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October 5, 2012

He’s Here. He’s Queer. And He’s A Black Republican.

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Written by: Rachel Huggins

Robert Turner is the president of Washington, D.C.’s chapter of Log Cabin Republicans. Photo by Timagnus D. Traylor.


obert Turner hasn’t been sleeping much these days. Since D.C.’s annual gay pride parade, his schedule is jammed packed—crammed with press releases, op-eds, speaking engagements and tweets from his iPhone. Gulping down a tall mocha frappuccino as he jets out of his apartment in Cleveland Park, a well-heeled neighborhood in the city’s northwest area, he flashes a rainbow-colored wristband on his left hand and a blue Log Cabin Republican pin as badges of courage. He wears them every year around this time, but considering the president’s May endorsement of gay marriage, there’s no better time to flaunt.

“I’m here and I’m not going anywhere,” he says vibrantly. “You don’t have to like me, but I will be heard.”

Yes, he is black, openly gay, and represents more than 1,000 gay and lesbian Republicans as  D.C.’s log cabin president. He has no qualms about voting for John McCain over Obama in 2008 or backing Mitt Romney for the 2012 presidential race, either.

“Know your history,” he shrugs and then speaks in an easy-going yet scholarly-like tone. Blacks weren’t always Democrats and we don’t all think alike. Martin Luther King, Jr. was part of the GOP, he insists. So were Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. “ There are so many black Republicans in the history of America that people don’t identify or talk about because it doesn’t fit into the script of what they want as a narrative. My job is to open eyes and bring perspective.”

Dressed in a grey suit and lemon tie, on a sunny afternoon the super-caffeinated 42-year-old snaps photos, shake hands and works the room at his chapter’s ritzy pride kick-off celebration.  In this sea of white faces, he is one of the few brown dots. His hair is freshly cut and his smooth peanut butter skin hides any trace of sleep deprivation. With a forever open bar, the crowd of mostly suit-and-tie, boisterous and unashamed right-winged gay men, drink to the backdrop of politics and non-stop pop hits.

Turner’s feelings on President Obama?

“He has an air of arrogance about him,” he says in his standard no-holds-barred attitude. “Just look at the HOPE poster — I mean come on.”

He Loves It When They Call Him Big Pappa

At 6’2, Turner is tall, with a large belly and talks straight from the hip.

Obama hasn’t done any “heavy lifting” for gay rights, he says, and is a fierce advocate for himself. The 2004 lawsuit Log Cabin Republicans vs. United States challenged the constitutionality of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’s’ ban on gays serving openly in the military, he says, and the congressional repeal would not have happened without the support of Republican senators.

After criticizing Obama, Turner disappears from the crowded room for a few minutes and then re-emerges, strutting in slow motion to the gritty beat,

“Biggie Biggie Biggie can’t you see/Sometimes your words just hypnotize me/And I just love your flashy ways!”

As eyes narrow in on his robust figure, he soaks up the attention and sweats it out.

“I’m a big guy,” he says without hesitation.

Known around town as D.C.’s Big Pappa, Turner has learned to use his weight, both physically and verbally, to boost his public image. Still, don’t come at him sideways.

Former roommates witnessed his boldness firsthand when a poker game turned ugly in the ‘90s. “For whatever reason, they thought I would like it,” he smirks, recalling comparisons to rapper Notorious B.I.G.,


About the Author

Rachel Huggins
Rachel Huggins
Rachel Huggins is a USA TODAY online editor and freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @HugginsRachel to see her trail of digital breadcrumbs.


Photo Courtesy of Flickr/takasci75

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