Washingtonblade.com, Volume 51, Issue 30, July 24, 2020

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Sizing up VP options as a decision nears PageS 09 & 10







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Man charged in Va. gay murder worked as escort on Rent.Men Victim found shot to death in Sterling By LOU CHIBBARO JR. lchibbaro@washblade.com Woodbridge, Va., resident Joshua M. Hunter, 22, one of two men charged with First Degree Murder in the July 8 shooting death of a gay man in Sterling, Va., has worked for at least two years as a male escort who promoted his services on the gay male meeting site Rent.Men, according to one of his former escort customers. The former customer, who contacted the Washington Blade anonymously, provided a link to Hunter’s page on the Rent.Men website, which was still up and running as of last week. Hunter used the name Anthony Adams on the site rather than his actual name of Joshua Hunter. His Rent.Men page included multiple photos of him, some in the nude, in which he is unmistakably the same person whose mug shot photo was released on Wednesday by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. The office released the photo when it announced that Hunter and Gavin C. Collins, 21, of Sterling Va., were arrested in connection with the murder of gay Winchester, Va., resident Jose I. Escobar Menendez, 24. In its announcement, the Sheriff’s Office said Hunter and Collins were also charged with Conspiracy to Commit Robbery and two counts of Using a Firearm while in the Commission of a Felony (Robbery and Murder) in connection with Menendez’s death. Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Michele Bowman said the investigation into Menendez’s murder was ongoing and the office would not comment on whether or not investigators were aware that Hunter worked as an escort through a meeting site catering to gay men. Bowman would say only that Menendez first met the men charged with his murder “online.” The Sheriff’s Office has also declined to confirm or deny an assertion by one of Menendez’s friends to a local Loudoun County newspaper that the murder was a hate crime that targeted Menendez because of his sexual orientation. The former customer of Hunter’s told the Blade he was shocked to learn that Hunter has been implicated in a murder. “He was a gentle and friendly guest, so this just astonishes me,” he said. “Except maybe he was more of an accessory to the crime (as wrong as that is) rather than the trigger man,” the former customer said. The announcement of the arrests by the Sheriff’s Office says that during the early morning hours of July 8, Menendez agreed to meet Collins in the area of Emerald Point Terrace and Winding Road in Sterling. It says both Collins and Hunter showed up and in the course of their encounter a “dispute occurred and the victim was shot and killed when Collins and Hunter attempted to rob him.” Collins and Hunter then left the area, taking Menendez’s car, according to the announcement. Arrest warrants for Collins, Hunter and a third man implicated in the case, Handy N. Colindrez, 24, of no fixed address, who was charged with auto theft, accuse the three men of engaging in a conspiracy to steal

JOSHUA M. HUNTER, 22, advertised his escort services on Rent.Men. Hunter is charged with first-degree murder in the death of a gay Virginia man.

Menendez’s car, identified as a 2019 Nissan Sentra. The warrants were filed in court by the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case. A Criminal Complaint filed against Hunter by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office states, “Hunter and Collins communicated with the victim a planned location to meet. Upon meeting in the area of Emerald Point Terrace (Loudoun County), Collins and Hunter used a handgun to demand Menendez’s vehicle. During the commission of the robbery Menendez was shot and killed.” Neither the Sheriff’s Office nor the charging documents filed in court so far by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office disclose whether investigators know which of the two men charged with the murder shot and killed Menendez. Under the criminal laws of most states, including Virginia, someone involved in a criminal act such as a robbery that leads to a murder is responsible for the murder even if that person did not shoot, stab, or commit another violent act that led to someone’s death. In his page on Rent.Men, Hunter, using his escort name Anthony Adams, tells about the services he provided. “Currently serving the DMV area (Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia),” he stated in a message. “I love meeting new people, and having relaxing and enjoyable

meetings with great people! :) All of my photos and statistics are recent, up to date, and accurate,” he wrote. “I’m a very open person with no hang ups. I’m open to all genders, and am open to meeting with individuals, same sex couples, and heterosexual couples. I‘m also available for travel as well.” His Rent.Men page states that he is available for, “Escorting, modeling, erotic massage, bodywork” and “available for videos, boyfriend experience, stripping.” About a dozen former customers posted reviews on his page giving him glowing reviews and saying they would retain his services again. A spokesperson for the Rent.Men site could not immediately be reached for comment. The site states in a section describing its purpose that it “is a service for adult gay men to meet each other online and is owned and operated by RM Media GmbH of Hamburg, Germany. “You understand and acknowledge that your use of the Site is at your own risk and that we are not responsible for any incidental, consequential, special, punitive, exemplary, direct or indirect damages of any kind whatsoever that may arise out of or related to your use of the Site, including any personal meetings or encounters you may engage in that may arise out of or relate to your use of the Site,” an “Assumption Risk” messages on the site says.

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D.C. Council postpones budget vote to consider dropping ad tax The D.C. Council on Tuesday voted 8 to 5 to approve a resolution by Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-AtLarge) to postpone the Council’s final vote on the city’s fiscal year 2021 budget to give the Council time to figure out how to drop a controversial sales tax on advertising that the Council attached to the budget on July 7 in a preliminary vote. Mendelson said he would immediately ask the city’s Office of Budget and Planning to identify ways to cut $18 million from the budget or to find new sources of revenue to offset the $18 million that the city’s Chief Financial Officer projected would be generated by the advertising tax as originally introduced. The Washington Blade and Tagg magazine, the local publication that covers issues of interest to lesbians of color, joined the Washington Informer, one of the city’s African-American newspapers, and other local community newspapers in calling on the Council to drop the ad tax. The papers said advertising revenue, the life blood of newspapers, had dropped dramatically since March due to the economic downturn brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. The local papers and representatives of local small businesses that depend on advertising to promote their products and services said the proposed 3 percent advertising tax would be devastating for business at a time when their revenue was already drastically reduced due to the epidemic. At Tuesday’s D.C. Council session, Mendelson initially

Council Chair PHIL MENDELSON (D-At-Large) proposed delaying a vote on the budget.

introduced an amendment to the budget bill to change the advertising tax from a value added tax, which he said he had not intended to introduce two weeks ago, to a simple 3 percent tax on the sale of ads from media outlets to businesses or individuals buying an add. Fellow Council members expressed support for Mendelson’s amendment but said it would not address the underlying problems that media outlets and small businesses said the 3 percent tax would still create during the current economic crisis. It was at that time that Mendelson took the unusual step of calling for postponing a vote on the budget for

Gay ANC member enters Ward 2 D.C. Council race

LGBTQ rights activist and Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Randy Downs announced on Wednesday he is a candidate for the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat in the Nov. 3 general election as an independent. “I’m running as an independent for Ward 2 Councilmember because I believe we need bold, ethical leadership on the Council,” Downs said in a statement. “A leader to address inequities and make Ward 2 accessible for everyone, while protecting what works for our communities,” he said. Downs, 32, is challenging former Assistant D.C. Attorney General Brooke Pinto, who won both the June 2 Democratic primary for the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Ward 2 seat and a June 16 special election to fill Commissioner Randy Downs is running for the Ward 2 D.C. Council the seat until Jan. 2, 2021. seat in the Nov. 3 general election as The special election was called after longtime an independent. Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans resigned in January when it became clear that his Council colleagues were about to expel him from office for charges of multiple ethics violations. Also running for the Ward 2 seat in the November election is Republican Katherine Venice and independent candidate and political newcomer Martin Miguel Fernandez. In every election for the Ward 2 Council seat since the city’s first home rule election in 1974, the Democratic candidate has won in the general election, indicating Democrat Pinto, 28, the Council’s youngest member, is considered the strong favorite. Downs works full-time as a program assistant for the Washington Office of the Sierra Club. He said he will be a strong advocate for environmental issues if elected to the Council. LOU CHIBBARO JR. 0 6 • WAS H I NGTO NBLA D E.COM • J ULY 24, 2020 • LOCA L NE W S

a day or two, up until Thursday at the latest, to give the city’s budget office and the Council time to come up with a way to offset the $18 million that the originally proposed ad tax was expected to generate in revenue. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who said he disliked the ad tax, was among several Council members that opposed the postponement proposal, saying it would be unfair to cut other programs without having time to consider the impact of those cuts on city residents, especially low income residents facing turmoil from the epidemic. Mendelson promised to send whatever proposed cuts the city’s budget office comes up with to the other Council members within a day or two. He said he would then reconvene Tuesday’s Council session to enable the Council to decide on the proposed cuts or any new proposals for generating additional revenue. The Council members who voted in favor of Mendelson’s proposed action included Mendelson, Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), Trayon White (D-Ward 8), Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), and Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2). Those who voted against the proposal included Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large), Robert White (D-At-Large), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), David Grosso (I-At-Large), and Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1). LOU CHIBBARO JR.

Baltimore Catholic hospital sued for denying surgery to trans man The American Civil Liberties Union on July 16 filed a lawsuit against the University of Maryland Medical System and its Towson, Md., based University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center for the Catholic hospital’s refusal to perform surgery on a transgender man. The ACLU filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on behalf of Jesse Hammons, a 33-year-old transgender man who lives in Baltimore. The lawsuit charges the hospital violated Hammons’ First and Fourteenth Amendment constitutional rights and violated the U.S. Affordable Care Act’s nondiscrimination provision when it cancelled a hysterectomy that Hammons’ surgeon was scheduled to perform on Jan. 6 at the hospital. A hospital official told the surgeon it cancelled the hysterectomy, which the American Medical Association considers a necessary standard of care for transgender men, on grounds that it was prohibited by “Catholic health care values.” According to the lawsuit, the University of Maryland Medical System and the 13 hospitals it operates throughout the state are “instrumentalities of the State of Maryland and subject to the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.” The lawsuit further charges that UMMS is violating its constitutional obligations by operating the University Of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center as a Catholic institution. The lawsuit notes that St. Joseph Medical Center operated as an independent Catholic hospital for many years before it was purchased in 2012 by the University of Maryland Medical System Corporation, a quasi-governmental entity funded by the state. It says the UMMS acted improperly when it approved a provision in the purchase agreement allowing the hospital to continue to operate as a Catholic facility. “An instrumentality of the state may not operate a Catholic hospital or deny medical care to transgender patients based on Catholic religious beliefs,” the lawsuit states. “By invoking Catholic religious beliefs as a basis for cancelling Mr. Hammons’s medically necessary surgery, Defendants violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” it says. “University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center does not discriminate nor treat any patient differently on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability or sexual orientation,” the hospital said in a statement it released in response to the lawsuit. Under court rules, the UMMS and St. Joseph Medical Center have 21 days from the time the lawsuit was filed to file an official response to the lawsuit. LOU CHIBBARO JR.

