Q Virginia | Spring 2017

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Wedding Advice

Top 10 Tips for Your Big Day


One Love


LGBT Families Exhibit in RVA

Q Virginia & Q Weddings

Always a Bridesmaid?

Letter from the Publisher




Best Man

How to Write a Best Man’s Speech


Become Your Own Matchmaker

Why Q Weddings?

The Circle of Life

A College Essay Born from Equality


The Marriage Myth




Beauty Born from Tragedy

Love in the Era of Trump




For the Love of David

Congressman Bobby Scott

Gavin Grimm




Emily Townley


Learn to Embrace Change


A Surprise Engagement James & Richard


Exclusive Interview

17 Q&As about LGBTQ Weddings

Being Single

Timing the Day’s Events


Destination Wedding



Book Review Before I Do


Getting Ready for Love

Finding Love


Seek and Ye Shall Find

A Florist’s Guide to Wedding Flowers

Book Review




Raising a Trans Child

Tim & Tony

Babies on the Brain?

Love Wins



Trans People Can Have Children

The Art of the Affair

Help Thyself

Book Review



Women & Physical Therapy



Wedding Timeline


Chris & Chris


Cash Conversations

Talk Money, Stay Happy


Love Birds

Kate & Sierra


Enduring Union?

6 Signs Your Marriage Will Last


What is Love?

One Size Does Not Fit All

A Many-Splendored Thing



Wedding Traditions

Where Did They Come From?


Wedding Checklist

Plan Your Dream Wedding


Baking Equality

Let them Eat Cake


Wedding Etiquette 101

Be a Good Wedding Guest

LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT & CEO One year later, Unite Virginia continues to hold the distinction of being the only company that holds a statewide LGBTQ wedding show (Q Weddings) and publishes a statewide LGBTQ wedding magazine (this Wedding Edition of Q Virginia). With our new “Q” brand of products, including Q Pages – Virginia’s Official LGBTQ Guide & Business Directory, we will continue providing the LGBTQ and allied communities an inclusive and powerful voice in the region’s evolving cultural, economic and social narrative.


elcome to Unite Virginia’s first issue of Q Virginia! We are delighted to bring this special Wedding Edition as we prepare to host Virginia’s 2nd Annual Statewide LGBTQ Wedding Show – Q Weddings – later this spring. As most of you know, our mission at Unite Virginia is to promote equality through storytelling and encourage economic development through inclusion. If you ask me, there are no better stories than those about love, overcoming adversity and bringing about change. One of the greatest stories that has come out of Virginia in the past decade occurred on October 6, 2014 when marriage equality came to the Commonwealth. Without question, marriage equality has fundamentally changed the way our society functions. Another significant story that came out of Virginia occurred on April 17, 2016 when Unite Virginia hosted the first statewide LGBTQ wedding show in the history of the Commonwealth. That historic wedding show not only connected loving couples with inclusive wedding professionals; but, it also introduced people to Unite Virginia’s Wedding Issue, which happened to be the very first statewide LGBTQ wedding magazine published in Virginia.

I use the word “powerful” because the LGBTQ community: boasts a purchasing power of $917 billion; represents a $100 billion tourism industry; and, accounts for a $2.5 billion wedding industry (which includes $73 million dollars right here in Virginia). Businesses recognize the LGBTQ community as one of the nation’s most powerful niche markets and take great interest in the LGBTQ community’s purchasing behaviors: 85% are more likely to buy from a company that directly advertises to their community; 71% remain loyal to brands that have inclusive workplace policies; and, 23% have switched brands because a competitor supported their community. With statistics like these, there is no room in our society—nor in our economy—for discriminatory policies. The politics of equality cannot be separated from the realities of economics, especially in our post-marriage equality world.

Q VIRGINIA STAFF PUBLISHER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Justin Ayars, JD EDITOR & CREATIVE DIRECTOR Jesse LaVancher ART DIRECTOR Christopher Murphy / Digital Empire Graphic Design WEB DESIGNER Michael Romano LOGO DESIGNER Umbrella Management Group, LLC ADVERTISING MANAGER Kimberly Nikole Welsh / sales@unitevamag.com NATIONAL ADVERTISING Rivendell Media COLLEGIATE FELLOWS Yasir Afzal, Stephen Clatterbuck, Kevin G. Costanzo, Amanda Hallesjo, Maxwell Manchester, Christian Meade, Charlie Williamson Q VIRGINIA CONTRIBUTORS Yasir Afzal, Justin Ayars, JD, Joanna Bierlein, Tim Bostic, Ariell Branson, Stephen Clatterbuck, Casey Dokoupil, Gretchen Gales, Dr. Shahin Ghadir, Bron Hansboro, Emmett Hickam, Meredith Jenkins, April Kirkwood, Jesse LaVancher, James Millner, Dr. Sesha Joi Moon, Rayceen Pendarvis, HRH, Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Honorable Robert Cortez “Bobby” Scott U.S. Representative for Virginia’s Third Congressional District, Tammy Shaklee, Emily Townley, Michele Zehr, M.A., M.Ed. Q VIRGINIA PUBLISHING PAGE 46 OFFICE The Brookwood |1342 Road | Richmond, StayFlynn United | L’Opossum Ad VA 23225

As we continue to promote equality Stay United! www.queerva.com Keep up-to-date on the latest news, join the conversation and share your stories wi through storytelling by growing our /uniteva “Q” community, we want you to join the www.unitevamag.com conversation. Stories about diversity, @unitevamag equality and inclusion bring communities www.facebook.com/uniteva together, ignite the imagination and drive unitevamag the engine of our economy. I can’t wait to @unitevamag http://unitevamag.com/blog hear your stories. Cheers,

info@unitevamag.com info@unitevamag.com Q Weddings - www.vagaywedding.com

Justin Ayars, JD President & CEO

Want to Advertise in Unite Virginia? Are you looking for access to a lucrative and untapped demographic? Would yo Q Pages: Virginia’s Official LGBTQ Guide & Business like to engage new markets? Do you want unparalleled opportunities to diversify Directory - www.qguidebook.com your B2B or B2C commerce? Look no further than Unite Virginia—Virginia’s LG Company.

Q Virginia is published by Unite Virginia, LLC.

Email sales@unitevamag.com for more information, ad specs (both print and our Media Kit.

Unite Virginia promotes equality through storytelling and encourages economic development through inclusion.

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Editorial: Why Q Weddings? By, Jesse LaVancher

You’ve marched, you’ve protested, you’ve fundraised for the right to wedded bliss. Now it’s your time to celebrate. We’ve come a long way in our fight for equality, because everyone deserves to have the wedding they’ve always dreamed of. When you and your partner talk about what your wedding will look like, the conversation probably ends with more questions than answers. How many LGBTQ couples find themselves with similar questions as to how to create their perfect day? Q Weddings is a resource to help all those in Virginia’s LGBTQ community plan that perfect day. We’ve gathered a talented cadre of wedding industry experts to share their professional advice and insight into aspects of the big day that may seem daunting. We’ve got you covered in all aspects of everything wedding-related—from where to stage the ceremony and what to wear while gliding down the aisle to the benefits of bringing on a wedding planner for assistance and how to begin planning your lives together as a legally married couple. By reaching out to the businesses found at Q Weddings, rest assured that you and your partner will be embraced by business owners who are not only sensitive to but are wholeheartedly enthusiastic about meeting your LGBTQ-specific needs. Plan a fabulous wedding with your spouse and make that day and the rest of your lives together the stuff that dreams are made of. Best wishes on your Big Day and beyond!

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Love & Marriage in the Era of Trump By, Dr. Sesha Joi Moon


met Janice at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia in 2008 during a training session for housing and residential life. She was pursuing her bachelor’s degree and I had just relocated to the area to pursue my doctoral degree after completing my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. During this session, we participated in an icebreaker where we had to place an adjective in front of our names that best described our personalities. Janice, who has a passion for music, said that her name was “Jammin Janice” and that’s when her nickname “Jammin” was born. We went on our first date to go see a movie called House Bunny and made it official on October 2, 2008, which is better known as “HABE COMING.” It is an acronym we use to describe our love, which stands for happiness, adventurous, beautiful, everlasting, caring, organic, motivated, intimate, nurturing, and generous. In 2010, we relocated to the Northern Virginia area to continue to pursue our academic and professional careers. Since relocating, Janice has earned her master’s degree from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and began a successful

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career as an educator and coach with Falls Church High School – even being recognized as Coach of the Year in 2014. I began a successful career as a human capital strategist with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and am currently an Excellence in Government Fellow with the Partnership for Public Service. We have become an active part of our community – becoming both homeowners and parishioners at Alfred Street Baptist Church. We enjoy amusement parks, sporting events, concerts, and traveling. In 2015, in a 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act and took a historic step in the march towards equality by declaring that same sex couples had the right to marry and, simply put, love won. This past summer, after nearly 10 years of building a life together, I asked Janice to marry me. According to the opinion of Justice Anthony Kennedy, “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than [they] once were.” I couldn’t have been more excited to strive for greatness together as our commitment evolved past girlfriend and partner to fiancée and wife.

Over the course of our relationship, we witnessed the election of President Barack Obama as the first African American to serve as Commander-in-Chief and who shepherded the fight for marriage equality by repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He also championed diversity and inclusion in the Federal Government and made it clear that I could be both a public servant and a proud member of the LGBTQ community. While our official wedding ceremony is scheduled for next summer in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, we legally wed on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, prior to the inauguration of Donald Trump, due to the anti-LGBTQ narrative during the presidential election. We selected this day because what better day to say “I do” than during the final hours of President Obama’s administration and on the birthday of the forefather of the Civil Rights Movement. Several other same sex couples shared our apprehension as local justices of the peace experienced an influx of marriage requests from same-sex couples after Election Day. Unfortunately, our deepest fears

are being realized as the current administration has begun to repeal protections for transgendered persons and is rumored to be drafting an executive order that would further undermine LGBTQ rights. In my Spotlight on Commerce, I stated, “I consider myself to be the epitome of diversity as my identity rests at the intersection of several historically marginalized populations. I am an African American. I am a woman. I am a lesbian. I am a partner. But I am also a daughter. I am a sister. I am an aunt. I am a niece. I am a cousin. I am a friend. I am a sorority sister. I am a colleague. I am a college graduate. I am a professor. I am a parishioner. I am a homeowner. I am a neighbor. And above all else, I am a human being. I am you.” Yet, the current administration ran in opposition to essentially everything that defines who I am, which is why it is important to tell my love story. I believe that storytelling can help to move the cultural needle by educating and encouraging others to recognize the beauty and benefit of trying to love someone that is consid-

ered different than you. This can start, perhaps as so eloquently stated by Utah Lieutenant Governor, Spencer Cox (R), with someone who is gay. Perhaps, it could start with us – HABE COMING. Dr. Sesha Joi Moon is a Human Capital Strategist at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office within the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has received the Commerce Spirit Award and was profiled for the Spotlight on Commerce in celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month. She is also a fellow in the Excellence in Government Fellowship Program with the Partnership for Public Service. She holds a Ph.D. in Public Administration and Policy from Old Dominion University and a Master of Science and Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is the principal of Happily Ever Wedded, which is a full-service wedding consulting firm that curates the happily ever after experience for couples from “will you” to “I do.”

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commend Unite Virginia, Virginia’s LGBTQ Media Company, for launching Q Virginia magazine and for magnifying the voices and issues of the LGBTQ community in our Commonwealth. Since my early days as a branch president of the Newport News NAACP, founder and first board president of the Peninsula Legal Aid Center, as a Delegate and Senator in the Virginia General Assembly, and now as a Member of Congress, I have spent my career advocating for the civil and human rights of all Virginians.

tion in employment, housing, health coverage, and other civil rights. I am also a cosponsor on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment of LGBTQ individuals, and I joined 178 of my colleagues in cosponsoring the Equality Act. This bipartisan effort would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other vital civil rights laws to define LGBTQ status as a statutorily protected class in the areas of education, employment, housing, public accommodations, and jury service. And last year, I supported legislation that successfully removed harmful anti-LGBTQ language from the National Defense Authorization Act.

Over two decades ago, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was actually the progressive position on LGBTQ equality, because it allowed LGBTQ men and women to serve in the military, I look to Q Virginia to report on where in the past, these brave men and to galvanize the community and women were totally denied to ensure that the important gains that opportunity. I also opposed are not dismantled. Together, we the Defense of Marriage Act, which have made great strides toward simply codified discrimination. solidifying civil and human rights Since then, we have eliminated for all Americans. In the coming Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to allow full participation in years, we will continue to call for protections against the military and now everyone enjoys the right of all forms of discrimination whether in housing, marriage equality. As a member of the Congressional employment or marriage equality. This includes adLGBT Equality Caucus, I recogdressing new issues ranging from nize the progress that has occurred access to health insurance under within the LGBTQ community. the Affordable Care Act to the fair “Together, we have treatment of transgender students. Together we made great strides to advance legislation that will ensure the help of Q Virginia, I made great strides to- With equal rights for all, to advocate for look forward to working with the the repeal of discriminatory laws, community here in Virward solidifying civil LGBTQ and to guard against any attempts ginia to organize and agitate until and human rights for the full rights of all Americans are to roll back the monumental progress we have made. achieved.

all Americans.”

Despite the gains over the last few decades, there is still more work to be done. Congress must continue to fight for full equality and inclusion. As Ranking Member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, I cosponsored the Do No Harm Act of 2015, legislation that prevents others from misusing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to overcome existing federal laws that protect against discrimina-

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Congressman Robert Cortez “Bobby” Scott U.S. Representative for Virginia’s Third Congressional District

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17 Common Q&As About Gay Weddings By, Gretchen Gales – Former Student Fellow

When it comes to gay weddings, you may have more questions than you care to admit. If you’re planning on getting hitched or are just curious about gay weddings in general, have no fear! I’ve answered 17 FAQs about same-sex weddings. If you still have questions or just want more info about planning your Big Day, I suggest you check out Q Weddings (www.vagaywedding.com)!


Neither of us want to wear wedding dresses. What should we do? Chances are you’ll already feel nervous on the big day, so don’t force yourself to wear something you won’t be comfortable in! Same-sex weddings are still fairly new and no one has come up with concrete etiquette. This means your wedding could be the trendsetter. Pant suits are a popular choice for their breathable fabric and can be accessorized with jewelry, neckwear, etc. They also come in a variety of colors.


Same question, except we don’t want to wear tuxes. Now what? A nice shirt and dress pants can still look very sharp if you want something simple and comfortable. There are a variety of dress shirts to choose from at a variety of men’s formalwear stores, so ask an associate to help find the best one for you.


We want to wear suits, but want to know how to make them unique while still maintaining a matching look. Thoughts? Experiment with different styled and colored shirts, jewelry, neckties, ascots, or boutonnieres with your favorite flowers. There are many ways to alter the look of a simple suit, so have fun and get creative.

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We have rings from our commitment ceremony. Can we reuse them? Absolutely! Many couples choose to reuse their commitment ceremony rings for their marriage. If you want something new, consider having your rings engraved with your wedding date or other customizations before purchasing brand new rings with the money that you can splurge on the honeymoon!


What are some traditions other same-sex couples have started that we can get some inspiration from?

Totally up to you, but the reason why it is such a popular tradition is that it’s a magical moment to see the other “for the first time” again. It’s a nice surprise to see your partner in that way, and should be considered, though it’s certainly not mandatory.

