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Synth pop savants

Erasure ‘Flaming’ again on new album, tour



Erasure, gay news, Washington Blade
Erasure, Andy Bell, gay news, Washington Blade

Andy Bell, left, and Vince Clarke of Erasure. They say Pet Shop Boys and Donna Summer were influences on their new album ‘The Violet Flame.’ (Photo by Phil Sharpe; courtesy Mitch Schneider Organization)



The Violet Flame Tour


Sept. 19-20


Doors, 8 p.m.


Both nights sold out


Nina opens


9:30 Club


815 V St., N.W.


For Erasure singer Andy Bell, the band’s new album “The Violet Flame,” slated for a Sept. 23 release, is reflective of a new lease on life.

“I always think about music in a healing context,” the 50-year-old singer/songwriter said in a press release. He cites creative partner Vince Clarke, 54, for much of that.

“I’ve found a lot of Vince’s music is like holistic laser beams — it’s like acupuncture for the soul,” Bell said.

Having survived the death of his partner of 25 years, Paul Hickey, who died in 2012, the new album (their 16th studio effort) finds Bell celebrating a new relationship, transformation and new beginnings. The title is a spiritual term for transforming negative energy into positive.

The Brit synth-pop veterans who’ve had 40 hit singles and sold 25 million albums will celebrate their 30th anniversary next year and are touring this fall. Their two D.C. shows next weekend at the 9:30 Club are sold out.

Having interviewed Bell last time they were in town — touring on their 2011 release “Tomorrow’s World” — we caught up with the more low-key Clarke this time. From his Brooklyn studio, the droll studio wizard waxed calmly on a wide range of topics.


WASHINGTON BLADE: EDM has been so big in the U.S. the last couple years. It may have crested between Erasure cycles but did you guys get any mileage out of it?

VINCE CLARKE: I don’t know that we did really. I don’t think that we are kind of considered primarily a dance act. I think we’re considered more just a modern pop group really. It might have affected things a bit with the remixes … but not really in regard to making records, I don’t think.


BLADE: Would you say synth pop and EDM are musically related?

CLARKE: I have always felt that Erasure is really like a songwriting duo. We write songs and we happen to use synthesizers to make records. So we’re related to EDM to the degree that we both use synthesizers.


BLADE: That’s the extent of it?

CLARKE: I think so. If you strip it back, that’s what it is. We’ve been doing this for 30 years so this explosion you speak of in musical production that uses that kind of gear now, it’s very exciting.


BLADE: Did you hear the Daft Punk album “Random Access Memories?”



BLADE: Did you like it?

CLARKE: Ehhhh — it was OK. You know, it wasn’t like an instant thing of, “Oh, I love this record”-kind of vibe. I guess I would really give it like a B-minus to be fair.


BLADE: When did you record “The Violet Flame” and about how long did it take to make?

CLARKE: We started writing in about April of this year. Andy and I both met up in Miami because he has a place there so we spent maybe four or five weeks writing the basic tunes. This time around it was a little different because usually we’d start writing with just nothing, maybe an acoustic guitar or piano, but this time around I had kind of prepared some parts, some loops and vibes and some general grooves for Andy to work with, so we had a starting point. I wasn’t sure about working that way, but it worked and we had a very successful meting and things started to come quickly. That part was quite successful. As far as the concept for the record, it was more of our usual concept — Andy wants to make a dance record and I want to make something electronic.


BLADE: What did (producer) Richard X bring to the sessions?

CLARKE: We made a Christmas record with him (2013’s “Snow Globe”), which he mixed for us in London so we knew him and the kind of stuff he was doing so he was a natural person for us to work with on this new record. The music was recorded here in my studio in Brooklyn and Andy did the vocals in Richard’s studio in South London and it was mixed there also. He didn’t ask why, he was just on our wavelength.


BLADE: But since you’re so involved in crafting the sound and texture of an album, what does Richard do exactly? Or any producer you might work with for Erasure?

