Washingtonblade.com, Volume 52, Issue 27, July 02, 2021

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(Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Diego’s owners on surviving COVID, launching Square One, PAGE 26 • Freddie’s new bar coming soon, PAGE 28 • Roundup of July 4th entertainment, PAGE 30 •

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Comings & Goings

Wright joins SMYAL as director of breaking ground 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: comingsandgoings@washblade.com. The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. Congratulations to Jaysen Wright on his new job as Director of Breaking Ground with SMYAL. Through youth leadership, SMYAL creates opportunities for LGBTQ youth to build self-confidence, develop critical life skills, and engage their peers and community through service and advocacy. On accepting the position, Wright said, “I’m excited to share that I’ve accepted a position as Director of Breaking Ground, a program that’s a part of SMYAL that works with LGBTQIA individuals of color between 16 and 29 to tell their stories and create a devised piece of original theater that we bring to the stage! There is power in telling your story, in sharing safe spaces with members of your community, and in exploring artistic forms of expression. I’m excited to work with the staff at Breaking Ground and the LGBTQI+ ensemble we’ve gathered to create a piece

of theater that examines hard truths and tragedies as well as triumphs and joy. I’ve always believed in theater’s ability to heal and change lives for the better so this opportunity really feels like an extension of my life’s work.” Wright is an accomplished performer (member, Actors’ Equity Association) and has acted in productions in regional theaters in the Washington, D.C. area, including the Studio Theater and Shakespeare Theatre Company. He is proud to self-represent as a professional actor, including identifying potential roles, scheduling auditions, negotiating compensation, and securing agreements between multiple theaters to address conflicts in rehearsal and performance schedules when planning each year’s performance season. He has collaborated with directors, actors, and creative teams to mine insights into character motivations, foibles, and interpersonal dynamics to develop a performance that effectively illuminates and communicates the inner life of a character. Wright has consulted as a teaching artist and clients have included Arena Stage, Young Playwright’s Theatre and the Shakespeare Theatre Company. He worked at the George Washington University as a standardized patient instructor working with first and second year medical students on highly specific physical exam maneuvers and patient interaction techniques and as an instructor at Indiana University researching, preparing, and delivering lectures to undergraduate students on a range of topics


including acting, Suzuki, the method, and conversational reality. Wright earned his bachelor’s degree in theater and dance from Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa; and his master’s in acting at Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind.

Del. seeks to expand LGBTQ protections to constitution

Del. House Majority Leader VALERIE LONGHURST introduced the measure that would amend the state constitution.

Delaware Senate Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear) introduced House Bill 199 to better protect the LGBTQ+ community and those with disabilities from discrimination. This bill follows the successful House Bill 224, created to unify LGBTQ+ definitions in the state’s non-discrimination laws and passed in the Delaware House of Representatives and the Senate. The new bill would “add sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability” to the state constitution and “declare explicitly that protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability is one of Delaware’s fundamental rights,” according to the Delaware Legislature website. The bill is scheduled for a committee hearing in the next 12 days. Changes to the state constitution require a bill to be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions, so another measure would have to pass in 2022. If successful, Delaware would become the first state to enshrine antidiscrimination protections for LGBTQ residents in the state constitution. ESTHER FRANCES

Trans immigrant activists march to White House

More than 100 people marched to the White House last Wednesday to demand the Biden administration end the detention of transgender people and people with HIV/AIDS in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities. Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado and other marchers left National City Christian Church in Thomas Circle after organizers held a “funeral” for three trans women — Roxsana Hernández, Victoria Arellano and Johana More than 100 people marched last week “Joa” Medina Leon — who died while in ICE demanding release of trans people from ICE custody. custody or immediately after the agency released them. Hernández, a trans woman with HIV from Honduras, died in a hospital in Albuquerque, N.M., on May 25, 2018, while in ICE custody. Arellano, a trans woman with HIV from 0 6 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • JULY 02, 2021 • LO CA L NE WS

Mexico, passed away at a hospital in San Pedro, Calif., while in ICE custody. ICE released Medina, a trans woman with HIV from El Salvador, from its custody on May 28, 2019, the same day it transferred her to a hospital in El Paso, Texas. Medina died three days later. Hernández’s family has filed a lawsuit against the federal government and the five private companies that were responsible for her care. Isa Noyola, deputy director of Mijente, one of the immigrant advocacy groups that organized the march, emceed the “funeral.” Noyola played a message that Hernández’s nephew in Honduras recorded. “The state does not recognize our humanity,” said Noyola, who became emotional at several points during the service. A press release that announced the events said 25 trans women who had previously been in ICE custody participated. They, along with other participants, blocked traffic at the intersection of 16th and H Streets, N.W., near Black Lives Matter Plaza for several minutes before they marched into Lafayette Square. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

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Arlington police chief attends ‘Pride with the Police’ in Arlington, Penn said, “I feel like it’s positive. I hope it’s Arlington, Va., Police Chief Andy Penn was among a positive.” He added, “If there are areas of concern I certainly contingent of 15 Arlington police officials and officers who want to know because whatever we can do to make sure mingled with a crowd of customers on the outdoor patio at that we have the strongest and best relationship possible – Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant on June 25 at an event we’re committed to doing that.” called Pride With The Police. Rihl, who has been a member and subsequently the Freddie Lutz, owner of Freddie’s gay bar and restaurant in leader of the department’s LGBT+ Liaison Team since it Arlington’s Crystal City neighborhood, said he was pleased was created in 2007, said the unit provides educational to accept an invitation by the Arlington Police LGBTQ+ outreach to the LGBTQ community on issues of concern Liaison Team to host the event. to that community, including the types of crime that some Among the police officials attending the event, in addition LGBTQ people become victims of. Among those issues, to Chief Penn, were three deputy chiefs, the director of the he said, are same-sex domestic violence and online dating department’s Restaurant and Nightlife Liaison Team, and scams in which criminals pose as a potential dating partner Det. Matt Rihl, leader of the LGBTQ+ Liaison Team. to gain access to a gay person’s home, where they rob and After being greeted by and chatting with many Freddie’s sometime assault the unsuspecting victim. customers, Penn told a Washington Blade reporter he was Penn said he was unaware of any anti-LGBTQ hate crimes delighted to participate in the event. Arlington Police Chief ANDY PENN with FREDDIE LUTZ at that have occurred in Arlington in recent years. “It was organized to make sure we are constantly in the Pride with the Police event. (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro Jr.) The Pride With The Police event took place from 5-7 p.m. contact with people in the community, in all communities,” on a Friday, when many of Freddie’s customers stop by after he said. “Our starting point is to make sure we have true work at nearby office buildings, including the Pentagon, which is located less than a mile bonds, true relationships with everybody across the community. And the way to do that away. is to get out and spend time with people just talking and listening to their concerns.” LOU CHIBBARO JR. Asked how he views his department’s relationship with the LGBTQ community

Vandalism of Logan Circle Barbie doll display goes viral The Washington Post gave it the kind of coverage it gives to a full-fledged crime story with a happy ending. In a June 27 story, the Post reported that a gay man who asked not to be identified told of how a quirky art display in the front yard of his rowhouse on the 1400 block of Q Street, N.W. that he created for Pride month with Barbie dolls dressed as characters in the movie ‘Wizard of Oz’ had been vandalized on June 26. In a posting on Instagram, in which he had over 23,000 followers, the gay man said the Barbie doll figures dressed as the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion had been knocked down along with figures of green-skinned witches holding brooms with small rainbow flags. And to his great dismay, the creator of the Q Street display revealed, the Barbie doll figure for the ‘Wizard of Oz’ lead character, Dorothy, had been stolen. “It takes a special kind of crazy to steal Dorothy and trash the Emerald City on Pride Weekend,” he wrote in his posting. To add spice to his story, the man also posted on Instagram security camera footage of a man who was caught on camera damaging the display and stealing Dorothy. According to the Washington Post, while the gay man who created the display was telling his story of the vandalism to a Post reporter in front of his house on Sunday morning, June 27, one of his neighbors walked by and confessed to being the culprit who vandalized the display and stole Dorothy. The neighbor said he is also gay, the Post reports. “He shared that he found the Barbie [display] offensive, misogynistic and homophobic,”

the creator of the display said in his Instagram post. “I explained that the intent is exactly the opposite, and how the idea is to create something that’s inclusive and empowering and community-oriented, but most of all, silly and fun,” he wrote. He added that the neighbor promised not to touch the display again. But the Post reported in its article that the man who confessed to damaging the display said he could not return the Dorothy doll he stole because he tossed her into another neighbor’s yard. “Hours later,” the Post reports, “Dorothy was recovered from some bushes.” The restored display, which the creator This Pride display was vandalized has said is intended, among other things, to reportedly by another gay person. show the iconic impact that the “Wizard of Oz’ movie and its famous star Judy Garland has had on the LGBTQ community, was expected to be in place for viewing on the 1400 block of Q Street for at least a few more days during the conclusion of Pride Month. LOU CHIBBARO JR.

Former DNC Chair Tom Perez visits College Park’s first Pride Throwback jams and rainbow colors brightened Duvall Field as the City of College Park, Md. held its first Pride event Sunday, with speeches from gay Mayor Patrick Wojahn, State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy and former Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez to commemorate the event. “Civil rights, worker rights, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights have been my life’s work,” said Perez who also served as the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and the U.S. Secretary of Labor during the Obama administration. The event was organized by The LGBTQ Dignity Project, and co-founder Cassy Morris introduced Perez, a Takoma Park resident who announced on June


23 that he would seek the Democratic nomination to be a 2022 Maryland gubernatorial candidate. Perez told the crowd that his parents, who were first-generation Dominican Americans, instilled in him that “every single person has dignity” and should be allowed to realize their highest potential. Similarly, Braveboy, who was introduced by Wojahn, spoke of the need for community and for everyone to be respected and supported. Wojahn thanked everyone for coming out and said he was pleased and surprised by the robust turnout for what he believed to be the city’s first official Pride event. PHILIP VAN SLOOTEN




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‘Pride is back at the White House’

Biden holds LGBTQ celebration, decries attacks on trans youth By CHRIS JOHNSON | cjohnson@washblade.com

President Biden commemorated Pride month for his first year in office on Friday with a reception at the White House, detailing the initiatives his administration has made on behalf of the LGBTQ community and declaring “Pride is back at the White House.” “We’re also making progress, but I know we still have a long way to go, a lot of work to do,” Biden said. “We must protect the gains we’ve made and fend off the cruel and unconscionable attacks that we’re seeing now to ensure the full promise of dignity and equal protection.” Joining Biden on stage for the reception in the East Room was first lady Jill Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who participated in the event as the first openly gay official to win Senate confirmation for a Cabinet-level role. Buttigieg, acknowledging his spouse, Chasten Buttigieg, who was seated in the audience, said being able to serve in the Biden administration as an openly gay man was important. “Not that long ago, well within the lifetimes of many people in this room, being outed could be disqualifying from public service, any public service — not just being a Cabinet officer, or a member of the military, but being a bookkeeper or an astronomer,” Buttigieg said, making a reference to Frank Kameny’s termination from the U.S. government in the 1950s. A heavy focus of the event was the wave of state laws against transgender youth, including restricting their access to transition-related health care and school sports. Biden called them “nothing but bullying disguised as legislation.” “These are some of the ugliest, un-American bills I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been around a while,” Biden said. Listing the initiatives his administration has undertaken for the LGBTQ community, Biden recalled he signed an executive order on his first day in office against anti-LGBTQ discrimination that have led to nondiscrimination measures stemming from various federal agencies. Two other news items on the same day— Biden signing a congressional resolution designating the Pulse nightclub as a national memorial and the appointment of Jessica Stern as international envoy for LGBTQ human rights, also were part of Biden’s remarks. Biden also renewed his call to pass the Equality Act, legislation he said in the 2020 election would be a priority, but has languished in Congress and is all but dead. Introducing Biden at the event was Ashton Mota, a 16-year-old transgender advocate from Lowell, Mass., and a leader with the GenderCool Project. Mota, delivering a personal speech about his transition and his advocacy for transgender youth, thanked President Biden for the actions taken by his administration “Mr. President, thank you for having our back,” Mota said. Notables in attendance, and pointed out by Biden, were Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine, the first openly transgender presidential appointee

