Will we ever get back to this?
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Pride orgs adjust plans as vaccine rollout continues, PAGE 12
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Comings & Goings
Sanchez joins E&Y’s Entrepreneurs Access Network By PETER ROSENSTEIN
The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Congratulations to Social Driver CEO and co-founder Thomas Sanchez, selected from a competitive pool of nominees to participate in the inaugural cohort of the Ernst & Young LLP (EY) Entrepreneurs Access Network (EAN). EY EAN is a business accelerator and comprehensive, executive-level program designed to elevate scalable Black and Latinx-owned companies through access to mentors, resources, and networks. The curriculum is designed to take a holistic approach to business growth with a specific focus on deepening customer relationships, improving people strategies, and DANNY BAREFOOT developing an accelerated journey to market leadership. Sanchez said, “As a minority-owned company, EY Entrepreneurs Access Network is coming along at a great time for our business. I have met business leaders who are all facing the same challenges. The program is helping us develop the next phase of Social Driver’s strategic plan. Having the freedom to think about the future is a powerful tool.” Social Driver is a digital and creative agency that launches strategies for many leading corporate and nonprofit brands in the United States. Under Thomas’s leadership, the agency has received wide acclaim for its collaborative culture and cutting-edge client partnerships, including recently being ranked as one of the Top B2B Companies in the United States by Clutch and recognized on the Best and Brightest Companies list as a top national employer. Before founding Social Driver, Sanchez used his background in software engineering to transform healthcare—first by developing cutting-edge medical records systems used to improve the delivery of care and later by launching digital
learning platforms and consulting services used by health systems around the world. Credited as a top minority innovator and entrepreneur, the Financial Times included Sanchez on its worldwide list of the foremost LGBTQ executives, the Washington Business Journal featured Thomas on its list of Minority Business Leaders, and Social Driver was ranked as a Minority Business Enterprise 100 company. Sanchez also serves as secretary of The Trevor Project and chair of D.C.’s Innovation & Technology Inclusion Council. Congratulations also to Raymond Danny Barefoot named an Orrick Legal Fellow with the ACLU. He said, “The ACLU doesn’t just commit to doing good when it is easy or popular; the organization understands that if we allow the rights of the unpopular to be compromised, that puts the rights of everyone at risk. I am excited to spend the next year fighting for the vulnerable THOMAS SANCHEZ and ensuring that our constitutional rights are protected.” He has dedicated his career to making sure we elect public servants who have sound judgment, compassionate values, and an understanding that government can and should be a force for good. He worked on many political campaigns and then launched his own consulting firm focused on communications and advocacy before going to law school. After graduating law school, he worked as a summer associate with Orrick, Herrington, & Sutcliffe, LLP, Washington, D.C. Prior to that he was Founder and Managing Partner Anvil Strategies, LLC, in Washington, D.C. He received the American Association of Political Consultants Pollie Award twice. He is a volunteer with Whitman-Walker Health, and OneVirginia in Richmond. Barefoot has his bachelor’s degree in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University and his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center, in Washington, D.C.
Activist, writer John Stephen Hunt dies at 85
was a student of Religious Science under Dr. Carleton Whitehead at John Stephen Hunt, 85, writer and global human rights activist Water Tower Place. He was an early graduate of The Phoenix Project, based in Chicago, died March 17, of natural causes in Chicago. a national grief-healing group process. As a senior, he benefitted as a Hunt came out as a 20-year-old gay man during his U.S. Army counselee of CJE, Chicago. A trained direct psychic counselor, he was Service. For years he was a resourceful link and activist-connector for recognized by American Association of Professional Psychics. American and emerging worldwide LGBT rights movements. He lived He especially identified with the spiritual teaching of ancient Egypt, at The Malden Lakefront Property group, on Chicago’s north side. the Great Tradition. Hunt once said, “I am grateful my lifetime occurred He was born in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Aug. 20, 1935. He traveled during a period in human history when the essential meanings of our to and lived in Canada, Mexico, UK, France, Germany and Dominican spiritual and cosmic situation were even more fully unfolding on the Republic and took special interest in post-apartheid South Africa. He planet.” was U.S. Correspondent for Out! New Zealand Magazine. In 2000 Hunt was educated at University High School (Ann Arbor), George he helped champion and sponsor the early development of Our Washington University, and the University of Exeter (UK), University World Center in Lugansk and Kiev, Ukraine. His first lover, Marine of California/Berkeley, with a summer at Harvard University. He wrote A. Perez-Minino and a later lover, Harry Gregory of Minneapolis, published sonnets and read widely, encouraging others. He enjoyed who succumbed to AIDS, each had posts in diplomacy (Dominican gardening as an avocation and was a beekeeper. He was known Republic, Turkey). and loved for his short witticisms and hoped to be remembered for Hunt was generous with his skills and speaking time during a yearshis sense of humor and for being a cybernaut news-bringer and an long successful recovery he made through New Town Alano Club, encourager of others. Chicago. He also gave contributions and media counsel to Gerber/ Memorial services are pending. Following cremation, he requested Hart Library and Archives, He was a co-founder of Lambda Resource JOHN STEPHEN HUNT lived his ashes be scattered by friends and reconciled church members in Center for the Blind, a program of Horizons, Chicago. Hunt frequently in many cities, including the High Peony Garden, University of Michigan Arboretum, Ann Arbor. encouraged younger writers, reporters, and artists. He fostered four Washington, D.C. He knew the Arboretum as a boy and first saw the Northern Lights children of Hindu faith in Kancheepuram, India. there—lights that as an adult he internalized following spiritual quest, Apart from his global travel, over the course of his life, he peak experiences, and enlightenment. made his home in Michigan, West Virginia, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Oregon, North In lieu of flowers, donations may be given to the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives, Carolina, Washington D.C., Colorado, New Mexico, Indiana, New York, California, and gerberhart.org. Arrangements by Cremation Society of Illinois, cremation-society.com. Massachusetts, settling in Chicago in spring, 1971. Hunt was an associate member of FROM STAFF REPORTS the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, attended Unity in Chicago, and 0 6 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • APRIL 02, 202 1 • LO CA L NE WS
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‘May Is: All About Trans’ conference set for May Participants and speakers from across the United States and at least one speaker from Mexico are expected to attend the fourth annual “May Is: All About Trans” conference and celebration scheduled take place virtually May 1-29. Longtime D.C. transgender activist SaVanna Wanzer, the founder and CEO of the D.C.based organization that has organized the annual transgender conference and celebration since 2018 said this year’s gathering will include at least 24 events spread out over 29 days. She said an opening online “meet and greet cocktail party” will take place April 30. Among the events are multiple panel discussions featuring speakers with expertise in transgender related issues, performances, and celebrations, including a May 15 “redeveloped Trans Pride celebration.” A statement released by the May Is organization says the events also include a Trans Youth Town Hall and an Adult Town Hall; legal clinics; an open mic session; and a movie night, among other events. Topics of the panel sessions include HIV & PrEP; Mental Health for All; Trans Led Leadership; Transmasculine & Feminine Conversations; Pronouns: What Do They Mean?; and Love & Family. “The goal is to foster a better understanding of what it is like to be a person who is trans, gender non-conforming and nonbinary,” the statement released by the May Is group says. Among the gathering’s objectives, the statement says, is to “focus on bringing together multiple communities through initiatives such as art viewings, open mic nights, educational outreach events and more.” Wanzer noted that the month-long conference and celebration is open to the public free of charge thanks to support from several prominent organizational and corporate sponsors, including Gilead Sciences, the pharmaceutical company that’s serving as presenting sponsor. Stoli, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Whitman-Walker Health, the Center for Black Equity, and Westminster Presbyterian Church are among the other sponsors. Speakers and participants that have so far signed on to attend the event will be from
at least 18 U.S. cities in addition to D.C., according to Wanzer. At least one speaker will be from Mexico. “We understand that all gender identities and expressions must be validated,” Wanzer said in a statement to the Blade. “Likewise, actively engaging cultures including African American, Indigenous people, Latinx people and all People of Color is our path to full inclusion,” she said, adding that speakers and participants will be from SAVANNA WANZER has organized diverse backgrounds. the annual transgender conference and celebration since 2018. (Photo courtesy Wanzer) “So, it’s an educational event. It’s a social event. It’s a place we can get information about name change, and organizations that deal with the transgender community,” Wanzer said. “And it’s about education and erasing our stigmas in the community.” Added Wanzer, “In the midst of this global pandemic our trans community is experiencing higher rates of isolation and depression. The connection that we are looking to provide takes on an even more important status to create as many opportunities as possible for transgender people to meet, interact, socialize, collaborate, and definitely support each other.” Wanzer said a complete list of events and speakers and registration information for accessing the 2021 May Is: All About Trans conference and celebration will soon become available at: www.Mayistransdc.com LOU CHIBBARO JR.
Two gay candidates enter race for Alexandria City Council Gay Democratic and civic activists James Lewis and Kirk McPike are running for seats on the Alexandria, Va., City Council in the city’s June 8 Democratic primary. The Alexandria Council consists of seven members, including the city’s mayor, who runs in a separate mayoral election. All seven of the positions come up for election in the same year. Lewis and McPike are among 13 candidates, including at least three incumbents, running in the primary and competing for the six at-large, non-mayoral seats on the Council. The Council does not include any district or ward seats. The two men each have a chance of winning the nomination for two of the six seats in the primary. Under election rules, the six highest vote-getters are declared the winners in the primary. Both Lewis and McPike have been endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which supports openly LGBTQ candidates for local and national election contests. Lewis currently serves as vice chair of the Alexandria Traffic and Parking Board and has served on other city boards and commissions, including the Transportation
Commission, according to the Alexandria Patch. The site says he is the former president of the Virginia Young Democrats, has served as an Alexandria Democratic precinct captain, and has worked as a congressional communications director. A Victory Fund statement announcing its endorsement of McPike says McPike currently serves as chief of staff to gay U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.). The statement says prior to serving on Takano’s staff McPike “spent nearly a decade working in Democratic politics in Virginia, California, and Texas.” It says he has served on key Alexandria city commissions that deal with affordable housing and the city budget. A spokesperson for the Alexandria Board of Elections said the local Republican Party has selected to nominate its City Council candidates in an upcoming party caucus. With a majority of Alexandria voters registered as Democrats, the Democratic nominees for the City Council are considered to have an advantage in the November general election. LOU CHIBBARO JR.