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With no LGBTQ policy staffer, Biden backers fear Equality Act delay Dem hopeful has made measure his No. 1 legislative priority By CHRIS JOHNSON cjohnson@washblade.com

An early, easy win on LGBTQ rights in a Joe Biden administration could be delayed because the campaign doesn’t have a staffer dedicated to LGBTQ policy, some prominent LGBTQ Biden supporters told the Blade they’re beginning to fear. Biden has signaled he’ll make the Equality Act, comprehensive legislation that would ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination under the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, his No. 1 legislative priority and ensure Congress passes the measure within the first 100 days of his administration. But a handful of Biden supporters deeply familiar with his campaign — who spoke to the Blade on condition of anonymity for greater candor — say they’re beginning to worry achieving that goal within the 100-day timeframe is in peril without an LGBTQ policy staffer in place at this time. Such a Biden campaign or transition staffer, especially one with a background in LGBTQ issues, would be able to hit the ground running on the Equality Act even before the start of the new administration in 2021, making deals in the House and the Senate to advance the legislation and deciding what compromises, if any, would be acceptable and necessary to ensure the measure becomes law, LGBTQ supporters say. With no LGBTQ policy staffer in place in the Biden campaign or transition team, these supporters say it’s unclear whether Biden will be able to meet his promise to sign the Equality Act into law within 100 days, raising fears the delay will continue indefinably beyond that goal. Neither Barack Obama in 2008, nor Hillary Clinton in 2016, had a campaign staffer dedicated to LGBTQ policy, so the creation of an LGBTQ policy staffer in the Biden campaign would be unprecedented for a Democratic presidential nominee. (Defenders of creating the LGBTQ policy position point out, however, that Obama faced early criticism for not being able to accomplish anything transformative on LGBTQ rights within his first 100 days in office.) “It’s also 2020,” one prominent Biden supporter said. “We’ve come a long way since Obama first ran for office and even since 2015, 2016 when Hillary ran for office.” Although Biden has hired numerous campaign staffers who are LGBTQ, supporters who want a dedicated LGBTQ policy staffer say they’re not enough. The Biden campaign has hired Reggie Greer as LGBTQ+ vote director, but his background has been in appointments as a former staffer with the LGBTQ Victory Institute and his focus is constituency outreach. Gautam Raghavan, who as an Obama administration staffer during efforts to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ferried information back and forth between the White House and the Pentagon, was tapped as an official for the Biden transition team, but not on LGBTQ policy. Karine Jean-Pierre is a lesbian and a former Obama administration staffer on the Biden campaign, but doesn’t have a background in LGBTQ policy. Another out gay Biden campaign staffer is Jamal Brown, who has a background in LGBTQ policy as a former staffer with the New England-based GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders, but is working to engage with audiences across the board as national press secretary for the Biden campaign. The idea is a contentious one: Not all LGBTQ Biden supporters believe a dedicated LGBTQ policy staffer is necessary. In fact, other LGBTQ leaders pushed back on the idea the position is needed.

Some JOE BIDEN supporters are calling for a new staffer dedicated to LGBTQ policy. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Reasons cited against the hire were that it’s soon to have an LGBTQ policy staffer in place, having such a team member would be unprecedented and the Human Rights Campaign and the “Out for Biden” steering committee are already advising the Biden campaign on LGBTQ policy. The Equality Act has already been written, these responders point out, and the legislation with no compromises easily passed in the U.S. House last year with a bipartisan vote under the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — even though it remains bottled up under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality and member of the “Out for Biden” steering committee, said Biden is clearly on the record in support of the Equality Act and she “just can’t imagine” the need for an LGBTQ policy staffer. “There’s enough folks who know this bill inside and out and who have prioritized this bill working with the campaign, who will be working with the transition, who will be working the administration,” Keisling said. “I don’t think — this doesn’t feel like an issue to me.” When the Blade pointed out the concern was about having the apparatus in place to help ensure the Equality Act becomes law, Keisling replied, “The apparatus that matters right now is getting him elected.” “We don’t need somebody sitting in Philadelphia or — I guess we’re sitting in our homes now — but we don’t need somebody in the campaign headquarters whose job is try to calculate that,” Keisling said. “All of us together, including the speaker of the House and a new majority leader in the Senate and Sen. [Jeff] Merkley and David Cicilline, everybody would be on that, and we don’t need somebody coordinating it this year. We have an ironclad commitment from the VP himself and that’s what we need for now.” Although it wasn’t explicitly stated, opponents of the idea strongly implied public discussion would shift focus away from the more fundamental and necessary task of ensuring Biden is elected in the fall, which would ensure a president who supports the Equality Act is in the White House. For their part, Biden supporters seeking the LGBTQ policy staffer acknowledge Biden and Trump couldn’t be further apart, and Biden is the undisputed champion of equality. Biden has said he’d make the Equality Act a legislative priority, but Trump has signaled he outright opposes the legislation based on unspecified “poison pills” in the bill. In response to the objections, one prominent Biden

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supporter who backs having an LGBTQ policy staffer said Symone Sanders, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Jean-Pierre and Cristobal Alex currently oversee portions of policy for the Black and Brown communities for the Biden campaign, and Jean-Pierre also oversees women’s rights issues, so having an LGBTQ policy staffer along those lines would be only fair. “I think it’s disingenuous to say that it’s just in campaign mode, and that it’s too early, because other communities would react very differently if they were told that,” the Biden supporter said. Further, the Biden supporter pointed out the candidate has promised to the LGBTQ community “the most comprehensive federal piece of legislation for the LGBT community that’s ever been put forth and signed by a president,” which is no small task. An LGBTQ policy staffer in place now, the Biden supporter said, may be needed to get it over the finish line. The Biden supporter also pointed out the campaign reported having $242 million in cash on hand, so the campaign has the luxury of being able to make the hire, and Biden enjoys a double-digit lead in the polls, so supporters have the luxury about being able to discuss the idea in public. Many of the Equality Act’s goals have been accomplished with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling this year in Bostock v. Clayton County, which determined anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, thus illegal in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The ruling has applications to other federal laws that ban sex discrimination, including provisions in the Civil Rights Act against discrimination in housing, education, jury service and credit. But LGBTQ supporters of Biden say the appetite for passing the Equality Act remains as strong as ever. The legislation would round out the protections in Bostock to areas where no federal law exists against sex discrimination, such as federally funded programs, such as adoption services and the prison system, and public accommodations. Further, the Equality Act would expand the definition of public accommodations under federal civil rights law to include retail stores, banks, transportation services and health care services. The legislation would also establish that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — a 1994 law aimed at protecting religious liberty — can’t be used to enable antiLGBTQ discrimination. JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president for policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, said the priority now should be electing Biden and strong majorities in Congress that support the Equality Act, which will set up the administration for an early win on the bill. “Over the next 106 days, our focus must remain on making sure we elect Joe Biden and a pro-equality majority in the U.S. House and Senate,” Winterhof said. “As president, Joe Biden has made a commitment to pass the Equality Act, and by every measure is well-positioned to achieve that goal should he be elected. Electing a pro-equality majority in the U.S. Senate will be a key to success. HRC has and will continue to work with the Biden team to ensure that when he is elected, the White House can hit the ground running to make a stronger, safer, more equal future for LGBTQ people.” The Biden campaign didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment on this article.

The Biden Bunch

A look at the leading VP candidates and their LGBTQ records By CHRIS JOHNSON cjohnson@washblade.com

As the 2020 presidential campaign continues to heat up, Joseph Biden is expected to soon name his choice for a vice presidential running mate on the Democratic ticket. Biden has committed to naming a woman and is looking strongly at women of color amid a national awakening on racial justice after the killing of George Floyd. Here’s a roundup of possible choices and a snapshot of their backgrounds on LGBTQ issues: Susan Rice

Notable offices held: U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, 2009-2013; National Security Adviser, 2013-2017 LGBTQ record: Rice promoted LGBTQ human rights issues as a component of U.S. foreign policy as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, then national security adviser under President Obama. When Uganda was debating a “Kill the Gays” bill, Rice called leadership to get them to abandon the initiative and denounced the anti-gay comments from the president of Gambia. Rice also spoke out in an interview with the Washington Blade after the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, which led to the deaths of 49 patrons in the establishment. Notable quote: “This is a jolt. What we are seeing sadly more recently is an infusion of hate-filled rhetoric into public discourse and a greater degree of attention being paid to it and then in some people’s mind it becomes more acceptable.” — Rice to the Blade in 2016 on the Pulse shooting. Tammy Baldwin

Notable offices held: Wisconsin state Assembly member, 19931999; U.S. House member, 19992013; U.S. senator, 2013-present LGBTQ record: What hasn’t she done? In 1998, Baldwin became the first out lesbian elected to Congress, then became the first openly gay person elected to the Senate in 2012. Baldwin has been a consistent leader on LGBTQ rights, pushing for a transgender inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the federal protections against antiLGBTQ hate crimes. After her election to the Senate, Baldwin became a leader on the Equality Act, which would comprehensively ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination under civil rights law. Baldwin has also taken the lead on lower-profile issues, such as ending the ban on gay blood donations. Notable quote: “We don’t want to just live in a country where our rights our respected under the law, we want to live in a country where we are respected for who we are, where we enjoy the freedom and opportunity not because the Supreme Court gave us permission, but because we’re Americans, and that’s all there is to it.” — Baldwin at DOJ Pride celebration in 2013.

