Washingtonblade.com, Volume 52, Issue 01, January 1, 2021

Page 1

Defund the police?

‘Dr a join g Rac s W e’ w erq inn the er J Wo aida rld Ess ’s P en rid ce e C Ha Pa astle ll ge

Locals weigh impact on LGBTQ community



Quarantined States of America

Page 09

The most pro-gay president in American history?


VP pick is longtime LGBTQ ally, Page 12 Preview of Democratic convention, Page 18

More unhinged GOP claims as convention wraps, Pages 11 & 16

Week of protest, heartbreak

When to reopen?

Quarantine’s’s a drag Quarantine’ Quarantine

Killing of George Floyd leads to unrest during pandemic PAGE 06

creative during COVID,

Good riddance 2020! Thank you!

New group to plan D.C.’s COVID recovery,

(Blade photo of Trade by Michael K. Lavers; mural by Luther Wright)

A look back at a year to forget

Celebrating our health care heroes, PAGES 18 & 20

(Photo courtesy Lori Kline)

A Pride like no otherRehoboth MAY 01, 2 020 • VOLUME 5 1 • ISSUE 1 8 • WASHINGTONBLADE.COM

Parties on pause as we embrace Black Lives Matter movement

’s Joe!

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Our hero

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LGBTQ rights hang in balance after RBG’s death, PAGE 12

Locals excited as town prepares for role as presidential retreat, PAGE 08

Supreme Fight

Dems vow to derail nominee, calling her threat to RBG’s legacy (Photo by Rachel Malehorn; Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License)


JAN UA RY 01, 2021 • VO LU M E 5 2 • IS S U E 0 1 • WA S H IN GTON BLADE .COM (Blade photo by Michael Key)


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Top 10 local news stories of 2020

COVID cancels Pride, devastates local businesses By LOU CHIBBARO JR. | lchibbaro@washblade.com

Of course, COVID-19 looms large across this year’s annual Year in Review issue. From the shocking death toll, to the devastating impact on local businesses, to the cancellation of Pride, coronavirus upended all of our lives. Here are the Blade’s staff picks for the top 10 local news stories of 2020.

#10: Va. passes major LGBTQ rights legislation

The Virginia General Assembly, which convened in January 2020 with a Democratic Party majority for the first time in more than two decades, passed several major pro-LGBTQ measures, including an LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill that had been blocked for years under the former Republican controlled legislature. The Virginia Values Act, which calls for adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s existing civil rights law, was a top legislative priority among LGBTQ advocacy groups. Both houses of the General Assembly passed the measure with bipartisan support. The General Assembly passed a separate bill banning so-called conversion therapy for minors, making Virginia the first southern state to prohibit the widely discredited practice that seeks to change people’s sexual orientation from gay to straight. All the nation’s professional mental health associations, including the American Psychiatric Association, have said conversion therapy is ineffective and harmful to the mental health of those who undergo the therapy. Among the other LGBTQ supportive bills the General Assembly approved in 2020 was a measure that repealed Virginia’s statutory ban on same-sex marriage. Although a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the country made the statute unenforceable, LGBTQ activists said it should nevertheless be removed from the state’s legal code.

#9: Life and death of Alice Carter

A case study commissioned by the Office of the D.C. Auditor released in August 2020 takes what observers considered an unprecedented in-depth look at a transgender woman’s struggle with drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, and homelessness and the valiant but unsuccessful attempt by dozens of social services experts from city agencies and community groups to help her over a period of at least a dozen years. The study, “Lessons From The Life and Death of Alice Carter,” was prepared by the D.C.based nonprofit group Street Sense Media at the request of D.C. Auditor Kathleen Patterson. Street Sense Media was among several groups, including the LGBTQ organizations WhitmanWalker Health and Casa Ruby, that provided assistance to Carter. People who knew Carter, who was 35 at the time of her death, said she became a beloved figure among residents and visitors of the 17th Street business strip where she hung out and often slept on the street. Patterson said she decided to commission the case study of Carter’s life to determine what, if anything different, the city government could do to help people like Carter survive with substance use disorder and mental health issues.

#8: Most gay candidates lose bids for Council, school board

Gay education advocate Allister Chang won his race for a seat on the D.C. State Board of Education in the city’s Nov. 3 general election, becoming the only one of six openly gay candidates to emerge as a winner for seats on the nonpartisan school board and the D.C. Council. In the race for the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat, incumbent Council member Brooke Pinto (D) defeated gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Randy Downs by a margin of 68.3 percent to 20.6 percent in a four-candidate race. Downs ran as an independent. Gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Alexander Padro and gay Libertarian Party activist Joe Bishop-Henchman were among 23 candidates competing for two at-large D.C. Council seats, one of which was held by incumbent Council member Robert White (D-AtLarge). White finished in first place with 25.9 percent of the vote. Bishop-Henchman finished in 15th place with 0.96 percent of the vote. Padro came in 18th place with 0.7 percent of the vote. The other two unsuccessful gay candidates ran for an at-large seat on the State Board of Education in a six-candidate race. Gay former teacher and education advocate Mysiki Valentine finished in third place with 19.4 percent of the vote. Gay Howard University Political Science Department Chairman Ravi K. Perry finished in fifth place with 11.3 percent of the vote.

#6: Three long-time gay clubs close The DC Eagle and Ziegfeld’s-Secrets, two of D.C.’s longest operating gay bars, and the Crew Club, the D.C. gym, sauna and bathhouse for gay men that operated near Logan Circle for more than 25 years, closed in 2020 with prospects for their possible reopening uncertain. Sources familiar with the DC Eagle and Ziegfeld’s-Secrets say their closing does not appear to be related to the COVID pandemic. The Eagle’s majority co-owner filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy following financial difficulties that began long before COVID. Gay businessman Mark Hunker has purchased the legal rights to the Eagle’s name and trademark and has hinted he may consider reopening it. Ziegfeld’s-Secrets, which featured popular drag shows and nude male dancers, was forced to close when the owner of the building it rented terminated its lease to make way for a real estate development project. The club reportedly is looking for another location but it is uncertain when or if a suitable new space can be found. Crew Club co-owner DC Allen said he and co-owner Ken Flick, his husband, retired earlier this year. The two entered a business arrangement just prior to COVID with others who were going to operate the club with Allen and Flick remaining as partners. But when COVID restrictions resulted in the forced closing of gyms and other similar establishments, the group that planned to operate the club withdrew. Allen and Flick have since placed the Crew Club building, which they own, up for sale and do not plan to reopen the club. 0 6 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • JANUARY 01, 2 0 2 1 • LO CA L NE WS

ALICE CARTER died in 2019. The city released a case study in August 2020 that took an unprecedented, in-depth look at the transgender woman’s struggle with drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness. (Photo courtesy GoFundMe)

#7: D.C.’s pro-LGBTQ Archbishop promoted to Cardinal

Pope Francis announced in October that he had promoted Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, who has expressed support for LGBTQ Catholics, to the rank of cardinal, making him the first black cardinal in the United States. Gregory, 73, became Washington’s archbishop in May 2019 after having served as the archbishop of Atlanta for 14 years and where he spoke out on several occasions in support of the LGBTQ community. Gregory drew attention in D.C. in August 2019 when he told a transgender man during a gathering of young Catholics that the man was welcome in the Catholic Church. His comment came in response to a question by the trans man, who asked Gregory, “What place do I have as a confirmed transgender Catholic and what place do my queer friends have here in this archdiocese?” “You belong to the heart of this church,” Gregory replied. “There is nothing that you may do, may say, that will ever rip you from the heart of this church.”


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#4: D.C. Council passes, mayor signs two LGBTQ bills

The year 2020 saw the D.C. Council pass and Mayor Muriel Bowser sign two bills considered a top priority by LGBTQ activists. The Care for LGBTQ Seniors and Seniors with HIV Amendment Act of 2020, which the Council passed in October, provides nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ seniors who reside in long-term care facilities in the District. The Bella Evangelista and Tony Hunter Panic Defense Prohibition and Hate Crimes Response Amendment Act of 2020, approved by the Council in December, bans the use of the so-called gay and transgender panic defense in criminal trials. The legislation also strengthens the city’s existing hate crimes law. LGBTQ advocates say a ban on the panic defense is needed to prevent defense attorneys from inappropriately asking juries to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for a defendant’s criminal act, including murder. Defense attorneys have argued that their clients “panicked” after discovering the person against whom they committed a violent crime was gay or transgender, prompting them to act in a violent way as a form of selfdefense.

