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Gray board appointee called gays ‘faggots’

Local activists divided over decision to name Leroy Thorpe to post



Vince Gray

Mayor Vincent Gray’s decision to appoint a controversial civic leader to a mayoral advisory committee has rankled some. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gay activists had mixed views this week over a decision by Mayor Vincent Gray to appoint a controversial civic leader who in past years referred to gays as “faggots” to a mayoral advisory committee that looks at city programs to curtail juvenile delinquency.

Gray last week named Leroy Thorpe, a licensed social worker and counselor with the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and a longtime civic activist in the city’s Shaw neighborhood, to the mayor’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Group. The unpaid advisory panel assists the mayor and DYRS, among other things, on how to use federal funds to strengthen the city’s juvenile justice system.

D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, sent Gray a letter strongly recommending Thorpe for the appointment.

Evans could not be immediately reached for comment.

And Ron Collins, Gray’s gay director of the Mayor’s Office of Boards and Commissions, said he vetted Thorpe for the appointment and recommended that the mayor name him to the advisory panel. Collins said Thorpe’s background and experience on juvenile justice issues showed him to be qualified for the post.

“I’ve known Leroy Thorpe for a number of years and I really don’t feel that he is a bigot toward any community,” Collins told the Blade.

Thorpe told the Blade in a phone message on Monday that he prefers not to discuss things he said in the past but said he’s changed his views and treats all people with respect.

“These days, you know, I got older, got wiser,” he said. “And I don’t act like I did before, back in the time when…I spoke without thinking. Everybody deserves respect and I don’t care who or what you are.”

Martin Moulton, president of the Convention Center Community Association, a Shaw-based group that has long been at odds with Thorpe, says Thorpe’s “history of bigotry” makes him unsuitable for a mayoral appointment.

In a series of e-mails sent to public officials and gay activists, Moulton points to statements Thorpe has made about gays on at least two occasions over the past 20 years. One took place in 1991, when Thorpe shouted through a bullhorn at a polling station on Election Day that gay City Council candidate Jim Zais was a “faggot” and Shaw voters should not support him.

Zais, who died of AIDS in 1994, lost the election to Evans by a close margin. At the time, Evans and his supporters disavowed Thorpe’s characterization of Zais, saying he wasn’t representing Evans or the Evans campaign.

Moulton noted that Thorpe several years ago called gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) an anti-gay name during a City Council hearing.

According to Moulton, Gray violated a promise he made to the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance on a GLAA questionnaire during last year’s mayoral election campaign, when Gray said he would “decline to honor individuals or organizations that promote any sort of bigotry.”

William Waybourn, former publisher of the Washington Blade and a Shaw resident, said Thorpe called him a faggot during a Shaw Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting in 2007 after Waybourn spoke at the meeting on an issue unrelated to LGBT rights.

“I don’t know why he did it,” said Waybourn.

Waybourn said Thorpe was less hostile toward him a short time later when the two attended a hearing by the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Thorpe testified at the hearing against an application for a liquor license by owners of BeBar, a gay bar seeking to open on 9th Street in the Shaw neighborhood. Thorpe joined members of Shiloh Baptist Church, located across the street from the bar, who opposed the bar on grounds that it was not appropriate for it to be that close to a church.

The ABC Board later approved the license.

Shaw Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Alex Padro, who has had dealings with Thorpe when Thorpe served on the ANC, called Thorpe’s appointment to a city board an “outrage.”

“The suggestion that someone with his record has changed doesn’t ring true,” he said.

Veteran D.C. gay activist and Ward 8 community leader Phil Pannell and Christopher Dyer, director of the city’s Office of GLBT Affairs under former Mayor Adrian Fenty, each said they have cordial relations with Thorpe and don’t consider him to be anti-gay.

“He might have been a homophobe in the past but I have observed a change,” Dyer said. “I don’t think deep down inside his soul he is homophobic.”

