Remarks by a pastor who presided over the July 27 funeral service for Lashai Mclean, a transgender woman who was shot to death in D.C. last month, prompted as many as 100 people in attendance to walk out of the church in protest, according to activists who were present.
“Basically, he said that God let her get killed so that people could get saved,” said D.C. gay activist and comedian Sampson McCormack, who attended the service. “And that came after somebody, I think it was a deacon, said when you live a certain lifestyle this is the consequence you have to pay.”
McCormack and D.C. resident Arriel Horton said they knew Mclean and were among more than 300 people attending her funeral service at Purity Baptist Church near Capitol Hill.
D.C. police said Mclean, 23, was shot near the corner of 61st and Dix Streets, N.E., in a case where investigators have yet to determine a motive and to identify a suspect. Transgender activists say they are concerned that Mclean may have been targeted due to her status as a transgender woman, even though police say they have no immediate evidence to classify the incident as a hate crime.
McCormack and Horton told the Blade that a sermon delivered by Rev. A.W. Montgomery Sr., pastor of Agape Missionary Baptist Church in Suitland, Md., who presided over the funeral service, offended many of those in attendance, including many of Mclean’s transgender friends.
The two also said friends of Mclean became angry when clergy and others speaking at the service referred to Mclean as “he.” McCormack said many in the audience responded by shouting the word “she.”
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Montgomery disputed claims that his remarks at the service were disrespectful or disparaging toward Lashai Mclean or the transgender community.
“My perception of some things is strictly from the perception of the Bible,” he said. “Sin is sin is sin. I don’t care who you are. There’s no perfect person on this planet. Whether you’re the pope or the poorest person, all of us sin. So my remarks would never be disparaging at all. I preached the Gospel. I don’t think I was harsh.”
Montgomery said he’s deeply saddened over Mclean’s untimely death. He said one of his objectives in delivering the eulogy was to comfort the family.
“I have nothing to do with Myles’ life choices,” he said. “And I don’t have a problem with Lashai. That’s what she decided to do. I decided to be a preacher,” he said.
“I will say this. We all make choices, and some choices are good and some choices are bad. And there’s consequences for all our choices, good and bad, and I would never say that in a disparaging way.”
Rev. Robin Toogood, pastor of Purity Baptist Church, said his church agreed to host the service after the funeral home that made the funeral arrangements approached him. He said funeral home officials told him that Montgomery’s church in Suitland, to which Mclean’s family members had ties, was too small to accommodate the number of people expected to attend the service.
Toogood said he gave welcoming remarks at the service before turning over the service to Montgomery.
Horton, who said he was a friend of Mclean’s, said people began to leave the church while Montgomery delivered the eulogy.
“Where I was sitting, most people walked out before he finished,” he said.
“I was just kind of stunned,” said McCormack. “I was just sitting there listening and I and the other people were looking at each other and people in the back just started getting up and left. It was like a mass exit.”
D.C. transgender activists Earline Budd and Jeri Hughes, who knew Lashai Mclean through their work with the D.C. transgender services organization Transgender Health Empowerment, said they recognize how Montgomery’s remarks could have been offensive to those attending the service, especially Mclean’s friends.
But the two noted that Mclean’s family members, who were struggling over Mclean’s status as a transgender woman, organized the service and selected Pastor Montgomery to preside. Budd said some of Mclean’s family members are members of Montgomery’s church.
“The pastor seemed to be more conciliatory after some people started to leave,” said Budd.
Hughes said she thought most of the people who walked out did so because the service lasted a long time and many were becoming tired.
“I wasn’t particularly offended, even though I didn’t agree with him,” Hughes said of Montgomery. “He was talking about what preachers talk about – sin and all of that. He’s just being a preacher.”
Comings & Goings
Nathanson takes role at Outright Action
The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected]
The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success.
Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.”
Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.
Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe.
SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31
Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January
Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.
In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.
“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.
“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.
“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”
The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.
“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.
It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.
“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.
Rainbow History Project to honor LGBTQ ‘Pioneers’
Virtual celebration to take place on Dec. 9
D.C.’s Rainbow History Project says it will honor and recognize 12 individuals and one organization by designating them as Community Pioneers “for their diverse contributions to the Washington-area LGBTQ community” at a Dec. 9 virtual celebration.
“Rainbow History Project is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the LGBT history of metropolitan Washington, D.C.,” the group says in a statement announcing the event. “The Pioneers awards recognize diverse community leaders for their roles as organizational founders, innovators, advocates and volunteers,” the statement says.
“The Pioneers celebration will be held virtually and is designed with special features that reproduce the feeling of attending in-person, such as live streaming and video chatting with other attendees and Pioneers before and after the core awards programing,” according to the statement.
“Celebrating our Community Pioneers has been a cherished tradition since Rainbow History Project’s founding 21 years ago,” said Rob Berger, the organization’s chairperson. “It’s always an inspiring event, and we are happy that our virtual platform will still allow participants to meet and talk with the Pioneers,” Berger said in the statement.
The virtual event is free and open to the public, the statement says. Organizers released this link for those interested in attending, saying a short registration process may require registering in advance.
Following is the list of Community Pioneers scheduled to be honored at the Dec. 9 event as released by Rainbow History Project along with the project’s description of their backgrounds.
– Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a local group that since its founding has addressed equal rights issues for LGBTQ Virginians from a state and local perspective.
– Eboné F. Bell, founder and editor-in-chief of Tagg Magazine and Tagg Communication LLC.
– Bart Forbes, founding member of “Gay Fairfax,” a pioneering television newsmagazine program in Northern Virginia.
– Ellen Kahan, youth and family advocate, president of Rainbow Families, former director of the Lesbian Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health, and currently senior director of programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
– Theodore Kirkland (deceased), a co-founder of D.C. Black Pride in 1991, member of the Gay Liberation Front and Skyline Faggots, active community health volunteer and advocate.
– Paul Marengo, community leader through LGBTQ organizations including Reel Affirmations, Cherry Fund, and Pride celebrations for youth, Latino, Black and Transgender communities.
– David Mariner, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, and former executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.
– Mark Meinke founder longtime chair, Rainbow History Project, and co-founder of Rainbow Heritage Network, a national organization for the recognition and preservation of sites, history and heritage associated with sexual and gender minorities.
– Michael “Micci” Sainte Andress, artist, health educator and advocate and an early leader in bringing African Americans into HIV/AIDS clinical trials.
– Boden Sandstrom, founder and owner of Woman Sound (later City Sound), the first all-woman sound company, which makes LGBTQ rights rallies and the women’s music scene possible.
– Casse Culver (deceased), nationally acclaimed D.C. lesbian feminist singer-songwriter, and partner of Boden Sandstrom, whose followers said her love songs and feminist lyrics moved audiences from foot stomping to silent reflection.
– Alan Sharpe, playwright, director and co-founder of the African American Collective Theater in Washington, D.C., in 1976, which now focuses on LGBTQ life and culture in the Black community.
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