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Double delights

Lesbian moms celebrate motherhood together

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marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Victoria Kidd and Christy Berghoff of Winchester, Va. (Photo courtesy of the ACLU)

Mother’s Day brings double blessings for lesbian parents. But in most of the country, there’s a downside — couples in many states are fighting for the legal protections only available to some same-sex U.S. couples. We asked several couples involved in marriage equality lawsuits — three in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania — what they’ll be doing on Sunday and why the day is special to them.

NAME: Victoria L. Kidd

PARTNER’S NAME: Christy J. Berghoff

OCCUPATION: Writer

KIDS’ NAME(S) AND AGES: Lydia Berghoff-Kidd, 1

CITY/STATE: Winchester, VA

CASE INVOLVED IN: Harris Et Al. V. Rainer et al. (Formerly Harris et al. V. McDonnell et al.)

 

As a lesbian mom, what does Mother’s Day mean to you? Does it have any special significance as an LGBT parent? 

 

I suspect much of what I feel on Mother’s Day is similar to that felt by mothers in opposite-sex relationships or by single mothers. I feel the same humble gratitude for being fortunate enough to be a mother to my daughter. I feel the same sense of thankfulness that my little one is here to share my life with me and to give my life a purpose greater than any other.

The one uniqueness about being a mother involved in a same-sex relationship is that it is a life experience shared with someone you love completely, your wife. In that sense, Mother’s Day takes on a special significance, because the day marks that shared experience and allows you to demonstrate your love and commitment to another person who is equally mother to your child.

 

What is your Mother’s Day tradition? Do you and your partner celebrate it together?

 

Our family is still working to define our traditions, as our daughter is just a little over a year old. Certainly, we both endeavor to show our own mothers that we appreciate them, but as far as celebrating in our home, we more or less simply spend the day together. We share a special meal and have hours of “play time” as a family. For us, celebrating this particular day is not about what you do, it is about sharing time together. Christy and I do exchange cards filled with messages of support, because parenting is not easy. We both simply try to find the words and the ways available to say we love each other, support each other and would not want to share life or the responsibilities of motherhood with anyone else.

 

You’re a plaintiff in a state marriage case — in your own words, please tell us why you feel it’s important for gay families to have legal protections.

 

Our family is built upon love and commitment. Christy and I committed to being each other’s “forever” when we were married in 2011 in D.C., but life is delicate and uncertain. Should anything happen to either of us, we want to ensure the other is afforded the same protections and benefits granted to legally married opposite-sex couples. More importantly, we want our daughter to be fully protected. Protections extend beyond benefits allowed after death; they provide the foundation for greater everyday acceptance in our communities. When people are separated out as somehow different at an institutional level, it makes it easier for others to perceive them, and subsequently to treat them, differently. Gaining protections under law advances the idea that our families should be treated equally and without bias while going about our day-to-day lives.

 

Joanne Harris, Jabari, Jessica Duff, gay news, Washington Blade, Virginia, same-sex marriage, marriage equality

Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff with Jabari. (Photo courtesy of the couple)

NAME: Joanne Harris

PARTNER’S NAME: Jessica Duff

OCCUPATION: Director of diversity and advocacy

KIDS’ NAME(S) AND AGES: Jabari, age 5

CITY/STATE: Staunton, VA

CASE INVOLVED IN: Harris et al vs. Janet Rainey

 

As a lesbian mom, what does Mother’s Day mean to you? Does it have any special significance as an LGBT parent? 

 

Being a mother has been the most rewarding and important experience of our lives, and being Jabari’s mothers makes every day feel like Mother’s Day. Although we celebrate this day together with our own mothers, we also take this opportunity to remind our friends and family members being acknowledged as Jabari’s legal parent is one of many reasons why marriage equality is important in Virginia.

 

What is your Mother’s Day tradition? Do you and your partner celebrate it together?

 

We celebrate Mother’s Day with our extended family. It’s a special day for us to celebrate the most influential women in our family, not just our mothers, but all of those who have supported us. 

Yes we celebrate every family tradition together.

 

You’re a plaintiff in a state marriage case — in your own words, please tell us why you feel it’s important for gay families to have legal protections. 

 

We feel it’s important for all families to be treated equally. Every devoted partner and loving parent should have the opportunity to provide all the legal intricacies of functioning as a family. This sometimes may include authorizing medical treatment, academic guidance and full financial support. These things are only a few of the things not possible without full legal marriage rights. We want the same rights as other loving couples and parents in our beautiful extended family and network of friends.

