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Queer conference explores language

Nuances exposed and examined — including porn star grunts, according to organizer

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kiss, Washington Blade, gay news

Organizers of the Lavender Language Conference say even the sounds gay porn actors make in the throes of passion have meaning and can teach us something about our gay lives. (Photo via Wikimedia)

Lavender Languages & Linguistics Conference
Friday through Sunday
American University
Washington
Prices vary — presentations may be attended individually and cost $25 per session for employed persons; discounts available for anyone who wants to attend but can’t afford to pay
Registration is possible on site or online
American.edu/lavenderlanguages

Watching gay porn at William Leap’s house near American University in Washington can be tedious.

“There’s a lot of hilarity with that,” Leap says. “My partner always wants to race through it. He says, ‘Oh, come on, this is stupid,’ and I’m like, ‘No, I need to listen to this. I want to hear the dialogue and really think about what phrases they’re saying.”

And yes, in a way, Leap does have a dialogue fetish but it’s not sexual. He’s a linguistics specialist and professor at American University in its College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Anthropology. His 20th annual Lavender Languages & Linguistics Conference, which he says is the longest-running queer academic conference in North America, convenes today. He and a stable of other academics will welcome about 150 attendees from around the world to a weekend jammed with about 80 presentations on queer language. Language used in gay porn is just one of the many topics that will be covered.

“We have a guy coming, and this is such a hoot,” Leap says with palpable glee, “who’s doing a presentation comparing the sounds guys make in coital ecstasy with the sounds animals make in the zoo and in the wild. He’s actually doing a phonetic technical analysis and comparison to see how, for instance, [gay porn star] Damien Crosse grunts, so I don’t know, we’ll see what he comes up with.”

But even with nods to porn and gay pop culture, isn’t the conference a bit on the geeky and dry side? Leap says no and that the use of language — from the way words are spoken to the origins of phrases and expressions — has a profound effect on LGBT lives. Yes, it’s his pet passion, but he says there’s something any queer person could find useful in the event.

“I think the real value in it is that it reminds us that gay is not a single phenomenon and no one owns it,” Leap says. “No one has a right to stand up and speak for all queer people and part of what we have to do as academics is make it clear that there’s this vast diversity of things associated with the use of language. Gays and lesbians have a rich history that has largely been ignored. These cultural experiences are not being talked about in textbooks.”

Leap started the event in 1993 with a half-day event and about 85 in attendance. Now it’s three days and he expects about 150 to register in addition to “walk ins” who come for “a session or two.” It’s a non-profit event and Leap says those who are interested but can’t pay will not be turned away or denied lunch/refreshments. He also says there’s a refreshing non-snob factor with the professors whom he encourages to mingle with attendees from all walks of life.

“There’s no attitude here, no prima donnas,” he says. “We really want an environment where everybody is free to talk to everybody.”

David Peterson, a gay associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, has been attending and presenting almost every year since 1995. He says the topics that have been explored over the years at the Conference have endless “real world” implications for LGBT people.

“If we want to counter the kinds of things the Family Research Council, for example, is doing, we have to have some understanding of what they’re doing or it won’t be effective,” he says. “We can’t just protest it and say, ‘They’re just fundamentalist Bible thumpers,’ because they’re really not. It’s quite interesting, and not what many people would expect, that they don’t use a lot of scripture quoting on their website and in their arguments. … There’s been a shift. One of the things they do is pretend to be social scientists saying very homophobic things in what appears to be the objective language of science.”

Leap is happy to go anywhere during a phone chat this week. During an hour-plus conversation, he touched on dozens of topics. Among them:

• On understanding how gay language has changed in 20 years: “One of the most important things we’ve learned is that 20 years ago, many folks thought there was a gay language, a gay way of talking where you could identify a particular accent or a single way of doing things and while there’s probably some truth to that, what we’re realizing now is it’s terribly complex. There is no single way of talking, there is no such thing as a gay accent and it really varies across different groups, segments, classes and cultures. … You try to translate a phrase like “coming out of the closet” into French, for example, and their reaction would be, ‘Why would I be in a wardrobe?’ … If they’re actually talking about telling family and friends they’re gay, they would say it in an altogether different way and that’s just one example. Referring to the ‘gayborhood,’ is another that just has no French equivalent. And that’s just using French as an example. You can imagine how this varies around the world.”

 • Is faggot the new “n word”? “Well, yes and no,” Leap says. “A lot of guys use it as a term of self reference but get very angry if somebody else says it about them, so for many it is. It’s kind of like the high school expression, ‘That’s so gay,’ which is widely used as a bullying term. I don’t think this needs a whole lot of theorizing. It’s like queer was 20 years ago. We kind of took it back, made a joke of it and said, ‘You don’t own this term.’ We can do that with fag if we want.”

