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Carnival’s ‘no costume rule’ sparks controversy

Carnival President Gerry Cahill apologies, said those who want to dress in drag “may do so.”



Gay News, Washington Blade, Alexis Mateo

Alexis Mateo from the third season of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’ (Photo courtesy of Mateo.)

A cruise company’s “no costume rule” has raised eyebrows less than a week before a ship on which cast members of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” are slated to perform is set to depart for the Caribbean.

Alexis Mateo, JuJuBee, Rebecca Glasscock, Michelle Visage and more than 30 other drag queens and performers are scheduled to take part in the Drag Stars at Sea: Caribbean Adventure – Revenge of the Wench Cruise on the Carnival Glory that is scheduled to set sail from Miami on Dec. 2. The ship will dock in the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands before returning to Florida on Dec. 9.

Passengers received an “urgent notice” signed by Vicky Rey, vice president of guest services for Carnival Cruise Lines, on Monday that reminded them of the policy.

“Carnival attracts a number of families with children and for this reason; we strive to present a family friendly atmosphere,” reads the letter. “It is important to us that all guests are comfortable with every aspect of the cruise. Although we realize this group consists solely of adults, we nonetheless expect all guests to recognize that minors are onboard and, refrain from engaging in inappropriate conduct in public areas.”

The letter further acknowledged “arrangements have been made for drag performances in the main theater” that will feature “stars from LOGO TV.”

“These functions will be private and only the performers are permitted to dress in drag while in the theater,” it reads. “Guests are not allowed to dress in drag for the performances or in public areas at any time during the cruise. We’re sorry to say that any guest who violates our policies and/or whose behavior affects the comfort and enjoyment of other guests, will be disembarked at their own expense and no refund will be given.”

Al Ferguson of Al and Chuck Travel, which organized the cruise, responded to the growing controversy on the gay-owned company’s Facebook page late on Monday.

“We are sympathetic to your sentiments that you have expressed via email and social media,” he wrote. “As a gay man who has been partnered for 25 years, I have suffered many forms of discrimination because I am part of the GLBT community. But please take note, Carnival’s regulation is not an example of discrimination. Carnival is an ally of the GLBT community. Please understand that this cruise could not even be happening on the Glory if Carnival was not an ally of our segment of society. When they say they are a ‘family friendly’ cruise line they mean it in both the traditional and metaphorical sense of the phrase.”

Ferguson further stressed in his post the “no costumes rule” is in response to post-Sept. 11 security procedures Carnival has adopted.

“As a gay business, we would not have organized this cruise if they were prejudiced against gay people,” he wrote. “This rule goes for both gay and straight passengers that travel on all Carnival cruises. It is in response to the post-911 world we live in. It is meant to protect passengers and guests – not to marginalize a few. Additionally, we know that transgendered members of our community will be aboard with us during this event. Please do not worry, Carnivals rule is not meant towards you. Your right to live your identity is always supported.”

Those who responded to Ferguson’s statement to his company’s Facebook page expressed their outrage over the policy and its decision to organize the cruise with Carnival.

“This is outrageous,” one person wrote.

“Carnival is saying that men dressing in women’s clothing is offensive,” another person added. “Their statement is what is offensive. So, they are saying that they are going to enforce oppressive sex stereotypes. This situation is not only homophobic but is sexist.”

Carnival President Gerry Cahill categorized the controversy as a miscommunication in a letter scheduled to go to passengers later today.

“The group, ‘Drag Stars at Sea,’ includes several performances by stars from Logo TV as part of a series of private events onboard,” he wrote. “When the group was presented to us we were advised that only the performers would be dressed in drag during the private events. However, we are now aware that this was not clearly communicated to members of the group and therefore anyone who wishes to dress in drag may do so. Please keep in mind that our safety and security procedures require guests to present government-issued ID, and to be recognizably that person.”

Cahill further stressed Carnival “welcomes them all aboard.” The company will also offer a full refund to anyone who wishes to cancel “for any reason” and will reimburse them for any non-refundable travel-related expenses.

