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Recommitting to the Victory Fund mission

Org should broaden its scope to assist even more LGBT candidates

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Chuck Wolfe, Victory Fund Champagne Brunch, gay news, Washington Blade
Chuck Wolfe, Victory Fund Champagne Brunch, gay news, Washington Blade

Victory Fund President Chuck Wolfe told Sunday’s crowd about his recent heart attack and thanked supporters for their work during his absence. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Last Sunday was the annual Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch and by all accounts it was a success. There were fewer people than last year but that could be attributed to the steep price increase for tickets.

Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, began the program and spoke of his recent heart attack and thanked the staff and board for all their hard work during his illness. It was good to see him back. He is often seen as the heart and soul of the Victory Fund and deserves much of the credit for its success in recent years. He introduced Steve Elmendorf, board chair, along with Kim Hoover, board treasurer and event co-chair.

The brunch is often a moving event in which LGBT leaders from across the nation gather to celebrate how far we have come and remind each other how far we still have to go for full equality. Each year there is a featured speaker and this year it was Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) who is running for governor and recently came out as gay. If elected, he would be the first openly gay person to be elected as a governor. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced him and remarked that it is becoming increasingly difficult to be the first of anything in the LGBT community because of the successes we have had in recent years.

We had a New Jersey governor who came out in office and a gay governor who never came out in another state, but this would still be a first. Polis talked about how hard it must have been for Barney Frank when he was the only out person in Congress while today when Michaud came out there were others there to throw him a coming out party. They served pink cupcakes and the musical selections included “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

When Michaud spoke he said, “never before, and most likely never again will I eat pink cupcakes.” He also commented on the beautiful people in the room and reminded everyone that he is still single and was going to be in Washington all weekend. The line formed to the right.

Among the other candidates who spoke to the welcoming crowd were Maura Healey, who’s running for attorney general in Massachusetts, and Mary Gonzalez, a candidate for the House of Representatives in Texas. David Catania, D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate, also spoke and talked about his record in D.C. and how the Victory Fund has been instrumental in his past races. He commented on how far behind he is in the polls at this point but said he could make that up. The applause for him was definitely on the lighter side as many in the room are from D.C. and supporting the Democratic nominee.

It is my understanding that the Victory Fund will be going through a strategic planning process in the coming months. All good organizations do this and it is time for the Victory Fund to reaffirm its mission and to look at what they are doing well and what they need to work on. There were people I spoke to who didn’t come to this year’s brunch for reasons other than the cost. Some stayed home because of the Victory Fund’s endorsement of Republican Richard Tisei in his bid for Congress from Massachusetts. Others didn’t come because of the early endorsement of Catania, which occurred before he even announced. These and other issues surely will be part of the discussion during the strategic planning process.

The Victory Fund should find a way to let their huge mailing list and those visiting their website know about LGBT candidates they aren’t endorsing. There are many such candidates around the nation running for posts from county commission to school board to town council. They are running for the first time and may not meet the criteria for an endorsement. But these candidates deserve to have people know they are stepping up to the plate. Others, like longtime activist Dana Beyer, who is running for State Senate in Maryland against an LGBT incumbent endorsed by Victory Fund, at least deserves recognition on the website to let people know she is running even if she isn’t endorsed.

These candidates are part of the future and they make up, as they say in baseball, our bench.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. brian

    April 9, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks for another absolutely, positively unbiased report, Peter. I’m sure those DC Dem party-line bosses are well pleased, too.

  2. Peter Rosenstein

    April 10, 2014 at 10:26 am

    @Brian- I write opinion pieces so never claimed they weren’t what I think. As to who you call the Democratic Party bosses, (It would be good if you defined that term) if they like some of what I write I am fine with that. While I am an unapologetic Democrat, if you have followed my writing which I guess you do since you talk about this being another column you have read, you will know they couldn’t always be happy with my columns.

  3. I'm Just Sayin'

    April 11, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Peter, perhaps the issue here is that your liberal mixing of bias and opinion. It is clear that you have a bias for Democratic candidates regardless of their qualifications and you clearly have a negative opinion about David Catania.

    There is nothing Mr. Catania could do or say that would cause you to vote for him because of your bias. However, what is off-putting is that you let no opportunity pass where you don’t take a shot or attempt to denigrate him rather than make an argument for how your preferred party nominee is superior. You throw around easily substantiated claims like “some people stayed away because of the Cantania endorsement” when in fact it might have been 2 or 50 for all we know. You describe applause as being on the lighter side like that has anything at all to do with Victory Fund strategy.