Tammy Duckworth

Notable offices held: Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, 2006-2009; U.S. House member 2013-2017; U.S. senator, 2017-present LGBTQ record: Tammy Baldwin isn’t the only Tammy said to be under consideration for the VP slot. Elected to the House in 2012 and the Senate in 2016, Duckworth is a combat veteran of the Iraq war, the first Thai American woman elected to Congress, the first female double amputee in the Senate, and the first senator to give birth while in office. A favorite among progressive veterans, Duckworth has spoken out against President Trump’s ban on transgender service members and recommended the nomination of lesbian U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland. She is a co-sponsor of the Equality Act to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Notable quote: “When I found myself sitting in that field, where we landed a couple hundred yards from where the bad guys were jumping in pickup trucks and headed toward us, and I was bleeding out in that aircraft, I didn’t care if the guys risking their lives to save me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white, male or female. All that mattered was they had an American flag on their shoulder and they did not leave me behind.” — Duckworth at DOD Pride event in 2019. Kamala Harris

Notable offices held: California attorney general, 2011-2017; U.S. senator, 2017-present LGBTQ record: Since becoming a U.S. senator, Harris has resisted efforts to keep U.S. citizens from identifying themselves as LGBTQ in the 2020 Census; urged investigations into the death of transgender immigrant Roxsana Hernández, who died after being held in ICE detention; and called on the Justice Department to stop excluding transgender people from its enforcement of Title VII. But Harris also championed LGBTQ issues as California attorney general, declining to defend Prop 8 and marrying the first same-sex couple in California after courts struck it down. Critics, however, have taken issue with her defending California in refusing transgender surgery for prison inmates. Notable quote: “I grew up in a community and a culture where everyone was accepted for who they were, so there wasn’t a moment where it was like, ‘OK, now let’s let this person in.’ Everyone was a part of everything. It was about community. It was about coalition building. It was about equality, inclusion. I mean, I had an uncle who was gay. [But] there was no epiphany” about gay people. — Harris to the Los Angeles Blade in 2018. CONTINUES ON PAGE 10

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Karen Bass

Notable offices held: California Assembly member, 2004-2010; U.S. House member, 2011-present LGBTQ record: The current chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Bass has a long history of activism going back to her work as a community organizer in Los Angeles during the 1980s, which included a firsthand experience with the devastation of HIV/AIDS at the peak of the epidemic. In her time in the California Assembly, Bass joined with leaders in the legislature to pass marriage equality legislation before it was vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bass has embraced the Black Lives Matter movement, has supported the Equality Act to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination and is considered the likely successor to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Notable quotable: “I went through the AIDS crisis from its very beginning. I watched all of Santa Monica Boulevard get wiped out near Vermont (Ave.). That whole area there. I watched everybody die within a matter of two years.” — Bass to the Los Angeles Blade in March. Val Demings

Notable offices held: Chief of the Orlando Police Department, 2007-2011; U.S. House member, 2017-present LGBTQ record: Demings is relatively new to the national stage as a two-term member of the House, but has spoken out on LGBTQ issues. A former chief of police in Orlando, Fla., Demings drew on that experience to condemn antitrans violence in an op-ed for The Hill newspaper, saying “an epidemic of anti-transgender violent crime is going unaddressed.” Demings also supports the Equality Act to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Notable quote: “Political attacks and hate crimes against LGBTQ people are increasing right along with the divisive and hateful rhetoric. No place feels this more deeply than Orlando, where in 2016, 49 people were killed at the Pulse Nightclub. The shooting was the deadliest attack against the LGBTQ community in modern American history and remains one of the worst our country has ever experienced.” — Demings in a 2018 op-ed for The Hill.

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Elizabeth Warren

Notable offices held: Special adviser for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2010-2011; U.S. senator, 2013-present LGBTQ record: Warren sought to advance LGBTQ rights even before she took office as a U.S. senator, telling the Washington Blade she wanted to see former President Barack Obama support same-sex marriage, as his thenstated evolution continued. (Obama would come out for marriage equality months later.) In the Senate, Warren has introduced the Refund Equality Act, which would give gay couples a refund on back taxes they would have owed if not for DOMA. As a 2020 candidate, Warren said she’d read aloud as president the names of transgender people killed each year in the White House Rose Garden. Notable quotable: “I want to see the president evolve because I believe that is right; marriage equality is morally right.” — Warren in Washington Blade interview in 2012. Keisha Lance Bottoms

Notable offices held: Atlanta City Council, 2010-2018; Atlanta mayor, 2018-present LGBTQ record: As mayor of Atlanta, Bottoms passed a resolution in 2019 calling on the state of Georgia to ban widely discredited conversion therapy. Earlier this year, Bottoms issued the city’s first Biennial Report of LGBTQ Affairs, which highlights pro-LGBTQ policies, programs and initiatives under her administration of the city.




WEEK 2 / JULY 6-12




WEEK 3 / JULY 13-19




Mobilizing DC to Make a Difference in our Community and for Our Planet



WEEK 4 / JULY 20-26

uly is Reduce Energy Use DC’s Take Action Period and we encourage you to join us in cutting back on energy use. Did you know that nine years within the last decade, July was the month where the District of Columbia used the most energy? During July 2019’s high temperatures, DC used a lot of electricity - 1.1 billion kWh. It would take 13 million tree seedlings grown for 10 years to remove the carbon released by using this electricity.



This is why we’re asking you, DC, to save energy this July! We know that saving energy may be a little tricky with July being one of the hottest months, but we’ve got quick actionable tips below for you to try all month long.

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District residents can sign up now and take the pledge by visiting ReduceEnergyUseDC.com or by texting “SaveMore” to 52886. Random drawings began in May and so far we have had winners from Wards 1,2,5,6, and 8. The pledge period closes at the end of July. The initiative will run through August 2020. For more information about the pledge and tips on how to reduce energy use, visit ReduceEnergyUseDC.com. Follow us @ReduceEnergyDC on



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Remembering civil rights icon John Lewis ‘Pushed our country closer to the promise of a more perfect union’ By CHRIS JOHNSON cjohnson@washblade.com England-based GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders, said in a statement Lewis’s death “is a tremendous loss at a moment when his moral conviction and clarity are needed perhaps more than ever.” “But his legacy and vision are alive in a new generation of young leaders pushing today to dismantle the systemic racism and white supremacy that persist within our institutions of power,” Wu said. “His insistence on believing that America could be a country where true justice prevails for everyone is both an inspiration and a challenge to us all to stay engaged in that work.” Lewis was a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights in Congress, lending his support to the Equality Act, legislation that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1965 to ban antiLGBTQ discrimination. Lewis also Rep. JOHN LEWIS speaks at the Human Rights Campaign dinner in 2016. (Blade file photo by Micheal Key) was lead sponsor of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, legislation that would prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights adoption. Campaign, said in a statement Lewis was “a hero and Kevin Jennings, CEO of Lambda Legal, said in a civil rights icon who pushed our country closer to the statement Lewis demonstrated a commitment to promise of a more perfect union.” LGBTQ people in face of anti-LGBTQ attacks from “Future generations will learn how he faced down the Trump administration. discrimination with courage and defiance, boldly “As an LGBT advocate, John Lewis was not only challenging the United States to envision a future a champion of marriage equality, but he introduced where every person, no matter their race, sexual the Equality Act, a bill to prohibit discrimination on orientation or gender identity, has an equal chance the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity at the American Dream,” David said. “His legacy will in employment, housing, credit, education and live on in the work we do every day to further his jury service,” Jennings said. “He has stood with our mission and continue to get into ‘good trouble’ in communities against the recent attacks from the the name of equality and justice.” Trump administration that we are fighting in court, In the 1960s, Lewis was a leader of the Civil Rights including the ban on transgender service members Movement, which fought for voting rights for Black and the anti-transgender health care rule.” Americans and the end to legalized segregation Also recognizing Lewis upon his death was in the United States. Lewis helped organize the Obama, who said in a statement, “America is a 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered constant work in progress” and the civil rights icon his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, and was the recognized the power of ordinary citizens to enact youngest person to speak from the stage. change. Lewis also took part in the Selma to Montgomery “In so many ways, John’s life was exceptional,” marches in 1965, when in an event later known as Obama said. “But he never believed that what he did “Bloody Sunday,” Alabama state troopers beat Black was more than any citizen of this country might do. demonstrators seeking to register Black Americans He believed that in all of us, there exists the capacity to vote after they stopped to pray peacefully. for great courage, a longing to do what’s right, a During his long service as a lawmaker representing willingness to love all people, and to extend to them Georgia in the U.S. House beginning in 1987, Lewis their God-given rights to dignity and respect. And would describe those events in contemporary it’s because he saw the best in all of us that he will tellings as “good trouble” and “necessary trouble.” continue, even in his passing, to serve as a beacon Former President Barack Obama awarded Lewis the in that long journey towards a more perfect union. “ Presidential Medal of Freedom. Janson Wu, executive director of the New LGBTQ rights supporters are mourning the loss of Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and died late Friday after a battle with pancreatic cancer at age 80.

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Mary Trump says uncle used racial slurs Lesbian niece pens damning tell-all book By CHRIS JOHNSON cjohnson@washblade.com Mary Trump, whose tell-all book reveals new unflattering secrets about her uncle as he pursues re-election, is a lesbian and kept her sexual orientation a secret from her family in the late 1990s, according to multiple media accounts of the book. Ahead of a plan to marry her girlfriend on MARY TRUMP is interviewed on the Rachel a Maui beach in 1999, Maddow Show on MSNBC. Mary Trump a week (Screen capture via MSNBC on YouTube) before the ceremony found herself at the hospital with the rest of her family as her grandfather lay dying, InStyle Magazine reports. Mary Trump decided to tell no one of her wedding plans, remembering that years earlier, her grandmother, Donald Trump ’s mother Mary Anne MacLeon Trump, had used a homophobic slur when referring to gay singer Elton John. In a conversation about Princess Diana’s funeral, her grandmother allegedly said, “It’s a disgrace they’re letting that little faggot Elton John sing at the service,” according to an except from the LGBTQ blog Towleroad. “I’d realized it was better that she didn’t know I was living with and engaged to a woman,” Mary Trump reportedly writes. Mary Trump, who had rebuffed her family in the 2016 election and supported Hillary Clinton, has alleged many secrets in the book about Trump. Among them is an allegation Trump paid someone else to take the SAT in his place for his college application. In an interview on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show,” Mary Trump said “yes” when asked if she heard her now president uncle express anti-Semitic slurs and the N-word, although she doesn’t divulge any further details about the alleged comments. “Of course, I did,” Mary Trump said. “I don’t think that should surprise anybody given how virulently racist he is today.” The White House has pushed back against Mary Trump’s book and claims that President Trump has not uttered racist or anti-Semitic slurs. “This is a book of falsehoods, plain and simple,” Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Matthews said. “The President doesn’t use those words.” Mary Trump, however, in an interview with the Washington Post on Thursday, drew a contrast between her family views on LGBTQ people and other minorities, which she said was one of “a knee-jerk anti-Semitism, a kneejerk racism.” “Growing up, it was sort of normal to hear them use the N-word or use antiSemitic expressions,” she reportedly said. Mary Trump added, “Homophobia was never an issue because nobody ever talked about gay people, well, until my grandmother called Elton John” a slur. Mary Trump promotes the unflattering book about Trump as White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany proclaimed last week her boss has a “great” record on LGBTQ issues. LGBTQ advocates, however, were quick to point out that record includes anti-LGBTQ policies, such as a transgender military ban, arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court against the landmark decision in favor of LGBTQ inclusion under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse child placement into LGBTQ homes for religious reasons.

Chechnya president, family banned from U.S.