D.C. Log Cabin Republicans ‘super-energized’ after officer elections The D.C. LGBTQ GOP group Log Cabin Republicans plans to increase its involvement in local and national politics this year after increasing its membership by 25 percent during the past year and after its March 20-22 online election of officers, according to its president, Adam Savit, who won re-election unopposed. Also winning re-election unopposed were Vice President Cody Gaffney, Treasurer Chaim Starkey, and at-large board member Marc Dean. Newly elected officers include Secretary Brady Mickelsen and at-large board members Andrew Desser, Andrew Mink, and Jarrod Rodriquez. Savit said this year the organization will be “intimately involved” with the D.C. Republican Committee, the local party’s governing body, which has been supportive of LGBTQ rights and whose recently elected chair, Patrick Mara, has been a longtime LGBTQ rights supporter. Savit noted that D.C. Log Cabin’s secretary, Brady Mickelsen, is serving as the DCRC’s Ward 4 chair and the group’s board member, Andrew Desser, is the committee’s Ward 1 chair. Savit said among D.C. LCR’s goals is to have LGBTQ Republicans run for elective office in the upcoming D.C. election cycle. “This year we are super-energized to build our membership, educate the public and integrate as never before with our dozens of chapters around the country and our national organization to influence the conversation leading up to 2022,” Savit said. “We added about 25 percent to our membership rolls over the past 12 months, as people were isolated during COVID and alienated due to political oppression and 0 8 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • APRIL 02, 202 1 • LO CA L NE WS
seeking camaraderie,” said Savit, who noted the group is now meeting in person again. Savit declined to provide background information on the newly elected officers on grounds that they could be subjected to negative repercussion due to hostility toward conservatives. The group came under fire from LGBTQ activists last year when it endorsed Donald Trump for re-election. “I regret that the current political climate has made it dangerous for conservatives to be as public about our activities as we were able to be in the past,” he said. “Due to national and local trends of blacklisting and ‘cancelation,’ our leaders and members fear negative repercussions in employment and social spheres, and in some cases physical safety, and I am respecting their concerns,” Savit told the Blade. He noted that despite the criticism the national Log Cabin Republicans and its local chapters received for supporting Trump, LGBTQ voter support for Trump increased to 28 percent in the 2020 election from the 14 percent of the LGBTQ vote Trump received in 2016, according to national polling data. “We plan to double that again in 2022 and 2024,” Savit said. Historically, with an overwhelmingly Democratic D.C. electorate, Log Cabin and its GOP allies have seen local Republican candidates lose virtually all elections they have run in for the past 20 years or longer. LOU CHIBBARO JR.
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Biden issues first-ever proclamation for Trans Day of Visibility on behalf of transgender people, including the executive order he signed on his first President Biden, in a first for any U.S. president, issued on Wednesday a formal day in office fully implementing in all federal agencies the U.S. Supreme Court decision presidential proclamation recognizing the Transgender Day of Visibility, according to an against anti-LGBTQ discrimination, the restoration of open transgender military service advance copy of the White House document obtained by the Washington Blade. and the Senate confirmation of Rachel Levine as At a time when states are advancing and assistant secretary of health. enacting into law measures that would essentially In terms of the tasks ahead, Biden enumerates the bar transgender girls from participating in school Equality Act, legislation to expand the prohibition sports and restrict access to transition-related care on anti-LGBTQ discrimination under federal law he for transgender youth, Biden signals support for pledged to sign within 100 days of his administration. transgender people by commending their “struggle, Although the U.S. House passed the legislation, the activism and courage” and including fellow athletes U.S. Senate has yet to advance the bill. It remains and students in a list of allies. unlikely 60 votes are present in that chamber to end a “This hard-fought progress is also shaping an filibuster on the legislation. increasingly accepting world in which peers at “To more fully protect the civil rights of transgender school, teammates and coaches on the playing field, Americans, we must pass the Equality Act and provide colleagues at work, and allies in every corner of long overdue federal civil rights protections on the society are standing in support and solidarity with the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Biden transgender community,” Biden writes. writes. “The Equality Act will deliver legal protections But Biden also recognizes long-standing issues for LGBTQ+ Americans in our housing, education, facing the transgender community, calling ongoing public services, and lending systems. It will serve as violence against transgender people “a stain on our PRESIDENT BIDEN issued a proclamation recognizing the a lasting legacy to the bravery and fortitude of the nation’s conscience.” Transgender Day of Visibility. LGBTQ+ movement.” “In spite of our progress in advancing civil rights for Although Biden is the first U.S. president to LGBTQ+ Americans, too many transgender people issue a proclamation for the Transgender Day of Visibility, other U.S. presidents have — adults and youth alike — still face systemic barriers to freedom and equality,” Biden announced support for the LGBTQ community by formally proclaiming June as Pride writes. “Transgender Americans of all ages face high rates of violence, harassment, and Month. Bill Clinton issued the first LGBTQ Pride proclamation, a practice former discrimination.” President Barack Obama renewed in each of his eight years in office after George W. According to a study this month from the Williams Institute at University of California, Bush ignored the annual celebration. Donald Trump became the first Republican U.S. Los Angeles, transgender people are more than four times more likely than cisgender president to recognize Pride Month with a tweet in 2017, although he never issued a people to experience violent victimization, including rape, sexual assault, and formal proclamation. aggravated or simple assault. CHRIS JOHNSON Biden also points out the accomplishments his administration has already achieved
Levine becomes first trans person to win Senate confirmation Rachel Levine made history last week by becoming the first openly transgender person to win Senate confirmation as a presidential appointee, sending an unprecedented signal gender identity is not a barrier for obtaining a position in the highest levels of government. The vote on the U.S. Senate floor, which despite its significance took place with little fanfare after senators largely discussed issues other than Levine serving as assistant secretary of health, was along party lines and 52-48. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) presided over the confirmation. Levine in a statement following her confirmation thanked President Biden for the nomination and the Senate, recognizing the importance of her appointment to LGBTQ people. “As I prepare to take my oath of office and begin serving as assistant secretary for health, I would like to take this opportunity to address members of the LGBTQ community,” Levine said. “First, thank you. Only through your work and advocacy over many decades is my story possible. I am humbled to be the first transgender individual to serve in a Senate-confirmed position. As Vice President Harris has said, I recognize that I may be the first, but am heartened by the knowledge that I will not be the last.” Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Maine) joined Democrats in voting to confirm Levine. Sen. Joe Manchin, who recently voted with Republicans for a failed amendment to defund schools allowing transgender kids in sports, ended up joining Democrats to vote to confirm Levine. The assistant secretary of health oversees the department’s key public health offices, a number of presidential and secretarial advisory committees, 10 regional health offices across the nation, and the Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Now that the Senate has confirmed Levine, she’ll be charged with overseeing President Biden’s plan to confront the coronavirus, including the continued distribution of vaccines to make his vision of having a vaccine available to every American by May 1. Additionally, Levine will be responsible for the Ending the HIV Epidemic program that began during the Trump administration. Biden has said he intends to beat the domestic HIV epidemic by 2025, although observers are skeptical that deadline is feasible. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted the historic implications of the Levine confirmation vote as the start of the morning of the Senate. 1 0 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • APRIL 02, 202 1 • NAT I O NA L NE WS
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health RACHEL LEVINE won Senate confirmation to become assistant secretary of health. (Screen capture via CSPAN)
“As transgender Americans suffer higher rates of abuse, homelessness and depression more than every other group, it’s important to have national figures like Dr. Levine, who by virtue of being in the public spotlight will help break down barriers of ignorance and fear,” Schumer said. No openly transgender person prior to Levine had ever sought or won confirmation by the Senate in U.S. history. In the Obama administration, Dylan Orr at the Department of Labor and Amanda Simpson at the departments of energy and defense made history as the first openly transgender presidential appointees, but their roles didn’t require Senate approval. Trump, whose administration was marked by open hostility to the transgender community, had no openly transgender appointments. CHRIS JOHNSON
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U.S. Pride organizers debate in-person vs. virtual events for 2021 Some cities eye fall for possible return of parades, festivals By LOU CHIBBARO JR. | email@example.com
traditional PrideFest and Pride Island events “will also return Like LGBTQ Pride organizations in several of the nation’s on June 27, with further details to be revealed at a later time,” largest cities, D.C.’s Capital Pride Alliance is planning to hold the statement says. It says at least three other events, including several virtual Pride events during the traditional Pride month a Human Rights Conference, will be held virtually. of June and is considering at least one in-person event for Reclaim Pride Coalition, a separate New York City October — a smaller Pride parade. organization, announced it will hold its 3rd Annual Queer Also like other cities, the traditional June Capital Pride Liberation March for Pride on Sunday, June 27. The in-person Parade and Festival, which have attracted more than 250,000 march will include safety precautions, mask distribution participants and spectators in past years, have been cancelled for those who don’t have a mask, and other risk reduction this year following last year’s cancellation, according to Capital strategies, organizers said in a statement. Pride Executive Director Ryan Bos. “The struggle for Queer Liberation cannot wait for the Bos said a “reimagined” parade called Paint the Town passing of the pandemic, as COVID-19 has made surviving With Pride is being planned for June 12 that will consist only even more difﬁcult for far too many of our most marginalized of asking LGBTQ residents and supporters to decorate their It’s unlikely we’ll see crowds like these at Pride for some time. (Blade ﬁle photo) community members,” one of the organizers said in the homes or businesses with creative outdoor displays or signs statement. with LGBTQ Pride messages. He said the locations of the The Baltimore-based Pride Center of Maryland has announced the 45th Annual Baltimore displays will be released by Capital Pride so people can visit the sites while complying with Pride Festival will take place over the weekend of June 18. The announcement says the event COVID safe-distancing rules. will consist of an “innovative Pride celebration that will incorporate virtual and social-distance Bos said Capital Pride will organize a possible Pride Brigade of peoples’ vehicles to travel considerate, intimate in-person experiences to make Baltimore proud,” but no further details together across the city to view the displays on June 12. He said the displays are planned to were given. be in place through the month of June to enable people to visit the sites when convenient for Annapolis Pride, Inc. announced in early March that its second annual Annapolis, Md., Pride them. Detailed plans for D.C.’s Pride events can be viewed at capitalpride.org. Parade and Festival was scheduled to take place Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. The group indicated D.C.’s two main Black Pride events — a conference and outdoor festival that have drawn that as of March, the two events would take place outdoors and in-person rather than virtually. more than 3,000 participants up until 2019 and that traditionally take place during Memorial Delaware Pride, the organization that puts on that state’s main Pride events in the state Day weekend — have been cancelled this year for the second year in a row. capital in Dover, announced in March that it decided to reschedule its traditional June Pride According to Kenyon Hutton, deputy director of the D.C.