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Heroic distinction ‘very humbling’

Capital Pride honors locals working to help others

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The Capital Pride heroes are honored in advance of this year's festival. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

This year’s Capital Pride Heroes include four individuals and two organizations. Meet the heroes below.

MARTA ALVARADO

Latina and LGBT rights advocate Marta Alvarado leads the annual “Creating Change” conference, an important contribution to advancing the cause of LGBT rights.

Alvarado, whose National Gay and Lesbian Task Force job title of program coordinator for movement building barely hints at the array of skills she brings to getting all those cantankerous ducks in a row for five days of intensive movement-building, which she calls “the largest gathering of LGBT people and their allies.” It’s an exercise requiring equal parts precision and empathy.

Next year’s “Creating Change” conference — February 2-6 in Minneapolis — is expected to draw 2,000-3,000 people, she says. The year after that she will bring the conference to Baltimore.

For Alvarado, the Capital Pride Hero award is “a big honor … I had to take a step back, and receiving it takes me back to age 15 to my very first Pride event, and now it’s 15 years later, and I know the significance of Pride, and it’s very humbling.”

DESTINY B. CHILDS

How many ways are there to be dazzled by Destiny B. Childs?

Her list of titles as female impersonator and lady-illusionist are legendary, including her newest title of Miss Capital Pride 2010, the award she just won in a June 4 competition with seven other contestants at Town Danceboutique to kick off Capital Pride’s schedule. As such, she will preside over the parade on Saturday evening and the festival on Sunday.

Also known as Richard Legg, a 32-year-old government contracting specialist during the day, Destiny will be married on Aug. 28 in D.C. to her beloved, Rudy Benavides. With her theme song by Diana DeGarmo of “I Believe” and her special motto of “defy gravity,” Destiny has been doing drag for seven years in D.C.

Born in Albuquerque, Legg entered the Army and then completed his undergraduate education with a bachelor’s in health care management from Southern Illinois University in 2005. In D.C., he has been the featured entertainer at Freddie’s Beach Bar for six years and also a member of the Ladies of Illusion at Ziegfeld’s.

REV. ELDER DARLENE GARNER

Garner, the mother of four, grandmother of seven and great-grandmother of three, is a warrior of the spirit. She was born in Columbus, Ohio but after her divorce in 1973 she moved to D.C. to take a job as an administrative assistant at the World Bank.

Raised in the National Baptist Church, in 1976 she joined the still relatively new Metropolitan Community Church, where she is now an ordained minister and member of the MCC Board of Elders. She leads the MCC Conference for African-American Leaders and has also worked as executive director of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission on Sexual Minorities and previously as chaplain for an AIDS hospice and as board president for the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry. She also helped to found the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays.

On March 9, she and her partner of many years, Rev. Candy Holmes, were married along with two other couples in the first ceremony under D.C.’s new same-sex marriage law.

DC CLERGY UNITED FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY

This diverse group of more than 200 “affirming and welcoming” clergy, representing religious institutions in every ward of the District, pushed back with robust fortitude and biblical testimony against the dogmatic naysayers from the homophobic corners of religious life.

“We are the District of Columbia clergy and religious leaders of many faiths, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations,” they declared in a statement full of eloquent yet simple profundity: “We now join our voices again to speak a faithful word for freedom and equality.”

“We declare that our faith calls for us to affirm marriage equality for loving same-sex couples,” because “where love is present, God is also present,” and “it is holy and good.”

These clergy fought the “battle of Jericho” in D.C. and the walls came tumbling down.

DC FOR MARRIAGE

A program of the DC Center, this group of local residents became activists pushing politically every inch of the way to win votes on the D.C. Council in favor of this historic step. And the organization continues its important work today, for example in offering legal updates for D.C. residents on creating legal protections for “families of choice” brought together under the new marriage law. See more information on their ongoing work at www.dcformarriage.org.

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Virginia

Youngkin vetoes bill that would have expanded Va. bullying definition

Bisexual state Del. Joshua Cole introduced House Bill 536

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Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks at a CNN Town Hall on March 9, 2023. (Screen capture via CNN)

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Friday vetoed a bill that would have added sexual orientation, gender identity and expression to the state’s definition of bullying.

Lawmakers earlier this year approved House Bill 536, which bisexual state Del. Joshua Cole (D-Fredericksburg) introduced. 

“While I agree with the general purpose of the legislation, regrettably, the General Assembly did not approve my amendments,” said Youngkin in a statement. “Those recommendations would have expanded the definition of bullying to encompass all possible motives.”

“School administrators must work to prevent bullying and support our students’ mental health through a healthy learning environment, but the narrow definition provided in the legislation could be interpreted to exclude groups not included in the Virginia Human Rights Act, such as bullying victims raised with traditional values or those who are in foster care,” added the Republican.

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Rehoboth Beach

Selling Rehoboth: Lee Ann Wilkinson wins prestigious real estate award

Longtime agent on beach prices, her LGBTQ allyship, and more

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Lee Ann Wilkinson doesn’t see real estate prices coming down anytime soon at the beach. (Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

Longtime Delaware real estate leader Lee Ann Wilkinson of Berkshire Hathaway recently celebrated a major industry award after being named No. 1 in total sales volume for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Network. Wilkinson, a Blade contributor, centers much of her work in the coastal communities of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. We caught up with her to discuss her long career in real estate, her LGBTQ allyship, and more.

Washington Blade: I learned your parents were in real estate, and you began working with them early on in your career. Did you initially intend to follow in their footsteps? 

