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Record turnout for Pride

‘Wonderfully diverse’ crowd defies heat, humidity



Capital Pride’s parade June 12 featured 175 contingents — the most ever for the event. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A record-breaking 175 contingents in last weekend’s Capital Pride parade and about 250,000 people at the street festival the next day showed the world how “wonderfully diverse we are as a community,” according to the event’s lead organizer.

Dyana Mason, executive director of Capital Pride Alliance, the non-profit group that organized Washington’s 35th annual LGBT Pride events, called the festivities a “great success.”

“It was wonderfully diverse and had a true cross section of our community,” she said. “It was just wonderful to see everybody from Results Gym to Rainbow Families D.C. to faith communities to the leather contingent. Everybody was there and just being themselves.”

As in past years, the parade’s lead contingent was the lesbian motorcycle group Dykes on Bikes. And a short distance behind them, a contingent of the city’s elected officials joined the parade.

Among them were Mayor Adrian Fenty and his chief rival in the September Democratic primary, City Council Chairman Vincent Gray.

Others included D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and gay D.C. Council members David Catania (I-At Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who also are up for re-election this year.

They were joined by Council members Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), Kwame Brown (D-At Large), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6).

Also marching in the parade was former D.C. Parks & Recreation director and gay City Council candidate Clark Ray, who is challenging Mendelson in the September primary.

The politicians, including Fenty and Gray, appeared to be well received as they passed large crowds along a parade route that stretched from 24th and P streets, N.W., around Dupont Circle to the gay enclave along 17th Street.

From there, the parade turned east on P Street, where it passed the official reviewing stand in front of the Whole Foods supermarket near 15th and P streets before ending on 14th Street at Thomas Circle.

The politicians — all of whom are strong supporters of LGBT civil rights — were quickly followed by colorful floats carrying performing drag queens, shirtless male swim team members, gym enthusiasts riding exercise machines, and country western dancers performing the two-step.

Capital Pride officials identified certain contingents as winners of Capital Pride’s annual parade awards: Ziegfeld’s/Secrets nightclub took the Cher Award for Best Theme/Energy; Results Gym captured the Tina Turner Award for Best Float; D.C.’s Different Drummers won the Nancy Sinatra Award for Best Marching Contingent; G Worldwide Resorts earned the Dame Edna Award for Best Visiting Contingent; and Fuego gay bar received the Liberace Award for Most Outrageous.

Also receiving loud applause and cheers along the parade route were the contingents and cars carrying this year’s Capital Pride heroes and super heroes, who were selected for their longtime support for LGBT-related causes.

Among them was Deacon Maccubbin, the former owner of Lambda Rising bookstore who is credited with initiating and organizing the city’s first annual LGBT Pride celebration in 1975.

For many activists, the parade’s route along 17th Street between R and Q streets, N.W., had a special significance this year. On June 10, three days before the parade kick-off, Fenty led a ceremony naming the section of 17th Street between R and Q streets Frank Kameny Way after the nationally recognized D.C. gay civil rights leader.

The ceremony included the unveiling of a newly installed street sign bearing the name Frank Kameny Way, which was visible to parade goers. The street-naming came about through an executive order issued by Fenty.

Kameny, who is credited with founding the city’s gay civil rights movement in the late 1950s, spoke at the ceremony, saying that he could never have predicted the advances in LGBT rights since he was fired in 1957 from his job as a civilian astronomer with the Army Map service because of his sexual orientation.

Joining Fenty in the street naming ceremony was Jack Evans, the Ward 2 Council member whose district includes the newly designated Kameny Way, and gay ANC Commissioner Mike Silverstein, who was among the Dupont Circle ANC commissioners that formally requested the street’s designation.

Also speaking at the ceremony was John Berry, the gay director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Berry noted that OPM’s predecessor agency, the U.S. Civil Service Commission, was the agency that fired Kameny more than 50 years ago for being gay.

“Frank is the perfect storm,” Berry said. “The wall of resistance that he encountered when he challenged his dismissal back in 1957 would have been insurmountable to most people. With no more support than his own brilliant mind and his own powerful lungs, he faced down the United States government.”