• Norman Lear could have Archie Bunker say fag on a sitcom 30 years ago but now celebrities who use the word get criticized and not just by GLAAD. What does that say about how language usage has changed? “It’s good because it keeps our issues on the front burner,” Leap says. “Yes, things have come a long way, but I still worry until we have some serious workplace protections in place. All these things we can do to keep that visibility going are good.”

• You say there’s no such thing as gay language, but you hear people say things like, “He was hot until he opened his mouth and a pink umbrella fell out.” People seem to know, at least among gay men in the U.S., pretty universally what that means. Thoughts? “It could be tone, it could be pitch. It’s really interesting because what it really shows us is that there’s no single thing as gay language, it’s really everyone’s perception of it. What they believe gay language to be.”

• Some celebs, when they come out, are very unequivocal. Others, such as Jodie Foster at the Golden Globes last month, don’t use the word lesbian, yet everyone watching knew what she meant. Does that cut it? “Of course it matters. Anyone who’s in a position of relative safety and privilege, should. I’m not going to say she should have, but I would have thought it would have been great and would have meant more to the 9-year-old girl watching. And yet what she did was absolutely wonderful and I’m dying to see a transcript of it, because you’re right, while everybody knew what she meant and it was her most direct statement yet, it was also terribly opaque on some levels. It’s a great example of using language in an indirect way though yeah, it would have been great if she’d just used the L word and been done with it.”

• LGBT has some universality to it, but people, in a quest to be inclusive, have added letters for those questioning, allies and so on. Is that OK? “This is when you see why the word queer has some appeal because it can encompass a whole range of counter-normative identities, aspirations and desires. And yes, this LGBTQ-adding on of letters gets to be this ridiculous alphabet soup where you can’t possibly include everybody in the phone book. A lot of it, for men who are same-sex identified, is, ‘Do you suck cock?’ But even then you have people, like Larry Craig, who are straight identified but like to suck cock. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want him on my team. One of the interesting things this leads to is how people make sense of themselves. You really start to see how many nuances there are to queer language.”

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Real Estate

Investing in real estate: What you need to know

From REITs to flips, tips for getting started

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In many cases, buying or selling a home is a very personal experience. Many people buy a home with the intention of living there – making memories, building a family, becoming part of a community. The same is true of sellers. Selling a home, in many cases, is simultaneously difficult and exciting – it means the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another. While the majority of buying and selling experiences may be personal – increasingly, others in the market are interested in real estate not just to find a home, but also to make a great investment.

In our current market, it’s easy to see why real estate can often end up being quite a profitable investment. In 2021, sellers often saw huge profits on the sale of real estate – but even in years where profits aren’t quite as significant as this year, real estate has often proven to be a sound and reliable long-term investment strategy. Real estate investments can add diversification to your portfolio, and a very successful venture, particularly if you buy and sell when the circumstances are right.

Over the last several years, many gay neighborhoods around the country have shown steady appreciation, leading investors, and particularly LGBTQ investors, to consider whether the time is right to consider adding real estate to their investment portfolio. For those considering real estate as an investment strategy, here are a few helpful tips:

• Consider REITs: For those just getting started with real estate investment, Real Estate Investment Trusts, or “REITs” for short, might be a good option. These provide the opportunity to invest in real estate without owning the physical real estate yourself. They are often compared to mutual funds, and you invest in a company, a REIT, which owns commercial real estate like office buildings, apartments, hotels, and retail spaces. Generally, REITs pay high dividends, which make them a popular investment in retirement, as well as for investors not wanting to own one particular piece of property.

• Consider investing in rental properties: Rental income can often be a steady, reliable source of income if you do your due diligence researching the property itself, the surrounding neighborhood, and the potential community of renters. While maintaining a rental property will certainly require some investment of time and energy on your part, it can be a profitable long-term investment and one that is appealing to many people.

• Put your skills to work: If you have a skill set that includes being able to renovate and upgrade homes – or if you know a trusted person or team of people who does, flipping a home that could use some renovation can be quite a profitable investment indeed. Getting a home that could use some extra TLC at a good price and updating it can result in a sales price that is significantly higher than the purchase price. This can certainly be a very good investment – and a fulfilling project too.

• Be willing to listen and learn: When trying something new, it is almost always helpful to talk to those with experience in that area. Investing in real estate is no different. Having a mentor who can give you some tips and advice from their own experience is invaluable.

