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Queery: Rev. Dwayne Johnson

The MCC-D.C. minister answers 20 gay questions

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(Blade photo by Michael Key)

Christmas means family time for lots of people but that will be especially true this year for Rev. Dwayne Johnson.

His parents are both ministers (his sister is, too) and they’ll be preaching throughout the holidays at Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, the mostly LGBT church where Johnson took over as senior pastor in January. Johnson’s father will preach on Christmas Eve, his mother the day after Christmas.

So how do conservative Church of the Nazarene ministers like his parents fit in at MCC, the liberal, gay-friendly denomination that preaches openness and tolerance?

“My parents have faced some criticism for their support,” Johnson says. “And I don’t know that theologically we’re in full agreement but for them, and I can’t really speak for them, but I think they made peace with the fact that there are things they just don’t understand. I took them to a gay bar with me in Houston a few years ago. They were in town and I had to go to a fundraiser so I just took them with me. They’re not really bar and club people, so it was a fun experience.”

Johnson, a Lubbock, Texas, native who’s lived in several cities in Missouri, California, Kansas, Indiana, Texas and more, says Christmas is a time to remember God’s gifts to humanities, one of which is being queer.

“It’s a gift, not a curse,” he says. “There are still some who would call it a curse, but it’s actually one of God’s greatest gifts because queer people bring a different perspective. It’s not a matter of being covered by grace and all that stuff. It’s not an issue of sin. It’s part of God’s divine plan.”

Johnson says his first year at MCC — he previously spent 13 years at a large MCC church in Houston — has gone “amazingly fast.” He’s officiated 35 weddings, a boom that surged when the District voted to allow same-sex marriage last December.

He says the church is understaffed so he’s working on increasing programming and reversing what has become declining attendance numbers in the last few years. It’s also a homecoming for him. He worked as a pastoral assistant at the church from 1989 to 1992 upon leaving his parents’ denomination thinking his ministry years were behind him.

Johnson is single. He lost a former partner several years ago to AIDS. He almost married a woman once and eventually officiated her marriage to someone else. They’re still friends. Johnson lives in D.C.’s Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood. He enjoys baseball and talking with friends about “non-church stuff” in his free time.

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I came out when I was 24. It was most difficult to tell my parents. They immediately affirmed their love for me. Mom and I were sitting in the front seat of my car in Overland Park, Kansas. We talked for hours and there were tissues everywhere.

Who’s your gay hero?

Rev. Troy Perry. He founded MCC before Stonewall and he is still going strong for human rights for all people.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?

Mr. Henry’s on Capitol Hill. I met friends there my first night in Washington, D.C. in July of 1989 and now that I’m back in Washington, it still feels like home.

Describe your dream gay wedding.

First I need to meet the dream guy. Then, the dream wedding would reflect our personalities as individuals and as a couple without trying to meet anyone else’s expectations.

What non-gay issue are you most passionate about?

There are no gay issues or straight issues — there are only human issues and we are all connected and it is about time we figure that out.

What historical outcome would you change?

The 1968 assassinations of King and Kennedy. I can only imagine the positive impact had they both lived long and full lives.

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

The release of the iPhone. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I must remember to control it to keep it from controlling me. Sometimes I long for moments when nothing beeps or vibrates.

On what do you insist?

Finding humor, grace and beauty on even the most difficult days.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

At 2 p.m. on Dec. 19: “MCCDC Toy Drive to bring joy to 300 children & youth affected or effected by HIV/AIDS. Thanks to all who helped bring joy to this corner of the world!” The post included a pic of some of the toys arranged around our altar in the MCCDC sanctuary.

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“SHATTERED ASSUMPTIONS: Surprised by God the Adventurous Lover”

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

I would marvel at the ingenuity of science then pray nobody would use it.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

The physical world is the small but glorious tip of an unfathomable and even more glorious iceberg.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

It is not just about “us” — and who are “we” anyway?

What would you walk across hot coals for?

With the right footwear I would walk across coals for a good cup of coffee.

What gay stereotype annoys you most?