Sure thing! You could always walk down the aisle together. Many same-sex couples do not like the idea of assigning gender roles to the other. If there are two aisles, consider each of you going down one and then walking together at the end of the ceremony. Should there be three, do the same thing, but go down the middle aisle together at the end. Also, to welcome and comfort your guests, consider offering champagne or a cocktail to loosen any tension. Other traditions are waiting to be started by you, so get creative!



With technology the way it is, it’s best to just go for the website for many big events. It’s a great tool to help keep your guests on track and prepared for the day!

Do them! It helps your wedding photographer get to know you both better and get the best pictures when the big day arrives. Consider going somewhere special for the both of you, like where you met or a favorite spot you both love. See page 70 for a real-life example!


Can we really not see each other before the ceremony? We’ve lived with each other long before the marriage, so we don’t know if it’s necessary.

We’re having a commitment ceremony instead. Would it be odd to create a wedding website?

What should we do for engagement photos?


So, how do we word the wedding invitations?

The person paying for the wedding is traditionally in charge of this. If you both are footing the bill, put your names at the top of the invite, then word your invitations according to how formal or casual your event will be: Formal The honor of your attendance is requested at the marriage of Erin Robbins Schmidt and Rachael Eliza Delano on Sunday, the fifteenth of April at two o’clock in the afternoon. Casual Erin Robbins Schmidt and Rachael Eliza Delano invite you to their wedding Sunday, April 15th at 2:00pm.


Should we have a wedding party?

Some same-sex couples skip the tradition, but that doesn’t mean you should if you want a wedding party. There’s no better way to celebrate marriage equality and your love for each other than by throwing a big bash!


If our event is more casual, should we have a traditional cake? Have whatever kind of cake makes you both happy! Whether you want a fancy cake or Funfetti, just remember to have enough for all of your guests!


We want a destination wedding. How do we figure out which destinations are gay-friendly? We doubt you want to be cooped up in the hotel, so pick somewhere that is gay-friendly both on and off the resort. Some examples are Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Bonaire, and Puerto Rico for more tropical destinations. Many European countries are also very gay-friendly, but do some research on GayDestinationWeddings.com and other sites to be sure. However, don’t forget about Virginia! Our fair Commonwealth has some great wedding destinations ranging from big cities, quaint towns and historic venues to breathtaking mountains, breezy beaches and beautiful parks. Keep Virginia in mind when you plan the location of your big day! See page 76 for more tips on destination weddings and a real-life example! Also, visit www.quidebook.com for LGBT-inclusive wedding destinations and vendors across Virginia!


We have straight friends attending our wedding. What advice should we give them? Gay weddings aren’t that much different from straight weddings (other than they can be more fabulous!). If your straight friends know you well enough, they’ll know to expect a wedding that suits your tastes and personal preferences. Remember—they love you and will support whatever type of ceremony you have planned.


How should we go about seating at the ceremony? Even at straight weddings, it’s become more popular to allow guests to sit wherever they would like, besides reserved seats for the family. No matter what you decide, make sure your photographer has plenty of space to photograph the both of you, no matter if one or both of you are walking down the aisle.


Who pays for what?

Lots of couples pay for their own weddings with help from their parents. Don’t feel constrained by traditional bride-groom arrangements when it comes to bill-splitting. The best thing to do is to figure out who is contributing to your cash flow—you both, your parents, relatives, others? Once you figure out how much money you have to play with, you can then start planning the wedding of your dreams! See page 80 for some post-wedding money management tips!


We want a friend to officiate, so how do they get ordained? There are ways to get ordained via the internet. If your ceremony is religious, remind them to check the affiliation of the certificate before they apply. Some require paperwork to be filled out. Also check the Secretary of State’s office to ensure the certificate is legitimate.


What do we do about last names?

A common choice is to hyphenate both names to signify you are both united. One can choose to take the name of the other and make their given last name their new middle name, just as many straight couples do. Or you can both keep your maiden names. This is popular for those that have made their career based on their maiden names. Either way, choose what’s best for the both of you.

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Before I Do By, Terri Schlichenmeyer

The box was too small for a toaster. There was no pony in there, no new car, not even a stuffed animal. The box was too small for all that, but it held so much more: dreams, ideas, happiness, congratulations! And if you’re lucky, your wise new fiancé tucked Before I Do by Elizabeth F. Schwartz (afterword by Jim Obergefell) in the box with your beautiful engagement ring. So you put a ring on it, made the proposal, and now you’ve got a wedding to plan. It’s all quite exciting, but slow down a minute. If you’ve grown up thinking that this day would never come, then you might not have thought about what marriage entails. “LGBT people,” says Schwartz, “have not lived in a world with premarital guidance for LGBT couples. We have suffered systemic exclusion…” Just because you can be married now is no reason that you should, she points out. Yes, you’re in love, and yes, you’ve been together forever but now’s the time to be sure you know exactly what you’re in for. That starts by asking yourselves a series of difficult but important questions. Once you’ve gotten that (perhaps uncomfortable) part out of the way, be sure that any past relationships are completely and legally finished and “do not create confusion with multiple statuses with multiple people.” Know what paperwork you need in order to proceed, and what questions you’ll be asked as you’re filling it out. This pre-wedding period is a good time to talk to a financial expert, a tax consultant, and a lawyer. Don’t trust word-ofmouth to protect your finances; the laws in your state may horrify you, if wedded bliss goes bust. Talk about debt: how much each of you has, and how you perceive it. Educate yourself on insurance coverage, asset protection, pre-nups, and estate planning. And if all this preparation makes you start to think that maybe marriage isn’t such a good idea after all, Schwartz says it’s okay. There are valid reasons for not taking the plunge, and there are alternatives. One of them may be a much better fit for you. Getting engaged is such an exciting time. Putting the brakes on everything isn’t the most romantic notion, but it’s maybe the most prudent. Before I Do explains why.

Putting the brakes on everything isn’t the most romantic notion, but it’s maybe the most prudent. Before I Do explains why. Though she says her advice in this book is appropriate for anyone, author Elizabeth F. Schwartz focuses more on gay and lesbian couples, as well as trans individuals and their prospective spouses. She does so, in part, because she feels that they’ve only seen marriage “on the fringes.” That somewhat sets this book apart from the thousands of other wedding-planner books on bookshelves; what really makes it different, however, is that Schwartz admits her no-nonsense words may talk prospective brides and grooms out of having a wedding. Truth: readers who might’ve somehow taken marriage lightly before will absolutely be convinced otherwise. “Failure to plan has terrible consequences,” says Schwartz, and this book erases that omission. Read Before I Do, though, and rest assured that you can toast one another smarter. Terri Schlichenmey is the owner of The Bookworm Sez, LLC. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books. For more information about Terri, visit https://www. linkedin.com/in/bookwormsez/. queerva.com | 17

BLOOM Photo: SBM Portraits

GUIDE A Florist’s Guide to Wedding Flowers Tips Provided by Master Florist, The Flower Guy Bron 1. Consider the scale and density of your florals in proportion to your venue. The height of the ceilings, square footage and architecture should play a role in your floral design choices.

5. Do your research and read reviews. This is one of the best things about planning a wedding in this day and age. Reviews are invaluable when selecting your floral vendor.

2. Settle on floral designs that compliment other decor elements. Fabulous flowers are easily overlooked when not paired with other good choices.

6. Make sure that you have the same conversation with each florist you interview. Deviations in your conversations will result in proposals that will be difficult to compare for overall value.

3. Be prepared for your consultation. Have an overall idea of what you like and equally important, know what you don’t like. The worst thing you can do is show up without any vision.

7. You can’t go wrong with a classic look. Your pictures will last forever. Trust me, you will regret that random combination of aqua, chartreuse and hot pink.

4. Determine what portion of your overall wedding budget is going to be allocated towards flowers. A general rule of thumb is 20%-30% of your total budget. The Flower Guy Bron / Bron Hansboro 1001 E Main St, Suite A, Richmond, VA 23219 (804) 223-2350 info@theflowerguybron.com www.theflowerguybron.com

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8. Don’t feel obligated to provide personal flowers for people outside of the wedding party. Traditionally, parents and grandparents are appropriate recipients. 9. Read your proposal and contract carefully and make sure that these documents are a true reflection of your expectation. There is nothing worse than an unhappy client on the day of their wedding. Scheduling a follow up meeting closer to your wedding date can eliminate any potential snags. 10. Share the joy of your flowers. Insist that after your event the remaining blooms are donated to a church, local mission, or let your guests enjoy them in their homes.

M Photo: Imani Fine Art Photography

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LOVE WINS By, Tim Bostic


y name is Tim Bostic, and I along with my husband Tony London were plaintiffs in the Virginia marriage equality case. Tony’s and my decision to pursue our rights as citizens stemmed from a very simple fact: we love each other, and after almost 25 years together, we wanted the opportunity to pledge ourselves to each other and to have our relationship recognized both legally and socially. From a practical perspective, we wanted to make sure that everything we have worked for together is protected if something were to happen to either one of us. We also wanted to make sure that any protections we can provide each other as surviving spouses were in place. From a personal perspective, we wanted the opportunity to stand up in front of our community, our families, and our friends and commit ourselves to one another—the same thing that any other couple has the right to do. As Carol Schall, one of the other plaintiffs in this case, puts it, we wanted marriage equality for the good times, but we needed marriage equality for the bad times. For both Tony and I, the media interest was a little overwhelming. As I just said, we did this for very personal reasons, and having our lives opened up to public scrutiny is a little daunting; however, we came to understand that this issue is more important than just the two of us. There were people throughout the Commonwealth, the country, and the world, who paid attention to this case because it illustrates one of the last bastions of discrimination that still receives governmental support. Thus, while there have been professional costs for both of us, we do not regret our decision.

In fact, in speaking to twenty-somethings (gay or straight), they believe that this is the social rights issue of their generation. They understand that old maxim that “no one is free when others are oppressed.” I believe it is for this reason that we have received so much support, and it continually strengthened our resolve to see this through to victory. Many of us LGBTQ people who came out in the last 30 years were grateful that we were able to live open lives without fear of negative physical or economic consequences. However, today, that is no longer enough. Today, we want equality on all fronts. I do understand those who oppose us. Throughout the history of modernity, we have been made to feel ashamed for who we love. Even more insidious is the fact that in many instances society tells us we are supposed to be ashamed of who we are. Celebrating our relationships through marriage acts as a reminder that not only will we will not be ashamed, neither for who we are, nor for whom we love, we actually take pride in it because it makes us who we are. People try to control us by making us feel ashamed of ourselves. Many of us have learned to overcome that shame, and for some, the struggle made us stronger. Each of us has intrinsic worth as human beings and no one has the right to take that from us. As someone who has spent his whole working career trying to make our world more just, the one thing I know for sure is that no one is going to give us anything unless we ask for it—respect, accolades, or our rights. queerva.com | 21


I love Tony; the person I am today is because of the love and support I have received from him over the last 26 years. Today, the fact that we have been legally married for almost two years seems unbelievable. However, the joy we felt having the opportunity to participate in this important rite of passage cannot be described. I have said this before, but my advice to anyone who is starting to think about planning a wedding is to find people who can help you and who you trust. While there were numerous vendors who participated in our special day, it was the support of our wedding planner Ivory Morgan-Burton with Storybook Events and our caterer Cathy Carter with East Beach Catering that helped keep us focused and on point. If any readers are like Tony and I, we had never thought about what we wanted our wedding to be. We were too busy fighting for the right to marry; the wedding itself was the last thing on our minds. All of that changed on October 6, 2014 when the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear an appeal from

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the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on the issue of gay marriage. On July 28th, the Fourth Circuit upheld Norfolk-based U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen’s February 14th decision striking down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages. By refusing to hear the appeal on October 6th, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively made marriage equality legal in Virginia. It was then that we found ourselves needing to get things started! To say that it was magical would be a gross understatement. It was a perfect day thanks to so many people’s hard work, and as Tony and I went to bed that night, we both shed tears of joy that we had finally had the opportunity to promise ourselves to each other in front of our families, friends, neighbors, and community. Our fight for marriage equality started for a very simply reason. We love each other, and we just wanted to get married like everyone else.



Art of the Affair

By, Terri Schlichenmeyer

It’s all about who you know. The guy who bags your groceries might have stock tips for you. A co-worker introduces you to your next best friend. You find a great restaurant from your stylist, a new job from a former classmate, and your neighbor gives you gardening advice. It’s all about who you know or, as in the new book The Art of the Affair by Catherine Lacy and Forsyth Harmon, it’s who you’ve dallied with. Somehow, in some way, the people you meet leave fingerprints on your life. A laugh you’ll never forget, a bon mot you’ll quote, or even an attitude can be a memorable springboard for an idea. That goes doubly for creative types, for whom romantic (or platonic) relationships, their “carnage of affairs” could lead to “countless works of art.” These unions, whether legal or otherwise, also left a tangle of threads between many artists and writers. Essayist and editor Edmund Wilson, for instance, helped launch the career of Anaïs Nin, who later wrote erotica. Nin was “unapologetic about her… affairs,” of which there were many, including a banker, “probably a homosexual,” and novelist/playwright Gore Vidal, who himself had “a short affair” with writer James Baldwin, who called another man “the love of his life.” Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington both collaborated professionally with Grammy-winner Ella Fitzgerald, but it was Marilyn Monroe who helped boost Fitzgerald’s career. Monroe talked the owner of a L.A. nightclub into booking the singer, and she attended each of Fitzgerald’s performances there. Monroe, of course, had her share of affairs, too, as well as a friendship with Truman Capote, who was repeatedly insulted by none other than Tennessee Williams. Williams was no fan of Tallulah Bankhead, and the two publicly snarked at one another for years. Bankhead was an exhibitionist and didn’t care who saw her naked – which, presumably, included her lover, Billie Holiday.

Light, gossipy, and a little scandalous, The Art of the Affair shows that it’s who you know that’s important. Oh, and playwright Williams…? He was a friend of Gore Vidal, who also knew Truman Capote and Anaïs Nin… Did you ever go somewhere with someone who seems to know everybody? That’s what it’s like to read The Art of the Affair. Author Catherine Lacey and illustrator Forsyth Harmon play a sort of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” in their book - except, not surprisingly, Bacon isn’t here. Instead, readers are taken back many decades to look at the dalliances and relationships of artists and stars of the early twentieth century, and because very few contemporary artists grace these pages, there may be many times when you won’t recognize the people among the threads. That can be remedied through inference, but a better explanation (at least for some artists) might have been nice, as would an index. Still, I liked the tidbits in this book, the mini-factlets between ties, and the obvious delight that author and artist lend to the love affairs they so diligently discovered. Light, gossipy, and a little scandalous, The Art of the Affair shows that it’s who you know that’s important – and I know you’ll like it.

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“My autonomy is the most important thing to me.” –Ashley

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Love:Does One Size Fit All?” By, Stephen Clatterbuck – Student Fellow


iscovering brilliance in people mixed

with unique characteristics can be, in my opinion, one of the most inspiring things in life. Ashley Moody is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University studying Graphic Design and has a unique background that has shaped her into the strong, independent woman she is today. Born in Sasebo, Japan, Ashley had a rather difficult time finding a “fit” in her home community given that she was the only Black and Filipino person she knew. “My mother is Filipino, and my father is Black. They met in the Philippines while my dad was overseas in the US Navy.” This feeling of disconnect helped her embrace herself as a person and brought about a new sense of motivation for her art as a designer.