Berry noted that over the ensuing decades, Kameny played a key role in guiding the LGBT civil rights movement through battles that ended the government’s ban on civilian gay employees, ended the psychiatric and psychological professions’ classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder, and lifted the government’s ban on issuing security clearances to gay federal employees and contract workers.

“Frank, for every one of us who walk this street, and I walk it daily, your name up here is going to remind us of the power of one person, the power of persistence,” Berry said. “You have changed the world for the better.”

But on the day of the parade, Fenty and other parade goers passing along 17th Street were greeted by another type of sign: professionally printed poster-sized placards bearing the message “Fenty is M.I.A.”

Gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson, who is backing Gray in the mayor’s race, said he and others had the signs made and attached them to light poles along the parade route on 17th Street and along the section of P Street where the parade reviewing stand was located.

Hudson said the placards were intended to deliver a message to parade participants that Fenty has been “missing in action” on a number of LGBT-related issues by not speaking out or meeting with members of the community to address those issues. Anti-LGBT hate crimes, LGBT youth matters and the HIV/AIDS fight were among the issues cited by the signs as issues to which Fenty is not devoting enough attention.

Fenty backers dispute those assertions, though, saying the mayor has extensively addressed those issues during his more than three years in office.

The signs Hudson placed on the light poles list a website for obtaining more information on the subject, but it wasn’t operational earlier this week. Hudson said he planned to activate the site soon.

Capital Pride Alliance President Michael Lutz said the June 13 Capital Pride street festival, held along Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., between Third and Seventh streets, also appeared to have attracted an unprecedented number of groups, businesses and vendors. Literature released by Capital Pride shows nearly 250 booths lining Pennsylvania Avenue and several side streets.

Among the businesses setting up booths were SunTrust Bank, the Spy Museum, Verizon Wireless, America Online, the New York Times, and the Washington Nationals Baseball Club. Dozens of local and national LGBT organizations also had booths, with many promoting their latest programs and projects.

The intense heat and humidity throughout the day of the street festival was interrupted briefly as rain showers fell for less than five minutes.

Mason credited drag performer Destiny B. Childs with keeping the entertainment going and the crowd pleased from the festival’s main stage during the rain. With the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop looming above the stage, Childs, whose legal name is Richard Legg, staged a show “that was really something to see,” Mason said.

Country western singer Chely Wright, the festival’s headliner performer, closed the program on the main stage to cheering fans. Wright, who came out as lesbian earlier this year in People magazine, recently completed a new album and is promoting an autobiography.


District of Columbia

AIDS Healthcare Foundation celebrates opening of new D.C. healthcare center

Ribbon-cutting marks launch of state-of-the-art facility on Capitol Hill



AHF’s new healthcare center is located at 650 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the world’s largest HIV/AIDS healthcare organization with its headquarters in Los Angeles, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 27 to mark the official opening of its Capitol Hill Healthcare Center.

The new center, which AHF describes as a state-of-the-art facility for the holistic care and treatment of people with HIV as well as a site for HIV prevention and primary care services, is located at 650 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E.  a half block away from the Eastern Market Metro station.

A statement released by AHF says the Capitol Hill Healthcare Center will continue AHF’s ongoing delivery of “cutting-edge medical care and services to patients regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.” The statement adds, “The site also features a full-service AHF Pharmacy and will host Wellness Center services on Saturdays to offer STI testing and treatment.”

The statement was referring to the testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. The D.C. Department of Health has said the highest number of STIs in the city have been reported for men who have sex with men.

Mike McVicker, AHF’s Regional Director for its D.C., Maryland, and Virginia facilities, said the Capitol Hill center began taking patients in October of 2021 as AHF transferred its operations from its facility on Benning Road, N.E. about two miles from the Capitol Hill site. McVicker said the Benning Road site has now been closed.

AHF’s second D.C. medical center is located downtown at 2141 K St., N.W. AHF operates three other extended D.C.-area health care centers in Falls Church, Va., Temple Hills, Md. and Baltimore.

“Our Capitol Hill Healthcare Center has no waiting room, so patients immediately are escorted to treatment rooms and serviced from a centrally located provider workstation,” McVicker said. “The goal is to maximize efficiency using this patient-centered model to improve health outcomes and increase retention in care.”