President Biden celebrated Pride month last week.

to obtain U.S. Senate confirmation; Delaware State Sen. Sarah McBride, the first openly transgender state senator; Virginia State Del. Danica Roem, the first openly transgender elected and seated to a state legislature. Biden, who signed an executive order reversing President Trump’s transgender military ban, also pointed out in the audience Lt. Col. Bree Fram, a high-ranking openly trans service member. Members of Congress who are openly LGBTQ were also in attendance, including Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kansas). A notable absence, however, was Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the only out bisexual in Congress. Ruben Gonzales, executive director of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, was also in attendance at the event and pointed out it included many LGBTQ appointees his organization has supported. “It’s something to celebrate,” Gonzalez said. “It’s great to see a collection of so many appointees, LGBT leaders in a space together to be welcomed and affirmed by this administration. I think it’s a testament to what Biden is creating.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday the initiatives President Biden has undertaken for the LGBTQ community “do send an important message around the world” as an example of American values. Psaki, responding to a question from the Washington

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Blade, made the comments on the day Biden held a Pride reception at the White House, named the U.S. envoy for international LGBTQ human rights and signed a measure designating the Pulse nightclub as a national memorial. The Blade had asked how those initiatives place in Biden’s larger domestic and foreign policy agenda and whether they fall short of his campaign promise to sign the Equality Act into law. “Let me start with the first one because I think that’s an important question, because what we do here and the values that we advocate for in the United States do send an important message around the world, and sometimes we forget that,” Psaki said. “The president will outline, of course, the historic steps his administration has taken, but he will also renew his calls on the Senate to swiftly pass the Equality Act and provide overdue, explicit civil rights protections to LGBTQ people and families across the country.” Psaki in response to a follow-up question from the Blade said Biden had no immediate plans to the visit the Pulse site, but “maybe” that would happen. “I don’t have anything to preview in terms of travel beyond next week,” Psaki said. “Maybe — we don’t work too far ahead in planning around these parts, but certainly the fact that he’s signing this legislation today sends a clear message about his commitment to the LGBTQ+ community, and to commemorating what was a tragedy in our nation’s history.”

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How do you solve the Kyrsten Sinema problem? Bi Democrat’s filibuster support could doom progressive legislation By CHRIS JOHNSON | cjohnson@washblade.com

Attendees of the White House reception for Pride month last week included high-profile LGBTQ leaders from activist groups, state legislatures, and the federal government. One lawmaker, however, was conspicuously absent. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the only out bisexual in Congress, didn’t attend the event — an absence that stood out as members of the House LGBTQ Congressional Equality Caucus were there. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sinema’s LGBTQ companion in the Senate, also showed up and was in the front row for President Biden’s remarks. When the Washington Blade reached out to Sinema’s office to ask why the senator skipped the reception, her staff confirmed she had been invited. “Kyrsten was invited, but was unable to attend as the Senate had recessed Thursday evening for state work period,” said Hannah Hurley, a Sinema spokesperson.

Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) is facing criticism for her opposition to ending the filibuster. (Photo public domain)

But the Senate recess didn’t stop Baldwin from attending the Pride reception. It’s not the only event Sinema has skipped in recent weeks. When Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a dinner at the White House for all women members of the Senate, Sinema was the only Democrat not in attendance. The absence of Sinema is almost metaphorical as she has become the target of ire for progressives who view her as an obstructionist to their agenda in the Senate. Sinema, as she articulated in a recent op-ed for the Washington Post, has come out in strong defense of the filibuster in the Senate, which has been criticized as a relic of structuralism racism (although she’s not the only Senate Democrat to oppose dropping the filibuster). “It’s no secret that I oppose eliminating the Senate’s 60-vote threshold,” Sinema writes. “I held the same view during three terms in the U.S. House, and said the same after I was elected to the Senate in 2018. If anyone expected me to reverse my position because my party now controls the Senate, they should know that my approach to legislating in Congress is the same whether in the minority or majority.” As a result of her position, Sinema has been accused of holding up key legislation like the Equality Act, which would expand LGBTQ protections under the law. (It should be noted the bill as it stands doesn’t have unanimous support in the Democratic caucus


and wouldn’t even pass without the filibuster on a majority vote.) Also, the dramatic thumbs down she gave on the Senate floor on an amendment to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour was interpreted as an insult to progressives pushing for the increase. The transition for Sinema is remarkable. Starting her political career for the Arizona Legislature as a Green Party candidate who once dressed up in a tutu to oppose the Iraq war, Sinema’s latest incarnation as a conservative Democrat has some of her one-time supporters scratching their heads. That will make things complicated for LGBTQ advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which have endorsed her efforts to win election, and for Democrats who sold her as the only out bisexual in Congress. Sinema, after winning election in 2018 to a six-year term, will be in the Senate for a while and won’t face re-election until 2024. But progressives are already clamoring for LGBTQ advocacy groups to take a hard line with her regarding any future support. Michelangelo Signorile, a progressive activist and Sinema critic, went so far in an email to the Blade as to say LGBTQ groups should withhold their endorsements entirely from Sinema. “LGBTQ groups definitely shouldn’t be endorsing anyone blocking the Equality Act from being passed. Right now that includes every Republican and Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who refuse to eliminate the filibuster,” Signorile said. “So of course they shouldn’t endorse her. How could the Human Rights Campaign or Victory Fund have any credibility while telling the community to invest hard-earned dollars with this politician?” Sinema has always taken a one-foot-in, one-foot-out approach to her sexual orientation as a political figure. Accepting endorsements from LGBTQ groups, Sinema has attended events after her election hosted by them, such as an event with new LGBTQ members of Congress upon her election to the U.S. House in 2012. But Sinema has dodged questions about her bisexuality, telling the Washington Post in 2013 she doesn’t understand “why it’s big deal.” The LGBTQ Victory Fund, for its part, is putting a degree of distance between itself and Sinema in response to inquires from the Blade, but not repudiating its support for her entirely. Elliot Imse, a Victory Fund spokesperson, said his organization endorsed Sinema when the choice for Arizona voters was between her and “the anti-LGBTQ Republican candidate Martha McSally.” “She is not currently endorsed by Victory Fund and we won’t be considering 2024 endorsements until summer 2023 – and much will happen between now and then,” Imse said. “As with all our incumbent candidates, the Victory Campaign Board will review her efforts to advance equality while in office as it is a key criteria for our endorsement.” In response to an inquiry on whether the Victory Fund has reached out to Sinema about her policy positions, Imse said that would be inconsistent with his organization’s mission. “Victory Fund has a very clear mission and we believe organizations are most successful when they remain laser-focused on that mission – so we do not take positions on specific policy or procedural questions,” Imse said. “We endorse and support LGBTQ candidates who will fight for and advance equality legislation and policies once in office and the LGBTQ members of Congress we’ve helped elect are the most outspoken and passionate voices on the Equality Act and other LGBTQ rights legislation.” Having that “laser-focus,” however, isn’t true for other LGBTQ political groups, which do both endorsements and lobbying before Congress. Chief among them is the nation’s largest LGBTQ group, the Human Rights Campaign. The Human Rights Campaign, however, didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment on Sinema or any discussions the organization has with her. That silence, however, likely won’t be enough for progressive activists angered with Sinema. Signorile said Sinema’s absence from the White House should be seen as a red flag for LGBTQ advocacy groups on any future support. “Sinema, by not attending Pride at the WH, doesn’t even make herself visible there. It’s almost like she wants to distance herself from being part of the community,” Signorile said. “She never talks about being bisexual, doesn’t discuss her coming out story — even if you ask her — and I defy anyone to find me a recent time in which she’s discussed being part of this community.”

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Research into AIDS cure advancing but remains in ‘very early days’

HIV treatment and prevention getting ‘better and better’ By LOU CHIBBARO JR. | lchibbaro@washblade.com

(Editor’s note: This is part two of our interview with Carl Dieffenbach, director of the Division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases. Visit washingtonblade.com for the first installment.)

Unlike the coronavirus, the AIDS virus’s ability to permanently infect the human body has made it more difficult to develop an AIDS vaccine, and research into a cure for HIV/AIDS is continuing to advance but remains in its “very early days,” according to Carl W. Dieffenbach, who has served for the past 25 years as director of the National Institutes of Health’s Division of AIDS. But in an interview with the Washington Blade, Dieffenbach, who holds a doctorate degree in biophysics, said the already highly effective antiretroviral drug treatment for HIV is continuing to advance to a point where the current one pill per day regimen may soon be replaced by a single injection that will make HIV undetectable in the body and untransmitable for six months and possibly a full year. He said the single injection advance would be applicable for both people who are HIV positive as well as for those who are HIV negative and are taking the current one pill per day prevention medication known as PrEP. “One of the things I am most happy with is the whole U equals U movement – that undetectable equals untransmitable,” Dieffenbach said in referring to the current antiviral medication that makes HIV undetectable in the human body and prevents the virus from being transmitted to another person through sexual relations. “That really is a rallying cry for people living with HIV that you can become fully suppressed and live knowing that there is no virus in your body as long as you take your pill, and you are free to love,” he told the Blade. “And that’s a wonderful thing.” Although he didn’t say so directly, Dieffenbach made it clear that he and other government and private industry researchers working on an AIDS vaccine and an HIV/ AIDS cure know that people with HIV can live a full and productive life as the push for a vaccine and cure continues. Dieffenbach said a dramatic difference in the genetic makeup between the coronavirus and the AIDS virus is the reason why an AIDS vaccine has yet to be developed after more than 20 years of vaccine research while a COVID-19 vaccine was developed in a little more than a year. “Once a person becomes HIV positive, that individual is HIV positive for life,” he said. “There is no going back. There is no spontaneous cure.” By contrast, Dieffenbach points out that with coronavirus, just five percent of those who become infected become seriously ill and are at risk of dying. He said between 35 percent and 40 percent of those infected with coronavirus are asymptomatic and often are unaware that they were infected. “So, the human immune system by and large does a pretty good job of fighting off the coronavirus,” he said. That, among other factors, has made it possible to develop an effective COVID vaccine sooner than an AIDS vaccine, according to Dieffenbach. Washington Blade: Where do things stand now in the progress of developing a cure for HIV and AIDS? Carl Dieffenbach: So, let’s talk a moment about what we are doing in the space of trying to achieve a cure for HIV. Clearly, this is one of the two major research programs or research goals remaining in HIV – an effective and durable vaccine and then a cure that allows people to not take an antiretroviral [drug] and still live the ‘U’ equals ‘U’

