Interview on Pride Month: John Scott Johnson, Member of Rebuilding Together’s National Board
Throughout the month of June, Americans celebrate members of the LGBTQ+ community and their accomplishments as a part of Pride Month. Rebuilding Together is proud to work with and serve the LGBTQ+ community, and we want to amplify the voices of those members in our network. We sat down to talk with John Scott Johnson, who serves on Rebuilding Together’s national board of directors. John Scott’s Rebuilding Together journey started when he was just a baby but continues today as he serves on our board and has spent his career in real estate. He lives in New York, NY with his husband, Andrew, their two children and top dog, Sheriff.
Hi John Scott! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your connection to Rebuilding Together?
Sure, thanks so much for having me! As many in the Rebuilding Together network know, I’ve been involved in Rebuilding Together my whole life. When I was a baby, my mom founded the first Christmas in April affiliate outside of Texas, in Washington D.C., with friends and members of our church. In 1988, she then launched Rebuilding Together’s national office in our basement when the network was thirteen affiliates strong. It was a big day when she moved into an office downtown with a part-time volunteer into donated office space. Although Christmas in April, now Rebuilding Together was always a part of my life, it became more of a part of me when I got to college and decided to found Rebuilding Together Lewiston/Auburn in Maine. Going to college in a former mill town that had lost much of its industry and population over the three or four preceding decades, it was evident that the town needed help and neighbors weren’t getting the resources they needed to stay in their homes. After graduation, I moved to New York City and ended up joining the board of directors of the affiliate (at the behest of my mother, of course) and eventually served for almost 15 years in various roles. Two years ago, Caroline Blakely, President and CEO of Rebuilding Together’s national office, asked me to serve on the national board which has been an honor.
How important do you think it is to have a workplace where people feel comfortable being their full selves in front of their colleagues?
100%, you can’t succeed if you’re in the shadows and you’ll end up in the shadows if you aren’t living as your true self.
Has being part of the LGBTQ+ community impacted your career journey?
Only positively. I’ve been fortunate to work for some people who also identify as LGBTQ+ and they have been great role models and mentors. The gay NYC real estate development community is quite a tight knit group and we all look out for each other and make connections whenever needed.
Your mother, the founder of Rebuilding Together, worked with the National Cathedral around LGBTQ+ issues. Could you tell us more about this?
Yes, she fought hard to gain equality in D.C. by inserting herself into the dialogue using her position with the National Cathedral. She really focused on liaising with the more conservative churches, telling our family’s story and pushing them to realize this isn’t the downfall of civilization. She formed groups to have open dialogue about the issue and used her personal stories to impart change.
In your opinion, what kind of housing issues impact the LGBTQ+ community?
Low-income older LGBTQ+ renters are the most at-risk demographic as many have lived rather hard lives (either from discrimination, from the mental effects of having to live in the closet for much of their lives, from not having family support or children that are there to support them, mentally, physically, financially, etc.) but many great models have come about fairly recently such as Stonewall House. My prior employer developed this building with SAGE, an advocacy group for gay elders, and it has gotten a lot of national media attention.
Anything else you’d like to add?
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