Whitewood, same-sex marriage, Pennsylvania, gay news, Washington Blade

The Whitewood family (Photo courtesy of the family)

NAME: Deb Whitewood

PARTNER’S NAME: Susan Whitewood

OCCUPATION: Full-time Mom

KIDS’ NAME(S) AND AGES: Abbey, 17; Katie, 15; Landon, 3.

CITY/STATE: Bridgeville, PA

CASE INVOLVED IN: Whitewood v. Wolfe

 

As a lesbian mom, what does Mother’s Day mean to you? Does it have any special significance as an LGBT parent? 

 

To me, Mother’s Day means the same that I think it means to any mom, to have our children, families, friends and community members recognize the mothers, or mother figures, in our lives for the hardworking and loving presence that they faithfully provide to not only their own children, but often to other children in their communities. Being a mother was once described to me as akin to having your heart walk around outside of your body. That’s what I feel, I feel like I have at least three or four or more pieces of my heart walking around the world with me.

As a lesbian couple, becoming mothers wasn’t easy for Susan and me. We had to work very hard to create our family and we had to jump through a lot of hoops, legally, emotionally and physically. But the result is that we have three wonderful kids who call us Mummy and Momma, and they know, without a shadow of a doubt, just how much they were wanted and how precious each of them is to us.

 

What is your Mother’s Day tradition? Do you and your partner celebrate together? 

 

I have to laugh, because until this Mother’s Day, Susan and I have always been together on Mother’s Day. The kids would make cards, often really, really large, creative cards, for us. We would go to church together and then head out to celebrate with our own mothers and my grandmas, often with a brunch together in downtown Pittsburgh.  Things have changed though. Susan’s mom and both of my grandmas have passed away. And in true mother form, our kids’ activities take precedence over even our Mother’s Day celebration. Our daughter, Katie, has a volleyball tournament in Columbus, Ohio on Mother’s Day. (Whomever planned that should have their head examined!) So off to Columbus we will go. My mom will be joining us later in the afternoon. So we will make our own Mother’s Day celebration wherever we end up. That’s the thing about moms; we go with the flow and do whatever is necessary to make it work out best for all members of the family.

 

You’re a plaintiff in a state marriage case — in your own words, please tell us why you feel it’s important for gay families to have legal protections. 

 

Gay and lesbian families are in communities all around us and many are raising children. We live and work alongside our straight married friends and do things almost exactly the same way. We change diapers, help with homework, clean the house, car pool, shop for prom dresses, cheer at volleyball games, visit the zoo, shop at the grocery, see the doctor and play at the park just like our straight counterparts do. In many of our communities we are viewed as equal to our straight counterparts and our families are valued and supported. But even when our families are valued and supported, there is disparity. Our families are treated like second-class families in so many ways. Children are denied health insurance because their parents are not allowed to be married and the employer won’t provide insurance for the same-sex spouse and her children. Gay and lesbian parents have to pay large legal fees to create a patchwork of legal protections to give their families some, but nowhere near all, the protections that come with marriage.  We file for second-parent adoptions and hope they will be granted. We notarize wills, powers of attorney, guardianship papers and other paperwork and pray that we will never need them, but we carry them everywhere, just in case. No married, straight friend of mine has ever had to scramble to find her power of attorney paperwork when she heard her husband had been rushed to the hospital. I have. I made sure I had it when Susan went to the hospital last year because all I could think was, “What am I going to do if they won’t let me see her?”

Our families deserve the same recognition and protection that other families have because we ARE a family. A family that loves each other, supports each other, cares for each other and will always be there for each other.

Mary Townley, Emily Townley-Schall, Carol Schall, Virginia, Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner, gay news, Washington Blade, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality

From left, Mary Townley, Emily Townley-Schall and Carol Schall attended the 2014 Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner on April 5. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

 

NAME: Carol Schall

PARTNER’S NAME: Mary Townley

OCCUPATION: Assistant professor and researcher, Virginia Commonwealth University

KIDS’ NAME(S) AND AGES: Emily, age 16

CITY/STATE: Richmond, VA

CASE INVOLVED IN: Bostic v Rainey

 

As a lesbian mom, what does Mother’s Day mean to you? Does it have any special significance as an LGBT parent? 