CLARKE: It’s a little different every time but I think mostly what we’re looking for in a producer is someone who will tell us to stop working or we’d never finish a record. Someone who really has an overall idea of how this record should sound. When Andy and I go in and start making a record, we don’t really have that kind of a vision. We just do things as they happen and as they come along, we record them. So it’s good to have someone there to kind of — someone who’s in charge.


BLADE: “Snow Globe” was kind of viewed as this little side project but was it as labor intensive to make as a regular studio album?

CLARKE: A lot of forethought went into it. Since everybody’s made a Christmas record, we wanted to do something a little bit different. So a lot of thought was put into the way it should sound. We wanted to keep it as minimal as possible, which I think is what sets it apart from all the other Christmas records out there.


BLADE: Is there are lot of discussion about what the first single will be or does one cut just kind of emerge as the obvious choice?

CLARKE: Well, to be honest we usually lave that to other people. When you’ve been working on something for a long time and you hear it over and over again, it’s hard to be objective. So usually you leave it to the record company or the producer. There might be something we really hope will be a single, but usually we hand that decision over to somebody else.


BLADE: What does (first single) “Elevation” mean to you? U2 had a song with that title as well. It suggests a lot of possible meanings.

CLARKE: Like most of the stuff on the record, it’s very forward thinking, kind of like Andy going to these kinds of places spiritually. “Elevation” is one of those kind of happy, very positive-sounding songs. Very celebratory.


BLADE: How many synthesizers would you guess you own?

CLARKE: I’m in the studio right now. Maybe about 70.


BLADE: Have you kept them all over the years or pared down at times?

CLARKE: I’m not very good at throwing stuff away. I throw old socks away, but I’m not so good with synthesizers. I’ve been collecting them for about 30 years, so I have quite a collection. My studio right at the moment, well, it’s always in a state of being renovated. Some of these are quite old and I’ve had a very long time. Some I’ve kind of revamped. I keep what I use. You know, I’m sorry — if it’s not something I’m using, I’ll get rid of it.


BLADE: Erasure is rather synonymous with a big ‘80s dance/pop sound and now that’s far enough back that there’s some nostalgia for it and you see those sounds referenced in current pop. Has that phenomenon informed your creative process to any degree?

CLARKE: No, I don’t think so. I’m certainly not the kind of person to look back. It’s all about the next project really. Even with this project we’ve just done, I’m not listening to that now. I’m thinking about the next thing. That’s the wonderful thing about this job. It’s always something new and different.


BLADE: Audiences today seem rather sophisticated because they hear so much. When you’re figuring out the colors and textures for a track, do you consider what references certain sounds — like maybe a vintage Fender Rhodes keyboard — might have for the listener?

CLARKE: No. It’s just about what fits. Even with the synthesizers I have that are quite old, they don’t have any memory, so when I’m creating something, I’m starting from scratch each time and hopefully I’m not repeating myself. I’m certainly not trying to emulate sounds from a particular era. I’m trying to find a sound that’s hopefully unique and fits the vibe of the song.


BLADE: Erasure has been so reliable and steadfast over the years. Do you ever feel taken for granted?

CLARKE: No, I don’t think so. We’re very grateful. We’ve had an amazing career and we’ve got some really dedicated followings out there, you know. People who’ve been buying our records since we started so for that I’m forever grateful. I can’t knock it. I used to work in factories, in production lines, so this is a long way from that.


BLADE: Do Erasure albums get released on vinyl?

CLARKE: Yes. At the moment, I don’t know about the new record but just very recently once again they are more interested in that kind of thing so I hope eventually they will release it on vinyl.


BLADE: It seems to be a medium that suits you well.

CLARKE: Well I’m biased. I love vinyl. I collect records and I still think they sound better than CDs.


BLADE: Do you still live in Maine?

CLARKE: No, I live in Brooklyn now.


BLADE: Why did you move?

CLARKE: My wife’s twin sister lives in New York so we have to be near her.


BLADE: You and Tracy are still married?



BLADE: And how old is your son?

CLARKE: He turned 9 on Monday.


BLADE: I understand Andy is in a new relationship. Do your spouses get along?

CLARKE: Well we socialize when we’re together, if we’re working on a project or on tour, then we’ll go out and socialize but when we’re not working he lives partly in Spain and in the UK so we don’t see each other each week at the pub or anything.