KELLY GONZÁLEZ AGUILAR had been in ICE custody at the Aurora Contract Detention Facility in Aurora, Colo. (Photo by Keith Gardner/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

ICE releases trans Honduran asylum seeker U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement this week released a transgender woman from Honduras who had been in their custody for more than two years. The TransLatin@ Coalition in a tweet said ICE released Kelly González Aguilar from the Aurora Contract Detention Center, a privately-run facility in suburban Denver, on July 14. The tweet — which had pictures of González after her release — said she had been in ICE custody for 1,051 days. González had previously been detained at the privately-run Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico where ICE in 2017 opened a unit specifically for trans women in their custody. The TransLatin@ Coalition in an April press release notes González asked for asylum in the U.S. “Because of her gender identity, Kelly has experienced relentless violence and abuse since she was a child in Honduras,” reads the press release. The TransLatin@ Coalition, which is among the advocacy groups that urged ICE to release González, notes she remained in custody, despite her eligibility for parole. The advocacy group in April released a video in which González and other trans ICE detainees at the Aurora Contract Detention Center spoke about their concerns over the coronavirus inside the facility. The TransLatin@ Coalition is among the organizations that have called for ICE to release people with HIV and other detainees who are more vulnerable to the pandemic. “It was time that ICE made the right decision,” TransLatin@ Coalition President Bamby Salcedo told the Washington Blade on Thursday in a text message. “The release of Kelly was made possible because of the pressure of the people.” Salcedo said upwards of 80,000 people signed the TransLatin@ Coalition’s petition that demanded ICE release González. Salcedo noted to the Blade that members of Congress also backed calls for González’s release. The Santa Fe Dreamers Project, a New Mexico-based immigrant advocacy group, also welcomed González’s release. “Kelly’s release demonstrates that ICE has the capacity to release all immigrants from detention, particularly in the context of COVID-19,” said the Santa Fe Dreamers Project in a tweet that thanked the TransLatin@ Coalition and the National Immigration Justice Center for their efforts on González’s behalf. “ICE did not have a valid reason to keep Kelly for that long,” Salcedo told the Blade. “They let her free a couple of days ago, but they could have done this much earlier.” “This is just another sign about the injustices that ICE and the immigration detention system continues to portray against all of us,” added Salcedo. The Blade has requested an interview with González. MICHAEL K. LAVERS


The State Department on Monday announced the president of Chechnya can no longer travel to the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement noted the State Department is “publicly designating” Ramzan Kadyrov under Section 7031(c) of the FY 2020 Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act. Pompeo in his statement notes “Kadyrov’s involvement in gross violations of human rights in the Chechen Republic.” “The department has extensive credible information that Kadyrov is responsible for numerous gross violations of human rights dating back more than a decade, including torture and extrajudicial killings,” says Pompeo. An anti-LGBTQ crackdown in the semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucasus began in late 2016. The U.S. in 2017 sanctioned Kadyrov under the Magnitsky Act, a law that freezes the assets of Russian citizens who commit human rights abuses and prevents them from obtaining U.S. visas. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in a 2018 report noted authorities in the Russian republic have carried out extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses against LGBTQ Chechens. Pompeo in his statement references the OSCE report. “In 2018, the United States and fifteen other nations took the extraordinary step of invoking the OSCE’s Moscow Mechanism to create a fact-finding mission into horrific reports of abuses against LGBTI persons, human rights defenders, members of the independent media, and other citizens who ran afoul of Mr. Kadyrov,” he said. “The Moscow Mechanism rapporteur found that ‘harassment and persecution, arbitrary or unlawful arrests or detentions, torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions’ had taken place and that ‘a climate of impunity’ surrounded these events.” Kadyrov — a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — has dismissed reports that document the anti-LGBTQ crackdown in Chechnya. The travel ban that Pompeo announced also apply to Kadyrov’s wife and his two daughters. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Russia to consider anti-trans bill A bill was submitted to the Russian Duma on July 14 with proposed changes that would specifically put transgender individuals at risk. The bill — “Strengthen and Protect Family Institutions” — includes a number of proposed changes that include the addition of a “sex at birth” indication on birth certificates. This field would not be able to be changed, and the proposed legislation would require people who have already changed their birth certificate to amend it with the “original” information. A birth certificate would be required to register a marriage if the bill is passed. Because of the “sex at birth” provision, trans individuals would not be able to marry because the marriage would be considered same-sex. Same-sex marriages that have been registered abroad would not be recognized in Russia, as well. “We are deeply concerned by such a harsh intrusion into private lives of individuals and stand in sincere support and solidarity with all transgender, bisexual and homosexual people. It is clear that the proposed changes violate people’s rights and freedoms,” said the Russian LGBT Network in a press release. It is unclear how this legislation would affect trans people who are already married, according to the Russian LGBT Network press release. Svetlana Zakharova, a Russian LGBT Network board member who is the organization’s communications manager, told the Washington Blade the Duma is expected to have the first hearing on the bill in September. KAELA ROEDER

PETER ROSENSTEIN is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

Trump creates his own ‘Fantasy Island’

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President clings to alternative reality as poll numbers slide All we need to make the picture of a Trump “Fantasy Island” complete is for Mike Pence to stand there looking at him adoringly and yell, “Boss, da plane, da plane.” But this Fantasy Island is the one in hell not the place anyone wants to be. Trump has lost all sense of reality if he ever had any. If someone were to make a film of these past three and a half years of his administration and future generations watch it, they would think it was all made up and never believe it could have really happened. For our democracy to survive we must elect Joe Biden and move back to some form of normalcy at the same time we move forward and make the changes needed to secure full equality for all our citizens. As we live though Trump’s alternate reality we have to do everything we can to minimize the damage he is inflicting on our nation and the world. His niece’s book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” gives us some insight into how this man was formed but some people are just born evil. Intellectually I know it’s all about nature and nurture but there are born psychopaths and there A D V E R T are I S Iborn N G congenital P R O O F liars and there are some that no matter what you try to do for them will be bad. Donald Trump was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth yet he has squandered most of what that could have brought him and it is not fair ADVERTISER SIGNATURE to lay theobligations blame on his father. He may By signing this proof you are agreeing to yourall contract with the washington blade newspaper. This includes but is not limited to placement, payment and insertion schedule. have been a bastard to some but his son has clearly outdone him in that area. In three and a half years as president he has intentionally pitted group against group in our country making it once again easy for neo-Nazis, white supremacists, racists, homophobes and sexists to spew

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their hate in the public square. I lay that evil all at the doorstep of Donald Trump and his creation of the Fantasy Island from hell. It seems he has passed that evil on to his two older sons and his eldest daughter who has been so taken with her trappings and perceived power she has become an enabler for her father and is spewing the evil herself. I hope when her father is defeated and the power and prestige of being in the White House is in her past she will be shunned by those who once called her a friend. That would serve her right for the harm she is inflicting on so many. In order to stall his falling poll numbers the president is actually becoming much more strident. The Washington Post calls it a “dystopian shift in his attacks on Biden.” They say “Trump is going from calling Biden ‘Sleepy Joe’ … to saying he wants to abolish the American way of life.” Republican senators are fearful Trump’s insistence on focusing his rhetoric only on his base is going to hurt them. Americans by a large majority in the latest Post-ABC poll view him as mishandling the coronavirus pandemic. With the numbers of people getting the virus and dying only going up those numbers will likely not improve in time to help him in the November election. So while Trump continues to live in his alternative universe and pretend he is on a Fantasy Island those of us living in the real world will continue to suffer. People will continue to die in a pandemic he has called a hoax, and those who are impacted the most because of lack of access to healthcare, and judicial and economic inequality, will continue to suffer. It is only by being soundly defeated that the cult of Trump can start to be erased from our society.


is a longtime D.C.-based advocate for transgender equality.

‘Because of sex’ approach to protecting trans people Many analyses of Bostock decision missed the real history

“Here, I thought, looking around me, is where it all changed, because I was still too young to understand that history is not simply made up of moments of triumph strung together like pearls. I didn’t know that large changes were made up of many small ones, and of moments of suffering and backsliding and incremental, selective progress; unnecessary sacrifices and the opportunistic, privileged and lucky walking forward over the vulnerable and the dead.” —Carmen Maria Machado The road to LGBTQ equality has been long and winding, made up, legally, of two paths — sex (gender) stereotyping and “because of . . . sex.” Until the Bostock decision last month we had a quantum mechanical, “Schrödinger’s Cat” causal conundrum — would the decision be based on “sex” as written in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, or “sex stereotyping” as developed in the landmark 1989 Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins Supreme Court decision? Many guessed it would be the former, “because of . . . Gorsuch” and his penchant for textualism, but that didn’t stop plaintiff Aimee Stephens’ lawyer, David Cole, from arguing with the latter. Turns out it was the former, but before I trace the social history of that path, I would like to point out a delicious irony. It’s long been understood that the modern Supreme Court rarely leads, and usually follows, public opinion. That opinion is shaped by the people, and primarily by the people’s activist corps. In the case of the gay rights movement, the people universally known through the 1960s as homosexuals became known in the 70s as gay people. Why? Because the “sex” in “homosexual” directed one’s gaze to sex acts, which is still what most Americans conjure in their minds when they hear the word “sex.” And since many were repelled by the thought of gay sex, it became evident a different, de-sexed, label was necessary. Similarly with the trans community, which had been universally known as the transsexual community through the 1980s, and which de-sexed “transsexual” to “transgender” in the ‘90s (the first national trans rights group, founded by Riki Wilchins and Denise Norris in 1993, was called “Transexual Menace,” and the second, was the “National Transgender Advocacy Coalition,” in 1999), and then finally just the single syllable “trans” in the aughts, to match the single syllable, “gay.” Language matters. Just as Americans viewed homosexual people through the lens of their sex acts, they viewed transsexual people the same way, often reduced to sex workers and homicidal maniacs (“Dallas Buyer’s Club,” 2013 and Hitchcock’s classic, “Psycho,” 1960). So, today, gay and trans individuals have their employment rights, and soon full protections with the Equality Act next year, because of a return to the modern source of those rights, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and “because of . . . sex.” Not gender, but sex, and, refreshingly so, but devoid of any implications of sexual activity. Justice Gorsuch, interestingly, returned to using the archaic term “homosexual” throughout his opinion, but did not revert to “transsexual,” and treated Ms. Stephens respectfully in his comments. How did we get here? In the weeks following the decision many of the analyses of the decision missed the real history. That history is written by the victors, but it also very much matters which victors do the writing. The path of “because of . . .” and “but for” sex began in the 60s, as Justice Gorsuch mentioned: Not long after the law’s passage, gay and transgender employees began filing Title VII complaints, so at least some people foresaw this potential application. Trans persons won some lower court decisions in the ‘70s, before the religious and feminist backlash began in 1979 with Janice Raymond and then the Reaganites. Trans plaintiffs lost in the late ‘70s and ‘80s because transsexualism was not recognized as a form of sex (Holloway v. Arthur Andersen, 1977, Sommers v. Budget Marketing, 1982 and Ulane v. United Airlines, 1984). And then, in 1989, came Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, and the landscape utterly changed for trans plaintiffs. The first, and until Bostock, only SCOTUS decision (and victory) for a trans plaintiff occurred in 1994, in a unanimous Eighth Amendment decision written by Justice Souter on behalf of the plaintiff, a black trans woman, Dee Farmer. The next federal appeals court case, and the first in a string of victories leading to Bostock, was Smith v. City of Salem in 2004, won on both sex and sex stereotyping concerns, followed by another Sixth Circuit case, Barnes v. City of Cincinnati in 2005. Philecia Barnes was also a black trans woman and she won “because of sex.” The only hiccup in this long chain of victories was Etistty v. Utah Transit Authority in the 10th Circuit in 2007. This was followed in rapid succession by