    Every cheap shot you take on Catania, simply lessons the impact of your “opinion.” Perhaps it’s time for the Blade to get someone whose views may actually sway our thinking.

  4. Peter rosenstein

    April 13, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    @i’m Just saying- many would disregard what you say as you aren’t willing to even share who you are. So the general view would be you are biased for David as you attack me for my opinion and presumed bias against him. In this case it isn’t bias but opinion based on having followed David’s career since he has been on the Council. I have supported him and contributed to his council campaigns at times. It is my considered opinion he would not make a good Mayor. There will be a long seven month campaign. Should you be interested I will be writing a lot about both David and Muriel over that time. Since clearly you read my columns I am sure you may find somethings you will agree with and many you don’t. Should you decide to come out from behind your anonymous postings I would be happy to have a discussion with you at any time. It will be a long seven months.

  5. I'm Just Sayin'

    April 14, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    Peter, you are a paid contributor to the Blade. I am but a mere mortal.

  6. brian

    April 16, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    “@i’m Just saying- many would disregard what you say as you aren’t willing to even share who you are.

    Should you decide to come out from behind your anonymous postings I would be happy to have a discussion with you at any time.” — P.R.
    ============================================
     
    Well, nothing arrogant or elitist about that, huh?
     
    Whether paid or unpaid– any regular Blade contributor here ought show the same respect to the readers of the the Blade as its publishers do.
     
    Private, everyday Blade readers’ comments or questions here often get too close to truth– or too inconvenient for some among DC’s self-appointed LGBT ‘activist elites’. When that happens, a few among said activists are quick to personally attack said Blade readers for their comments– even when made using a consistent online name moniker.
     
    These “ID-please cops” use ad hominem attacks on readers, for their comments, which masquerade as arguments. But the intent of such attacks seems to be to personally demonize and denigrate the worth of readers’ opposing commentary– and to thereby silence and EXLUDE any such future differing opinions.
     
    It should go without saying, the policy and practice of permitting Blade readers to comment anonymously is encouraged by the Blade’s publishers– as it invites the *widest possible, interactive* PARTICIPATION by Blade readers.
     
    That policy demonstrates a fundamental respect for Blade readers which its contributors ought to note well.
     
    Moreover, there is nothing unusual about that practice by news media owners– both print and broadcast. That is a policy followed by the Washington Post, Washington City Paper and many other reputable news publishers all over the country. Indeed, anonymous/pseudonym commentary is a practice and tradition among publishers that predates the founding of our nation.
     
    In Washington, in particular, where many news media readers (and/or their family members or loved ones) work for the federal government or in otherwise sensitive positions, there are very good reasons why a number of Blade readers would not and could not share their comments without some degree of anonymity. In a reasonably open forum such as this, such circumstances should not exclude the participation and worth of any Blade readers’ comments, made in a respectful, civil manner.
     
    Peter, please be reminded, you wrote a political OPINION piece here. Opinion pieces obviously invite robust reader commentary. Respect that tradition.
     
    Taking cheap shots at a political public figure like David Catania is one thing– even if he is LGBT. David has proven in 17 YEARS of public service to the entire city (including his exceptional service in the cause of LGBT civil rights) that he can easily ignore cheap shots. But taking cheap shots at private citizens who simply want to comment on a Blade article is quite something else.
     
    It is wholly inappropriate to personally denigrate any private citizen simply because they civilly and respectfully disagree with any Blade writer– and wish to do so with a reasonable level of privacy.
     
    Peter, as a fellow Democrat, I’m really rather shocked at your cavalier disregard for our country’s traditions of fair play, free speech and civil liberties. Those cherished traditions and practices have long been honored and reasonably implemented in private sectors of our nation, as well– especially among news media publishers like the Blade.
     
    You’re obviously a Bowser guy.
     
    Is yours the kind of exclusionary, demonizing tactics those with dissenting opinion could expect from a Bowser Administration? Does the Bowser campaign have an “enemies list” needing silencing by LGBT Dem party ‘activists’? Why does the Bowser campaign need a LGBT hatchet guy anyway?
     
    There are a huge set of important issues facing the next mayor of DC. Why doesn’t Muriel Bowser simply stand up NOW and begin discussions/ debates with David Catania? That would be a win-win for candidates and DC voters alike.
     —-
     
    PS — BTW, Blade readers comments aren’t really “hidden” or completely “anonymous” anyway, as the Blade retains full legal and moderator control of its forum. Plus the Blade insists upon email addresses of its readers who comment– again, as do most other reputable news publishers for their reader comments sections.

