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Queery: Daniel Phoenix Singh

The gay dancer/choreographer answers 20 gay questions

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(Blade photo by Michael Key)

Dancing for Daniel Phoenix Singh is a passion, a notion with which many artists can relate. So much so, in fact, that he essentially works two full-time jobs to make it happen.

He works in information technology by day (“To pay the bills,” he says) and spends four or five days a week dancing with his eponymous group, the Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company, a seven-year-old outfit of 14 dancers that specializes in modern American, classical and traditional Indian dance. Their next performances are next weekend (April 2-3) at Dance Place in Washington where they’ll perform “By the Light,” a dance the late D.C. choreographer Eric Hampton created while suffering the latter stages of the Lou Gehrig’s disease to which he eventually succumbed.

“It’s really about what dance meant to him,” Singh says. Go to danceplace.org for information.

Singh grew up in India but moved to the U.S. when he was 17 in 1990. He chose “Phoenix” as a translation of his middle name because his Indian name was too long to fit on his passport and green card. Dakshina means offering in Sanscrit, a name he chose to honor his company’s Indian roots. Four of its male members, including Singh, are gay. He says queer sensibilities inform his work in several ways.

“I never think of gender in terms of casting,” he says. “I might cast two men for a dance, two women or a man and a woman. It’s whoever does the work the best. It’s very freeing for me. I have a strong interest in social justice that comes from my LGBT sensibilities, and also an awareness of how the arts can be used to speak to something larger. It’s not just something that’s pretty, it’s a way to address something that’s relevant to our lives.”

Singh is single and lives in Petworth. He enjoys reading, napping, chocolate, movies, cooking, working out and biking in his spare time.

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

I’ve been out for close to 15 years now.  The hardest person to tell was my mother, she didn’t know what gay meant. So it was a bit difficult/humorous to try to explain and come out at the same time — perhaps more humorous in hindsight. When I first came out, it made me reel that someone who loved me so much — that she gave up a comfortable life in India to work 80-90 hours a week so I could have a good education and life — could hate a part of me so unquestioningly because of what her church told her. But she has had a pretty incredible change of heart. Props to my mom, even though she doesn’t understand it completely and is still a pretty conservative Christian, she grew to accept me and love me again.

Who’s your LGBT hero?

Audre Lorde, she lived a composite, nuanced, self-analytical, socially conscious/active, artistic life that I covet.

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

Chaos! I loved Chaos and miss the space where people from diverse backgrounds and age groups gathered to dance the night away. My favorite memory of Chaos is when a young guy brought his grandmother to the drag show that happened before the Salsa nights.

Describe your dream wedding.

Intellectually, I’m not sure I believe in the institution of marriage — it’s too hetero-normative for me. But my heart strings still tug when I see a traditional Indian wedding, and I’m always the first person to start crying when a couple begin saying their vows.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

I’m very passionate about the arts. I’m concerned that we as a community don’t realize the long-term effects of this steady decline in engaging with the arts whether it is in the K-12, general public, senior citizens or immigrant communities. To me it is inconceivable to define a progressive developed society without the arts having a central role. There is a lot of talk about the loss of nuance, abstraction and engagement in our conversations (both social and political). People often take the most polarized views, everything comes down to a yes/no check box and then they wonder why we can’t get along or move forward. To me, the arts is about the subtleties of life, about finding the gray areas and looking at life from various angles. Most importantly art is about self-reflection and awareness — something critical for us to grow as a society.

What historical outcome would you change?

There are several things I’d like to change. I don’t know where to start.

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

When Dana Fuchs, one of the heroines in “Across the Universe” locked lips with me (among several others) at her concert.

On what do you insist?

Kindness.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

Mornings = Bad.

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

“Artful Mischief.”