-based LGBTQ organization event until Saturday, Oct. 2. The main Pride event has traditionally been held on the grounds Center for Black Equity, which coordinates Black Pride events in about 45 cities across the of Legislative Hall at the state capital building. country, said D.C.’s Black Pride will hold several virtual events over Memorial Day weekend, David Mariner, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBTQ community center and with details available on its Facebook page. advocacy group in Rehoboth Beach, Del. said there were no current plans for a Pride event in He said some in-person Black Pride events have already been held and others are Rehoboth. He said many of Rehoboth’s large number of LGBTQ residents and visitors usually scheduled to take place in states that have relaxed COVID restrictions. Among them was an attend the Delaware Pride events in Dover. outdoor Pride event in St. Petersburg, Fla., that took place in January. In Virginia, the Fairfax County Pride event held in past years called NOVA Pride, which has On the other side of the country, Christopher Street West-Los Angeles Pride, which has drawn crowds from the D.C. Northern Virginia area, will not take place this year due to COVID organized one of the nation’s largest Pride celebrations each year since the early 1970s, states restrictions, according to Bruce Hightower, president of the Arlington Gay and Lesbian on its website that it will hold this year’s celebration June 11-13. But like several other large Alliance, who said he spoke with one of NOVA Pride’s lead organizers. U.S. cities, it has yet to announce what type of events it will offer. A spokesperson for the annual Virginia Pride event held in Richmond could not immediately “Stay tuned for announcements about what we’re [safely] planning,” the website statement be reached to obtain plans for the Richmond Pride. says. A spokesperson for Chicago’s Pride Fest 2021 said the annual two-day street festival held in L.A. Pride spokesperson Chris Prouty, similar to ofﬁcials with Pride organizations in the city’s well known LGBTQ neighborhood of Boys Town had been scheduled for June 19-20 other cities, told the Blade that L.A. Pride organizers are carefully watching the unfolding but has been postponed due to city COVID restrictions. The spokesperson, Esmeralda Bravo, developments associated with the COVID-19 pandemic to determine what type of events said organizers are working closely with city ofﬁcials to determine the best date to reschedule might be possible in June. the event, which could be in August or September. “As the pandemic continues to affect the way all organizations plan for events, CSW/LA In Florida, statements released by organizers of Miami Beach Pride and the Stonewall Pride Pride is committed to producing a safe but impactful Pride 2021 for the communities we Parade and Street Festival in Wilton Manors, the small LGBTQ-friendly city located just outside serve,” Prouty said. “We’re developing a variety of programming that will be announced soon Fort Lauderdale, say both will be in-person events. The Wilton Manors parade and festival are and will continue to include input from local health ofﬁcials, community-based organizations scheduled for June 19. Miami Beach Pride says it will hold several events from Sept. 10-19, and non-proﬁts,” he said. “We encourage other Prides across the country to do the same.” with the largest being a festival in Lummus Park that’s expected to draw 125,000 participants. The San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade and Celebration organization announced on March However, organizers of the Miami Beach Pride say a “contingency hybrid event plan is also 24 that it will hold several smaller in-person events throughout the month of June. But similar in place should the planned [festival] event be disrupted by unknowns due to COVID-19.” to last year, its traditional Pride Parade and celebration at the city’s Civic Center, which in past The contingency plan calls for a signiﬁcantly reduced number of attendees for the festival and years have drawn thousands of participants, were cancelled this year. other possible restrictions required by Miami Beach ofﬁcials. “Knowing how deeply people miss being together, we’ve worked tirelessly with our Boston Pride, the organization that had hoped to host Boston’s 50th anniversary Pride events partners at City Hall, public health, and elsewhere to ensure a number of incredible, safe in June, announced the events in June had to be postponed due to COIVD restrictions. The experiences,” said San Francisco Pride Executive Director Fred Lopez. Among the outdoor group said in a statement that it was working with city ofﬁcials to reschedule the Pride events, in-person events planned are two evenings of ﬁlm screenings on June 11-12 at the San which include a parade and festival, for the fall “if all conditions are in place for such events.” Francisco Giants baseball stadium. For the second year in a row, Seattle Pride has renamed itself “Virtual Pride 2021” due to In a break from its Pride events in past years, in which thousands of LGBTQ visitors from COVID restriction on large gatherings, organizers said on the group’s website. It is scheduled other cities and states attended San Francisco Pride, organizers this year have bluntly asked to take place online with several events, including entertainment performances, scheduled people from outside the Bay Area to stay away. for June 26-27. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not yet recommend leisure travel, “While we are all missing the Parade, Virtual Pride is our opportunity to commemorate the and the organization’s leadership respectfully asks visitors from outside the region to past, celebrate new wins for equality, and get encouragement for the work yet to come, and reconsider their attendance,” San Francisco Pride organizers said in a statement. quite frankly it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun,” organizers said on the event’s website. “Stay Heritage of Pride, the group that organizes most but not all of New York City’s LGBTQ Pride tuned for your link to register for this FREE event,” the organizers said. events, has announced several Pride events throughout the month of June, including a virtual InterPride, a coalition of LGBTQ Pride organizations in the U.S. and in other countries, is in Pride March on June 27 with “to be determined in-person elements.” In years prior to COVID the process of compiling a comprehensive list of virtual and in-person LGBTQ Pride events restrictions, the New York City Pride March has drawn many thousands of participants. in 2021 that’s expected to be completed in a few weeks. Julian Sanjivan, the group’s coThe organization’s traditional Pride Rally will take place virtually on June 25 featuring president, said the list will be available on the website: www.interpride.org prominent LGBTQ speakers, according to a statement released by Heritage of Pride. Its 1 2 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • APRIL 02, 202 1 • NAT I O NA L NE WS
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Two gay men burned in Kenya refugee camp attack An attack at a Kenya refugee camp earlier this month that left two gay men with seconddegree burns has once again drawn attention to the plight of LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers who live there. A press release the Minnesota-based Black Immigrant Collective sent to the Blade last week notes “petrol bombs were thrown into a group of LGBTQ+ refugees, allies and their children who live in” Block 13 of the Kakuma refugee camp on the morning of March 15. “This attack not only set people on fire, but also destroyed beddings and personal belongings as many of the refugees sleep in the open air,” reads the press release. The press release also notes the men who are described as “organizers” suffered second-degree burns throughout their bodies. Gilbert Kagarura, a human rights activist and refugee from Uganda who lives in Block 13, on Tuesday sent the Blade a series of pictures of the two men that show burns on their arms, legs and other parts of their bodies. Shifra, an 18-year-old refugee who also lives in Block 13, on March 24 during a virtual press conference the Black Immigrant Collective and other advocacy groups and human rights activists in the U.S., Kenya and elsewhere around the world organized recalled the attack. “I thought we were all going to die,” said Shifra. “Everyday I relive this horrible experience that I have.” The U.N. Refugee Agency in a March 25 statement notes it “organized” the men’s transfer to a hospital in Lodwar, a town that is roughly 75 miles away from the camp. The men are now receiving treatment at a public hospital in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. “UNHCR organized their transfer to a regional hospital in Lodwar and, following expert advice from burn specialists, to a Nairobi hospital,” says UNHCR in its press release. “Both are receiving specialized treatment for their burns and progress in their recovery is being
closely monitored by the local medical team and a UNHCR doctor.” Kakuma, which is located in northwest Kenya near the country’s border with Uganda and South Sudan, is one of two refugee camps the UNHCR operates in the East African nation. The other, Dadaab, is located near Kenya’s border with Somalia. Kagarura told the Blade that UNHCR created Block 13 within An attack at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya on March a section of the camp known as 15, left two gay refugees with second-degree burns. (Photos courtesy of Gilbert Kagarura) Kakuma 3 in May 2020. The press release the Blade received from the Black Immigrant Collective notes “most of the 135 refugees at Block 13 fled Uganda for Kakuma when the anti-gay bill was introduced.” Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in 2014 signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposed a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The law was known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it once contained a death penalty provision. MICHAEL K. LAVERS
USAID urged to use COVID funds to support LGBTQ people abroad Three members of Congress have urged the U.S. Agency for International Development to use some of the money it received from the COVID-19 relief bill to support LGBTQ people around the world. U.S. Reps. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in a letter they sent to Acting USAID Administrator Gloria Steele on March 24 note her agency received “approximately” $10 billion under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that President Biden signed into law earlier this month. “We write to you to request that particular attention be paid in your deployment of these additional funds to reach the most vulnerable populations,” reads the letter. “From the devastating experience of the first year of this pandemic, we know that traditionally marginalized communities including LGBTQI+, people with disabilities, and racial minorities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.” The letter notes the pandemic “has exacerbated the inequalities and vulnerabilities that LGBTQI+ people in particular face worldwide.” “Amidst ongoing lockdowns, many LGBTQI+ people have lost their livelihoods, are at increased risk for gender-based violence, food insecurity, and homelessness, and face even greater barriers to services, including access to sexual and reproductive health care,”
it reads. “In some countries, those in the LGBTQI+ community have been scapegoated and falsely charged for spreading COVID-19, while other governments have used COVID-19 lock down measures as an excuse to violate the human rights of LGBTQI+ people and other vulnerable groups. LGBTQI+ people have also been excluded from many relief efforts due to binary gendered approaches to distribution, as well as a reliance on unsafe spaces for LGBTQI+ people, non-inclusive definitions of ‘family,’ and discrimination by relief workers.” Transgender activists in Latin America have criticized gender-based rules that officials in Panama, Colombia and Peru implemented in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Activists in South Korea formed a task force to fight anti-LGBTQ discrimination related to the pandemic. The letter that Titus, Castro and Cicilline sent to Steele notes OutRight Action International in April 2020 launched a fund to help vulnerable LGBTQ communities during the pandemic. Biden last month issued a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad. A USAID spokesperson confirmed to the Washington Blade the agency has received the letter. MICHAEL K. LAVERS
Germany now allows trans, intersex police officers to serve Julia Monro, a spokesperson for the German Association for Trans Identity and Intersex People (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Transidentität und Intersexualität), in 2017 applied to become a police officer because she wanted to join the fight against Internet crimes. Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office rejected Monro’s application because she is transgender. “I was really disappointed because their JULIA MONRO (Photo courtesy Monro) own website had a point for LGBTI people, and so I felt very welcome,” Monro told the Blade last month during a Zoom interview from her home near the city of Cologne. “It was a government institution.” Germany as of January has officially amended Police Service Regulation 300 (PDV 300) that was used to prevent openly trans and intersex people to work as police officers. PDV 300 specifically mentioned men and women, but not trans or intersex people. Joschua Thuir, a police inspector who is an instructor at a German Federal Police center for basic training and further education, is the trans ambassador of VelsPol Deutschland,
an NGO that represents LGBTQ police officers in the country. Thuir, who is a trans man, has also written a diploma thesis about the experiences of trans and intersex people who have applied to become police officers in Germany. Thuir described PDV 300 as “a list that includes different physical and psychological criterion of exclusion.” He also told the Blade that he transitioned after his three-year probation period ended to make sure he wouldn’t jeopardize his job. Brett Parson, an openly gay man who previously led the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, is among those who Thuir considers a mentor. Bee Bailey, a member of the Gloucestershire Constabulary in England who is a founding member of Trans Cops Europe, is among the other police officers who have also supported Thuir’s work. The new policy took effect in all of Germany’s 19 police departments in January. “We wanted to make a positive report so that a lot of transgender people can now take their chance to go to the police,” said Monro. “We wanted to show the police is a good institution for transgender people to work.” Monro said there has thus far been no backlash against the new policy. She told the Blade she is not sure whether she will once again apply to become a police officer, but added the new regulation sends a positive message to trans and intersex Germans. MICHAEL K. LAVERS
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EARL D. FOWLKES, JR. is executive director of The Center for Black Equity.