Moody has a very unique and respectful perception in terms of how she views love as an individual. Given that she isn’t searching for love, she still finds beauty in watching people fall in love. I was curious to know if her parents’ relationship influenced how she views relationships. “I think their relationship on their own, being an interracial couple, was extremely influential to me. I never felt locked into loving a certain kind of person, and to see a family and a whole new lifestyle come out of the merging of two cultures and love is really beautiful.”

Moody continued, “I am a woman of color who has no intentions of getting married or having children. It’s just not something I want to do. A lot of people tell me that it’ll change as I get older, but I don’t see that happening. I truly value my independence, and I don’t have that urge to mate and procreate. I see no problem with that either. I am not bitter or hateful toward people or “I started out and have been in art school all my friends who have these aspirations; they’re of my life. I got tired of engaging in the just not mine. I love watching people fall elitist, fine art community and design in love and I love my family and friends. “I am a woman of helped me communicate to a wider I don’t like the idea of loving only audience.” As a woman of color in color who has no one person ‘til death do us part.’ I the art field, Moody deems the enjoy dating, but I don’t enjoy intentions of experience to be quite diffirelationships. A lot of that getting married or cult. “On one end, you’re just comes from maintaintokenized and only looked having children. ing control over myself. My at because you’re a woman of autonomy is the most important It’s just not somecolor, and on the other, you’re thing to me.” thing I want to do.” completely looked over because design is a white, male-dominated – Ashley As spring begins to blossom and the field.” Over the years, Ashley has had the wedding season kicks off, I found Moody’s opportunity to meet with multiple designers personal experience of entering the design of color who have shared similar experiencworld as a woman of color, and the challenges ases. “These conversations sociated therein, along with her unique take on love definitely make it easier to to be particularly interesting. The concept of love—like know that I’m not alone in this people who experience it—comes in all different colors fight. Hopefully, in the future, I’m and varieties. Moody is a pleasant reminder that love’s comstill doing what I love in a communi- plex beauty is its inherent inability to conform to the notion ty that has a genuine appreciation for that one size fits all. me and my talents.” Stephen Clatterbuck

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Wedding TRADITIONS By, Gretchen Gales – Former Student Fellow

Ever wonder who thought it was a good idea to throw rice at a happily married couple as they left the alter to live out the rest of their lives together? There are many fun (and strange) wedding traditions. While you might not use all of the customs listed below at your wedding, it’s fun to see how these time-honored traditions came to be.

Throwing Rice No, it didn’t start with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Before rice became popular, some newlyweds had oats or grain thrown at them to encourage fertility. Eventually rice became the most popular, but recently other options have included pelting the newlyweds with seeds, lavender, flower petals, or bubbles (yes, bubbles). The Garter Toss Garters come in adorable designs and varieties. Pieces of the dress were considered to be good luck and, back in the day, guests would follow the newlyweds to the bedroom hoping to grab a piece of the dress before the newlyweds consummated their marriage. This strange tradition continues today with the bride throwing her garter into a crowd. Traditionally, garters were used to keep a woman’s stockings up. Nowadays, when a bride removes her garter and throws it to a waiting crowd, it is believed that the person who catches the garter will be the next to find a spouse! If you ask me, this sure beats following the newlyweds to their bedchamber! Wedding Cake In the Roman Empire, bread was broken over the couple to bring prosperity and luck. Later, cakes were stacked on top of each other as high as possible and if the couple could successfully kiss over it, their marriage would be a success. The cake was often a fruit cake, whereas today it is available in a variety of much tastier flavors (mmmm… chocolate). Flowers In medieval era weddings, flowers were assembled into flower crowns and also used in bouquets mixed with different herbs and spices to ward off bad spirits. It wasn’t until the late 16th century that flowers began being used to adorn churches and in other parts of the wedding ceremony.

Rings In the 9th century, Pope Nicholas I was the first to declare that engagement rings were required before a marriage could take place. Over the years, rings contained separate halves of a coin and various stones meant to symbolize the couple’s love. Diamonds, which are the most valuable gemstone today, did not gain popularity until the 19th century when a plethora of them were found in South Africa. Now everyone wants their engagement rings to shine bright like a diamond! As for wedding rings, ancient Egyptians put silver or gold rings on what is commonly known as the left “ring finger” because it was thought that this finger on the left hand had the vein that led straight to the heart. An iron ring was used for everyday use while the more expensive rings were reserved for the wedding and special occasions. The Wedding Party If you’re a theatre geek, you might want to bring back this dramatic tradition. It used to be that grooms would send out their groomsmen to distract and fight off the bride’s family so the groom could quickly wed his “captured” bride. Once weddings actually started being planned out, bridesmaids were introduced to help the bride get ready. While I like the idea of having both groomsmen and bridesmaids (or two sets of one for a same-sex wedding), part of me wants to see a bunch of groomsmen (or bridesmaids) fight of his or her future spouse’s family so he or she can capture and wed his or her true love!

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must havge Checklist Weddin

12+ MONTHS BEFORE YOUR BIG DAY! Set a date. Discuss and create a budget. Begin outlining a guest list. Figure out where to have the wedding ceremony and reception. Book hotel room blocks. Book a DJ and a wedding planner, if desired. Find and book an officiant. Begin shopping around for suits and/or gowns. If desired, set up a wedding website.

9-11 MONTHS BEFORE YOUR BIG DAY! Choose members of the wedding party and assign roles. Make final decisions on the guest list. Choose wedding themes and colors. Pick caterer and discuss what kind of food will be served. Book a florist, ceremony musicians, DJ and/or band for the reception, and a bakery for the cake. Research and select stationary for wedding invitations, thank you notes, etc. If the wedding party participants are wearing dresses or suits, arrange a fitting and have each person order their respective attire. Order other formalwear accessories, if desired.

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6-8 MONTHS BEFORE YOUR BIG DAY! Mail save-the-dates. Discuss ceremony details with the officiant. Choose your honeymoon destination and make all necessary travel and lodging arrangements. Order official invitations and thank-you notes. Prepare plans for the rehearsal dinner.

4-5 MONTHS BEFORE YOUR BIG DAY! Make sure everything is right flower-wise with your florist. Have a room booked for your wedding night. Have cake order finalized. Start making, or purchase, wedding favors. Select your wedding rings.

2-3 MONTHS BEFORE YOUR BIG DAY! Go to various food tastings and make final decisions on the menu. Send out invitations 6-8 weeks in advance. Schedule fittings for wedding gown and veil (if appli cable) 6 weeks out (and again 1-2 weeks out). Make final plans with the officiant for the ceremony. Ensure that hotel rooms for both the wedding night and honeymoon are still booked. Begin making ceremony programs. Create an hour-by-hour schedule of wedding day plans. Get those last-minute accessories! If you’re writing your own wedding vows, this is the time to finish them.

.......................... By, Gretchen Gales – Former Student Fellow

2-3 DAYS BEFORE YOUR BIG DAY! 1 MONTH BEFORE YOUR BIG DAY! Discuss what kinds of photos you want with your photographer and/or videographer and plan where pictures will be taken before, during and after the ceremony. If you have out-of-town guests, have welcome bags ready for them. Mail out invites for the rehearsal dinner.

Confirm times of delivery for the cake and flowers. Confirm meet-up location with the photographer. If place cards, menus, wedding favors, guest book, and other items are a part of the reception, give them to your planner and caterer accordingly. Have the processional and recessional planned out. Make sure your attire is in its best shape. Steam if necessary to eliminate wrinkles. Have your overnight bag packed for your wedding night. Bring welcome bags to the hotel where your guests will be staying.

1-2 WEEKS BEFORE YOUR BIG DAY! Schedule your final wedding gown/veil fitting (if applicable). If there are any missing RSVPs, do a follow-up with the invited guests. Design a seating chart to give to the caterer, planner, photographer, etc. Let your caterer know how many guests are expected, including anyone hired for the event. Make sure everything is in order with all hired staff (musicians, DJ, band, caterer, photographer, wedding planner, etc.). Have all toasts written, rehearsed and ready to go! Make sure you have the marriage license (duh)!

1 DAY BEFORE YOUR BIG DAY! PANIC!!! Then, STOP PANICKING!! Have all materials for the ceremony (décor, accessories, etc.) brought to the site. Rehearse ceremony. Attend rehearsal dinner. Give gifts to your significant other, parents, etc. Have an attendant hold on to the officiant’s fee to be given after the ceremony. Be happy! This is a stressful time, but it’s all worth it when you walk down that aisle.

YOUR BIG DAY! Let yourself be enveloped in the love of your family, friends, community and, of course, your spouse.

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Don’t forget to eat breakfast. Give your body the fuel it needs to get through the big day with a breakfast rich in protein, vitamins and carbs. Even better, pack a couple of energy bars just in case you need a quick pick-me-up before the ceremony starts.

By, Meredith Jenkins


6. 7.







Allow yourself plenty of time to get ready. The goal should be to relax and have a good time with your bridesmaids/groomsmen before the walk down the aisle, not stress over whether you’ll finish in time. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Breathe and enjoy your special day and being with all your loved ones. If something goes wrong, you’re surrounded by people who are willing to help and support you. (Chances are, no one but you will notice any tiny hiccups.) Guys, make a list! Grooms should make a list of all the things they need to do on the morning of the wedding. This will save time and stress, allowing you to be your best when it’s time to say, “I do!” Footloose! You’re going to be on your feet all day. If you bought new shoes for your special day, be sure to break them in one week ahead of time. Pack flats for the reception. Sophisticated ballet-style slippers look great with any wedding dress, so pack a pair to put on when you want to cut loose.

Call in backup! If you can’t hire a wedding coordinator, let your bridesmaids handle some of the day-of logistics. Don’t forget to bring a wedding day survival kit. A typical one includes safety pins, a first aid kit, a Tide-To-Go stain remover pen, and anything else that might fix a minor emergency. Don’t over-do it with the alcohol! This is a day you’ll want to remember clearly for the rest of your life, so make sure you don’t drink too much. (That’s for doing at other peoples’ weddings. Ha!) Keep your wits about you by downing a full glass of water between each alcoholic drink. Don’t forget to eat at the reception! Task someone in your wedding pary to set aside a plate for you. Too risky? Arrange with the caterers to send a couple to-go boxes of food with you when you leave the venue. Stop to take it all in during the ceremony. It’s your day. Don’t be afraid to pause during the ceremony so you can look over the audience, gaze at your spouse, and cherish the moment.

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One Love:

LGBT Families Exhibit Debuts at the Valentine Richmond History Center By, Yasir Afzal - Student Fellow

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ince the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality last year, the notion of the traditional nuclear family is becoming a more obscure and, in some respects obsolete, concept. Families are now made up of so many different combinations of people. To show its support of the LGBTQ community and showcase the rich diversity surrounding the word “family,” the Valentine Richmond History Center (the Valentine) recently opened a new exhibit called One Love: LGBT Families. According to the Valentine’s website, “This exhibition questions the traditional definition of a family through portraits of LGBT families in the Richmond region. Presented in collaboration with Richmond Region Tourism’s OutRVA campaign and photographer Michael Simon.” The exhibit is sponsored by Altria Group, Capital One, Virginia is for Lovers, Diversity Richmond, Q94 and Pride Radio. This remarkable

exhibit is composed of portraits of gay, lesbian, transgender, polyamorous and other combinations of people that express the understated beauty and diversity of the families that populate central Virginia. The idea for One Love: LGBT Families was conceived by Richmond photographer Michael Simon, Katherine O’Donnell of Richmond Region Tourism, and Domenick Casuccio, the Director of Public Relations and Marketing at the Valentine. The concept began to take shape when in 2014, Richmond Region Tourism, via its OutRVA campaign, decided to draw attention to the Richmond region as a romantic haven for LGBT weddings by offering a

Anthony and I have been together for 20 years and were finally “allowed” to legally marry the year our twin girls were born, two years ago. We are both listed on their birth certificates as their fathers. That is rare but thankfully becoming more common. Creating our family was a challenge from the beginning. We worked through three failed adoptions before meeting our surrogate. Here we are two years later with twin girls who are picky eaters, don’t like nap time and love to sing and dance. We cherish every minute of it! We love each other as much as any other family. - Jason Leone 34 | UNITE Virginia

Anthony and Jason Leone and their daughters, Chesterfield County Photographed at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Henrico County

promotional same-sex wedding giveaway. During a radio interview on Diversity Speaks, Simon and Casuccio were discussing the wedding giveaway. The two began musing on the idea of a creating a photo series to accompany the museum’s It’s All Relative exhibit, which houses a photo series of Richmond families throughout its history, that would feature LGBT families. Casuccio noted, “We were discussing the upcoming Richmond tourism campaign and they really wanted to focus on families and attract LGBT families to travel to Richmond. Michael was going to be taking photographs for that campaign and I said, ‘We have an empty gallery downstairs and a family exhibit upstairs. Would it be

possible for us to collaborate on an exhibition since you’ll be doing the imagery anyway?’” That’s when Meg Hughes stepped in. Hughes curated the It’s All Relative exhibit and had worked on a variety of similar collaborations with local photographers in the past on different subjects. The exhibit came together in about six months. During that time, recruiting families for the exhibit was vital. As Hughes and I walked along the downstairs gallery of the Valentine admiring the photos from the One Love: LGBT Families exhibit, she explained, “We did an online recruitment effort in the fall and had more than 50 families express an interest and we selected 20 to be featured.” One of the most interesting facts about the photos is the sheer amount of diversity amongst the chosen families. Hughes noted, “We were really trying to show diversity on every sort of level you can think of.” This includes locality—the families selected represent every county of the region and also show every configuration of a what a “family” is that you can think of. Each family has their own unique story that shines through in each of the photographs. Lingering on this sentiment, Hughes elaborated, “Everybody has families. Everybody has struggles and things that they’re proud of and inner dynamic squabbles. It’s universal and we couldn’t have done this without having people wanting to share their faces and stories with us and everyone else in the world.” Hughes was right. Walking along the rows of photographs I could feel the love radiating from the portraits. Simon didn’t just manage to capture the beauty of the families; but, he also captured the essence of love, which is something difficult for any photographer to do. These aren’t your typical American gothic style family portraits, either. Each has its own story and dynamic. Simon’s talent as a photographer and love of people are evident within the pictures, as well. “I’m always interested in people, period. And as a photographer, I’ve always focused on people. I came to Richmond in 2014 from New York where I photographed a lot of samesex weddings.” His first break in Richmond came when OutRVA brought him in to photograph the wedding of the winners of their same-sex wedding give-away. How did he land that gig? “It was pure luck, just pure luck that I got the job,” he tells me before taking a sip of his coffee in the middle of Urban Farmhouse Market & Café in Scott’s Addition. After the success of OutRVA’s 2014 wedding give-away, O’Donnell approached Simon to work with Richmond Region Tourism again on a project to help increase tourism amongst LGBT families. It was at that moment that the concept behind the One Love: LGBT Families exhibit really started coming together. Simon had some doubts in the beginning, though. “I was nervous. Were we going to get a ton of applications? Or would we get six applications? We really didn’t know. Then we got 50, which I thought was fantastic!”