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

Make everyone poly-sexual?  If everyone loved everyone, maybe some of our problems will go away.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

I don’t believe in an afterlife — learning to let go of the ego of permanence was a hard lesson for me. But I do believe integrity in our lived lives survives us.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

To find a community-based, grassroots solution to our host of issues, instead of trying to create a top-down abstract model. Have stakeholders present in very early planning stages, don’t just invite them as “community sponsors” after the main conversation has finished. And to try to frame issues as more than the hetero-homo binaries.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

My dance company and my friends.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

That we’re here to recruit.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Milk”

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Clubbing (different from dancing).

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

The MacArthur Fellowship

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

That I should have started dancing earlier.

Why Washington?

Like Goldilocks, it’s just the right size — not too big, not too small.

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Advice

How much fighting is OK in a relationship?

I love my boyfriend but we can’t agree on anything

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Is it good for couples to fight a lot? (Photo by Andrey Popov/Bigstock)

Dear Michael,

How much arguing is OK in a relationship?

Sometimes I think I’d like to spend the rest of my life with my boyfriend Adam but other times he drives me absolutely crazy.

We get into these fights where he just refuses to see it my way. He insists he’s right and digs in until I agree he has a point. He can never just agree with me or let it go.

The thing is, he doesn’t always have a point and if I won’t concede that he does, he says I don’t respect his intelligence.

Our fights range from Madonna’s talent (or lack thereof) to what is or isn’t OK to eat for breakfast, to whose job it is to take out the garbage, to what the best abs exercises are, to where we should go on vacation this summer, to whether recycling plastics accomplishes anything, to whether we should have sex in the morning or at night. I’m sick of it!

On the other hand, Adam is smart, funny, and super-hot. 

Is it normal for couples to fight so much? I don’t know why it’s so hard for him to see it my way sometimes.

Michael replies:

Sounds to me like you guys are in an ongoing power-control struggle where one of you is continuously trying to influence the other (power move), and the other one is continuously refusing to be influenced (control move).

There’s nothing “wrong” with making power and control moves. We all do them, all the time. They’re part of every relationship: Writing this reply, I’m making a power move, in that I’m wanting to influence the way you think about your relationship. If you disagree with me, you’re making a control move by not accepting my influence. No problem at all: You don’t have to let me (or anyone) influence you.

The problems arise when these moves become the ongoing operating system of your relationship. One of you keeps telling the other person how to behave or think, or what is “correct”; and the other won’t agree, no matter what the issue. You each dig in. Warmth and collaboration go out the window. You can’t have a loving relationship when you’re mired in a power-control struggle.

The problem is not that you two see things differently. That’s an unavoidable part of life.  In any relationship, partners will at times have very different opinions, even about very important matters. The problem is that you’re choosing to argue about it, to try to prove that you are right and the other person is wrong. He won’t see it your way and you won’t see it his way. 

Notice that I’m putting you in the same boat as Adam. That’s because you’re joining him in this dynamic.

One thing you two can do to get out of this dynamic is to stop arguing about things that are a matter of opinion. It’s not possible to prove you’re right. Doing so just gets you dug in against each other.  

In general, it’s a waste of time to argue about why you are right and your partner is wrong. If you win the argument, your partner loses. And if one of you is the loser, you both lose because you wind up with a bitter relationship.

Instead, you could have fun enjoying the reality that each of you has very different opinions, even about very important things, and each of you has the job of figuring out how to live and generally be happy with someone who is different in some big ways from you. 

If you each start letting yourself be influenced by your partner, even if you don’t always agree on what’s “best” or “right,” you’re going to open yourself up to all sorts of experiences, possibilities, and ways of looking at things that you hadn’t considered. That’s one of the great ways that relationships push us to grow.

If you think I have a point, I’m glad. You may decide you’d like to make some changes in your relationship. Remember, though, that Adam is his own person. Perhaps you’ll be able to influence him to consider a new way of approaching your differences, perhaps not. 

That said, you have a lot of power over yourself. And if you decide you don’t want to keep getting stuck in power-control struggles, you can change this dynamic on your own simply by not participating. Not in a game-playing, “I’m right and you’re wrong” way, but by taking the position, over and over, that you two are different and sometimes see things differently, and you aren’t going to fight about who is right and who is wrong, because that isn’t going to get you anywhere good.

(Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at michaelradkowsky.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to [email protected].)

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Real Estate

Totally radical home buying

We should celebrate advancement of homeownership rights

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The phrase “totally radical” came of age in the 1980s and was defined as cool, wonderful, or awesome. Its synonym, wicked, can be found in nearly all Ben Affleck movies and a cry of “Excellent!” will bring back memories of an adventure had by Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) in 1989.

Although some people are not ready for cocooning yet, homeownership is still a cornerstone of financial strength and wealth building. For LGBTQ individuals, owning a home can provide a sense of economic security and a sanctuary where they can express their personalities freely and without fear of discrimination or harassment. 

Whether house, condominium, or cooperative apartment, owning a place to chill allows you to build a legacy and provide for future generations. It offers the stability needed to plan for the future, whether that involves raising a family, supporting aging parents, or ensuring a spouse’s or partner’s financial security.

Homeowners are also more likely to invest in their communities, fostering strong, inclusive, bitchin’ neighborhoods. For many LGBTQ people, a home is “In the District,” which prides itself on diversity. Homeownership allows individuals to create personal spaces that reflect their identities and values, contribute to the city’s rich cultural tapestry, support local businesses, and participate in community events and governance.

The journey toward homeownership for gay individuals has evolved over the years, reflecting broader societal changes and the struggle for LGBTQ rights. The stark contrast between the ’80s and now highlights the progress made, the challenges that still exist, and future uncertainties brought forth by the space cadets in our political system. 

In the 1980s, homeownership for gay people was bogus. The decade was marked by lame, pervasive discrimination and limited legal protections. The HIV/AIDS epidemic further stigmatized the gay community, intensifying societal prejudices. This climate of fear and hostility permeated various aspects of life, including the housing market.

Gay individuals faced overt discrimination from landlords, real estate agents, and mortgage lenders, even in the rental market. It was not uncommon for same-sex couples to be denied housing simply because of their sexual orientation. Even in the late ’90s I had clients looking for homes in Prince William County, Va., who had to hightail it out of an open house when told to take a hike. I kid you not!

Financial institutions were often unwilling to grant mortgages to same-sex couples or openly gay individuals. When they did, the terms were often less favorable than those offered to heterosexual couples. This made the dream of homeownership significantly harder to achieve, even though DINKs (dual income, no kids) tended to have more household income than so-called “traditional” families.

Additionally, the lack of legal recognition for same-sex relationships posed harsh challenges. Without the ability to marry, same-sex couples faced difficulties in co-owning property and ensuring that their partner had legal rights to the home. Estate planning was complicated, as inheritance laws did not recognize same-sex partners, potentially leading to the loss of a home upon a partner’s death.

The landmark Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, was a fantabulous moment. This ruling provided same-sex couples with the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, including the ability to jointly own property and inherit without complication.

Anti-discrimination laws have also evolved. The definition of sex under the Federal Fair Housing Act has been expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as have protected classes in Maryland and Virginia. The District has taken that a step further; our protected classes also include gender expression and personal appearance. 

Organizations like the DC Center for the LGBT Community and the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) offer resources and advocacy for LGBTQ+ homebuyers. These organizations provide educational workshops, networking opportunities, and support to navigate the housing market.

The advancement of homeownership rights for gay people is a testament to the righteous resilience and determination of the LGBTQ+ community. As society continues to strive for equality, it is essential to address the remaining challenges to ensure that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can achieve the goal of homeownership.

In 2024, the only limitations on owning a home are finding one and being able to afford it. Pride weekend is a great time to go to open houses. You’ll probably be walking right by several. 

But if you’re not ready yet and just feel like getting your ’80s jams on, grab your disco balls and check out the Totally Tubular Festival at The Anthem at The Wharf on July 14.I’ll be Desperately Seeking Susan and will, as they used to say in the ’70s, catch you on the flip flop.

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Real Estate

Decorating tips for Pride in D.C.

