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Gays on the Fringe

Several LGBT themes among summer festival offerings

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D. Grant Cloyd, front, and DC Cathro in ‘Bareback Ink.’ (Photo by Bob Bartlett)

The Capital Fringe Festival opens this week (thru July 29) with about 130 shows in 15 venues. Among the eclectic mix of independent companies and performers, many are of special interest to LGBT audiences. Here are a few.

“A Fringe production’s success is greatly determined by its title,” says playwright Bob Bartlett.  In past Fringe festivals, he says, his work has definitely been upstaged by more provocatively named pieces. So this year the gay playwright and director isn’t taking any chances: Bartlett has titled his entry “Bareback Ink.”

A lean two-hander especially tailored for Fringe, Bartlett’s darkly erotic play explores the unlikely relationship between a hypersexual young man called Canvas (Grant Cloyd) and a 40-something, asexual tattoo artist (DC Cathro). Bartlett describes it as a contemporary reimagining of the Ganymede myth in which Zeus violently snatches a beautiful young shepherd to join him on Mount Olympus as his lover. In Bartlett’s version, the unseen Zeus character has ordered Canvas to have an image of the rape of Ganymede tattooed on his back against his will. While most of Bartlett’s past plays have been about healing, he says, this one isn’t going in that direction.

Bartlett, who teaches theater at Bowie State University, has three tattoos of his own, two of which commemorate the death of his brother in 1991. He’s intrigued by the experience of marking one’s skin with art that can’t easily be removed, as well as the relationship that develops between the artist and customer, particularly during the arduous and week-long task of creating a full back tattoo.

The development process surrounding “Bareback Ink” (which runs at Gear Box, an intimate and appropriately grungy space above the Passenger Bar and Restaurant at 1021 7th Street, NW.), has been a little nerve wracking, Bartlett says. Do-it-yourself theater comes quickly and there’s inherent risk in that. But that’s part of Fringe’s charm. In mid-August, Bartlett and the actors are taking “Bareback Ink” to the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.

Chelsea Norment in ‘Medieval Story Land.’

Advance buzz says Chelsea Norment is hilarious as Graglore the troll in Red Knight Production’s comedy play “Medieval Story Land” (Studio Theatre, 1501 14th Street, NW). A familiar face at open mic nights around town, Norment (who’s gay) is also experienced in improvisation and sketch comedy, but Fringe will be her first try at a fully realized, non-sketch theatrical production.

“I thought it was time to challenge myself by learning a script and putting meaning into my character’s dialogue,” she says. “My character is a troll, so it’s surprisingly that he’s a bit of a loner. But as the action unfolds, he ends up being the glue that holds the other characters together. It’s a great part. I’m having a lot fun with it.”

Red Knight’s website describes the show as “‘Lord of the Rings’ meets Forrest Gump meets Monty Python in this fast paced parody of the medieval fantasy genre … featuring furious swordplay and a gripping plot, the show appeals not only to hobbit-loving fantasy appreciators but to anyone who likes a good story or likes to laugh.” Its 12-person cast plays more than 40 parts.

Norment, who lives in D.C. and walks dogs by day, says her stand-up act takes on her childhood and skewed vision of the world. She riffs on the differences between gender roles, specifically how growing up she never really defined her own gender. Related horror stories include tales of the gender non-specific bowl haircut she sported throughout puberty.

Jonathan W. Colby (front) and openly gay actor Michael Litchfield in ‘Stopgap.’ (submitted photo)

The newly formed Field Trip Theatre presents “Stopgap” at Mount Vernon United Methodist Church (800 Mass Ave., NW). Written by Danielle Mohlman and staged by Jamila Reddy (both straight and both recent graduates of Studio Theatre’s prestigious apprenticeship program), the two-hour comedy drama follows the growth of a prospective single mother and her best friend and his husband who strive to create family in the heteronormative clime of Chino Hills, Calif. The six-person cast includes gay actor Michael Litchfield.

“‘Stopgap’ is about young adults coming of age,” Reddy says. “They’re learning a lot about who they are and the lives they want.” Similarly, Fringe has been an incredible learning experience for Reddy. “It’s been an exercise in self-producing. For the first time I’ve assembled a design team from all over the city.”

Also, the play’s subject matter was new for Reddy too: “I learned a lot about same-sex unions and the privilege that straight people enjoy, and take for granted.”

For schedules and tickets go to shows.capfringe.org.