the blockbusters: Schroer v. Billington, 2008; Glenn v. Brumby, 2011; and Macy v. Holder, 2012. It was the unanimous Macy decision at the EEOC, led by Commissioner Chai Feldblum, that protected trans persons in all 50 states, and cemented the “because of sex” approach to protecting trans persons. Professor Feldblum, a major author of the 1991 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), had been living in Takoma Park, Md., in Montgomery County in 2007-08 when I led the campaign for Basic Rights Montgomery to pass and defend the county gender identity law. That law generated the first bathroom bill backlash in the United States, and Professor Feldblum, who had been a believer in the doctrine that trans status was a function of sex and, therefore, covered by Title VII, was further encouraged to pursue it if she ever got her chance in the federal government to make it a reality. Presciently, these were her words 20 years ago: “But a strict textualist approach might work as well (or even better) for those seeking to achieve broad protection for gay people and transgender people. Under such an approach, the intent of the enacting Congress (or state legislature) is not as important as the words the legislature chose to use.” It had been obvious to me, as well, as I had been teaching and lobbying for years on the medical basis of transsexualism being rooted in brain sex. Research begun in 1995 had been making that very plain. But few LGBTQ attorneys, with the notable exception of Katie Eyer, believed in the possibility of progressive textualism, even though the Constitution is the product of the Enlightenment. So after being nominated by President Obama to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and confirmed by the Senate, Professor Feldblum looked for the right case and found it in Mia Macy. She then did the same for David Baldwin in the first national gay rights victory, Baldwin v. Foxx, in 2015. Just looking at these cases it was clear that the federal courts (and some state courts as well) were beginning to respect trans persons enough, including black trans women, beginning in the ‘90s to not only not summarily throw them out of court, but to seriously apply the “because of sex” and sex stereotyping arguments to them. All that at a time when fewer than 8% of Americans (in a 2013 poll) admitted to knowing a trans person; when gay people, far better represented in the media and known in their communities, were routinely failing in federal court. Yet there have been post-Bostock analyses by highly respected civil rights lawyers that turn this history on its head. For example, Shannon Minter, the trans attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), said: “We’ve always known that our legal arguments are strong and should be accepted, but the reason it took decades for the courts to accept these arguments was because transgender people were so foreign to the courts.” This is not the first time. After promoting the trans legal case “because of sex” for years, I tried to get the national LGBTQ, and particularly trans, organizations to recognize our success post-Macy. They would have none of it. The lawyers at HRC, the National LGBT Task Force, and even NCTE, the National Center for Transgender Equality on whose board I sat, refused to acknowledge the breakthroughs. To get the word out I had to publish a pamphlet, with attorney Jillian Weiss and activist Riki Wilchins, which was promoted by Masen Davis and the Transgender Law Center, the only nationally oriented trans group willing to get on board. We were also supported by Tico Almeida and Freedom to Work. Fortunately, thousands of trans persons got the message, and filed claims with the EEOC. Many won, with most settling out of court because, you know, the law matters. Yet others have lived the past eight years in fear and anxiety because our institutions’ lawyers repeatedly said that we had no protections without a decision of the Supreme Court. I countered that it would take years, or might never happen because we were winning all our cases, and without a split at the appeals court level the Court might not even take up the issue. Fortunately for us today, SCOTUS rolled us into the Circuit split on the gay rights cases (Bostock and Zarda), and we pulled the gay community along to victory. No gays left behind. We had not lost a Circuit Appeals case since 2007, the only one in the 21st century, so I, for one, was not surprised. People who are committing themselves to activism need to understand the history so as to most effectively pursue their goals in the future. LGBTQ folks need to understand the bureaucratic resistance within their own movements, from the most well-meaning people. It is, indeed, always a long and winding road to liberty and equality. V I E W POI NT • JULY 1 0 , 2 0 2 0 • WAS H IN GTO N B LAD E.CO M • 1 5



is a long time gay Republican activist whose latest book is ‘How AIDS Activists Challenged America and Saved FDA from Itself.’

is a former candidate for Ward 2 D.C. Council.

Trump’s authoritarianism Trump: Keep Pence and lose risk to LGBTQ communities Career bigot alienates women, LGBT voters Donald Trump’s 2016 choice of Mike Pence seemed a smart move. Pence roundly beat Tim Kaine in the vice presidential debates, helped solidify Trump’s base against a veritable mutiny by deep state opponents, and, unlike other Trump picks, Pence has been publicly loyal. The Mueller probe fizzled and the economy roared under Trump, while his court appointments and stands on immigration, China, and Iran boosted him with grassroots Republicans. Everything looked rosy for Trump and Pence, then came the double whammy resets from the coronavirus and George Floyd. Faced with high unemployment, rising fear and falling polls, Trump can no longer afford promising more of the same. Keeping Pence adds nothing to the ticket, while it writes off all thinking LGBTs and our friends. Even Trump’s few open supporters among gays, like Peter Thiel, appear to be getting cold feet. If Joe Biden picks a woman who is well qualified, she will energize his current advantages among women and LGBTs. Because of Biden’s age, his running mate will hold the spotlight as never before. Biden’s female veep can bring youth, energy, and symbolize change. Mike Pence projects the tired image of what the GOP once was but can no longer be if it hopes to win national elections. America is changing fast, just not in Pence’s direction. Pence has built his career on anti-gay stands, the single area where this smiling bigot displays real leadership. Concurrently, support for gay marriage has risen from 56% in 2016 to 70% today, 80% of Americans now favor gay rights. Yet Republican gays get no wins with Trump’s GOP, all the while Pence labors to reverse LGBT rights gained under Obama. Trump turns a blind eye to Pence’s filling key administration posts with cronies bent on marginalizing LGBTs, but we don’t miss a single slight or forget Pence’s record of homophobic demagoguery. Although 6% of voters now self-identify as LGBT, Pence’s wife Karen, herself a divorcee, teaches in

a school that blatantly discriminates against LGBT people, justifying their bigotry by citing Leviticus 20:13’s call for gay men to be put to death! Yet the Democrats hold their tongues for now. Why awaken Trump in time for him to replace Pence with a credible leader who could boost rather than handicap the GOP ticket? Imagine what a Liz Warren or Kamala could serve up to Pence in the vice presidential debates— delectable to watch. The recent Supreme Court Gorsuch decision is a lose-lose proposition for a Trump-Pence ticket while it opens big opportunities for LGBT Americans. Before that decision, Pence’s bigotry was low on the radar. Gorsuch can spotlight it. LGBT rights have already become a litmus test issue for many millennial and women voters. For LGBT people, Gorsuch should be a wake up-call to symbolically end our long, shameful confinement in the back of America’s bus by terminating the political career of Mike Pence. Given Joe Biden’s age, the Democrats’ weakness on China and Iran, their kamikaze left wing, and the inevitable dampening effect on the financial markets of their economic agenda, a Biden win could spell debacle for America. Many LGBTs, fearing this, will be tempted to stick with Trump—but not if he keeps for a running mate a career bigot. Resistance Democrats openly running the Justice Department will bode disaster for Donald Trump and his family. “Obamagate,” Pelosi’s impeachment attempts, and the fate of Michael Flynn should warn Trump about how far they will go. Republicans have accomplished people who have not built their careers on denigrating gays, for example Sen. Tim Scott or Nikki Haley. They would strengthen the GOP ticket where lackluster Pence adds nothing. If Donald Trump can finesse replacing Pence, he may be able to win again. If, in yet another act of hubris, Trump again embraces that grinning bigot, many women and millennials will be alienated, along with nearly all LGBTs. Together we may well put Joe Biden in the White House, and Trump will deserve his grim fate.

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Each of us must act to protect our democracy

The academic community has long been urging us to realize that although this threat sounds surreal, it is in fact, all too real Our greatest intellectual Achilles heel is that we tend not to believe something that hasn’t happened to us. Most people reading this have never lived under authoritarianism. We just can’t imagine it and so we disbelieve this threat, in spite of the abundance of cold hard evidence, and the abundance of academics and other experts who have been warning us about Trump’s authoritarian take-over for years. Ultimately, it is not Trump that puts us at grave risk: It is our lack of imagination to comprehend the danger ahead of us that he presents. In the weeks before I became the only candidate to legally withdraw from the Ward 2 special election, I made a discovery that rocked my fundamental understanding of the world around us, and hence compelled me to focus exclusively on scouring through as much academic research as possible on the issue. That discovery was this: firstly, the election in November will not save us from Trump. Trump will steal the election and will refuse to leave the White House; Congress will not act; the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction to act; the military cannot act; and (to paraphrase Amherst Law professor Lawrence Douglas), there is a black hole in the Constitution – it has no provision for this scenario. In other words, there is precisely nothing to save us from Trump’s authoritarian takeover, except us – you and me, we the people (as authoritarianism scholar Dr. Sarah Kendzior and other authoritarian academics repeatedly point out). The second part of this discovery was this: We are living through an authoritarian takeover by Trump, right now. I first stumbled upon this view in Dr Sarah Kendzior’s work. Then I found that numerous other authoritarian experts and academics fully agree with Kendzior - including NYU Professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat and Yale Professors Tim Snyder and Jason Stanley. Four months on from my GLAA submission, eviscerating Trump’s and Barr’s war on the equal dignity and rights of our

LGBTQ community, my level of concern is vastly elevated. Even before Trump’s political debut in 2015, we still hadn’t made nearly enough progress as a country on LGBTQ rights: We can’t go backwards. And so I implore you, with all my heart, to do the following, now: Realize that Trump has utilized the power of shock to consistently stay ahead of us at every turn for the last five years. Realize that we need to get ahead of him for once, by pre-empting his next shocking action and acting before he does. Realize that we must dramatically step up our neglected form of citizen power now – mass, pre-emptive protest and demonstration, with public group statements, placed everywhere. We must give Trump a visual, loud and clear message now, that we will not allow him to turn this country into an authoritarian state. We must clearly articulate this threat: if we don’t have the guts to even use these words (“authoritarianism”) and call it out, then we stand no chance of defeating it. Realize the profoundly powerful platform that we have here in Ward 2, right in the heart of the nation’s capital, by being an example of citizen power in a way that Trump will find hard to manipulate (unlike voting) for other communities around the country. We must demonstrate our power, now, to Trump, before he acts and shocks us yet again. Former Democratic Sen. Timothy Wirth and the founder of MSNBC Tom Rogers were absolutely correct in urging us all that “there needs to be an outpouring at all levels of society that this will not be tolerated .. The president has to know there will be overwhelming resistance to any post-election chaos to undermine our constitutional order.” I urge every reader to get every organization that you are affiliated with, to issue group statements, standing up to Trump’s clear, blatant authoritarian takeover. Understanding and talking about this threat is not enough: each one of us is obliged to act. Any embarrassment at standing up to do the right thing is a negligible price to pay for something so infinitely precious – all of our safety, our lives, our equal dignity and our shared humanity, especially of those most at risk of this existential Trumpian threat.



is a regular contributor to the Blade and winner of the 2014 Stonewall Chapbook competition.