#5: LGBTQ activists respond to calls to defund D.C. police

LGBTQ activists in D.C. expressed strong support for the Black Lives Matter movement’s calls for reform in the nation’s police departments on racial justice issues, but most local activists said they do not support calls by some for fully defunding the D.C. police department. Some local activists pointed out that LGBTQ people, especially transgender women of color, have been subjected to anti-LGBTQ hate Anger over the police killing of George Floyd and other incidents of police brutality and racism became the focus of Pride in 2020. crimes and other violent crime to a (Blade file photo by Michael Key) greater degree than other population groups. They said fully defunding the police could place LGBTQ people in danger. Rehana Mohammed, chair of the DC LGBTQ Center’s board of directors, told a D.C. Council hearing in June that the Center opposed a proposal by the mayor to increase the D.C. police budget by $18.5 million in 2021. “We recommend instead investing those funds in community safety, social services, violence interruption programs, and community support programs,” Mohammed said. “The current strategies of creating reforms and increasing funding are simply not working,” she said.

#2: DC Pride events cancelled

Like other cities across the country, organizers of D.C.’s annual Capital Pride Parade and Festival, which are normally held in June and which draw over 200,000 participants, cancelled the events this year due to restrictions on public gatherings brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. Ashley Smith, president of the Capital Pride Several of the city’s LGBT bars and restaurants, including Alliance board, said Annie’s, moved operations outdoors during the pandemic. the organization would (Blade photo by Michael Key) postpone some of its virtual events so that it could focus on its support for Black Lives Matter protests and advocacy work to fight police brutality and racism. Capital Pride Alliance joined forces with the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community to hold an alternate Pride event on Oct. 10 called the Out Brigade. The event included a caravan of cars and other vehicles decorated with LGBTQ Pride related signs or ornaments that traveled across the city.

Honorable Mention: Blade, Tagg oppose ad tax The Washington Blade and Tagg magazine, the local publication that covers issues of interest to lesbians of color, joined the Washington Informer, one of D.C.’s two African-American newspapers, in calling on the D.C. Council to drop a 3 percent sales tax on advertising that it approved in a preliminary vote on July 7. In response to a groundswell of opposition to the proposed advertising sales tax from local media outlets and small businesses that rely on advertising in newspapers, the Council two weeks later voted 11 to 2 to remove the tax from the city’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget. A request to remove the tax came from Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), who had introduced and backed the proposal at the time of its preliminary approval. Mendelson said he reversed his position after hearing the outcry from small publications, including the Blade, that such a tax would force some outlets to lay off more employees and would force other media outlets to close as they struggled to survive amid the COVID pandemic.


#3: D.C. Council member Jack Evans resigns

Council member JACK EVANS resigned his seat effective Jan. 17. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), one of the Council’s strongest supporters of the LGBTQ community during his 29 years in office, lost his attempt to win back his seat in the city’s June 2 Democratic primary after he resigned from the seat in January. Evans’ resignation came after all 12 of his Council colleagues made it clear they would vote to expel him from office in response to a Council investigation that found he violated multiple ethics rules when he allegedly used his office to assist companies that paid him hundreds of

thousands of dollars in consulting fees. Evans acknowledged he made some mistakes but denied any wrongdoing and insisted he did not violate any laws. Ten days after his resignation he announced his candidacy for the seat he had just given up in the Ward 2 Democratic primary. But when the June 2 primary votes were counted Evans came in seventh place in an eight-candidate race with just 3.4 percent of the vote.

#1: D.C. hit hard by COVID

In addition to the staggering death toll of the coronavirus — more than 300,000 American lives lost as of mid-December — the disease wreaked havoc on small businesses in D.C. and across the country. More than a dozen bars, restaurants and nightclubs in the nation’s capital with a mostly LGBTQ clientele and at least seven nonprofit groups that provide services for D.C. area LGBTQ youth and adults say they were hit hard financially in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic. Activists have long considered gay bars to be important meeting places for LGBTQ people who often cannot be out or open at work or at home. The possibility of these clubs being forced out of business, just like dozens of other D.C. bars, restaurants and nightclubs facing financial hardship from the epidemic, could have a greater detrimental impact on LGBTQ people, activists said. Meanwhile, local LGBTQ supportive nonprofit groups like Casa Ruby, Whitman-Walker Health, SMYAL, HIPS, Wanda Alston Foundation, Us Helping Us, and Food and Friends said the pandemic disrupted their fundraising efforts while increasing expenses, at least in part by prompting more people to come to them for help. LGBTQ workers in the D.C. area hospitality industry were also hit hard by COVID related restrictions in 2020, especially those working for hotels and restaurants that were forced to close. LGBTQ people were among many hospitality industry workers furloughed or laid off from their jobs due to the COVID shutdowns and restrictions.

The No. 1 most read story on washingtonblade.com in 2020 was about gays taking over #ProudBoys on Twitter. (Photo via Twitter)

Top 10 Blade stories by web traffic in 2020

Get Covered. Stay Covered.

Bad Bunny, Lindsey Graham, COVID, among year’s most popular FROM STAFF REPORTS

Each year, we take a look back at which stories resonated most with our audience, and each year there are surprises. As 2020 comes to a much-anticipated end, here’s our annual roundup of the top 10 Blade stories of the year by web traffic.


“Despite call to donate blood amid coronavirus crisis, FDA firm on gay ban,” by Chris Johnson, March 19.


“FDA approves human trial for treatment to cure HIV,” by Lou Chibbaro Jr., Aug. 17.


Trump’s epic fail — a moron is president,” opinion piece by Peter Rosenstein, March 25.


“New military ban on Confederate flags also bans LGBTQ Pride flags,” by Chris Johnson, July 17.


“Fauci: Gay people lifted stigma with ‘incredible courage’ in HIV/AIDS epidemic,” by Chris Johnson, April 7.


“Biden opposes same-sex marriage in 2006 clip blasted out by Trump campaign,” by Chris Johnson, June 19.


“Bad Bunny talks sexual fluidity in new interview,” by John Paul King, March 3.


“The sad, closeted hypocrisy of Lindsey Graham,” opinion piece by Kevin Naff, Oct. 16.


“Trump admin to Supreme Court: Let adoption agencies reject LGBTQ families,” by Chris Johnson, June 3.


“Gays take over #ProudBoys on Twitter,” from staff reports, Oct. 4.

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Top 10 national news stories of 2020

A pandemic, depression, racial reckoning — and a presidential election, too By CHRIS JOHNSON | cjohnson@washblade.com

Newsrooms around the world were stretched to the limit in 2020, as journalists, including those at the Blade, struggled to cover multiple once-in-a-lifetime crises at once: a pandemic, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, a reckoning over racial justice and police brutality, and the 2020 presidential election. Here are the Blade staff picks for the top 10 national news stories of 2020.

#10: Methodist Church faces split

Amid division in the denomination over LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage, the Methodist Church proposed a formal plan this year to separate on the lack of agreement on religious views toward LGBTQ people. The Methodist Church agreed to adopt a more LGBTQ-inclusive doctrine while allowing a coalition of conservative congregations in the United States and Africa who objected to change to separate. The “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation” would allow the departing congregations to keep their property and give them $25 million to form a new denomination. The plan would have needed approval in May 2020 in General Conference for ratification. The vote, however, never took place and was postponed until 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic.

#8: Ric Grenell named acting DNI, 1st out gay Cabinet official

A Republican administration made the historic first of appointing the first openly gay person to a Cabinet post when President Trump named Richard Grenell, who had been serving as U.S. ambassador to Germany, as acting director of national intelligence. Critics pointed out Trump never sought or won Senate confirmation for the role. Grenell also used the position as a political tool to declassify documents, seeking to impugn Biden for unmasking individuals caught up in surveillance during the Michael Flynn investigation. But Grenell also used the position to highlight the global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality he spearheaded, threatening to cut off U.S. partners overseas from shared intelligence if they didn’t respect LGBTQ human rights. Upon his departure, Grenell posted a photo to Instagram asserting President Trump gave him his Cabinet chair because being the first openly gay person to serve at that level was a “big deal.”

#6 FDA eases gay blood ban In a move uncharacteristically positive for the LGBTQ community from the Trump administration, the Food & Drug Administration this year eased the ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. The previous policy, set up by the Obama administration, required men to abstain from having sex with men for 12 months before making a donation. The FDA, amid a blood shortage during the coronavirus pandemic, shortened the deferral period to three months. The 12-month wait instituted during the Obama administration was a drastic change from the lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men instituted in 1983. President Trump said he had no hand in the FDA decision. When asked by the Blade about the change during a White House news conference, Trump replied, “No. I didn’t know anything about that. That was done by the FDA, very capable people at the FDA.”

