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Emotions run high at vigil for slain trans woman

200+ gather for vigil; police say shooting followed ‘exchange of words’ with two males

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Lashay Mclean

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than 200 people turned out Saturday night, July 23, for a vigil to honor Lashai Mclean, a 23-year-old transgender woman who was shot to death three days earlier in Northeast Washington.

The event took place at the site where police say Mclean was gunned down about 4:30 a.m. near the corner of 61st and Dix Streets, N.E. Among those attending were Mclean’s mother and other grieving family members and relatives.

Deputy D.C. Police Chief Diane Groomes, who spoke at the vigil, said later that homicide detectives are pursuing information provided by a witness that the fatal shooting took place shortly after two unidentified males “had some words” with Mclean in an alley shortly before she was shot.

“The motive is still not clear to us,” Groomes told the Blade after the vigil. Groomes said police haven’t found evidence of either a robbery or a hate crime in the early stages of the investigation.

Neighborhood residents and passersby looked on with interest as more than a dozen speakers, including D.C. Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander, condemned the murder and called on the community to speak out against violence targeting the transgender community.

“To the family and to the community, I want you to know that we are committed to making sure that justice is done, that this life that has touched many of us will be remembered and the life that she led will be remembered,” said Quander, whose duties include overseeing city law enforcement agencies.

“We will always be reminded that what happens to one happens to all of us,” he said. “Injustice to one is injustice to all of us and that in this society no intolerance will be accepted.”

Several of Mclean’s family members, including her mother, joined vigil participants by sitting in chairs or standing under a tent set up on the sidewalk on an evening when the temperature reached 100 degrees.

The mother, who was not identified by name, became overcome by grief at the conclusion of the vigil and suffered a seizure. She was taken by ambulance to a hospital in a development that compounded the grief of other family members.

Earline Budd with Mclean's mother (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Two other male family members were being held by police at the site of the vigil after getting into a scuffle with each other on the street where many vigil goers were standing. Police confiscated a tire iron from one of the two men.

“We’re sorting it all out, but emotions are high among the family,” Groomes said later. “They lost their loved one. You saw the mother, the sisters, aunts and uncles, the loved ones, and they’re very distraught.”

During the vigil, Groomes and Sgt. Brett Parson, former head of the department’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit, called on the community to provide police with any information that may lead to the identification of those responsible for Mclean’s murder.

Parson now works as a patrol supervisor in the Six District, where the incident occurred.

“I know that many of you are hurting right now,” he said. “I know that many of you are angry. And you have a right to be because any time a member of our family is taken from us in such a violent way it should make our entire community angry,” he said.

“I want you to know that we get it. We understand that the anger is not just that Lashai was gunned down senselessly,” he said. “But it’s that Lashai was forced to be in a place and time to be ripe for victimization and that those circumstances have to change.”

Sgt. Brett Parson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Although Parson did not say so directly, he may have been referring to the fact that Mclean was shot shortly after 4 a.m. in an alley near the corner of 61st and Dix Streets, N.E., which is a location well known as a gathering place for transgender prostitutes and the men that patronize their services.

Groomes said police could not immediately determine whether the incident was prostitution related but said investigators were looking into that as a possibility.

“This is an area where there are transgenders that hang out,” she said. “So how do we know that someone filled with hate didn’t come up here and do this?” she told the Blade.

“It’s not clear. Right now we’re not saying anything – we don’t hear anything about hate-bias overtones. So it’s frustration. I mean, what is it?” she said.

Court records show that Mclean was arrested on a charge of “inviting for purposes of prostitution” on Aug. 5, 2010 at 4:45 a.m. on the unit block of K Street, N.E. as part of a sting operation conducted by undercover male D.C. police officers.

Records filed in D.C. Superior Court show that Mclean accepted an offer by the U.S. Attorney’s office to enroll in a court diversion program operated by the local group Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS). The program called for Mclean to successfully complete eight sessions of HIPS’ Trans-In-Formation program, a counseling and self-help program that HIPS created under a federal grant to enable transgender sex workers avoid prosecution when arrested on solicitation related charges and become productive citizens.

Court records show Mclean successfully completed the program and the U.S. Attorney’s office dismissed the charge against her on May 9 of this year.

HIPS Executive Director Cyndee Clay said Mclean worked well in the program and the group was pleased to help her. At the vigil on Saturday, HIPS Outreach Manager Jenna Mellor told the gathering she was honored to have known Mclean.

“Every time you talked to Shai you really knew how strong she is,” Mellor said. “And it’s an inspiration to see someone live that strongly every day.”