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Sports

Out Olympian Kenworthy & Paralympian Dunkin on Tokyo & LGBTQ Sports

“The fact that LGBTQ youth drop out of sports at twice the rate of their heterosexual & gender counterparts, it doesn’t have to be that way.”

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Screenshot via Los Angeles Blade

TOKYO – Gus Kenworthy is in Tokyo for the Summer Games, but not to compete. The  Olympic Gold Medalist recently joined Paralympian Gold Medalist Abby Dunkin in a Zoom conversation with Athlete Ally founder and executive director Hudson Taylor and the head of LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion for Procter & Gamble, Brent Miller. 

“I felt like I knew that if I came out, there must be someone else,” Kenworthy said. “I was like, there’s someone else in skiing or an action sports or another kid who is going to resonate with my story. And if I can even help one person, then it will be worth it.”

This group of athletes and allies tackled the difficult issues of coming out in sports, fears of rejection, suicide attempts and competing authentically as well as the controversy over transgender inclusion in sports, both at the Olympics and in high schools and colleges across the U.S. 

“Only 24% of LGBTQ youth participate in sports,” noted Taylor. “The fact that LGBTQ youth drop out of sports at twice the rate of their heterosexual and gender counterparts, it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Dunkin credited Paralympian gold medalist Stephanie Wheeler as an inspiration both on the court and in everyday life as an out lesbian. 

“Stephanie really creates such a great environment for me and other athletes and also our staff, too, that were out at the time,” said Dunkin. “And that really impacted me to come out and be myself.“ Wheeler is also head coach of the Univ. of Illinois women’s wheelchair basketball team. 

As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, there are more than 142 out LGBTQ athletes competing in Tokyo, a record for any Olympic Games. And with trans nonbinary soccer player Quinn on their way to a potential gold medal, making history with out trans woman Laurel Hubbard and out trans BMX competitor Chelsea Wolfe in Tokyo, Miller says their first steps are inspiring to people all around the world, no matter what their gender identity or sexual orientation is. 

“It’s about bringing people together, supporting people, creating mutual understanding, and really celebrating all of humanity,” Miller said. “And now for us, bringing those LGBTQ+ stories forward is critically important because we see the value of what sport can bring.”

Watch their conversation with sports editor Dawn Ennis by clicking here.

Equal Representation in Sports: Why LGBTQ+ Visibility Matters

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Arts & Entertainment

Rapper DaBaby pulled by Lollapalooza over homophobic comments

“Lollapalooza was founded on diversity, inclusivity, respect, and love. With that in mind, DaBaby will no longer be performing.”

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Screenshot from Rolling Stone Magazine's YouTube Channel

CHICAGO – In an announcement Sunday morning, the organizers of Chicago’s Lollapalooza Music Festival said they had pulled artist DaBaby from tonight’s closing show after a series of public homophobic remarks by the rapper last weekend in Miami at the Rolling Loud music festival.

On Twitter Lollapalooza officials wrote; “Lollapalooza was founded on diversity, inclusivity, respect, and love. With that in mind, DaBaby will no longer be performing at Grant Park tonight.  Young Thug will now perform at 9:00pm on the Bud Light Seltzer Stage, and G Herbo will perform at 4:00pm on the T-Mobile Stage.”

The Grammy-nominated rapper’s comments onstage at the Miami festival last weekend brought swift condemnation from other artists in the music industry including British Rockstar Elton John and Madonna among many others.

In the middle of his set last weekend in Miami the rapper told the crowd, “If you didn’t show up today with HIV/AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases, that’ll make you die in two to three weeks, then put your cellphone lighter up! Ladies, if your pussy smell like water, put your cellphone lighter up! Fellas, if you ain’t sucking dick in the parking lot, put your cellphone lighter up!”

DaBaby later issued an apology via Twitter that read, “Anybody who done ever been effected by AIDS/HIV y’all got the right to be upset, what I said was insensitive even though I have no intentions on offending anybody. So my apologies” However, the addendum in the same tweet of; “But the LGBT community… I ain’t trippin on y’all, do you. y’all business is y’all business.” was immediately decried as further proof of the rapper’s intolerance of the LGBTQ community.