“We constantly strive to provide our guests with a fun and memorable vacation,” Cahill wrote. “We look forward to welcoming everyone onboard Carnival Glory and again want to apologize for the misunderstanding and for any offense we have caused.”

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  1. Phil Reese

    November 27, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Is "travel equality" the next frontier for the LGBT movement?

  2. Tony Wichowski

    November 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Why is it okay for transgendered people, but not for gay-identified people to dress in costume. Forgive me for being one of those gays, but why dotrannies get special rights when THEY decide to dress up in a gender that is not their actual gender?

    • Kara Sprague

      November 27, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      Who trans people are is not a costume, Tony.
      It is not "dress-up" any more than your preference for men is an "act."
      You might know that it's not a choice, if you educated yourself rather than spew bigoted talking points favored by Faux News types.
      Oh, and the t-word is an offensive epithet for many of us trans folk and its definitely NOT a word that you, as a non-trans person should use.
      I believe Carnival's stance is ridiculous and an affront to its LGBT customers, not just the G.

    • Clarissa Alysha Hollar

      November 28, 2012 at 8:12 am

      Tony…You need to educate yourself in the trans community. Seriously. But you can stay on that ship all you want too..You will not find me on a boat filled with drag queens.

    • Daria Johnson

      November 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      Tony, you seem to lack critical thinking skills as well as anything like an objective point of view.

      What gives you the right to pontificate from on high? Do you think that because you choose to 'costume' and 'pretend' that the same motivation attaches to us? It doesn't. We are who we are, no better or worse than any other people, we want only the basic human dignity and rights that others (like YOU) claim for themselves.

      Your self righteous ignorance and arrogant claim to offense because we trans-folk get 'special rights' is nothing so much as a public declaration of your own ignorance, self absorption, and insufferable arrogance.

      You want to live your life as a 'gay man' or drag queen'? Fine! Go for it; but do NOT presume to judge me.

      I wear no 'costume', I do not 'pretend' and my lifelong struggle with transsexualism, quite frankly, make your experience of 'persecution' laughable.

      Do yourself and the world a huge favor and shine a light into the darkness of your own heart, look carefully at what you find there, and ask yourself..'why do I display my arrogant ignorance as a badge of pride?'

    • Tony Wichowski

      November 28, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      Alright, settle down. My point is, dressing in a gender other than one's own was what was being denied to gay men, but NOT to trannies. Why? What makes trannies so special that THEIR decision to dress in the opposite gender's clothing MUST be acknowledged and celebrated, while gay men choosing the same are denied? I wasn't attacking trannies (although so many of you seem to think EVERYTHING is an attack). My point is – some people dress in oopposite gender clothing and recognize it as a lark, while some adopt it as a lifestyle choice. Who is going to be that judge? Will they have people on the cruise to verify that YOU are are transgendered, while YOU are just gay and in a costume? And sorry, "tranny" is not a bad word, equivalent to the "N" word. Live your life, but don't expect that I should bow down to your gender dysmorphia as if it were something to be revered.

    • Cyrsti Hart

      November 28, 2012 at 10:12 pm

      Really Tony???? I can't add much more to what has already been said about you except I am glad I DON'T know any ignorant bigoted gay men like you

  3. Robin Day

    November 27, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    The no-costume policy apparently does not apply during Halloween cruises. I don't buy it for a second. We booked a Drag Race Cruise through a gay travel agent; imagine our surprise at being told to be careful not to offend their guests or we would be put off the ship.

  4. MK

    November 27, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Spare me. A gay MP in the UK is going to vote against marriage equality. Being gay doesn’t make you a friend to the entire LGBT community.

  5. Christian Aldridge

    November 28, 2012 at 11:50 am

    The cruise line seems to be over reacting to something that hasn't happened. Carnival has definitely been keen on taking money from the gay community and I think someone in their corporate office needs to wipe the sleep from their eyes and understand that if you invite a large group of gay folks on a drag cruise there is a pretty likely that someone might dress in drag. Dressing up in-and-of-itself isn't offensive so I'd say as long as offensive activity is kept in check – and I'm not talking about kissing or holding hands – then everyone will be just fine.