Monet and Nandi Alexander-Hinton, Richmond City Photographed in Carytown, Richmond City

Family is everything to us. Everything we do is for our family to have a better life. Family is all about love, happiness and acceptance. My family is absolutely insane. We have very strong personalities that can often bump heads, but at the end of the day, we love each other unconditionally. - Monet and Nandi Alexander-Hinton queerva.com | 35

Rachel Leyco, Jennifer Jackson and sons Elijah and Lucas, Chesterfield County Photographed at Pocahontas State Park, Chesterfield County

Elijah was born before our marriage was legally recognized in Virginia. We temporarily relocated to Washington, DC, to assure he would be born where both of our names could be on the birth certificate. My wife then had to adopt the son that was genetically hers (I had carried) to assure her parental rights would be recognized in Virginia. This challenge was not unique to us but was the path chosen by many having children before marriage equality. When Lucas was born here in Richmond, just months earlier our marriage had been legally recognized, allowing us both to be listed as parents on his birth certificate. - Jennifer Jackson Of all the portraits in the exhibit, one of my personal favorites is a beautiful lesbian couple with their two children. The older of the two kids could barely sit still during the shoot. To keep the kid in one place for the shot, Simon grabbed one mother’s blue dress and popped it in the kid’s mouth. It’s these little quirks that make the photos relatable. In some way, you can identify with every single family featured in the exhibit. The personable and idiosyncratic elements in each of the photographs are what Simon and Hughes hope make the exhibit both enjoyable and memorable for visitors. They hope that people walk out of the exhibit seeing that families come in all different shapes and sizes. At the end of the day, all that matters is the love shared between everyone.

One Love: LGBT Families is a beautiful addition to the Valentine, to the greater Richmond region and, indeed, to Virginia. What better way to celebrate love and diversity than giving these families the opportunity to shine! The One Love: LGBT Families exhibit runs from December 1, 2016 through September 4, 2017. An opening reception for the exhibit was held on January 11, 2017.

Our oldest came out to us as transgender in 2015. Now, we have two daughters and a son, but we’re essentially the same family – except that maybe with our hearts opened a bit wider. When we told our two younger children that their brother truly felt she was a sister, we were worried they would resist the change, but they barely skipped a beat. We couldn’t be more proud of the way that they wrapped their minds and arms around their big sister. They’re all fantastic kids! - Kate Hall Kate, Forde, Caroline, Piper and Travis Hall, Henrico County Photographed at Kings Dominion, Hanover County

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ALWAYS a Bridesmaid/Groomsman? By, Tammy Shaklee


hile the traditional straight wedding season has historically been in June, the same-sex wedding season feels like it’s NOW! Do you feel like you’re often in the wedding party, yet always a party of one? When inside, you’re ready to be the one walking down the aisle for the ring and lifetime commitment? I recently met a lesbian single who is attending a niece’s wedding this spring. Her strongest feeling of loneliness and longing for a partner is sparked by the thought of attending such a large family celebration without even a compatible date. While she’s not yet ready for personal offline matchmaking, I can’t let her miss the opportunity to take pro-active steps now to be her own matchmaker. Sometimes it’s as easy as stepping away from the laptop, turning off your devices and trying different things. That’s what I’m hoping works for her and all LGBT singles. Here are some tips to help you become your own matchmaker: • Get Fresh. A new or trendy top, jeans, or outfit can take years off your age and attitude, especially if the cute single stylist in the department store picks it out with you in person. Pair that with a self-imposed mini-makeover of teeth whitening, new trendy glasses frames or contacts. Top it off with a trendy hair cut or style from a new stylist—one who cuts someone’s hair that you admire. Now get out there! • MeetUp. Check out the social online site MeetUp.com ONLY long enough to select three LGBT specific events to attend at least once to check them out. New ones are added weekly.

• Volunteer. Sign up to work advocacy events, especially the registration table, for your passion, politics or pets. This is a great way to meet like-minded singles. • Go Shopping. For up to two months, try a new coffee shop, gym, yoga studio or LGBT-friendly faith-based service. Be a visitor in your own city, but outside of your neighborhood. • Break Up. For one month, change up your routine. Try out a different grocery store, dry cleaners, car wash or dog park to switch up being a regular. They’ll notice you as the newbie, as they are all new to you. • Call Your Crushes. You know who they are, so set a goal to invite three of them to meet for a coffee, drink or open mic night. You’ll have fresh topics and places to discuss them. Plus, you’ll show your crush what a hip, or at least relevant, single you are in your city. • Shoot for a Headshot. Before returning to social media, why not update your online profile, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram and/or Facebook with a new photo shot by a real photographer with all the latest looks. • Plan a Party. Buddy up with a friend or neighbor to cohost a social or mixer with a strategy to meet your goals. Every couple coming must bring a dateable single, for example. Start this season feeling refreshed, engaged and current. Whether you try any or all of the above, you’re going to be a more interesting single, meet a slew of new acquaintances, try new experiences and become more eligible than when your friend’s wedding invitation first arrived. Good luck! Tammy Shaklee is the Founder of H4M (He’s For Me) and a self-described Gay Matchmaker. For more dating tips and information on Tammy’s matchmaking business, please visit www.h4m.com. queerva.com | 37


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’m going to be frank. The last half of 2016 and beginning of 2017 were some of the most tumultuous times I’ve experienced in the past decade. Even if I were offered a “redo,” I’d refuse out of fear that everything might work out the same way, and I have no desire to re-experience any of it. I’ve been contemplating the nature of change and how it comes in the form of both something beautiful (birth of a baby) and tragic (losing someone you love), but regardless of the disguise “change” is wearing, it is a catalyst that always offers us the opportunity to grow into better versions of ourselves, which to me is “the point” of life. As an exercise, I took an event in my life and asked—What happened before this moment that caused this moment to happen?—and when I followed this question repeatedly, I saw that “change” itself is a type of shapeshifter. It is cyclical in nature, and impactful events occur that at first might appear completely unrelated. Beauty is born from tragedy which is born from beauty, and for me the ultimate take away is this—even in times of hardship do not despair, as change is inevitable and we have absolutely no way of knowing what is going to happen, but that doesn’t mean there is no hope. Life is infinitely creative, so to believe any one of us can predict how things will unfold is nothing but a fallacy. To demonstrate my point here is an example from my own life that spans over a 21-year period.


On February 25, 1996, a baby girl was born. Her parents named her Hannah, and she was beautiful—a gift.


Fast forward 18 years to October 18, 2014, the day Hannah’s body was found on a vacant property in Albemarle county. She was last seen on September 13, 2014. I’m speaking of the highly-publicized murder of Hannah Graham, a UVA student living in Charlottesville, VA. I did not know her nor do I know her family, but this tragedy affected me on a deep emotional level as tragedy like this often does. At first Hannah’s death appeared completely disconnected from my immediate experience of life, but that was about to change.

Shockwaves moved through the community as this was the second time in five years a young woman had been abducted and violently murdered—Morgan Harrington being the first. Women in our community felt fearful and vulnerable, understandably.


Acknowledging the collective fear, the local newspaper published an article about women’s self-defense classes. Because I teach women’s self-defense, I was interviewed for the article and the story ran on October 12, 2014, just six days before Hannah was found. The day after the article came out, I was contacted unexpectedly by a woman who read it; she chaired the planning committee for Quadruplicity, a regional conference for professional women, and she asked if I would be willing to present a workshop at the conference, scheduled for February 2015. I agreed and this seemingly “random act” opened doors in my life that I never could have imagined. Because of the impact my workshop made, I was invited to serve as the closing speaker for the entire conference in 2016. The opportunity to share my message of women’s empowerment in front of a crowd of 300 women led to new connections and relationships that today in 2017, some three years after Hannah Graham’s tragic death, are supporting my work of helping women and girls heal from the devastating effects of sexual and domestic violence. (See my non-profit’s website: www.earthbasedhealing.org for more information).

The Takeaway

Everything is connected whether we see those connections or not, and each of us has made a profound impact on the lives of people we’ve never even met. Hannah Graham’s death impacted not only my work, but the lives of every woman who will attend my programs. I also know from experience that in our darkest hours—when it feels like our lives have crumbled into an unpredictable and chaotic mess—that held within our anxious uncertainty is the potential for beauty and love to emerge. Recognizing the beauty is always a choice. So as we navigate 2017, a year that feels unlike any other, my greatest hope is that we come together in tragic moments but still ask ourselves what beauty is asking to emerge from the tragedy.

How can we each transform difficult events into acts of peace, compassion, and love? We each have the power to make this choice just as we could equally choose to focus on fear and divisiveness. What we want our world to look like is directly related to the choices we each make. To choose love and compassion takes what I call “courageous vulnerability.” To be sure, I’m not saying it is easy. At my retreats, I guide the women in observing Mother Nature, our greatest teacher on all things related to change. Death/birth, tragedy/beauty, love/pain— none of these are separate experiences, as demonstrated by the rotting tree that disintegrates into the Earth while also providing shelter and nutrients for new life to emerge. It doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge the death of the tree; it simply means we don’t stop there. We keep asking ourselves—What happened before this moment that caused this moment to happen?— and we’ll begin to reveal the miraculous dance of life, appreciating how the dead tree was at one time born because something else died and now, you can observe new life growing from the dead tree—beauty born from tragedy born from beauty. Once we can see this cycle, it empowers us to hope even in the face of adversity. We have no control over anything except how we respond to life, which quite literally creates our reality. Do we want a world filled with hate or love? I choose love every single time, and I am inviting you to join me in creating that beautiful world in 2017. Michele Zehr, M.A., M.Ed., is the founder of We2 LLC: Women’s Experiential Empowerment. She custom-designs and facilitates empowerment workshops for a wide-range of professionals, offers oneon-one Soul Weaving coaching, teaches R.A.D. Self-Defense for Women, and gives Transformational Talks by invitation. To learn more about Michele’s other services, please visit her website at: www.we2empower.com or contact her via email at: info@we2empower.com or by phone at 434-218-2462.

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For the Love of David By, Rayceen Pendarvis, HRH



remember the day when I fell in love with him. While hanging out with Geneva, China, and Jaquan, my inner circle of friends who have since become my guardian angles, I met this man who had recently arrived in DC from Redbank, NJ. On this one night, there would eventually be nearly twenty of us traveling together for our own safety. We were a colorful group—from butch to femme and bougie to banjee—dancing and singing in the streets of our nation’s capital as if we were the cast of Fame. After leaving Little Tavern, we were all sitting on the steps of the National Museum of American Art. David began to sing and I had a revelation. I knew he loved music, but this was the first time I heard his beautiful singing voice. In that moment, it was as if everyone else vanished and he was singing just for me. He crooned and I swooned; it was love. The next day, I called Geneva. David had been staying at her home, and I wanted to learn everything I could about this man with whom I had become so enraptured. Before I could ask about him, Geneva informed me that David had been asking about me.

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David and I spent time together and we became hooked on each other; love was the drug and it was an addiction for which we didn’t want a cure. Long before there was marriage equality, we exchanged rings and promised each other that our love would bind us. We were committed to each other before God and everyone around us knew that our love was something we would let no man put asunder. For much of our time together, we had a long-distance relationship. This would be challenging for many, but, in many ways, it made our relationship stronger. I was on Amtrak from DC to New York so frequently that I knew the conductors by name. Seeing David was the highlight of my week. True love is a gift that adds and never takes away; what I had with David embodied that. He affirmed, supported, and adored me. With David, I never felt too fat, too femme, or too much because he encouraged me to be me and accepted me in every way. His strength allowed me to be vulnerable because he was never afraid to share his emotions. In many ways, he enabled me to find the courage to be free. For a time when we lived together, my daughters lived with us. Seeing him interact with them and how they grew to adore each other was a beautiful experience. In a time before same-sex couples raising children was commonplace, my girls had two daddies. We were not challenging the status quo; we were simply living our truth. Being introduced to his mother was another gift he gave me. I was grateful for her love and acceptance; Mrs. Davis became a second mother to me. I will never forget that moment in 2009 when I received the call from Mrs. Davis telling me that her only son, the man I loved and with whom I shared twenty years of my life, had passed away. In that instance, I could not breathe and the waves of emotion which hit me were amplified as I began to weep for her losing her child. I then had to find the strength to take the trip, on my birthday, to bury my soul mate. As had often been the case, I found strength in David’s presence. Upon arriving at the church two hours early, the custodian let me in and, upon noticing my suitcase, asked if I was Rayceen. A woman arrived shortly after me, and after I mentioned that I had traveled from DC, she asked if I was Rayceen, about whom she often heard David speak. I felt David’s presence then and I have felt it every day since. Love never dies.

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I honor David by speaking about the importance of love. When I’m on stage, and I talk about kindness and compassion, I’m honoring our love. I want LGBTQ people to know that they deserve to be loved. I want the children to experience love in their lives. That’s why I want to fix people up. I mention that my collaborator, Zar, is single and eligible every chance I get; I tell Team Rayceen volunteers to be open to possibility, and; I encourage attendees of The Ask Rayceen Show to mingle and introduce themselves to someone new. I do all these things for the love of David. Like Corretta Scott King, I’m married to the movement.

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David would sing to me on my birthday at the stroke of midnight. Even if we were experiencing strife, I would hear a song. It has been several years since I’ve heard that beautiful voice of his, but on my birthday, I have my memories. David continues to sing to me in my dreams. Rayceen Pendarvis is an emcee, entertainer, activist, and host of The Ask Rayceen Show, a free, monthly, live event in Washington, DC, which began a new season March 1, 2017, at the HRC Equality Center. Rayceen Pendarvis, Team Rayceen, and The Ask Rayceen Show are on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. For more information, please visit www.AskRayceen.com.

Rayceen Pendarvis is an emcee, entertainer, activist, and host of The Ask Rayceen Show, a free, monthly, live event in Washington, DC, which began a new season March 1, 2017, at the HRC Equality Center. Rayceen Pendarvis, Team Rayceen, and The Ask Rayceen Show are on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. For more information, please visit www. AskRayceen.com.

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By, Justin Ayars, JD

n a balmy Veterans Day afternoon, I drove up to the Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel, valeted my car and walked into the lobby as strong gusts of wind blew my shiny gray suit jacket and bright yellow tie every which way. As I entered the lobby, I got ahold of my wayward tie, buttoned my suit jacket and was greeted by TJ Flavell. Standing alone smartly dressed amongst a sea of porters and people in t-shirts checking into their rooms, TJ greeted me with a smile and a warm handshake. He thanked me for coming to the historic occasion that was about to commence in the grand ballroom downstairs. Earlier that day, President Obama visited Arlington Cemetery to honor America’s veterans where he noted that our military is the “single-most diverse institution in our country -- soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and coastguardsmen who represent every corner of our country, every shade of humanity, immigrant and native-born, Christian, Muslim, Jew, and nonbeliever alike, all forged into common service.” Although only a stone’s throw from Arlington Cemetery, the occasion being marked that eve-

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ning at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel was not related to one of our nation’s most sacred holidays; rather, it was the 35th Anniversary celebration of the Arlington Gay & Lesbian Alliance (AGLA) and the organization’s annual Equality Awards Dinner. TJ Flavell, then President of AGLA, invited me to attend the event on behalf of Q Virginia magazine, the event’s official media sponsor. After TJ directed me downstairs, I reviewed my notes about this year’s Equality Award recipients and prepared to interview them as well as some of the event’s guest speakers. Normally, AGLA presents Equality Awards to an individual and an organization that have demonstrated a record of improving LGBTQ equality. This year, AGLA decided to add another Equality Award to honor a family. In addition to the Equality Awards, AGLA invited several special guest speakers to commemorate the organization’s 35th year of operations in northern Virginia, including Virginia Senator Adam Ebbin and Amanda Simpson, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Operational Energy).