Beyond stereotypes, clichés and assumptions there are real people with some incredible stories to tell if we just listen.

What’s your favorite gay movie?

“On a Clear Day you Can See Forever.” I’ll never forget the wallpaper in Daisy’s (Barbra Streisand) bedroom. I had a boyfriend break up with me over my fascination with this movie. His loss.

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Being “in style” whatever that means. And who gets to decide that anyway?

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

The “Best Uncle Award” from my four nieces Savannah, Riley, Reagan and Sawyer.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

Not to worry about what others think of me and to remember I can survive people being mad at me. People pleasing is self-destructive.

Why Washington?

I’ve found something to love everywhere I’ve lived. Washington feels like a convergence of all the places I’ve ever lived and all the people I’ve ever known. I’m grateful that 2010 brought me home to Washington.

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Real Estate

How much home can I afford with rising interest rates?

Put your best foot forward when making an offer

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In today’s hot market, there are often stories of bidding wars and multiple offers.

For many, purchasing a home is a significant, exciting expenditure. It’s one of the biggest financial decisions many people make, and it’s one that is worth considering carefully. Often, in a market as competitive and fast-moving as the current one, homebuyers find themselves looking at potential homes and realizing that a highly competitive offer may be necessary. There are often stories of bidding wars and multiple offers being made on available homes in a matter of days. 

While that may not be the case forever, what will remain true is that most homebuyers want to put their best foot forward when making an offer. Most buyers want to find a home they love, that they can bid on competitively, and that they can afford if they end up being the chosen buyer. This begs the question – what type of offer is reasonable to make given your financial circumstances? How much home can you afford? These are important questions to ask.

A closer look at the calculations

Determining how much you can comfortably spend on the mortgage for a new home while still meeting all of your other existing financial obligations is an important calculation to make ahead of time. After all, purchasing a home is a decision that can significantly impact your financial situation, so you want to be sure that you’re fully informed and that you feel confident in the choice you make. 

Often, the rule of thumb where mortgages are concerned is that you can “afford” a mortgage that is around 2 to 2.5 times your income. A mortgage payment is typically made up of four primary components – principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. It is important to consider each of these components when determining the total amount of the mortgage, and what percentage of your annual gross income will go toward that payment. Often called the front-end ratio, or mortgage-to-income ratio, you’ll want to consider that percentage and usually seek to secure a mortgage payment that does not exceed roughly 28 to 30% of your annual gross income. Considering the numbers is only a part of the picture, however.

Looking beyond the numbers

Making this decision is not always strictly a matter of numbers and calculations. It also involves carefully considering your priorities and preferences and truly making a decision that you feel will give you the freedom to live in a home that you love and enjoy, while also continuing to maintain the lifestyle that you love. Determining how much house you can afford will depend on a variety of factors, including:

Your loan amount and the term of years over which your mortgage will last;

Your income;

Your total monthly expenses;

Any taxes you might be required to pay, property or otherwise;

Current mortgage rates and estimated closing costs;

Any homeowners’ association fees;

Any other relevant factors that you determine should be considered in consultation with a trusted agent. 

After considering all of these factors, be certain to keep in mind that it’s also important to be realistic as you make your decision about what you can comfortably afford. Don’t underestimate your monthly expenses. It may not be helpful to tell yourself that you’ll cut back on leisure spending if you don’t think you really will, or to underestimate what you might need in an emergency fund for unexpected events. Doing so can often leave you in a difficult spot where debt can accumulate quickly. If anything, it’s best to overestimate your expenses so that you have some breathing room in your budget. 

We’re here for you

Wherever you are in the real estate process – if you’re searching for the perfect home to buy, considering whether now is the time to sell, or anywhere in between – at GayRealEstate.com, we’re here for you. We are passionate about connecting LGBTQ buyers and sellers across the country with talented, experienced, and LGBTQ-friendly real estate agents who know and love the communities in which they live and are ready to help you calculate just how much home you can afford, and connect you with a top LGBTQ+ mortgage lender for prequalification. Having the right agent can make all the difference to your real estate experience, and we want it to be the very best it can be. If we can help you, visit us at GayRealEstate.com today to get connected and get started. 