    • Angela Peters Callahan

      November 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      Guess they misunderstood the Drag Start part of the cruise title. Oh well, we can't all be smart.

  6. Paul Wilson

    November 28, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    mmmm, next thing carnival will be offering is "conversion" vacations…

  7. Paul Wilson

    November 28, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Guess the LGBT community will need to start a boycott of Carnival Cruise Lines.

    • Joseph Cortes

      November 28, 2012 at 9:49 pm

      Guess you haven't heard todays news

    • Joseph Cortes

      November 28, 2012 at 9:49 pm

      Guess you haven't heard todays news

    • Paul Wilson

      November 28, 2012 at 9:58 pm

      I haven't read everything, what's the news?

    • Joseph Cortes

      November 28, 2012 at 10:36 pm

      they issued a Rupology & stated that it was a security detail taken out of context. So, everyone is allowed to drag on.(However, the timing seemed odd, they waited to a week before they embark, but seems to be resolved, we'll have to wait till they return)

  8. Andre Hopfer

    November 29, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    all this is absolute nonsense. This cruise should have never been booked on Carnival to begin with. The Agency that booked that cruise needed to read the fine print before making any arrangements. Part of the fun on going on a gay cruise is that we should be able to express ourselves in a comfortable, safe and nondescriminating environment. Also may I point out that the cruise line knows very well who the passengers are when they are boarding since Passports are required on all Cruises docking in non US ports. So thre should be no need to carry ID on board.

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Study: One in ten LGBT workers experienced discrimination at work

LGBTQ employees of color were more likely to report being denied jobs and verbal harassment at work as opposed their white counterparts



bullying in the workforce, gay news, Washington Blade

LOS ANGELES – A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds an estimated 46% of LGBT workers have experienced unfair treatment at work at some point in their lives, including being fired, not hired, or harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  

An estimated 9% of LGBT employees reported experiences of discrimination in the past year, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which extended employment non-discrimination protections to LGBT people nationwide. Approximately 11% of LGBT employees of color reported being fired or not hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in the last year.

Using survey data collected in May 2021 from 935 LGBT adults in the workforce, researchers examined lifetime, five-year, and past-year discrimination among LGBT employees.

Results show that over half (57%) of LGBT employees who experienced discrimination or harassment at work reported that the unfair treatment was motivated by religious beliefs, including 64% of LGBT employees of color and 49% of white LGBT employees.

“Employment discrimination and harassment against LGBT people remain persistent and pervasive in 2021,” said lead author Brad Sears, Founding Executive Director at the Williams Institute. “Passing the Equality Act would ensure that LGBT people—particularly transgender people and LGBT people of color—are allowed to participate fully in the workplace as well as other public settings.”



  • 30% of LGBT employees reported experiencing at least one form of employment discrimination (being fired or not hired) because of their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their lives.
  • 29% of LGBT employees of color reported not being hired compared to 18% of white LGBT employees.


  • 38% of LGBT employees reported experiencing at least one form of harassment (including verbal, physical, or sexual harassment) at work because of their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their lives.
  • LGBT employees of color were significantly more likely to experience verbal harassment than white employees.
    • 36% of LGBT employees of color reported experiencing verbal harassment compared to 26% of white LGBT employees.

Religious Motivation

  • Of employees who experienced discrimination or harassment at some point in their lives, 64% of LGBT employees of color said that religion was a motivating factor compared to 49% of white LGBT employees.

Avoiding Discrimination

  • Half (50%) of LGBT employees said that they are not open about being LGBT to their current supervisor and one-quarter (26%) are not out to any of their co-workers. 
  • Many LGBT employees reported engaging in “covering” behaviors to avoid harassment or discrimination at work, such as changing their physical appearance and avoiding talking about their families or social lives at work.
    • For example, 36% of transgender employees said that they changed their physical appearance and 28% said they changed their bathroom use at work to avoid discrimination and harassment.