Standing up against anti-Asian violence Stop scapegoating the community for COVID-19
I remember exactly what I was doing when I heard that six Asian women were slain in Atlanta. I got that same sick to my gut reaction I had when I heard George Floyd and Breanna Taylor were killed. It was the same emotional reaction to the Pulse club murder in Orlando. I should be used to it by now, but I still react emotionally to mass murders and hate crimes. There is still something inside of me that is shocked that this still happens in the United States. Communities of color know that regardless of how law enforcement deﬁne these crimes, they were hate crimes directed at Asian women. These acts are not simply about the killer’s twisted sexual psychology. This is the result of ongoing anti-Asian sentiment that has festered in this country for hundreds of years. AntiAsian laws are part of the sad legacy of racial discrimination of this country. Another sad legacy of our nation is this country’s propensity to always have a convenient scapegoat to justify its collective immoral behavior. This started with the near elimination of Native Americans when white Europeans ﬁrst visited these shores, it continued with the importation of African slaves and later dealing with the “Negro problem” as former slaveowners called it. There was no “Negro Program” until the dawn of emancipation. Many Eastern and southern European immigrants were not always welcomed on these shores and immigration from these countries was effectivity stopped under the guise of preventing the spread of Bolshevism know as the “Red Scare.” Latinos have been blamed for the increase of undocumented immigration yet there are millions of undocumented people living in the U.S. from around the world who have not crossed the border from Mexico. Asians have never been truly welcomed to the United States and their presence has often been referred to as the “Yellow Peril.” Yet again, there was no “Yellow Peril” when Chinese laborers were paid next to nothing to build the Union Paciﬁc railroad with hundreds dying in the process. We cannot forget one of the saddest chapters in American history when Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which forced 120,000 men, women and children of Japanese descent to be removed from their homes on the West Coast to internment (a nicer word for concentration camps) from 1942 to 1945. Sixty-six percentage of those interned were American citizens. During our time, Donald Trump, supported by the bully pulpit of the American presidency, blamed the COVID-19 virus on China; and this has led directly to an increase of violence against the Asian community. Hate crimes against the Asian American and Paciﬁc Islander community have been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. A report released by Stop AAPI Hate revealed that there have been at least 3,795 hate incidents targeting the AAPI community from March 19, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021. More than 500 of those incidences occurred in 2021. And remember, these are the incidences that are reported. It is time that as a nation, we stop scapegoating communities of color. It’s time that we stop scapegoating the Asian community for COVID-19 and other viruses (remember the Hong Kong Flu). The Asian American and Paciﬁc Islander communities have made incredible contributions to the United States and by virtue of being here have the right to expect to not be subjected to any form of violence. As a proud African-American gay man I stand alongside all Asian and Paciﬁc Islander communities in solidarity, particularly during this time of hate, ignorance, bigotry, and suffering.
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is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.
Democrats can win in 2022 Abolishing the ﬁlibuster may be needed to save democracy
Between now and 2022, Democrats will struggle to pass every bill in Congress. They will need to stick together in the House of Representatives where they only have a 219 to 211 margin with ﬁve open seats. Three of those seats were held by Democrats now in the Biden administration. Marcia Fudge (Ohio), Secretary of HUD; Deb Haaland (N.M.) now the ﬁrst Native American Secretary of the Interior; and Cedric Richmond (La.) now director of the Ofﬁce of Public Engagement. The other two open seats are from Republican members, one Luke Letlow (La.) who died before taking ofﬁce from COVID (his widow just won the special election for his seat; and Ron Wright (Texas) who died while in ofﬁce. So the margin for Democrats is small. To retain control in 2022 Democrats can lose no more than four seats. Only twice post-VRA (Voting Rights Act) midterms did a president’s party lose fewer than four seats. Those two elections were 1998 after the failed Clinton impeachment (+4) and 2002 after 9/11 (+7). The Senate is 50/50. Unless the ﬁlibuster is modiﬁed or dumped it will be hard for Democrats to pass any major legislation. While the entire House is up in 2022, in the Senate 34 seats are up including two, both Democrats, Raphael Warnock in Georgia and Mark Kelly in Arizona elected in 2020 to ﬁll seats in special elections. Democrats have to defend 15 seats and Republicans 19. Five Republican senators have announced they won’t run for reelection, so there will be open seats in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Alabama, and Missouri. An interesting map with a number of possibilities for Democrats to pick up seats but as we saw in 2020 none will be easy. While Biden received 81,283,098 votes — the most ever for a president — Trump received 74,222,958, the second most ever. With third party candidates more than 159 million Americans voted in 2020: That’s the largest total voter turnout in U.S. history and the ﬁrst time more than 140 million people voted. No one thinks that many will come out in a non-presidential year. Targeting will be crucial as Democrats ﬁght to reverse what many consider the normal course of history and actually win seats in the mid-term elections. Much will depend on how much they can get done in the ﬁrst two years of the Biden/Harris administration. It may depend on whether Democratic senators like Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will agree to either abolish or modify the ﬁlibuster. We are already seeing Republicans will be the party of NO. They will try to stop any forward motion and you can only use reconciliation a speciﬁc number of times, which is how Democrats passed the $1.9 trillion stimulus package without one Republican vote. Democrats must stay a united party. Our big tent including the various communities within the party including LGBTQ+, AAPI, African American, Latino, Native American, Asian, progressive and moderate must all pull together. Let’s hope the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chaired by Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.); the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) chaired by Gary Peters (D-Mich.); and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and its newly appointed chair, Jamie Harrison, will work together. If they can avoid divisive Democratic primaries and allow the party to focus all its messaging, fundraising and resources on the general election they can win seats across the board. Much will be made about messaging, which needs to be about kitchen table issues directly impacting voters. We need to move forward on climate change, infrastructure, immigration, education, civil rights and equality, and healthcare talking about these issues is terms of jobs and an improved economy. Biden has made a good start with passage of the stimulus bill. Apparently next up will be a massive $3 trillion infrastructure bill to include major tax increases for the wealthy and corporations to offset the cost of the legislation. Then the administration must pass a voting rights bill even if it’s pared down from the one the House passed. Helping to pass it will be the kind of outrageous legislation recently signed into law in Georgia and proposed by Republican legislatures around the nation. This overstepping should help convince even Sen. Manchin if it takes abolishing the ﬁlibuster for this legislation to pass, preserving our Democracy is that important.
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KHELIL BOUARROUJ is an activist who writes about LGBTQ issues.
holds a Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Sydney. He is the author of the forthcoming book, ‘LGBTQ Lobbying in the United States,’ from Routledge.
Gay bars: Community or lifestyle enclave?
Lobbying is about power, not policy
Walking into a gay bar felt like crossing the Rubicon. I was a grad student dabbling in “the love that dare not speak its name,” but I avoided gay bars. Visiting one would be an admission that I wasn’t just doing something, but, rather, being someone. Until one day, even though I wasn’t ready to attach identity to my experiences, I walked through the doors. Until then, my relationships were on one side of the closet, and coming out portended an empty world on the other side. Gay bars showed me that I wasn’t alone. Being among people, however, isn’t the same as a community, something I’ve struggled with in my expectations of gay bars. What exactly are gay bars: community or lifestyle enclave? That’s a question raised by “Gay Bar: Why We Went Out” by Jeremy Atherton Lin. Part memoir/part anthropology, Lin navigates the history and nature of the storied gay bar. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Homebound, I reminisced about nights out while reading about Jeremy’s. But also got to thinking: what will we be walking back into once the pandemic ends? After coming out, I had expected gay bars to be spaces of bonding. To my chagrin, I found that sense of community wanting. On occasion, I found the fraternity I was searching for, albeit ﬂeetingly. You must always know that there is nothing wrong with you no matter what your parents say, a Latinx lesbian told me one night as we smoked and swapped stories on less-than-accepting mothers. I never saw her again and didn’t even catch her name, but that moment held for me what I wanted in those spaces: To connect with people beyond lookism and sex. Reading “Gay Bar,” I nodded with the observation: “The gay bars of my life have consistently disappointed.” “Gar Bar” advances the theory that communities are born out of shared history. And “where history is forgotten … community degenerates into lifestyle enclaves.” And lifestyle celebrates the “narcissism of similarity” and promotes private concerns, “namely leisure and consumption.” Most gay bars, I have found, are not cultivators of community. We arrive and depart with the people we already know. Contact with outsiders tends to be ephemeral and skin deep. Consumption is the deﬁning ethos. But “perhaps you could call a gay bar a galaxy: We are held together but kept from colliding by a ﬁne balance of momentum and gravity,” Lin proposes. I’ve learned to think of this galaxy as enough. And to see the beauty in it: We all gather without really knowing each other, but in that transient night, we’re keeping alive the simulacrum of a shared experience. And therein lies the potential of gay bars: Sometimes stars collide and sparks ﬂy. That potential is under threat. “Gay Bar” is partly an obituary as spaces shut down. Reasons abound: the young generation feels less need for them, out-ofcontrol gentriﬁcation, and Grindr. Ironically, the fact that gay bars are no longer strictly for gays might end up saving many. One word: Nellie’s. The gay sports bar has become a pitstop for bachelorettes, which can be problematic. “Gay Bar” relates one night where a bride-to-be corralled the gays into a serenade. Our spaces should be welcoming but down with the instrumentalization of gay men as playthings. The Invasion of the Brides, however, speaks to a larger truth. Gay bars are constantly in ﬂux, opening here and closing there, transitioning from the Mean Gays set to a queer subversive vibe, adding drag nights and brunch Sundays. This adaptation has often made them resilient. I should close with a disclaimer: Mine is not the “authentic” experience; there’s no such thing. And that’s what makes Lin such a wonderful guide. There’s something in Gay Bar(s) for everyone. For those dreaming of when the music will start playing again, and cruising will no longer violate the health code, “Gay Bar” is an antidote to our abstinence until we can revive the real thing.
