Connect with us

a&e features

QUEERY: Joanna Cifredo

The aspiring writer answers 20 gay questions

Published

on

Joanna Cifredo, gay news, Washington Blade
Joanna Cifredo, gay news, Washington Blade

Joanna Cifredo (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Joanna Cifredo says being approached to write a blog for the Human Rights Campaign reawakened her passion for writing.

While growing up, she says, writing was an outlet.

“Writing was always a natural escape for me,” the Kissimmee, Fla., native says. “It was a way for me to divulge all the emotions, feelings and sentiments I didn’t have any other way to tell. So over time, it was the only way I learned how to cope. Writing became my friend.”

Over time, she did it less and less but the HRC assignment “unloaded years of emotions,” she says. “Now it’s not just something I like to do but something I have to do.”

Cifredo is about halfway through her first novel, which she began in February. It’s about a transgender Latina who’s murdered in a hate crime. In the book, she tells her story from beyond the grave. Cifredo says it’s her way of “giving a voice” to trans women whom society has let down. She hopes to have it finished by year’s end and published in 2015. On Saturday at noon, Cifredo will be at the OutWrite LGBT Book Festival  (2000 14th St., N.W.) moderating a panel discussion on writing trans characters that will feature Everett Marron, Dane Edidi, Alex Myers and Eliott Deline (visit thedccenter.org/outwritedc for more information).

Cifredo has been in Washington for two-and-a-half years. She works by day at the D.C. Rape Crisis Center and blogs at firebreathingtgirl.com. She lives in Columbia Heights and enjoys reading and writing in her free time.

 

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? 

Since I was 25 and the hardest person to tell was my mother. I wasn’t sure how she would react and I’ve heard so many horror stories from other trans women that I mentally prepared myself for the worst. I picked up the phone to call her knowing that with the dial of the phone I may never hear from her again. Her response, however, was priceless “Gurl, you know that’s expensive!”

 

Who’s your LGBT hero?

For heroes, Harvey Milk for his leadership in helping mobilize so many people behind specific causes. In terms of sheroes, I would have to say my fellow Puerto Rican fore-mother Sylvia Rivera also for her leadership and tenacity, for her courage to not back down and fight back. Most recently though, I would use the word LGBT inspiration for my sister Janet Mock for her strength and courage to bare all, something I am still working on.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present? 

Bossa in Adams Morgan. On Saturday nights they have a live band that plays salsa, my favorite.

 

Describe your dream wedding.

I would want to be surrounded by my friends and family in a romantic setting, something traditional and not over the top.

 

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Reproductive rights. If I don’t fight for anyone else’s right to make their own decisions when it comes to their body, why should anyone fight for mine?

 

What historical outcome would you change?

Besides all of the atrocities, natural disasters, acts of genocide and assassinations of great leaders, the Hobby Lobby decision. It will create a slippery slope that we will see in the coming years.

 

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

The election of President Obama.

 

On what do you insist?

To have a seat at the table, to have my voice heard and that of so many other trans women of color who often do not have enough agency to speak up for themselves. I insist on fairness, equity and justice.

 

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

I may be a mess but at least I’m a hot mess.

 

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“Contra Viento y Marea.” It essentially means “Swimming Against the Current.”

 

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

I would hope that the next scientific discovery would be something much more meaningful to mankind such as a cure to HIV. I would do nothing and hope that everyone else would also do the same. The problem isn’t people’s sexual orientation, it’s living in a society that makes you feel that you somehow need to be “cured.”

 

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

At the risk of sounding like a tree-hugger, I believe in transference of energy, I believe that the earth absorbs your energy and that energy is harvested and recycled to produce plants, waves etc.

 

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Be careful on making the LGBT movement a single-issue movement. I fully support marriage equality, but there are many other more pressing issues that the LGBT community is facing especially those at the intersection of gender identity and expression, poverty and race; issues that are a matter of life and death. Let’s not forget this moment was kickstarted by girls like us.

 

What would you walk across hot coals for?

My grandmother’s rice with beans. What can I say? I’m a Rican girl.

 

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

That all trans women are hos. Aside from it being completely sexist and misogynistic, what makes anyone think that it is OK to identify a woman this way?

 

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Another Gay Movie.” Since we are on the topic of stereotypes, I just think it’s super funny.

 

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Marriage. Don’t get me wrong — it’s something that I would like just because of the many benefits that it offers, but this idea that you can only have these benefits if you are married is primitive at best.