Dorothy Parker, excuse her dust Where will iconic writer’s ashes end up? “Heterosexuality isn’t normal, it’s just common.” This sounds like something you’d say if you’re queer or an LGBTQ ally to your unenlightened relatives at Thanksgiving. But gay icon, writer, poet, wit, critic and civil rights activist Dorothy Parker issued this putdown of homophobia decades ago. Parker, who said that she started her day by brushing her teeth and sharpening her tongue, had a saying for every occasion and mood. “I’m too fucking busy, and vice-versa,” she told (then) New Yorker editor Harold Ross when he wondered why a book review was overdue. I’m thinking about Parker a lot these days. Parker is best known as a member of the “vicious circle” of writers who gathered at the Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel in the 1920s. Lately, she’s been in the news. Parker, who died at age 73 in 1967, is likely, martini in hand, laughing at the buzz. Last month, the NAACP announced that it would move its headquarters from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. Since 1988, Parker’s ashes have been interred beneath a plague in a business park at the NAACP headquarters in Baltimore. (Before that, her ashes were in a filing cabinet in a New York lawyer’s office.) Now, the NAACP is considering what to do with Parker’s remains. Ironically, Parker said she wanted her epitaph to be: excuse my dust. Who knows where she would want her remains to rest? But one thing would make her smile: she got her epitaph, the Post reports. Why should we care about Parker? What does her life or work offer to us today? When I was young, I tuned out when my parents or teachers mentioned Parker. “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think,” “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses” and some of her other, often quoted, quips made me cringe. Until I became a feminist, came out,

started to write and discovered how hard love and writing could be. To my surprise, Parker amused and inspired me. Her wit was as salty as potato chips; her spirit more bracing than the best gin and tonic or fiery sermon. Parker was there with her razor-sharp wit before Joan Rivers. Long before even your grandma reveled in snark. You may think that Parker has nothing to do with your world. But even if you’ve never heard of her, you’ve been influenced by Parker. Her second husband, actor and screenwriter Alan Campbell, coded as queer. So many queer men attended Parker’s parties, that some historians believe the phrase “friend of Dorothy,” used by gays before you could come out, refers to her. “All I need is room enough to lay a hat and a few friends,” she said. “I like to have a martini/Two at the very most/After three I’m under the table/After four I’m under my host,” she wrote in one of her poems. Some of Parker’s reviews, written more than 100 years ago, seem ripped from today’s headlines. “There is always this to be said for the epidemic of Spanish influenza,” she wrote after seeing a bad play, “it gave the managers something to blame things on.” Substitute “COVID-19” for “influenza” and you’re in our pandemic. Like many of her fans, I didn’t know until recently that Parker’s wit was married to a strong belief in justice. Parker, who was Jewish, spoke out in her reviews against stereotypical depictions of Black characters and anti-Semitism on Broadway. She left most of her estate and royalties to Martin Luther King, Jr. (and to the NAACP after his death). Today, Parker would support Black Lives Matter, call for passage of the Equality Act and give Trump a run for his money on Twitter. Thank you, Dottie! R.I.P.


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make meaningful career CONNECTIONS “As the infrastructure industry continues to grow, we want DC residents to be first in line for these high-paying jobs.” - Mayor Muriel Bowser Pepco proudly supports the DC Infrastructure Academy. We are committed to creating opportunities for DC residents and ensuring our workforce reflects the people and communities where we live and work. Recruitment now open! Visit dcinfrastructureacademy.org for more details.


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Mercado’s ‘Amor’ shines in Netflix doc

An invitation to celebrate the power of love By JOHN PAUL KING

If you were Latinx during the final decades of the last century – and even if you weren’t – odds are good that the face of Walter Mercado was a familiar sight. Already a local celebrity as a dancer and actor in his native Puerto Rico, Mercado began his rise to international stardom after an impromptu discussion of astrology during a TV interview proved so popular that he was asked to return to the show with regular daily reports on the same subject. Flaunting a carefully crafted yet unabashedly flamboyant persona, he became a staple of daily life in homes across Latin America and Europe, his popularity eventually spilling over into the U.S. and beyond to make him an icon at a level comparable to figures such as Oprah or even the Pope within Latinx cultures across the world. The esteemed status to which he rose is even more remarkable considering the image he presented. Draped in ornate and theatrical robes, sporting make-up and a stylishly coiffed head of strawberry blond-ish hair, he made no effort to mask his feminine side; he wasn’t merely androgynous, he expressed gender in a way for which there was no noninsulting label back then, and yet he managed to transcend the stigma around sexual and gender non-conformity to find an audience within a community known – especially then – for traditional beliefs that often went hand-in-hand with homophobia and transphobia. For a generation that grew up watching this larger-than-life figure with their abuelas on the couch, waiting eagerly for him to deliver his daily forecast for their own sign of the Zodiac, he was as comforting a presence as he was an outrageous one. Though these lifelong fans (such as fellow Puerto Rican Lin-Manuel Miranda) have remembered him with a bubbly, childlike reverence, few of them knew the reason behind his sudden disappearance from public view nearly a decade-and-a-half ago – at least until earlier this month, when Netflix debuted its new documentary, “Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado,” a loving portrait that provides answers to that mystery while allowing the octogenarian trailblazer to take a much-deserved final bow before his passing at the age of 87 a few months after filming completed. Deriving its title from Mercado’s customary expression of love at the end of his forecasts, the film gets up close and – gradually – personal with its subject, who was 85 when the filmmakers (directors Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch, and producer Alex Fumero) began working with him on the project in 2017. Warm and welcoming from the start, Mercado clearly relishes his return to a place in front of the cameras and endeavors to show us that age and a retreat from the limelight have done nothing to diminish the grandeur of his style or his radiance; later, as things progress and he grows more comfortable and trusting of his cinematic biographers, he relaxes enough to give us glimpses of vulnerability, both in his reminiscences and in his willingness to participate despite his declining physical health as filming progresses – but even in his most fragile moments, he is never anything less than regal. Much is revealed over the course of the documentary’s 96 minutes. Some of it, like hearing about how Walter’s “Character” was inspired and defined by happenstance and costume, serves as illuminating trivia that further augments his legend; other parts, such as the chronicle of betrayed trust and legal wrangling that resulted in his departure from the airwaves, carry a sense of loss that make his story more bittersweet than our knowledge that his appearance on our screen is now a posthumous one. While such biographical detail may be informative, however, it’s at least partly because of what is NOT revealed that “Mucho Mucho Amor” stands out as something more remarkable than just another stream-of-the-week documentary.

WALTER MERCADO in ‘Mucho Mucho Amor.’ (Photo courtesy Netflix)

Never apologetic or misleading about his sexuality or gender identity, Mercado nevertheless declined throughout his public life to put a label on himself; he used masculine pronouns, but beyond that he was neither male nor female, gay nor straight – he was simply Walter. The aged pioneer of alternative gender presentation maintains the same coquettish coyness around these topics here; we are introduced to his longtime partner, Willy Acosta, but told by both that their relationship is not a romantic or sexual one; we watch him field the curiosity of TV hosts in archival footage from his heyday, and we are informed of his dislike for imitations of himself (such as that done by famous Mexican comedian Eugenio Derbez, who offers his own comments in the film) that he sees as parodying of those aspects of his persona. This reticence to spill those kinds of secrets does not come off as obfuscation; rather, it is accompanied by a sparkly-eyed attitude that seems more like a friendly wink and smile than a deceptive dodge of the issue. The Mercado persona was always carefully crafted in a way which enveloped his gender-blending qualities in the shroud of his position as a populist spiritual leader, rendering acceptable that which might have been seen as taboo in someone with a more worldly role, and though a representative of his younger generation of fans might be able to describe him on camera as “non-binary” and “asexual,” it would be as disappointing as it was surprising were he to say those things about himself, even in today’s more welcoming atmosphere. Yet, as the self-described “magician” at the center of this infectiously uplifting documentary might tell you himself, his refusal to identify is not a ploy to hide himself; he knows who he is, and he knows that we recognize him – even if we’re not sure whether to believe him entirely when he says his only relationship is with his faith. The ambiguity part of the image, and part of his message, too – an encouragement by example to embrace and live one’s truth without shame, and a loving challenge to those with closed minds about “otherness” to look past their judgments and open their hearts instead. It might be naïve to assume that Mercado, the veteran showman, would have intended all along for this elegantly polite subversion to be the entire point of the legend he created, but it’s probably fair to say it was always a light he intended to shine. As for the legend itself, “Mucho Mucho Amor” leaves that more than intact. If anything, Mercado’s star shines brighter after viewing it, thanks to the persuasive authenticity of his belief in the mélange of spiritual and occult traditions he concocted around himself as he delivered his message – adamantly and always a positive one – to the millions of followers he touched throughout his life. For Walter Mercado, all religions were true, so why should he not take the things that spoke to him from each to create his own and believe in that one, too? That sincerity, which came across in his broadcasts, still rings through loud and clear in “Mucho Mucho Amor,” and it carries, as always, an invitation to celebrate the power of love.

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The Washington Blade’s CHRIS JOHNSON is nominated for Outstanding Newspaper Article and the Los Angeles Blade’s KAREN OCAMB will receive special recognition at the GLAAD Media Awards next week.