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Commentary

Sondheim’s art will be with us for the ages

Iconic work explored sadness, rage, irony, and love of humanity

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Stephen Sondheim (Screen capture via CBS)

“The only regret I have in life is giving you birth,” his mother wrote in a letter to Stephen Sondheim.

The only regret so many of us feel now is that Sondheim, the iconic composer and lyricist, died on Nov. 26 at his Roxbury, Conn. home at age 91.

He is survived by Jeffrey Romley, whom he married in 2017, and Walter Sondheim, a half-brother.

F. Richard Pappas, his lawyer and friend, told the New York Times that the cause of death was unknown, and that Sondheim had died suddenly. The day before he passed away, Sondheim celebrated Thanksgiving with friends, Pappas told the Times.

“Every day a little death,” Sondheim wrote in “A Little Night Music.”

This isn’t the case with the passing of Sondheim. Whether you’re a Broadway star or a tone-deaf aficionado like me, you’ll sorely miss Sondheim, who the Times aptly called “one of Broadway history’s songwriting titans.”

Like multitudes of his fans, I don’t remember a time in my life when a song from a Sondheim musical hasn’t been in my head.

When I was a child, my parents repeatedly played the cast album of “Gypsy,” the 1959 musical with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents. My folks loved the story of the show, which was loosely based on the life of the burlesque artist Gypsy Rose Lee. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Ethel Merman belt out “Everything’s Coming Up Roses!” When I need to jumpstart my creative juices, I remember that “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.”

In college, I felt that “Company,” the 1970 musical with music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by George Furth, spoke to my generation. 

As was the case with Sondheim’s musicals, “Company” didn’t have a conventional plot, happy ending, or tidy resolution. It takes place during Bobby’s 35th birthday party. Bobby, who is single, is celebrating with his friends (straight, married couples). Bobby likes having friends but doesn’t want to get married.

Sondheim didn’t come out as gay until he was 40. Yet, even in the 1970s, it was hard not to think that Bobby in “Company” wasn’t gay.

Once you’ve heard Elaine Stritch sing “The Ladies Who Lunch” from “Company,” it becomes indelibly etched in your brain.

Who else but Sondheim could have written, “And here’s to the girls who play/smart-/Aren’t they a gas/Rushing to their classes in optical art,/Wishing it would pass/Another long exhausting day/Another thousand dollars/A matinee, a Pinter play/Perhaps a piece of Mahler’s/I’ll drink to that/And one for Mahler!”

In September, I, along with legions of other theater lovers, were thrilled when Sondheim told Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show,” that he was working with David Ives on a new musical called “Square One.”

In his musicals from “Follies” to “Sweeney Todd” to “Sunday in the Park with George,” Sondheim, through his lyrics and music, revealed the internal depths of his characters and the sadness, tenderness, bitterness, rage, irony, wit, and love of humanity. Sondheim’s wordplay was so brilliant that he did crossword puzzles for New York magazine.

Over his decades-long career, Sondheim won every award imaginable from the Pulitzer Prize for “Sunday in the Park with George” to the Presidential Medal of Freedom (awarded to him by President Barack Obama in 2015). He received more than a dozen Tony Awards for his Broadway musicals and revivals as well as a Tony Award for lifetime achievement in 2008.

Thankfully, Sondheim’s art will be with us for the ages.

A remake of “West Side Story,” directed by Steven Spielberg with a screenplay by Tony Kushner, premieres this month.

Sondheim is a character in the Netflix film “tick, tick BOOM!,” directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The movie is based on an autobiographical posthumous Jonathan Larson (the composer of “Rent”) musical. Sondheim is supportive of Larson’s work.

Thank you Stephen, for your art! R.I.P.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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Opinions

Publish trans employment stats

Not enough corporations that march in Pride are hiring non-binary staff

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On Nov. 10, the top-tier consulting firm McKinsey published a report on discrimination toward trans people in the workplace. The report came out with numbers that we have all known true for a long time and lead to one conclusion: Trans people have a harder time finding jobs, holding them down, and advancing in their careers. 

Specifically, McKinsey cited the fact that cisgender people are twice as likely to be employed as trans people, and that more than half of trans employees are uncomfortable being out at work. Meanwhile, cisgender employees make 32% more than trans employees in the workplace, even if those trans employees hold the same positions or higher positions. 

On top of this, trans people are 2.4 times more likely to be working in the food and retail industries, which pay entry level wages that are much less than decent pay. 