Before starting my interviews, I grabbed a drink and popped into the bathroom labeled “men” to make a pit stop and ensure that my hair was just right. As I silently bemoaned my appearance in the mirror under offensively bright fluorescent lighting, I heard the bathroom door open and saw a drag queen walk in. We smiled at each other, said hello, and I proceeded to wash my hands. As I exited the bathroom, I noticed a trans man walking towards the door. I held the door open and he thanked me as he walked in. As I sauntered over to the “green room” where my interviewees were waiting, I smiled and thought to myself what a shame it is that the rest of the country can’t make the “bathroom issue” a nonissue.

AGLA BESTOWS ITS FIRST EVER FAMILY EQUALITY AWARD TO THE GRIMM FAMILY This year marked the first time AGLA gave out a Family Equality Award, which went to the Grimm family. Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student in Virginia, and his family have been thrust into the national spotlight over the past two years ever since they became part of a legal battle that has put them in the center of a national debate about transgender rights. During his sophomore year—after receiving hormone therapy treatments and using public bathrooms that corresponded to his gender identify for some time—Gavin began using the boys’ bathroom at Gloucester High School. The school’s principal had no problem with this and for several months Gavin went about his life as a normal high school student. However, in December of 2014, the county’s school board issued a policy that required students to use bathrooms that correspond to their biological sex and mandated that transgender students use a single-stall restroom. In 2015, Grimm sued the school board saying that the new policy was

discriminatory and violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination by schools. During the Obama administration, the Departments of Education and Justice held that sex discrimination included discrimination based on gender identity. Although a U.S. District Court dismissed Grimm’s suit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit sided with him in April of 2016. Upset with the decision, the school board appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which last fall agreed to hear the case in 2017. Now a senior, Gavin has become the face of a national conversation and legal battle about transgender rights. With tears welling up in her eyes, Gavin’s mother, Deirdre, told me that she is very proud of her son. “I’m proud of everything that he’s accomplished. This isn’t where we thought we’d be two years ago.” When asked about AGLA’s family Equality Award, Deirdre blushed. “I’m very honored because it seems like it’s unnecessary. Gavin is an incredible kid and being his mom is an honor enough. I try to stay in the background. This stuff makes me very nervous.” At that moment, it was Gavin who was in the background, standing behind his mother, just as she had stood behind him during these trying years. Deirdre noted that the hardest part of her family’s incredible journey these past two years “has been watching some of the suffering he’s had to go through because we live in a small town and people aren’t as open minded there. It’s hard to watch his whole high school experience be ruined.” She paused and turned to face Gavin. Returning her focus to me, her face beamed and she said, “He’s made the best out of a bad situation. That’s how Gavin does things.” When I asked Deirdre what she wants for her son after he graduates from high school and their court battle comes to a close, she didn’t miss a beat. “I would like Gavin to be the President of the United States. I think he’d make a great one!” With that, Gavin gave me a noticeable eye-roll, shook his head as if saying “no way in hell will that happen,” hugged his mom, stepped forward and we began to chat. UNITE Virginia | unitevamag.com | 49 queerva.com | 49

Exclusive Interview with Gavin Grimm

that that it’s a symbol to all the marginalized people: Muslims, immigrants, gay people, transgender people. It’s a symbol that says: we’re here for you; you’re safe with me; I’ll sit next to you on the train or stand next to you at the store. You can look to people wearing safety pins as a network of support. In the wake of the Trump election, I have taken on the symbol to show that love trumps hate.


You’ve been in the news a lot recently, what’s that been like?

When speaking about the LGBTQ community, some people feel that the T in LGBTQ is often left out. Do you feel this way?




It’s been interesting to commit two years of my life, especially my high school career, to a very public image.


Has that made you feel like you’ve had a different high school experience? Perhaps missing out on opportunities? Or do you feel you’ve had opportunities that others in high school could never have?

I think that it’s a difficult question because on the one hand, the LGB movement ushered in the T aspect of it. The T has always gone hand in hand with the LG and B, historically speaking. I think that’s largely because early on, transgender


I read and I like to write and draw. I like video games. I spend too much time with my cat, Rascal. I’ve got three cats, but Rascal is my main squeeze. I play Pokémon Go quite a bit. I gotta catch them all! I’m kind of subdued in my activities and interests.


My role models have been people who have gone through their lives authentically without being discouraged and without making any apologies for themselves. That includes a wide range of people. Most recently I have found role models in my team at the ACLU. I admire every single one of them like family and I think they are all incredible people.


If you had to describe your personality with a color, what would it be and why?


I’d say brown because I consider myself fairly down to earth. But then, also, it’s a very warm color and a very natural color. It’s also a very non-offensive color. It goes with everything and I’m such a people person that I fit into that role very well.


I’ve always struggled in school. I’ve always been bullied, treated as an outcast and things like that, so I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything that I would otherwise have had except for the equal opportunity of education that my peers have. This is, of course, significantly damaging given that I’m forcibly ostracized. But overall, I think I’ve been given incredible opportunities that I otherwise would not have had, and that very few people would ever have. So, for that I am thankful.


Since this is the 35th anniversary of AGLA and your family is being recognized with an Equality Award, what does this event mean to you?



What do you want to do after high school?


I want to take a long nap! After that, I want to pursue higher education. I feel like what I want to do will be largely dictated by the opportunities before me. I have absolutely no way of gauging what will be there at that point, so I’m kinda playing it by ear with higher education as the goal.

I see you’re wearing a safety pin on your tie. What does that symbolize?

and transsexual was seen as just another form of sexual orientation rather than an entirely separate gender identity. The problem we have today is that people don’t know the difference between the two. They don’t realize that a trans man can be a gay man, or a straight man or a bisexual man. I think it’s necessary to have a degree of separation so that kind of misinformation does not continue. But, I think the history of the LGBTQ community as a whole is so intimately intertwined with one another. I think it’s healthy to have that community and that space for everybody, so as long as the message is put out that being transgender is completely isolated from being lesbian, gay and bisexual. The LGBTQ acronym is fine because we all need that sense of community.




What would you want to study in college?


I adore science. That’s my first passion. But as far as careers in those fields, I’m not sure what’s out there. I have an equal love for education and I love English and reading. One of my aspirations is to be an English teacher. But I’m not sure what’s out there so I’m playing it by ear.


The safety pin originated from the U.K.’s Brexit Movement. The idea behind it was 50 | UNITE Virginia

Do you have any role models?

What do you like to do outside of battling injustices around the country?

Without the support of my family, I could be nowhere near where I am now. I wouldn’t be who I am today. It’s crucially important for transgender people, and children especially, to get that kind of support from their family and that endorsement to be who they are. The recognition of myself and my family today is very touching to me. I am very humbled and grateful that we are receiving this award because my parents deserve the recognition that they’re getting for standing by me in a situation that was alien to them. They had to completely revolutionize their world view, and they did because they love me.


How do you think your role in the legal system will impact you in the years to come?


Certainly, I’ll never be able to get away from the image of Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I imagine in the future I will be sought out for events like this and I’ll hopefully continue my path of activism in some capacity.

THE GRIMM FAMILY’S RESOLVE REMAINS RESOLUTE IN THE ERA OF TRUMP This past February, a few months after the AGLA reception, the Trump administration reversed Obama-era federal guidelines which dictated that transgender students should be allowed to use restrooms that match their gender identity. After the Trump administration reversed federal policy, Gavin appeared at an ACLU rally outside of the White House and vowed to keep fighting for transgender rights at the U.S. Supreme Court. “I will stand before the U.S. Supreme Court [and ask that it permit] transgender students like me [to] have the right to be treated just like our peers.” He continued, “We will not be beaten down by this administration or any.”

Circuit initially heard the case, it avoided this larger issue and opted to rule on the basis of the Obama era federal guidelines. Now it will have to address the matter and issue its own independent analysis— something no appeals court has done to date. It is worth noting that the U.S. Supreme Court does not usually hear a case and make a determination on an issue like this unless at least one appellate court has done so and, preferably, more than one. Similar cases in other parts of the country are pending, so it is likely that other appeals courts will weigh in on the matter in the near future. For Grimm, the recent order means that he will be blocked from using the boys’ bathroom at school and that he will likely graduate from high school with the issue unresolved. The nation’s eyes are now focused on Richmond as the lower court reexamines the case and grapples with the larger Title IX issue. Stay tuned.

The U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. on March 28th. However, on March 6th, the high court vacated the lower court’s ruling in favor of Grimm saying that because the Trump administration recently withdrew the federal government’s guidance that schools should let transgender students use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identities, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit should reconsider the dispute between the parties. The justices did not comment on the case beyond the one-sentence order returning the matter to the lower court. Both parties wanted the case to proceed so that the U.S. Supreme Court could resolve the larger issue about whether the sex discrimination ban in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 includes a ban on anti-transgender discrimination. Now the lower court in Richmond will need to address this question. When the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th

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Being Single: The Best Way to Prepare for a Relationship By, Amanda Hallesjo – Student Fellow


lot of people think that being in a relationship is the best part of their lives. I believe they’re wrong. There will always be things about ourselves that we know off the top of our heads, such as our height or our weight. But being single allows you to discover the secrets you need to know to one day be in a happy relationship. Being single allows you to find yourself and what you really like. Do I like guys or do I like girls? What are my strengths and weaknesses? Am I social or quiet? Am I an honest person or am I too scared to speak up? There are so many traits that you will find out about yourself when you’re single that are crucial in a relationship. Being single is about looking for something to love and not necessarily needing it back. It’s about being the best version of you instead of making someone else a better person. If you have more question marks than exclamation points about yourself before entering a relationship, even though the relationship could potentially be great, it will most likely crash. The secret of a success-

ful relationship is to stay single as long as possible. Being single doesn’t mean staying at home with a tub of popcorn to your right and a soda to your left while watching Netflix (unless you’re binge watching House of Cards); rather, it’s about going out and exploring. Meet new people from all walks of life. Being single is about gaining confidence. Tell yourself you’re beautiful and awesome—you don’t need to hear that from someone else. When you’re in a relationship, you sometimes need to put someone else’s life in front of yours. It’s not always you who comes first. But being single means that you can do whatever you want without the need of someone else’s opinion. You are capable of seizing the day according to your preferences and that is a rare luxury. Shared happiness is the best happiness, but to get there you need to cherish your single life. The greatest life goal for a lot of people is to find their soul mate and get married—to share their life with someone they love and someone they can trust.” But to love someone to that extent, you need to love yourself first. You need to trust your values, learn how to find your passion in life and to always stay true to yourself. Being single prepares you for that one day when you’re standing at the alter looking at your soul mate with no question marks—just a heart filled with the confidence you’ve gained from loving yourself as an individual. queerva.com | 53


What You Seek is Seeking You By, Tammy Shaklee

Whether currently a married, singleton, fiancé’ or divorcee, we can each relate to “the search.” We are seekers. We don’t just wake up and wait for things to happen. We face each day as the opportunity to go for what we truly want for ourselves. Whether it’s related to career, passion, interests, for our chosen family, or even in finding love. In any given week, I am inundated with friends and acquaintances, young and old, all consistently complaining about online dating. Among the complaints is the volume to sift through of alleged singles seeking a “long-term relationship” on the many dating sites and smartphone apps. But what I hear repeatedly is about those faking it when, “All they want is a hookup.” After five years of listening to this, I am never told, “It’s so worth it.” The overriding theme of complaints often seems to be indecency, with the runners up, lack of class, sophistication, and a good person. Texting, sexting, and immediate sharing and requesting of photos of your “goods” may provide immediate gratification or turn on for some, but more often I hear how off-putting it is. As a client once said, “I’ve been out with him three times, but I could never date him long-term.” Why, I asked. “Because I met him on Grindr.” Yes, but you were on Grindr too. “Yes, but I could never be serious about a man I met on Grindr.” And so the struggle continues.

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Quality singles recognize the value in themselves. They have and continue to work hard, and are proud of their progress, their accomplishments, their goals and dreams. They love animals, children, fellow man, and the elderly. They are kind, have compassion, empathy. They work to be the best they can be. They often say, “I just want him (or her) to be a decent human being, genuine, kind, who takes good care of themselves.” What might surprise you is that never once has someone interviewed with us asking for a “millionaire.” Never. Genuine singles are out there. And they simply want their person. They are realistic enough to recognize that they themselves aren’t perfect, so they’re not seeking perceived perfection. They can recognize their own quirks, so are open to those of others. My favorite closing in many of our interviews is in simply sharing that, “You are not alone.” I promise that there are other quality singles just like you, as I meet them every week. He (or she) is also frustrated being single, and they are also searching for you, and some days wonder where you are, and when you’ll arrive in their world. What you seek is seeking you. So don’t give up just because your last relationship or prospect ended. No regrets. Each relationship and experience is preparing you for the right relationship. So on the days, evenings, or weekends when you get discouraged, design a new search for yourself. Offline. Quality singles meet like-minded compatible matches offline, too. It worked for our ancestors for generations.


Raising the Transgender Child By, Terri Schlichenmeyer

Your preschooler has always had an active imagination. Flights of fancy and dress-up fill his days. Make-believe has always been a big part in your child’s life but now you’re hearing something you know in your heart is not pretend— and in the new book Raising the Transgender Child by Dr. Michele Angello & Alisa Bowman, you’ll find guidance for it. In retrospect, you might’ve seen it coming: your son told you once that he was really a girl or your daughter cried when you wouldn’t let her get a buzz-cut. You’ve suddenly realized, or your child has told you, that “zie” is a gender-diverse pronoun. Either way, Angello and Bowman point out that few parents are immediately 100% prepared for raising a child like yours. Know this: you’re not alone. Others have raised transgender children before you and have “blazed trails” already. Your feelings are normal. So is your worry and confusion about gender dysphoria. Dysphoria. Now, there’s a word you might have seen while doing research in print or online. There are, in fact, many terms you’ll want to know when raising a gender-diverse child, starting with the difference between “sex” and “gender.” And by the way, as for shaky “studies” and internet myths, set them aside. There are many theories on “what leads to gender diversity,” and a lot of unknowns. Again, put arguments away and ignore negativity; all kids are different, and so are their gender experiences. Is it worth obsessing over? Probably not; you love your child regardless, so prepare yourself for a toe-dip into “social transition.” Talk with teachers, neighbors, and take steps to make relatives aware of new pronouns and appearance. Educate yourself on public bathrooms, team sports, and other legalities. Know when to ask for help – both financial and emotional. Remember that grief is common, and that your child may experience issues, too.

Know this: you’re not alone. Others have raised transgender children before you and have “blazed trails” already. Your feelings are normal. The other thing that sets this book apart is its comprehensiveness. Authors Angello and Bowman seem to have thought of everything Mom, Dad, or caregiver could possibly need to know about present issues and what’s to come. It’s all easy to comprehend, too, and it covers children from small toddler to older teen. Particularly vexed parents will be happy to see that the authors even tackle unpleasant situations and emotions that may need to be heeded along this journey. Whether you need it now, or you sense that you might later, Raising the Transgender Child is a good book to have in your parenting bag of tricks. For questioning children and families with questions, it’s more helpful, perhaps, than you can imagine.

Finally, dare to dream again. Zie will grow up one day and, as the authors say, will eventually fall in love with “Someone wonderful and amazing…” As a parent of a transgender child, you may think that all this is common-sense stuff you’ve heard before—and that may be; but, there’s a certain calmness inside Raising the Transgender Child that can’t be beat.

