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D.C. police add 23 ‘affiliate’ officers to gay liaison unit



In a little-noticed development, a D.C. police official last week released the names of 23 officers assigned as “affiliate” members of the department’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit.

The affiliate officers, who are based in the department’s seven police districts, represent the culmination of Police Chief Cathy Lanier’s long-awaited plan to expand and decentralize the GLLU and three other special liaison units.

“The Metropolitan Police Department is pleased to announce the expansion of the Special Liaison Unit to better serve the needs of the community,” said Capt. Edward Delgado, supervisor of the SLU, which oversees the individual liaison units, in a Jan. 13 announcement.

In addition to the GLLU, the special liaison units include the Latino Liaison Unit, Asian Liaison Unit, and Deaf & Hard of Hearing Liaison Unit.

Delgado issued his announcement through an online listserve group created by the SLU to communicate with civic activists and members of citizen advisory councils linked to each of the seven police districts.

In his announcement, Delgado included a list of 50 affiliate officers and the individual liaison unit to which they are assigned. It shows that nearly half of the offers — 23 — are assigned to the GLLU. Sixteen affiliate officers are assigned to the Latino Liaison Unit and five each are assigned to the Asian and Deaf & Hard of Hearing liaison units.

Delgado told DC Agenda on Thursday that upon completing an SLU training course, officers were allowed to choose the specific liaison unit to which they would be assigned, and the GLLU was a popular choice.

“I was totally shocked that almost half of them wanted to be GLLU members,” he said. “I thought not that many would want to be dealing with some of the issues within the gay community. But the feedback that I’ve gotten from the officers has been all positive as it relates to working in the community. They’re on target and they have done an excellent job.”

Although his announcemt about the affiliate officers came Jan. 13, he said all of the affiliates started in their posts in the first and second week of December.

Delgado’s announcement did not discuss the status of the GLLU’s headquarters office in Dupont Circle, which has decreased from seven full-time officers three years ago to just one in November.

Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes told DC Agenda in an e-mail Wednesday that the department has designated four officers and three supervisors to the GLLU’s central or headquarters unit.

Groomes noted that it would be up to the individual GLLU members to disclose their own sexual orientation and the department would not say which members, if any, are gay.

Groomes said the headquarters unit consists of Officers Joe Morquecho, Juanita Foreman, Zunnobia Hakir and Kevin Johnson. She said Delgado, along with Sgt. Carlos Mejia, supervisor of the GLLU and the Latino Liaison Unit, and Lt. Allan Thomas are designated as GLLU supervisory members.

Lanier has told LGBT activists in the past that GLLU headquarters staff decreased due to attrition as officers sought new assignments or left the department. She told activists that a reduced police budget and urgent deployment needs in high-crime areas of the city prevented her from filling the vacant positions.

In recent years, Lanier said she was holding off filling the vacant posts while she arranged for the expanded and decentralized liaison units that went into effect last week.

Officials with Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence had complained that Lanier effectively “dismantled” the GLLU before she put in place the decentralized units with the affiliate officers. Chris Farris, co-chair of GLOV, could not be immediately reached for comment on the department’s latest expansion of the GLLU.

In announcing the 50 affiliate officers for the liaison units, Delgado also provided advice on how people should contact the units.

“In case of emergency, or for immediate police response, always call 911,” he said. “Once police are on the scene, you may request that an on-duty affiliate or liaison officer be contacted.”

He said that for other police-related services, such as requests for an affiliate or liaison officer to attend a meeting or for other non-emergency issues, the individual liaison offices can be contacted directly. The number for the GLLU is 202-727-5427.

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  1. Duane Snodgrass

    January 22, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    I think the overall idea behind decentalizing the liason units is good. You won’t have them only in the “gayborhood”. I agree that the new plan should have been in place before the old one was abandoned though.

  2. Peter Rosenstein

    January 25, 2010 at 10:47 am

    There is no one I know that doesn’t agree with the concept of expanding the Liaison Units across the District. I am pleased that so many officers have agreed to become affiliates of the BLBT and other Units.

    The issue still remains that they will need additional training and that they will need to have regular meetings with the GLBT community and the other communities they serve to discuss the issues facing the community and so they will understand what is happening in the community.