[undetectable equals untransmitable] life. What we want is a cure that really allows people to be free of HIV. And that can be achieved in two ways. You could see the HIV be eliminated or eradicated from the body. You would call that a sterilizing cure. And the other would be more of an immunological or other means of control that would suppress the virus similar to the way the antiretrovirals do, but it’s using the natural immunity, the induced immunity that the human body is capable of generating. Up until recently there hadn’t been examples of an individual that had achieved that kind of cure. Just recently there was one reported. The big program we have in cure research is called the Martin Delany Collaboratories for Cure Research. And Marty was one of the lead activists in the very early days of HIV through the ‘90s. And he really pushed NIH very, very hard to not forget about a cure and to really focus on the best possible anti-virals. He was just a strong leader and a really wonderful person who just pushed constantly the way you would hope the activist community would continue to try to drive improvements, even when things were going well. So, we felt it was a great way to honor Marty to name the program after him. This program has been around for a little over a decade and it gets more sophisticated and better every cycle. And the two methods I mentioned – the ability to eliminate the virus completely and establish an immunologic or some other means of control – are major themes of these programs. It’s still in the very early days. There are limited clinical trials ongoing, but they’re very exploratory. There are maybe hints of things coming in the next couple of years. But it remains in the very early days. In some ways it’s similar to where we are with vaccines where we’ve had a little bit of success but nothing really that we then can say this is the vaccine for the future. So, these two types of research – a vaccine and cure – remain our top research priorities. And we will continue at this until we have HIV vaccines and the abilities to cure, because we cannot really control and eliminate the epidemic without either of those two strategies. Blade: Can you talk a little about the human trials that are going on now for a possible HIV cure being conducted by the Rockville-based company American Gene Technologies? Dieffenbach: That’s right. One approach for achieving a cure are these gene-based strategies. There is a company that has a strategy for a gene-based treatment that they have been working on for a number of years. And that has been moving forward. And the proof will be in the pudding when we have a sufficient number of people in a way that are truly evaluated. There are also strategies that look at ways of using what amounts to scissors, molecular scissors that can go in and chop out the virus. So, there are a number of strategies that people are using or considering for this idea of elimination of the reservoir, including the gene therapy method that we were just discussing. Blade: The company conducting the gene therapy trials has said the treatment they hope will lead to a cure



requires taking blood from someone, altering the genetic makeup of certain cells, and re-infusing the blood back into their body. Is that something that would be practical for treating a large number of people? Dieffenbach: So, all of these gene therapy strategies are in the very experimental stage. They have to do something called ex-vivo transduction. That’s fancy words for saying what you just said. You take cells out of the human body, alter them by adding the new therapeutic and incorporate it into the cell, and re-infuse those cells back into the human body. So, first you start with one cell type like fully differentiated lymphocytes and then you move on. The ultimate goal will be to get it so you can take a shot, where the shot would go in with the gene therapy and basically go into cells and immunize the cells in such a way that they provide protection from HIV infection as well as elimination of existing copies of HIV. So, we’re many steps away from that. Blade: Some people may be asking why a COVID vaccine has been developed in just over a year since the worldwide COVID outbreak, but an HIV vaccine has not yet been developed after 20 or more years of research. Is there something different with the coronavirus as opposed to the HIV virus that might explain why we haven’t had an HIV vaccine at this time? Dieffenbach: I think this is a really important point. And I want to talk about two different activities. One is the differences between the viruses themselves. With coronavirus, five percent of people who become infected with coronavirus actually get sick and get into a hospital and have near death experiences. Thirty-five to 40 percent of people who get infected with coronavirus are actually never aware that they were infected. So, the human immune system by and large does a pretty good job of fighting off the coronavirus. But it is incredibly infectious. It is spread by aerosol. With HIV, it is transmitted sexually. It’s transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids. Once a person becomes HIV positive, that individual is HIV positive for life. There is no going back. There’s no spontaneous cure. We’ve had 70 million people around the world acquire HIV. By last count, there may be one person in all the years that may have spontaneously cleared their HIV infection. That took 12 years of that person’s life. It is a rarity. So, from that perspective the type of immunity that you need to induce by a vaccine is so fundamentally different for coronavirus and for HIV. So, that’s the first step. The second thing is why were we so successful with the coronavirus vaccine? It wasn’t dumb luck. Going back to the earliest SARS outbreak and through MERS and through other respiratory viruses the research team here at NIH has been looking at ways of building the better mouse trap, building a better immunogen. Take a part of the virus and make it the best it could be in terms of presenting or showing itself to the human immune system so that you get an incredibly robust quality response. And that was the work that was done at the VRC, the [NIH] Vaccine Research Center. CONTINUES AT WASHINGTONBLADE.COM

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Supreme Court declines to hear Gavin Grimm case

GAVIN GRIMM won his years-long court battle. (Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the case of a former high school student who challenged his Virginia school district’s bathroom policy. Gavin Grimm was a sophomore at Gloucester County High School when he filed a federal lawsuit against the Gloucester County School District’s policy that prohibited students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that did not correspond with their “biological gender.” The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of

Appeals in Richmond in 2016 ruled in Grimm’s favor. The Supreme Court in 2017 was scheduled to hear oral arguments in his case, but the justices sent it back to the 4th Circuit after then-President Trump rescinded guidance to public schools that said Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 requires them to allow transgender students to use bathrooms based on their gender identity. A federal judge in 2019 ruled in favor of Grimm, but the Gloucester County School District appealed the decision. The 4th Circuit in August 2020 once again ruled in favor of Grimm. “I am glad that my years-long fight to have my school see me for who I am is over,” said Grimm in an American Civil Liberties Union press release. “Being forced to use the

nurse’s room, a private bathroom, and the girl’s room was humiliating for me, and having to go to out-of-the-way bathrooms severely interfered with my education. Trans youth deserve to use the bathroom in peace without being humiliated and stigmatized by their own school boards and elected officials.” Josh Block, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ and HIV Project, in the press release noted it “is the third time in recent years that the Supreme Court has allowed appeals court decisions in support of transgender students to stand.” “This is an incredible victory for Gavin and for transgender students around the country,” said Block. “Our work is not yet done, and the ACLU is continuing to fight against anti-trans laws targeting trans youth in states around the country.” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David also praised the Supreme Court’s decision. “Everyone has the right to high-quality, public education without the fear of being discriminated against simply for being brave enough to show up as you truly are,” said David. “This is a battle Gavin Grimm has been fighting for over four years — we are grateful that his resilience, courage and determination has finally been rewarded.” The Supreme Court’s decision in the Grimm case comes against the backdrop of bills in Florida and other states that ban trans athletes from participating in high school and college sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. The Loudoun County School Board last month suspended a physical education teacher who said he would not use a student’s preferred pronouns to refer to them. The teacher has been reinstated, but efforts to implement a Virginia Department of Education directive to school districts to make their policies more trans-friendly have been met with vocal opposition. The Biden administration on June 16 officially announced that Title XI prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ students. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

State Department flies Pride flag for first time to help ensure the State Department’s Deputy Secretary of State Wendy workforce becomes more diverse. Sherman and Chief Diversity and “We lead the department’s efforts to Inclusion Officer Gina Abercrombieensure that the workforce of the United Winstanley were among those who States State Department comes to helped raise the Progress Pride flag at the look like the country which we lovingly State Department last Friday. represent,” she said. “We must finally Sherman noted it is the first time “a flag ensure equitable career outcomes for all recognizing the LGBTQI+ community will of our employees.” fly over State Department headquarters.” Jeff Anderson, president of GLIFAA, Sherman also pointed out the so-called an association of LGBTQ employees of “lavender scare” during which upwards Foreign Service agencies, opened the of 1,000 State Department personnel ceremony. lost their jobs because of their sexual “Today we are flying this Progress orientation. Pride flag for many people and in doing “Our mission is to serve the interests so we are remembering and honoring of the United States and to promote those who serve and have served our American values around the world,” country with honor and dignity and said Sherman. “Our ability to stand up we are inspiring a new generation of for human rights, for democracy and for public servants to enter their doors, no justice overseas is utterly dependent matter their gender identity or sexual on the actions we take here at home. orientation,” he said. As much as progress we have made, as The ceremony took place less than five we are celebrating today, we still have Deputy Secretary of State WENDY SHERMAN and other State Department officials help raise the Progress Pride flag over the State Department on June 25. months after President Biden signed a to work to do to guarantee equality for (Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers) memorandum that committed the U.S. to LGBTQI+ people in our workplaces, in promoting LGBTQ rights abroad. our schools, at the Department of State, Blinken in April announced the State Department will once again allow U.S. in our government and in our society.” diplomatic institutions to fly the Pride flag. State Department spokesperson Ned Price “We raise the Progress flag today as a signal to people everywhere that the United a few weeks later told the Washington Blade that decriminalization of consensual States is firmly committed to doing that work and for fighting for LGBTQI+ people same-sex sexual relations is one of the five priorities for the White House in its efforts at home and everywhere,” added Sherman. “We raise this flag in recognition as well to promote LGBTQ rights abroad. as the countless civil service and foreign service officers, locally employed staff, The White House on Friday announced it named Jessica Stern, executive director of contractors, even us appointees, past and present, who have worked to change the OutRight Action International, a global LGBTQ advocacy group, as the next special U.S. State Department, the country and the world for the better.” envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad. Stern is among those who attended Abercrombie-Winstanley, who Secretary of State Antony Blinken appointed as the the flag raising ceremony. State Department’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer in April, in her remarks noted MICHAEL K. LAVERS her two children are gay. Abercrombie-Winstanley also reiterated her commitment


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is director of the Palm Center and of Take Back the Court, and a political science professor at San Francisco State University.