“The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.” — Martin Luther King, Jr. Lobbying is about power, not policy. In my forthcoming book, “LGBTQ Lobbying in the United States” I argue that intersectional lobbying helps inform how we consider lobbying in Washington, D.C. For instance, intersectionality helps us understand lobbying by saying three things: That people are rendered vulnerable by systems and structures; that public policy issues cannot be solved without addressing people at the intersections of their identities; and that understanding these intersections gives us a fundamentally reconstituted view of citizen. As a result, the failure to lobby on behalf of the whole individual (the reconstituted individual) is an act of political oppression. It is from this place, the place of Dr. King, and the place of Professor Crenshaw that I approach an analysis of lobbying. And it is from here that I argue that lobbying is not about policy: First, lobbying is about the structures that govern the distribution of power. This governing structure is cisgender, white, male, rich, not living with a disability, English-speaking, Global-North and heteronormative. It is a structure and system that is designed to deliver inequality. It relies on inequality as the means of delivering power back to the powerful. This is a system that perpetuates oppressions as a necessity to furthering heterosexual superiority. Second, lobbying is the performance of returning power to the powerful. It is not about meetings, though meetings abound. And it involves legislation, but it is not about a bill. Lobbyists perform the function of negotiating within structural power dynamics. What we see as give and take is in fact political theatre designed to create a false narrative of compromise, in order to return power back to the powerful. Here we see that the performance of lobbying is often designed to construct a false historical record. A theatre of the politically absurd that establishes a public accounting of the policy process as a misleading and ambitious way to protect the powerful. Thus, lobbying as both performance and structure can be seen through the delivery of power. Third, you can see the success of this system in the way it manipulates the gay movement into loving it, rather than leaving it. Some groups capitulate to this design by prioritizing market-tested political issues that score well with the public or that play well on the Hill. These groups ask for too little, too late, with too little passion, and too low a bar. They water down LGBTQ rights, like a gardener with a hose that will not turn off. These groups do this because they believe the trap of incrementalism. That political issues are like a pizza and you are allowed to have one slice at a time. One slice is called HIV stigma, another marriage, or lesbian cancer rates, or Black trans violence, or indigenous two-spirit rights, or youth suicide, youth homelessness, and youth despair, and youth poverty, youth food insecurity, and youth domestic abuse at home, and youth sexual assault. The big lie is that this is too much for the political system to handle. This is the violence of incrementalism. Intersectional lives cannot and should not be dealt with piece by piece or slice by slice. To say to our brothers, sisters and non-binary family that they must wait their turn is a form of equality governance. Where less is less to the beneﬁt of those with more. Here, waiting in line while you have cancer, or AIDS, or depression is more than tolerated, it is seen as respectable to those in power. However, anyone who asks you to wait in line for a system that is not designed to help you, that cannot help you, and will not help you, is complicit in your oppression.
New book an antidote to our abstinence until we can revive the real thing
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Intersectional lives cannot be addressed piece by piece
Couple’s love of soccer leads to Washington Spirit investment Scurry, Zizos on their unique personal and business partnership By KEVIN MAJOROS
Briana Scurry’s goalkeeper abilities are legendary in women’s professional soccer. She is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion and was a member of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team for 15 years. She was the only core team member who was African American and the only African-American player who was out. Scurry suffered a career-ending concussion in an April 2010 hit playing for the Washington Freedom. The next three years of her life would be spent trying to receive recovery care through a worker’s compensation case. During those years, Scurry experienced depression, physical pain, and struggles maintaining steady employment. She ﬁnally received surgery at the end of 2013 to remove pea-size balls of damaged tissue from the back of her head. Enter Chryssa Zizos, the founder of Live Wire Strategic Communications. An awardwinning local PR ﬁrm that specializes in media relations, training programs, video production, and social media. Together, they began the rebranding journey of Bri Scurry. What started as a business partnership would evolve into a life partnership. Scurry returned to her pro team, now the Washington Spirit, as an assistant coach and technical adviser for the Spirit Academy youth programs. Zizos would lead the Live Wire relationship with the Washington Spirit. The pair married in 2018. Last month, D.C.’s National Women’s Soccer League team, the Washington Spirit, announced a new group of investors that includes Scurry, Zizos, Chelsea Clinton, Jenna Bush Hager and Dominique Dawes along with a diverse group of other individuals. The Washington Blade sat down with Scurry and Zizos to catch up on the new venture.
Scurry: Exactly. Zizos: It was really important for me to take things slow and steady because I have two kids. I wanted to make sure that before I even mentioned Bri’s name, that it was something I felt really strongly about. Blade: The actual courtship was three years before you were married? Scurry: Yes, June 2018. Blade: And Bri, you were working with the Spirit during those years? Scurry: Yes. I was reintroduced to the Spirit when I moved back to the area. I was starting my journey, getting back from my concussion. We talked to Bill Lynch who was the owner of the Spirit at the time. And I clearly wasn’t quite ready to do all of that yet, but I was on my way and so we just wanted to touch base with him and then in 2018 is when I became the assistant coach. Blade: Did you leave the D.C. area after the concussion and then come back? Scurry: That’s a great question. So the concussion occurred in the WPS league and that’s when the Washington Freedom was the team. When they moved to Florida I went down to become the general manager of the MagicJack team, which was the new ownership. Then I lived in New Jersey for several years until I moved back here to be closer to my medical care.
Blade: There is a lot of crossover between the two of you, even beyond the initial connection. After you became a couple, how did that evolve? Zizos: It’s been very interesting. I manage Bri’s career, Live Wire does all of her PR and we’re married. I am obviously very emotionally involved in it, so she Washington Blade: I would like to start by hearing CHRYSSA ZIZOS and BRIANA SCURRY with their children. has her own publicist at Live Wire, Patrick Renegar. As what is occupying Bri’s time these days. (Photo courtesy the couple) we go out and seek opportunities for her, Patrick is Briana Scurry: I am in the process of writing a always involved in it and then I do all of the negotiating. It’s been really nice. book right now, but my main job from day to day is keynote speaking. I am speaking Scurry: Live Wire and Chryssa have done amazing things for me. I am so far along with on concussion awareness and diversity leadership, essentially keynotes for corporations, my relevance in the space, my concussion rollout and becoming an advocate, along with organizations, universities, and other groups. I was in a movie last fall in Atlanta called my work in the LGBTQ community, in leadership and with the Women’s National Soccer “High Expectations,” which will be coming out either at the end of this year or early next Team. I was featured in the Hall of Fame in the African American museum. year. There is also a documentary coming up and now we are investors for the Washington Spirit. There is a lot going on and it is not all soccer. Blade: Yes! The Game Changers exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. I watched the video rollout of you walking past Muhammad Blade: And how did the two of you meet? Ali, Arthur Ashe, Venus and Serena Williams. That must have been overwhelming. Chryssa Zizos: A mutual friend of ours introduced us. Naomi and her wife Fran own Scurry: It’s very humbling. If you’ve been to the Smithsonian, it is so intense there, and to TomboyX, which is an intimate apparel company for the LGBTQ community. I was the ﬁrst be seen as someone who helped my community, my people, my race, to elevate through investor in TomboyX outside of friends and family. One night at dinner they were telling my work. Chryssa handled all of that negotiation. She has been so instrumental. I’m so me about Bri’s career and concussion and said, “is there any way that you could help her much further along in a place in my life now that I never thought I’d be, even better than raise her proﬁle in regards to the concussion?” Bri and I connected, and Live Wire took before when I played, to be honest with you. I am so much happier. I have such greater Bri on as a client. We worked together for many months and then over time, we became a depth and I have purpose deeper than I had before. And a lot of it is because of what she’s little bit interested in each other. We were percolating (laughter). been able to do. It’s really helpful that we are able to separate our relationship as each other’s wives with the business side, because it is difﬁcult a lot of times for people to do Blade: All right, Bri, did you know that you were percolating? both. She mapped out how we would do it methodically, going through all the evolutions Scurry: I did. I mean, I was in a really bad place though. My concussion saga is welland recreation of me. Now I’m doing movies. All this stuff I never thought I would do. documented and at the time I was really struggling, psychologically and emotionally. The Zizos: And it’s helped Live Wire too. I mean, having Bri as a client, all of our clients love insurance company was blocking me at every turn to try to get the care I needed, and we that we’re married. I started Live Wire 23 years ago and I was afraid to tell anybody I was ﬁgured that it would be a good idea to try to put some heat on them. That is when Naomi even gay when I ﬁrst started the company. And now when I’m introducing myself, I always and Fran talked to Chryssa. I was very vulnerable, and I was very open about how bad say, “And I’m married to...” It’s an ice breaker and it’s fun. Now that we’re investors in the things were. And I’ve been open ever since, I talk about it quite a bit. Chryssa was just such Washington Spirit we’ll be bringing clients to all the games. It’s really helped both of our an amazing listener and she just was really making things happen for me and then things careers in a very positive way. I also feel like from our perspective, we spend a lot of time started to grow from there. I was in therapy for my concussion for over a year and was just talking about our work together and I love it. Bri was on MSNBC this morning doing an in a state of trying to get healthy. interview and then we played it back and I was media training her afterwards. Zizos: We went to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Vancouver in 2015 and Bri did the Today show and we met Joe Biden when he was vice president. We just had the best time Blade: Does that mean you’re the task master? together and after we came home is when I introduced Bri to the kids. We have been Zizos: Yeah. together ever since. Blade: Making your own magic at the World Cup. Very nice.