#9: Trump campaign stages Pride events

Upon stepping down from the Trump administration, Richard Grenell took on a new role as senior adviser for the Trump campaign on LGBTQ outreach and was made co-chair of the Trump Pride coalition, marking the first time a Republican presidential nominee had an LGBTQ political coalition. Trump Pride held events in states deemed competitive in the election, including Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Tiffany Trump, who had heretofore kept a low profile TIFFANY TRUMP promoted her dad as a supporter of LGBTQ rights, prompting during her dad’s administration, participated guffaws and ridicule on social media. in Trump Pride events in full support of her father, although she was mocked on Twitter during her public appearances. Arguably, the Trump Pride coalition found success in convincing some LGBTQ voters to come to other side. Exit polls revealed 61 percent of LGBTQ voters backed Biden, the lowest percentage of support ever for a Democratic nominee, while 28 percent backed Trump, doubling his LGBTQ support from 2016.

#7: LGBTQ candidates win big on election night

LGBTQ candidates in the 2020 election achieved historic firsts, breaking barriers and demonstrating political aspirants in marginalized communities have no limit in winning public office. The LGBTQ Equality Caucus in the U.S. House will be expanded and diversified with the addition of Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones of New York, who will be the first Black, openly gay men elected to Congress. Torres is also the first openly gay Afro-Latino elected to Congress. Sarah McBride, a transgender advocate famous for her speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, was elected to a seat in the Delaware State Senate, setting her up to become the highest-ranking openly transgender legislator in the United States. Other transgender candidates, Taylor Small in Vermont and Stephanie Byer in Kansas, won seats in state legislatures, nearly doubling the number of transgender legislators in the United States.

#5: RBG dies weeks before election

Supreme Court Justice RUTH BADER GINSBURG died at age 87. (Photo courtesy Library of Congress)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, known as a champion of LGBTQ rights as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, died after 27 years on the bench. Hundreds gathered at the Supreme Court on the night of her death to adorn the ground with memorabilia in mourning over her passing. Ginsburg had joined each of the milestone rulings in favor of LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage, including Romer v. Evans, Lawrence v. Texas, Windsor v. United States and Obergefell v. Hodges. Most recently, Ginsburg joined the Bostock decision finding anti-LGBTQ discrimination is illegal under federal civil rights law. President Trump, however, chose to fill Ginsburg’s seat with Amy Coney Barrett, a jurist who’s a favorite among the Christian right. Shortly after confirmation, Barrett participated in arguments for the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, which will determine whether a Catholic foster care agency has a First Amendment right to reject LGBTQ families over religious objections.


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#4: Landmark SCOTUS ruling on LGBTQ workplace rights

In a historic ruling ending a long fight to prohibit employment discrimination against LGBTQ people in federal law, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the consolidated case of Bostock v. Clayton County that anti-LGBTQ discrimination constitutes a form of sex discrimination. Although the ruling pertained to employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the decision has broad applications to all laws banning sex discrimination, including civil rights law in housing, health care, education, and credit. The litigation came about after Gerald Bostock was fired from his job as a municipal worker after expressing interest in a gay softball league and Aimee Stephens, a funeral home director in Michigan, who was fired for being transgender. Stephens died shortly before the decision was handed down. The Trump administration, however, never fully implemented the decision, and outright flouted it with regard to access to sex-segregated spaces for transgender people. Biden is expected to recognize Bostock fully upon taking office.

# 2: Biden wins; Kamala Harris makes history

Protesters defied curfew orders to demonstrate at the White House after the police killing of George Floyd. (Blade photo by Chris Johnson)

#3: Calls for racial justice after George Floyd killed The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police ignited a firestorm of protests and energized the Black Lives Matter movement, bringing calls for police reform, if not to outright defund the police, and end systemic racism. LGBTQ Pride events, which had been cancelled amid the coronavirus epidemic, were in some cases back on with a renewed focus on anti-racism. (Drama followed, however, when LA Pride planned a solidarity march and sought cooperation with police. Organizers ended up handing over the reins to All Black Lives Matter, an advisory board of Black LGBTQ activists.) Much of the outrage was directed at President Trump, who reportedly hid in a bunker amid protests that became violent outside the White House. Afterwards, Trump went to St. John’s Church near Lafayette Square with Cabinet officials to hold up a Bible in a controversial photo-op.

#1: Coronavirus ravages U.S. public health, economy

President-elect JOE BIDEN and Vice President-elect KAMALA HARRIS made history in 2020. (Blade file photos by Michael Key and Tom Hausman)

Joe Biden won the presidential election this year, ensuring Donald Trump would be a oneterm president and bringing an end to an administration with a record of anti-LGBTQ policies. Biden, whose comments in favor of same-sex marriage on “Meet the Press” in 2012 are still remembered for their impact, has long-standing connections to the LGBTQ community and issued a detailed policy plan for LGBTQ initiatives he’d pursue in his administration. Biden has pledged to end the transgender military ban and sign the Equality Act into law within 100 days. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who made history as the first woman of color elected as part of a presidential ticket, also has deep ties to the LGBTQ community. As California attorney general, Harris declined to defend California’s ban on same-sex marriage on Proposition 8 in court and raised LGBTQ issues as U.S. senator. In another historic move, Biden tapped Pete Buttigieg for Transportation Secretary. He would become the first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet official if approved in 2021.

Honorable mention:

Blade reporter refuses to move seat in WH briefing room 1 2 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • JANUARY 01, 2 0 2 1 • NAT I O NA L NE WS

The coronavirus pandemic left hundreds of thousands dead, disrupted lives and threw the economy into a tailspin, stoking fears in a way no other public health crisis has done since the HIV/AIDS epidemic as the virus continued to spread. The outbreak is the Washington Blade’s top national news event of 2020. COVID-19, which originated in China, had killed by mid-December an estimated 300,000 people in the United States and infected 16 million. Although states kept tabs on racial, ethnic, and gender demographics on the disease, few recorded data on LGBTQ casualties. An estimated 100,000 businesses across the nation closed their doors as governors ordered residents to remain at home, much to the consternation of conservative activists who said the directives were unconstitutional. The annual Pride month celebrations and parades were among the events cancelled. The downturn in the economy forced many small business to close and put many workers on unemployment. Hospitality workers, many of whom are LGBTQ people, were hit especially hard. The Paycheck Protection Program saved many jobs, but as of late December, Congress had not come to an agreement on additional stimulus. President Trump, who continued to insist the coronavirus would simply “go away,” faced heavy criticism for failing to contain the epidemic, leading to major change in the 2020 election.

When Blade reporter Chris Johnson was fulfilling his role in the pool rotation for the White House press corps, the White House press office sought to humiliate CNN’s Kaitlan Collins by ordering Johnson to switch seats with her. Collins had an assigned seat in the front row of the briefing room, while the seating arrangements had the Blade toward the back. Johnson refused to move, pointing out the White House Correspondents Association controls the seating assignments, not the White House. Johnson held firm even though he was told the Secret Service was involved in wanting the switch. Secret Service later denied any involvement. Johnson won widespread praise from mainstream media colleagues for his cool-headed, brave handling of the situation. By Kevin Naff

