Brian Sims is running for State Representative in the 182nd District against Babette Josephs. Babette has been entrenched in the 182nd District, pretty much forever. As my friend Chris Sawyer aptly put it, “Babette is where good legislation goes to die.”
But I’m not really interested in writing about Babette, at least right now. Authors far better than myself have already done that.
Let’s talk about Brian Sims, a former classmate of mine and a guy who will be getting my support this year.
Like me, Brian Sims went to Downingtown High School, where he graduated from in 1997. I remember Brian well. At first glance, Brian Sims was your All-American good guy – someone who was nice to everyone even though he was the coolest dude in school. Brian was the stereotype of “cool kid” – captain of the football team, star football player, and very popular. But he was still nice to everyone – even the dorks – and fun to be around. Brian was sort of a real life mix of Zack Morris and A.C. Slater. I doubt Brian remembers me, but I remember Brian. He was a great guy. (I was friends with Brian’s sister, who was my year).
Just one thing – it turns out Brian was openly gay.
Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but Brian grew up in a part of Pennsylvania where homosexuality was just not tolerated, and any allegation of homosexuality could ruin your reputation. But Brian wasn’t afraid to be himself. According to the Huffington Post:
Brian Sims never really had to come out to his college football team as gay. In fact, it was the other way around: his team more came out to him.
“My quarterback and I… I think we were walking back to the car to get beer out of the trunk. And out of nowhere, the guy turns around and goes, “Yo, Sims. You gay?” And it completely caught me off guard, and I really quickly said, “Yeah, man, thanks for asking.” And we both sort of stood there. It was one of those things where it felt like five minutes; it was probably five seconds. And he says, “Cool, man, thanks for telling me.” And we just sort of kept on walking like it hadn’t happened. And we got to the car, picked up some beer, walked back.”
At one point, Brian’s coach made an offhand remark about Brian’s sexuality. This really pissed off Brian’s teammates. Then the coach manned up about it, saying:
I need everybody’s attention. Yesterday I said something really f***ing stupid. I’ve spent my career teaching you guys what it means to be teammates, and yesterday you guys had to teach me what it means to be a teammate.” And that was it, and that was the end of it. And it was still the sort of defining moment for me. I knew my team would be all right when they had to pull my coaches aside and say, “You better be alright with this, because we all are.
I remember growing up in Downingtown. There were no gay people in Chester County in the 90s. There just… weren’t. That’s because people didn’t come out like Brian did – they couldn’t. Many people in Chester County thought being gay was a perversion, unnatural, and there was a common belief that our gay brothers and sisters were often the products of sexual molestation at home or something. If there was even a rumor that you were gay in high school, you were a pervert and your reputation was ruined. You definitely did not want people starting a rumor that you were “gay”, that would be horrible. Kids could be horribly cruel with that sort of thing.
What’s sad, only now after being out of high school for 12 years, did I learn that many of my friends in were gay. I had no idea. They couldn’t tell me or anyone because they were terrified about their reputation being ruined.
But Brian Sims? Brian was cool, so everything he did was cool. If Brian was gay, then being gay was cool.
Brian went on to play defensive tackle at Bloomsberg University, where he was also openly gay. According to Brian, who handled it with grace and humor:
Straight guys tend to be the most curious about sex, in general,” Sims said. “My team asked me everything you can possibly ask a gay guy about sex, and in the crudest terms possible.
The good news is I’m told today that Chester County is now more accepting of the LGBT community. Like the rest of the world.
But there’s more to Brian Sims than that – Brian has been an advocate and inspiration to the LGBT community throughout his career. Indeed, Brian is an attorney who graduated from Michigan State University. He served as the President of Equality Pennsylvania, and as the Chairman of the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia (GALLOP), until he stepped down from both positions in 2011. In 2009, Sims joined the faculty of the Center for Progressive Leadership and the National Campaign Board of The Victory Fund. Additionally, Brian Sims was selected as one of the Top 40 LGBT Attorneys Under 40 in the United States by the National LGBT Bar Association in 2010.
If Brian Sims is elected State Representative, he will be the first openly-gay member of either chamber of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. That is unbelievably cool, and so fitting.
Brian has lead a life of courage, conviction, and inspiration. He has served as a voice for others who couldn’t be open about being themselves, and he did it before it was cool. Brian Sims was one of the first people in Chester County to let our young gay brothers and sisters know that it’s okay to be who you are, and that it gets better. Brian didn’t care if people wouldn’t accept his sexuality, and went on to become a leader, a success story, and an inspiration.
So I’m very excited to see what Brian Sims will do for the 182nd District. It’s about time, and the 182nd deserves it.
Let’s make it happen.