Lee Ann Wilkinson: Not really. I majored in art. When I got out of college I couldn’t really find a job. So, my parents said, “You need to come work for us.”

Blade: I understand that as an art history major turned writer. Speaking of that: I know you have written some pieces for the Blade, about real estate trends, and the like. How do you pick your topics for these articles? 

Wilkinson:  People always want to know about real estate. Whether buying a first home, second home, a home to invest or retire in. It amazes even me how much interest there is. And it’s not just people looking to buy a $7 million home on beachfront property. It’s people looking to get something in budget for their family.

Blade: I know you have a lot of work in Rehoboth, the Delaware Valley’s historically gay beachside community. Was there ever a time you were NOT selling property to – I guess it was fair to say 40 years ago – mostly gay men? 

Wilkinson: Ha, I grew up coming down for the summer until my family moved here full-time from Norristown, outside of Philly. We had businesses and family in Rehoboth. I think Rehoboth has always been gay-friendly. We never thought about it. My grandfather had a house in Rehoboth before I was born. The gay population was always welcome.

Blade: Do you have a connection to the LGBTQ community beyond real estate? 

Wilkinson: Absolutely. One of my closest friends is a guy I went to college with at the University of Delaware, Joey. You know, Joey was maybe my first gay friend. In fact, we all went to the Easter Sunrise Service on the beach in Rehoboth. We have gay family members, so I have never thought that much about it being anything different.

Blade: I know you recently won a prestigious award with Berkshire Hathaway and were surprised to come in first place. Why?

Wilkinson: For the past 20 years or so we have been in the top 10. We started doing these national things with Berkshire Hathaway. To get in the top 10 was amazing to me especially going up against states like Florida, New Jersey, not to mention San Francisco or Bay Area agents. I just never thought we’d get to the number one spot. My only issue is — where to go now?

Blade: Where do you make your primary residence? Is that Lewes? Do you see the president on occasion? 

Wilkinson: I haven’t seen him at the beach. But he’s on the bike trail a lot. He pops up having breakfast. He goes to Mass at St. Edmond’s in Rehoboth on Saturday evening. But I’m often too busy with work on weekends to catch sight of him.

Blade: Having been in the industry 40 years, how do you find ways to get excited about your work? 

Wilkinson: I really am passionate about it. I really love a challenge. That’s part of the appeal for this job. I always like matching people with things. I really liked getting people the right bathing suits years ago. Selling, it’s just something I’m good at. I would get customers walking outta’ the store with three or four bathing suits when they only wanted one. 

Blade: Are you considering retiring in the next few years? Or will you always be associated with the industry on some level. Maybe as a mentor or silent partner? 

Wilkinson: Oh, no, I’ll always be involved. Three of my four daughters work for me. I am not retiring anytime soon. And if I did, they would be here to continue it on, and I am sure I’d weigh in.

Blade: So, this is very much a family legacy?

Wilkinson: Yeah. My parents are 87 and 91 now. Some 20 years ago mom predicted we’d see an increase in prices, people moving here, etc. I don’t know how she predicted it but mom is right.

Blade: Any current trends you’re noticing? 

Wilkinson: This cycle of people moving here, and prices increasing, and all the building happening. People think the prices are going to come down, but I don’t see that happening.

Blade: Tell me about that. Are the new building ventures changing the faces of Rehoboth and Lewes? After not visiting the Jersey Shore for over a decade I’ve been going the past few summers to my cousin’s place in Cape May. It’s a trailer on a nicely maintained campground and it’s what she can afford. And, there’s so much building happening there.

Wilkinson: Right? It’s about finding a second home you can afford. And, in terms of building projects, the good thing about Rehoboth and Lewes is they are strict on what you can and can’t build downtown. They aren’t going to tear down homes to build multi-family condos, not yet anyway. In Spring Lake, you are seeing townhomes. So, building is happening and we have some condos, but it’s great to not see “overbuilding” happening in these historically smaller cities.

To learn more about Ms. Wilkinson, or property in Sussex County, DE be sure to look for articles she publishes in the Blade and visit the Lee Ann Wilkinson Group website.

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Local

Blum named director of new LGBTQ program at Carr Center

Program to expand research, training on safeguarding human rights

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Diego Garcia Blum

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: [email protected].

Congratulations to Diego Garcia Blum on his new position as director, Global LGBTQI+ Human Rights Program, at the Harvard, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. This new program will expand research and training on safeguarding the human rights of LGBTQI+ people worldwide. It will address the escalating crisis of violence and discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals globally. The vision is to establish the Carr Center as a key international nexus for LGBTQI+ human rights policy, training, ideas, and dialogue

 “The heart of this program is empowering and supporting the brave LGBTQI+ activists working in challenging and often perilous environments,” Garcia Blum said. “Through our training and high-impact research, we aim to supercharge their efforts.”

Prior to this, he has had a varied and impressive career. Recently he served as a Social Change Fellow at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. He worked with the Human Rights Campaign, serving on its Board of Governors. Prior to that, he worked as a nuclear engineer at Orano, a French company. It is described as a global leader in nuclear fuel cycle products and services, from mining to dismantling, conversion, enrichment, recycling, logistics and engineering. He has won many awards for his work and education. The Innovation CORE award at Orano; The Dean Joseph Weil Leadership Award, University of Florida; Most Outstanding Master in Public Policy Student – Ellen Raphael Award, Harvard Kennedy School. 

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