Read the report

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Time to dust off your pre-pandemic budget

We can no longer rely on closures to restrict us from spending money



With pandemic restrictions lifting, we’ll all be spending more on going out in 2021 than we did last year.

D.C.’s first ‘mostly open’ weekend shows there is a year’s worth of socializing built up. It was amazing to feel the energy of the District roar back to life. From long lines outside bars to literal dancing in the streets – this is the city we all came to love. Now that the physical hangover may have subsided, you should prepare for the financial hangover. If you were lucky to keep your full pay and position through the pandemic, data tells us most of you were paying down debt.

The first thing everyone needs to do is dust off that old pre-pandemic budget. Sadly (or really luckily), we can no longer rely on health restrictions to naturally restrict us from spending. If you need a refresher, start with your post-tax income. From there, subtract ‘fixed’ or required expenses, like rent, and the balance is what you get to play with. Some may ask why I don’t use gross income (aka the before tax income) like many financial institutions do for credit applications. Frankly, it’s because net income (aka the money you actually receive) is the most practical number to budget daily life with. It’s what you can tangibly use to live.

Now as you develop your budget, return to using an app like Mint to take some of the work out of it. If you prefer to retain some level of privacy, many banks offer their own version of ‘spending trends’ that you can use to put together a more simple budget. This time the challenge is a bit different – we are all ‘restarting’ our social lives. So instead of having to ‘cut’ things, we can better prioritize what we actually want to do. Still – it is not easy or fun to have to choose, but every dollar you don’t spend today, will be there for the next rainy day.

Finally, so many of our friends and family lost their jobs or had their wages cut during the pandemic. Expanded unemployment benefits helped, but anyone trying to budget for life in D.C. knows that choices had to be made and often rent/utilities took a back seat to eating. Luckily, a state-run, but federal program will help people pay back rent and utilities, so they can focus on getting back to work. In D.C., this is called StayDC, but each jurisdiction offers a similar program.

Be prepared to do a little homework, you will need proof of income (or lack thereof) and documentation of the late payments. Finally, your landlord will need to complete separate forms, but it is in their best interest to receive those funds, so don’t let them drag their feet. The program will cover back rent to April 2021, three months of future rent, and past utilities. Do not delay, nor feel any shame by participating – this is the key to your long term success and, frankly, is a drop in the bucket compared to other spending priorities.

I hope this helps and I wish everyone a much more fun and prosperous 2021.

Information contained herein is for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice or recommendations. Advice may only be provided after entering into an advisory agreement with an advisor.

Alex Graham is a Principal at Graham Capital Wealth Management, a registered Investment Advisor located on K Street.

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Gay D.C. business owner to run 100-mile ultramarathon

Brandt Ricca to raise money for Capital Pride, LGBTQ businesses



Brandt Ricca (Photo by Jonathan Thorpe/jthorpephoto)

Brandt Ricca will begin a non-stop 100-mile ultramarathon at 6 a.m. on Oct. 7 while most D.C. residents will still be sipping their morning coffee.

In a year of isolation and economic downturn, Ricca decided to run 100 miles in two days to benefit local, LGBTQ-owned businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Ricca, who’s lived in D.C. for 10 years, is donating the money he raises to the Capital Pride Alliance and Equality Chamber of Commerce, where he has been a member since 2018.

The gay entrepreneur and owner of the D.C.-based business Nora Lee by Brandt Ricca understands first-hand how the ongoing pandemic affects small businesses, particularly LGBTQ-owned companies.

“I definitely want to give back to the community and local colleagues, especially because Capitol Pride has been now canceled two years in a row,” Ricca said.

Out of the funds raised, 90 percent will go towards funding 20 small business grants through the Equality Chamber of Commerce and the remaining 10 percent will go towards supporting Capital Pride Alliance.  