In memoriam

A look back at the LGBTQ voices we lost in 2020 By KATHI WOLFE

Ed Flipowski, a public relations executive whose work with Gucci and other companies influenced the fashion industry, died on Jan. 10 at 58 from complications from surgery at his Manhattan home. Michel Georges Alfred Catty, known as Michou, who ran a celebrated drag cabaret for decades died at 88 from a pulmonary embolism on Jan. 26 in a hospital in Saint-Mandé, a suburb of Paris. Deborah A. Batts, the first openly LGBTQ federal court judge, died on Feb. 3 at her New York City home at 72 from knee replacement surgery complications. Terry DeCarlo, an LGBTQ activist who was director of the Center, an LGBTQ advocacy group, died at age 57 from face and neck cancer in a Hollywood, Fla. hospital. He became nationally known as a Florida LGBTQ community spokesperson after the 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Johni Cerny, the chief genealogist for the PBS series “Finding Your Roots,” died on Feb. 19 in Lehi, Utah at age 76 from coronary heart disease and congestive heart failure. Gerald S. Krone, a founder of the Negro Ensemble Company, died on Feb. 20 at age 86 at his Philadelphia home from Parkinson’s disease. Mart Crowley, whose groundbreaking 1968 play “The Boys in the Band” told the story of gay characters who talked honestly about their lives, died on Feb. 7 at age 84 in Manhattan from heart surgery complications. Charles Wuorinen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer who wrote the groundbreaking opera “Brokeback Mountain,” died on March 11 at age 81 from complications from a fall in Manhattan. Terrence McNally, the four-time Tony Award-winning playwright died on March 24 at 81 at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Fla. From complications of the coronavirus. His half century of work includes “Master Class” and “Love! Valour! Compassion!.” Tomie dePaola, children’s book author and illustrator died on March 30 at 85 in Lebanon, N.H. from complications from surgery that he had after a fall. “Strega Nona” is his bestknown work. Tarlach MacNiallais, a New York City LGBTQ and disability rights advocate, died on April 1 at 57 from coronavirus complications. Thomas L. Miller, producer of “Happy Days,” “Full House” and other popular TV shows died on April 5 in Salisbury, Conn. at 79 from heart disease. Phyllis Lyon, pioneering lesbian activist and marriage equality advocate, died at age 95 on April 9 at her San Francisco home. Lyon and her partner of many decades Del Martin, along with three other lesbian couples founded the Daughters of Bilitis, one of the first United States lesbian political groups. In 2008, Lyon and Matin were the first California couple to legally marry.

Lesbian feminist icon PHYLLIS LYON (right) died of natural causes on April 9. (Photo via Newsom for Governor)

Robert (Robby) Browne, real estate mogul and philanthropist died at age 72 on April 11 at his New York City apartment from multiple myeloma and the coronavirus. He socialized with Hillary Clinton, Martina Navratilova, and other celebs. James Weaver, a Smithsonian curator, died on April 16 from the coronavirus in Rochester, N.Y. at age 82. He helped to bring American musical theater, jazz, hip-hop, folk music and early electric guitars to the Museum of American History, the Washington Post reported. Iris Love, an archaeologist, art historian, champion dog breeder and gossip columnist Liz Smith’s partner, died at age 86 on April 17 from the coronavirus at New York/Presbyterian/ Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. Kenneth Lewes, the psychologist whose groundbreaking book “Psychoanalysis and Male Homosexuality” challenged the view that being gay was a mental illness, died on April 17 at age 76 at a Manhattan hospital from the coronavirus. David Carter, Stonewall historian and author, died on May 1 at age 67 from a heart attack at his New York City apartment. Thomas Sokolowski, an early organizer of the art world’s response to the AIDS crisis died on May 6 at age 70 from cardiac arrest following emergency surgery for a subdural hematoma in New Brunswick, N.J. Roy Horn of the legendary illusionist team Siegfried & Roy died on May 8 at age 75 from complications from COVID-19 in Las Vegas. The famed act entertained millions from Japan to New York City. Little Richard, the flamboyantly queer, groundbreaking, early rock ‘n roll star, known for such hits as “Slippin’ and Slidin’” and “Lucille,” died on May 9 at age 87 in Tullahoma, Tenn. from bone cancer. Aimee Stephens, the plaintiff in the landmark R.G &G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. V. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Supreme Court case, died on May 12 at age 59 at her Redford, Mich. home from kidney failure. The Court ruled that LGBTQ people are protected from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Stacey Milbern, a queer disability rights activist, died on May 19 at age 33 from complications from surgery at a Stanford, Calif. hospital. “Oftentimes, disabled people have the solutions that society needs,” she told public radio station KQED. The iconic Larry Kramer, playwright, author, film producer, and a founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP died of pneumonia at age 84 on May 27. Ron Simmons, executive director of Us Helping Us People Into Living, a Washington, D.C. AIDS service group died on May 28 at George Washington University Hospital from prostate cancer at age 79. Before serving with the AIDS organization, he was an assistant professor at Howard University’s School of Communications. Roberto Faraone Mennella, renowned jewelry designer and inventor of the “Stella,” the iconic earring, died on June 4 in Torre del Greco near Naples, Italy from cancer at age 48. Paul Fortune, the interior designer known as “the designer to the stars,” died on June 15 from cardiac arrest in Ojai, Calif. at age 69. Sofia Coppola and Marc Jacobs were among his clients. Angela Madsen, a gold-medal-winning Paralympian Rower died on July 21 at age 40 while trying to row on the Pacific Ocean by herself from California to Hawaii. She wanted to be the first openly queer athlete with paraplegia to make this journey, The New York Times reported. Kansai Yamanoto, the flamboyant designer who designed the look of David Bowie’s alter ego Ziggy Stardust, as well as

SIEGFRIED & ROY at their home, The Jungle Palace. Horn died on May 8. (Photo illustration from 1998 program book; courtesy Mirage)

looks for Elton John and Stevie Wonder, died on July 21 in a Tokyo hospital at age 76 from leukemia. Lady Red Couture, a comedian singer and co-host of the LGBTQ talk show “Hey, Qween!,” died on July 25 at age 43 from complications of cyclic vomiting syndrome in Los Angeles. Eric Bentley, the renowned theater critic, scholar, author and playwright died at age 103 on at his Manhattan home on Aug. 5. Chi Chi DeVayne, the beloved “RuPaul’s Drag Race’ contestant died on Aug. 20 at a Shreveport, La. hospital from scleroderma. Randall Kenan, an award-winning gay Southern, Black writer of fiction infused with magical realism, died on Aug. 28 at age 57 at his Hillsborough, N.C. home. Tony Tanner, who directed “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” on Broadway died on Sept. 8 at age 88 at his Los Angeles home. Henry van Ameringen, a philanthropist and early, openly gay, donor to LGBTQ and AIDS organizations, died on Sept. 9 at age 88 at his Manhattan home. Soraya Santiago Solla, trailblazing trans activist, died on Sept. 22 at her home in Carolina, Puerto Rico at age 72 from cancer and respiratory failure. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, lesbian theologian died on Sept. 25 at her Pompton Plains, N.J. home at 88 from respiratory failure and pneumonia. Monica Roberts, trans advocate, journalist who wrote the blog TransGrief, died on Oct. 5 at age 58 at her Houston home. Frederick Weston, an “outsider” artist acclaimed for his collages of male bodies and Black queerness, died on Oct. 21 at 73 in his Manhattan apartment. David Easton, architect and interior designer for aristocrats died on Oct. 29 at 83 at his Tulsa, Okla. home from complications of dementia. Leonard Kamsler, an award-winning golf photographer died on Nov. 18 from organ failure at 85 in Bethel, N.Y. Jan Morris, the acclaimed British travel writer and historian who wrote about her life as a transwoman, died on Nov. 20 died at 94 in a hospital near where she lived in Wales. Deb Price, the first nationally syndicated columnist on gay life, died at 62 of an autoimmune lung disease on Nov. 20 at a hospital in Hong Kong. Pat Patterson, an out gay wrestling star, at 79 on Dec. 2 from liver failure at a Miami Beach hospital. Anthony Veasna So, an acclaimed writer died from unknown causes at 28 on Dec. 8 at his San Francisco home. “Afterparties,” his debut book will be published by Ecco in August.

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Top 10 international news stories of 2020

Pope backs civil unions and the world celebrates Biden’s win By MICHAEL K. LAVERS | mlavers@washblade.com

The coronavirus pandemic was the dominant international story in 2020, but other news impacted the LGBTQ community around the world over the past year. Here are our picks for top 10 international stories of 2020.

#10: Anti-democracy crackdown looms over Hong Kong Gay Games

#9: Sudan repeals death penalty for homosexuality

Sudan in July repealed a provision of its Penal Code that imposed the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of engaging in consensual same-sex sexual relations. Article 148 of the Sudanese Penal Code from 1991 said anyone who is convicted of sodomy three times “shall be punished with death, or with life imprisonment.” Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chair of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, which was created in 2019 to govern the country on an interim basis after then-President Omar al-Bashir’s ouster, approved the removal of the death penalty provision from Article 148. Saudi Arabia and Iran are among the handful of countries in which consensual samesex sexual relations remain punishable by death. Lawmakers in Bhutan on Dec. 10 voted to amend portions of their country’s Penal Code that have been used to criminalize homosexuality. The amendment will become law once King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck signs it.

