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‘Reel’ debt delays festival

Acclaimed LGBT film event moved to April due to money woes

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Larry Guillemette of One In Ten, the non-profit group that organizes Reel Affirmations, said fundraising challenges forced the event to be rescheduled to April 2011. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An inability to raise the money needed to hold D.C.’s annual LGBT film festival this October has spurred a decision to reschedule Reel Affirmations for spring 2011, according to organizers and sources familiar with the event.

The money problems also prompted organizers to reassess the time of year the event should be held, leading to a permanent rescheduling of the highly acclaimed event for late April and early May in succeeding years.

Larry Guillemette, marketing and sponsorship manager for One In Ten, the non-profit group that has organized Reel Affirmations each October for the past 19 years, acknowledged that a debt exceeding $40,000 from last year’s festival and a diminishing number of corporate sponsors and donors made it difficult to pull together the festival this year.

It had been scheduled to take place Oct. 14-23 in a number of prominent city theaters, including the Harmon Center for the Arts, the Goethe Institute and the E Street Cinema downtown, the Jewish Community Center near Dupont Circle and the AFI Theater in Silver Spring.

“As with a lot of non-profit organizations in our nation’s capital, gay or straight, we are faced with the same [monetary] challenges,” Guillemette said.

“What we found ourselves doing this year was going to various different organizations that we were hoping might sponsor us. And the economy being what it is, that kind of ability to support us wasn’t there,” he said.

Guillemete said One In Ten will screen three LGBT films this fall, including an award-winning film the group planned to announce soon. Beginning in November, One In Ten will resume a practice it previously discontinued: a monthly showing of an LGBT film in Washington at different theaters.

The group’s ability to hold the full festival in October was further hampered by last year’s resignation of Margaret Murray, who had served as One In Ten’s executive director since 2006, Guillemette said. He noted that it was Murray’s job to work on corporate and organizational sponsorships and other fundraising efforts for the 2010 festival beginning in the latter months of 2009.

“What that did for us on some levels is put us in a tiny bit of a period of flux and transition that we weren’t necessarily prepared for because that was the time of year that most festivals are putting together their proposals for funding for the following year,” he said.

Meanwhile, the group’s debt and general shortage of funds prevented the hiring of someone to replace Murray, who left to take a new job, he said.

At the time of Murray’s departure in November, Guillemette said, One In Ten had become nearly an all-volunteer organization, returning to its “roots” before its first executive director was hired in 2000.

Joe Bilancio, One In Ten’s programs manager and the person in charge of obtaining the films, is being compensated as a consultant, Guillemette said. Guillemette is serving as a volunteer and called his work on the festival “a labor of love.”

According to Guillemette, the funding problems were just one of several issues that prompted the One In Ten board to move the annual festival to the spring. He said other factors included competing LGBT events in October, such as the Human Rights Campaign’s annual national dinner and the Miss Adams Morgan drag pageant, a large event that attracts participants who might otherwise attend the film festival.

Guillemette said the problems associated with holding the festival this October led to long discussions on something the event’s organizers have contemplated for a number of years: the advantages of holding a film festival in the early months of the year.

Among other things, top-quality LGBT-related films made by independent filmmakers are usually released in the early part of the year and shown at other film festivals in the winter and spring, said Guillemette and Bilancio. The two noted that by the time One In Ten’s Reel Affirmations festival is held in the fall, some of the patrons of Reel Affirmations have already seen these films at other festivals.

In recent years, a number of films shown at Reel Affirmations and other LGBT film festivals also have been shown first on gay cable television networks, with others sometimes available through Netflix, said Guillemette and Bilancio.

“It’s significantly different than what it was when we started the festival in the early 1990s, when access to independent gay film was not that easy,” Guillemette said. “And we could count on a sold-out festival because there weren’t options like Neflix and Logo and Here TV and other things.”

Although moving the festival to the spring won’t counter the competing venues for gay film, Bilancio said holding Reel Affirmation in the early part of the year will at least ensure that it’s the first opportunity for most D.C. festival goers to see the films.