BLADE: Was Andy out when you first met him?

CLARKE: Yes, he’s always been very up front and forward about his sexuality.


BLADE: You’re straight but Erasure has always been such a gay band in many ways. Is there gay musical sensibility somewhere there in your DNA?

CLARKE: I don’t know about musical sensibility. … Andy and I have had, as you can imagine, lots of discussions about sexuality over the years and I don’t know — it’s never been an issue because with Andy it’s never been an issue. So then it’s never been an issue with me either.


BLADE: You’ve been in other bands and done lots of side projects. What sense do you have of how rare the partnership between the two of you is? Could it have happened with somebody else under different circumstances or do you think of it as a one-in-a-million-type thing?

CLARKE: I think it’s incredibly rare. I think we’re very lucky to have met and we started working together almost immediately after we met and I think being creative together, we both realized there was a special thing between us. Andy is the first and only person I’ve actually been able to sit down and write a song with. Songwriting is a very personal thing and to that extent, you have to kind of bare your soul a little and you can only do that with the right person. Over the years, our relationship has only gotten better and better an there’s an incredible amount of trust between us, which I think is a very rare thing. Not that many bands can say they’ve been together the amount of time we have.


BLADE: Erasure records always feel like these very tight affairs — 10 or 11 cuts and no flab. It could fit on an LP usually, even though you’re not confined by that. Do you purposefully keep them tight?

CLARKE: Well yeah, we always try to write more than we need generally. … It’s usually just a case of Andy and I sitting down and saying, “OK, I think that idea is a strong one and this one maybe not so much.” We basically just pick the best of what we’ve done and that usually ends up being 10 or 11 songs.


BLADE: You’ve played the 9:30 Club many times. Good venue, good audiences here?

CLARKE: Yes, we know it quite well. I’m really looking forward to it. You seem to get a very receptive crowd in Washington. I think we played there on a very first U.S. Erasure tour many years ago, some tiny little place I don’t even remember. … So far, no one’s asked for their money back.


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A rainbow shield

Parasol Patrol protects children from protesters at LGBTQ, BIPOC events



Parasol Patrol volunteers in action at a recent protest. (Photo by Jon Farina)

In the wake of LGBTQ events like drag queen story hours being the target of far-right protesters across the country, a national nonprofit is aiming to protect children from hate.  

Founded in March 2019 by Pasha Ripley and Eli Bazan in Denver, Parasol Patrol now has grown to 14 official chapters, including in the D.C. area, Idaho, Illinois, and Rhode Island. The goal of the nonprofit is to protect children and young people from protesters at LGBTQ and BIPOC-centered events. 

Volunteers with the nonprofit use umbrellas, rainbow or otherwise, as shields to block kids and families from hateful signs and pass out noise-canceling headphones to protect attendees from abhorrent language. Sometimes volunteers will also escort families into the venue to keep them safe. 

“We just started this way of creating a turtle shell around families,” Ripley said. “We envelop that family as best we can and get them through, or past, protesters.” 

The mission of Parasol Patrol is twofold, Ripley said. One part of it is to keep kids safe, and the other is to show that there is community support. 

“Showing them that we love them. We support them. Not in spite of who they are, but because of who they are,” Ripley said. “We’ve helped the venue create a safer space for them to be themselves.” 

Originally raised in rural Oklahoma, Ripley, who is queer, said Parasol Patrol provides a security that she and many others didn’t necessarily have coming of age. 

“We want to be those adults that we wish we had had growing up,” she said. “And we’re not trying to turn kids gay. We’re trying to keep the gay kids alive.” 

Ripley stressed volunteers with Parasol Patrol are not counter-protesters or security. The mission is nonviolent, and volunteers are encouraged to not engage with protesters. 

John Zittrauer, a local volunteer with Parasol Patrol since the early summer of 2022, said volunteers serve as a “welcoming committee” for families attending these events. 

“That’s where the umbrellas come in. To create not only a beautiful hallway of people but also to shield little kids from things that might get thrown their way,” Zittrauer said. “We are this wall of positivity, just welcoming families and making sure that everybody comes in and leaves with a smile on their face.”