Dr. Michele Angello

Alisa Bowman

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CONNECT Science + Love = Life: Transgender People the Ability to Have their own Biological Children By, Dr. Shahin Ghadir


ay couples having babies has become the norm… but what about a transgender man who has been given the opportunity to use his own eggs to have a biological baby. Science has now allowed transgender people to be biological parents to their own children. Dr. Shahin Ghadir at the Southern California Reproductive Center is at the forefront of helping transgender people have their own biological babies by freezing their eggs before they medically transition. This allows a genetic connection with their children, which is very important to many people. Dr. Ghadir has a transgender patient who is willing to share his story about deciding to freeze his eggs while he was still a woman. Meet Spencer Sweat, a transgender man who had given up on the idea of having his own biological child, but who is now preparing for exactly that. While assigned female gender at birth, Spencer knew at an early age that it was a mistake. His sense of self was male. His hair had been cut short since age 6. He underwent breast reduction surgery at age 16. But it wasn’t until he was in his 20’s, newly commissioned as a Lieutenant in the United States Air Force, that he felt the need to pursue a medical transition. He started saving for the surgery, and was finally ready for his first consultation with a doctor at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. He was shocked when the doctor asked if he wanted to freeze his genetic material for future use, prior to beginning hormone therapy. Sweat had thought about children, but figured adoption was the answer. He also had considered having children with a lesbian partner, but always assumed it would involve donor material. He figured that would have to be “enough.” He said, “no babies or breastfeeding for me, but at least we could have babies for us.” But now, he had another option, one he couldn’t pass up, even though he was concerned that the expense would delay his transition. Sweat says, “My gut told me this was to be part of my transition no matter the price. Like anybody I want to be a parent, and more than anything I want to be a father. I had to try.”

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Sweat reached out to the Southern California Reproductive Center and staff members assured him they could help. He says their excitement and commitment has provided him with a means to move forward, without forfeiting his future as a man. He says, “I will try to have a family and still be able to become the man I’ve always been and I am excited to see what the future brings.” Recognized as the vanguard in reproductive science for more than 25 years, the Southern California Reproductive Center (SCRC) enjoys an enviable reputation extending to patients around the globe seeking stress-free pregnancies and successful births. Its team of respected physicians, fertility and in-house laboratory specialists offers a broad range of resources including in vitro fertilization (IVF), embryology, pre-implementation genetic diagnosis (PGD), surrogacy, egg freezing, sperm freezing, assisted reproductive technology and IVF financing. Based in Beverly Hills, SCRC has seven offices throughout Southern


Women & Physical Therapy By, Joanna Bierlein


hether the patient’s testimonial (below the photo) is from a heterosexual female who conceived naturally with her husband or a lesbian woman who conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) with her wife is irrelevant to postpartum recovery. For decades, women were led to believe the complications they experienced after pregnancy were inevitable, normal, and acceptable. It was an embarrassing reality to admit they would leak a little when they coughed, sneezed, or laughed. They were told to get through the discomfort of sexual activities with a glass of wine and some medicine. Worst of all, the lack of education from their medical professionals allowed women to become complacent in the idea that there was nothing they could do to change it. Women’s health physical therapy is a realm of health care which has been heating up in the past several years. Women are experiencing relief from their symptoms, whether one month or 30 years postpartum. The awareness of available interventions and education on what women can do for themselves before, during, and after delivery is still lacking, leaving a large portion of the population stuck in the previous frame of mind that leakage and discomfort are simply normal. With marriage equality, there has also been an increase in the number of couples participating in IVF. Therefore, an increasing number of lesbian women are delivering babies, which means – you guessed it – homosexual women are experiencing the same pelvic symptoms as heterosexual women! Imagine that. In our society today, it truly does not matter the sexual orientation of a woman when discussing the importance of postpartum physical therapy intervention. Simply put, women – all women – experience a significant amount of physical change and pelvic trauma when having a baby. Wouldn’t it make sense to have these issues addressed both before and immediately following births?

“No one told me to seek out physical therapy during or after my pregnancy – I found out for myself.” – Women’s Health Physical Therapy Patient

All women need to know they don’t have to simply accept pelvic discomfort with intimacy. No woman should have to live with incontinence. Every woman deserves to feel Postpartum Strong®.

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Tips on How to Write a Great Best Man’s Speech

By, Jesse LaVancher

Being the Best Man at a wedding is both an honor and a huge responsibility. From planning the bachelor party, holding the rings during the ceremony and generally making sure the groom has the best day of his life as he marries the man (or woman) of his dreams, the Best Man plays a critical role in the both the planning and execution phases of the wedding. One of the most daunting tasks of being Best Man is giving a speech in front of the entire group of people who have come together to take part in the wedding festivities. Beyond the obvious rule of not getting too drunk before delivering your speech, there’s actually a proven formula to follow when it comes to writing a speech that’s genuine, heart-felt and entertaining. Follow these five simple writing tips (and avoid these five pitfalls) to ensure that your speech delivers both tears and laughter to the audience and, especially, to the happy newlyweds.

1.) Don’t wing it. Like anything else in life, in order to do well at something you must plan, train and take the entire speech writing process seriously. Pitfall #1: Don’t forget to thank the hosts. Get this out of the way at the beginning. But don’t waste time thanking everyone else—that’s that groom’s job. 2.) Create an outline (just like you did for essays back in school). Sure, you probably have a plethora of funny stories about the groom from high school, college and/or work. Rather than list those past antics expecting people to ROFLMAO, ask yourself what qualities you think of when you think of the groom. This thought process will allow you to generate a list of bullet points that can serve as the skeleton of your speech. Once you have a solid list of bullet points, think of stories that demonstrate those qualities. Pitfall #2: When you come up with stories that demonstrate the qualities of the groom you’d like to share, be sure that the stories are tales everyone in the room can relate to. Do NOT tell private jokes. Doing so will exclude audience members and will make your speech fall flat. 3.) Keep your speech brief, light and humorous. Your speech should not be the next great American novel. Keep it to 5 minutes, tops. When it comes to content, aim to have 70% of your speech be humorous and 30% be sentimental. After all, you’re celebrating a joyous occasion and you don’t want your speech to be a buzzkill. Imagine that you have the audience laughing for a few minutes and then you deliver a few profound sentences. Now that, my friends, it a great formula for a successful speech. Pitfall #3: Don’t go to the Internet for jokes. All the humor you need to make a great speech can be expressed through shared experiences that the audience can relate to. While Jamiroquai can get away with “Canned Heat,” you will not be able to get away with canned jokes. Period.

4.) Make the speech all about the newlyweds. Remember the key rule of public speaking: know your audience. The guests at the wedding just want to have a good time. Don’t make your speech full of stories about how much you love the groom. No one cares about that. Instead, share unexpected traits about the couple through shared stories. Of course, the majority of your speech is going to be about the groom; but, don’t forget to include remarks about his new husband (or bride). If you don’t know much about your buddy’s spouse, ask friends who might be able to provide you with information about him/her that you can use in your speech. Including the other spouse is a sign of respect and demonstrates that you truly know what this big day is all about—the newlyweds (not you). Pitfall #4: Take the words “I” and “me” out of your speech. If you make the speech about you, you’ve already lost the attention of your audience and you’ve failed to make your words reflect the true stars of the day—the newlyweds. 5.) Give your speech some structure (again, just like your essays back in school). Every story should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Start by making a statement about the groom like, “Joe is the most ambitions person I know.” Then back up your statement with some entertaining and thoughtful stories. At the end of your speech, revisit your initial idea, but explain how that idea has evolved now that he’s married his one, true love. “Since Joe met John (or Jane), he’s even more driven.” Making this connection not only shows how much you care about the groom, but it also reflects the respect you have for the couple now that they’re married. Pitfall #5: Don’t read your speech from a script. Memorize it! If you stick to a printed script, you’ll only be concentrating on your next line rather than making an authentic connection with to the newlyweds and the audience.

Follow these five tips—and avoid these five pitfalls—and you’ll be well on your way to writing and delivering a fantastic Best Man’s speech. Good luck! This story could not have been possible without the help of Men’s Health magazine and author Dan Michel. queerva.com | 65


If you’re a LGBTQ Virginian, you probably have seen the beautiful, smiling faces of Carol Schall, Mary Townley and their teenage daughter, Emily Townley, in the newspapers, on television and, perhaps, on the frontlines of Virginia’s battle for marriage equality. Emily’s two moms were plaintiffs in the now-famous Bostic v. Rainey case that helped bring marriage equality to the Commonwealth. Just three short years ago, this loving family—including Emily, who was just a young teenager at the time—was thrust into the limelight as Carol and Mary fought for equality, justice and love. As the case wound its way through the courts, Emily was taking history and math exams. As opponents of marriage equality were lamenting the “traditional” institution of marriage and publicly lambasting her two moms as immoral sinners, Emily was learning how to drive. As she stood with her family alongside Attorney General Mark Herring in front of a sea of supporters, protesters and reporters, Emily was overcome with joy… while also worrying about graduating from high school and getting into college.

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The remarkable story of Carol and Mary—their love for each other and their relentless courage to battle an unjust system— is well documented and justly historic. What is less familiar is the story of their daughter, Emily. Last year, in her college application essay, Emily recounted how her family’s experience shaped her character, gave her strength and helped her find her true voice. QUESTION:

Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again? ANSWER:

It was cold on the morning of February 4, 2014, and I shivered as I stood outside in the brisk Norfolk, Virginia air (of all days to forget my coat). There I was wearing my basketball sweatshirt over my nice, new dress. I felt awkward, stupid, and

horribly underdressed as my family and I began our walk toward the federal courthouse. However, as we turned the corner, all thoughts of my attire left my mind. All of a sudden we were bombarded by reporters and television crews taking pictures and asking questions. Then, up ahead I saw them- the angry mob of protesters, holding up their signs proclaiming that my family was immoral and my parents were not fit to raise me. It was then that I realized my own adolescent angst about my clothing was trivial compared to this battle. Until the fall of 2013, my life had been average; my most noteworthy experience was tearing both of my ACLs while playing basketball. Everything changed when my two moms became plaintiffs in the Bostic v. Rainey case, fighting for marriage equality in Virginia. I suddenly faced the reality that my family was suing the Commonwealth of Virginia. Not everyone approves of families like mine. Some people are of the opinion that our loving family is “unnatural.” Normally, these sorts of comments do not bother me because those who matter most to me are completely accepting of my family. But, now our lives were on display for all to see. Suddenly those ugly comments on the internet hurt me so much more because they were directed at us; it was frightening. As intimidating as those comments were, it was easy to disassociate them from real people. On the computer screen, they were just a username or a profile picture. In contrast, seeing these protesters standing outside the courthouse was an alarming experience. I stared in disbelief as they held signs proclaiming “history confirms that children do best with a mom and a dad.” My two moms are loving and caring people and hearing protesters say, to my face, that

they were not fit to raise me was insulting. How could these people say this about my family? These protesters, who did not even know us, had the audacity to claim that we were abhorrent. I knew then that I had to speak out. I had to show them that we were a real family. I decided to speak at the press conference following the hearing of the case at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. My mouth was dry, my hands were shaking, and I was terrified. But I knew I had to stand up for what was right. I had to do this not just for my family, or all the other families like mine. I needed to do this for myself. It was perhaps the most daunting moment of my life; to stand in front of reporters, television cameras, and high-ranking government officials and speak my mind about one of the most controversial issues facing our country. It was a moment where I could have shied away and become passive. Yet, stepping up to the microphone and looking out into the sea of cameras, I knew I was doing the right thing. I said what I needed to say, albeit shaking the whole time. Once I finished my statement, I felt relief wash over me. I had faced my fears and stood up for my beliefs. I felt power in my voice as I spoke. It was important to me to let people know how I felt – to show that I have been raised in a loving and supportive family. Because of this experience, I have learned to speak my mind and not be afraid to stand up for what is right. I have most certainly grown as a person, and would not trade the experience for anything.

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The Ma


My partner and I recently performed music at

the wedding of two dear friends who—after 17 years—were legally married. I imagine same-sex couples across the U.S. holding sacred ceremonies, honoring their commitment and love for one another, and enjoying new legal rights. I truly appreciate the tremendous amounts of energy and resources it took to secure this right for the LGBTIQ community. With that said, I want to explore the aspect of relationship that even legal marriage can’t seem to touch with a ten-foot pole—the messiness of growth. According to the American Psychological Association, 90% of people marry by the age of 50, but 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. We’ve all heard these statistics, and same-sex couples aren’t immune to them, but somehow they have become normalized. It’s not even shocking anymore, and I’m personally not ok with just accepting this phenomenon as “normal” without digging a little deeper. Maybe it’s that we aren’t wired psychologically to withstand a long-term relationship? If so, are we trying to force ourselves into a culturally-created institution called “marriage” that actually doesn’t work with our psychological makeup? What force exactly could be so powerful that it can undo half of committed relationships that have had the magical wand of legal marriage waved over them?

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How do we explain those couples who somehow found a way to make it work for the long haul? Were they all secretly miserable and living in a state of denial (some yes), or did they discover this tiny little nugget of wisdom—that even within the sanctity of marriage there exists a myth that is often represented as fact. Taking a myth and deeming it “the truth” is a dangerous game to play and usually results in some form of suffering. The myth: If we’re married, it’s forever. I hate to be Debbie Downer, but the truth is that no matter what ceremony we participate in, no matter what legal system acknowledges our relationship, no matter what vows are spoken from our lips, we still aren’t guaranteed a healthy “forever” relationship. I realize this may sound blatantly obvious at best or horribly cynical at worst, but knowing this wisdom and living this wisdom are two very different things. Marriage, or any type of relationship “status” for that matter, was never meant to be our Lifetime Satisfaction Guarantee or Your Money Back deal. When we are taught that marriage = forever, that is the moment we turn a myth into a “truth.” Till death do we part—words that may or may not appear in everyone’s vows, but the cultural implication of “getting married” is that once we tie the knot, “we” are supposed to last “forever,” and yet up to half of marriages don’t last forever. Hmm…I spy a major disconnect. So I ask again, what force could be so powerful that it can undo half of committed relationships? The answer leads us into the hopeful part of this exploration, and it is quite simple—growth.



By, Michele Zehr, M.A., M.Ed.

Demands for growth combined with a refusal to act upon those demands is powerful enough to undo any relationship in existence. Think about who you were when you first met your partner. Have you both changed over the years? Did growth sometimes cause discomfort and conflict? Did you find a way to meet that while discovering more about your capacity to navigate life’s challenges together? Maybe you felt the tug of growth pulling at your heart but ignored it out of fear of throwing off the equilibrium of your relationship? For what it’s worth, there is nothing wrong with any of these choices, but growth is a persistent force that is not easily ignored. It usually catches up to us at some point. As cliché as it sounds, the only constant in life is that everything constantly changes, even if we can’t perceive it while it’s happening. In fact, we take it for granted and become blind to this constant. Turn on your faucet and try making the water “look exactly the same” as it did 5 seconds ago. It’s impossible because it’s always changing. We are no different; we just change at a slower—yet perceivable over time—rate than running water. I believe marriage can serve as the most amazing ‘container’ for a full, loving, life-long relationship. However, until both people challenge the notion of “forever”—thereby debunking the myth— and instead choose to commit the energy required for meeting one another from moment-to-moment at every growth point that presents itself throughout the span of the relationship, the ‘container’ we call marriage can just as easily remain empty. We literally aren’t pouring ourselves into the process of growth, and believe me, a relationship will demand that you grow.