Stolen Supreme Court is an accomplice to crimes against equality War over ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ far from over

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On Nov. 4, 2020, the tireless fight for LGBTQ rights once again found itself at the mercy of the Supreme Court when justices heard arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. Two years earlier, the City of Philadelphia cancelled its contract with Catholic Social Services because the foster agency does not screen or consider same-sex couples for child placement, arguing this practice was in violation of the city’s non-discrimination ordinance. On June 17, 2021 — juxtaposed with Pride month celebrations across the country — the stolen Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling upholding the city’s decision, giving a nod to bigotry, rekindling the perpetual fight for LGBTQ rights and reaffirming that the current court is a willing accomplice in crimes against equality. The war being waged against the LGBTQ community under the guise of “sincerely held religious beliefs” is far from over. For years, state legislatures have passed unjust laws allowing businesses and organizations to discriminate against people simply based on who they love. The federal government is also no stranger to demonizing LGBTQ Americans, having long upheld policies like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the transgender service member ban. I’m privileged to have played a role in working to overturn these policies that subjected LGBTQ Americans to unfair treatment under the law. Now I’m working to expand the Supreme Court as an extension of that same fight. LGBTQ Americans have won and defended their rights against the discriminatory tactics employed by state and federal governments, but not without pain and hardship all along the way. For decades, gender and sexual minorities have marched in the streets, amplifying calls for equality and fair treatment under the eyes of the law, yearning for the day when their sexual orientation and gender identity can no longer be leveraged against them as tools of discrimination and hate. The Fulton ruling is an early warning of the damage barreling toward equality, fairness, and justice at the hands of the hyper-partisan Supreme Court. While others have (rightly) noted that the decision could have been worse, I take little comfort in that fact. The court’s progressive justices being forced to compromise with bigots to avoid an even more disastrous outcome is a sign of how far we have fallen in just the few short years since the court made marriage equality the law of the land. Taken together with the court’s previous rulings in Hobby Lobby and Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Fulton ruling sends a clear signal that the court, at a minimum, could wind up killing non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans by a thousand cuts, as it may chip away at non-discrimination protections slowly over time rather than in one fell swoop. The trajectory is cause for deep concern. We’ve arrived at a dark and critical time in the great

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experiment of our democracy. The Supreme Court has been stolen, and the rights of millions of Americans are at stake. As of late, conservatives have spared no opportunity to obstruct Americans’ fundamental rights. The stolen Supreme Court is poised to uphold these egregious attacks, subjecting countless Americans to discrimination. Ultimately, expanding the Supreme Court is the only way to hold the federal government accountable and prevent them from walking our democracy backwards. Unless something is done to reverse the dangerous course we’re on, the current stolen Supreme Court is destined to continue ruling on the wrong side of equality. The rights of every single American are under assault. The Court also finds itself on the wrong side of the will of the American people. Seventy percent of Americans support marriage equality according to Gallup’s latest Values and Beliefs poll, a number that has trended upwards since the question was first asked in 1996. But instead of following the modernization of beliefs on LGBTQ rights and more, the court has been abused as a means to enshrine minority rule and force primitive beliefs on the American people. Working at the forefront of both of these issues, court expansion and LGBTQ rights share a common theme — they were both once considered political fringe issues. But the assault on equality and our democracy by conservatives thrust these issues into the political spotlight. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, freeing thousands of troops from the shackles of fear that revealing their sexual orientation could earn them a dishonorable discharge. The transgender troop ban was overturned — though the Trump administration temporarily reinstated it in 2019 to score cheap political points with his base. And Obergfell v. Hodges secured marriage equality for every American. Thanks to that ruling and others that have preserved, protected, and granted equality to LGBTQ Americans, advocates have long viewed the Supreme Court as defenders of democracy. But as of late, the court has demonstrated it is instead a grave threat to decades of progress we’ve realized through generations of hard work. Congress must act swiftly to pass the Judiciary Act of 2021, the only way to effectively expand the court and restore balance and trust to the apogee of our democracy. For so many LGBTQ Americans, equality means adopting children, getting married, donating blood, and having a job without fearing their sexuality or gender identity would jeopardize their career. These rights and privileges are taken for granted by so many Americans who are not treated as “lesser than” because of the color of their skin or who they love. When the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality was the law of the land, “Love Wins” became a mantra that resonated across the world. But love has no standing in a stolen Supreme Court. And apparently, neither does equality.

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is the head of Next Street’s Small Business Delivery practice. Learn more at nextstreet.com

Celebrating resilience of LGBTQ-owned small businesses 3 examples of companies that pivoted during pandemic

Since the pandemic began, a staggering number of small businesses have permanently closed across the country. In fact, roughly 200,000 U.S. businesses have closed in the first year of the pandemic, according to a study released recently by economists at the Federal Reserve. Despite the millions of dollars of federal and local aid made available in the form of loans and grants, many small businesses had to think creatively to stay afloat. Many of these small businesses leveraged their own identity and community as sources of inspiration -including the LBGTQ community. As we celebrate our LGBTQ identity and community, we must acknowledge that many LGBTQ entrepreneurs are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic and that, now more than ever, a strong community is needed to help rebuild these businesses and create a more inclusive economy. At Next Street, I’m proud to be part of a missionbased firm where I can focus on uplifting members of my LGBTQ community. I wanted to take this opportunity to share some successful approaches that LGBTQ-owned small businesses in our network adopted to pivot and sustain their businesses during the pandemic. By harnessing the power of their community and prioritizing their core business offering and identity, the following LGBTQ-owned businesses were able to come out of the pandemic stronger than ever. Cubbyhole, a small but mighty bar located in the iconic West Village neighborhood of New York City, has been open to the queer community for more than 27 years. Despite crises, such as 9/11, 2003 blackout, and Hurricane Sandy, the bar was forced to close its doors for the first time ever on March 16, 2020. Given the 100% loss of income for the bar and its staff, Cubbyhole launched a Go Fund Me campaign to secure financial support from its legion of fans and faithfuls. In just a few weeks it had well surpassed its $30,000 fundraising goal and at the time of this writing has raised $78,432. In addition, the bar also banded together with the country’s other 15 lesbian bars for the Lesbian Bar Project, which collectively raised additional funds that enabled the bar to keep its doors open. Ciao Andiamo, a boutique travel company organizing authentic journeys to Italy, has been in operation for more than 10 years. On March 9, 2020, the government of Italy imposed a national lockdown, which prevented residents from leaving their homes and tourists from entering the country. With no line of sight into when borders would reopen, Ciao Andiamo had to quickly figure out a way to generate revenue and stay engaged with its clients and collaborators. The owner, together with his partners in Italy, made a major pivot, launching two new offerings — a virtual classroom featuring interactive cooking classes, wine tastings, and language lessons, as well as a marketplace for authentic Italian foods, small production wines, and local goods shipped directly from Italy to the U.S. This paved the way for Ciao Andiamo to keep in close touch with its loyal fan base and build awareness and excitement around all things Italy at a time when Italy travel was not possible. Now, as the country is reopening for international tourism, Ciao Andiamo has not only survived, it is in prime position for a strong 2021 season. Finally, Lambda Lounge began as a spirits brand that sold its products online. In fall 2020, the company had plans to open a brick and mortar lounge in Harlem. When the pandemic struck, Lambda was forced to pause its plan to open the lounge despite having made significant investments in rent and construction. To sustain itself, Lambda shifted its focus from the lounge and refocused its effort on its core business, its spirits brand. Lambda once again began prioritizing its online platform and existing customer base. They quickly found this to be the key to short- and long-term success in the midst of the pandemic. In fact, they were so successful in generating revenue for their business that they were able to see their dream of opening the bar and lounge in spring 2021. Like so many other small business owners, these LGBT entrepreneurs used the most powerful tool in their arsenal — their identity and community. Each of them leveraged their personal connections to their customers to help them sustain their business and face the challenges the pandemic threw their way. This Pride month and beyond, shop at your local LGBTQ-owned business and become part of the community that can help build a more inclusive and successful economy. 2 0 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • JULY 02, 202 1 • V I E WP O I NT


works for United Against Nuclear Iran.

Biden must stand up for LGBTQ Iranians

Every month is Fear Month in repressive regime

“I was arrested four times by the moral police because of being trans and because of my appearance. They also flogged me.”— A respondent to a 2020 survey by the Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network (6Rang). Each June, LGBTQ Americans celebrate Pride month, notwithstanding the continuing challenges they face due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Unfortunately, for their counterparts in Iran, Pride month—and every month—is Fear Month, a month of hiding who they are and whom they love in order to avoid arrest, imprisonment, flogging, and even execution. The Iranian regime began persecuting LGBT citizens immediately after coming to power in the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Iran’s first “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, justified executing homosexuals as necessary to “eliminate corruption,” likening them to gangrene and claiming the condemned would otherwise “contaminate others and spread.” The regime has entrenched homophobia and transphobia in Iran’s legal system. The country’s Islamic penal code forbids consensual sex between two persons of the same sex. The law reflects pernicious gender stereotypes, punishing penetrative intercourse between two men with death for the “passive” party and 100 lashes for the “active” one—unless the latter is married, used coercion, or is not a Muslim, in which case he is also executed. The government gives 100 lashes to women who have sex with women, and executes them upon a fourth conviction for that “crime.” According to the State Department, the security forces arrest individuals they suspect of being LGBT, force them to undergo “sodomy” checks while in custody, and put them on trial before kangaroo courts that don’t follow basic evidentiary standards. These aren’t rare cases. In the aforementioned 6Rang survey, almost 20 percent of participants claimed to have been victims of violence by police officers, security forces, prosecutors, and/or judges. Such violence could be inflicted merely for “different gender expression, breaching binary dress-code norms, insufficient hijab (Islamic veil) or participating in house parties.” A government policy also outs gay Iranians and thereby endangers their lives. The regime treats homosexuality as a mental illness and consequently exempts gays from military service. Military exemption cards list the legal provision that excuses them from service, and thereby expose Iranians to violence from anyone who sees their cards. Ali Fazeli “Alireza” Monfared, for example, was murdered by family members after his half-brother opened a letter containing Alireza’s military exemption card. The regime does permit and subsidizes what would normally be called genderconfirmation surgery, but this theoretically progressive policy is often malevolent in practice. Because Tehran criminalizes sex between two men or two women, the government and mental-health professionals and families pressure gay and lesbian cisgender Iranians to undergo unwanted surgery in order to be able to enter into same-sex relationships without fear of arrest and punishment. To add insult to injury, the authorities oppress trans Iranians regardless. One such episode demonstrates the regime’s evil in practice. “I complained to the police many times because of being assaulted on the streets and on the metro,” a participant in the 6Rang study said, “but because I had an earring, they asked me, ‘Why are you like this?,’ meaning feminine. I told them I am transgender. Then, they [the police] wanted to have sex with me and abuse me. When I didn’t accept that, they detained me for many days. After that they sent me to the court and the legal doctor. They kept threatening me that if they find out I have had sex with a man, they will hang me. After two weeks they finally released me, but all this time they had not even informed my family about me.” On Pride month and every month, the United States must help LGBT Iranians. In his message proclaiming Pride month, President Biden said: “My administration is also working to promote and protect LGBTQ+ human rights abroad. LGBTQ+ rights are human rights, which is why my administration has reaffirmed America’s commitment to supporting those on the front lines of the equality and democracy movements around the world, often at great risk.” The president must come through on his eloquent promise. He can start by sanctioning Iranian officials responsible for violating the human rights of LGBT people. He can use his renewal of our international alliances to encourage friendly and partner countries to likewise issue such sanctions. And he can prioritize human rights—including LGBT rights—in his administration’s ongoing diplomatic engagement with Iran. LGBT Iranians won’t be safe until their government is held accountable for abusing them. The U.S. cannot do so unilaterally, but we can and must lead the way.

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DOMINIQUE MORGAN (She/Her/Hers) is executive director at Black and Pink, Inc.


(She/Her/Hers) is senior policy director at Austin Justice Coalition and manager at Columbia University Justice Lab’s Square One Project.

