The State of the Unions Gay Guest
BY Michelle Garcia
January 26 2010 5:55 PM ET
As President Barack Obama makes his final preparations to address Congress and the nation on his accomplishments in office and the year ahead, Indiana business owner Trevor Yager is making preparations of his own to head to Washington, D.C. Yager will be in the crowd for the president's first State of the Union address, where Obama will outline his plans for the economy, health care reform, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is expected to address the military's ban on openly gay troops.
Yager is a principal of Indianapolis's TrendyMinds, a marketing and advertising agency with several national and local clients. In the past year Trendy Minds has grown 200%, doubling its number of employees, gaining 15 new accounts, and renovating its space to accommodate such growth. The company is certified as a gay-owned business by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which suggested TrendyMinds be acknowledged by the White House.
Yager talked to Advocate.com about how being an openly gay business owner in a conservative state can make him a little nervous and exactly what he thinks of Obama's progress on gay rights.
Advocate.com: How did you find out that you were invited to attend the State of the Union address?
Trevor Yager: We're a member of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and they have a long-standing relationship with Obama. He invited them to the White House one week after he became president. So the White House reached out to them, and said, "We would like to profile some of your members." So they reached out to various groups, and we were one of them. We wrote a three-paragraph statement on our company and what we've been doing over the last year and sent that on to NGLCC, and they took it up the ranks and over to the White House. The White House liked it, and they asked for more information from me. They asked for my name, date of birth, social security number, and then I didn't hear anything. So we were just kind of waiting, and then I got a call from [White House staffer] Brian Bond on Friday night, saying that the president and first lady had extended an invitation for me to come out to Washington. It's been neat to be a part of it and to gear up to go.
Do you know where you'll be sitting?
I'm going to be seated with the first lady in the box, but I don't know where.
We've been informed that
From a personal standpoint, I have a sibling that has been displaced from the auto industry. ... There are a lot of people who have been laid off from their jobs that are trying to figure out what's next, when their [particular job] is all they know. That's a tough things that businesses can do to help individuals get on their feet, too.
Are there any initiatives or policy changes that the Obama administration has made that help small businesses?
Loosening up lending has helped a lot, because, again, it's more cash flow in.
What are some unique challenges or advantages that you face as a gay business owner?
I think there's always the potential of being stereotyped or being discriminated against. Especially living in a conservative state, it can be an issue. I've been fortunate that we have some amazing clients, and they've been really cool. People can be horrible, or they can be great, so it just depends on the person. But you can always get a little nervous when you meet a new client for the first time. They don't have to want and love to go to Gay Pride with me — I'm not asking for that, but you also don't want them to be the total opposite.
Lucky for me, I was raised in a conservative Christian home and have been brought up in private Christian schools from seventh grade all the way up through college, and I've been fortunate not to have anyone turn against me, even when coming out. I've had a good experience. Even with friends who say, "Well, I don't agree with that," I can just say, "That's OK, I'm not asking you to. That's your issue there."
I've done a lot of educating other people about being gay, telling them it's definitely not a disease, not a choice — you didn't choose your hair color, and I didn't choose my sexuality. It's just who I am. I've had to embrace that, and it's something that I haven't hidden. So when I go into meetings, I get a little tentative, but as I get a little older, I'm just a little more free to be like, "I have a partner of seven years." So, no, I'm not always like, "Hey, by the way, I'm gay!" Sometimes the conversation doesn't really need it, but I do wear a wedding ring, so one time I had a client ask me, "I see you're married. What does your wife think about ... " and I've had to say, "Actually, I have a partner," and they had no problem, and they keep talking.