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Top 45 headlines of the Blade’s 45 years

The biggest LGBT stories, from DOMA to ‘Will & Grace’



45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade
45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photos)

To help commemorate the Blade’s 45th anniversary, the editorial staff worked to identify the top 45 headlines from our archives.

These headlines often represent single events, but sometimes are used thematically to encompass a series of related events. Each one survived several rounds of voting to make the cut and determine its order in the final list.

The stories are a mix of local and national events that helped shape the LGBT movement.

45. 2013: Former Washington Wizards center Jason Collins in April became the first male athlete who actively plays in a major American professional sports league to come out as gay. The watershed announcement prompted other athletes to declare their sexual orientation. These include former University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam who came out in February and was drafted by the NFL’s Rams.

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Jason Collins (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

44. 1982: An investigation by the Washington Blade reveals that the FBI is spying on D.C. gays. Sources said the FBI and D.C. police were looking into prostitution with adults or minors, the sale and distribution of child pornography and possible infiltration by foreign intelligence agents. The Blade, which interviewed more than 25 people to verify that the investigation was taking place, found that D.C. gay bars, bar owners and some patrons were under surveillance. Spokespeople for the D.C. police and the FBI denied that gays were being singled out for different treatment.

43. 1998: “Will & Grace” debuts in September, marking a significant change in Hollywood’s presentation of LGBT people, their lives and relationships. The sitcom featured Will Truman, a gay lawyer living in New York City, and his straight friend and roommate Grace Adler, an interior designer. Storylines in the comedy involved Will and Grace’s problems seeking romantic relationships as well as struggles in maintaining their own friendship. The most successful TV series featuring gay characters, “Will & Grace” ran for eight years, earned 16 Emmys and made it into the Nielsen Top 20 for half of its network run.

45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

Eric McCormack and Debrah Messing of ‘Will & Grace.’

42. 1992: In October, more than 500,000 people come to see the NAMES Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt on the National Mall. The 23,000 panels on display covered more than 15 acres around the Washington Monument, and the Quilt included panels from every state and 28 countries. The Quilt was displayed for the first time on the National Mall in 1987, during the National March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights. In January of 1993, the NAMES Project was invited to march in President Clinton’s inaugural parade.

45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

Names Project Quilt on Oct. 10, 1992. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

41. 1991: The country’s first Black Gay Pride Day is held in Washington drawing 800 participants. Activists Welmore Cook, Theodore Kirkland and Ernest Hopkins organized the event in response to their concern of supporting the increasing number of HIV-positive black people in the District. The event raised nearly $3,000 for AIDS charities with the support of the D.C. Coalition of Black Lesbians & Gay Men and the Inner City AIDS Network.

45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

Black Gay and Lesbian Pride Day in 1991. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

40. 1976: Former nun-turned-gay rights activist Jean O’Leary is elected as the first openly gay delegate to the 1976 Democratic National Convention. O’Leary, who started the Lesbian Feminist Liberation in 1972 and co-founded National Coming Out Day in 1987, was also the organizer of the first meeting of gay rights activists in the White House under President Carter in 1977. O’Leary continued to serve on the Democratic National Committee for 12 years after she became a delegate.

45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

Jean O’Leary (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

39. 2008: After running a largely gay-friendly campaign, Barack Obama is elected as the nation’s first black president. He frequently pledged during the campaign to seek “equality for all,” vowing to fight for full federal recognition of same-sex couples and develop a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy, among other steps. But in the months following his inauguration, Obama drew criticism from some activists for not doing more to advance LGBT priorities in Congress.

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President Barack Obama (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key).

38. 1973: D.C. Mayor Walter Washington signs into law Title 34, which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, public accommodations, bank credit and employment. The law also banned discrimination on the basis of marital status and personal appearance. It narrowed the “business necessity” exclusion, which said that businesses would have to prove that practicing nondiscrimination would cost them money and render it impossible to remain in business at all in order to ignore the law.