• Get to know the neighborhood: When making any real estate decision, whether you’re going to live in a home yourself or purchase property for investment purposes, knowing the neighborhood and community you’re interested in is important. A key part of that will be finding a real estate agent who knows and loves the community that you’re interested in, and who understands the market in that area. This can make all the difference between a smooth and successful process, and a stressful one.

(At GayRealEstate.com, we are dedicated to our mission of connecting LGBTQ home buyers and sellers with talented, knowledgeable, and experienced real estate agents across the country who can help them to achieve their real estate goals. Whether you’re interested in buying or selling a home that you live in personally, or buying and selling for investment purposes, we can connect you with an agent who knows and loves the community, and who can help you achieve your goals. Contact us at any time. We look forward to helping you soon.)

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at
303-378-5526 or [email protected].

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Dining

Bistro du Jour transports you from Wharf to Seine

New casually sophisticated restaurant a welcoming, inclusive space

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The owners of Bistro du Jour say, ‘Our restaurants are intended to be welcoming to all guests of all backgrounds, beliefs and demographics.’ (Photo by Rey Lopez courtesy Bistro du Jour)

Delights run morning to night at The Wharf’s new Bistro du Jour, a casually sophisticated French outpost sliding into a prime waterfront space.

Courtesy of gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design, this new restaurant flaunts a menu born from a Seine-side bistro, serving coffee in the morning hours to Champagne in the evening. Its all-day culinary oeuvre begins with coffee (from La Colombe) and omelettes, and ends with items like a towering and meaty bi-patty cheeseburger L’Americain.

Taking over the sweet spot vacated by Dolcezza, Bistro du Jour is a sister to Mi Vida and The Grill, KNEAD group’s two other Southwest waterfront locales. The group also runs several other formal and large-format restaurants they have populated across the city.

Why bring French to the Wharf?

“We have been here for almost four years and we knew what the area was missing and acted on it,” says one of the co-owners, Jason Berry. “We wanted something where people could come in at all hours of the day and find something they wanted, from coffee and pastry to a full-on sit down at night.”

The Bistro opens at 7:30 a.m. serving that local La Colombe coffee, plus flaky, buttery pastries from KNEAD’s partner Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery. Breakfast service starts at 8 a.m. with brioche doughnuts, quiches, a “massive” Belgian waffle, and French toast topped with a blueberry compote and sweetened whipped cream.

Executive Chef Treveen Dove – transferred after three years at another KNEAD spot, Succotash Prime) – oversees the offerings, a tour of the “greatest hits” of a typical Parisian bistro.

“Oeufs Sur Le Plat is to die for, with the griddled buttered bread topped with a sunny side up egg, sautéed mushrooms and a Mornay sauce… It’s so rich and delicious.”

By 11 a.m., the Bistro transitions to other traditional French fare, like French onion soup, tuna Niçoise salad, steak frites, mussels in a white wine and garlic butter, and a croque madame sandwich dripping with gruyere and creamy Bechamel. One unique offering is whipped brown butter with radishes and crostinis. There are also gougeres, warm cheese puffs shot through with gruyere.

Come 4 p.m., the dinner menu fills out even more, with additional dinner items confit de canard (duck leg with green lentils and red wine shallots); and a robust, earthy coq au vin (braised chicken with bacon, mushrooms and mashed potatoes); and a lamb shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes that would be at home on a French Alps farm.

Due to space limitations, the Bistro lacks a sit-down bar. Yet beverage director Darlin Kulla, who has been a part of the KNEAD family for more than four years, has put together a focused menu of six craft cocktails. You’ll find not only a French 75 (gin, lemon verbena, lemon, bubbles), but also a Manhattan and a “Champs Elysees” with cognac, chartreuse, lemon, and bitters.

The bar itself carries only one brand of each liquor: one gin, rum, and vodka. “ If you want vodka, you’re having Grey Goose,” notes Reg with a smile.

Given the cuisine, there is a considerable French wine list topping 60 bottles, leaning heavily on Champagne and sparkling wine. There are almost 20 red, white, rose, and Champagne options by the glass and carafe, as well. The bar rounds out its stock with French aperitifs and bottled beer.

Notably, the majority of the restaurant’s seating is situated on the building’s exterior, in a newly constructed all-season patio enclosure with almost 70 seats. The owners designed the space to maximize waterfront views, capacity, and flexibility. During warmer days, the Potomac breeze is welcome to flutter around coffee-sippers; in the colder months, the windows roll down for a fully enclosed and conditioned space. The patio’s banquettes arrived directly from France, and twinkling strung lights sway from the ceiling.