 

It is a celebration of our job as moms. It is a day to recognize the wonder and joy of being a mom. It is also a recognition that being a mom is not intuitive, easy or second nature. It requires mindfulness and awareness of your role to raise the next generation and even the generations to come. According to experts, we parent as our parents do. Emily will probably parent her children as we have parented her. So, Mother’s Day is a day for me to reflect on the generations past and the generations yet to come that will carry our light forward into the ages. Beyond all other endeavors, being a mom is the most important and lasting. Being a mom has been a dream of mine from the time I could first think. For Mary and I, we didn’t think this could be a reality until we set a vision to become moms. I love being Emily’s mom more than any other job I have ever had. It is my greatest joy and my greatest worry all at the same time!

 

What is your Mother’s Day tradition? Do you and your partner celebrate it together? 

 

Emily usually shops for gifts for us with a good friend of ours the week before Mother’s Day. Our morning is usually pretty easy. As a teen, she likes to sleep late, that means her moms get to sleep late too! Once we are up and moving, we usually go out to Sunday brunch. We also try to have all chores done to make it a really relaxed family day. When Emily was a baby, we would shop for each other. Now that she is older, she shops for us. I love to recognize the amazing mom that Mary is. She is warm and kind and tenderhearted when it comes to Emily. Mother’s Day is my opportunity to recognize all that she is and means to Emily.

 

You’re a plaintiff in a state marriage case — in your own words, please tell us why you feel it’s important for gay families to have legal protections. 

 

Mary gave birth to Emily, but I am the main “bread winner” in our family. Without marriage, the state of Virginia will never recognize me as Emily’s parent. Marriage matters for Emily and all of our children. Without the protections of marriage, Virginia would not recognize my estate as Emily’s should anything ever happen to me. They would not automatically notify me if anything ever happened to her. Finally, they could even prohibit me from seeing her or coming to her aid if anything were to happen to Mary. Without marriage, I am a legal stranger to my own daughter. I am in this fight for Emily. I want her to have a family that is recognized. I want to be able to legally and finally be her mom. We celebrate Mother’s Day as a family. I long for the day when we can legally celebrate Mother’s Day as a nation.

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Rodriquez scores historic win at otherwise irrelevant Golden Globes

Award represents a major milestone for trans visibility

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Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, on right, and Billy Porter in 'Pose.' (Photo courtesy of FX)

HOLLYWOOD – Despite its continuing status as something of a pariah organization in Hollywood, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has managed to cling to relevance in the wake of last night’s behind-closed-doors presentation of its 79th Annual Golden Globe Awards by sole virtue of having bestowed the prize for “Best Leading Actress in a Television Series – Drama” on Michaela Jaé Rodriguez for her work in the final season of “Pose” – making her the first transgender performer to win a Golden Globe.

The ceremony took place as a private, no-press-or-audience event in which winners were revealed via a series of tweets from the Golden Globes Twitter account. No celebrities were present (not even the nominees or winners), although actress Jamie Lee Curtis participated by appearing in a video in which she pronounced her continuing loyalty to the HFPA – without mention of the  longstanding issues around diversity and ethical practices, revealed early in 2021 by a bombshell Los Angeles Times report, that have led to an nearly industry-wide boycott of the organization and its awards as well as the cancellation of the annual Golden Globes broadcast by NBC for the foreseeable future.

While the Golden Globes may have lost their luster for the time being, the award for Rodriquez represents a major milestone for trans visibility and inclusion in the traditionally transphobic entertainment industry, and for her part, the actress responded to news of her win with characteristic grace and good will.

Posting on her Instagram account, the 31-year old actress said: 

“OMG OMGGG!!!! @goldenglobes Wow! You talking about sickening birthday present! Thank you!

“This is the door that is going to Open the door for many more young talented individuals. They will see that it is more than possible. They will see that a young Black Latina girl from Newark New Jersey who had a dream, to change the minds others would WITH LOVE. LOVE WINS.

“To my young LGBTQAI babies WE ARE HERE the door is now open now reach the stars!!!!!”

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As You Are Bar and the importance of queer gathering spaces

New bar/restaurant poised to open in 2022

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As You Are Bar had a pop-up venue at Capital Pride's "Colorful Fest" block party in October. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than just a watering hole: As You Are Bar is set to be the city’s newest queer gathering place where patrons can spill tea over late-morning cappuccinos as easily as they can over late-night vodka-sodas.