Perfect time to add a dash of creativity to your living space

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Hang your Pride flag and other LGBTQ-themed décor this Pride month. (Washington Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

As the vibrant LGBTQ community in Washington, D.C., gears up for the much-anticipated Pride celebrations on June 8 and June 9, it’s the perfect time to add a splash of color and a dash of creativity to your living space. Normally, I know you’re used to reading more educational and serious articles in this space. In the spirit of D.C. Pride this year, I thought a bit of levity would be welcomed.

Whether you’re in a cozy condo, a spacious home, or a rental apartment, here are some fabulous ways to zhuzh up your indoors and outdoors with Pride-themed décor. 

Indoors: Celebrate with Style

1. Colorful Accents Everywhere

Transform your living area into a festive space by incorporating the colors of the rainbow. Here’s how:

• Throw Pillows and Blankets: Swap out your regular throw pillows and blankets for those in bright, rainbow colors. This simple change can make your space instantly feel more festive.

• Pride Flags: Hang LGBTQ Pride flags on your walls or in your windows. The traditional rainbow flag is a staple, but also consider including other flags like the bisexual, transgender, or pansexual flags to celebrate the diversity of our community.

• Art and Posters: Display Pride-themed art or inspirational quotes from LGBTQ+ icons. Local artists often have prints and posters that reflect the spirit of Pride.

2. Light It Up. Lighting can set the mood for any celebration:

• Fairy Lights: Drape rainbow-colored fairy lights around your living room or bedroom for a magical touch.

• LED Candles: Use multi-colored LED candles to safely add a warm glow to your space.

3. Tabletop Décor. Celebrate at every meal with:

• Tablecloths and Runners: A vibrant rainbow tablecloth or runner can turn every dining experience into a celebration.

• Centerpieces: Create centerpieces with flowers in hues of the rainbow, or use colorful glass bottles as vases.

4. DIY Pride Crafts. Get creative with DIY decorations:

• Rainbow Paper Chains: Make paper chains in rainbow colors and hang them across your rooms.

• Pride Mason Jars: Paint mason jars in rainbow stripes and use them to hold utensils or flowers.

Outdoors: A Festive Façade

1. Balcony or Patio Pride. If you have outdoor space, make it a part of the celebration:

• Rainbow Banners and Streamers: Decorate your balcony or patio railings with rainbow banners and streamers.

• Outdoor Flags: Fly a large Pride flag from your balcony or in your garden.

2. Welcoming Door Décor. Your front door can be a bold statement of support:

• Pride Wreath: Create or buy a wreath featuring rainbow colors or themed around different LGBTQ+ flags.

• Welcome Mats: Greet visitors with Pride-themed welcome mats.

3. Garden and Window Dressings. Let your garden or exterior windows echo your Pride:

• Window Decals: Use removable rainbow decals to decorate windows facing the street.

• Garden Flags: Place small rainbow or other LGBTQ+ flags throughout your garden or in plant pots on your porch.

4. Lighting the Night. Make your outdoor space shine:

• Solar Rainbow Lights: Use solar-powered lights in Pride colors to illuminate pathways or garden borders.

• Projection Lights: Project rainbow patterns or Pride flags onto your home’s exterior.

Community Engagement

1. Share the Spirit. Decorate your shared spaces if you’re in an apartment building:

• Bulletin Boards: Put up colorful notices or flyers announcing local Pride events.

• Community Areas: If possible, decorate communal areas with small flags or posters.

2. Local Pride. Support local LGBTQ businesses by buying decorations or craft supplies from them. This not only helps the community but also promotes local artists and crafters.

Safety and Considerations

• Check with your landlord or HOA: Before hanging decorations outside or in shared areas, make sure to check if there are any restrictions.

• Be Mindful of Neighbors: While celebrating Pride, ensure your decorations are respectful and mindful of your neighbors.

By decorating your home for Pride in Washington, D.C., you’re not just brightening up your living space; you’re showing your support and solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Let your Pride shine brightly, and make this year’s celebrations unforgettable!

Scott Bloom is owner and senior property manager, Columbia Property Management. For more information and resources, visit ColumbiaPM.com.

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