McVicker told the Blade the AHF Capitol Hill center is currently serving 585 patients and has a staff of 10, including Dr. Conor Grey, who serves as medical director. He said a separate team of five staffers operates the Saturday walk-in center that provides STI services as well as services related to the HIV prevention medication known as PrEP.

“I’m very excited to be a part of this team,” Dr. Grey said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was held in a courtyard outside the Capitol Hill office building where the AHF center is located. About 50 people, including D.C. government officials, attended the event.

“This is a beautiful thing to celebrate,” Grey said. “So, I’m very happy to enjoy the day with all of you, and looking forward to a bright, productive future working together and fighting a common enemy that has unfortunately been with us.”

Others who spoke at the event included Tom Myers, AHF’s Chief of Public Affairs and General Counsel; Toni Flemming, Supervisory Public Health Analyst and Field Operations Manager for the D.C. Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Administration (HAHSTA), and Dr. Christie Olejeme, Public Health Analyst for HAHSTA’s Care and Treatment Division.

Also speaking at the event was Japer Bowles, director of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

Bowles called the AHF Capitol Hill center “another pivotal resource” for the LGBTQ community as well as for the city.

“We know, as has been previously stated, a low-barrier HIV prevention support is pivotal to the mayor’s mission of eliminating HIV infections in the District of Columbia and the region,” Bowles told the gathering.

“So, I’m very excited to see more services specifically provided to those in the Southeast and Northeast quadrants of our District,” he said, referring to the AHF Capitol Hill center. “This is a great moment for our community, but also for D.C. as a whole.”

In its statement released this week announcing the official opening of the Capitol Hill Center AHF notes that currently, 11,904 D.C. residents, or 1.8 percent of the population, are living with HIV. It points out that HIV disproportionately impacts Black residents, who make up about 44 percent of the population but comprise nearly three-quarters of the city’s HIV cases.

AHF official Myers said the Capitol Hill center will join its other D.C.-area facilities in addressing the issue of racial disparities related to HIV.

“Our treatment model helps eliminate barriers for those already in care, those who may not know their HIV status, and those living with HIV who may not currently be in care,” he said.

AHF says in its statement that it currently operates more than 900 healthcare centers around the world in 45 countries including 17 U.S. states. It has more than 1.7 million people in care, according to the statement. Founded in 1987, the organization has also taken on the role of public advocacy for federal and local government programs in the U.S. to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, including efforts to lower the costs of HIV drugs.

During its work in the late 1980s and early 1990s AHF emerged as a strong advocate for addressing the special needs of gay and bisexual men who were hit hardest by HIV/AIDS at the start of the epidemic.

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District of Columbia

Georgetown University hosts panel on transgender, nonbinary issues

Lawmakers from Mont., Okla. among panelists



Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner speaks at Georgetown University on Sept. 26, 2023. (Photo by Sydney Carroll)

A panel on transgender and nonbinary issues took place at Georgetown University on Tuesday.

The panel included Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr and her fiancée, journalist Erin Reed, who are both trans, and nonbinary Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner. Charlotte Clymer was also on the panel that Amanda Phillips, a nonbinary Georgetown professor, moderated. 

The panel began with a discussion about anti-trans laws that have been enacted across the country.

Reed said the Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Principles Project developed a strategy in response to North Carolina’s now repealed law that banned trans people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity. 

They focused on states that are more “business-friendly and therefore harder to boycott, and started with sports. Reed said bans on gender-segregated sports put an “asterisk on [trans] identity” that made further attacks possible.

Clymer spoke on attitudes towards trans policies. 

She referenced a survey that asked Americans if they supported nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals. Around 75 percent of respondents, including almost half of Republicans, said yes. Clymer said the next question that asked if such protections exist concerns her.

Roughly half of respondents said yes. 

While there are two U.S. Supreme Court rulings — Obergefell and Bostock — that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples and employment protections to LGBTQ people respectively, Clymer noted there are no federal protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Turner and Zephyr spoke about being censured for defending trans rights. 

Oklahoma lawmakers in March censured Turner after they refused to turn into the authorities a trans person who had allegedly assaulted a state trooper. 