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CHRYSSA ZIZOS and BRIANA SCURRY are new investors in the Washington Spirit. (Photo courtesy the couple)
Scurry: It’s interesting I don’t know if this is because I would be able to just mentally compartmentalize things in my whole life, but I don’t take what she says in the defensive posture. It’s not my wife telling me at that moment. It’s my manager telling me, and that’s her specialty. It’s media and messaging. And she’s like, “Bri you did a great job, but what if you had done this?” And I’m like, “Oh, well, that’s brilliant.” Of course, the next time I’ll incorporate it, which is part of my ability to be coachable, and also for her that I’m coachable, that I’m willing to receive her input. She is the expert. Blade: Let’s hear something outside of work and media and rebranding. What else have you connected on as people, as wives? Zizos: Well, we love to travel. We got married in Saint Lucia and Jade mountain is one of our favorite places to visit. We own a beautiful home in Alexandria and we just built a pool. Almost every night when I get home from work, Bri is here and she has a bottle of wine open, and she has Pandora playing. Bri’s the sous, she does the craft for all the food. Then I get home and we start cooking. I try to get home by six every night and then by eight o’clock we’re having a gourmet meal together. We love to have friends over. Many of our friends are in the business, so either clients or former clients or associates. Scurry: Or former players or teammates. Blade: Let’s talk about your new roles as Washington Spirit investors. You both already had a relationship with the team, and here we are again with something that weaves the two of you together. It’s been great to watch celebrities and different types of people get involved in sports franchises, but it always feels like they’re just there in name. This feels different for some reason. Zizos: It is. Blade: What do you expect your role to be beyond the fact that people now know you are investors? Zizos: Bri has individual roles that she can tell you about. I have individual roles and then we have roles together. Scurry: For me, this is an amazing opportunity because it helps me come full circle. I went from someone who played in a league to someone who coached in the league and now I’m in an investor group for the same team. The fact that I’m able to do it with my wife makes it that much more amazing for me. And it’s something that I’m really looking forward to. My experience as being a pro and somebody who could maybe mentor, which I’m doing with Spirit player Trinity Rodman. When they get back from Florida, working with her and the players and helping them become better pros, but also with the community. I want the DMV community to get to know the team and become part of the fabric of what the Washington Spirit is and to help us connect the two. I think that’s my two main roles. I think with the investor group, all of us have expertise in a certain area. And the cool thing, like you said, is that it’s not just about the money, it’s about the contribution of the skill set to the team as well. Zizos: And then from my perspective, Live Wire is working with the Spirit. We did the investor group roll out with their internal team. It was a very coordinated, strategic effort. We’re working on a couple of different projects and we just produced a video. We might be producing, hopefully a second one. And then together, Bri and I are the hostesses of the investor suite on game day. On game day, Bri and I will be welcoming all the investors and sponsors in the suite at Audi Field. Blade: On every game day? Zizos: Every game day. We’ll be welcoming the other investors, playing matchmaker and introducing them to each other as well as the sponsors. And then Bri will have MC responsibilities on game day. Blade: What is the MC role? Scurry: When a game ends, the MC talks to the fans and says, thank you for coming and please come next time. That kind of thing, just chatting with the fans that way. Blade: You mentioned hosting other investors. Do they have an obligation to attend games? Zizos: No. But I’ve had many conversations with the investors, and I know a lot of them are planning on being there. In fact, Assia Grazioli Venier, who we just had breakfast with on Thursday morning, she’s flying here from LA for every home game. One of the beautiful things that Steve Baldwin did with this was, he picked people that didn’t want to just invest 2 2 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • APRIL 02, 202 1
money but wanted to play a role. Every investor is bringing opportunity to the table for the club, which I think is really special. So it’s not just a PR play here. I mean, everyone who’s an investor is really, truly not only financially, but emotionally and physically invested in the team. Blade: Do you feel like there are still things to be healed from the bad press related to Bill Lynch? Zizos: I think it’s time to move on and time to move forward. And there’s so many good things that the team is doing. And Bill is a really good guy. We’ve known Bill for years. I adore him. I trust him. I like him. Did I say I respect him? Because I really respect him. And I consider him a personal friend of ours. Scurry: Yeah, I like Bill too, and I really love what Steve Baldwin has done. He came on in 2019 and revolutionized the team and brought it up a level of professionalism that it needed. And now this investor group was just born out of COVID essentially. He’s really done some great things to elevate the team to new levels. Blade: The Washington Spirit is leaving the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds for Audi Field and Segra Field. Thoughts? Scurry: I think it’s time to bring the team home to all the DMV. Audi Field is going to be way more central for everyone and it makes it a lot fairer. I think that the soccer community out in Boyds, all the teams that play there are more than welcome to continue to support the team in any way they can. And I think it’s important. Zizos: Washington, D.C. is a power city. We have some serious power players on our team and now we have power investors on the team. It’s a very powerful movement. Washington, D.C. is welcoming the team and Audi Field is going to be a fantastic place. I think that it demonstrates the excitement that this city has for this team. Scurry: Also, the thing I loved about Boyds was the intimacy, but we couldn’t hold over 5,000 fans. It wasn’t possible. And if you’re going to really elevate the team to a new level and have it not only be a big sports team in D.C., but also, internationally potentially, you really need a bigger stadium. Blade: Did the investor group happen fast, or have you been sitting on this information for a while? Scurry: So we started talking to Bill and Steve before 2019. We were already connected with the team at that point, but then the investor group idea, I think really started to come into fruition during the pandemic. I think the seeds of it were starting before, because Steve had built that momentum from 2019 and he was going to try to broaden the diversity and also the interest in involvement in the team with more people. And then the pandemic just kind of slammed it. But then that allowed him to be able to really transform the idea and move it forward. I feel like it accelerated it. Zizos: I mean, they came to our house, both Bill and Steve together and individually many times to speak. Three times? Scurry: Yeah. Zizos: Three times to speak with us and we were the first to commit and write the check. I think that created some positive momentum and excitement and I think they were really excited to have Bri. Blade: Where do you see yourselves in five years with this project? Scurry: Oh, wow. That’s a great question. I really feel like the team can become an internationally known property at a level that’s been not seen before. Zizos: I think five years is probably aggressive, but 10 years I think is on the horizon. It’s going to be phenomenal. And I think we’re going to make a lot of money on this investment. Blade: Good, that’s the best answer yet. Zizos: I just love what we’re doing together. We’re doing some really cool things professionally together, and we have an amazing family too. My kids, her step-kids, call Bri their bonus mom. One is 18 and she’s going to Duke next year. The other is 14 and he’ll be a freshman in high school next year. Scurry: They are awesome. Blade: This has been a great conversation. You are both amazing role models for so many different communities. Scurry: Thank you. Zizos: Thanks.
OUT & ABOUT
CALENDAR By PHILIP VAN SLOOTEN
Ask Rayceen celebrates 10 years with final season
Friday Tea Time for Older LGBTQ Adults is today at 2 p.m. via Zoom. This social hour is for older community members to share and fellowship. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The Metropolitan Community Church of Washington DC holds its virtual Good Friday service tonight at 7 p.m. via Zoom. For the link and more information on holiday services, visit mccdc.com. Sixth and I provides Shabbat At Home resources tonight at 7 p.m. via their website. Resources include links to a music library, virtual recordings of previous services, and a virtual dinner. Visit sixthandi.org to view their full calendar of holiday and other events.
Saturday, April 3
The LGBTQ People of Color Support Group meeting is today at noon via Zoom. This peerled group is for community members to come together and talk about things affecting them in a judgment-free space. More information is available at thedccenter.org/poc or facebook.com/centerpoc. The Gay District meeting, a social and discussion group for 18-35 year old gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning and intersex men in the D.C. area, meets today at 8 p.m. via Zoom. For more information, visit gaydistrict.org or their Facebook page.
Sunday, April 4
Bet Mishpachah, a congregation for the LGBTQ Jewish community, celebrates Passover 2021 from March 28 until April 4 this year. For more information on their services, visit betmish.org. Washington National Cathedral celebrates Easter Sunday Online service today at 11:15 a.m. at cathedral.org. Virtual services are complimented by a curbside communion from 1-3 p.m. RSVPs are strongly encouraged and those interested can register via their website. The Baltimore Brass Quintet celebrates Easter with the St. Paul’s choir today at 10:30 a.m. There will also be a sermon and communion provided in this virtual format. For more information on this holiday event, visit their Facebook event page.
Monday, April 5
The Capital Pride Interfaith Service Planning Meeting is today at 6 p.m. via Zoom to begin planning for the annual Capital Pride Interfaith Service. Future planning meetings will be held the first Monday of every month from March to May. For more information, email supportdesk@thedccenter. org.
Tuesday, April 6
The Rights Claiming in South Korea book talk and panel discussion hosted by the George Washington University Institute for Korean Studies and Sigur Center for Asian Studies is today at 10 a.m. via Zoom.
(Blade photo by Michael Key)
Wednesday, April 7 BookMen DC, an informal group of men interested in gay literature, meets today at 7:30 p.m. via Zoom. Most members are in the D.C.-area, but visitors to D.C. are welcome to drop in and join the discussion. More information is available at bookmendc.blogspot.com. The Transmasculine and nonbinary social hour hosted by the DC-area Transmasculine Society, is tonight at 8 p.m. This free virtual event is open to all trans, nonbinary, gender expansive folks and allies. However, allies not accompanied by a transmasculine person will be limited to the main room. For more information, visit decats.org/social hour. The State of Trans Studies in the 2020s, a virtual panel discussion sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Stonewall Center and Clark University’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program is today at 1 p.m. This free webinar features a talk with leading scholars in the field who contributed to the 2021 edition of the SAGE Encyclopedia of Trans Studies. Attendees to this free talk will also be given free access to the panelists’ encyclopedia entries. Register at tinyurl.com/tstudies.
Thursday, April 8
The 2021 Days of Remembrance Commemoration presented by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is today at 11 a.m. on Facebook. This commemoration event was established by Congress as the country’s annual Holocaust commemoration and time to join with the global community to honor survivors, remember the dead, and pay tribute to the American soldiers who liberated the victims. This year also provides an opportunity to confront an alarming rise in violence and extremist ideology. For more information, visit ushmm.org or their Facebook event page.
The Ask Rayceen Show, a D.C.-area staple since 2012, celebrates its 10th and final season with a slate of shows running the first Wednesday of the month from March through November at 7 p.m. via social media and askrayceen.com. The program, which has often included pressing topics for the LGBTQ community, is a live entertainment and community program hosted by Rayceen Pendarvis and featuring live music, panel discussions, competitions, and more. This final season continues with a variety program on Wednesday, April 7 featuring performances and more. Remaining season dates include May 5, June 2, July 7, August 4, Sept., 1, Oct. 6 and the series finale on Nov. 3. For more information, visit Team Rayceen on Eventbrite, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as well as their website.
HRC hosts cherry blossominspired cooking class April 27 “Love Blooms,” a cherry blossom-inspired virtual cooking class hosted by the Greater D.C. chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, is Tuesday April 27 at 6 p.m. Chefs Erik Bruner-Yang and Marcelle Afram lead participants through preparations for their spring-themed meal kit, which serves two. For this intimate end to an isolating winter, Bruner-Yang and Afram merge their Tawainese, Japanese, and Palestinian cooking styles for this three-course vegetarian meal, which includes Onigiri, scallion pancakes with sour cherry romanesco and homemade cannoli for dessert. Participants can pick up their meal kits in-person at Maketto (1351 H St. NE) on Monday, April 26. Further instructions, and the Zoom link, will be emailed before the event. Tickets for this seasonal event are $40 and all proceeds benefit HRC’s ongoing work for LGBTQ equality. For more information on the dishes and the chefs, visit hrc. im/loveblooms.
‘May is: All About Trans’ returns with virtual events May is: All About Trans returns with a full slate of events to celebrate, empower and educate the transgender, gender nonconforming and nonbinary communities. This year’s events are once again virtual and a complete calendar is posted on mayistransdc.com Events kick off with a meet and greet cocktail party on Friday, April 30 at 8 p.m. hosted by Stoli where attendees can virtually meet everyone who made this year’s events possible. Other virtual events include separate meetings for transmasculine and transfeminine folks, as well as cultural discussions for each of the AAPI, Latinx and Indigenous communities. Additional topics include HIV vs. PrEP, COVID concerns, love and family, and more. The month concludes with a Trans Youth Town Hall. For more information and to register for sessions, visit mayistransdc.com.