Pannell said Thorpe on several occasions has attended Pannell’s birthday celebration at a Ward 8 restaurant, which Pannell often uses as a fundraiser for community organizations or charitable causes.

“He has always been very respectful to me,” said Pannell. “He came to one of my functions with his wife. I would be hard pressed to call someone a homophobe who comes to my birthday,” said Pannell, who notes that his sexual orientation is widely known in political circles throughout the city.

Pannell said that while Thorpe clearly has used poor judgment in some of his references to gays in the past, he said he was moved when Thorpe showed up at Jim Zais’ memorial service in 1994 and apologized for the Election Day incident in which he called Zais an anti-gay name.

GLAA Vice President Rick Rosendall said he is troubled over Thorpe’s past remarks using the word “faggot” and believes Thorpe’s appointment could represent a contradiction to Gray’s response to the GLAA candidate questionnaire. But Rosendall said he also believes in “redemption” by people who change their views and attitudes on LGBT people.

“If he truly has changed, that’s something we would welcome,” he said.



Prince George’s County library system launches banned book club

First discussion to take place in Hyattsville on June 14



(Bigstock photo)

The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System has launched its Rock Banned Book Club.

The club will feature monthly discussions of the 13 top banned books from 2022, most of which focus on LGBTQ-specific themes. 

The club’s first discussion, which will take place at the Hyattsville Branch Library on June 14, will be on “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe. 

Kobabe’s memoir won the 2020 American Library Association Alex Award and recounts Kobabe’s exploration of gender identity and sexuality through adolescence and adulthood. According to the American Library Association, the book faced the most censorship challenges of any novel at 151.

“We’re seeing nationally the highest rate of challenges to books in libraries since the data has been collected by the American Library Association,” Nicholas Brown, acting co-chief executive officer of the library, said. “I think what happens with all of the discourse around book banning is that, oftentimes, not everyone participating in that discourse is actually taking the time to read the full works and discuss them and understand where the author might be coming from and whose stories are being reflected in these books.”

Along with the book club, the library system is hosting a Pride celebration at the Hyattsville branch on Saturday from 12 – 4 p.m. It will feature a panel discussion, vogue and runway workshops, free HIV testing and more. 

The library system will host its second annual Rainbow Festival on June 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bowie Branch Library with family-friendly events like craft stations, story time and a live DJ. In April, the library system won a Top Innovator Award from the Urban Libraries Council for its banned books campaign.

“I think a lot of folks don’t always realize that your local public library is kind of the front line of democracy and we always have been,” Brown said. “Public libraries across the country are very united on this and if the right to read continues to be under threat like it’s been, it is not a good time for the state of our democracy.”

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District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building



D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

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Moore issues Pride month proclamation

Governor on May 3 signed Trans Health Equity Act



Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday proclaimed June as Pride month in recognition of  “the contributions, resilience, courage and joy of LGBTQIA+ Marylanders,” according to a press release.

“In Maryland, we lead with love and inclusion. I want everyone in our LGBTQIA+ community to know that they deserve to be seen for who they are, and our administration will stand with them in the fight for equality and equity,” Moore said. “We need to elevate the stories, embrace the courage, and celebrate the humanity of our LGBTQIA+ community — and as long as I am governor, we will take the steps forward to protect and celebrate all Marylanders.”

Moore on March 31 became the first governor in Maryland history to recognize the Transgender Day of Visibility and last month he signed into law the Trans Health Equity Act into law, which requires Maryland Medicaid to provide coverage for gender-affirming care beginning next year.

“This month is a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of the queer community, but it’s also a time to reaffirm our commitment to uplifting LGBTQIA+ Marylanders and continuing to fight against hatred, discrimination, and bigotry,” Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller said in the same press release that Moore’s office released. “LGBTQIA+ Marylanders deserve to be who they are, to live their pride — without fear or having to hide. This administration will always stand alongside and protect the rights of all Marylanders.”

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