One source familiar with last year’s Reel Affirmations festival, who spoke with the Blade on condition of anonymity, said the One In Ten debt stemmed from a drop in revenue compared to previous festivals. Ticket sales were down as was advertising in the festival’s lengthy program booklet, the source said.

Instead of generating seed money for the 2010 festival, which was slated to celebrate Reel Affirmations’ 20th anniversary, the revenue shortfall resulted in debts to various vendors, including the graphic artist who helped produce the program booklet. At least $20,000 to $25,000 was needed to produce the booklet for this year, a sum the group apparently did not have, the source said.

Organizers were hopeful that a special town hall meeting that One In Ten held in April at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters would persuade people to make the donations that were needed to keep the event on track for October. But less than $5,000 was raised as a result of the town meeting, the source said, an amount far less than was needed to stage the festival in October.

Guillemette, who was not among the festival organizers last year, said still other factors were at play, including foul weather during several evenings of the October 2009 festival. He also noted that an earlier decision to discontinue the festival’s VIP membership program, which provided special benefits to large donors, made the festival more reliant on single ticket sales, which were down in 2009.

He said the board this year reinstated the VIP membership program and is taking other steps to better promote the spring festival.

“We’re not burying our head in the sand. We fully acknowledge there were things that needed to be changed in the way we did things,” he said. “And I think we brought back the right team to make those changes.”

Lisa King, One In Ten’s board president, declined to comment, deferring to Guillemette as the organization’s spokesperson. Murray could not be immediately reached for comment.

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District of Columbia

D.C.’s Capital Pride to resume ‘large-scale’ outdoor events

Organizers say one of the largest ever parades and festivals set for June

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Happy days are here again? Scenes like this from 2019 could be back in 2022. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, has announced on its website that it plans to resume the city’s Pride Parade and Festival in June 2022 that traditionally has attracted tens of thousands of participants after canceling the two events in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic.

“The Capital Pride Alliance is excited to announce the highly anticipated return of our annual large-scale outdoor Pride Celebration in June 2022!” the group says on its website. “Registration for the Capital Pride Parade on June 11, 2022, and the Capital Pride Festival on June 12, 2022, will be open soon,” the website message says.

Ryan Bos, the Capital Pride Alliance executive director, told the Washington Blade the group met with D.C. government officials on Monday to coordinate plans for the upcoming outdoor events in June. He said an updated announcement with more details of the events would be released later this week or early next week.

The Capital Pride website message focuses on the parade and festival.

“Join the LGBTQ+ community for the return of the historic Capital Pride Parade,” the website message says. “In 2022, a modified route will honor our history and acknowledge the evolution of the LGBTQ+ neighborhoods in Washington, DC, while respecting the origins and importance of taking to the streets in our fight for equality,” it says.

“Be prepared to experience one of the largest Pride Parades to ever take place in the United States Capital,” the message adds.

The message says the Pride Festival will resume at its traditional location on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. near the U.S. Capitol that it refers to as America’s Mainstreet.

“Enjoy a full day of entertainment on three stages, food, drink and advocacy with over 300 exhibitors,” the website message says. “The Festival is the largest annual event in the national capital region,” the message continues, adding that the Capital Pride Concert will also return this year at its usual locations at the site of the festival.

“You will experience entertainment on three stages, from international headliners to our best local regional LGBTQ+ talent,” according to the Capital Pride website message. It says concert performances will take place from 12-10 p.m. And a “Capitol” Sunset Dance Party will take place at the festival site from 8-10 p.m.

“The concert may end but the dancing will continue,” the message says. “Enjoy the electronica sounds of an international DJ sensation while you dance in the middle of America’s Main Street on Pennsylvania Avenue, with the sun setting on the U.S. Capitol.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city’s public health officials ended the city’s COVID-related restrictions on the number of people allowed to attend outdoor events as well as indoor entertainment events last May as the number of COVID infections began to decline.

But as the number of Omicron variant cases of the COVID virus increased dramatically in the fall of 2021, the mayor resumed the requirement of the use of face masks in all indoor public places.