But sometimes, these events can get hectic. 

For example, in late February, the far-right group Proud Boys targeted a drag queen story hour in Silver Spring, Md., the Washington Blade previously reported. About 40 volunteers with Parasol Patrol came out to protect the event, including Zittrauer.

While shielding families from the protesters, Zittrauer was hit in the face on the bridge of his nose. In the melee, he doesn’t know if it was an elbow or a signpost that hit him. He didn’t realize he was bleeding until he turned around to check in with other volunteers, and the look on their faces signaled to him that something was wrong. 

Zittrauer still carried on protecting the event from protesters. But he still says volunteering at that event was a positive experience because the families watching the drag story hour did not know too much of what was going on. 

This is exactly what Ripley hopes for — that at the end of the day, the events are fun and inspiring for everyone involved, she said.  

“For the most part, we stayed happy and upbeat, and unfazed,” Zittrauer said. “It was, all in all, a good day,” he said. 

Parasol Patrol members gather in front of Crazy Aunt Hellen’s restaurant in Barracks Row on Feb. 25, 2023, during a Drag Story Hour event. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)
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Golden Girls return to D.C.

‘The Laughs Continue’ to run at Warner Theatre from Feb. 23-26



‘Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue’ cast (Photo by MP Present)

Miami’s sassiest seniors will take D.C. by storm when they take the stage at the Warner Theatre from Feb. 23-26.

Robert Leleux — whose previous work includes “The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy” and “The Living End” —  wrote “Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue.” It documents the lives of the four cheesecake-loving older women in “The Golden Girls.”

Sophia (Christopher Kamm) is out on bail after the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested her for running a drug ring for older adults. Blanche (Vince Kelley) and Rose (Adam Graber) created CreakN, a “sex app for seniors.” And the relationship-challenged Dorothy is with a much younger man (Jason Bowen) on the aforementioned app.

Bowen also plays Dorothy’s ex-husband Stanley.

Eric Swanson, co-founder of the Detroit Actors’ Theatre Company, directs “Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue” and Murray and Peter Present produced the play. A version of it showed at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre in July 2022.

“You will feel like you have watched sort of this hour and a half sort of special on a TV and it should feel just like you’re hitting play or whatever it is on your streaming service and here it is,” Swanson told the Washington Blade during a recent Zoom interview from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “The set looks like the set and we utilize the cheesecake — there’s so much cheesecake in this play. You can’t do Golden Girls without cheesecake.”

Swanson said he and Leloux binge watched “every episode” of the original show in four days.

“We wanted to create new content, that was our number one goal,” Swanson told the Blade. “We didn’t want to parody anything. We wanted to completely attack new material and new ways of thinking for women and aging adults in this generation.”

Blanche ‘weaponizes what God has given her’

Kelley told the Blade from Michigan during a telephone interview that Blanche is “very free and my brand of sassy.”

“I love the sensuality of Blanche and that she weaponizes what God has given her to her advantage.”

The scene in season two’s “The Actor” episode in which Blanche’s inflatable breasts deflate when she is hugging an actor during an audition to be his love interest is among Kelley’s favorite from the original show. Kelley also noted CreakN is difficult for Blanche to use because “she doesn’t identify as a senior.”

Blanche in season seven’s “The Case of the Libertine Bell” episode that takes place during a murder mystery weekend points out “flirting is part of my heritage” because she is “from the South.” Rose asked Blanche what she meant, and Dorothy told her that Blanche’s mother was “a slut too.”

“There’s a few of those zingers in this one too,” Swanson told the Blade. “Sometimes they just lay it down.”

‘Ahead of their time’ on LGBTQ issues

“The Golden Girls” premiered on NBC on Sept. 14, 1985.

The series ran for seven seasons until it ended on May 9, 1992. “The Golden Palace” in which Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty starred after Bea Arthur left “The Golden Girls” ran for one season.

“The Golden Girls” is one of the first primetime shows that discussed AIDS, marriage equality, and other LGBTQ issues.