#8: Costa Rica becomes first Central American country with marriage equality

Recent unrest in Hong Kong has led to speculation the Gay Games would be moved, but organizers in 2020 assured athletes the events would happen in 2022. (Photo by Studio Incendo via Flickr)

Organizers of the 2022 Gay Games that are slated to take place in Hong Kong insist the event will take place as scheduled, despite ongoing human rights abuses in the former British colony. Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government continues to target pro-democracy protesters. The U.S. and other countries have criticized the crackdown. Shiv Paul, a spokesperson for the Federation of Gay Games, which will oversee the games, in November told the Blade the Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 committee has a contingency plan that will address “potential scenarios/risks such as an ongoing pandemic, social unrest or unseasonal weather events.” The games’ opening ceremony is scheduled to take place on Nov. 12, 2022.

#6: ICE releases Blade contributor

A Blade contributor who was in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for nearly a year was released on March 4. An immigration judge in September 2019 granted Yariel Valdés González asylum based on the persecution he suffered in Cuba because he was an independent journalist. The Board of Immigration Appeals on Feb. 28 dismissed an appeal of the judge’s ruling. “I really feel that I am alive now,” Valdés told the Blade after he reunited with his aunt and uncle in Miami. “It is a wonderful feeling to feel free and to be able to take control of your life and above all knowing that you will not be persecuted again because of your ideas or your work.” Valdés now lives with his boyfriend in Wilton Manors, Fla., and continues to contribute to the Blade.

Costa Rica on May 26 became the first country in Central America to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Two women became the first same-sex couple to legally marry in Costa Rica when they exchanged vows in the municipality of Heredia shortly after midnight. President Carlos Alvarado Quesada is among those who celebrated the historic milestone. “Today we celebrate liberty, equality and democratic institutions,” tweeted Alvarado. “May empathy and love be the moral compass that allows us to move forward and build a country where everyone belongs.”

#7: Anti-LGBTQ crackdown in Poland draws international condemnation

The Polish government’s continued anti-LGBTQ crackdown sparked global outrage in 2020. Police over the summer arrested Margot Szutowicz, a non-binary person, three times. One of the arrests stems from charges she allegedly damaged a truck promoting antiLGBTQ messages and assaulted a pro-life demonstrator on June 2. President Andrzej Duda in the lead up to the Polish presidential election said LGBTQ “ideology” is more harmful than communism. Duda on June 24 met with President Trump at the White House. Duda on July 12 won re-election.

#5: U.N. calls for global conversion therapy ban

YARIEL VALDÉS GONZÁLEZ on South Beach on March 6, 2020.

The U.N. in July formally called for a ban on so-called conversion therapy. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, submitted a report with 130 submissions on practices and testimonies of victims who have experienced conversion therapy from civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, medical practitioners and individuals. Germany, Brazil, Ecuador, Malta and Taiwan have all banned the widely discredited practice. Maryland, D.C. and Virginia are among the U.S. jurisdictions that ban conversion therapy for minors. A federal appeals court in November ruled bans on conversion therapy for minors in the Florida cities of Boca Raton and Palm Beach are unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

(Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)



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#4: Trump policies further endanger LGBTQ migrants, asylum seekers

#3: Pope Francis publicly supports civil unions

The Trump administration’s hardline immigration policy continued to put LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers at even more risk in 2020. Three police officers in El Salvador who were convicted of murdering Camila Díaz Córdova, a transgender woman who the U.S. deported in 2017 after she fled anti-LGBTQ violence, were sentenced to 20 years in prison on July 28. Activists say LGBTQ asylum seekers who are forced to await the outcome of their cases in Mexico under the Trump administration’s “return to Mexico” (MPP) policy puts them at increased risk of violence and human trafficking. A Human Rights Watch report notes the closure of the U.S.-Mexico border in March left asylum seekers “to suffer persecution in their home countries or in Mexico. People with HIV, among other vulnerable groups, who were in ICE custody in 2020 were also at increased risk for the coronavirus as the pandemic spread throughout the U.S.

#2: Biden election celebrated around the world

POPE FRANCIS endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples in 2020. (Photo by Zebra48bo via Wikimedia Commons)

President-elect Biden’s election in November renewed hopes the U.S. will once again champion LGBTQ rights abroad in an impactful way. The incoming administration has said Biden will “immediately appoint” a special LGBTQ rights envoy at the State Department and a special coordinator at the U.S. Agency for International Development to handle the aforementioned issues. Biden has, among other things, also pledged to use the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Act to sanction those responsible for anti-LGBTQ rights abuses. Former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell led the Trump administration’s initiative that encouraged countries to decriminalize homosexuality, but many LGBTQ activists around the world remained highly skeptical of it. “The planet is crying out for more compassionate, mature, visionary, unifying and empathetic leaders, and we now look to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to be an example,” ILGA World Executive Director André du Plessis told the Blade after the election.

LGBTQ Catholics and activists around the world in October welcomed Pope Francis’ public support of civil unions for same-sex couples. Francis made the comments in “Francesco,” a documentary about his life that debuted at the Rome Film Festival on Oct. 21. Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry, described Francis’ comments as a “historic moment” that “signals that the church is continuing to develop more positively its approach to LGBTQ issues.” Esteban Paulón, an activist in Argentina, noted Francis “in private expressed his support” for civil unions for same-sex couples during the marriage equality debate in his homeland before he became pope. The Vatican’s tone toward LGBTQ Catholics has become more moderate under Francis’ papacy. Church teachings on homosexuality and gender identity remain unchanged.

#1: Coronavirus sweeps the world

The coronavirus pandemic had a devastating impact on LGBTQ people around the world in 2020. The vast majority of Pride celebrations took place virtually, with Global Pride drawing an audience of more than 57 million people on June 27. Ecuador is among the countries in which advocacy groups launched relief efforts to help LGBTQ people pay their rent and buy food and other basic supplies during coronavirus lockdowns. The pandemic further exacerbated existing economic, social and racial inequalities. Efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus — such as “pico y género” rules in Panamá, Colombia and Perú that allowed people to leave their homes on certain days based on their gender — sparked criticism among transgender activists who felt they caused further discrimination based on gender identity.

LAVERNE COX was a featured speaker for Global Pride 2020. (Blade photo by Michael Key)


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The year in photos

MONET DUPREE performs at Freddie’s Follies at Freddie’s Beach Bar and Gill on Jan. 13 at a time before the concept of ‘social distancing.’

DAVID SPIVEY is named ‘Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2020’ on Jan. 17.

RUBY CORADO has her temperature checked before entering the Casa Ruby community center on May 8.

Mayor PETE BUTTIGIEG makes a presidential campaign stop in Northern Virginia on Feb. 23.

Signs mourning the loss of trans women of color were among those on the White House fence on election day, Nov. 3.

A ‘Make America Great Again’ pro-Trump mega rally was held on the streets of D.C. Protesters included both Proud Boys and Gays for Trump.

A peaceful Black Lives Matter protest was held at Black Lives Matter Plaza on June 6.

A series of new coronavirus restrictions threaten the future of LGBT businesses.

1 8 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • JANUARY 01, 2 0 2 1 • A &E

Gay Trump supporter BRANDON STRAKA speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 28. It would later be discovered that the coronavirus was spread at the event.

The streets and restaurants of the gayborhood were empty by March 17 as new COVID-19 restrictions were put in place.

The Washington Blade holds its annual Most Eligible LGBT Singles party at Duplex Diner on Feb. 14.

As COVID-19 became a new reality, someone erected a “HOPE” sign in Winchester, Va.

Rep. MARK TAKANO (D-Calif.) speaks at a congressional hearing on LGBT rights on Feb. 27.

The activist group No Justice No Pride organized a ‘Defund MPD’ march and protest on June 13.

Members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington perform at the Brother, Help Thyself Foundation Grant Awards ceremony in the now-shuttered DC Eagle. Riots broke out in the streets of D.C. on May 31 following the murder of George Floyd.

A makeshift memorial was created in front of the United States Supreme Court following the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The NJNP protest ended in front of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s home.

Virginia Gov. RALPH NORTHAM attends an Equality Virginia event on Feb. 4 in Richmond celebrating the impending passage of the Virginia Values Act in the Virginia General Assembly.