Co-owners and founders Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike built on their extensive experience in the hospitality industry – including stints at several gay bars – to sign a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row, replacing what was previously District Soul Food and Banana Café. In a prime corner spot, they are seeking to bring together the disparate colors of the LGBTQ rainbow – but first must navigate the approval process (more on that later).

The duo decided on this Southeast neighborhood locale to increase accessibility for “the marginalized parts of our community,” they say, “bringing out the intersectionality inherent in the queer space.”

Northwest D.C., they explain, not only already has many gay bar options, but is also more difficult to get to for those who don’t live within walking distance. The Barracks Row location is right by a Metro stop, “reducing pay walls.” Plus, there, “we are able to find a neighborhood to bring in a queer presence that doesn’t exist today.”

McDaniel points out that the area has a deep queer bar history. Western bar Remington’s was once located in the area, and it’s a mere block from the former Phase 1, the longest-running lesbian bar, which was open from 1971-2015.

McDaniel and Pike hope that As You Are Bar will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture. We want people of all ages, gender, sexual identity, as well as drinkers and non-drinkers, to have space.”

McDaniel (she/her) began her career at Apex in 2005 and was most recently the opening manager of ALOHO. Pike (she/they) was behind the bar and worked as security at ALOHO, where the two met.

Since leaving ALOHO earlier this year, they have pursued the As You Are Bar project, first by hosting virtual events during the pandemic, and now in this brick-and-mortar space. They expressed concern that receiving the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) liquor license approval and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, or ANC, approval will be a long and expensive process.

They have already received notice that some neighbors intend to protest As You Are Bar’s application for the “tavern” liquor license that ABRA grants to serve alcohol and allow for live entertainment (e.g. drag shows). They applied for the license on Nov. 12, and have no anticipated opening date, estimating at least six months. If ABRA and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board give final approval, the local ANC 6B and nearby residents can no longer protest the license until the license comes up for renewal.

Until approval is given, they continue physical buildout (including soundproofing) and planning their offerings. If the license is approved, ABRA and the ABC Board can take action against As You Are Bar, like any bar, at any time if they violate the terms of the license or create a neighborhood disturbance that violates city laws such as the local noise ordinance.  In the kitchen, the duo snagged Chef Nina Love to develop the menu. Love will oversee café-style fare; look out for breakfast sandwiches making an appearance all the way until close. They will also have baked goods during the day.

McDaniel and Pike themselves will craft the bar menu. Importantly, they note, the coffee bar will also serve until close. There will be a full bar as well as a list of zero-proof cocktails. As with their sourcing, they hope to work with queer-, minority-, and women-owned businesses for everything not made in-house.

Flexible conceptually, they seek to grow with their customer base, allowing patrons to create the culture that they seek.

Their goal is to move the queer space away from a focus on alcohol consumption. From book clubs, to letter-writing, to shared workspaces, to dance parties, they seek an all-day, morning-to-night rhythm of youth, families, and adults to find a niche. “We want to shift the narrative of a furtive, secretive, dark gay space and hold it up to the light,” they say. “It’s a little like The Planet from the original L Word show,” they joke.

Pike notes that they plan on working closely with SMYAL, for example, to promote programming for youth. Weekend potential activities include lunch-and-learn sessions on Saturdays and festive Sunday brunches.

The café space, to be located on the first floor, will have coffeehouse-style sofas as well as workstations. A slim patio on 8th Street will hold about six tables.

Even as other queer bars have closed, they reinforce that the need is still present. “Yes, we can visit a café or bar, but we always need to have a place where we are 100 percent certain that we are safe, and that our security is paramount. Even as queer acceptance continues to grow, a dedicated queer space will always be necessary,” they say.

To get there, they continue to rally support of friends, neighbors, and leaders in ANC6B district; the ANC6B officials butted heads with District Soul Food, the previous restaurant in the space, over late-night noise and other complaints. McDaniel and Pike hope that once nearby residents and businesses understand the important contribution that As You Are Bar can make to the neighborhood, they will extend their support and allow the bar to open.

AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel signed a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)
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Need a list-minute gift idea?

Books, non-profit donations make thoughtful choices

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‘Yes, Daddy’ by Jonathan Parks-Ramage is the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older man.

You knew this was coming.

You knew that you were going to have to finish your holiday shopping soon but it snuck up on you, didn’t it? And even if you’re close to being done, there are always those three or five people who are impossible to buy for, right? Remember this, though: books are easy to wrap and easy to give, and they last a while, too. So why not head to the bookstore with your Christmas List and look for these gifts.