Blanche’s brother Clayton, for example, comes out to his sister as gay in season four’s “Scared Straight” after he claimed he slept with Rose. Clayton and his boyfriend Doug during season six’s “Sister of the Bride” episode tell Blanche, Dorothy, and Sofia that they want to get married.

Dorothy’s brother Phil was a crossdresser, and her friend Jean is a lesbian who falls in love with Rose during season two’s “Isn’t It Romantic?” episode. Rose in season five’s “72 Hours” episode tests HIV-negative after she fears a blood transfusion she had exposed her to the virus. 

“They were so ahead of their time in the things that they were tackling: AIDS and all that kind of stuff, and LGBTQ rights and discrimination against Jewish people. All things we’re still dealing with today, which is unfortunate, but it’s nice to turn to them and see how your good friends Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia are dealing with the same problems that you’re dealing with today,” said Kelley.

“I love the progressiveness that they had, especially when you look at the time and the era and what was going on, not just politically, but regarding feminism and sexuality and all of that. it was just incredibly brave,” Swanson told the Blade.

He further noted “The Golden Girls” also addressed interracial marriage and aging.

“They were addressing these things about what it’s like to age,” he said. “Whether you are a conservative, you’re a liberal, you are gay, you are straight, the one thing we all have is age. We can all relate to age and they led that narrative on what is it like to age and feel left out and have to fight again.”

Swanson and Kelley both teased bits of the play.

Kelley notes it is Dorothy’s “day in the sun” when she mets her younger man on CreakN. He also told the Blade that Sophia “had to do another small stint in Shady Pines due to another slip and fall.”

“While there she decided, how can I make a quick buck,” said Kelley. “I’m going to turn into Walter White and monetize that.”

Kelly noted the play is “all new material.”

“You’ll get a whole new fun story that even if you seen every episode twice, you’re gonna get something new. But we definitely have all your favorite lines, all the catchphrases, all the tropes and scenarios that you would expect,” he said. “We’re not trying to reinvent the Golden Girls, we’re just trying to add on to them.” 

“We wanted to create something in their honor,” Swanson told the Blade.

“Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue” will be at the Warner Theatre (1299 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.) from Feb. 23-26. Tickets start at $30. A VIP experience that includes a meet and greet with the cast after the show is $99. Tickets are available at

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D.C.’s most eligible LGBTQ singles

Meet your match in our annual survey just in time for Valentine’s Day



Each year, the Blade seeks our readers’ help in identifying the most eligible local LGBTQ singles. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we present this year’s list.

Matthew Koerber

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 33

Occupation: Realtor

How do you identify?: Gay

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone accomplished, compassionate, and with a compatible sense of humor and set of values.

Biggest turn off: Green text messages

Biggest turn on: Someone who knows their way around the kitchen

Hobbies: Entertaining friends, singing in the car, and playing my guitar.

What is your biggest goal for 2023?: Finally take my mom on that trip to Paris.

Pets, kids, or neither?: I plead the fifth

Could you date someone whose political views differ from your own?: Within reason

Celebrity crush: Chris Hemsworth

Name one obscure fact about yourself: Will moonwalk after a few drinks.

Kelsey Watson

(Photo by Briana Smith)

Age: 28

Occupation: Nonprofit professional

How do you identify?: As a Black queer cis-woman

What are you looking for in a mate? I enjoy being around people who are funny and curious. I connect best with folks who have a shared sense of humour and can hold a conversation with just about anyone. I also prefer those who have some level of experience with nonmonogamy.

Biggest turn off: Fatphobia and hot breath

Biggest turn on: Kindness, banter, eye contact, and being fine

Hobbies: I spend my non-work time doing beer education, making elaborate meals for myself, gardening, and spending time with friends.

What is your biggest goal for 2023?: To start running my own beer education experiences, and to fold my laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer.

Pets, kids, or neither?: Neither

Could you date someone whose political views differ from your own?: Absolutely the fuck not.

Celebrity crush: Raven Saunders, the very fine track and field Olympian. Somebody set me up.

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I like to hunt. I’m new to the sport and would love to find folks in the area to go out with.