Next thing we know, we wake up and ask the person sharing our bed, “Who are you?” If we can’t answer that question—or even worse—if we can’t answer, “Who am I?”, then I think we’ve just identified the birthplace of those divorce statistics. The exception is any violent or abusive relationship, which must not be confused with healthy growth. I think the queer community is in a unique position to offer much wisdom on this entire topic. Until now, our reality was that nothing reinforced the bonds of our relationships other than our own personal choice to continue meeting one another at every single place where growth was asking to happen. Couples like my friends have not lasted this long because they stayed the same. They lasted this long because they continued to “show up” through all of the growth periods that were inevitably going to demand that they figure out another way to make it work. It is our commitment to going into the messy places of growth— over and over again—that is our best hope for redefining “normal.” I personally believe the queer community is full of role models who could benefit greater society if only it were to pay attention, because we’ve sort of “been there done that” for years. Michele Zehr, M.A., M.Ed., is the founder of We2 LLC: Women’s Experiential Empowerment. She custom-designs and facilitates empowerment workshops for a wide-range of professionals, offers one-onone Soul Weaving coaching, teaches R.A.D. Self-Defense for Women, and gives Transformational Talks by invitation. To learn more about Michele’s other services, please visit her website at: www.we2empower.com or contact her via email at: info@we2empower.com or by phone at 434-218-2462.

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JAMES & RICHARD: A Surprise Proposal at the Jefferson Hotel Made the Yuletide Gay By, Casey Dokoupil & James Millner


On December 29, 2016, Virginia Pride President, James Millner, proposed to his partner of five years, Richard Gordon, in front of dozens of their family and friends in the lobby of the Jefferson Hotel. The proposal was the culmination of an elaborate scavenger hunt devised by James and the LGBT event company, EQ Events, that sent Richard on a tour of places across Richmond that have played a significant role in their relationship. “Richard has dropped many hints over the years that he wanted a big, public proposal,” James explained. “To me, there’s nothing grander and more public than the lobby of the Jefferson at Christmas, so that’s what I did.” To maintain the element of surprise, James planned the proposal to coincide with Richard’s birthday. “I figured he would think he was being led to a birthday surprise and not think this was a proposal. I was right.”


The golden tones of the Jefferson Hotel’s historic lobby during the holiday season seemed to evaporate the cold air clinging to the coat of each guest as dozens of them blew in, their cheeks pink with anticipation as much as the chill of winter. It was just few days before the New Year, a time already filled with a seasonal glow. Nowhere was that sense warmer than the little paneled room where family and friends gathered, eager to support a man very much in love. It was a carefully-planned proposal, the scheme for which had begun not just months, but years earlier. As guests gathered to hug a nervous but overjoyed James, a confused Richard was on a wild journey across Richmond. Several years before, when they were first dating, 70 | UNITE Virginia

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YES! James had created a scavenger hunt for Richard’s birthday that sent Richard searching all over town, leading him to a romantic greeting in the Jefferson Hotel. Cleverly, when James first approached EQ Events (EQ) to plan his proposal, that memory inspired his plan to surprise Richard. A new birthday scavenger hunt should – and did – keep Richard from figuring out that James was actually about to propose. Rhyming clues developed by EQ (when we say we’re full-service, we are not kidding) sent Richard hustling to iconic Richmond locations—from dinner at the VMFA, to surprise cocktails at Quirk Hotel with friends who just happened to be there, to a private drag performance at the Broadberry by the inimitable Michelle Devereaux Livigne, a friend of James. Each stop had to be perfectly timed, to ensure that James’ glowing guests would be standing on the grand staircase at the right moment, when Richard walked in.

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Meanwhile, as family and friends excitedly sipped their cocktails and the moment of arrival came near, we kept a careful eye on Richard’s real-time geolocation. As time passed, the room took on a brighter quality, punctuated by the thud of emptying glasses and the tittering of people who would shortly be relieved of a secret. When we could delay no longer, we led the parading crowd through the hall to Richmond’s grandest staircase where they were easily guided into place. James took his place, and so did we. As an air of curiosity quickly swept across the crowded lobby, we waited in silence for Richard to arrive. With guests partly obscured from view by the still-shimmering Christmas tree in the center of the lobby, James concealed himself behind one of the lobby’s many massive pillars, photographer Shawnee Custalow hid by an antique screen, and EQ planners crouched behind a sofa. It was a mass effort to keep James’ secret until the very last possible moment. Several hotel guests asked

what was happening and, upon learning our plot, joined in our excitement. Some even volunteered to be a part of our scheme by playing nonchalant observers of the Jefferson’s ornate holiday decorations. It was like a scene from a play in which an unsuspecting audience member is pulled onstage to play the title role. When Richard entered the room, watching the realization wash over him was a delight words cannot express. As he walked to the desired location in front of the grand staircase, EQ gave the signal for guests to raise the signs that spelled out the question James wished to ask. As Richard slowly read the signs and gazed at the grinning faces of his loved ones, he gripped the arms of the friends who had escorted him for support. Snap, snap! sounded the camera. James emerged from his hiding spot, walked over to Richard and on bended knee popped the question. Richard struggled not to cry as he said “YES!” The crowd gasped in delight as the newly-engaged couple embraced, their family and friends cheering with genuine relief and a sense that they had witnessed something transformative—not

just for the couple; but, also for the Richmond community and society as a whole. Every proposal is an act of bravery. Yet, there was something magical in what Richard inspired James to design that starry evening. Returning upstairs, the clinking of glasses resumed once more, this time punctuated by enveloping hugs, easy laughter, and Richard’s still-shocked smile melting into a cozy familiarity with his family, friends, and grinning fiancé. All of the time, creative energy, and careful planning James invested into the occasion created the perfect memory for the couple, not to mention a very happy groom-to-be. Romance has a character all its own—one that grows differently with each couple. In the case of James and Richard, it is elaborate, communal, expressive, and elegant. To begin planning your perfect proposal, contact us at: eqevents@eqeventsrva.com http://eqeventsrva.com/james-richard/ All photos by Shawnee Custalow – A Lovely Photo

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s t n e v E f o e n i l e m i T y a D g n i d Your Wed

ent Fellow Former Stud – s le a G n e tch n Gales Gre By, Gretche

The Ceremony Usher in the Guests Have light music playing in the background before the ceremony. The music should start no earlier than 15 minutes ahead of time. The ushers will guide guests to their seats. Parents or other significant guests should have reserved seats in the front. One set of parents or other honored guest will be responsible for “giving away” their loved one. Attendants Procession Bridesmaids, groomsmen, matron(s) of honor, flower girls, ring bearers, all walk down the aisle and stand where they were assigned during the rehearsal. Main Procession Breathe! You and/or your partner will be escorted down the aisle towards the altar so the ceremony can begin. Exchanging Your Vows Whether they are traditional vows or words personally written to your future spouse, they will carry a lot of weight, meaning and magic! Hopefully you didn’t write these at the last minute like your college essays! Ceremony Music During portions of the ceremony that aren’t spoken, music is played in the background, perhaps a hymn if the ceremony is religious or a love song. Many couples hire professional musicians for the ceremony. Rings Have the rings handy to place on your partner’s finger. Couples are more than welcome to use rings from previous commitment ceremonies (many do) or purchase new rings. You May Kiss Your Spouse! It’s about time! Introduction of the Newly Married Couple Smile! You will be announced as lawfully wedded to your partner: Mr. and Mr. / Mrs. and Mrs. Recessional You did it! The newlyweds guide the wedding party back down the aisle and on to pictures and the reception! 74 | UNITE Virginia


edding ceremonies can be fairly complex with lots of things happening seemingly all together. To clear up some of the confusion as to what happens when, we’ve put together this basic timeline of events that outlines what happens and when during the typical wedding ceremony, as well as at the reception! Enjoy!

The Reception The Background Before your arrival, the guests will have already begun with light refreshments and music playing from either a hired band or DJ. Have your planner (if you have one) or the venue coordinate the sequence of when things are to be announced. The guestbook will be placed in an accessible area. Have a table out for wedding gifts. You may also ask the venue for their suggestions, as they have more than likely hosted events like this before. The Announcer This will most likely be your DJ or a staff member at the venue. Make sure names are pronounced correctly and in the right order for the Wedding Party. Listen out for the announcer to introduce you before walking in. Say Hello! Your guests will be excited to see you and your spouse! Make sure you greet your guests and thank them for coming. Toasts The maids of honor or groomsmen will begin the toast. Once again, if it is a religious ceremony, have someone bless the meal after the toast, if desired. Family First (And Wedding Party)! The wedding party and family should be served their food first, followed by the remaining guests. This applies to both a formal setup or a buffet style dinner.


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Christopher Lovell Murphy and Columbus Christopher Coleman (aka – “The Chrises”) were married on Saturday, April 21, 2012 at Las Caletas, a private island cove in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Accessible only by sea, and once the private home of film director, John Huston, Las Caletas’ secluded beach and majestic Sierra Madre Mountains served as the tropical backdrop for their destination wedding. Family and friends boarded a luxury catamaran for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and sailed to Las Caletas for a private sunset ceremony, followed by dinner, entertainment and an open bar reception on the beach. The couple is still in honeymoon mode and plan to return to Puerto Vallarta in April to celebrate and renew their vows!

Destination Wedding

Top 10 Tips

Take it from the Chrises! The devil’s in the details when planning a wedding abroad. Here our their Top 10 Tips for planning the perfect destination wedding.

10. Choose wisely. The world is your oyster! Point to a map and go – but when scheduling the date (especially for tropical locations) be mindful of rainy/hurricane season, spring break and national holidays specific to the area that can impact your special day. Also, get a pulse on how LGBTQ-friendly the area is! 9. Don’t allow distance to be a barrier. If your planner resides at your wedding destination, use this to your advantage! Who knows the area better than your planner in this case? Pick their brain for ideas and ask them to keep their ear to the ground. Meet regularly via Skype and email photos of samples to convey your vision for your big day. 8. Use your location to your benefit. Instead of spending a lot of money on decorations, use the natural beauty of your location! Use flowers indigenous to the area and pull in inspiration from the scenery around you! 7. Visit the destination at least once prior to the wedding. Get a lay out the land! If possible, visit the same month oneyear-out prior to the wedding. (How’s the weather? Are there more tourists than usual during this time?) Plus, it’s a prime opportunity to locate fun spots and activities that you can share with your guests later. 6. All-inclusive! Direct your guests to accommodations with an all-inclusive option. Your guests will appreciate the savings while on the trip and you won’t have to plan meals. Most all-inclusive programs include all meals and beverages – including alcohol. (You can also honeymoon at a different resort after the ceremony like the Chrises did for some alone time!) 5. Don’t sweat the guest list. Invite who you want to attend. The people who you think may not be willing to travel just might surprise you! Also, remember that destination weddings double as a vacation – and many folks welcome the opportunity! You can also have a reception/party at home when you return and celebrate with everyone all over again! 4. Give your guests at least 1 year notice and hard deadlines! Remember that some people on your list may not be travel savvy. Helpful reminders and deadlines to book accommodations and apply for passports early will help your guests feel better prepared and alleviate anxiety on everyone’s part. 3. Have a website! Make this the go-to source for your guests for all information pertaining to the wedding and remember to make it fun! Include info about the area, the itinerary, deadlines (RSVP, passports, etc.), info on accommodations and travel tips. The website should answer everyone’s questions (and reduce the amount of phone calls coming your way.) 2. Utilize your wedding party on the day-of. Remember that they are there to support you – so don’t be afraid to put them to work. Assigning specific duties will allow you to focus on more important things... like memorizing your vows! 1. Enjoy! When else will you have your family and friends all abroad celebrating your union? The day goes by fast, so soak in everything and make time to relax and enjoy the getaway with your partner! All photos courtesy of Gino Addi.

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Cash Conversations Create Better Marriages By, Meredith Jenkins

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oney is one of those taboo topics that you’re not really supposed to talk about—kind of like politics and religion at the dinner table. However, when it comes to marriage, the couple that pays together, stays together. What does this mean? Research has shown that couples who are in sync when it comes to budgeting and saving feel more financially secure, argue less about money and even have better sex lives. In short, getting in sync with your spouse about money matters can lead to greater financial stability and increase the chances that you both will experience a happy and enduring marriage. Here are four tips to help loving couples have challenging conversations about money. 1.) Get naked with each other—financially speaking. I don’t mean get naked and throw greenbacks at each other (unless, that’s your thing). I mean you both should open up about your finances—your salaries, savings, credit card debt, student loans, etc. Knowing where each of you stands and having conversations about what you want to achieve together builds a sense of trust and teamwork. Sadly, few married couples practice financial transparency. A recent American Express poll found that 91% of people avoid having money talks with their partner. Even worse, the National Endowment for Financial Education found that 1 in 3 Americans acknowledges lying to their partner about money. No bueno. How to Do It: Have the difficult financial conversations during a happy moment. Keep the conversation upbeat. Crack open a bottle of wine. Put all of your assets and liabilities on the table. Use an online net-worth calculator like bankrate.com or an Excel spreadsheet and update your numbers quarterly. Make a list of monthly expenses. Review credit card and bank statements so you know where your funds are going. Learn what the other “must” have versus what they’d “like” to have. Be honest with each other. Upload your accounts to an online money management tool like Quicken or Mint. Set financial goals together, but narrow your objectives to three and make a viable plan to achieve them. 2.) Confront the Biggest Source of Tension. Here is a startling statistic from Money magazine: 70% of couples argue over money related issues—more than they argue about household chores, sex or snoring. Moreover, according to Jeffrey Dew, an associate professor at Utah State University, fights about finances are the only common spats that directly correlate to divorce. Couples who fight over money weekly are 52% more likely to divorce than those that argue about finances once a month. Yikes! What’s the most common source of financial tension? Spending too much on frivolous things AND ALSO a partner’s frugality. This tension needs to be addressed.

How to Do It: Give each other space when it comes to the smaller things. If you feel like your partner is watching your spending habits like a hawk, you’re more likely to hide purchases from them—which, only leads to mistrust, financial insecurity and, possibly, divorce. Perhaps you should take a lesson from millennials and boomers: 54% of millennials and 51% of boomers think spouses should keep some money separate. This allows each partner to feel a sense of financial freedom. But, be sure to set spending limits for yourselves! This is especially true when it comes to joint accounts. Also, be sure to audit yourself and do so honestly. If things get tight, you’ll need to know why and honestly address that issue with your spouse. Better to keep things open and honest from the beginning to avoid any elephants from entering the room. 3.) Don’t let silence become the default. In any relationship, debt can be a silent killer. Studies have found that marital satisfaction is correlated with assets. This means that as debt increases, happiness wanes. But there is a light at the end of this financial tunnel… and it’s not an oncoming train! Couples who experience success in paying down debt begin to see their partners in a better light and this leads to fewer arguments and more happiness. How to Do It: Got a lot of debt? Create a pay-down plan together. Studies show that properly managing debt repayment makes for healthier relationships. When it comes to credit card debt, pay the cards off that have the highest interest rate first, then move to other cards. Again, honesty and transparency are absolutely critical when it comes to financial conversations. 4.) Don’t let small arguments escalate into massive fights. No matter how financially organized you and your partner become, you’ll still have the occasional argument about money. The worst thing you can do is to not talk about a problem. Also, if you do address a source of conflict, make sure you don’t leave it unresolved. Ask yourself this: Do you want to be right, OR do you want to build a strong financial union with your partner? The latter takes open communication and compromise. Remember, compromise is not a four-letter word. How to Do It: If you have a spat, don’t wait more than 24 hours before reconvening to settle the issue in a civil manner. Before you get back together to discuss the argument with cooler heads, each of you should write down what money worries prompted the fight. When you reconvene, one person should talk uninterrupted about their financial fears (without assigning blame). The other should then repeat back what was said to ensure that the message was clearly conveyed and understood. Then switch roles, rinse and repeat. When it comes to marriages, money matters. While you shouldn’t let money dictate your marriage, you need to have open, honest and regular conversations about finances with your spouse. Doing so will make your marriage more fruitful and make each of you a happier spouse. This story could not have been possible without Time magazine and authors Dan Kadlec and Kerri Anne Renzulli.