After a quiet Pride, a fight for justice ahead The current system isn’t broken — it was designed this way


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As the second annual Pride month of the pandemic comes to a close, once again, even with COVID waning, we missed the sidewalk-busting parades, street parties and overflowing bars and restaurants. But we know that the absence of celebration does not mean an absence of pride. And in the quiet, what surfaces most powerfully is the LGBTQ community’s deep commitment to advocacy, even post-Pride, that glows like a rainbow shockwave on the pavement. Bold and fearless advocacy is something at which LGBTQ people are incredibly accomplished and the envy of many of our allies in the progressive movement. Groups in Washington, D.C. and around the country have implored us to help them replicate our work from marriage equality, where we turned around public opinion — and the law — in a matter of years. Advocacy is our superpower and many in our community, especially Black and Brown LGBTQ leaders, have been leaders in the national conversation about race, policing, and incarceration. And our connection to the modern justice movement is grounded in our own experiences. For decades, LGBTQ people have been vulnerable to homophobia and transphobia in a system designed to keep us quiet, out of sight, or even worse, dead. We know what it means when a bigoted police officer is empowered to kill or maim by a system in which homophobia and transphobia run rampant. We’ve been hit with batons for simply walking down the street. We’ve been locked up because of the way we love, express ourselves or be who we are. We’ve been deadnamed and misgendered, and misplaced in dangerous carceral spaces. And even after a tidal wave of Fortune 500 companies supporting us in the workplace, Supreme Court decisions that granted us equality under the law, and “Pose,” “Queer Eye,” “Ellen,” Laverne and “Will and Grace,” we’re still getting beaten and jailed. Over the past year, dozens of transgender women, mostly Black and Brown, have been killed. We still know the pain of a society and a justice system that looks the other way. And just like we rejected incrementalism for ourselves when it came to the recognition of our love (remember civil unions?) the goal post is to move beyond the well-intentioned but ill-conceived efforts to reform the existing justice status quo. While you can reform something that’s broken, the current system isn’t broken, it was designed this way — to extend gendered white supremacy into policing and into our jails and prisons. Reimagining justice in the United States means ending the use of jails and prisons as a catch-all solution for every social ill or to make people “disappear” who don’t adhere to social “norms.” It means taking policing out of the business of responding to homelessness, as we know many LGBTQ young people are pushed out of their homes, and out of mental health first response, as we face higher rates of mental health issues due to stigma and trauma. And it means a rejuvenated investment in health care, education, housing, conflict intervention, and restorative justice to refocus on healthy people and thriving communities rather than on punishing people for reacting to the deprivation of these things. When we are active in the justice movement, we not only acknowledge our own history with police brutality and a failed justice system, we help broaden the support at this crucial moment in our nation’s history. So to honor this year’s Pride month, join Black and Pink or donate money or find another organization in your own town or city. Most of all, let’s drill down on the LGBTQ movement’s troubled history with justice by aligning with our Black and Brown leaders who have been at this for decades, and with BLM and other organizations that aim to reimagine justice. Not only are these two movements incredibly intersectional, we have quite literally plotted a new parade route toward action and awareness with our friends and allies in Black and Brown communities. If we’re successful, we’ll all rise together.

E R ’ E W K! C A B

Weekend bus to Rehoboth & Dewey Beaches is now running every weekend through Labor Day Enjoy a weekend off or just a nice day trip to the beach Book now at www.bestbus.com

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is a D.C.-based writer. He contributes regularly to the Blade.

A queer space disrupted

If you can’t respect the drag queens, then don’t attend the show








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Once I saw a straight man beaten with a giant dildo in front of his family at a drag show in Key West. And he didn’t call the police. I’m honestly not sure why this isn’t a bigger story. But you might have heard by now. In honor of Pride month, the Dupont Circle Underground was hosting Saturday night drag shows and Sunday drag brunches, all being held in conjunction with a queer history display, “DC Royals: A Celebration of Drag.” Last Saturday, on Juneteenth, Kabuki Bukkake, one of several queens hired to perform that night, was whipping up the crowd to Cardi B’s “WAP”, when a young woman sitting on the front row was pulled on stage. Twerking ensued. Oral sex was simulated, though Bukkake says the latter was completely by accident, that she was merely trying to get up off the floor. Nevertheless, the young woman left and called the police, claiming sexual assault. And granted, I’m not really blaming the police here. I’m sure when the young woman combined the words sexual and assault it probably triggered a massive, automatic response. But six cop cars and one paddy wagon later, Bukkake was arrested at 1:45 a.m. Sunday. She would go on to then spend two days in jail. Upon her release she learned that the charges were essentially dropped. A queer life was disrupted. A queer space was disrupted. Seeing a police paddy wagon outside a gay space wasn’t particularly triggering for me. But the historical irony wasn’t lost either. But to have a drag queen of color arrested during Pride month, after performing her act, on Juneteenth? At the very least, it’s all deeply upsetting. I spoke to Kabuki Bukkake’s drag mother, D.C. drag staple ShiQueeta Lee, who was more or less the headliner that night. She told me that “everyone knows what a drag queen is by now.” At this point, going to a drag show, there are bound to be surprises, but any audience member knows more or less what to expect — and that is lewdness, the mocking of gender and sexual boundaries, drag queens practically playing jump rope with the lines of decency. And isn’t that what we come to see? And if you sit on the front row, isn’t that what you come to be a part of essentially? Just like with any stand-up comedian, sitting on the front row is practically sitting on stage. You are giving tacit approval to then be part of the show. This, again, shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Some people I’ve talked to about this put the blame on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” for presenting a tamer version of drag for mainstream television audiences. And indeed if you remember the rather humble beginnings of the show, it was a tad raunchier. Perhaps that tamer, more VH-1 appropriate version of drag is what some audience members expect when they enter a queer space. Others I’ve talked to blame the incident on the inexplicable prudish mindset of Gen-Z, pointing to the ongoing “No Kink at Pride” controversy. Whatever it was, a queer space was disrupted. Someone essentially entered that space and wanted it to bend toward them rather than the other way around. And queer people need their own space, an unapologetically unbending space. And straights need to meet us halfway on recognizing when these spaces might not be for them. Just look to the drag queens if you’re having trouble. They’re already pushing gender boundaries by performing in front of you. Lines are blurred, flirted with, redrawn, openly mocked. But you can see the boundary if you try. That’s what drag is for. That’s what makes it so compelling. If you can’t respect it, can’t respect the queens that perform, then don’t enter that space. And certainly don’t sit in the front row. It’s not for you.

Takoma Wellness Center

6925 Blair Rd NW, Washington DC 20015 202-465-4260 takomawellness.com @takomawellness J ULY 0 2 2 0 2 1 • WA S H I N GTO N B L A D E.CO M • 2 5

A year after surviving COVID, business is flourishing Darryl and Joe Ciarlante-Zuber on facing death — and the birth of Rehoboth’s Square One By ESTHER FRANCES

Last year, Darryl Ciarlante-Zuber nearly died from the novel coronavirus while his husband, Joe, sat in quarantine. After 40 days of intensive care at Beebe Medical Foundation and a year of support from their friends and the community, the duo have since opened a second restaurant and are thriving. Joe, who was in Mexico, received a call on March 28, 2020, from his husband complaining that he was having difficulty breathing. After instructions from his doctor, Darryl packed for a supposed three-night stay at the emergency room. “It was like [my doctor] really wants me to go to the ER, and I don’t really feel that sick,” Darryl said. “I said, ‘I’m just out of breath, up and down steps, but other than that, I really didn’t feel sick.’” Three nights turned into a call from clergy, asking Joe if Darryl would like some prayers. The second call Joe received was from a doctor in the ICU. “They said Darryl has 30 minutes to live and is severely ill,” Joe said. “[They said] his lungs are nearly totally collapsed and filled with stuff, and we want to put him on a ventilator.” Joe’s impromptu and urgent flight from Mexico back to Rehoboth was filled with anxiety, especially since not much was known about the coronavirus that early in the pandemic. “Is he going to be alive? Is he going to be dead? It’s COVID, what is this COVID thing?” Joe said. “I was on a plane, and I was one of the only ones with a mask. The reason I had a mask is because my friend who drove me to the airport had a mask from his maid and said, ‘Here, use this.’ It was a whirlwind experience.” Darryl spent 23 days on life support, while the recommended time for a ventilator is a maximum of six days. “The doctors told [Joe], ‘We just don’t know how he’s going to come out,’” Darryl said. “But at the time, the doctor said, ‘Well, that seems like it’s the only solution at this point.’ So he pushed it for Joe until the 23rd day.” Prolonged time on a ventilator can prove dangerous, Joe said, as he was warned about potential negative effects on Darryl’s brain. “They routinely told me that he would have brain damage and he may or may not be the same person that I knew,” Joe said. “And I said, ‘I’m OK with that.’ When I took my vows, we said that we would be partners forever, husbands forever. If he has brain damage, I’m the one that’s going to deal with it, nobody else.” Darryl was the third patient in the Beebe ICU to be diagnosed with COVID-19. While in the ICU, Darryl’s white blood cell count fell to only nine, according to Joe. “They basically said to me, ‘Look, it’s been 20-some days. There’s no recovery, you need to let it go,’” Joe said. “And by some goofy chance, his [white blood cell] numbers jumped from 12 to 25,000, and they went up to 50,000. They have to be 80,000 to take the trach out, and Monday morning, they were at 83,000.” Darryl said he does not remember much after being led into the ICU from the hospital waiting room. “I had Joe on FaceTime the whole time just to make sure I was getting there OK,” Darryl said. “I was like, ‘OK, they’re probably going to take me in soon, I’m going to 2 6 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • JULY 02, 202 1

DARRYL and JOE CIARLANTEZUBER at their new bar and restaurant Square One in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

probably lose reception in the hospital and I can’t call but I’ll call you when I can.’ And I just remember hanging up. They took me out of [the entrance] and that’s all I remember after that.” After 23 up-and-down days on life support, Joe said the Beebe team members spent 40 days dedicated to Darryl’s treatment and that he was constantly given updates, since quarantine protocols were in effect. “Darryl’s nurses in the ICU were my link to being with him when I couldn’t actually visit,” Joe wrote in a Feb. 9, 2021 essay for the Cape Gazette. “They would assure me that he could hear my voice, even though he made no response. They would tell me that sometimes Darryl would move his feet in reaction to certain things I said to him.” While Darryl received treatment, Joe updated family and friends through Facebook. “If I didn’t post something by 11 in the morning, people were calling, ‘What’s happened, how come? Is everything OK?’” Joe said. “Sometimes you just didn’t hear and I didn’t have any information from the doctors or the nurse, they were full, and they had these patients.” Darryl’s 40 days of treatment finished with physical therapy and rehab. “I had no movement, I had to relearn walking,” Darryl said. “I had lost all my strength in my arms and so the first two weeks was to try to get me, at least somewhat capable, to move forward to the rehab center.” Darryl also said that Joe kept a lot of information from him so as not to worry him or worsen his condition, including the severity of the coronavirus in the United States. “One of the things he had asked me when he was in the hospital, he said, ‘Why aren’t you working?’ and I said, ‘Darryl, everything’s closed,’ and he looked very confused,” Joe said. “You know Nicola Pizza? They never close, never. I said to Darryl, ‘Nicola’s is closed, because of the pandemic.’ He said, ‘Nicola’s is closed?’ [Darryl] got really sad in his eyes and he said, ‘It’s bad, isn’t it?’ So I said, ‘But everything’s getting better, so don’t worry about it, just get yourself better.’” Darryl and Joe opened Diego’s Bar & Nightclub in 2018, the name a nod to Darryl’s nickname. The bar closed in 2020 like all other businesses due to the pandemic, however the duo did not let Darryl’s condition or the lockdown procedures keep them down.

