the population, and that there’s a lot of strength in that. I think young people right now, both LGBTQ plus young people grow up with a sense of belonging and connectivity, many of them do with connectivity that wasn’t there before. But I think more importantly, or just as importantly, straight people and sis people don’t look at their LGBTQ friends, neighbors, classmates as the enemy. And, you know, the, what that data tells me is that, that, you know, these decision makers in the future are going to be making decisions that are that include us that aren’t just about us.
Brad Shreve: 51:32
One thing that’s really great when I look at the younger generation, I call them kids, but pretty much seems like almost anybody under 30, this era that’s coming up. This is a blanket statement granted, but they don’t give a damn.
Brian Sims: 51:45
Yeah, yeah, it’s funny, you know, I vacillate between thinking they don’t give a damn. And they know to give a damn. Right there they that this is a generation for whom capitalism and democracy have largely failed. You know, I, it’s one thing to to, I get very frustrated when I hear people beating up on the politics or sometimes the lack of politics of young people. And I think How dare you, you know, for if you’re a 20 year old, on this planet, right now, in the United States, you have not seen democracy and capitalism work in the way that they are promised the way that lore and legend and Americana say that they will be. And so yeah, they’re exploring other ideas, other opportunities, other suggestions, other approaches, other pathways, and we want them to be aside from the fact that innovation is growth, we want people to be taking a critical eye to our systems, if those systems aren’t serving everyone, and our systems don’t maybe they’re serving the people they were designed to, but they weren’t designed to then to include a whole bunch of us. And so we need people that know how to take a critical eye to tradition sometimes. And I think that’s a lot of young people right now. And, you know, it’s a skill I wish they didn’t have or didn’t have to have learned in the way that they have. But truth is, marginalization is still one of the key components to competency. And, you know, when when we’re seeing so many young people that are are marginalized in so many different ways, what we’re also seeing is their growth and their character and their their expertise, really having an impact on things right now, including our politics, you know, young people just saved this last election, and certainly wasn’t white men and white women.
Brad Shreve: 53:23
In the past, politicians didn’t put money or effort into younger people, because in the past, when other politicians had tried, it was throwing money away. They had no luck whatsoever. That’s one of the positive things I think we’re seeing now, like you said, they’re the polls and bigger numbers than ever before. Sure, we want it to be larger. But we want everybody to be larger. Yep.
Brian Sims: 53:46
Yep. Yep. You know, it’s always been true that for the most part, if any discernible minority or identity group were to vote as a bloc, women, people of color, indigenous people, left handers anything that that block would have a lot of power and a lot of sway in politics, because our margins are tight. And yes, that’s always historically true. But for some reason, young people always seem to get pegged as like the block that just doesn’t use their power. It doesn’t use their authority, and the whole youth is wasted on the young argument. And yet, we just saw young people lead campaigns, when in campaigns and vote in campaigns.
Brad Shreve: 54:20
One of my favorite people is David Hogg.
Brian Sims: 54:24
Yeah, you know, somebody that took one of the more heinous experiences in contemporary American history, and has everyday turned it into activism and advocacy.
Brad Shreve: 54:35
Exactly. So before I let you go, any last words of wisdom, positive, to tossed out at us?
Brian Sims: 54:43
Maybe just this one, I have learned in office that really good public policy comes from empathy, not even really high minded way, just the ability to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes when you’re making a decision that will impact them. All of us make decisions that impact other people. But when you’re a lawmaker, especially those decisions, you make set policy. And so empathy is a wildly useful and important tool. It’s kind of the route of lobbying trying to get a lawmaker to think about a another person, another institution, a sidewalk, a, you know, a plant, a dog, a neighbor, something other than themselves when they vote on a bill. Well, I said earlier that we’ve elected more women more people of color and more second generation immigrants and more LGBTQ people than ever before. Well, it turns out all of those groups have very high empathy scores when compared to the sort of traditional majority women have significantly higher empathy scores, but so do people of color so do second generation immigrants. The LGBTQ community is a bit of a mixed bag because we do have higher empathy scores, but white sis gay men often screw that up and it’s important To acknowledge that, but you know if I’m right and good public policy is about empathy. And these are groups that have higher empathy scores, and we’re now just elected more of them than have ever served before. Then we’re creating a very competent, qualified government of problem solvers. We call it coded things. We call it black girl magic, we call it Trans excellence. And we talk about why as Latinos, those are all ways of understanding and acknowledging that far too often hardship builds in people a lot of competence, and that that competence is necessary and needed in places and our government is one of those places.
Brad Shreve: 56:18
Well, listener, if you want to know more about Brian, if you’re not familiar with him, or just want to get to know him a little bit better. I have links in the show notes to social media. And if you go the website, there’s more information about him there. Brian, thank you so much for being on the show. I am so looking forward to seeing what you do next.
Brian Sims: 56:35
Brad, it’s an honor to join you. I’m excited to show you what I’m up to next. I have a lot of really neat things going on. And I’ve asked for a lot of support in my life from from people all across the country all across the planet. I’ve received a lot of it. And so hopefully I’m going to continue with that support and pay it forward.
Brad Shreve: 56:49
I have no doubt