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526 or [email protected]

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Dining

Crazy Aunt Helen’s to host ‘Pride-a-palooza’

Barracks Row restaurant celebrating all month long

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Crazy Aunt Helen’s ‘serves American comfort food with a southern slant.’ (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Shane Mayson’s restaurant is as colorful as his language. His multi-hued American eatery Crazy Aunt Helen’s debuted last July on Barracks Row, just a few days after Pride concluded. But as Pride is 365, this restaurant has spent its first year with flair and fanfare, and this June, Mayson, who identifies as gay, isn’t holding back.

“I LOVE PRIDE MONTH,” Mayson wrote (caps are his). “I love everything we have at Crazy Aunt Helen’s for Pride. Check out our events and get blown away,” he says.

This isn’t Mayson’s first Pride – but it is his first as owner of Crazy Aunt Helen’s, a delightfully fabulous neighborhood restaurant in Barracks Row.  

Thus far in June, Mayson has already held comedy shows, book readings, a ladies’ tea dance, play readings, bingo, and a Story District event. Coming up on June 25, to end Pride month with even more color, is “Pride-a-palooza,” featuring a host of drag queens, food, drinks, prizes, and plenty of surprises that MayD.C. Mayor Muriel Bowserson has been waiting an entire year to showcase.

Crazy Aunt Helen’s “serves American comfort food with a southern slant,” explains Mayson. Taking over the space of Irish pub Finn McCool’s, Crazy Aunt Helen’s spreads over two floors, plus a patio and streatery. The interior is wildly bright: a Prince-esque purple host stand and staircase welcome guests, and a highlighter-green wooden banquette runs the length of the dining room. A set of wicker chairs and flower-print cushions recall that southern influence.

Mayson enlisted Pixie Windsor – the very same of eponymous Miss Pixie’s – to design the restaurant (the two have been friends for years). “Pixie has a way with creating fabulous comfortable spaces,” Mayson says. 

Windsor and Mayson partnered to craft the whimsical aesthetic, from the brilliant paint job to a bright-pink neon sign.

Mayson is quick to note that his Aunt Helen “was charming, warm, and funny, with an amazing laugh, and I wanted my restaurant to have that same feeling,” he says. “I wanted our guests to feel like they are getting a big’ol hug each time they walk in the doors.” 

The menu is just as homey and eclectic. Mayson waxes poetic about the fried green tomatoes, the chicken fried steak smothered in chicken sausage gravy, and a Jewish-style braised brisket. Yet many of the dishes are also vegan and vegetarian, like the “fab” cakes made of soy and mushroom and a vegan steak.

As for the drinks, Mayson says that the “signature cocktails are also seasonally driven, and I only use local distilleries like Republic Restoratives, another LGBTQIA business.” There’s also a list of beer, wine, and zero-proof drinks.

Mayson has been in the restaurant business since he moved to D.C. in 1984, working first at Mr. Henry’s on Capitol Hill, and most recently as director of business development for the restaurant group of the highly lauded restaurant industry leader, and lesbian, Jamie Leeds.

Mayson is using Pride this year as Crazy Aunt Helen’s coming out, both as a restaurant and a safe space. “I can say that I have had experiences in my life where I didn’t feel welcomed places. The staff and I work very hard to make sure everyone who walks into Crazy Aunt Helen’s feels welcome,” he says.

“I find it’s the small things that build to allow folks to feel safe,” he notes. There’s no required uniform, allowing staff to dress however they feel most comfortable. Mayson also makes an effort to support local LGBTQ artists and performers, giving them space in the second-floor Peacock Room to share their talents.

To that end, Mayson is offering The Rainbow Theatre Project, a theater group that has been dark since pandemic closings, a home until they are back up and running. During June, they performed four staged readings from four LGBTQ playwrights. “I can’t wait to have the Peacock Room buzzing with entertainment every night of the week and to hear all the people laughing and enjoying the food, each other and the show,” Mayson says.