Brandt, already an avid runner and self-described “fitness explorer,” decided after crowdsourcing ideas to pursue the 100-mile project. Ricca has been a frequent visitor at the Equinox Anthem Row in D.C. to prepare for the run.

“I was looking to do my next fitness endeavor, at the same time wanting to do something to get back to the fellow business owners in D.C.,” he said.

Applications for the 20 grants of various sizes for LGBTQ businesses are projected to open this summer through the Equality Chamber of Commerce, Ricca said. His goal is to raise $100,000 from individuals and companies. The grants will be distributed in October following the completion of the run.

Equality Chamber of Commerce Vice President Riah Gonzales-King is in the process of developing grants and additional summer educational programming to help young LGBTQ entrepreneurs and students start their businesses.

“So much of the culture centers around these businesses, many of which have been around for decades,” Gonzales-King said. “They’re pillars of the community — their owners are pillars in the community. And I think it’s time that we gave back.”

Helping LGBTQ entrepreneurs specifically at this time is essential, Ricca said, especially entrepreneurs in the creative and hospitality industry.

Ricca began training in February with the help of several exercise experts like Brian Mazza, a New York City fitness entrepreneur who ran 50 miles last December to raise awareness for male infertility stigma. The former Men’s Health headliner is guiding Ricca’s physical training, which has been a near-daily routine. Ricca was inspired by Mazza’s run in the first place.

Ricca reached out to Mazza over Instagram to get his assistance and training.

Mazza said Ricca reaching out over Instagram “meant the world.”

“I believe what he’s doing for his cause is remarkable,” Mazza said. “It’s important. I’m happy that he’s standing up for what he believes in and helping these businesses and helping individuals in general.”

Jacob Zemer, a coach and nutritionist, has designed a daily nutrition program for Ricca to prepare him for the run. Zemer and Mazza have been working together throughout the process to track Ricca’s health and progress.

The two fitness experts work with Ricca multiple times a day to monitor his diet, mileage, heart rate and pace monitoring. Both Mazza and Zemer said Ricca’a training has been successful.

“Brandt’s an excellent individual,” Zemer said. “He’s very easy to work with. He’s highly coachable, he’s a pleasure to talk to every day.”

Pacers Running will be sponsoring and designing Ricca’s 100-mile route throughout the D.C. region. The company is also working with Ricca to design specific shoes for the ultramarathon.

Pacers Running CEO Kathy Dalby won “Best Straight Ally” in the Washington Blade’s 2019 Best of Gay D.C.

“I really wanted someone local who could really guide me on a route,” Ricca said.

Elyse Braner, a community lead at Pacers Running and longtime friend to Ricca, said the local business was excited to collaborate with Brandt because of an alignment of values.

“As a community, inclusivity and diversity is extremely important to Pacers Running,” Braner said. “As a small business, we really appreciated that Brandt wanted to do an event that supported small businesses — specifically LGBTQ businesses.”

Originally an event-planning business, Nora Lee debuted in 2018 on the second annual Allison Gala, a fundraising event benefiting the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, which Brandt created in memory of a family friend. He’s worked with a range of clients, including the Dupont Circle Hotel and Sotheby’s Real Estate.

Looking back at events on his website, he said he found himself bored with the photography. This led him to focus on creative marketing and decided to pivot his business model at the beginning of the pandemic. Now, Ricca provides photography and video shoots for clients.

“When COVID hit I decided to, like every business owner, I revisited my plan,” he said. “I really enjoyed the creative branding more in the photo shoot. So I decided to pivot strictly to just a full-on creative branding agency.”

The training for the 100-mile run has provided a stable routine for Ricca, which has helped him get through the pandemic, he said. Ricca is planning to create a campaign this summer inviting LGBTQ entrepreneurs to do their version of 100 miles, with the hope it will provide positive stability in their lives as it does in his.

“Obviously, people think I’m crazy for doing this,” Ricca said. “All the uncertainty out there right now – with business, with clients, with whatever; I needed an anchor. Something that was going to be a routine for me that I can control.”

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