Earline Budd, an official with the local group Transgender Health Empowerment, and Ruby Corado, a member of the D.C. Trans Coalition, were the lead organizers of the vigil. Both described Mclean as a vibrant, charming, and outspoken young woman who made a lasting impression on everyone who came in contact with her.

Budd and other transgender activists have said workplace discrimination against transgender people often forces young transgender women into prostitution as a means of survival.

Vanessa Crowley of D.C. Trans Coalition (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Trans Coalition member Vanessa Crowley told the gathering that Mclean’s murder was another in a series of violent crimes targeting transgender women in the city in recent years. She noted that Mclean’s murder comes two years after a transgender woman was stabbed to death in August 2009 “in broad daylight” in the city’s Shaw neighborhood in a case that remains unsolved.

“While nothing can bring back those that we have lost or undue the suffering that we share, we can and should confront the daily terror and anxiety that trans and gender non-conforming people face,” Crowley said. “We can do this by building networks of mutual support and solidarity and sustain our efforts to feel safe and to make change.”

Crowley also made reference to an initial police news release that identified Mclean by her legal birth name of Myles Mclean and did not list the case as that of a transgender related murder.

“We must stress once against the absolute necessity for the police and the media to respect Lashai’s gender identity,” Crowley said. “The least we can do is respect her chosen and lived identity.”

Others speaking at the vigil included A.J. Singletary, president of the Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence; Jeffrey Richardson, director of the mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs; Nick McCoy, gay activist and community member of the police department’s Critical Incident Team; Ron Mouton, founder of the local anti-crime group Peaceoholics; David Mariner, executive director of the city’s LGBT community center; Jenna Miller, an official with the local group Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), which provides services to transgender woman involved as sex workers; and Budd and Corado.

Rev. Dyan Abena McCray, pastor of D.C.’s Unity Fellowship Church, which has a largely LGBT congregation, told the gathering in an opening prayer that while the family, friends and community members share feelings of hurt and bitterness over Mclean’s loss, the scripture cautions against vengeance.

“We know that justice is going to reigndown, God,” she said. “We claim jujstice right now…We claim the victory over the adversary right now. He has no power over our lives.”

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Trans Woman

    July 26, 2011 at 8:13 am

    More lip service from the Metro Police Department. Two years ago another transgender woman was stabbed to death in broad daylight and they still haven’t solved that murder. The transgender community has been marginalized for far too long and it’s time that we as a community find a different solution when one of our own is murdered. The M.P.D. just doesn’t care.

  2. Rick Rosendall

    July 27, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    @Trans Woman: Brett Parson is not only a police sergeant, but a member of the LGBT community with a long record of proving his commitment and working to build trust and cooperation and make a difference. Of course there are problems of trust between LGBT people and police–that is why GLLU was needed. Brett has knelt over too many of our brothers’ and sisters’ bodies to be told glibly that he doesn’t care. I understand the anger, but burning bridges cannot possibly help us. Murder investigations can be extremely difficult. People are often afraid to come forward, for one thing. There are also problems with the interface with the U.S. Attorney’s office. But there are good officers who have worked hard to make a difference, and dismissively saying “the MPD just doesn’t care” is terribly wrong and misguided. Our anger needs to be more constructively channeled.

    Speaking of murder investigations, DC Trans Coalition has slammed Lou Chibbaro for what they call speculation for referring to the murder spot as “a location well known as a gathering place for transgender prostitutes and the men that patronize their services.” Did they check police records as Lou routinely does before they lobbed that charge? Is it that we want an investigation unless it brings out information that we don’t want to hear? Yes, of course news reporting and police investigation are two very different things; but the people doing them do not deserve hasty denunciations when they are trying to do their jobs. Please, it is in these awful, wrenching moments that we most need to exercise restraint. We need to keep struggling forward.

  3. brian

    July 28, 2011 at 1:51 am

    Trans Woman’s remark was not inaccurate, Rick. Nor was it glib. I didn’t take Trans Woman’s remark as anything but a legitimate expression of frustration with MPD’s well-chronicled poor leadership *at its highest levels*.

    As I’ve noted many times before, that does NOT apply to MPD’s rank and file officers and their closest district PS commanders across the city, nor to Brett Parson, whom I know and admire, nor to GLLU’s central unit– which has been willfully decimated by Chief Lanier going on five years now.

    There is a chain of command, and all line officers will do their duty, or else. Chief Lanier’s management techniques are well-known. That said, the responsibility buck stop with Lanier, too.