Turner said in Oklahoma, where there is no public debate, and politicians are openly anti-trans, residents are fighting against an “apathetic” and “heinous” legislature. On the topic of activism, they said being a “truth teller,” and saying “absolutely not” is “what got [them] censured.”

Zephyr’s censure was in April after she criticized a bill to restrict gender-affirming health care in Montana. The protests that followed stemmed from trans issues, but Zepher said they were about much more. 

“The protests […] were about recognizing that when you silence a legislator, you take away representation from their constituents,” she said. “That fight became a larger fight about democracy.” 

From left: Erin Reed and her fiancée, Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, speak at Georgetown University on Sept. 26, 2023. (Photo by Sydney Carroll)

The panelists talked about mental health and addressing it.

Turner said that being the representation they needed keeps them going. 

“I didn’t think I was going to make it through middle school,” they said. “Representation matters for so many people […] if you can aid in being that representation, being that force that helps somebody else keep going, that is one of the most powerful experiences.” 

The panel agreed that finding community is important to mental health. 

“Sometimes our best activism is finding our community,” Reed said. 

The panel also spoke about queer joy and strength. 

“Queer joy is the thing they can’t take away,” Zephyr said. 

Reed talked about photos of activists who were organizing before the Stonewall riots in 1969; they were smiling and enjoying their community. 

“The queer story is a story of not just surviving in the margins but thriving in the margins,” Reed said.

Turner added “trans lives aren’t just lives worth fighting for, they are lives worth living.”

A self-described “journalist” who didn’t identify himself or his outlet asked the panel, “What is a woman?” Clymer turned the question back to him, and he said it “comes down to genetics.”

Clymer began to explain that chromosomes don’t always define sex. The audience member began to argue and ignored an event organizer who was asking him to leave. Security promptly escorted him out. 

Reed continued Clymer’s point that even biological sex is difficult to define. 

“Last year, 15 different state legislators tried to define sex, did you know that none of them managed to do so in a way that was scientifically correct?”

The panelists also offered advice to allies. 

Clymer said treading about trans issues and being informed about them is a great start. 

“You’ve got to step up,” she said.

Turner said allyship goes beyond relationships, and into the realm of being uncomfortable. 

“Allyship is synonymous with action and moving forward,” they said.

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Rehoboth Beach

Rehoboth Beach theater announces new managing director

Clear Space hires Joe Gfaller after national search



Joe Gfaller starts his new role in November.

Rehoboth Beach’s Clear Space Theatre Company announced Tuesday that its board of directors has unanimously selected Joe Gfaller to join the company as managing director after a national search. 

Gfaller, who currently serves as managing director for Metro Theater Company in St. Louis, will join Artistic Director David Button as co-leader at CSTC, which marks its 20th anniversary in 2024.

“I am thrilled at the opportunity to help Clear Space Theatre Company grow its civic and philanthropic footprint as it begins a third decade of serving the community in coastal Delaware,” Gfaller said.

“Rehoboth is a special place to all who call it home, both year-round and seasonally. It is an extraordinary honor to work with such a creative and dynamic team as the CSTC staff and board to help the company grow to represent and reflect the fullness of this community.”

At Metro Theater Company, which is St. Louis’s primary professional theater for youth and families, Gfaller guided campaigns that helped grow the company’s revenues by 40% over four years, according to a release from Clear Space.

“Joe brings a wide range of theater experiences to the position and is sure to make an immediate impact on the company,” said Clear Space Board chair Laura Lee Mason. “His impressive track record and visionary leadership will undoubtedly elevate Clear Space to new heights. Joe shares our dedication to providing the community with outstanding education and theatrical experiences, and we look forward to collaborating with him to achieve those artistic aspirations.”

CSTC Artistic Director David Button added, “I look forward to Clear Space Theatre Company’s growth alongside Joe Gfaller. Not only will Clear Space benefit from his talent, but so will the community and state arts industry as a whole.”

Gfaller will begin full time in Rehoboth Beach in mid-November. During an October visit for the opening of “Young Frankenstein” at CSTC on Oct. 13, there will be opportunities for the public to meet him during the CAMP Rehoboth Street Festival on Oct. 15. He will be joined by his husband Kraig and their two dogs, Sprout and Emmit.

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