Barbi Lopez

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 30

Occupation: Bar manager/bartender

How do you identify?: She/her

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who is emotionally intelligent, adventurous, ambitious, spiritual, and wants to grow together (in every aspect).

Biggest turn off: Immaturity

Biggest turn on: A submissive dom

Hobbies: Pilates, traveling, reading, writing poetry, and anything in nature!

What is your biggest goal for 2023?: Travel back home to Argentina to see my family

Pets, kids, or neither?: A cat my son names Bruno

Could you date someone whose political views differ from your own?: Depends

Celebrity crush: Kehlani

Philip Pannell

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 72

Occupation: Non-profit executive director

How do you identify?: Gay

What are you looking for in a mate? An active advocate for social, political and economic progress.

Biggest turn off: Lack of engagement with community issues

Biggest turn on: Commitment to community progress

Hobbies: Community volunteerism and playing bridge

What is your biggest goal for 2023?: Helping to end violence and statehood for DC

Pets, kids, or neither?: Neither

Could you date someone whose political views differ from your own?: Highly improbable but not impossible

Celebrity crush: I cannot have a crush on someone I have not personally met

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I watch Fox News

Michael Wolfe

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 43

Occupation: Recruiter

How do you identify?: Gay

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who is independent, spontaneous, low drama and an open and honest communicator with a sense of humor.

Biggest turn off: Selfishness, pretentious, disrespectful of others, takes things they shouldn’t too seriously

Biggest turn on: Collaborative, inclusive, cares about others as much as they care about themselves, solid communication skills, not required but bonus points if you appreciate Coke Zero over Diet Coke and love Chipotle as well!

Hobbies: I love to travel and have a long list of places in the world I want to go, and would want someone willing to come on that adventure with me, even if that means hopping on a plane spontaneously tomorrow at the last minute. Enjoy exploring DC (theater, concerts, special events etc.), weekend brunching with friends, and playing social LGBTQIA+ kickball.

What is your biggest goal for 2023?: Continue to live life to the fullest both personally and professionally while surrounding myself with good, positive people.

Pets, kids, or neither?: I love dogs (had a dog for 13 years who passed a few years ago), open to considering another one (or two!) someday.

Could you date someone whose political views differ from your own?: Yes, up to a point

Celebrity crush: Jay Hernandez, Chris Evans, Patrick Mahomes

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I’ve lived in 18 different apartments/homes in my ~21 years living in the DC metro area – as you can tell, I’m definitely not afraid of moving.

Mel May

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 42

Occupation: Recruiting leader

How do you identify?: Queer

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who is creative, has a dark sense of humor, is grounded, leads with an authentic heart, and appreciates the little moments in life.

Biggest turn off: Lack of empathy, curiosity, adventurous spirit

Biggest turn on: Someone who lives their life out loud and takes risks with their dreams. Is confident and passionate in a relationship. Can hang with witty and weird jokes. Oh, and if they can cook!

Hobbies: I’m a writer at heart. Obsessed with resell, thrift, and consignment objects. Have always loved trying new, creative projects to include crocheting, DIY miniature kits, painting, publishing my own memoir. Always up for exploring and can walk around a city or trail for hours absorbing the experience.

What is your biggest goal for 2023?: Honestly, to be super present with the people I care about and love. It’s been a rough few years and it’s made me truly appreciate how precious our time is together.

Pets, kids, or neither?: No kids. No pets right now — but you’ll hear me talk about my pup who was so sassy & funny (miss my lil guy). Right now, I live vicariously through my friends’ pets.

Could you date someone whose political views differ from your own?: No, that’s just too loaded these days. Could be friends and have respectful conversations, but I don’t have the space for debate in my deeper relationships.

Celebrity crush: Winona Ryder was my first, and still is my biggest crush.

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I was a finalist for the “Tila Tequila” show. Don’t judge me — just knew I was auditioning for a queer reality dating show. *smacks forehead*

Elizabeth Falcon

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 40

Occupation: Non-profit executive director

How do you identify?: Queer

What are you looking for in a mate? I like to laugh, process the world from the big to the tiny, and collaborate. I want someone who wants to join me in that.