“Some of the positives about Diego’s is, we were able to create a beach. We took over some of the parking lot and created a beach atmosphere, tables and chairs and umbrellas and transporting nine tons of sand, and socially distanced all the tables,” Joe said. “It really made a lot of the customers feel even more safe, especially being outside.” Darryl was unable to return to his typical work day, as pinched nerves were causing pain from standing for too long. “That’s kind of an emotional thing, because you’re used to doing something then all of a sudden, you can’t,” Joe said. “Everybody looks at him and says to him, ‘You shouldn’t be here,’ and he says, ‘I know,’ and they said, ‘Your charts, you are truly a miracle.’” Before the pandemic, Joe and Darryl made several attempts to open a new restaurant location. In February 2021, the timing worked out and the two opened Square One Grill. “Fortunately, we found our head chef in December and we just talked about opening up by the end of January, to get it in time for President’s Day weekend,” Darryl said. Square One general manager Trish Carlin said the restaurant began with experimental takeout dishes for the community, since lockdown efforts kept indoor seating to 50 percent capacity and the team decided to keep the dining room closed. “[Darryl and Joe] just reached out to so many people that they knew and they set up [takeout] for a group of days, where people could order food and pick it up for free,” Carlin said. “They would want comments on it, how did this work? What did you think about that? They got a lot of feedback.” Diego’s dance floor opened in late May and the dining room in Square One is also open for customers. Darryl, Joe and Carlin all discussed the community’s positive efforts and support in keeping the businesses alive. “I felt like the community was waiting for Joe and Darryl to finally be able to do this. And maybe that was part of their motivation,” Carlin said. “I was never worried, honestly, that it wouldn’t work, because it’s them. I think the community really backs them. They really, really love Joe and Darryl and they follow them wherever they go. They want them to be successful and it’s a wonderful thing to see.”

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July 4 in Rehoboth: fireworks return but Freddie’s is delayed Nate Buccieri on the keys at Blue Moon; ‘Eyecons’ to open at Clear Space By PETER ROSENSTEIN

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. — With Memorial Day weekend a chilly washout, the Fourth of July promises to be packed with revelers ready for a post-COVID good time and there are several big developments awaiting visitors. Freddie Lutz’s dream for many years has been to open a Freddie’s Beach Bar at the beach in view of real sand. That dream is close to fruition. But reality has intruded and he will have to wait just a little longer as he navigates the process of opening a business in what Rehoboth Beach denizens have come to know as ‘lower slower Delaware.’ FREDDIE LUTZ is working hard to open a new restaurant/ The City of Rehoboth bar in Rehoboth Beach, Del. Beach has never been known as a business-friendly place but to be fair, the issues surrounding the pandemic and now the reopening of the state have made things even worse. In the best of times the permitting process is slightly antediluvian. Today you also have to deal with Sussex County and it can seem to take forever. There are reportedly dozens of businesses looking to open, some in Rehoboth and others on Route 1.

So while Freddie’s Beach Bar won’t make its hoped for July 4th opening, Lutz himself is staying positive and working to get the restaurant/bar open as soon as possible. He wants to make sure when it does open it will provide the same level of fun, good food, and service as both Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington and his Federico Ristorante Italiano. Lutz recently received an honor from U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) who presented him with a flag that had flown over the Capitol to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Freddie’s Beach Bar. He had been honored previously by the military for being a safe place for members of the LGBTQ community before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was rescinded. Both of Lutz’s establishments are fully integrated into the community and he was proud to have been approached by Amazon during the pandemic to help prepare and organize meals they funded for first responders. Lutz told the Blade, “Once Freddie’s at the beach is open I hope it will be as diverse and all-inclusive as Freddie’s in Arlington. I look forward to bringing the same magic people feel at Freddie’s in Arlington to the beach.” He added, “I am looking forward to working with all my good friends and neighboring gay bars to make Rehoboth an even more exciting beach destination for dining and entertainment.” While we anxiously await Freddie’s opening, there are other options this weekend. Well-known New York City pianist Nate Buccieri returned to his residency gig at the Blue Moon this week and plays Sundays-Thursdays, 6-8:30 p.m. with no cover charge throughout the summer. Dinner is available during the show. Christopher Peterson’s “Eyecons: Thank You Tour” premieres July 4 and runs through Sept. 5 at Clear Space Theatre. The female impersonator’s show features live singing parodies of everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Tina Turner. Shows are Saturday at 10 p.m. and Sunday at 9 p.m., all tickets $25. After last year’s COVID-driven cancellation, fireworks return to Rehoboth Beach on Saturday, July 3. Festivities kick off at the downtown bandstand around 8 p.m. with fireworks at 9:30 p.m. And looking ahead, the annual Sundance dance party fundraiser for CAMP Rehoboth is being replaced by the new SunFestival, Aug. 29-Sept. 5. The Blade will have more details in the coming weeks.

Show your PRIDE! Proudly serving Delaware's LGBTQ+ community. Helping you find your place in the world.

Chris Beagle REALTOR® M 215.262.6209 | O 302.273.4998 chris.beagle@compass.com Chris Beagle is a real estate licensee affiliated with Compass RE, a licensed real estate broker and abides by equal housing opportunity laws. 18335 Coastal Highway, Lewes, DE 19958

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Getting back to normal in Rehoboth Beach

Your favorite businesses are back and ready for the Fourth By PETER ROSENSTEIN

What we once considered normal before the pandemic has returned to Rehoboth Beach, Del., with a vengeance. Just try to get a hotel or rental house for anytime this summer and you will generally find yourself out of luck. I recommend finding a friend to crash with. Traffic is crazy and the restaurants and bars are packed, which is what I and many of the business owners predicted back in April. Despite all this it’s a fantastic place to vacation. I arrived at 7:15 a.m. (having left D.C. at 5 a.m.) on Friday the weekend before the 4th to celebrate a friend’s 70th birthday. I headed straight to The Coffee Mill before stopping at my town house. You can park without PAMALA STANLEY continues her residency feeding the meters until 10 a.m. By 8 a.m. at The Pines each Sunday at 6 p.m. there was a line patiently waiting for a cup of their great coffee and some tasty breakfast pastry. Owner Mel showed me the new Mill Creamery he and Bob are opening, which will serve farm fresh ice cream from Hopkins creamery. It will open before the 4th. Then I bumped into Steve Fallon, owner of Gidget’s Gadgets on Rehoboth Avenue, then bought my Washington Post at Browseabout Books and from there a quick stop at Fresh Market before the crowds. In the afternoon, I walked the town visiting with friends. First a quick stop at Lori’s OY Veh Café in the CAMP courtyard, which as always was busy. Then on to Clear Space Theatre to confirm my ticket for Christopher Peterson’s opening night of EYECONS on Sunday, July 4th which I will attend with the town’s honorary Mayor Tony Burns. Eyecons will be at Clear Space every Saturday and Sunday evening thru Labor Day. Remember to buy your tickets early for all the great shows, which include Mama Mia!, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Sound of Music. Their productions over the years have been great and if the small group of residents trying to force them out of town finally loses their ridiculous fight, then Clear Space will have a beautiful new theater soon. They are a town treasure. Then a walk from the boardwalk to 2nd street along Baltimore Avenue, the gayest block in Rehoboth. I walked past great restaurants like Eden, Jam and La Fable each worth many visits. On to the second block and a stop at Elegant Slumming to chat with jeweler extraordinaire Philip and then a stop at his Philip Morton Gallery. Of course passing the iconic Blue Moon. For takeout there is nothing better than Frank and Louie’s on Baltimore Avenue. Then a peek into Aqua Grill and The Pines where the great Pamala Stanley is now performing every Sunday night. My first evening included a stop at my favorite happy hour place Aqua Grill. As usual I went intending to drink a quick glass of wine and ended up staying for two hours because it is also the favorite place of so many in the LGBTQ+ community of Rehoboth. But first it was off to meet the birthday boy and some of his family at The Purple Parrot and Biergarten on Rehoboth Avenue for lunch. They told me they intended to make a stop at Critter Beach to buy a gift for their dogs. Then a quick stop at The Body Shop gym on 1st and Wilmington to check on my membership, which hasn’t been used since last summer. It’s really important as my summer excursions to Rehoboth always mean more food and drink than I am used to. I am lucky to be here for 10 days now and that will surely include stops at Coho’s Market and Grill on Rehoboth Avenue and a great dinner at Mariachi on Wilmington Avenue. There are too many great places to get to in 10 days but there will be plenty of time during the summer. Maybe I will be lucky enough to run into President Biden at his favorite ice cream place Double Dippers. On Saturday I got to eat dinner at the new Delmata on 1st street and recommend it highly. Then there is Diego’s and the new Square One; and we all look forward to the opening of Freddie’s Beach Bar sometime during the summer. This will surely be a summer not to be missed in Rehoboth Beach as we recover from the pandemic and resume living our lives to the fullest. 3 0 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • JULY 02, 202 1

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The Wharf hosts a July 4th fireworks display on Sunday.


Friday, July 02

Join the DC Center for its virtual job club, a weekly job support program to help job entrants and seekers, including the long-term unemployed, improve self-confidence, motivation, resilience and productivity for effective job searches and networking. The event begins on Zoom at 6 p.m. For more information, email careercenters@thedccenter.org. Friday Tea Time and social for older LGBTQ adults will be at 2 p.m. on Zoom. You are welcome to bring your own beverage. For access to the Zoom link, email: justin@ thedccenter.org

Saturday, July 03 The LGBTQ People of Color support group will be at 1 p.m. on Zoom. This peer support group is an outlet for LGBTQ people of color to come together and talk about anything affecting them in a space that strives to be safe and judgement free. There are all sorts of activities including watching movies, poetry events, storytelling, and just hanging out with others. For more information, please email supportdesk@thedccenter.org. International Day Fest will be at 3 p.m. at Bliss Nightclub. The event will be hosted by Luda and the DJ lineup includes DJ Trini & DJ Joe (Fr 93.9 wkys FM), International DJ Stephens, DJ Ablazin (Ablazin Radio), DJ Bimshire, DJ Footloose (Lexus Superior), Jason Frass, DJ Ghost, DJ Spice, Barrie Hype. Tickets are between $30 and $250 and can be purchased on Eventbrite.

Sunday, July 04 Fourth at The Wharf: VIP Fireworks Viewing Experience will start at 7 p.m. at 101 District Square, S.W. 760 Maine Ave. S.W. Tickets are $40. To save a spot, visit Eventbrite. Mer Events will host a rooftop party at 7 p.m. at the Homewood Suites Rooftop Lounge. Tickets are $65 and include entrance and a drink. There will be canned cocktails, canned beer, and canned wine to minimize contact. A cash bar will be available afterwards. More information is available on Eventbrite.

Monday, July 05 The Center Aging Coffee Drop-in will be at 10 a.m. at the DC Center. LGBT Older Adults and friends are invited for friendly conversations about current issues that you might be dealing with. For more information visit Center Aging’s Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, July 06 Center Faith will host “Interfaith Intersectional Forums” virtually at 7 p.m. This panel will explore the “how,” “why” and “impact” of collecting our stories. Panelists from a variety of faith traditions will discuss the impact of writing our history and sharing our stories. To sign up for the event, visit: https://www.facebook.com/centerfaith.

Wednesday, July 07 Book Men DC will be hosted virtually at 7:30 p.m. The event is an informal group of men who are interested in gay literature (both fiction and non-fiction). Most participants live in or near Washington, D.C., however, visitors to D.C. are always welcome to drop in and join the discussion. For more information, visit: bookmendc.blogspot.com. Join the DC Center for a virtual job club, a weekly job support program to help job entrants and seekers, including the long-term unemployed, improve self-confidence, motivation, resilience and productivity for effective job searches and networking. The event begins on Zoom at 6 p.m. For more information, email careercenters@thedccenter. org.