 

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

A Pulitzer Prize

 

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

Everything I know now.

 

Why Washington?

Divine navigation. For once I’m in the right place at the right time.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

a&e features

Tagg turns 10

D.C. magazine thriving post-pandemic with focus on queer women

Published

on

‘Tagg is a form of resistance,’ says editor Eboné Bell. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a 10-year-old YouTube video, owner and editor of Tagg magazine, Eboné Bell, — clad in a white cotton T-shirt, gray vest and matching gray fedora — smiled with all her pearly whites as a correspondent for the magazine interviewed her outside now-closed Cobalt, a gay club in downtown D.C. that hosted the magazine’s official launch in the fall of 2012. 

“I want to make sure that people know that this is a community publication,” Bell said in the video. “It’s about the women in this community and we wanted to make sure that they knew that ‘This is your magazine.’”

As one of just two queer womxn’s magazines in the country, Tagg has established itself as one of the nation’s leading and forthright LGBTQ publications that focuses on lesbian and queer culture, news, and events. The magazine is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month.

Among the many beats Tagg covers, it has recently produced work on wide-ranging political issues such as the introduction of the LGBTQ+ History Education Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Supreme Court’s assault on reproductive rights through a reversal of its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling; and also attracted the attention of international queer celebrities, including Emmy-nominated actress Dominique Jackson through fundraisers.

“Tagg is a form of resistance,” Bell said in a Zoom interview with the Washington Blade. “I always say the best form of activism is visibility and we’re out there authentically us.”

Although the magazine was created to focus on lifestyle, pressing political issues that affect LGBTQ individuals pushed it to dive deeper into political coverage in efforts to bring visibility to LGBTQ issues that specifically affect queer femme individuals. 

“We know the majority of our readers are queer women,’ said Bell. “[So] we always ask ourselves, ‘How does this affect our community?’ We are intentional and deliberate about it.”

Rebecca Damante, a contributing writer to the magazine echoed Bell’s sentiments. 

“The movement can sometimes err toward gay white men and it’s good that we get to represent other groups,” said Damante. “I feel really lucky that a magazine like Tagg exists because it’s given me the chance to polish my writing skills and talk about queer representation in media and politics.”

Tagg’s coverage has attracted younger readers who visit the magazine’s website in search of community and belonging. Most readers range between the ages of 25 and 30, Bell said. 

“[The magazine] honestly just took on a life of its own,” said Bell. “It’s like they came to us [and] it makes perfect sense.”

Prior to the magazine becoming subscription-based and completely online, it was a free publication that readers could pick up in coffee shops and distribution boxes around D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. 

Battling the pandemic 

Eboné Bell (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, newsrooms across the world were forced to function virtually. Additionally, economic strife forced many publications to downsize staffs and — in some cases — cancel entire beats as ad revenue decreased, forcing them to find alternative ways to self-sustain financially. Tagg was no exception. 

“We didn’t fly unscathed,” said Bell. “[The pandemic] took a huge emotional toll on me because I thought we were going to close. I thought we were going to fail.”

However, the magazine was able to stand firm after a fundraiser titled “Save Tagg Magazine” yielded about $30,000 in donations from the community. 

The fundraiser involved a storefront on Tagg’s website where donations of LGBTQ merchandise were sold, including a book donated by soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe. 

There was also a virtual “Queerantine Con” — an event that was the brainchild of Dana Piccoli, editor of News Is Out— where prominent LGBTQ celebrities such as Rosie O’Donnell, Lea DeLaria and Kate Burrell, gave appearances to help raise money that eventually sustained the publication. 

“There was a time where I was ready to be like ‘I have to be OK that [Tagg] might not happen anymore,” said Bell. “But because of love and support, I’m here.” 

While the outpouring of love from community members who donated to the magazine helped keep the magazine alive, it was also a stark reminder that smaller publications, led by women of color, have access to fewer resources than mainstream outlets. 

“It’s statistically known that Black women-owned businesses get significantly less support, venture capital investments, things like that,” said Bell. “I saw similar outlets such as Tagg with white people making $100,000 a month.”

Bell added that Tagg had to work “10 times harder” to survive, and although the magazine didn’t cut back on the people who worked for it, it ended free access to the magazine in the DMV especially as the places that housed the magazine were no longer in business. The publication also moved to a subscription-based model that allowed it to ameliorate printing costs. 

Despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic, Tagg remains steadfast in its service to the LGBTQ community. The magazine hired an assistant editor in 2021 and has maintained a team of graphic designers, photographers, writers and an ad sales team who work to ensure fresh content is delivered to readers on a regular basis. 

For Bell, Tagg mirrors an important life experience — the moment she discovered Ladders, a lesbian magazine published throughout the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. 

“To that young person coming up, I want you to see all the things that happened before them, all the people that came before them, all the stories that were being told” she said.

Eboné Bell (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
Continue Reading

a&e features

Daisy Edgar-Jones knows why ‘the Crawdads sing’

Actress on process, perfecting a southern accent, and her queer following

Published

on

Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya Clark. (Photo courtesy Sony/Columbia)

Daisy Edgar-Jones is an actor whose career is blossoming like her namesake. In recent years, she seems to be everywhere. LGBTQ viewers may recognize Edgar-Jones from her role as Delia Rawson in the recently canceled queer HBO series “Gentleman Jack.” She also played memorable parts in a pair of popular Hulu series, “Normal People” and “Under the Banner of Heaven.” Earlier this year, Edgar-Jones was seen as Noa in the black comedy/horror flick “Fresh” alongside Sebastian Stan. 

With her new movie, “Where the Crawdads Sing” (Sony/Columbia), she officially becomes a lead actress. Based on Delia Owens’ popular book club title of the same name, the movie spans a considerable period of time, part murder mystery, part courtroom drama. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for the Blade.

BLADE: Daisy, had you read Delia Owens’s novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” before signing on to play Kya?

DAISY EDGAR-JONES: I read it during my audition process, as I was auditioning for the part. So, the two went hand in hand.

BLADE: What was it about the character of Kya that appealed to you as an actress?

EDGAR-JONES: There was so much about her that appealed to me. I think the fact that she is a very complicated woman. She’s a mixture of things. She’s gentle and she’s curious. She’s strong and she’s resilient. She felt like a real person. I love real character studies and it felt like a character I haven’t had a chance to delve into. It felt different from anyone I’ve played before. Her resilience was one that I really admired. So, I really wanted to spend some time with her.

BLADE: While Kya is in jail, accused of killing the character Chase, she is visited by a cat in her cell. Are you a cat person or do you prefer dogs?

EDGAR-JONES: I like both! I think I like the fact that dogs unconditionally love you. While a cat’s love can feel a bit conditional. I do think both are very cute. Probably, if I had to choose, it would be dogs.

BLADE: I’m a dog person, so I’m glad you said that.

EDGAR-JONES: [Laughs]

BLADE: Kya lives on the marsh and spends a lot of time on and in the water. Are you a swimmer or do you prefer to be on dry land?

EDGAR-JONES: I like swimming, I do. I grew up swimming a lot. If I’m ever on holidays, I like it to be by the sea or by a nice pool.

BLADE: Kya is also a gifted artist, and it is the thing that brings her great joy. Do you draw or paint?

EDGAR-JONES: I always doodle. I’m an avid doodler. I do love to draw and paint. I loved it at school. I wouldn’t say I was anywhere near as skilled as Kya. But I do love drawing if I get the chance to do it.

BLADE: Kya was born and raised in North Carolina. What can you tell me about your process when it comes to doing a southern accent or an American accent in general?

EDGAR-JONES: It’s obviously quite different from mine. I’ve been lucky that I’ve spent a lot of time working on various accents for different parts for a few years now, so I feel like I’m developed an ear for, I guess, the difference in tone and vowel sounds [laughs]. When it came to this, it was really important to get it right, of course. Kya has a very lyrical, gentle voice, which I think that North Carolina kind of sound really helped me to access. I worked with a brilliant accent coach who helped me out and I just listened and listened.

BLADE: While I was watching “Where the Crawdads Sing” I thought about how Kya could easily be a character from the LGBTQ community because she is considered an outsider, is shunned and ridiculed, and experiences physical and emotional harm. Do you also see the parallels?

EDGAR-JONES: I certainly do. I think that aspect of being an outsider is there, and this film does a really good job of showing how important it is to be kind to everyone. I think this film celebrates the goodness you can give to each other if you choose to be kind. Yes, I definitely see the parallels.

BLADE: Do you have an awareness of an LGBTQ following for your acting career?