    The argument that many including myself had with this plan was that it was ill thought out and no real disucssion with the community was held before it was put into operation. There is an arrogance to doing things this way which generates distrust and skepticism. That is sad because it can usually be avoided by a little bit of trust- and that trust has to be a two way street- and it is generated by ongoing communication.

    I know I and many of the others in the GLBT community are hoping this will work and are willing to help make it work. But we are faced with increasing levels of hate crimes, and increasing violent crime in general across the City. No one knows why the murder rates have gone down and one murder is one too many- and murder rates have gone down across the nation- even though DC still has one of the highest murder rates per 100,000 population in the nation.

    But it is hate crimes and violent crime that still impacts so many people day to day and creates a feeling of fear in many neighborhoods.

    It will take the MPD working closely with the community to help bring those numbers down and make people feel safe on the street and in their neighborhoods.

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Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video



Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed



(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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Transgender Zimbabwean woman in Md. wins asylum case

Mattie Tux Horton lives in Rockville



Mattie Tux Horton, right, with her lawyer Ankush Dhupar in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Mattie Tux Horton/Facebook)

A transgender woman from Zimbabwe who lives in Rockville won her asylum case in late October after living in the U.S. for the past five years. 

Mattie Tux Horton was represented by Ankush Dhupar from the Los Angeles law firm Paul Hastings LLP.

“I feel at ease,” said Horton. “Although a lot is going on in the [United States], it’s [significantly] different compared to where I’m coming from.”

Horton said that she now considers the U.S. to be her home. 

Although she has been living in Maryland for a while now, receiving asylum stripped away the anxiety associated with returning to Zimbabwe had the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency denied her request. 

With protection from the U.S. government, Horton gets to live in a safe environment and without the vile treatment she encountered in Zimbabwe because of her transness.

In her hometown of Bulawayo, Horton faced constant public humiliation and was once fired from her job as a graphic artist because of her dress presentation, according to an interview she did with Medium. 

She was attacked by a violent group of men in 2014, and was outed later that year following a holiday trip to South Africa, according to the interview. 

This incident garnered media attention and The Sunday News, a Zimbabwean newspaper, published an article in which it misgendered Horton throughout the entire piece. 

This prompted Horton to apply for a U.S. visa so she could attend an LGBTQ leadership conference in D.C. and remove herself from the cacophony in her town.

The Sunday News later ran a story about Horton’s departure in which they misgendered her again and referred to her as a “transgender man” and “alleged gay.”

Horton arrived in D.C. in December 2016 and began her asylum process there. 

While visiting a friend in Los Angeles, she connected with the city’s Human Rights First chapter that referred her to Dhupar, who represented her pro bono. 

Dhupar is a labor and employment law attorney at Paul Hastings LLC and he volunteered to work on Horton’s case as part of his firm’s partnership with Human Rights First to do pro bono LGBTQ advocacy work.

Horton’s asylum was his first ever immigration case.

While the legal underpinnings of immigration were new to him, Dhupar did not struggle to situate his modus operandi because of how compelling Horton’s case was.

“I always referred to the facts of the case because the law is geared towards helping situations like [Horton’s] where someone fears for their life in their home country,” said Dhupar. 

Dhupar also added that Horton’s case was a prime example of why the asylum process exists.

Horton submitted a psychological evaluation in February 2021 that would expedite her asylum case and grant her an interview notice sooner than usual. 

At that point she had lived in the U.S. for more than four years, but she still had to wait a couple more months before she was called for an interview. This caused Horton to feel trepid about whether her case was strong enough. 

“I went through depression and had psychological breakdowns,” said Horton. “I have friends who were called in for an interview months after moving here and didn’t have to wait five years [like I did].”

This hurdle, however, gave Horton and Dhupar adequate time to build an indisputable case. The two built a personal relationship that kept them vigilant despite the abounding uncertainty. 

“She was a perfect advocate for herself and took the initiative to make sure the case did not fall on the backburner,” said Dhupar. 

Now that she has won her case, Horton is taking time to relish on her recent success. 

“I’m going to take a breather,” she said.

She also plans to secure full-time employment in 2022 and build a makeup brand. Horton currently works part time as a steering committee member — a role she says is fulfilling — at the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project- Transgender Law Center.

There, she links Black trans and gender nonconforming individuals to education, employment, legal and healthcare resources.

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