    I seriously doubt Trans Woman was directing her remarks at MPD’s rank and file officers across the city. Nor should she be expected to know of Brett’s history and persona with many in DC’s LGBT community. But it is a VERY serious problem if the trans community doesn’t feel they have a safe haven to report harassment and hate crimes at GLLU central, away from the watchful eyes of their tormentors.

    Brett Parson is a great, professional cop, first and foremost. He has a tough job, and he does it well, as he always has. He spoke the truth, and I have absolutely no doubt that he and MPD rank and file officers understand completely– and with great depth– the anger and frustration expressed by Trans Woman.

    Back to the case itself, I’ve asked the question before… if MPD’s commander were so serious about getting help from the general public regarding this homicide, why did they not publish MPD’s dubious initial press release to ALL of its EIGHT MPD listservs– not just its tiny MPD-SLU listserv?

    Why do the chiefs continue to use the MPD-SLU listserv as a closet for LGBT-related crimes, news and information? It just casts further doubt on Chief Lanier’s claims that she has “improved and expanded” GLLU services across the city.

  4. Rick Rosendall

    July 28, 2011 at 8:36 am

    @Brian, of course there are problems with MPD, as I said. We have a lot of work to do. Some of us are meeting with Chief Lanier next month to try to press ahead. But Trans Woman wrote, “The M.P.D. just doesn’t care,” and that’s a sweeping generality that ignores and falsifies the efforts of some good cops that deserve respect. If we don’t at least pause to give due credit, we tacitly discourage others from bothering, because we’ll attack them no matter what they do short of solving everything with a magic wand. As to what Trans Woman can be expected to know, excuse me but we all have a responsibility to do our homework before making assertions.

  5. brian

    July 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Rick, we just disagree as to our interpretation of what amounts to a letter-to-the-editor soundbite excerpted from Trans Woman’s larger commentary.

    Respectfully, I do read Trans Woman’s comment differently in its context. I believe she was directing her sentiments to MPD’s leadership. Now, they are not the words you or I would have chosen, but I believe that comment represents what a very large segment of the LGBT community is feeling about MPD’s leadership.

    MPD is as professional a PD as they come. It is world class. Our nation’s capital attracts the best and brightest in many fields. Law enforcement is no exception. The FBI’s training facilities at Quantico is a big draw, too.

    MPD’s rank and file is highly intelligent, highly educated, highly trained, highly motivated and not at all thin-skinned. They ARE pros. The body of our police department is stronger and more talented than the sum of the chiefs who head it. There is everything to be proud of in that.

    The simple truth, however, is that the LGBT community has lost faith in MPD’s leadership. Accordingly, too much community trust in MPD has been lost as a result. And for good reason.

    Whatever her intentions, for several years, Chief Lanier has repeatedly said one thing with respect to her support for GLLU and SLU, and done another. There is absolutely no reason to believe that anything she promises now to strengthen GLLU central, won’t drift to the back burner and be diluted to nothing once again.

    Trust is the essential glue which binds a community to its police force. It is not likely that the LGBT community will suddenly regain their trust in MPD (which took many years to RE-build, after all) if Lanier remains as Chief.

    That’s how fragile community/ police trust is. When a significant segment of the population loses trust in its PD, it is time for new leadership, lest that mistrust continue to grow and adversely impact the city’s public safety more and more.

    Chief Lanier is extremely talented and highly capable, but not anymore for this city, at this time. Another city, perhaps with similar public trust issues, could easily benefit from her considerable talent, however.

    We need to rebuild GLLU central while continuing GLOV’s excellent training for officers throughout MPD’s districts. And we will best and most quickly achieve that with new leadership at MPD.

  6. Rick Rosendall

    July 29, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Brian, that’s fine, but it doesn’t refute my point.

  7. Rick Mangus

    July 31, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Mclean was a prostitute and a drug addict one is enough to get you killed in this town she was killed because of that, this sure in the hell was not a hate crime people, save your compassion for innocent victims!

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Local

Long-time LGBTQ activist running for Md. House of Delegates

Patrick Paschall is former FreeState Justice executive director

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Patrick Paschall (Photo courtesy of Eli Sauerwalt of Patrick Paschall for Delegate)

Former FreeState Justice Executive Director Patrick Paschall last week announced via social media that he is running for the Maryland House of Delegates.

“As a proud parent of two kids in Prince George’s County public schools, former Hyattsville City Council member, and lifelong civil rights advocate and policy analyst, I’ve spent my life and career working for equity, community and sustainability for my family,” Paschall said in a statement posted to Facebook on Nov. 23. 

Paschall, who currently is the American Rescue Plan Program Manager for the city of Hyattsville, previously served as executive director for FreeState Justice from 2015 to 2017. 