Biggest turn off: Being rude to service workers

Biggest turn on: Direct communication, expression of desires, confidence, playfulness. Know your value and tell me about mine.

Hobbies: Biking around town, illegally swimming in the Potomac, listening to too many podcasts, the Libby app, planting perennials, starting a garden then forgetting to water it, baking when I have the patience to clean the kitchen after, coordinating my friends to plan meals together

What is your biggest goal for 2023?: Living with patience (see next question)

Pets, kids, or neither?: I have a one-and-a-half year-old kiddo I’m raising on my own. I also live with a cat, but the cat is my roommate’s.

Could you date someone whose political views differ from your own?: There’s a wide spectrum of what this means, but I wouldn’t date someone who I fundamentally didn’t share agreement about the problems with white supremacy, capitalism, and the impacts of gentrification in DC. TL;DR probably no.

Celebrity crush: Janelle Monae, Mae Martin, E.R Fightmaster, Sara Ramirez

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I grew up on a dairy farm

Chloe Thompson

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 25

Occupation: Community Manager at TPSS Co-op

How do you identify?: Bisexual/queer woman

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who is intensely smart, non-secular, building/involved in community, confident, and humble, very sexy, good dancer, curious about the world, a futurist, tall, a defined sense of personal style, and very funny.

Biggest turn off: Using Siri or Alexa (ever), drinking alcohol (I’m Muslim), being cynical or pessimistic, not talkative, being stingy, lacking imagination and refusing to dance!

Biggest turn on: A person who is totally in love with the world, for the good and the bad. Also, beautiful hands.

Hobbies: Reading critical theory and science fiction, yoga, watching and learning about film, writing, reading tarot, praying, learning rock climbing, going to museums, cooking excellent food 

What is your biggest goal for 2023?: Create intentional Black and Brown community. Be amazed by the goodness of life, daily.

Pets, kids, or neither?: I have neither, but I want 3 daughters and 2 dogs. Ready to get started creating my semi-big family whenever

Could you date someone whose political views differ from your own?: Yeah! As long as you have an inherent distrust of the state, we’re good to go.

Celebrity crush: Kehlani. Real ones know.

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I’m secretly very bashful.

Maria Miller

(Photo by @itsjacqill)

Age: 31

Occupation: Bartender, produce slinger, sandwich artisan

How do you identify?: Dyke

What are you looking for in a mate? A genuinely nice and kind person. That answer seems simple, but you’d be surprised. 

Biggest turn off: Bad tippers, rude customers, people who eat dry sandwiches.

Biggest turn on: Kind eyes, a nice smile, thoughtfulness, direct communication.

Hobbies: Thrifting, going to shows, making art, organizing in the community, getting tattoos

What is your biggest goal for 2023?: I have some big plans and that’s all I can really say!

Pets, kids, or neither?: A dog named Gravy

Could you date someone whose political views differ from your own?: That doesn’t seem smart

Celebrity crush: Alive: Charli XCX and Yseult Onguenet, Not Alive: Selena and Aaliyah

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I have two baby teeth!

Al Castillo

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 22

Occupation: Research specialist

How do you identify?: Queer trans man

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who is emotionally mature, willing to be spontaneous and willing to venture into the world together, but also able to enjoy a quiet day inside watching our favorite cartoon with our pets cuddled next to us on the couch.

Biggest turn off: Being out of touch with the local community and disrespecting physical and emotional boundaries.

Biggest turn on: Taking initiative and being comfortable acting silly and goofy!

Hobbies: Dancing like I am lip-syncing for my life, playing Nintendo and classic arcade games, cocktail making, and spending time with my loved ones.

What is your biggest goal for 2023?: I am beginning my fitness journey by going to the gym more often and becoming more active. I also started learning Spanish this year, so I am hoping to improve my Spanish speaking and listening skills throughout the year.

Pets, kids, or neither?: I have a dog named Dana Scully and my roommate Siena has a kitten named Fox Mulder, just like the characters from the X-Files.