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is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at knaff@washblade.com

Surviving a year like no other And looking forward to celebrating the end of COVID

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2 0 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • JANUARY 01, 2 0 2 1 • V I E WP O I NT

How to make sense of the year that was 2020? As one prominent editor put it, we’re covering the 1918 pandemic, the Great Depression, the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and a presidential election all at once. And as journalists, we didn’t always have the luxury of doing our jobs virtually. Blade reporters and photographers were hit with rubber bullets and pepper spray during White House protests over racial injustice. Our work critical of the inept, corrupt Trump administration was often met with derision, crude insults, and even threats. Our intrepid White House reporter, Chris Johnson, refused to switch seats with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins under reported Secret Service threats, as Trump wanted to punish CNN by moving its reporter to the back of the room. Johnson held firm and refused to move, winning praise from his CNN colleagues. Meanwhile, we fought for the release of one of our own from ICE detention, Yariel Valdés González, a gay Blade contributor from Cuba who was imprisoned and held in inhumane conditions after legally applying for asylum. The Blade’s tireless Michael K. Lavers documented every step of Yariel’s case until he was finally freed in March. When the Trump administration unlawfully ignored a Blade FOIA request, we joined the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and filed a lawsuit. The Blade filed a FOIA request for emails within the Department of Labor related to the Trump administration’s proposed rule change allowing a religious exemption in employment non-discrimination requirements for federal contractors. After a year of ignoring the request, we took action to force the release of emails that will shed light on the motivation behind the proposal and whether it was to enable antiLGBTQ discrimination in the name of religious freedom. As of mid-December, the administration was forced to release more than 100 pages of heavily redacted emails. The case continues to unfold as we seek answers to these important questions. And the Blade itself was not immune from the devastating impact of COVID restrictions and shutdowns, though we toughed it out and never missed a week of publishing our now 51-year-old print edition in addition to regular digital updates. As our annual Pride events and Best Of party were canceled, our events team, led by marketing director Stephen Rutgers, pivoted and produced a series of successful, informative virtual events. When the Blade sales team was faced with the unprecedented closure of city businesses, they worked overtime to find new sources of advertising and revenue. Our sister paper, the Los Angeles Blade, soldiered on as well, led by publisher Troy Masters, also never missing a week of publishing amid nearly a year of lockdowns. None of this would be possible without the support of our advertisers, sponsors, and donors. Thank you for recognizing the importance of an independent, free press and supporting the work of the Blade. As we begin to clean up from the wreckage of the Trump administration, it will be critical to have the voice of the LGBTQ community inside the White House asking questions and holding the new administration accountable for the many promises it made during the campaign. If you’re able and so inclined, please consider a donation to the Blade Foundation to ensure the queer community’s place at the table remains secure. Go to bladefoundation.org to donate. Again, our sincere thanks to all of our readers, advertisers, and supporters for helping us to navigate this painful year. And remember: until the vaccines arrive, wear a mask and practice social distancing. Those of us with personal experience with this disease know how highly contagious and painful it can be. No holiday celebration or New Year’s party is worth contracting COVID. Stay safe and we look forward to celebrating the end of this nightmare in person sometime soon in 2021.

Valerie M. Blake Associate Broker, GRI


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

Good riddance 2020, welcome 2 2

Renewed optimism thanks to vaccines, Biden victory

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The year 2020 started out like any other, or so we thought. It wasn’t until late in the year we found out from Bob Woodward that Trump knew of the real dangers of the coronavirus in anuar i e so man lived the first two months of the ear oblivious to an dan er My last trip before my personal lock-down was at the end of February returning to D.C. in the beginning of March. I visited good friends in one of my favorite places in the world, Carmel Valley, Calif. On my trip home there were some in the airport wearing a face mask. I had yet to begin wearing one but that was the last time I would leave my home without a mask. Signs went up in my condo building that we needed masks in the hallways and only one person at a time was allowed on the elevator. Dupont Circle Office 202.246.8602 • Valerie@DCHomeQuest.com Even with all the other things going on including the presidential election, 2020 202.518.8781 www.DCHomeQuest.com • Valstate.blogspot.com TheRealst8ofAffairs would be remembered as the year of the coronavirus pandemic. The world economy shut down and kept people close to home. Borders were shut and businesses closed. Life as we knew it before the pandemic came to a quick end. As of Dec. 20, the World ealth r ani ation reported there have been 2 4 confirmed cases of and 4 deaths reported to them arious countries dealt with the pandemic in different ways. President Trump’s negligence, what I consider criminal behavior, led to the havin nearl million people infected and about deaths b the time this Some think I should dress more like column will be published. a woman. Some think I should dress hile m life chan ed the first four months after m return to from alifornia ate more like a man. every meal alone: I was just one of many who had to do that to protect themselves. But there was real suffering caused by the pandemic and exacerbated by Trump’s criminal behavior. Millions lost their jobs, their health insurance, their homes and couldn’t afford to feed their families. Trump’s utterances both supported and egged on people who wouldn’t follow the simple rules to prevent spreading the virus: wear a mask, stay six feet apart and wash your hands regularly. Simple ideas to stay alive and keep others alive. For me life was difficult but was luc to have man friends with whom ept in touch dail over Zoom. Not everyone was as fortunate. In many countries like Germany, France, and England governments supported their business community paying wages when it shut them down and people were forced to stay home. We made an early attempt to help people but then a Republican Senate and president wouldn’t continue that effort. Democrats in the House of Representatives passed an additional 2 trillion stimulus pac a e in a but couldn t et the enate to act on it. So bread lines grew, evictions continued and people suffered, many dying. Please treat me the same way any We have a president who modeled Marie Antoinette. He lived in luxury, played golf, and person would want to be treated: A D V E R T I S I traveled to Florida in essence saying to the people, “Let them eatPROOF cake,”#1apparently not ISSUE DATE: 21-01-08 SALES REPRESENTATIVE: Brian Pittscourtesy bpitts@washblade.com with and respect. caring they had no food. Discrimination based on gender REVIEW AD FOR COPY AND DESIGN ACCURACY. 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Pop culture countdown: Iconic and ignominious

A ‘Schock’-ing year for queer pop culture, from holiday rom-coms to COVID disruptions By JOEY DiGUGLIELMO | joeyd@washblade.com

Hollywood was not immune to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused studios to postpone major releases and to rethink how it does business. Here are the Blade’s top 10 stories in arts and entertainment for 2020.

#10: Father knows best

Out CNN anchor Anderson Cooper announced on the air April 30 that his son Wyatt Morgan was born on April 27. “I am beyond happy,” he told People Magazine. Cooper, 53, host of CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” named the baby, born via a surrogate, after his father, Wyatt, who died when Cooper was 10 days old. Cooper’s mother was the late Gloria Vanderbilt, who died last year at 95. Cooper, who finally came out in 2012 after years of speculation, plans to co-raise the baby with his ex, Benjamin Maisani, according to various sources. They broke up in 2018.

ANDERSON COOPER and son WYATT. (Photo via Instagram)

#8: Hardly Schock-ing

Stymied by COVID-19 restrictions on their usual events, Pride organizers around the world united for Global Pride, an online event on June 27 organized by InterPride and the European Pride Organizers Association. Performers included Olivia NewtonJohn, Deborah Cox, Kristine W, Thelma Houston, Steve Grand, the Chicks and more. Manvendra Singh Gohil, a gay Indian prince, was among the speakers. The theme was “exist, persist, resist” and about 57 million watched the 24-hour virtual event. Todrick Hall hosted. Adam Lambert performed “Mad World.”

After years of speculation, former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), came out as gay and was not exactly welcomed into the LGBTQ world. Schock, 39, was elected to Congress at age 27 in 2008 and was once seen as a rising star in the GOP. He resigned in 2015 amid criticism for lavish spending including a redecorating effort of his Capitol Hill office. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2016 on 24 counts including wire fraud and theft of government funds but federal prosecutors Former Congressman AARON SCHOCK at reached an agreement in 2019 and charges were State of the Union. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key) dropped. Schock vowed to pay back taxes and reimburse his campaign. Schock, a gym rat almost as famous for his thirsty shirtless pics as his political career, came out in a March 5 blog on his website aschock.net that began simply “I am gay.” He maintains his innocence, said he regrets not coming out sooner but said he assumed his constituents knowing would “not go over well.” “I also, in retrospect, realize that I was just looking for more excuses to buy time and avoid being the person I’ve always been,” he wrote. He did not apologize for his anti-gay voting record which included votes against samesex marriage and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He had a zero rating from HRC. He did say he’d support LGBT rights “in every way I could” if he were still in Congress. Reaction was largely negative. Gays as varied as “Queer Eye’s” Jonathan Van Ness to Michelangelo Signorile called him out for hypocrisy.