Michael J. Stern, a Los Angeles attorney and a former federal prosecutor who is now a noted featured columnist for USA Today blasted DaBaby’s ‘apology;’

In his response to Dababy’s remarks Elton John, who founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992, a nonprofit organization which funds frontline partners to prevent infections, fight stigma and provide care for the most vulnerable groups affected by HIV, responded in a lengthy series of tweets:

Madonna took to her Instagram telling the rapper to “know your facts,” before spreading misinformation. 

“AIDs is not transmitted by standing next to someone in a crowd,” she wrote on Instagram. “I want to put my cellphone lighter up and pray for your ignorance, No one dies of AIDS in 2 or 3 weeks anymore. Thank God.”

This year’s Lollapalooza festival, which is one of the first major festivals to return in full force since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, concludes Sunday with headlining performances by musical acts Brockhampton, the Foo Fighters, and Modest Mouse.

Dua Lipa ‘Horrified’ at DaBaby’s Homophobic Remarks at Rolling Loud | RS News 7/28/21

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Sports

IOC: ‘Trans Women Are Women’ Laurel Hubbard set to make sports history

Laurel Hubbard is set to make sports history on Monday and the International Olympic Committee clearly has her back

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Screenshot via CBS Sports

TOKYO – The director of medicine and science for the International Olympic Committee praised weightlifter Laurel Hubbard’s “courage and tenacity” as she prepares for her upcoming competition as the world’s first out transgender woman Olympian. 

In speaking to reporters in Tokyo Thursday, Dr. Richard Budgett directly addressed those who have attacked and mocked the 43-year-old New Zealander and claimed she shouldn’t be competing with cisgender women, saying  “everyone agrees that trans women are women.”

“To put it in a nutshell,” he said, “the IOC had a scientific consensus back in 2015. There are no IOC rules or regulations around transgender participation. That depends on each international federation. So Laurel Hubbard is a woman, is competing under the rules of her federation and we have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity in actually competing and qualifying for the Games.”

Hubbard herself has not made any public comments except for a statement following her qualifying for the Summer Games, saying she was “humbled” by the support which had helped her “through the darkness” following a near career-ending injury in Australia in 2018.

Reports around the world have claimed Hubbard is the first trans Olympic athlete, which is actually not the case. As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Quinn, a trans nonbinary soccer midfielder for Team Canada, last Wednesday became the first out trans athlete ever to complete in the Olympic Games. They posted about it on Instagram, saying, “I feel proud seeing ‘Quinn’ up on the lineup and on my accreditation. I feel sad knowing there were Olympians before me unable to live their truth because of the world.”

The IOC is expected to review and likely revise its policies on transgender participation following Tokyo. Trans athlete and researcher Joanna Harper, who has advised the organization and other sports policy groups, told the Los Angeles Blade her recommendation will be for the IOC to continue to regulate trans athletes sport-by-sport. “There shouldn’t be a one-size fits all policy,” said Harper. 

She also noted how the mainstream cisgender media is consumed with coverage of Hubbard and missing out on the bigger picture, and what it will mean for the next generation watching on TV and online. 
“The lack of attention paid to Quinn and to Chelsea Wolfe has been interesting,” said Harper.

“A few news outlets have commented on their presence in Tokyo and in Quinn’s case the comments have been mostly favorable. On the other hand, the storm of mostly negative press heaped on Laurel Hubbard has been disappointing, although predictable. I hope that the negative press that Laurel has gotten won’t dissuade young trans athletes from following their dreams. I think that the next trans woman to compete in the games will get less negative press, and eventually (although probably not in my life) there will come a time when trans women in sport generate little or no controversy.”

Hubbard issued a statement Friday via the New Zealand Olympic Committee in which she said: “The Olympic Games are a global celebration of our hopes, our ideals and our values. I commend the IOC for its commitment to making sport inclusive and accessible.”

According to a French news outlet, NZOC spokesperson Ashley Abbott told reporters the committee had seen a “particularly high level of interest” in Hubbard’s Olympic debut, and much of it has been negative.

“Certainly we have seen a groundswell of comment about it and a lot of it is inappropriate,” Abbott said. “Our view is that we’ve got a culture of manaaki (inclusion) and it’s our role to support all eligible athletes on our team. In terms of social media, we won’t be engaging in any kind of negative debate.”

Abbott reminded the media that the NZOC’s job was to support its athletes, including Hubbard. “We all need to remember that there’s a person behind all these technical questions,” she said. “As an organization we would look to shield our athlete, or any athlete, from anything negative in the social media space. We don’t condone cyberbullying in any way.”

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