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Gay local business owner to run 100-mile ultramarathon Money raised will beneﬁt local LGBTQ businesses, Capital Pride
Brandt Ricca will begin a non-stop 100-mile ultramarathon at 6 a.m. on Oct. 7 while most District residents will still be sipping their morning coffee. In a year of isolation and economic downturn, Ricca decided to run 100 miles in two days to beneﬁt local, LGBTQ-owned businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Ricca, who’s lived in Washington for 10 years, is donating the money raised to the Capital Pride Alliance and Equality Chamber of Commerce, where he has been a member since 2018. The gay entrepreneur and owner of the Washington-based business Nora Lee by Brandt Ricca understands ﬁrst-hand how the ongoing pandemic affects small businesses, particularly LGBTQ-owned companies. “I deﬁnitely want to give back to the community and local colleagues, especially because Capital Pride has been now canceled two years in a row,” Ricca said. Out of the funds raised, 90% will go toward funding 20 small business grants through the Equality Chamber and the remaining 10% will go toward supporting Capital Pride Alliance. Brandt, already an avid runner and self-described “ﬁtness explorer,” decided after crowdsourcing ideas to pursue the 100-mile project. Ricca has been a frequent visitor at the Equinox Anthem Row in D.C. to prepare for the run. “I was looking to do my next ﬁtness endeavor, at the same time wanting to do something to give back to the fellow business owners in D.C.,” he said. Applications for the 20 grants of various sizes for LGBTQ businesses are projected to open this summer through the Equality Chamber, Ricca said. His goal is to raise $100,000 from individuals and companies. The grants will be distributed in October. Riah Gonzales-King, vice president of the chamber, is in the process of developing grants and additional summer educational programming to help young LGBTQ entrepreneurs and students start their businesses. “So much of the culture centers around these businesses, many of which have been around for decades,” Gonzales-King said. “They’re pillars of the community - their owners are pillars in the community. And I think it’s time that we gave back.” Helping LGBTQ entrepreneurs speciﬁcally at this time is essential, Ricca said, especially entrepreneurs in the creative and hospitality industry. Ricca began training in February with the help of several exercise experts like Brian Mazza, a New York City ﬁtness entrepreneur who ran 50 miles last December to raise awareness for male infertility stigma. The former-Men’s Health headliner is guiding Ricca’s physical training, which has been a near-daily routine. Ricca was inspired by Mazza’s run in the ﬁrst place. Ricca reached out to Mazza over Instagram to get his assistance and training. Mazza said Ricca reaching out over Instagram “meant the world.” “I believe what he’s doing for his cause is remarkable,” Mazza said. “It’s important. I’m happy that he’s standing up for what he believes in and helping these businesses and helping individuals in general.” Jacob Zemer, a coach and nutritionist, has designed a daily nutrition program for Ricca to prepare him for the run. Zemer and Mazza have been working together throughout the process to track Ricca’s health and progress. The two ﬁtness experts work with Ricca multiple times a day to monitor his diet, mileage, heart rate and pace monitoring. Both Mazza and Zemer said Ricca’s training has
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By KAELA ROEDER been successful. “Brandt’s an excellent individual,” Zemer said. “He’s very easy to work with. He’s highly coachable, he’s a pleasure to talk to every day.” Local running experts, Pacers Running, will sponsor and design Ricca’s 100-mile route throughout the Washington, Maryland, and Virginia region. Pacers is also working with Ricca to design speciﬁc shoes for the BRANDT RICCA, owner of Nora Lee by Brandt Ricca, will run 100 miles in two days starting Oct. 7 to beneﬁt local LGBTQultramarathon. The owned businesses. (Photo by Jonathan Thorpe/jthorpephoto) CEO of Pacers Running, Kathy Dalby, won “Best Straight Ally” in the Blade’s 2019 Best of Gay D.C. “I really wanted someone local who could guide me on a route,” Ricca said. Elyse Braner, a community lead at Pacers and longtime friend to Ricca, said the local business was excited to collaborate with Brandt because of an alignment of values. “As a community, inclusivity and diversity is extremely important to Pacers Running,” Braner said. “As a small business, we really appreciated that Brandt wanted to do an event that supported small businesses - speciﬁcally LGBTQ businesses.” Originally an event-planning business, Nora Lee debuted in 2018 on the second annual Allison Gala, a fundraising event beneﬁting the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, which Brandt created in memory of a family friend. He’s worked with a range of clients, including the Dupont Circle Hotel and Sotheby’s Real Estate. Looking back at events on his website, he said he found himself bored with the photography. This led him to focus on creative marketing and decided to pivot his business model at the beginning of the pandemic. Now, Ricca provides photography and video shoots for clients. “When COVID hit I decided to, like every business owner, I revisited my plan,” he said. “I really enjoyed the creative branding more in the photoshoot. So I decided to pivot strictly to just a full-on creative branding agency.” The training for the 100-mile run has provided a stable routine for Ricca, which has helped him get through the pandemic, he said. Ricca is planning to create a campaign this summer inviting LGBTQ entrepreneurs to do their version of 100 miles, with the hope it will provide positive stability in their lives as it does in his. “Obviously, people think I’m crazy for doing this,” Ricca said. “All the uncertainty out there right now - with business, with clients, with whatever, I needed an anchor, something that was going to be a routine for me that I can control.”
‘The Storm’ chronicles 15 painful years in the AIDS epidemic Author Zyda on losing partner, coming to terms with cards life dealt him By KATHI WOLFE
wait to read the chapters as fast as he could write them. Christopher Zyda has been picked on by Joan Rivers, After a while, “I realized how much it helped me to put it resigned and un-resigned a day after quitting from a highon the page,” Zyda said. “It helped me to emotionally face my level job with Disney and given a (widely viewed on You history.” Tube) University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) English Zyda completed a ﬁrst draft of “The Storm” in 177 days – just Department commencement speech. Zyda, 58, who grew up in under six months. “My husband was so supportive,” Zyda said, Porter Ranch in the San Fernando Valley, a conservative, upper“even when I told him the memoir was about my ﬁrst partner. middle-class LA suburb, has played the piano since he was And that I’d have to spend less time with him.” seven and enjoys CrossFit. Writing “The Storm” brought him back full circle. “I’d wanted Growing up a Roman Catholic, Zyda drove his catechism to be a writer,” said Zyda, who graduated from UCLA with a teacher to distraction. A skeptical young man, he invented bachelor’s in English in 1984. Yet, he had to cast his dream many lively sins to confess to the nun teaching them how to aside to care for Stephen when he became ill from AIDS. In practice confession. On hearing his “sins,” the sister quickly 1989, Zyda earned an M.B.A. from the UCLA Anderson School kicked him out of the confessional. of Management. Zyda’s parents wanted him to become a doctor. But from In 1988, he began working as a summer intern with the early on, Zyda’s ambitions lay elsewhere. In his heart he knew: Walt Disney Company. Zyda worked for Disney for 10 years, English majors rule. Growing up near Hollywood, he wanted to eventually becoming Disney’s Chief Investment Ofﬁcer. write screenplays. After leaving Disney, Zyda worked with Amazon as its assistant When he was a freshman at UCLA, Zyda jokes, “I came out to treasurer, treasurer and vice president and international CFO. In my parents and said ‘I want to be an English major.’” 2001, he joined eBay as its vice president of ﬁnance. In 2003, he Though Zyda knew he was gay when he was a teenager, he became San Francisco-based Luminent’s senior vice president was closeted then. His ﬁrst reveal was when he came out to his and CFO. fraternity in 1984. In 2007, Zyda launched Mozaic, LLC, a boutique Beverly His (deceased) sister Joan, a journalist, was a lesbian. The Hills-based investment management ﬁrm. Today, he is Mosaic’s Chicago Tribune ﬁred her because she was gay. CEO. At age 29, Zyda became a widower when Stephen, the ﬁrst Disney was “incredibly supportive” when Stephen was ill with love of his life died from AIDS at age 41 in 1991. Stephen, AIDS, Zyda said. But he wasn’t covered under Zyda’s health who grew up in Washington, D.C., was an attorney and an insurance. (Disney didn’t offer beneﬁts to same-sex couples economist. He attended Yale University, the Massachusetts then.) Institute of Technology and Yale Law School. Author CHRISTOPHER ZYDA’s ‘The Storm’ speaks At that time, LGBTQ people had few, if any, legal protections. Zyda met Stephen in 1984 at the Athletic Club Gym in West to those who lived through the height of the People with AIDS, and their partners, were routinely shunned by Hollywood. Stephen lived then in LA’s upscale Windsor Square/ AIDS epidemic and to young people who want to their families, health care providers – sometimes, even friends. understand that time. Hancock Park/Fremont Place neighborhood. Stephen was 33, Thousands and thousands – hundreds of thousands of Zyda was 21. people died from AIDS. “People disappeared,” Zyda said, “it Late last year, Zyda’s memoir “The Storm: One Voice from the was the AIDS vortex of insanity.” AIDS Generation” was released. “The Storm” covers 15 years of Homophobia was still rampant in the 1980s and early 1990s. Zyda’s life — 1983 to 1998 — from his ﬁrst year living as an out “My sister was crushed after she was ﬁred by the Chicago gay man to his life in the aftermath of Stephen’s death. It offers Tribune because she was a lesbian,” Zyda said, “she had no “Searing and empowering reﬂections from a dark, deﬁning era legal recourse and she wouldn’t come out to my parents.” in LGBTQ+ history,” according to Kirkus Reviews. Zyda came out to his parents when Stephen became ill with “My story is just one of many stories from the AIDS AIDS. His parents believed then that being gay was sinful. generation,” Zyda writes in “The Storm.” Because of their homophobia, he was estranged from his Yet, though written from his unique perspective, “The Storm” parents for a time. Later, his folks accepted his sexuality and speaks to those who lived through the height of the AIDS they and Zyda had a loving relationship. epidemic and to young people who want to understand that Stephen’s parents, Zyda said, fell completely into the “AIDS time. vortex of insanity.” In a telephone interview, Zyda, who lives in the Hollywood Stephen’s parents’ feelings about Stephen having AIDS and Hills in LA and is married to Michael Wieland, spoke about his toward him were “tied to their religious morality, anger, shock, life and what it was like to write “The Storm.” and fear,” Zyda said. For decades after Stephen died, Zyda didn’t want to Not all of Zyda’s memories are painful. He and Stephen emotionally relive that part of his life. “For 26 years, those traveled, studied philosophy and engaged in rousing political painful memories were buried,” Zyda said. debates. Stephen was a Republican – ﬁscally and socially “I didn’t want to write about it,” Zyda said, “I didn’t think it conservative; Zyda was ﬁscally conservative and liberal on would be that exciting. But friends got on me. My friend Karen social issues. Today, he identiﬁes as an independent. wouldn’t give up.” Early in their relationship, Zyda and Stephen went to a beneﬁt Zyda began writing in 2017. A group of his friends critiqued where Joan Rivers raised money to help people with AIDS. The every chapter as he wrote. “I told myself that I’d have to write couple deliberately sat in the front row – hoping that Rivers it in six months,” he said. “I wrote every Tuesday and Thursday would pick on them. “It was great! She skewered us!” Zyda said. night after dinner and for an entire day every weekend.” “Then, she gave us all the plants on the stage because we were “I travel a lot to the East Coast,” Zyda added. “If I was on an such good sports.” airplane for longer than two hours, I would write. If I didn’t have Zyda decries the homophobia of the Catholic Church. Yet, to work on business, I’d write in my hotel room.” its core values of forgiveness and being a good person have He wanted his memoir to come from his own experiences, so remained with him. he didn’t read other AIDS memoirs. “Writing this story helped me to come to terms with the hand of cards dealt me,” Zyda At ﬁrst, facing his memories was difﬁcult. “When I started writing, I got a horrible cold. said. “There’s a ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ quality about my life.” It lasted a long while.” “Overall, I’ve been forgiving and made the right choices,” he added. But his reading group kept after him to write more chapters. 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Randy Harrison tackles ‘Cock’ at Studio