His LGBTQ advocacy work also includes serving as senior policy counsel for the National LGBTQ Task Force, as an organizer for Pride at Work and as a policy fellow for the National Center for Transgender Equality.  

He also worked for Family Equality Council, an organization advocating for the rights of same-sex couples and their children. 

“One of the things I’m running on is being a parent,” Paschall told the Washington Blade. “We can provide more opportunities for families to succeed in our communities.”

Paschall is running to represent District 22, which includes Hyattsville, where he has lived for over 10 years with his two children, who currently attend Hyattsville Elementary School, and his wife, who identifies as pansexual. 

He told the Blade he views his family as a “rainbow family,” but pointed out he and his wife did not have to endure the same difficulties as his friends who are married same-sex couples when they wanted to adopt children.

“When I became a parent, no one stopped by my house to make sure it was an adequate living situation for my child, no one checked to make sure I had a room dedicated to the child and for no other purpose,” he said. “But my friends Jamie and Sean went through all of that when they tried to adopt a kid.”

Paschall explained that even though he and his wife didn’t go through these experiences, there was still room for Maryland to improve in the areas of adoptions and civil rights. 

“It strikes me how much privilege I have because the state doesn’t design to make it hard for me like it does for so many same-sex couples,” he explained. 

Patrick Paschall with his family. (Photo courtesy of Eli Sauerwalt of Patrick Paschall for Delegate)

Much like with the recent elections in neighboring Virginia, Paschall said helping parents is an important issue for him — one he wants to carry to Annapolis — if elected “because my district deserves better schools for our kids, more child care options and family support like paid family leave.”

“I think that District 22 needs a voice in Annapolis to represent progressive parents and to exercise policy expertise in achieving the values of our community,” he added. “And I have the experience to get it done.”

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D.C. area LGBTQ bars, eateries receive $100K COVID-19 relief grant

Pitchers, League of Her Own received NGLCC, Grubhub funds

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indoor dining, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. LGBTQ sports bar Pitchers and League of Her Own, its adjoining lesbian bar, are among the nation’s first LGBTQ bars that serve food as well as alcoholic beverages to receive a $100,000 COVID-19 relief grant under a $2 million Community Impact Grant Program.

The program, aimed at supporting LGBTQ-owned and LGBTQ-allied small businesses struggling from the pandemic, was launched in September as a joint project of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, which goes by the initials NGLCC, and the global online food delivery company Grubhub.

In a Tuesday announcement, NGLCC and Grubhub said Pitchers and League of Her Own, which operate as one business in adjoining buildings in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, are among the first three recipients of $100,000 grants under the Community Impact Grant Program. The other two recipients are FOODE + Mercantile of Fredericksburg, Va., and Café Gabriela of Oakland, Calif.

“Following this initial round of recipients, more grants will be issued in late 2021 and early 2022,” the announcement by the two groups says. In an earlier announcement, the groups said the application period for the grants program took place from September through Oct. 12, and the grants would range in amounts from $5,000 to $100,000.

“The impact of COVID-19 has been debilitating for countless restaurant and bar owners, including the many LGBTQ+-owned restaurants across the country who have persisted through lockdowns, operational changes and labor supply shortages,” said NGLCC Co-Founder and President Justin Nelson. “We’re grateful to have partnered with Grubhub to offer real lifelines to support businesses throughout the nation,” Nelson said.

“Building community in a fun and safe place has been our mission since the very beginning,” said David Perruzza, the owner of Pitchers and League of Her Own. “We’re relieved and thankful for these funds, and are looking forward to more stable days ahead,” Perruzza said.

“As a trans masculine and queer immigrant person of color, I’ve worked hard and put all my love and energy into building a beautiful and welcoming space in Café Gabriela,” said owner Penny Baldado. “I’ve remained resilient through COVID, and this grant is the injection of funds that we need to continue along our journey to full recovery,” Baldado said.

The statement announcing the first three grant recipient says funds for the $2 million grant program were generated by Grubhub’s “Donate the Change” program of which NGLCC became a partner in June. Grubhub says the program asks customers receiving food delivered by Grubhub “to round out their order and donate the difference” to the charitable fund.

“COVID has turned the restaurant industry on its head the last 18 months, and at Grubhub, we’ve been working hard every day to support our restaurant partners across the country,” said Amy Healy, Grubhub’s vice president of government relations. “As the world starts to return to a new normal, we’re proud to partner with the NGLCC and provide these grants to LGBTQ+-owned and LGBTQ+ ally-owned restaurants across the country that are pillars of their communities.”

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Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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