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SIERRA + KATE By, Jesse LaVancher

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Sierra & Kate’s story began when they met at a friend’s Christmas party in 2007. Soon thereafter, they became inseparable. They quickly discovered a shared passion for traveling and, especially, for New York City. Therefore, when it came time for Kate to pop the question, it only seemed natural to choose the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park for the location. They were married on May 26, 2012 at the India House, a private club with a rich history located in the Financial District. After a lovely ceremony filled with the love of their friends and family, the newlyweds enjoyed a light reception with their guests. In 2011, Sierra and Kate started their own independent insurance agency, KMI Solutions, LLC—DBA Knight Magee Insurance (www.kmicoverage.com). In addition to owning and operating their business, the couple continues to support Richmond’s LGBT community through charity events, advocacy work within the insurance industry to ensure equal protection for the LGBT community and participation in local organizations including the Richmond LGBT Meetup group, the Richmond Business Alliance, Virginia Pride and Diversity Richmond. In 2013, the couple welcomed their son into the world. Like any other couple, Sierra and Kate love spending time together as a family, watching their son grow and supporting their community. Wedding photos by Serge Gree Photography & Videography Family photo by Lori Stone, Brightside Photo RVA

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signs your marriage will last


By, Meredith Jenkins

ccording to Frank Sinatra, love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. But statistics prove that this is not always the case. With about 50% of American marriages ending in divorce and the recent legalization of same-sex unions, it seems that the institution of marriage is boldly going where it has never gone before. This is truly exciting on many levels; however, for married couples, this can also prove somewhat nerve-racking as couples begin to explore uncharted waters. I’ve put together six telltale signs that your marriage will likely last. While this list is far from gospel, it may give you and your spouse something to think about as the institution of marriage continues to evolve and become more inclusive. Without further ado, here are six signs that your happy union will endure the test of time.


You dated for some time while living separately before getting married. According to researchers at Emory University, couples who dated for three years or more before getting hitched were 39% less likely to divorce than those who only dated for a year or less. The odds of your marriage lasting increased if you and your lover lived apart while you were dating. In my opinion (and I am certainly not a researcher at Emory University), I think that dating for a longer period of time allows each person to really get to know the other in casual, intimate and exiting ways. Moreover, living in different abodes allows you to have the critical “me time” necessary to explore your own feelings and slowly discover how (or if) you and your mate can truly live together as a couple. Living apart also sets the stage for your marriage in ways many people don’t consider. Marriages should not be about two co-dependent people coming together because they need each other. Instead, marriages should codify the union of two strong, independent people who share many things, but who also have lives outside of the marriage itself. No matter how connected you are to your spouse, every human being needs “me time” and your partner should not only respect that fact, but embrace it because he or she feels the same way. queerva.com | 87


3. 4.

You talk—like, for real. A U.K. study showed that unmarried couples chat for about 50 minutes during an hour-long meal. On the flip side, couples married for about a decade talk for less than half of that time. Moreover, married couples with kids only talk for 10 minutes during an hour-long meal. Are you married? Do you think you and your spouse chat a lot? Let me ask you this: What percentage of your conversations are dominated by things like household maintenance, finances, child rearing and all of the important things that marriage entails? Have a number? Good. Next ask yourself: What percentage of your conversations are about other things, like a funny article you recently read, a movie you watched together or your thoughts on life? More often than not, married couples’ conversations become increasingly dominated by the former subject matter. Remember, conversations not about the daily routine of married life are what brought you together in the first place. Similarly, how often to answer a question or reply to a comment made by your spouse with a simple, “mmm-hmmm?” Do you even look up from your smartphone, lock eyes with your partner and give them the attention they seek when they come to you with a question? Marriages where one partner dismisses the other by responding with “mmm-hmmm” or not even looking up from their screen are, in the long run, not likely to survive.

You increase the positive aspects of your partner. Sure, you’re there for your spouse when they go through tough times—the death of a loved one, losing a job or a medical scare. But do you equally support your spouse when they have good news to share? If you greet news of your partner’s job promotion with genuine interest (like asking questions, celebrating with a nice dinner, etc.) it increases his or her joy and provides a genuine opportunity for you both to bond. People want to stick with those who make them feel even better about their happy moments. Never give your partner the cold shoulder during times of crisis. However, you should equally give your partner genuine positive reinforcement when they are jubilant. Would you want your spouse to be a buzzkill when you’re in a good mood? Didn’t think so.

You didn’t have cold feet on your wedding day. If both partners have warm feet on their wedding day, the marriage is more likely to last. It shows that you both have taken a lot of time to think about your individual needs and how you both want to build a life together. Cold feet often come from rushing into getting married. Take your time. Communicate openly and authentically with each other about what you each want from your marriage. With both of your respective cards on the table, when it comes time to exchange vows, you’ll both be blessed with warm feet. Similarly, honeymoons could be a harbinger of a successful marriage. Emory University researchers found that newlyweds who took a relaxing honeymoon vacation together were 41% less likely to split than those who did not take a honeymoon. When you’re budgeting for your big day, be sure to include plenty of resources for a romantic getaway after the wedding. You’ll be glad you did.

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6 5.

You fight fair.


signs your marriage willlast

What’s the #1 predictor of divorce? Contempt. Every couple has their fair share of spats. However, if you’re name-calling, eye-rolling or sarcastically mocking your spouse during a fight, you’re placing yourself in a superior position to that of your partner. It’s impossible to resolve something once disgust and superiority come into the picture. A close 2nd, 3rd, and 4th predictors of divorce when it comes to spousal spats are defensiveness (claiming you’re the victim), criticism (saying the problem is a result of your partner’s flawed personality) and stonewalling (shutting down and/or walking out). If your fights with your spouse include contempt, defensiveness, criticism and stonewalling, you’re not just fighting unfairly… you’re opening up your marriage to the likelihood of divorce. Researchers have found that employing these four disastrous fighting styles creates a physiological “fight or flight” response. In this state, people are more likely to become aggressive and attack (both verbally and, possibly, physically). If you and your spouse get into a situation like this, the best thing to do is to take a 30-minute break to cool off and return your mind, body and spirit to a more normal state of being. But, be sure to set a time to reconvene so neither person feels abandoned and that the conflict does not fester without a fair resolution.


You cultivate a culture of mutual appreciation. Sure, you know your partner loves you and vice versa. So you don’t need to take time out of your busy day to express that appreciation towards your spouse. WRONG! Demonstrating frequent appreciation (making coffee in the morning, cleaning up a room in the house, calling to say hello, etc.) both shows your appreciation for your spouse and encourages other feel-good interactions. Researchers have shown that couples who routinely affirm their appreciation for each other are almost twice as likely to stay together. For gay male couples, showing regular mutual appreciation is even more important than for lesbian couples. Whereas women are typically more demonstrative with others in the world, men tend to be more tight-lipped. Because of this, the need for men to feel appreciated by their male spouse when they come home is extremely important. Take heed of this, men. Being married to another man makes the need for each of you to routinely demonstrate random acts of kindness towards the other all the more important.

Take these six bits of advice to heart and you will experience love and marriage going together like a horse and carriage. This story could not have been possible without Time Magazine and author Kate Rockwood. queerva.com | 89

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Lovers in the heat of new passion will label it as constant longing and craving. Couples with years invested describe love as companionship and history. But for many, love seems to be more like the unattainable butterfly never quite landing filling them only with disappointments, heartaches, and pain. Nonetheless, I am a believer in love. I know it’s possible to have a satisfying relationship and enjoy a lifetime of it. We just need to better understand what love is and what it is not. In short, genuine love is not based on the emotions we have all come to identify it by. Feelings of jealously, desire, possession, control, fear of loss and ownership are only masks parading like the authentic thing keeping us separated from experiencing genuine love. We cannot possess what we do not understand any more than we can put a bagel in the toaster expecting to brown it without plugging the cord into the outlet. It is impossible. The love we want and deserve is eternal, independent of reaction, and unattached to results. This love is NOT conditional, outer dependent upon approval, or based on the capacity to fulfill our needs. Someone can say, “I have a burning desire for someone I cannot have and can’t shake it.” This kind of emotion is based on an ideal of their love interest to complete them and make them whole. Why? Because the cold fact is as humans, there is something in us that feels incomplete, not good enough, falling short in some way. This lack searches to fulfill itself misrepresented as desire through the eyes of another who has what we think we need. For example, I loved Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons as a child because I wanted to win the approval of a family who gave so much to me.

My conscious self-projected loved for him because I admired what he represented to me even though I didn’t truly love him, per se. My self-worth was based on outer emotions and salvation found in the wrong place. Of course, this is crazy as each of us is born perfect just as we are. Real love is not based on feelings of dependency, idolization, sentimentality, craving or passion. Rather, real love starts out with a whole awareness of yourself as well as the other person. Tenderness and affection then grow from authentic caring. Like children playing at love, we are immaturely attracted to physical senses of sight, smell, hearing, sound, and touch. Biology tells us this chemical cocktail of sensual delight fades between 24-36 months and then, and only then, can we begin to cast our sight beyond the illusion better able to discern the strengths and weaknesses in each of us. Add to that demographics, upbringing, and societal values and it becomes easy to understand why we don’t give real love a chance to come into our lives. We are like frantic kids chasing imaginary Pokémon Go characters expecting something magical to happen when we catch them. It’s cool for about a minute, then they disappear and we continue to hunt more. Most of us are sadly hunting for an illusion that doesn’t exist. This kind of fake affection is like putting a mask on someone expecting them to be our God and save us. Shame on us. Who can fulfill you? No one; only yourself. Know that truth and your beloved will show up. They’ve been waiting so long.

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s l i a r T g n i z a l B y t i l a u q E f o G N I EDD W H T WI S E K CA

ll By, Arie

rmer n – Fo o s n a r B

t Fellow


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ebby Moro spent almost seven years in the wedding cake industry. Working in the industry allowed her to vicariously participate in people’s weddings and design something symbolic for each couple. As marriage equality became a hot topic in the wedding industry, she was in the process of updating her website and decided to add a thin rainbow bar to the main page of her site to indicate that she was open to serving LGBTQ customers. While she had always done business with queer customers, she wanted to make it clear to the community that she supported them. The following year, 35% of Debby’s business came from LGBTQ customers. However, she did receive some backlash from other patrons. Three weeks after updating her site she received a call from the mother of a bride who inquired about what the rainbow bar on her website meant. When Debby explained it was to indicate support for LGBTQ individuals, the former client told her that she would no longer be buying a wedding cake from her. Debby told her that was just fine. When asked about her experience, Debby stated, “They were just people and if I were to show you photos of my wedding cakes no one would be able to point out that one is the lesbian cake or the gay cake – they’re just cakes. I’m glad I was able to provide a positive experience for all of my customers.” At the end of the day, that’s what really matters, providing a memorable experience for customers from all walks of life. When it comes to giving advice to other professionals in the wedding industry in our post-marriage equality world, Debby did not mince her words, “Your potential market just doubled! Why would you ignore that?”

Beyond the economic interests of embracing marriage equality, Debby found that working with gay and lesbian couples was extremely emotionally rewarding. One time she made a cake for a same-sex female couple and one of the women would say outrageous things to Debby trying to cause her to react in outrage. Debby refused to be anything but professional to the couple. On the day of their wedding, the woman who had previously tried to provoke Debby came up to her with tears in her eyes and apologized profusely. She explained to Debby that they had been to several other bakers who had said derogatory things about them being a same-sex couple and refused them service. The bride explained that saying outlandish things to Debby was her way of dealing with her own insecurities because she had been hurt by other bakers in the region. She wanted to determine whether Debby was truly supportive of them as a samesex couple. The bride’s honesty meant a lot to Debby. Despite the difficulties the brides had faced in finding a suitable person to craft the perfect wedding cake, Debby proved to be the perfect professional for the job. By being skilled at her trade and embracing of marriage equality, Debby had not only opened the doors to a new market sector; but, she was also able to provide same-sex couples a valuable service that, too often, they couldn’t find elsewhere. Now retired, Debby looks back on her career in the wedding industry and smiles.

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The Well-Intentioned Wedding Guest By, Emmett Hickman

The wedding season is upon us! Wedding invitations are arriving in our mailboxes and couples across the nation are preparing to say “I do.” Once you have been invited to someone’s wedding, there are some basic etiquette rules that you should follow as a good friend and guest of the hosts. Below are some tips to avoid some of the biggest wedding etiquette faux pas currently being committed by the well-intentioned wedding guest.

1. If you get an invitation, make sure you RSVP.

Tell the couple yes or no as soon as you can. Weddings are expensive, and the couple needs to know if you’re coming or not. It’s not just about the price of the food; it’s also the table you sit at, the flowers at that table, the chair you sit in, the china you eat off of, and so on. The couple needs to know how much to order and your RSVP is their answer. And while I am on the topic of RSVP’s, if the couple does not extend an invitation of a plus 1, don’t assume you can add one. The couple has spent hours on their guest list, and some of their friends and family did not make the cut. Please understand there are reasons you have not been extended a plus 1.

2. For God’s sake, PUT THE DAMN PHONE

AWAY! I cannot tell you how many times I have seen wedding guests trying to get that perfect picture on their phone so they can show everyone on social media. Remember that the couple is spending thousands of dollars for a professional photographer to catch that perfect picture. You are merely in their way. Plus, no one wants to see their guests in professional pictures holding smart phones. Is this how you want to be remembered 20 years from now when the couple looks at the pictures? If you want a picture, take one with the couple AFTER the ceremony sometime during the reception. And most professional photographers will be happy to share pictures with you if you ask. 94 | UNITE Virginia

3. Don’t wear white, leave that to the couple. Trust

me—if you do wear white, people will talk about you.

4. During the reception, please let the couple eat

before you try to talk to them. I often see guests walk up to the couple while they are eating to say hi and try and have a conversation with them. Do you like people talking to you while you eat? Remember, this is probably the only down time they have gotten all day. So please give them 10 minutes to eat. They’ll be done soon and ready to engage all of their guests.

5. Most importantly, have fun. Remember, it’s

a party! Please don’t sit there like a bump on a log during the reception. There is a reason the couple invited you. Your presence is a reminder as to why they are friends with you and want you in their lives. Be charming. Talk to people you don’t know. Dance. Eat, drink and be merry! Just find something to do other than hold the chair down. Emmett Hickam is owner of www.RichmondBridalConsulting.com and www.RichmondGayWeddings. com. With almost 10 years of experience in the wedding planning industry, he brings creativity, inspiration, passion and organization to every event he produces. Whether it’s an intimate gathering for 25 or a no-holds-barred wedding for 450, there are not many things that he has not seen.

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