Jokes aside, veteran actor enjoys reconnecting with audiences via streaming “It’s like tug of war and John is the rope.” That’s how out actor Randy Harrison describes his character in “Cock,” Mike Bartlett’s provocatively titled seriocomedy currently streaming at Studio Theatre. The action surrounds John, a gay guy who is torn between staying with his partner or leaving him for a woman with whom he’s become unexpectedly smitten. “He’s looking for a place to ﬁgure out who is he,” says Harrison. “John’s most aggressive act is his refusal to make a decision. Bartlett’s play is so well-constructed, you ﬁnd yourself not too aggressively rooting for any one character, the allegiances are constantly shifting.” Directed by Studio’s artistic director David Muse, “Cock” was the ﬁrst show Studio rehearsed and ﬁlmed for its 2020-2021 all-digital season. The production is intriguingly minimal. There are no props, no miming, the set is a ring of sand appropriate for some kind of blood sport. “The writer wanted to strip everything away and narrow it down to the conﬂict, language, and discussion, forcing the actors and audience to focus in a different way,” says Harrison. Aware of “Cock” since it was ﬁrst published in 2009, he liked the play but never had the opportunity to be a part of production until now. When Muse asked him to play John he eagerly accepted. He joins a strong ensemble cast comprised of Scott Parkinson as M, John’s partner; Kathryn Tkel as W, John’s new love interest; and Alan Wade, as M’s father. Harrison garnered TV fame for playing young Justin Taylor on Showtime’s “Queer as Folk,” a rite of passage viewing experience for a lot of LGBTQ people. (“At the height of the show’s popularity, I couldn’t go out a lot – it was too much. That’s changed, [pre-Covid] I could go out and pretty much be a guy at a gay bar. Fans of the show sometimes recognize me and they’re nice about it.”) After the series ended its ﬁve-year run in 2005, the out actor (now a boyish 43), turned his focus to the stage – regional, off-Broadway, and national tours including a successful turn as the Emcee in “Cabaret.” In 2011, Harrison acted in the American world premiere of Alan Bennett’s “The Habit of Art” at Studio Theatre, also directed by Muse. Harrison successfully played an uneducated rent-boy thrust into the rareﬁed world of poet W.H. Auden. Because he’s mostly off the tube and on the boards, Harrison likes how streaming allows him to reconnect with some audiences: “It gives me the opportunity to share my work with people who otherwise wouldn’t get to see it.”
By PATRICK FOLLIARD
KATHRYN TKEL and RANDY HARRISON in ‘Cock.’ (Photo courtesy of Studio Theatre)
But despite the streaming gigs, Harrison, like almost all theater Streaming through April 18 folks, has suffered from a Studio Theatre | Studiotheatre.org profound dearth of work and looks for ways to keep busy. While splitting time between his home in upstate New York and visiting family in Seattle, he decided to pursue a degree in psychology. “I had the time and the money, and by June 2020 I was going insane. Also, it’s sort of a natural transition - one of the reasons I was drawn to performing was about examining human behavior. Depending on how things go, I’m might pursue a graduate degree.” Unsurprisingly, working on a play titled “Cock” comes with the obvious jokes (He says, “I’m going to D.C. to do ‘Cock’.” Friend replies, “Yeah, but are you working?”). Those jokes were funny for a while, he says, but the experience was about doing a really good play. Because of the pandemic, he missed out on bonding over after-rehearsal drinks with castmates and, of course, the run of a live show, but nonetheless, it’s been gratifying. As an openly gay actor a for a long time, Harrison has some thoughts on the matter. “I was once a young gay kid who didn’t have anything close to my experience to watch on TV. We were desperate for that or any kind of representation in the 90s,” he says. “That’s changed a lot, and along with that the perception of gay actors has changed enormously too. And that’s beneﬁted me and all gay actors.”
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This queer ‘Genera+ion’ doesn’t care what you think HBO Max ‘dramedy’ follows the stories of a group of queer students By JOHN PAUL KING
If there’s anything pop culture has taught us, it’s that the future belongs to the young. It’s a statement of the painfully obvious, of course; the patterns of our existence are shaped and deﬁned by the repeating cycle of generations succeeding each other, to the point that we take it for granted. Yet for the same reason, it’s a fact that is easily forgotten – or, perhaps more accurately, ignored – when we are living in the present. This is especially true if we belong to the generation that “owns” the present, who have suffered through the frustrations of coming of age under the thumb of our elders and are in no hurry to pass the baton to the kids who are next in line. Pop culture, however, has a way of reminding us that our days are numbered. Driven by the ﬁres of capitalism, which are in turn stoked by the tastes of the most lucrative demographic (and we all know which age bracket they belong to), it repeatedly confronts us with glimpses of our own inevitable irrelevance – and that’s terrifying. Which is why the history of pop culture is also the history of youth rebelling against age, and while the individual skirmishes in that eternal battle might go either way, only the most delusional among us could doubt which side will always prevail in the end. Usually, these are the ones who respond with the most violent distaste when they see a vision of the world as imagined by young people; clinging to the hope they can hold fast against the winds of change, they dismiss, decry and disparage, attempting to exert control by invoking the same core beliefs and traditional values their own elders used to control them. Today’s kids, however, will have none of it. Consider, for instance, the case of gay singer/rapper/songwriter Lil Nas X, who just last week shoved aside the homophobic boundaries of the music industry – yet again – with the debut of the spectacularly subversive video for his newest single, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” in which the out Lil Nas appears ﬁrst wearing a body-hugging sequined onesie, then sporting full Marie Antoinette drag, and ﬁnally clad in underwear and a pair of stiletto heels as he performs a lap dance for the Devil himself. In an Instagram post marking the release, addressed to his own 14-year-old self, Nas fully acknowledged that he was “pushing an agenda… to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.” It was not an apology, nor an attempt at damage control over an inevitable backlash he already knew would be ﬁerce. Nas was throwing down the gauntlet – it was a given there would be an outcry against the no-holds-barred queerness of the video, and he was sending a clear message that he was there to take on all challengers. These included the predictable right-wing suspects, like “Blexit” founder Candace Owens and anti-trans South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, but also fellow musicians like rapper Joyner Douglas, who lamented in a pearl-clutching tweet that Nas had “dropped some left ﬁeld ish & all our kids seen it” – joining many other homophobic commentators who trotted out the time-worn and long-discredited idea that any expression of queer sexuality is harmful to children. What’s telling is that while many of these attempts at “cancellation” come from younger voices (most, but not all of them, overtly right-leaning), the justiﬁcations behind them are based in ideologies that can safely be called ancient. Needless to say, Nas has been more than up to the task of swatting aside all these objections in the still-ongoing social media fray, and it has been truly glorious to watch. At 21, Lil Nas X is a voice that rises from a generation waiting in the wings, and it’s a generation that won’t wait quietly. They’ve caught on to their own inevitability, and they’ve decided they’re just going to go ahead and claim their time right now. It’s that particularly “now” spirit of youthful rebellion that can be felt in “Genera+ion,”
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the HBO Max “dramedy” that premiered earlier this month and follows the interwoven stories of a group of queer students at an Orange County high school. Created by fatherdaughter team Daniel and Zelda Barnz, it depicts the struggles of teens as they try to make sense of their JUSTICE SMITH stars in ‘Genera+ion.’ (Photo courtesy HBO Max) sexuality in a world deﬁned by adults – and often, by the baggage those adults carry with them from their own struggles. Widely compared to “Euphoria,” HBO’s other show about the severely dysfunctional hidden sex life of high schoolers, it’s a series that opts for a lighter spin. This manifests in the sure-ﬁre humor to be found in typical comedic cliches of teen stories – awkward gaffes, clueless adults, “Mean Girl” style social politics, etc. – but can be found, albeit more subtly, in its handling of dramatic tropes, too. In its pilot episode, for instance, it introduces the relationship between deﬁantly queer star student Chester (Justice Smith), who has been slapped with his third violation of the school’s “dress code,” and new school counselor Sam (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) with a scene in which the assumptions of the older man color his perceptions of the younger, resulting in an attempt at guidance that – at least in the beginning – seems more a response to his own inner conﬂicts than anything being felt by his new charge. The joke might not seem apparent to those conditioned to assume a power dynamic weighted on the side of an older-and-ostensibly-wiser authority ﬁgure, but for anyone who can remember being a kid forced to listen to advice from a grown-up who doesn’t even understand your problem, it’s unmistakable. “Genera+ion” teases the possibility of an inappropriate relationship blossoming between Chance and Sam, and introduces similarly salacious storylines as it interconnects its young characters’ lives – we meet closeted bisexual Nathan (Uly Schlesinger), whose Grindr-esque hook-ups include his sister Naomi’s (Chloe East) boyfriend, as well as Greta (Haley Sanchez) a Latina with a deported mom and a lesbian crush on artsy and seemingly free-spirited Riley (Chase Sui Wonders), and all of that is just in the ﬁrst episode – and in each case, our expectations are smashed in short order, along with any egoistic presumption that we know better than they do. It probably goes without saying that “mainstream” reactions to the show have been mixed. Many critics, such as Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson, have resorted to snark as they attempt to characterize it, according to conventional notions of storytelling and aesthetics, as an angsty teen drama that tries too hard. But “Genera+ion” transcends these kinds of assessments. It may be messy, confusing, shallow, and even shocking – but that’s the world its teen ensemble (as well as their target audience) lives in. They may make questionable choices, they may even suffer for those choices, but in the words of a pop culture boundary-pusher from another era, they are “quite aware what they’re going through.” After all, the clueless adults have already proven they don’t know how to make it better. Why should they listen to anything we have to say?
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