EDGAR-JONES: I tend to stay off social media and am honestly not really aware of who follows me, but I do really hope the projects I’ve worked on resonate with everyone.

BLADE: Are there any upcoming acting projects that you’d like to mention?

EDGAR-JONES: None that I can talk of quite yet. But there are a few things that are coming up next year, so I’m really excited.

Continue Reading

a&e features

CAMP Rehoboth’s president talks pandemic, planning, and the future

Wesley Combs marks six months in new role

Published

on

Wesley Combs took over as president of CAMP Rehoboth six months ago and is now focused on searching for a new permanent executive director. (Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

June marks half a year since Wesley Combs stepped into his role as president of CAMP Rehoboth. In a conversation with the Blade, Combs recounted his first six months in the position — a time he said was characterized by transition and learning.

Since 1991, CAMP Rehoboth has worked to develop programming “inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities” in the Rehoboth Beach, Del. area, according to the nonprofit’s website. As president, Combs oversees the organization’s board of directors and executive director, helping determine areas of focus and ensure programming meets community needs.

For Combs, his more than three decades of involvement with CAMP Rehoboth have shaped the course of his life. In the summer of 1989 — just before the organization’s creation — he met his now-husband, who was then living in a beach house with Steve Elkins and Murray Archibald, CAMP Rehoboth’s founders.

Since then, he has served as a financial supporter of the organization, noting that it has been crucial to fostering understanding that works against an “undercurrent of anti-LGBTQ sentiment” in Rehoboth Beach’s history that has, at times, propagated violence against LGBTQ community members.

In 2019, after Elkins passed away, Combs was called upon by CAMP Rehoboth’s Board of Directors to serve on a search committee for the organization’s next executive director. Later that year, he was invited to become a board member and, this past November, was elected president.

Combs noted that CAMP Rehoboth is also still recovering from the pandemic, and is working to restart programming paused in the switch to remote operations. In his first six months, he has sought to ensure that people feel “comfortable” visiting and engaging with CAMP Rehoboth again, and wants to ensure all community members can access its programming, including those from rural parts of Delaware and those without a means of getting downtown.

Still, Combs’s first six months were not without unexpected turns: On May 31, David Mariner stepped down from his role as CAMP Rehoboth executive director, necessitating a search for his replacement. Combs noted that he would help facilitate the search for an interim director to serve for the remainder of the year and ensure that there is “a stable transition of power.” CAMP Rehoboth last week announced it has named Lisa Evans to the interim director role.

Chris Beagle, whose term as president of CAMP Rehoboth preceded Combs’s own, noted that the experience of participating in a search committee with the organization will “better enable him to lead the process this time.”

Before completing his term, Beagle helped prepare Combs for the new role, noting that the “combination of his professional background, his executive leadership (and) his passion for the organization” make Combs a strong president. Regarding the results of the election, “I was extremely confident, and I remain extremely confident,” Beagle said.

Bob Witeck, a pioneer in LGBTQ marketing and communications, has known Combs for nearly four decades. The two founded a public relations firm together in 1993 and went on to work together for 20 years, with clients ranging from major businesses like Ford Motor Company to celebrities including Chaz Bono and Christopher Reeve. According to Witeck, Combs’s work in the firm is a testament to his commitment to LGBTQ advocacy.

“Our firm was the first founded primarily to work on issues specific to LGBTQ identities, because we wanted to counsel corporations about their marketing and media strategies and working in the LGBTQ market,” he explained. By helping develop communications strategies inclusive of those with LGBTQ identities, Combs established a background of LGBTQ advocacy that truly “made a mark,” Witeck said.

Witeck emphasized that, in his new position, Combs brings both business experience and a renewed focus on historically underrepresented in LGBTQ advocacy — including people with disabilities, trans people and people of color.

Looking to the rest of the year, CAMP Rehoboth hopes to host a larger-scale event during Labor Day weekend. In addition, the organization will revisit its strategic plan — first developed in 2019 but delayed due to the pandemic — and ensure it still meets the needs of the local community, Combs said. He added that he intends to reexamine the plan and other programming to ensure inclusivity for trans community members.

“CAMP Rehoboth continues to be a vital resource in the community,” he said. “The focus for the next two years is to make sure we’re doing and delivering services that meet the needs of everyone in our community.”

Wesley Combs, gay news, Washington Blade
Wesley Combs (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular