Oral history with Bryan Dalton (1962-present)


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1980s to present.

Bryan Dalton-1962-present. Bryan came to DC in the early 1980s to attend Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, later joining the Foreign Service in 1987 and going on to serve in a number of posts around the world, including Mexico City, Taipei, Bangkok, Hanoi, Chennai, Romania, and Bulgaria. He began his career under the assumption that he should be in the closet professionally. Early on, however, he began singing with the Lesbian and Gay Chorus of Washington, and was introduced to other gay Foreign Service members, which proved helpful when in 1991 he came under investigation at work due to his sexual orientation. Though it was never explicitly outlawed or accepted in the Foreign Service and Dalton found a number of passive supporters among his straight colleagues, the theory at the time was that any gay person could easily be blackmailed if an unfriendly foreign element were to learn of their “lifestyle.” With the legal assistance of Frank Kameny, however, Bryan successfully argued that as he was out in all aspects of his life, he could not be blackmailed and therefore should be permitted to continue his service.
He went on to cofound GLIFAA (Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies) in 1992. GLIFAA struggled in the early years with gender inclusivity and maintaining a balance between social and political goals, but its advocacy led to a number of important strides, including the removal of sodomy as grounds for visa ineligibility and the inclusion of same-sex partners in Eligible Family Member Status. This allowed same-sex partners access to official visa sponsorship, flights to and from post, embassy medical facilities, and paid evacuation, but currently same-sex partners can only access federal health plans and pensions if legally married.
Bryan also speaks about his parents’ extensive PFLAG involvement in the upper Midwest and his partner of 22 years’ role in their foreign posts in local GLBT activism and organizing gay pride parades and other events. Though he marvels that there are now 7 openly gay ambassadors serving around the world and that Randy Barry was just named Special Envoy to the State Department for the Rights of LGBT persons, Bryan believes the next step for the State Department would be to extend protections to LGBT foreign service nationals, to better integrate transgender employees and family members, and to extend rights and benefits to all partners regardless of legal status. He also speaks about local reactions to his sexual orientation in several of the countries he served in as well as the ways that DC’s neighborhoods and communities have changed since he first arrived in the late 80s, from specific neighborhoods where all gay establishments were located to one in which gay establishments are interspersed with straight venues.




Washington, D.C.



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Yes, recording available.


“Oral history with Bryan Dalton (1962-present),” Rainbow History Project Digital Collections, accessed July 21, 2024, https://archives.rainbowhistory.org/items/show/1607.

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