On National Coming Out Day, Abe Laydon
, a Douglas County commissioner, spoke candidly about his identity. "For me, it’s important that when people get a ballot in the mail with my name on it, that they’re voting for the real me, the authentic me, rather than just another version of myself," says Laydon, who publicly identified as an "aesthete" in an October 11 tweet
"Aesthete fits who I am most closely," says Laydon, a Republican who's the chair of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners
. "For me, it’s about the ability to deeply appreciate internal and external beauty in another person regardless of gender."
Laydon's revelation is especially significant given the conservative county that elected him.
"I would argue that true Republicans support liberty, support freedom and support the Constitution of the United States, which allows for freedom of expression and freedom of religion," Laydon says, who acknowledges that some political pundits and others trying to gain political points are purposefully "outspoken on controversial issues," such as those involving sexuality and gender identity.
The first-term commissioner says he's not concerned that his honesty might cost him votes in the November election, where he's facing Democrat Kari Solberg
"I would rather lose and have people know the real me than win based upon a veneer or a caricature of who I am," Laydon says, adding that he identifies as a Christian and a person of deep faith, but is not a "biblical literalist."
"I really believe that Christ was about love, and he would commune with those he wouldn’t necessarily agree with," Laydon says.
Laydon says he's received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback and support since he posted his coming-out note on Twitter.
"Thank you Abe Laydon for sharing your truth. Your integrity and honesty will help inspire and support so many others," Governor Jared Polis, who is openly gay, wrote on Twitter
Douglas County has been the scene of many of the kind of culture wars breaking out in the U.S. today.
In late August, a drag performer in the Douglas County PrideFest
, which was put on by Castle Rock Pride at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, had an apparent costume malfunction that resulted in an exposed fake nipple. It was an accidental mishap, according to Castle Rock Pride
Still, in the aftermath, George Teal
, another Republican Douglas County commissioner, called for banning the return of PrideFest based on what he called a "zoning violation."
"There is substantial evidence the organizers allow, or at least are unable to prevent, participants from performing acts of exotic adult entertainment," Teal wrote on Facebook.
But Laydon rejected Teal's proposal.
"Everybody agreed that that was not appropriate," Laydon says. "We have accepted the apology of Castle Rock Pride. We have accepted their promises not to do this again. They actually fired the performers that performed in this way. I think there’s a real opportunity to bring people together and identify ways for Pride to be successful in Douglas County. Pride is important. It’s important for adults, and it’s also important for youth."
This summer, Douglas County was also the scene of protests and counterprotests over a 21+ drag comedy show at a community center in Highlands Ranch
. Some of those opposed to the show carried signs that read "Don’t Drag Down Highlands Ranch" and "Freak Shows Belong at the Circus."
"I was an active opponent of those who were fighting the Constitution," Laydon says. "If we say that we believe in freedom and liberty in Douglas County, let’s be consistent. I don’t believe in censorship. I don’t believe in book burning. That First Amendment freedom of expression is a constitutional right."
And when it comes to drag, Laydon says, "I think that men have the ability to express themselves how they see fit. A woman in pants is no different from a man in a dress...I don’t support anti-gay or thinly veiled anti-gay rhetoric or bigotry in my community."
In his tweet, Laydon posted links to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
and also to the Trevor Project
, which works on suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.
"During COVID, I lost five people to suicide," Laydon says, noting that all of these individuals were white men between the ages of 34 and 52. "I really do like the quote that 'Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.' I want Douglas County to be a place where people feel free, open and authentic, and live their truths."