Could you date someone whose political views differ from your own?: No

Celebrity crush: Patrick Dempsey and Rina Sawayama

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I am double-jointed and I can do a jump split (give me some time to stretch though, it’s been a while)

Aurora Lloyd

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 30

Occupation: Entertainer/Entrepreneur/Activist

How do you identify?: Transsexual woman

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who wants commitment and understands what it means to build a foundation and grow. Has emotional intelligence and is in therapy. Wants the most out of life. And it doesn’t hurt if you are a cutie too!

Biggest turn off: Willful ignorance, blatant disrespect, and judgmental people

Biggest turn on: Intelligence emotional and mental! I love nerds being one myself. Knows how to love and treat Black women.

Hobbies: Video games, anime, reading books, making music, watching movies/shows, traveling, hanging with friends and family, napping, going out to eat, and museums

What is your biggest goal for 2023?: To release my new music and perform, travel, and increase my income.

Pets, kids, or neither?: I have one cat, no biological kids but open to having some but I do have five “queer” kids, lol.

Could you date someone whose political views differ from your own?: I would be open to it, but it just depends on what particular views because politics are not just one vacuum from normal having history with working on the Hill, there are layers.

Celebrity crush: Michael B. Jordan and Tyler James Williams

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I really have a thing for archery

Andrew Bunting

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 34

Occupation: Higher education administration/bartending

How do you identify?: Gay

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who is authentic, witty, driven, empathetic, intelligent, and adventurous. I’m looking for someone who understands the importance of self-care, and also knows how to both work and play hard.

Biggest turn off: My biggest turn off is unwanted pressure. The quickest way to make me no longer interested is to try to constantly pressure me to do something. The moment that I feel that type of pressure I start to feel smothered and I lose all interest.

Biggest turn on: Confidence, decisiveness, and a drive to enjoy life. A great smile and being a good kisser doesn’t hurt either!

Hobbies: My interests are really varied, and range from enjoying a day visiting local wineries to catching a movie with friends. Bartending (formerly at Cobalt and now at JR.’s) also takes up a lot of my weekend time, and is, for me, less of a job and more of a hobby.

What is your biggest goal for 2023?: My biggest goal for 2023 is to strive for balance and be intentional about how I use my time. I want to make sure that I am focusing on the right things for the right reasons. For me, that means making sure that I’m connecting with my family and friends (and potential love interests), focusing on my career, and making sure I still have enough time for self-care.

Pets, kids, or neither?: I don’t have a pet now, but I’m open both dogs and cats (I grew up with cats and have lived with dogs). Kids are not in my future.

Could you date someone whose political views differ from your own?: An interesting question, and I really think it is more about one’s fundamental values than political affiliation. Would I date someone who disagrees with me about specific policies? Sure! But would I date someone who denies things like climate science, vaccines, or the fundamental rights of others? Definitely not.

Celebrity crush: Zac Efron (back off, he’s mine!)

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I’ve never, in my life, eaten Taco Bell (and I don’t plan to)

Javen Marquise Kostrzewa

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 30

Occupation: JD/MBA student at Georgetown

How do you identify?: Bisexual

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who is emotionally intelligent, career driven and wants to have a family and get married. If you can make me laugh that is the key to my heart.

Biggest turn off: Being rude to service staff; surface-level interactions, and fear of commitment.

Biggest turn on: Ambition, sense of humor and dedication to pursuit of life balance (mental, physical, and emotional health)

Hobbies: I love to work out and am that weird person who enjoys cardio. Outside of work and the gym I like playing video games, watching anime, and binging TV series (financial crime docs are my favorite).

What is your biggest goal for 2023?: Finish law school strong, but make more time for social activities.

Pets, kids, or neither?: Both! I absolutely love dogs (allergic to cats) especially big dogs (Great Dane is my dream dog). I love kids — my nieces and nephews are bright lights in my life. I want to eventually adopt (I grew up in foster care and was adopted.)

Could you date someone whose political views differ from your own?: It depends on where they differ. If we differ on civil rights and equality, that’s non-negotiable.

Celebrity crush: Michael B. Jordan

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I sang a tribute for Bill Withers as part of the Songwriters Hall of Fame project. (Bill was hilarious!)

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