Thursday, July 08 Join Whitman-Walker Health for The Lesbian Lens: Documenting the HIV/AIDS Epidemic at 6 p.m. on Zoom. The event will feature veteran photographers JEB (Joan E. Biren), Sharon Farmer, Patsy Lynch and Leigh Mosley as they discuss their photographic works and experiences documenting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in and around Washington, DC. 3 2 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • JULY 02, 202 1

OUT & ABOUT The Wharf gears up for July 4th festivities The Wharf will host a “VIP Fireworks Viewing Experience” on Sunday, July 4 at 7 p.m at 101 District Square, S.W., 760 Maine Ave. S.W. The event will include access to the Dockmaster Building, two drink tickets (plus a cash bar) featuring Smirnoff’s new pink lemonade vodka, gourmet snacks, and a fantastic view of the National Park Service fireworks show. This experience is presented by Smirnoff Red White and Berry. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online. To register, visit the Wharf’s website.

Equality Virginia announces TIES 2021 summit event details The 8th annual Transgender Information and Empowerment Summit (TIES) will take place virtually from Wednesday, Oct. 20 through Saturday, Oct. 23. This year’s free conference will be fully digital again to ensure the health and safety of the Virginia community and provide the best experience amid the complexities of working around the COVID-19 pandemic. With this year’s virtual format, more people can make connections, get information, and access resources. To save a spot, visit Equality Virginia’s website.

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A scene from ‘The Legend of the Underground.’ (Photo courtesy HBO)

A new breed of heroes emerges in ‘Underground’ doc

Documenting the fight for freedom in Nigeria By JOHN PAUL KING

We’re not complaining, but it’s a shame that the folks at HBO premiered “The Legend of the Underground” at the tail end of Pride month instead of the very beginning, because in many ways it is a documentary that exemplifies and cuts right to the tender heart of what Pride is truly all about. Directed by Nneka Onuorah and Giselle Bailey, this is not another look at the familiar history of the LGBTQ equality movement. It doesn’t celebrate the cherished champions and landmark victories that have paved the way for the advances that have bettered the lives of queer people today. It barely even mentions Stonewall. Instead, it casts its gaze on a chapter of LGBTQ history that is being written in the present tense, providing a searing and timely look at the struggle against rampant LGBTQ discrimination taking place in Nigeria today, introducing us to a new roster of heroes of the here-and-now as it follows the stories of several bold young non-conformists who are fighting for the freedom to live life out loud. If you don’t feel up to date on current affairs in Nigeria, it’s not a surprise. Though the sheer extremity of the state-sanctioned human rights abuses going on in places like Chechnya has drawn some attention in the U.S., most Americans – at least those not tightly connected or involved with the activist community – get very little exposure to the plight of LGBTQ people in other countries beyond the generalized understanding that there are a number of places where things are pretty grim. For the sake of context, “The Legend of the Underground” documents the efforts of several young Nigerians to push back against repressive legislation and culturally embedded homophobia in their country, where an antiLGBTQ law known as the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill (SSMPA) has been used since 2013 as an excuse to harass, imprison, extort, and commit violence against anyone seen as not conforming to Nigerian societal and cultural norms around gender and sexuality. Onuorah and Bailey center their movie around an incident that took place in August of 2018, in which 57 men who were attending a party in Lagos (Nigeria’s most populous city) were rounded up by police, arrested and forced in front of news cameras to be publicly humiliated by the arresting officers. One of them – who goes by the name James Brown – shocked the country by defying his captors and speaking out against the government while still in handcuffs; captured on camera, it was a lightning-in-a-bottle moment that went viral. As the film follows the ongoing saga of the legal case against James and the others arrested and accused at the party, it also focuses on another man, Michael Ighodaro, who fled his community in Nigeria after having been attacked for his identity. Now living in New York City as part of a chosen family with other friends from the Nigerian diaspora, he works from the other side of the globe to advocate for the people and communities he left behind, while settling into a new life as an LGBTQ rights and HIV prevention advocate. The stories of these two charismatic figures are interwoven throughout. James and his circle of friends grapple with the option to either search for a haven abroad, as Michael did, or to stay and fight a system that seeks to silence them; Michael himself contemplates undertaking the risky trip back to Nigeria to reconnect with the activist community there.

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Along the way, we meet an array of other non-conformists, all of them at risk of persecution from their government. While some prefer the tenuous safety of blending in, others, like James, have parlayed a social media following into a sort of underground celebrity status, ignoring the obvious risks and using their platform as an opportunity not just to amplify their own voices, but to spark a cultural debate that challenges the ideals of gender, conformity, and human rights in Nigeria. What emerges is a portrait of a new generation that uses social media, underground radio, and any other resources at their disposal to fight for their rights of personal expression – and while there are plenty of hard-to-watch moments that remind us how much hate and bigotry still exist in the world, there are even more that inspire us with the bold creativity and resilience of these youthful heroes or catch us off guard with their infectious humor. And while some viewers might feel these young people more closely resemble a rag-tag band of resistance fighters in some futuristic dystopian adventure than the flag-and-picketwaving marchers in our traditional image of protest, there is something about them which, as the film goes on, seems more and more familiar. Though “The Legend of the Underground” documents a new breed of activism, born of the digital age, it also reveals that the fierce spirit that drove the heroes of our past is not only alive and well, but thriving. Fed up with being ostracized, stigmatized, bullied and worse, the new generation is fighting back just like those who came before them. Instead of staging protest marches, they stage protest parties; instead of publishing zines, they post videos on YouTube or Instagram. It’s different, but breathtakingly the same. If someone had been able to turn a cell phone on Marsha P. Johnson at Stonewall, it’s not hard to imagine that she would have created a viral moment much like the one that put young James Brown at the center of a cultural revolution in 2018. Imagine how differently things might have gone, if that had been possible then. That’s why HBO’s new offering, which is also available on HBO Max, is perhaps 2021’s most inspiring cinematic expression of Pride so far. By showing us a present that has so many echoes of our own past, it instills in us an unexpected feeling of hope for the future. There’s a feeling of inevitability about these non-conformists, evoked by the certainty that their dissenting voices are reaching the ears of millions of young people that will shape the world to come, but also by the unmistakable parallels we find with our history. Yet this timely documentary is not here to simply inspire us with the promise of a better future – after all, that future is not here yet, and in the meantime, there are people like the ones captured on camera here who are facing dire risks every single day. “The Legend of the Underground” importunes us to help them in their fight, to spread the word and do whatever we can to cast a spotlight on the injustices and abuses of authoritarianism wherever it rears its ugly head. That, of course, is something else that’s at the core of Pride: the willingness to stand in solidarity with others who, like us, have had to fight for the freedom to be who they are. As we are reminded by Michael in the film, “None of us are free until all of us are free.”

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‘Where We Belong’ explores connection between past, present

MADELINE SAYET in ‘Where We Belong.’ (Photo by Jon Burkland)

‘Where We Belong’ Streaming through July 11

Woolly Mammoth Theater Company in association with the Folger Theatre Library $21 | Woollymammoth.net

Indigenous playwright/actor traces a life that feels split By PATRICK FOLLIARD

In 2015, Madeline Sayet chased a dream. The indigenous playwright/actor jumped the pond to England to pursue a Ph.D. in Shakespeare with a personal slant on colonization and native people. But once there, Sayet was met with resistance, blinkered Bard scholars weren’t sold on her approach. In her revealing 80-minute solo show, “Where We Belong” (presented by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in association with the Folger Theatre Library), Sayet energetically assays herself and different characters as she traces a life that has sometimes left her feeling split. Sayet’s mother, a medicine woman in the Mohegan tribe based in Connecticut, encouraged her young daughter to speak Mohegan (which Sayet does intermittently throughout the show), a dying language that’s been almost entirely snuffed out after years of ethnic cleansing by European settlers. Her mission is to educate the world about native experience. Rather than write an assigned report on white settlers’ notion of Manifest Destiny, she turns in a paper on the Wounded Knee Massacre hoping her teachers might learn something. Then, in rather high tone adolescent rebellion, teenage Sayet immersed herself in the language of Shakespeare, performing in his plays with a local company. Initially, she fell in love with Shakespeare’s words. Her favorite work was “The Tempest.” She imagines it as a colonization; Caliban wasn’t a monster but indigenous, and Ariel, like Sayet (whose Mohegan name means “Blackbird”) was a bird. “Fly, fly” is a phrase repeated throughout “Where We Belong.” As a kid, Sayet was deathly afraid of flying. But as she grew older, flying became an integral part of who she is. She flew away to the UK to study Shakespeare and later flew to far-flung places to share her native experience and the Mohegan culture. When Sayet studied Shakespeare abroad, her mother accused her of wanting to be white. She preferred her daughter remain in Mohegan territory, or close to it. And

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while for many of us Mohegan conjures up images of the tribe’s lucrative Mohegan Sun casino, nightclub, and last stops on Cher’s never-ending final tour, it’s the adjacent historic sacred lands that are especially vital to the tribe. Sayet’s intention wasn’t to be white, but to spread her wings. During her frustrating stay in England, Sayet makes a pilgrimage to the gravesite of Mahomet, a Mohegan chief who traveled to London to in 1735 to petition King George II with complaints against Connecticut colony regarding land theft and broken treaties. While waiting for his appointment with the monarch, he contracted smallpox and died. He was buried in a then-unmarked grave at Southwark Cathedral just outside of London. Though impressed with his courage, she is saddened by the ultimate futility of her ancestor’s journey. Things get worse. A visit to a British museum accompanied by a callous curator ends badly when Sayet learns that the building’s inventory includes numerous indigenous skulls stored in unlabeled boxes. Soon after she considers a return to North America. She’s grown weary of being among the dead and wants to return to the living. Beautifully reimagined for an online performance by director Mei Ann Teo, “Where We Belong” was filmed at an empty theater at Woolly Mammoth in April. Sayet’s performance is prefaced with a nod (in a voiceover) to a brave tribal chief of the Piscataway whose people lived along the Potomac for many thousands of years. That chief demanded renumeration from colonial authorities after her daughter’s grave was robbed. It’s unclear whether justice was served. That is the Piscataway’s story to tell, says Sayet. Borders and barriers crisscross Sayet’s mind. Fittingly, the set is a low boundary of earth that ribbons diagonally across the otherwise bare stage. Above hang beautiful, glittering stars The haunting voices of ancestors remind Sayet, and all of us, of the connection between past and present.

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VENUS THRASH died June 19 of heart disease. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Remembering queer D.C. poet Venus Thrash ‘She was the best citizen in the poetry republic’ By KATHI WOLFE

Venus Thrash, a Black, lesbian D.C. poet, wrote her first poem when she was in the first grade. Thrash, 52, whose work was nationally acclaimed, died on Saturday, June 19 at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. from heart disease. Her family and 12-year-old son Daniel survive her. Thrash, who had a master’s degree in fiction and poetry from American University, taught in underserved high schools and women’s correctional facilities as well as in academic settings. “I feel passionate about [teaching],” Thrash, whose poetry collection “The Fateful Apple” was nominated for the 2015 Pen America Open Book Award, told me in 2014. “Not only am I teaching in that exchange, I’m also learning.” Though Thrash called D.C. her “adopted home,” her roots were in the Deep South. She spent her childhood summers in Rincon and Sylvania, Ga. Thrash, who was open about her sexuality, sensed, as a child, that she was different. “I am seven/I want to be an angel/because I have never been an angel,” she wrote in her poem “Angel.” “I must act like a lady/I have never acted like a lady/I have demanded to be called Vince.” Thrash lived fully in her self, Black and queer, and that intersectionality infused her poetry and relationships, Sarah Browning, former director of Split This Rock, a D.C.-based poetry organization that works for social change, told the Blade. In addition to being a finalist in the 2012 Jean Feldman Poetry Prize and the 2009 Arktoi Books Poetry Prize, Thrash was a coeditor of “Beltway Poetry Quarterly” and a co-director of The Word Work’s Joaquin Miller Poetry Series. She was a Cave Canem fellow. (The Cave Canem Foundation, according to its website, was founded by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady in 1996 “to remedy the under-representation of African-American poets in the literary landscape.”) Thrash was featured at one of Split This Rock’s festivals. “Venus’s poetry is like Venus full of joy and outrage, and love,” Browning said. “Every time I saw her I was delighted by her flirty, irreverent spirit.” On social media postings after her death, Thrash was often 3 8 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • JULY 02, 202 1

described as “fierce” because of her appearance – her shaved head, her androgynous way of dressing, Kim Roberts, founding editor of “Beltway Poetry Quarterly,” emailed the Blade. “But Venus was actually quite shy,” Roberts said. Roberts loved the conversations that she and Thrash had about the intersection of gender and race. “I am Jewish and bisexual,” Roberts, editor of the anthology “By Broad Potomac’s Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of Our Nation’s Capital,” said. “We both noted how different our own lived experiences were, yet we found joy from our long, freewheeling discussions.” Grace Cavalieri, poet laureate of Maryland, knew Thrash before Thrash was a mother and well published. “I saw her enter the poetry scene – working for every D.C. institution to further poetry,” Cavalieri, founder/producer of the radio show “The Poet and the Poem,” said. “She was the best citizen in the poetry republic.” Venus rolled with everybody, remembers poet Hayes Davis, author of “Let Our Eyes Linger.” “If Venus called herself your friend, she would laugh with you, drink with you, talk shit with you … talk about relationships with you,” Davis said. “We could talk about parenting, we could talk about ourselves.” In “The Fateful Apple,” you see a poet who is entirely at home with her body, her loves, her desires, her history – her friends, D.C.-area poet Joseph Ross emailed the Blade. “I especially remember her generous kindness to my husband, who is not a poet,” Ross, author of “Raising King,” said. “At poetry gatherings, she often found us and made him and me feel at home.” One of Thrash’s most powerful poems is “Uncivil,” a pointed, yet joyous rebuke to any government that dictates who we can love. “There will be no parchment certificate stamped with any state’s approval/confirming we’re married or in love,” Thrash writes in “Uncivil,” “But we will jump over a brand new straw/ broom, we will light candles & pour red/wine into the earth where our ancestors sleep.” Thank you, Venus, for your poetry and your wonderful self. R.I.P.

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After pandemic, local gay restaurateurs thriving at Knead

Berry, Reginbogin plan to open several new spots in coming year By EVAN CAPLAN

“There was always the question of being able to both live and work with your partner,” At the outset of 2020, D.C.-based Knead Hospitality + Design founders and co-owners Berry notes, “but because we excel at different areas, it works out. Our background (and partners for more than 20 years) Jason Berry and Michael Reginbogin envisioned in the restaurant industry gives us the perspective on how the restaurant should be big plans for their rapidly expanding realm of restaurants across the D.C. area. constructed.” “In March 2020, however, we thought that we were going to lose everything,” When Berry and Reginbogin plan each new concept, they first analyze its urban and Reginbogin says. social geography. By understanding the restaurant’s space, interior and exterior, they Today, Knead has recovered, and then some. In the context of the sweep of more put together a concept and then a menu (often along with a celebrity chef) to follow. But than 100 restaurant closings in D.C. since then, Berry and Reginbogin pulled out four they also target specific parts of town. restaurant openings, with several more planned for the rest of this year alone. “We tend to favor neighborhoods that are not reliant on one demographic for Not since the (somewhat slower) growth of Jose Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup has the attracting a guest base,” city seen a locally based says Reginbogin. “We firm with a diverse set of tend to open where concepts open so widely. we can establish Andres launched the first roots…. The pandemic Jaleo back in 1993; his taught everyone that ThinkFoodGroup now it’s easy to lose a prized runs 10 restaurants in group of guests. You D.C., plus stalls at Audi don’t want that one type Field. to be the only guest you Yet Berry and attract.” This outlook Reginbogin promise led them to Navy Yard, that it’s not size that the Wharf, and Penn counts. “Biggest isn’t Quarter, among other always best. We want to neighborhoods. be the best operator in When they kicked off in the city for the types of 2015, opening Succotash restaurants we offer.” in National Harbor, This spring’s opening they invested some of of glitzy-retro diner their own capital, raised Gatsby speaks directly money from friends and to Reginbogin’s vision family, and took on loan for that “our restaurants debt. “Our newer big are experience-driven. restaurants are roughly They focus on the visual $6-7 million projects. We as much as the food and are also opening smaller beverage offerings.” restaurants that cost Gatsby, located in significantly less, in the Navy Yard, is a direct $2 million range,” said outgrowth of Berry’s The glam atmosphere at Gatsby showcases a focus on space and design as much as menu. (Photo courtesy Knead Hospitality + Design) Reginbogin. belief that “like the As of June, Knead Roaring ‘20s after the operates five other concepts: Succotash, Mi Vida, The Grill, Gatsby, and Mah-Ze-Dahr, Spanish flu, there’s all this pent-up demand…. People will want to celebrate life, and which abuts Gatsby and is run by baker Umber Ahmad, a 2019 James Beard semifinalist. they want to be part of that return to society,” he says. They also run four quick-service stands inside Swingers, the massive adults-only minigolf In 2014, Berry served as COO for the Rosa Mexicano Restaurants, and Reginbogin concept out of London that just opened in Dupont Circle. Berry promises there is more had been working as director of operations for other large brands like B.R. Guest to come in 2022 and beyond. Restaurants, TAO, Milos, and Sushi Samba. After living in cities like Los Angeles and New Knead’s other planned openings this year include Bistro du Jour, Mi Casa, another York, they decamped for Washington, D.C., a city they’d visited dozens of times for work, Succotash location in Penn Quarter, and another Mah-Ze-Dahr by the new Amazon HQ. with an idea of creating their own style of dining experience. Back to Gatsby, the glam atmosphere showcases the group’s focus on space and Both having attended the University of Southern California, the two met on AOL in design as much as menu. As the location is across from Nationals Stadium, the two their early 20s and started dating soon after. They have worked in the restaurant industry envisioned an all-American restaurant. Yet the interior and atmosphere did not express for their entire careers. to them a stereotypical diner with an Airstream and laminate-covered booths. Instead, “D.C. is a beautiful, diverse city,” says Reginbogin, “but of all the cities we had lived the two visualized the swinging, Art Deco style of the 1920s when diners started to in, we felt there was the most opportunity in D.C. The growth of the restaurant industry become popular. As it translates to plating, this means the overflowing bowl of pasta has been because of a welcoming regulatory environment as well as a city of quality, that might appear on a multi-page diner menu is lightened and elegantly served; the unique, and amazing restaurants. We want to surround ourselves with peers who are of Caesar salad is vegan. No detail is spared, from soaring ceilings and retro prints to the same philosophy.” translucent silver plates with textured patterns. He says that they felt at home, welcomed “both professionally but also personally.” “We want people to eat with their eyes,” Berry concludes. “Everything is important: To further connect them with the LGBTQ community, the pair ensured that they were the lighting, music, tableware, even the restrooms. If everything looks good and feels prepared for Pride month, setting up drink and food specials at their restaurants, with good, then everything tastes better, too.” proceeds going to LGBTQ organizations. 4 0 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • JULY 02, 202 1

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D.C. is sweltering in a heat wave, putting a strain on air conditioners.


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When the A/C dies in the middle of a heat wave Sweating it out while coping with unresponsive repair companies By VALERIE M. BLAKE

When I sat down last Saturday to write this article, I had an entirely different topic in mind. I had planned to write something that connected houses and the Fourth of July, since buying my first house was my own Independence Day, when I no longer had to rely on others for a place to stay and could exercise my decorating skills unfettered by a landlord. I was happily reminiscing when my air conditioning compressor let out its last breath and the fan slowed, then stopped, just like in the movie “Total Recall” (the original one, with Arnold). Now, this isn’t the first time the unit has malfunctioned. For the past two summers, it’s been teasing me by allowing the thermostat to ignore my settings and letting the temperature in the house rise until several hours later, when the compressor will kick back on again. Not this time. It was still early enough in the afternoon that I tried to reach my home warranty company. I went on their website where, despite everywhere I looked, there was no direct way to make a claim. The instructions were to call them or request service through their cell phone app. I downloaded the app, only to find that I couldn’t log in because they had no record of me in the system. (I’ve been in their system for more than three years.) At that point, I gave up on technology and placed a call to the service number, where a nice lady took down my information and noted the problem. She asked if I would prefer an appointment on Saturday (the same day), the following Monday, or the Tuesday thereafter. I replied that I would be available any of those days. She then said I would receive an email with the appointment day and time. Saturday wore on until it was evident that nobody was going to provide same-day service or send a scheduling email. As usual, their contractors didn’t work on Sundays, but I had expected that, so over the weekend, I turned on my ceiling fans, began cutting the sleeves out of old T-shirts to make tank tops, and froze every gel pack I 4 4 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • JULY 02, 202 1 • B US I NE S S

could find. On Monday morning, I received an email confirming an appointment for Tuesday from 2-12. Yes, you read that right, 2-12. I emailed back, “I think something is wrong here. Shouldn’t this be 12-2? Or perhaps you meant 2 am to 12 noon or 2 pm to midnight?” Shortly thereafter, I received a reschedule notice indicating the appointment time was now 12-4 p.m. As with many D.C. homes, my air conditioning unit is installed in the attic, with the compressor located outdoors adjacent to the house. My attic access hatch is 18x20 inches and is accessible only through an 18-inch door in the hall closet. The closet shelves, when empty, resemble a staircase with steps of varying depths that lead to the hatch. On Tuesday, I prepared for the appointment by removing everything from the hall closet. I piled sheets, towels, pillows, toiletries, and a laundry basket onto my bed, then I spent the afternoon in the backyard with the dogs, spraying them from the hose and dousing myself like a wet T-shirt contest. It was 89 degrees in the house and only 82 degrees outside. By 3 p.m., I began to suspect the repair person was not coming. Gingerly, I picked up the phone and dialed the warranty company. After a minute or two of listing to the sincere recording tell me that my call was very important to them, a woman came on the phone and asked how she could help me. I told her my address and asked if she could find out where my house was on the roster of repairs for the day. She offered to call the dispatcher, promised to call me back if we got disconnected, and put me on hold. She never returned. Twenty-two minutes later, I gave up and ended the call, only to find another reschedule notice in my email, this time for two days later, Thursday, July 1, between 8-10 a. m. I went back outside and sprayed myself (and the dogs) with cold water again, which I expect I’ll be doing for several more days. Does anyone have a Slip N Slide I can borrow?

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