GLAAD Media Awards will go on – virtually, of course Two Blade reporters up for honors this year By JOHN PAUL KING

With the initial spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. back in the early months of 2020, perhaps the first definitive proof that it had hit crisis-level proportions was the widespread cancellation of live events nationwide. Every corner of the media and entertainment industry was impacted. Concerts, theatrical performances, award shows, conventions, lecture tours – every large in-person event across the country was either cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future. Among those were the two annual presentations of GLAAD’s Media Awards. The LGBTQ advocacy group was forced to pull the plug on both its planned ceremonies, set for New York and Los Angeles, and leave them in limbo for what we all then hoped would be only a month or two, at most, surely. Now, as the country faces a new and even more alarming surge in the pandemic, GLAAD is stepping up to the plate to remind us that, despite whatever other challenges the world may be facing as we move into an increasingly uncertain future, the fight for equality must go on – and befitting its role as one of the foremost leaders in that fight, the organization has decided that it’s time for the 31st Annual GLAAD Media Awards to go on. Slated for Thursday, July 30, the awards (which honor media for fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of LGBTQ people and issues) will be presented in a streaming event over GLAAD’s Facebook and YouTube platforms at 8 p.m., before airing on Logo on Aug. 3 (also at 8 p.m.). Taking the place of both original ceremonies planned for earlier this year, the virtual ceremony may not be the gala event that has become an annual tradition since its inception in 1990, but it will nevertheless continue the Media Awards’ legacy of sending powerful messages of acceptance to audiences globally as the most visible annual LGBTQ awards show in the world. In January, GLAAD announced more than 175 nominees in 30 categories. These include nods for “Bombshell,” “Booksmart,” “Downton Abbey,” “Rocketman,” “Adam,” “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” and several other films in both the Wide and Limited Release categories; “Batwoman,” “Billions,” “Euphoria,” “Pose,” “The L-Word: Generation Q,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Dear White People,” “Schitt’s Creek,” “Sex Education,” “Vida,” and many more TV shows in the Drama and Comedy categories, as well as a long list of other programs and films made for television; Adam Lambert, Brittany Howard, Lil Nas X, Melissa Etheridge, Mika, Tegan and Sara, and several other big LGBTQ names are in the competition for Outstanding Music Artist; there are categories for Outstanding Comic Book and Outstanding Video Game, as well as the returning category for Outstanding Broadway Production; in addition, the Outstanding Kids & Family Programming category expanded to 10 nominees as a result of an increase in LGBTQ images across kids and family television programming and an increase in GLAAD’s work to advocate for inclusion in this genre. If all that weren’t enough, there’s another whole list of Spanish-language nominations. Of course, entertainment is only one side of the media – there’s also its all-important role in providing news and information, something GLAAD recognizes with awards for Outstanding achievement in LGBTQ journalism. Among those being acknowledged in these categories are two of the Blade’s own reporters. Nominated for Outstanding Newspaper Article is Chris Johnson, for “Military Reports No Discharges Under Trans Ban — But Advocates Have Doubts,” which appeared in the

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Washington Blade in August 2019. A deep-dive into the ongoing legal battles in the wake of President Trump’s controversial, tweeted 2017 proclamation that transgender individuals would no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, the article is a strong contender against other nominated work from such journalistic heavy-hitters as both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. One of the ceremony’s certain winners, as announced all the way back in January, will be the Los Angeles Blade’s Karen Ocamb, a longtime giant of LGBTQ journalism in L.A. Along with Philadelphia Gay News founder and publisher Mark Segal and the Netflix series, “Special,” Ocamb is one of three recipients of Special Recognition Awards from GLAAD. Los Angeles Blade Publisher Troy Masters says, “I am so proud to work with Karen Ocamb on a near daily basis. She is a powerful brain trust on LGBT and AIDS matters. Her integrity and devotion to truth have immensely benefited the LGBTQ community of Los Angeles and nationally, and it has made the Los Angeles Blade a force in journalism. Karen has added mightily to our partnership with the Washington Blade.” As for Ocamb, she says, “I was surprised to receive the Special Recognition from GLAAD. I’ve been hesitant to submit any of my work for award consideration because it felt like a possible conflict of interest. But being recognized as an heir to LGBTQ reporters such as Jim Kepner and Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon is an incredible honor. And I greatly appreciate GLAAD serving as a watchdog over if and how our stories are being told since we are still a long way from full equality.” Ocamb’s comments resonate with those of GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, who said in a statement, “Among this year’s nominees are a wide range of stories and narratives about LGBTQ people of different races, ethnicities, genders, religions, and other identities that demonstrate the power of inclusion and diversity in fostering positive cultural change. As this year’s Media Awards go virtual, we hope to send a powerful message to LGBTQ people that in the midst of this culturally and politically divisive time, our visibility and voices have never been more important.” It’s safe to say that a good number of the famous names and faces from that list of nominees will be making an appearance on July 30, but you’ll have to watch the ceremony to find out who the winners are. Comedians Fortune Feimster and Gina Yashere will host, and there will be a special performance from Grammy-nominated duo Chloe x Halle. Special guests will include Cara Delevingne (“Suicide Squad,” “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”), Kaitlyn Dever (“Booksmart”), WWE superstar Sonya Deville, Beanie Feldstein (“Booksmart”), Jonica T. Gibbs (“Twenties”), Dan Levy (“Schitt’s Creek”), Lil Nas X, Rachel Maddow (“The Rachel Maddow Show”), Ryan O’Connell (“Special”), Dolly Parton, Peppermint (“RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “Head Over Heels”), the cast and producers of “Pose,” trans model and advocate Geena Rocero, Angelica Ross (“Pose,” “American Horror Story”), comedian Benito Skinner, Brian Michael Smith (“9-1-1: Lone Star,” “The L Word: Generation Q”), Dwyane Wade & Gabrielle Union, Lena Waithe (“Master of None,” “Queen & Slim,” “Twenties”), Olivia Wilde (“Booksmart,” “House”), and Raquel Willis (Writer, Activist, Director of Communications for Ms. Foundation). For more information, visit www.glaad.org/mediaawards and follow @glaad and #glaadawards.

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‘Lady Romeo’ brings queer icon back to the stage

Charlotte Cushman was known as our ‘first celebrity’

More protests demanding systemic changes are planned in Washington on Aug. 1. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)


Cartoonist Adrian Tomine is discussing his new graphic novel today, “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist” streamed through Harvard Book Store at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but a $3 donation is encouraged at registration. Details at harvard.com/event.

Saturday, July 25

Join the DC Center and volunteer with Food and Friends today, an organization that prepares and delivers meals and groceries to people living with HIV, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses every fourth Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to noon. Duties include peeling, dicing, portioning, sorting, bagging and labeling. Details at thedccenter.org/events.

Sunday, July 26

George Washington’s Mount Vernon is now open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Nonmembers are encouraged to buy tickets online, and guests and staff are required to wear face coverings and must social distance. Tickets range from $12-$20. Learn more by visiting mountvernon.org.

Monday, July 27

A Kennedy Center Couch Concert is today at 4 p.m., as well as every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Every Monday, the Kennedy Center partners with a venue in the U.S. to curate two artists who will tell the story of their personal cities. Learn more by visiting kennedy-center.org/whats-on.

Tuesday, July 28

Profs and Pints Online is hosting “How Scientists Begat Racism” tonight at 7 p.m. with Rui Diogo, associate professor of anatomy at Howard University’s College of Medicine and resource faculty member at George Washington University’s Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology. Tickets are $12. Details at profsandpints.com/online-talks.

Wednesday, July 29

Become skilled in Creating Safe Spaces for LGBTQ Youth Experiencing Homelessness, an online training by the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, DHS, SMYAL and CasaRuby today from 10 a.m. - noon. This workshop is for Washingtonarea youth service professionals to gain knowledge about LGBTQ DC laws, LGBTQ homeless youth legislation and more. Login credentials will be sent to participants 48 hours prior to training. Details at the respective Eventbrite page.

Thursday, July 30

The DC Center is hosting its monthly Queer Book Club tonight at 7 p.m. on Skype. The group will be discussing “A Spectral Hue” by Craig Laurance Gidney. Details at thedccenter.org/events.

OUT&ABOUT D.C. residents to protest systemic racism

The Palm Collective, along with more than 65 local and national grassroots partners, are set to protest in demand for systemic changes in Washington on Saturday, Aug. 1 at 3 p.m. The group is meeting at the African American Museum of History & Culture. Details at palmcollective.org.

Art studio celebrates creativity, activism

For the Culture Studio is hosting “I MISS MY FRIENDS,” an art show and socially distant block party in Hyattsville. The studio will be displaying “Protest,” showcasing Washington’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Currently, the exhibit is being shown virtually. Organizers say attendees must sign up for the live viewing and there will be no more than three guests at a time inside of the art studio. Temperature checks and health screening are required to enter, and admission is free. Learn more on the “I MISS MY FRIENDS” Eventbrite page.

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Queer history stories can be worthy, but too scholarly, even snooze-inducing. Or they can grab you by the lapels and jolt you awake like a double shot of espresso. “Lady Romeo: The Radical and Revolutionary Life of Charlotte Cushman, America’s First Celebrity” by Tana Wojczuk will keep you up at night. Turning the page – hungering for more. Her mouth was compared to “the Arc de Triomphe.” Abraham Lincoln was a fan. Queer poet Walt Whitman praised the “towering grandeur of her genius.” Louisa May Alcott wrote in her diary that she “had a stage-struck fit” after she saw Cushman perform. The governor of New York and railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt were in the audience for Cushman’s farewell performance in November 1874. Cushman and her partner sculptor Emma Stebbins lived as a married couple for more than two decades. The Bethesda Fountain on Poet’s Walk in Central Park is a secret tribute to her. Yet, most of us haven’t heard of the queer 19th century American actress Charlotte Cushman. Wojczuk, brings Cushman, who lived from 1816 to 1876 and was as famous as Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson or Charles Dickens, vividly to life. As you read, you forget that you live in the 21st century. You’re with Cushman as she performs in theaters lit by oil lamps, receives telegrams and gets seasick while traveling by ship from the United States to England. It’s ironic that Cushman is largely unknown today. Because during her lifetime, she was as well known as Tallulah Bankhead or Cher. “Before Charlotte, America had no celebrities; now they manufacture them like blue jeans,” writes Wojczuk, an editor at “Guernica.” It would have been difficult for even Dickens to have imagined Cushman’s story. Cushman was born in Boston to a middleclass “Mayflower” family. But her life changed dramatically when her father left her family when she was 13. She left school to help her mother run a boardinghouse. As a teenager, Cushman goes to New Orleans. Her foray into singing opera is trounced by the critics. But, through a twist of fate, she found herself with little time to learn the part, suddenly cast in the formidable role of Lady Macbeth. Despite her youth and scant acting experience, the critics agreed that “like Hamlet thrusting his sword through a shadow in the curtains, Miss Cushman had hit immediately on a starring role,” Wojczuk writes. Cushman became famous at a time when many thought acting was sinful. Yet,


‘Lady Romeo: The Radical and Revolutionary Life of Charlotte Cushman, America’s First Celebrity’ By Tana Wojczuk Avid Reader Press /Simon & Schuster $27, 240 pages throughout her over 40-year career, Cushman, often described as “mannish,” played not only Lady Macbeth but male roles. She became famous for her “breeches parts,” Wojczuk writes, “Macbeth, Cardinal Wolsey, henry VIII, Hamlet, and especially Romeo.” Men and women of all ages and classes worshiped Cushman. Working class admirers, who knew Shakespeare by heart though they couldn’t read the Bard in books, waited in long lines to get tickets to her shows, Wojczuk notes. The press followed Cushman’s every move, and men and women imitated her style. Cushman became well known for playing Romeo in England. Often, her sister Susan played Juliet. In another unusual move, Cushman insisted that actors work with the full text of “Romeo and Juliet,” Wojczuk writes. “Charlotte, an American, insisted on a purity and fidelity to the original that Shakespeare no longer enjoyed in his own land.” You could easily make several movies or at least an opera of Cushman’s life. She had female lovers, controlled her financial affairs (at a time when women couldn’t vote), and at age 33, with Max (one of her lovers) started an artist community for women in Rome. Wojczuk rescues Cushman from history’s dustbin. “Lady Romeo” brings a queer icon back to the stage.