Also put in place earlier this month by the city was a requirement that restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other entertainment establishments require customers to show proof of vaccination as a condition for admission to the establishments. Bowser, however, has said the city was not considering resuming restrictions on the number of people allowed in establishments such as restaurants and bars or outdoor stadiums.

Capital Pride Alliance has not said whether it will put in place a vaccination requirement for admission to the Pride festival and parade as well as some of its planned indoor events. With the number of Omicron related COVID cases beginning to drop in the past two weeks in D.C. and the surrounding suburbs, the prospect of a resumption in restrictions on the number of people allowed to assemble at outdoor events like the Pride Parade and Festival appears to be less likely.

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Virginia

Man who killed one in 2000 Roanoke gay bar shooting dies in prison

One of the worst bias attacks targeting LGBTQ community

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Ronald Edward Gay died while serving life sentences for attacking a Virginia gay bar. (Washington Blade clipping from Sept. 29, 2000)

A man sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison for the September 2000 shooting at a gay bar in Roanoke, Va., in which one man lost his life and six others were wounded, died of natural causes on Jan. 15, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections told WSLA 10 TV News that Ronald Edward Gay died while being treated at a hospital near the Deerfield Correctional Center, a state prison where he had been living as an inmate. He was 75. 

Witnesses and law enforcement officials reported at the time of the shooting that a middle-aged man later identified as Gay arrived alone at Roanoke’s Backstreet Café, a popular gay bar, on the night of Sept. 22, 2000.

According to an account by an eyewitness to the incident who spoke last week with the Roanoke Times newspaper, after ordering a beer and standing next to the bar for a short time, Gay reached into the long trench coat he was wearing, pulled out a 9mm pistol, and fired a round “straight into the chest of 43-year-old Danny Overstreet, before opening fire on the rest of the bar.”

Overstreet, a beloved regular patron at the Backstreet Café, died at the scene of the shooting. Six others, who were wounded by bullets fired by Gay, later recovered, but they and many others who were present and witnessed the shooting were left emotionally scarred, the Roanoke Times reported.

In the weeks following the shooting, news media outlets, including the Washington Blade and the Washington Post, reported findings of an investigation by local police that Gay told police he went to Backstreet specifically to target gay people because he became bitter after years of being taunted and teased for his last name of “Gay.”

The Roanoke Times reported that, among other things, Gay told police “God told him to do it” and that he once wrote that there was an evil inside of him telling him “to shoot or have no rest.”

Gay later pleaded guilty to multiple charges against him, including murder. On July 23, 2001, he was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences in prison for the shooting incident and the murder of Overstreet.

The Backstreet incident in Roanoke was considered by LGBTQ rights advocates and others to be one of the worst incidents in which LGBTQ people were targeted for a shooting until the June 2016 shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in which 49 people died and 53 more were wounded in a mass shooting by 29-year-old Omar Mateen.

Mateen, who was shot and killed by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff, told police in a phone call from inside the nightclub after the shooting began that he swore allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and his attack against the gay nightclub was motivated by the U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Syria. The FBI later classified the incident as a terrorist attack.

The Roanoke Times reported that the shooting incident at Backstreet Café prompted LGBTQ residents and allies to gather in the days and weeks after the incident for vigils and marches. About 1,000 people walked through the streets of downtown Roanoke to honor the life of Overstreet and to urge Congress to pass federal hate crimes legislation, the newspaper reported.

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Local

Va. senator introduces anti-transgender student athlete bill

Democrats have vowed to thwart anti-LGBTQ measures in state Senate

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on Friday, would require “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.'”

“Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; however, this provision does not apply to physical education classes at schools,” adds the bill. “The bill provides civil penalties for students and schools that suffer harm as a result of a violation of the bill. Such civil actions are required to be initiated within two years after the harm occurred.”

Kiggans introduced her bill less than a week after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office.

Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, has been named the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the state House of Delegates. Democrats still control the state Senate, and they have pledged to thwart any anti-LGBTQ bills.

“Let’s be clear: This is part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to exclude trans people from enjoying the benefits of sports like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Friday after Kiggans introduced SB 766. “We won’t tolerate this.”

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