#9: Pride goes global

ADAM LAMBERT performs at Global Pride in June. (screen capture via live broadcast)

#7: Ho-hum Oscars

The 92nd Academy Awards were one of the last major events to unfold as usual before COVID restrictions kicked into high gear. Held Feb. 9 in Hollywood, it wasn’t a particularly strong year for LGBT themes. “Parasite” took the top prize and “Joker,” Joaquin Phoenix’s tour de force, had the most nominations. “1917,” “Ford v. Ferrari” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” also won multiple awards. Of the 20 acting nominees, none were LGBT although two played LGBT characters. “Pain and Glory,” from out director Pedro Almodovar, snagged two nominations. “If 2019’s record year of inclusion for LGBTQ and LGBTQ-themed nominees was a small step forward … then nominations for Oscar 2020 are a giant lap back,” wrote Blade critic John Paul King. It was slightly gayer at the ceremony itself. Janelle Monae and Billy Porter performed in the opening. Elton John won Best Original Song with longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin for “(I‘m Gonna) Love Me Again,” from his biopic “Rocketman.”

#6: Rom-com representation

We may have been largely a bust at the Oscars, but in other branches of filmdom, there were major surprises. The New York Times rounded up six holiday-themed gay rom-coms with out with LGBT characters. Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis starred in the Clea DuVall-helmed (DuVall is gay) lesbian coming-out comedy “Happiest Season,” which premiered on Hulu on Thanksgiving Day. Brandon and Jake race to adopt a baby by Christmas in “The Christmas House” on the Hallmark channel. Real-life husbands Ben Lewis and Blake Lee star in “The Christmas Setup” on Lifetime, “Dashing in December” is a drama from Paramount about two men who fall in love on a ranch while Netflix has “A New York Christmas Wedding” with a bi woman in the lead and “I Hate New Year’s,” an on-demand lesbian romance set in Nashville. Complete with same-sex kisses (!), the Times calls the deluge “a sea change for Christmas cinema, a conventionally heterosexual universe with more stories about puppies than gay people.” 2 2 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • JANUARY 01, 2 0 2 1 • A &E

KRISTEN STEWART (left) and MACKENZIE DAVIS in ‘Happiest Season.’ (Photo courtesy Hulu)


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‘Tiger King,’ Ellen drama among year’s standouts CONTINUED FROM PAGE 22

#5: Elliot’s new day Elliot Page, a Canadian actor and producer known for roles in TV shows “Pit Pony,” “Trailer Park Boys,” “ReGenesis” as well as the 2005 film “Hard Candy,” came out as transgender last month. He’d come out as a gay woman in February 2014. Page was nominated for an Oscar in 2008 for his role in “Juno” and is also the star of Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy.” “Hi friends, I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot. I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life. I feel overwhelming gratitude for the incredible people who have supported me along this journey,” he wrote.

#4: Queer streaming galore


(Photo via Facebook)

#3: Epic catfight And then, of course, we had “Tiger King,” one of the increasingly rare shows that became a true cultural phenom. The outrageous, seven-episode Netflix docuseries tells of zookeeper Joe Exotic (who sports a peroxide mullet) and his feud with Carole Baskin who accuses him of abusing and exploiting wild animals. Watched by 34.3 million people over its first 10 days of release, it’s been called “one of” Netflix’s most successful releases ever. Adding to the color is Exotic’s unofficial same-sex throuplehood wth Travis Maldonado and John Finlay and his relationship with future husband Dillon Passage. He’s currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for, among other things, planning to have Baskin killed.

#1: COVID disrupts

There wasn’t a single facet of the entertainment industry spared the disruptions related to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions from drag queens to touring musicians to theater producers and performers to the entire movie and TV industry, which soon ran out of “in the can” content to air or stream. Although the competition part of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 12 was already taped and airing, the reunion and finale were taped — and cleverly edited — via Zoom. Queer artists as diverse as Billy Gilman, Melissa Etheridge and the Indigo Girls offered living room concerts. Some were free, others moved to a subscription model. With movie theaters closed for much of the year, release dates were bumped. Box office revenue reached lows not seen in 20 years and Cineworld, the world’s second-largest chain, closed in October. Many films that had planned theatrical releases were streamed instead and the bodies that govern the Golden Globes and the Oscars have made eligibility allowances. Perhaps the most prominent film to be postponed was “Wonder Woman 1984,” which will stream Dec. 25 on HBO Max, the same day it hits theaters in a move that has outraged some in the industry. Some production units formed set bubbles in which cast and crew, subject to daily temperature checks and frequent COVID tests, quarantine from the outside world during shooting. Resuming was a necessity and not just so people have stuff to watch coming through the pipeline. Colleen Bell, executive director of the California Film Commission, told NBC News the industry supports 700,000 jobs in California alone that accounts for $16 billion in wages. 2 4 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • JANUARY 01, 2 0 2 1 • A &E

Movie theaters were closed but that only pushed the streaming rage further into the forefront of the entertainment ecosystem. And if there was any gay angle to it, there’s a good chance Ryan Murphy was involved. The full cast of the 2018 Broadway debut of Mart Crowley (who died in March at age 84) classic “The Boys in the Band” reunited for a film version that debuted on Netflix in late September. The Blade called it a strong adaptation that “preserved in full” the “strength and dignity” of the source material. Murphy produced. The seven-episode miniseries “Hollywood” debuted in March on Netflix with Patti LuPone helming this saga about a group of aspiring actors in filmmakers in post-WWII Tinseltown. Several gay characters and themes abounded including nods to Scotty Bowers and Rock Hudson among others. It drew mixed reviews but 12 Emmy nominations. Janet Mock directed two episodes. Murphy directed just one but was creator, executive producer, and writer. And in December came “The Prom,” a Murphy-directed musical comedy based on the 2018 Broadway musical with Meryl Streep, James Corden and Nicole Kidman about Broadway actors who head to Indiana to fight a ruling that a high school prom is being cancelled because one female student wanted to take a girl as her date. Chaos ensues. The Blade called it a “frothy mix that exists on the thin line between camp and hokum.” And one you may have missed (again, with Murphy involvement) is “A Secret Love,” a documentary about Terry Donahue and her partner Pat Henschel who finally go public and get married after keeping their relationship a secret from their families for six decades.

#2: Cancel Ellen! “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” was the subject of an internal third-party investigation by WarnerMedia after reports that the long-running hit daytime talk show was a toxic workplace behind the scenes. In the spring, Variety reported on alleged mistreatment of long-time crew members and in July BuzzFeed published a report alleging racism and intimidation. After delaying her 18th-season opener, DeGeneres, 62, addressed the situation in her opening monologue on Sept. 21. “I learned that things happened here that never should have happened,” she said. “I take that very seriously and I want to say I am sorry to the people who were affected.” She acknowledged being in a “position of privilege and power.” People magazine, citing an unnamed source, said her perfectionist tendencies “ can be difficult. … She is looking at herself to make changes.” She vowed to “start a new chapter” with the show’s 270 employees, People reports. Following the internal investigation, in August DeGeneres apologized to her employees via video conference and confirmed that three top producers were leaving the show. The crew applauded. DeGeneres said in December she would be back after the holidays after testing positive for COVID-19.

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Arena Stage turned to film during the pandemic. Led by out artistic director MOLLY SMITH, Arena created two capsules from the age of COVID-19. (Photo courtesy Arena Stage)

