We see it everywhere, from advertising and marketing to conversations and compromise. The power of persuasion is one that is not to be underestimated. That’s why it is so important to have persuasive people who stand up for LGBTQ rights on our side in politics. Jeff Thormodsgaard, lobbyist, campaign strategist, and political advisor, knows what it takes to get people to listen in politics. One of this year’s Power Winners, Thormodsgaard is being recognized for his contributions to queer political reform and his dedication to fighting the good fight.
What made you decide to get involved with politics and campaigns? Why did you decide to study politics?
I’ve been in politics since I was a little kid; I ran for office when I was a little guy. It was kind of my trajectory and I got a degree in political science and had no idea what that meant and moved to Alaska. I was there for a few years, figured out what I wanted to do, came back to become a lobbyist, and immediately met Pat Steadman, and he sort of shepherded me into the whole political consulting lobbying world. I worked on the Domestic Partner Campaign in 2006.
I decided to study politics because I love people and I want to see all people have a voice, and I don’t think all people understand government or understand how things work, and things happen without people being involved, without someone who cares, which isn’t good.
Who are some of your biggest inspirations?
One of my largest inspirations in the LGBTQ community would definitely be one of my dearest friends, Pat Steadman; he by far and away has been one of my biggest mentors, and he taught me a lot about what it is to be a leader. I think leading and power are kind of synonymous, and that I think he really exhibits more than most in the world, so I have a lot of respect for him.
When did you first feel powerful as an LGBTQ person or in politics, and why was this important to you?
Honestly it was when I got my job working on the Domestic Partner Campaign; I lead the Boulder office as the field director, helped the campaign set up all of the field offices, got the whole field structure in place. At that point in time I realized how important what we were doing was, and it was very empowering, knowing we were helping the people in our community. The connections I made through that were phenomenal, both as an LGBTQ ally and also as a member. I kind of got my wings and my voice.
What does power mean to you?
I think power is knowing how to quietly by example do what’s right, and have people know that what you are doing is right and following that example. I don’t believe that power is exerting influence; I believe it is inspiring influence in people who otherwise don’t feel powerful.
Why is it important to be an advocate for the queer community at this point in time?
Well I think that at this point in time there is more reason than ever. We have our own political strifes and struggles going on and I think one of the biggest problems is that there could be a reversal of all these things we have been working on. I think we need to do a really good job of preserving what we have done. I think it’s more important for people to grasp that we need to make sure we are organized, that we have a voice, that we are truly preserving our community and doing our job. We have all these things that came to fruition, and now legal marriage. I’m very concerned with what it would mean if we lose these things.
What do you think we can do to keep our power in this political climate?
Keep your knowledge base, keep your head in the game, and keep knowing that we are not off the hook; nobody is off the hook. We all may have thought that we were, because under the Obama administration we kind of flourished, and were able to make so many movements of progress over the years. Now we need to keep acting on all those years of progress.
What do you think our community needs the most right now?
I think this goes back to what I talked about earlier, remaining vigilant. We can’t ever stop and think that the LGBTQ population is all of a sudden going to be out of harm’s way, so to speak. But I think the other thing our community needs is to recognize that we need to love all our community, and in a time when all these things have kind of become divisive all over again, I think the LGBTQ community should be leading by example, and I don’t know if we are always doing the best job of that. We need to be there for our LGBTQ people of color, for all our people. The last thing we need is not to be in lockstep and seeing the world through the same lense. I think that’s really important for our community to be reminded of.