And if you still have people to shop for, why not make a donation to a local non-profit in their name? A list of D.C.-area suggestions follows.

BOOKS: NONFICTION

If there’s about to be a new addition to your family, wrapping up “Queer Stepfamilies: The path to Social and Legal Recognition” by Katie L. Acosta would be a good thing. In this book, the author followed forty LGBTQ families to understand the joys, pitfalls, and legalities of forming a new union together. It can’t replace a lawyer, but it’s a good overview.

For the parent who wants to ensure that their child grows up with a lack of bias, “Raising LGBTQ Allies” by Chris Tompkins is a great book to give. It’s filled with methods to stop bullying in its tracks, to be proactive in having That Conversation, and how to be sure that the next generation you’re responsible for becomes responsible in turn. Wrap it up with “The Healing Otherness Handbook” by Stacee L. Reicherzer, Ph.D., a book that helps readers to deal with bullying by finding confidence and empowerment.

If there’s someone on your gift list who’s determined to get “fit” in the coming year, then give “The Secret to Superhuman Strength” by Alison Bechdel this holiday. Told in graphic-novel format (comics, basically), it’s the story of searching for self-improvement and finding it in a surprising place.

So why not give a little nostalgia this year by wrapping up “A Night at the Sweet Gum Head” by Martin Padgett? It’s the tale of disco, drag, and drugs in the 1970s (of course!) in Atlanta, with appearances by activists, politics, and people who were there at that fabulous time. Wrap it up with “After Francesco” by Brian Malloy, a novel set a little later – in the mid-1980s in New York City and Minneapolis at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.

The LGBTQ activist on your gift list will want to read “The Case for Gay Reparations” by Omar G. Encarnacion. It’s a book about acknowledgment, obligation on the part of cis citizens, and fixing the pain that homophobia and violence has caused. Wrap it up with “Trans Medicine: The Emergence and Practice of Treating Gender” by Stef M. Shuster, a look at trans history that may also make your giftee growl.

FICTION

Young readers who have recently transitioned will enjoy reading “Both Sides Now” by Peyton Thomas. It’s a novel about a high school boy with gigantic dreams and the means to accomplish them all. Can he overcome the barriers that life gives him? It’s debatable… Pair it with “Can’t Take That Away” by Steven Salvatore, a book about two nonbinary students and the troubles they face as they fall in love.

The thriller fan on your list will be overjoyed to unwrap “Yes, Daddy” by Jonathan Parks-Ramage. It’s the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older, more accomplished man with the hopes of sparking his failing career. But the older man isn’t who the younger thinks he is, and that’s not good. Wrap it up with “Lies with Man” by Michael Nava, a book about a lawyer who agrees to be counsel for a group of activists. Good so far, right? Until one of them is accused of being involved in a deadly bombing.

For the fan of Southern fiction, you can’t go wrong when you wrap up “The Tender Grave” by Sheri Reynolds. It’s the tale of two sisters, one homophobic, the other lesbian, and how they learn to forgive and re-connect.

NON-PROFIT GIVING

Like nonprofit organizations throughout the country, D.C.-area LGBTQ supportive nonprofit groups have told the Blade they continue to rebuild amid the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted their fundraising efforts while increasing expenses, at least in part by prompting more people to come to them for help.

This holiday season, if you’re looking for a thoughtful gift, consider making a donation to one of our local LGBTQ non-profit organizations in someone else’s name. This list is by no means exhaustive, but a good place to start your research.

Contributions to the LGBTQ supportive nonprofit organizations can be made via the websites of these local organizations:

• Blade Foundation, which funds local scholarships and fellowships for queer student journalists, bladefoundation.org

• DC Center, our local community center that operates a wide range of programming,  thedccenter.org/donate

Food & Friends, which delivers meals to homebound patients, foodandfriends.org

HIPS, which advances the health rights and dignity of those impacted by sex work and drugs, hips.org

• SMYAL, which advocates for queer youth, smyal.org

Wanda Alston Foundation, which offers shelter and support for LGBTQ youth, wandaalstonfoundation.org

• Whitman-Walker Health, the city’s longtime LGBTQ-inclusive health care provider, whitmanwalkerimpact.org

Casa Ruby, which provides shelter and services to youth in need, casaruby.org

• Us Helping Us, which helps improve the health of communities of color and works to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Black community, ushelpingus.org/donate

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