The interior is done up in Mediterranean greens, pinks, and creams. Big windows welcome in daytime natural light, but allow for a dim, mood-lit atmosphere in the evening. Traditional bentwood bistro chairs dot the space and antique-style tin tiles reflect a classic Parisian flair. Over at the bar, the glassware display was created from a single panel of antiqued brass. At the rear, a daytime counter offers coffee, pastries, and drinks.

As Bistro du Jour’s owners are both gay men, they note that, “Our restaurants are intended to be welcoming to all guests of all backgrounds, beliefs and demographics. We cater to everyone, which is the only way to lead a hospitality organization.”

“When you’re part of a minority group in society,” they say, “the only way to lead your restaurants is as inclusive, welcoming, and hospitable leaders.”

Though smaller than their other ventures, a French bistro right on the teeming, pedestrian-heavy Wharf “was the perfect fit,” they say. 

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Real Estate

Dining without a dining room

Today’s hosts are likely more casual than in the past

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The large formal dining room is a thing of the past. Here are some tips for a more modest Thanksgiving set up.

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, you may be thinking about gathering your loved ones and kindred spirits to celebrate the positive things in your life, praise your higher power, pay homage to indigenous people, or just stuff your face and fall asleep in front of the television at the traditional Thanksgiving after-party: the football game.

Thinking back to my childhood, I remember the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. The elegant table in the formal dining room was adorned with a crisp, white tablecloth, “the good china,” sterling silver place settings, a variety of serving dishes for the forthcoming bounty, and a cornucopia centerpiece containing dried fruits and vegetables.

My dad, Ozzie, would carve the turkey and my mom, Harriet, would bring out the pecan and mincemeat pies for dessert…wait a minute…did I really grow up in a 1950s sitcom? Yup, I did, although Ozzie was Don and Harriet was Grayce.

Sometimes we would visit my maternal grandparents in Maine, whose formal dining room was less so – an extended part of the living room in the 1940s version of an open floor plan in their three-bedroom apartment over the general store and gas station that my grandfather owned.

On occasion, we would go to Massachusetts to spend a day or two with my paternal grandmother and her extended clan. There was nothing “formal” about the dining room there. Dinner took place on a litany of card tables set up on the jalousied porch off the kitchen.

When dinner was over, my grandmother would rise from the head of the table and declare, “I made the dinner. Now you do the dishes.” My father and his sisters would scurry like baby chicks to adhere to her demand.

As I grew older, I rarely lived near family. Every so often, I would be invited to dinner as the obligatory guest – the girlfriend of whatever young man I was seeing at the time. Later, I would become part of the restaurant holiday dining crowd.

For several years, I had a standing date with a good friend for dinner and a movie on Thanksgiving Day. We would choose restaurants that advertised dishes like Lobster Thermador, Champagne Ravioli, or Boeuf Bourguignon, but would invariably select the traditional turkey dinner with dressing and all the trimmings from the prix fixe menu.

Fast-forward to 2020 and we may not have gathered at all, content to have Whole Foods or Door Dash deliver Thanksgiving dinner to be eaten in front of the television while watching Hallmark movies.

Now here we are. The formal dining room has gone the way of the good china and the sterling silver. For most of us, they are simply not necessities in our lives any longer. So how do you host a dinner party when there is no room specifically designated for dining?

First, you don’t need to purchase things you have no room to store later. Although “rent” can be a four-letter word to a real estate agent, a party rental company’s website allows you to select items online and have them delivered and removed at a fraction of the cost.

Are you trying to seat a large group for dinner? Let’s start with the premise that all your guests do not need to be at a banquet table. Consider having several tables for two or four placed around the room. It will give you the ambiance of your favorite bistro and still allow for conversation among your guests.

You can also rent folding chairs, linens, place settings, and stemware. Once your order arrives, just set the tables and add candles or your favorite centerpieces to complete a festive look.

If you have no room for a seated event, you can order standing cocktail tables. Your breakfast bar or kitchen counter will make a perfect buffet line.

Better yet, have an open house, inviting guests at slightly different times so you see everyone without feeling like you’re in the middle of a crowded concert.

Is your style even more casual? Rather than worrying about recycling plastic cups and sporks, pick up a bunch of Oftast dinner or dessert plates for 79 cents each at Ikea. Add a 6-pack of Svalka wine glasses and cutlery service for four from the Mopsig collection for $5 each. Pull out some pillows and eat while sitting cross-legged on the floor surrounded by family and friends.

Some of us may have trouble getting back up, but we’ll be in perfect position to fall asleep during the football game.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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