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FROM THE VAULTS: Black female directors

Combat COVID boredom with these films you may have missed By BRIAN T. CARNEY

TV and movie fans are starting to face a crisis: there’s not a lot of new content being released and you can only watch your old favorites so many times. To help fill in the gap, the Blade is launching a new series called FROM THE VAULTS, a curated collection of films and shows from the last decade or so that readers may have missed. Drawing from Top Ten and Year in Review lists, reviews, previews and interviews, the series will offer a fresh look at noteworthy films and CHERYL DUNYE in ‘Watermelon Woman.’ (Photo courtesy of First Run Features) filmmakers that are currently available to stream or rent. The first edition of FROM THE VAULTS focuses on BLACK FEMALE DIRECTORS, whose outstanding films examine aspects of our past and present that are all too often erased from history and whose work envisions a future that truly embraces American ideals. First on the list, in alphabetical order, is JULIE DASH, whose 1991 masterpiece “Daughters of the Dust” examines the rich matriarchal traditions of the Gullah islanders living off the coast of Georgia in 1902. A magnificent restored version of “Daughters of the Dust” was released in 2016. That same year, Beyoncé released her visual album “Lemonade,” which was an homage to the work of Dash and her husband, cinematographer Arthur Jafa. A blazing cinematic force, Ava DuVernay is known not only for her acclaimed work as a filmmaker across genres and media, but for her fierce dedication to social justice and to the celebration and promotion of other Black female directors. As a director, DuVernay made her mark with “Selma,” a historical drama about the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “13th,” a scathing indictment of Clinton-era mass incarceration policies; and the science-fiction spectacle “A Wrinkle In Time.” For television, she created “When They See Us” about the Central Park Five and “Queen Sugar,” a popular series that has employed dozens of Black female writers and directors. One of the directors who has worked on “Queen Sugar” is the trailblazing Cheryl Dunye whose brilliant 1996 mockumentary “The Watermelon Woman” was the first feature length film written and directed by an out Black lesbian about out Black lesbians. A restored version was released on DVD in 2017. Dunye plays a video store clerk and aspiring filmmaker who becomes obsessed with “Fae Richards,” a fictitious early film actress billed only as the “Watermelon Woman.” The film cleverly weaves fake archival footage into Cheryl’s story, creating a tribute to Black actresses who have been written out of mainstream film history. After a successful career as an actor (including playing Jodie Foster’s roommate in “The Silence of the Lambs”), Kasi Lemmons made her directorial debut with the highly acclaimed “Eve’s Bayou” in 1997. “Harriet,” her 2019 biopic of Freedom fighter Harriet Tubman generated significant Oscar buzz. Previously known for video shorts, newcomer Melina Matsoukas made her feature-film debut in 2019 with “Queen and Slim.” With a script by Lena Waithe, the story of love on the run and police brutality won the 2020 BET Award for Best Movie along with several other awards and nominations. With the release of “The Old Guard” on Netflix, Gina Prince-Bythewood became the first Black woman to helm a comic-book movie. The movie stars Charlize Theron as the leader of a troop of immortal warriors; Kiki Layne (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) is the new recruit. In a potentially interesting move, Prince-Bythewood includes a gay couple among the warrior band. Unfortunately, they are played by straight actors. Out filmmaker Dee Rees has brought an amazing variety of work to the screen: “Pariah” (2011), her powerful coming-out/coming-of-age movie; “Bessie” (2015), her flamboyant biopic of singer Bessie Smith; and the historical epic “Mudbound” (2017). For a change of pace, she’s now directing episodes of the comedy “Space Force” for Netflix. Finally, the best queer movie of 2017 was directed by out Black filmmaker Angela Robinson. “Professor Marston & the Wonder Women” told the unbelievable story behind an American icon, including an Ivy League campus, a polyamorous relationship and the latest BDSM theories. While we wait for “Wonder Woman 1984” to finally be released, a double feature of “Professor Marston” and “Wonder Woman” (2017) will certainly help pass the time.

Online classes for theater lovers

Inside the process as Theater J’s Immerwahr rehearses new production

By PATRICK FOLLIARD Streaming a play can be satisfying, but diving deep into a work through online classes is an entirely different experience. “At this moment, there’s an enormous appetite for people to engage on a more meaningful level than just watching things on the screen,” says Adam Immerwahr, artistic director of Theater J. “With online classes, people are excited to be in a room where they can bring their voice, their ideas, and be with people who want to learn the same things.” Shortly after taking the helm of Theater J almost five years ago, Immerwahr noticed D.C. area theaters boasted great training education for those seeking careers in theater and lots of learning opportunities for children, but there was nothing focused on the audience member who wanted only to enrich their live theater experience. ADAM IMMERWAHR is artistic He soon filled the gap with Beyond the Script, a popular, director of Theater J. (Photo courtesy Theater J) in-person class for adult theater lovers that includes reading and analyzing plays. When COVID-19 hit, Immerwahr was preparing his spring course. And while teaching at Theater J’s home, the Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center (DCJCC) in Dupont Circle, was no longer an option, he saw nothing to stop him from going online. The decision was met with enthusiasm and additional classes were added to the usual schedule. “Immediately, it became clear that we were really onto something,” he says. “We reached out to some of Theater J’s favorite artists to teach additional online classes for theater lovers.” Among the varied courses now in session (closed to registration) are out actor Holly Twyford’s Creating a Character, scenic and costume designer Nephelie Andonyadis’ Inside the Designer’s Studio, and actor Tyler Herman’s innovative The Actor’s Approach to Torah. Immerwahr is currently teaching How to Watch a Play. “Our 20-person Zoom classes are very participatory,” Immerwahr explains. “We use all the tools – breakout rooms, people raise their hands and can speak. It may not be exactly the same free-for-all you might find in an in-person class, but it’s very interactive and the 90 minutes fly by.” Upcoming online classes range from Aaron Posner’s A Director Prepares to Naomi Jacobson’s Inside the Actor’s Process to Becoming a Raised-Consciousness Audience Member taught by director, devised theater artist, and audience-enthusiast Rachel Grossman. Starting in late August, Immerwahr steers the session’s only non-participatory class – Inside the Rehearsal Room. Over seven weeks via Zoom, registrants will be provided a glimpse into the preparation process as director Immerwahr and admired local actors Kimberly Gilbert and Eric Hissom rehearse Kate Cayley’s “Bakelite Masterpiece,” a play about retribution, justice, and doubt. A significant aim of Theater J’s online education programming is to provide paying jobs for theater professionals without work due to the pandemic, says Immerwahr. “Theater artists are decimated. There’s nothing to audition for and everything is cancelled. Part of our goal is to get money to them, and that’s worked out well, very well in some cases.” For the director, working from home in Adams Morgan where he and his boyfriend have each carved out work spaces in their apartment, has been a positive thing: “We’d only lived together for a very short time before we went into quarantine. Being with each other 24/7 is a great way to learn to live together. Ironically, we moved here to be close to the great restaurants and bars. That will come later.” Imagining a post-pandemic world, he foresees — apart from further exploration of his neighborhood — a possible blend of hybrid, online, and in-person classes at Theater J. “We see value in Zoom: Classes are more accessible. There are no issues surrounding a commute or parking. And it broadens our reach - currently classes include people who live in California, Massachusetts and Chicago.” Assessing the overall state of things, Immerwahr is thrilled by the enormous amount of engagement and support the Theater J community has shown. “Again, people really are hungry for the live theater experience. I don’t have a sense of what that timeline will be. Perhaps longer than what some others think,” he says. “But I’m confident when theater comes back, it’s going to come roaring back.” For registration information go to theaterj.org JULY 2 4 , 2 0 2 0 • WAS H IN GTO N B LAD E.CO M • 2 5

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Pandemics and home purchases Homebuyer demand, refinance market strong By JOSEPH HUDSON

People ask me what the market is like or how I think the market is doing. Well what the market is telling me and many of my colleagues is that homebuyer demand is strong, and so is the refinance market for existing homebuyers. Interest rates are low right now and they look like they may be dropping even further. This combined with the fact that people have spent 3-4 months in their homes almost without interruption means that if anyone found that their current arrangement wasn’t suitable for them anymore, they are probably calling lenders and headed out the door when they can to see other properties. Homes with outdoor areas, extra bedrooms, buildings with rooftops and balconies, houses with yards or porches – these are being looked at more than ever before. People are considering rural areas more than before, as well as suburban areas. And it makes sense. Before the pandemic, things were different. During and after the pandemic, having outdoor or just extra space is more valuable than ever before.

People are more interested in buying beach homes, river homes, mountain homes, buildings with rooftops, and homes with yards or situated near parks than they were before the pandemic. Interest rates are low and this is making the lenders and title companies and many Realtors busier than they have been for most of the year as they help satisfy the demands of the deferred spring market. Demand is high, and supply is not as high as demand so there are multiple offers, competitive situations, and escalations. If you are thinking of buying or selling, make sure you find an experienced Realtor that can help you navigate all the competitive waters or make sure that the home you are selling is looking its best in a competitive market. Some brokerages are even offering to help front the costs of doing renovations or projects for the sellers before the sale and then getting reimbursed out of the proceeds of the sale. Find an experienced Realtor to help you buy or sell.

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is a Realtor with The Oakley Group at Compass. Reach him at 703-587-0597 or Joseph.hudson@compass.com.

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