These statistics are true based on a number of factors. For one, many trans people have a harder time passing at work, and people who don’t pass well face worse job prospects. (As a side note, on top of that, the study pointed to the fact that many trans people exert undue emotional and psychological energy into trying to pass really well and not be discriminated against, which takes a toll on their mental health.) 

So what is a concrete step that corporations can take to make the trans experience in the workplace better? It’s time that corporations step up their game by publishing and making transparent the number of trans employees that they actually hire. Such numbers can be published in any kind of company document: a pamphlet, online report, or even annual shareholder’s report. As it is, most corporations do not publish numbers on LGBT employees. 

“Rainbow capitalism” is a term we know all too well: major corporations and multinationals flaunting a rainbow and trans pride flag during the month of June, but seemingly doing little to hire more trans people or give back to the community during other months. 

Every corporation surely has the time and company-wide infrastructure to get statistics on their trans employees. All they need to do is implement a company-wide survey to new hires. This takes extremely little effort and time in the grand scheme of company workings. 

If major corporations like McKinsey, Bain, Deloitte, defense contractors, and hundreds of other huge companies published statistics on trans employees, they would be held accountable for their actions and words.

If these statistics were to be published today, we would probably find out that not enough corporations that march in Pride parades are hiring trans and gender nonconforming employees. 

Turning the numbers against corporations will ensure that these same corporations finally live up to their words about workplace inclusion and diversity. It won’t cure everything about the issue of being trans in the workplace, but it’s a step in the right direction. 

Isaac Amend (he/him/his) is a trans man and young professional in the D.C. area. He was featured on National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ in 2017 as a student at Yale University. Isaac is also on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Find him on Instagram @isaacamend.

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Opinions

Should we be scared of Omicron?

A reminder to stay vigilant against latest mutation

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It’s Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend when I sit down to write this column. The craziness in the world continues but other than the scare of the new COVID mutation, which has been named Omicron, there isn’t one headline to grab attention. Instead, there are many, including some manufactured by the news media to gain viewers or sell papers. Some like the car rampaging through the Christmas parade is frightening but incidents like this seem to be happening all too often.  

The stock market went down 1,000 points on Friday because market players freaked out about the new COVID mutation coming out of South Africa. However that didn’t seem to stop people from spending their money on Black Friday. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) was again on the attack this time against fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) accusing her of being a Muslim terrorist. She apologized, or pretended to, but again the Republican leadership wouldn’t condemn her statements. These things seemed to be grist for the news media with no one else unfortunately really voicing concern. 

Boebert’s comments were taken as old hat. They are disgusting, offensive, and dangerous, but as long as her constituents reelect her we will have to live with them. She is joined by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.),  Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), and Paul Gosar  (R-Wyo.) who represent the worst in Congress and the worst of the American people. Yet again until their constituents throw them out we have to live with their stupidity and the absurdity of their being where they are. 

The new COVID mutation out of South Africa is potentially a game changer. But it will be important for scientists to look at this carefully to determine how quickly it spreads and whether or not the current vaccines will offer any protection against it. Countries around the world, including the United States, have quickly instituted travel bans for South Africans and those in countries surrounding it. The World Health Organization at this time has suggested this should not be done as it will have limited impact on its spreading and could have severe and detrimental economic impact on countries whose people are being banned. One thing we must learn from this is how important it is to ensure everyone all over the world has access to vaccines as we know the more people who are inoculated the harder it is for the virus to mutate. It is not time to panic yet and by Sunday there was some reporting this new mutation may not be any more difficult to deal with than the current ones and not lead to any more severe illness. The takeaway from all this is we need to keep vigilant, get vaccinated and get booster shots, and make sure we vaccinate our children. Continue to wear masks indoors and wash our hands. 

Now the other interesting stories last weekend were about what will happen in the Senate in the weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays. Remember the House of Representatives passed President Biden’s Build Back Better bill as a reconciliation measure, which means it can pass the Senate with a simple majority. That would mean every Democratic senator and the vice president. The focus is on two senators: Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sinema (D-Ariz.). In reality we need to look at a number of others who will fight to either take out or put something into the bill the House passed. It is clear it will not pass in the current form and then it has to go back to the House again. 

Another issue that will be taken up is the debt ceiling. It may be a little easier than thought because as recently reported, “After taking a hard line and refusing to negotiate with Democrats during the last standoff over the debt limit, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is quietly looking for a way to get the issue resolved without another high-profile battle.” Then there is the budget and since none is passed Congress will have to pass another continuing resolution since the one they passed in September expires on Dec. 3. 

So for the next few weeks there will be a focus on the Senate to see what they do and how obstructionist Republicans want to be. Seems while things change, they somehow remain the same.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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