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SMYAL honors Katie O’Malley at Fall Brunch

Event at Mandarin Oriental raised $122,000



Katie O'Malley, Maryland First Lady

Maryland First Lady Katie O’Malley (Washington Blade photo by Jonathan Ellis)

The Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) on Sunday honored Maryland First Lady Katie O’Malley for her efforts to combat bullying.

“It just breaks my heart when I hear the Tyler Clementi stories or young kids being [picked on] and called horrible things just because of who they are and what they choose to do,” said O’Malley during SMYAL’s annual Fall Brunch at the Mandarin Oriental in Southwest Washington. “It’s very, very troubling, so in Maryland we have been able to pass some pretty strong anti-bullying laws. But as I always tell kids when I go to schools you know you can have laws on the book, but it’s really about our culture.”

O’Malley, who is a judge on the Baltimore City Circuit Court, has appeared in an “It Gets Better” video for the Trevor Project. She has worked with Facebook and Time Warner to promote National Bullying Prevention Month. O’Malley also spoke at the U.S. Department of Education’s third annual Bullying Prevention Summit that took place in D.C. in August.

“You don’t have to be everybody’s friend, but you can look out for each other and you can be kind and we can try to promote that in our culture as best as we can,” she said. “I think it really goes a long way.”

O’Malley also expressed optimism that Marylanders will vote for the state’s same-sex marriage law in next month’s referendum.

“We’re so hopeful that in just 40-some days we’re going to be able to pass the marriage equality referendum,” she said.

SMYAL has worked with thousands of LGBT and questioning youth in the metropolitan area since a group of local activists founded the organization in 1984 in response to reports that young male D.C. public school students who acted “too effeminate” were incarcerated in St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatric Hospital.

Staffers and clients earlier this year testified in support of the city’s anti-bullying bill that Mayor Vincent Gray signed into law in June. SMYAL members in May joined Cyndi Lauper on Capitol Hill to raise awareness of homelessness among LGBT youth.

Andrew Barnett, the group’s executive director, noted that the new strategic plan that SMYAL adopted in March allows it to identify what he described as key issues facing LGBT youth and how the organization can most effectively respond to them.

“A really big piece of our strategic plan is knowing that there are hundreds, if not thousands of LGBTQ youth across this region, many of whom right now have no safe space. They have no support,” he said. “So a big piece of our strategic plan as we look to SMYAL’s future is to find ways for us to bring our programming to them. Finding ways for us to bring what we do at our youth center on Capitol Hill out into suburban Maryland and into Virginia, where we know there’s a huge, huge unmet need.”

Wendy Rieger, NBC4, news anchor, Washington Blade, gay news, SMYAL

NBC4 news anchor Wendy Rieger (Washington Blade photo by Jonathan Ellis)

NBC4 news anchor Wendy Rieger, who emceed the brunch that raised $122,000 for SMYAL, discussed how her 16-year-old niece recently texted a lesbian friend struggling to come out to her parents information about the organization.

“She said, ‘thank you so much, this is exactly what I’m looking for,’” recalled Rieger. “When you are in need of something, whether you find wildlife on the road and you don’t want this poor creature to suffer or whether a relative tells you this story and you’re thinking there’s someone whose confused out there, you want to be able to call someone. You want to be able to call someone. And that’s what SMYAL does. They’re there.”

SMYAL intern Tatiana Newman, who began attending the Women’s Leadership Institute’s meetings in February, agreed.

“When I found SMYAL I found safety, community and inspiration,” she said. “Being a lesbian in 2012 doesn’t mean I have a particularly easy live, but it’s one of change — change that SMYAL allows me to be a very proactive part of.”

SMYAL board member Cheryl S. Clarke discussed how the organization helped her after her oldest son Michael came out to her at the start of his senior year of college.

“I knew I needed to learn more about his community. I knew I wanted to be supportive of my son. I knew I wanted to educate myself to be in touch with resources that I needed to expand my repertoire,” she said, noting she reached out to current SMYAL Board Vice Chair Mike Schwartz for help. “’I said, Mike I need some help. I want to continue to be the best mother I can, but I want to now understand how to be an African American mother of an African American gay man.”



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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