Mayson’s goal at Crazy Aunt Helen’s is twofold: create a space “that’s welcoming and nourishing to both our bellies and our spirits.”

Shane Mayson (Photo courtesy of Mayson)

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Autos

BMW speed demons

Two fun, flashy high-performance rides

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BMW M3 Competition xDrive sport sedan

Just in time for Pride month, two BMW sport sedans celebrate just how fun, fast and flashy a true high-performance ride can be.

BMW M3 COMPETITION xDRIVE
$78,000
Mpg: 16 city/22 highway
0 to 60 mph: 3.2 seconds

Talk about a pocket rocket, it’s hard to beat the thrill of the BMW M3 Competition xDrive sport sedan. This 503-horsepower speed demon streaks from 0 to 60 mph as fast as many premium sportsters, including the glitzy new 621-horsepower Maserati MC20 super coupe — which costs a whopping $215,000. Along with the lower price tag, the M3 has room for twice as many passengers and boasts three times as much rear cargo space as that two-person Maserati.

While this high-test BMW may be classified as a compact car, there’s ample legroom, decent headroom and a sharply angled dashboard for improved driver visibility. My test car had optional carbon-fiber racing bucket seats, trimmed in snazzy aqua blue and lemon yellow and backlit with illuminated M logos. While the futuristic design is truly a piece of art, scooching in and out of those sci-fi seats — which sit lower than standard seats and have sharply angled side bolsters—was quite a challenge. And, hello, it didn’t help that a “thigh separator” (a raised, hard-padded object stuck in the middle of the bottom cushion) protruded oh-so-close to my scrotum. Let’s just say I got more than my fill of butt-clenching exercises during the week-long test drive.

But once situated comfortably behind the sculpted steering wheel, all was forgiven. The M3 cabin is superbly sleek, with modish armrests and a duo of sweeping digital display screens. The eight-speed automatic transmission is wicked smooth, making it practically unnoticeable as the car shifts through gears. And the overall handling is rousing yet controlled, especially with the all-wheel drive. When not grooving to the guttural exhaust growl, I enjoyed jamming to a sparkling 16-speaker Harman Kardon stereo. There are plenty of other creature comforts, such as smartphone integration, wireless charging pad and Wi-Fi hotspot. Driving aids include blind-spot monitor, head-up display, collision alert and pedestrian detection. There’s even a system to automatically pull the car over if the driver falls asleep at the wheel. As you could tell, I didn’t have to worry about that happening.

BMW M440i GRAN COUPE xDRIVE
$60,000
Mpg: 22 city/29 highway
0 to 60 mph: 4.5 seconds

M440i Gran Coupe xDrive

If the BMW M3 Competition xDrive is a badass sport sedan, then the M440i Gran Coupe xDrive is more buttoned-down — but only to a point. The M Sport trim level on both vehicles includes sturdier brakes, suspension, and stability control. And each car can be ordered with all-wheel drive, a big plus considering the number of downpours and icy road conditions in this part of the country.

But the M3 is extra taut, tight and tuned — a race car enthusiast’s dream — whereas the M440i feels as suave as an Aston Martin. Think of it as trading flash for finesse. Styling is just as sharp, though the body cladding, side air vents and rear spoiler are all less pronounced on the 4 Series. It’s also wider and sits higher off the ground. And instead of having a trunk lid, the M440i is a hatchback with a more swoopy profile and easier access to the cargo area. Despite smaller wheels and about two-thirds the horsepower of an M3, the M440i is still plucky and a delight to drive.

And safety features and optional amenities are comparable. Inside, the cabin exudes refined BMW luxury but loses the Jedi spaceship vibe so noticeable on the M3. Gauges and the infotainment layout are the same, with similar but fewer performance-oriented readouts on the digital screens. I still found the M440i cabin to be plenty sporty, with premium fit and finish. And there’s beaucoup insulation to block annoying road noise. Perhaps most important, my tush welcomed the return to more traditional seats.

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