The year theaters went dark

From boom to bust: D.C. stages shuttered by COVID By PATRICK FOLLIARD

In early 2020, DMV theater was pretty much booming. Actors, directors, and designers were busy with many looking forward to a year filled with work and exciting projects. But all that was about to change. First, a look back at some highlights from before things ground to a halt. In January, out actor Justin Weaks starred Non-binary actor TEMÍDAYO AMAY won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Supporting in Studio Theatre’s hard-hitting Performer in a Play. (Photo courtesy Amay) “Pipeline,” a play about young African-American males and the risks that surround them. Out director Alan Paul staged Round House Theatre’s production of “Spring Awakening.” In February at the National Theatre, talented out actor Nick Westrate took on the title role of Britain’s George VI in “The King’s Speech” a touring production that was rumored to be Broadway bound, but of course, that didn’t happen. On the last day of February, I saw gay writer James Baldwin’s “The Amen Corner” at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, a beautiful, powerful production featuring a superb African-American cast expertly staged by Whitney White. This would be the last performance I’d enjoy with no thought of viral menace lurking in the house. March 4 found me traveling to Broadway (no travel restrictions had been put in place) to see “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” with Laurie Metcalf and Rupert Everett playing the famously combative Martha and George. Just days later the show was shut down after a Booth Theater usher tested positive for COVID-19. Soon after, I saw my last live performance — Olney Theatre Center’s “The Amateurs,” a lovingly rendered (black plague-set!) work by out playwright Jordan Harrison. By this time, people were a little nervous. While no one was wearing masks or social distancing, an audience member’s hacking cough could draw side-eyes and nervous glances. The show closed days later. And then theaters went dark. On the assumption that things would return to normal in a month or two, local companies scrambled with rearranging their seasons - spring shows were pushed back to summer or fall, or even later. In the meantime, local artistic directors and their teams were introducing ways to keep audiences engaged. And that’s how theater met Zoom. Using Zoom, Theatre J hired some of their favorite artists to teach online classes for theater lovers throughout summer and into fall. 1st Stage, the Tysons, Va.-based company, introduced a series of six weekly free Virtual Round Table Discussions with varied theater professionals through November. The reality changed, but the show went on. Out singer/songwriter Be Steadwell cancelled her tour but as part of Strathmore’s “Live from the Livingroom” series, she performed via Zoom from a bedroom in her parents’ Northwest D.C. home where she was quarantining. 2 6 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • JANUARY 01, 2 0 2 1 • A &E

Arena Stage turned to film. Led by out artistic director Molly Smith, they created two capsules from the age of COVID-19 – the first, a docudrama of personal snapshots drawn from a single day; and the second, a revealing piece exploring young people’s thoughts, reactions, and experiences over the first three months of the pandemic. Signature Theatre pivoted to film and the outdoors with “Signature Vinyl,” an 80-minute concert directed by out director Matthew Gardiner. After the death of George Floyd in late May, theater faced a racial reckoning. In August, Studio Theatre commissioned seven black actors (including out actor Jonathan Burke) who attended the 57th anniversary March on Washington to create artistic responses that bore witness to their experience at the event and captured their feelings as Black men living through ongoing violence and protests for racial justice. It’s called the March and The Breath Project. In September, non-binary actor Temídayo Amay won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Supporting Performer in a Play for a delightful turn as quirky Gifty, in Round House Theatre’s production of Jocelyn Bioh’s “School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play.” The honor was presented via Zoom (the in-person May event had been cancelled due to COVID-19). Although this year’s awards were adjudicated through a binary lens, they were presented through a gender inclusive format. Next year will be different. By Labor Day, most theaters saw the writing on the wall. The longed-for reopening wasn’t happening. That decision hinges on strict union rules and when audiences feel comfortable spending hours seated in auditoriums. We’re nowhere near there yet, a managing director has confided off-the-record. There was an exception, however. In November, GALA Hispanic Theatre reopened its doors with a genuine live, in-person, indoor production of “El Perro del Hortelano,” or “The Dog in the Manger,” a comedy by the 16th-century Spanish playwright Lope de Vega. Thorough precautions were taken – masks, socially distanced-seating, dramatically improved air filtration, etc., all in adherence with the mayor’s guidelines. Safeguards extended beyond front of the house. In fact, they can be seen onstage where plexiglass walls separate the actors from the audience compliments of out scenic designer Clifton Chadick. December held new and varied fare. Ford’s Theatre shared an abridged version of its beloved “A Christmas Carol” via public radio. Theater J presented an online reading of playwright Patty Abramson’s “Abomination,” the story of three queer, closeted, Ultraorthodox Jews who take on a conversion therapy organization. And through Jan. 3, Woolly Mammoth presents the premiere of Amir Nizar Zuabi’s “This Is Who I Am,” the moving story of a father and son in different worlds - Ramallah, West Bank, and New York City, respectively. For each performance, the actors talk and cook a Palestinian dish in real-time via Zoom. It’s staged by out director Evren Odcikin. As the pandemic rages on, companies continue to explore further ways to keep audiences engaged – streaming, donating, and in some cases buying tickets. The majority of theater professionals aren’t working or are woefully underemployed. With numerous exciting new projects and vaccines on the horizon, the year closed out on a slightly optimistic note. But for now, live theater remains indefinitely shuttered.

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Restaurants, bars put creativity on the menu in 2020 Pandemic forced businesses to adapt quickly in unprecedented year

Resilience. Arguably more so than any other industry, the restaurant world displayed the remarkable ability to adapt and transform in the face of enormous – and still mounting – challenges. The year 2020 started off buoyed by optimism across the dining scene. New restaurants opened seemingly daily. The confidence among the food industry analysts was contagious and exciting. On Monday, March 16, everything changed. At 10 p.m., the mayor required all bars and restaurants to close in-person dining. The order followed weeks of ever-changing regulations, requiring limits to total capacity, an end to bar seating, and a halt to standing room at drinking-only spots. Nightclubs were ordered closed entirely. Many in the restaurant industry itself clamored for such orders as part of the #shutusdown campaign on social media, requesting that the government protect customers and citizens by officially moving to close indoor spaces for health and safety. Restaurants, of course, require customers to survive. It was at this juncture that many establishments completely changed their business model to focus on delivery and takeout, cutting menu items and adapting to offering comfort food in a time of upheaval and uncertainty. In the context of the rash of restaurant closures, however, thousands of workers lost their jobs, whether outright layoffs or temporary furloughs. Soon after the string of shutterings, Congress passed the PPP program: small businesses could apply for forgivable loans to pay for costs such as payroll, rent, and utilities, for a term of 24 weeks. While the PPP served as a temporary fix for businesses, outof-work employees were forced to turn to unemployment benefits (also temporary). But this was not enough for many staff supporting families. Chefs and restaurateurs joined forces to offer additional assistance and relief funds. Celebrity chef Jose Andres closed several of his Think Food Group restaurants to serve as “Community Kitchens” to provide free food for laid-off staff. His World Central Kitchen organization began a Restaurants for the People program, which enables restaurants to cook for underserved communities. In a recent interview with Bon Appetit, he noted that the industry is “in for a big fight in the months ahead … We are an army of millions, and those people need to go back to work to feed America. Restaurants have always been a place to break bread, a place to come together. It’s about restoring our bodies and our faith in each other and the idea that together we can get through this.” In late May, after more than two months after the initial closings, D.C. moved into Phase One of its three-part opening plan. Restaurants were allowed to begin outdoor

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Bars and restaurants like Nellie’s faced government restrictions limiting occupancy in 2020. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

dining, given six feet of space between tables. A month later, the city transitioned to Phase Two, which allowed for indoor dining at 50% capacity, though all diners are required to be seated. Washington, D.C. remains in Phase Two, but as of Dec. 14, indoor capacity has been scaled back to 25% due to an increase in COVID-19 cases. The industry also had a reckoning over the summer during the Black Lives Matter movement. As the movement demonstrated, food is more than ingredients on a plate – it is inherently political, carrying the weight of its servers and sourcing as much as the vision of the chef. Black-owned restaurants like Halfsmoke and Cane came together to showcase the depth of Black-run eateries in D.C., but also ensuring that customers realize the importance of the impact of their dollars. Unable to serve indoors at full throttle, restaurants and bars put creativity on the menu and stepped outside the box – and into al fresco. Restaurants moved to take advantage of the city’s Streatery program, in which the Department of Transportation allowed businesses to set up outdoor, socialdistance dining and drinking tables along sidewalks, alleys and parking spaces. And as the cooler weather rolled in, a new word entered

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our eating vocab: winterization. Set up by the Office of Nightlife & Culture, restaurants could apply for up to $6,000 in grant funding for tents, heaters, furniture, and more. At least $4 million was set aside for the program. The city extended the program through December. Nevertheless, the industry still struggled. Blankets and heat lamps only offer so much warmth in the winter chill, and the move to 25% indoor dining capacity was a death knell to many on-edge businesses. According to the Restaurant Association of Metro Washington, as reported by WAMU, as of November, about 100 restaurants permanently shut their doors in D.C. Sales are down more than 50% compared to the same time in 2019. As much as there was a reckoning in the industry, there were some bright spots. Innovative eateries like Shibuya in Adams Morgan, Taqueria Xochi on U Street, El Cielo in NoMa, and Jackie at Dacha in Navy Yard all opened their doors. The restaurant industry is not out of the wintry woods yet. More restaurants will surely close, while others will rebrand and refresh to offer dishes and cuisine that make more sense in the pandemic context. While 2020 might have taken the sheen off of the brilliance of the city’s restaurant scene, 2021 looks to bring back our dining scene stronger than ever.

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