37. 2011: Franklin E. Kameny, who is credited with playing the lead role in establishing an assertive and credible civil rights movement for lesbians and gays in the early 1960s and who coined the phrase “Gay is Good,” died at his home in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 11 at the age of 86. His voluminous papers chronicling his gay and later LGBT rights work covering the repeal of sodomy laws, allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military, and the enactment of local and state laws banning LGBT discrimination, among many other efforts, are available for scholars and researchers at the Library of Congress.

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Frank Kameny (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

36. 2004: On Nov. 2, voters in 11 states vote overwhelmingly in support of state constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex unions. The development came after two other states voted earlier in the year to add constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. President George W. Bush also supported that year the Federal Marriage Amendment, but his endorsement did not rally sufficient support to pass the measure through Congress. The amendment stalled in the U.S. Senate, and was rejected outright in the U.S. House.

35. 1988: About 1,100 AIDS activists, angry at the Food & Drug Administration for taking too long to approve new drugs for people with AIDS, stage a protest at FDA headquarters and close it for the day. Protesters sat or sprawled on the pavement outside the building’s main entrance, preventing employees from entering or leaving. Some demonstrators, who climbed onto an overhanging roof above the building’s main entrance, attached placards and banners proclaiming “silence = death” and “test drugs, not people” to office windows. The demonstration resulted in 176 arrests.

45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

Civil disobedience at the FDA on Oct. 11, 1988. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

34. 1987: The Second National March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights draws between 200,000 and 600,000 participants. In addition to demanding civil rights, participants also called on President Ronald Reagan to take greater action to confront the growing AIDS epidemic. The event included the unveiling of Cleve Jones’ NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and a protest before the Supreme Court building for its 1986 ruling upholding sodomy laws. Speakers included Latino civil rights leader Cesar Chevez; comedian Whoopi Goldberg; and Jesse Jackson, then a Democratic presidential contender.

45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

The National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on Oct. 14, 1987. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

33. 1980: Gay activist Mel Boozer becomes the first openly gay person to have his name placed in nomination as a candidate at the Democratic National Convention. Supporters named Boozer, then a president of the Gay Activists Alliance, as a vice presidential candidate. Boozer, who was black, also addressed the convention during primetime. “I know what it means to be called a ‘nigger’ and I know what it means to be called a ‘faggot,’ and I understand the differences in the marrow of my bones. And I can sum up that difference in one word: none.”

45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

Mel Boozer on the floor of the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 13, 1980. (Washington Blade archive photo by Lisa M. Keen)

32. 1986: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hardwick v. Bowers that homosexual activity is not protected by the Constitution. The court upheld a Georgia sodomy law that criminalized oral and anal sex in private between consenting adults, and said that “majority belief that sodomy is immoral” was sufficient reason to validate sodomy laws. The issue in the case was the right of privacy, and the court ruled that the Constitution’s 14th Amendment right did not extend to private, homosexual conduct.

45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

Michael Hardwick in front of the Supreme Court on Oct. 8, 1986. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

31. 1983: Gay leaders, independent medical researchers and health and social service agency officials testify before a congressional panel that the federal government’s response to AIDS had been too little, too late. Organizations such as the National Gay Task Force called on the federal government to give substantial funding to AIDS research and create a commission specifically designed to fight the AIDS epidemic. Several witnesses echoed the plea, alleging that the lack of resources had already cost researchers the ability to study the first generation of AIDS cases.

30. 1993: On April 25, the March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian & Bi Equal Rights & Liberation drew an estimated 750,000 participants to Washington. The political rally drew more mainstream media coverage — including a Newsweek cover story — and more participants than previous marches. Protesters also took part in more than 250 march-related events, including conferences, workshops, lobbying events and religious ceremonies.

45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

National March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Rights and Liberation on April 25, 1993. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

29. 1982: Wisconsin Gov. Lee Dreyfus signs into law the nation’s first statewide gay civil rights bill, making it illegal in the Badger State to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, employment and public accommodations. “There are some questions the government has no business asking,” Dreyfus said of the bill.

28. 2012: U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) made history in November when she became the nation’s first out lesbian or gay person to win election to the United States Senate. Her decisive victory over Republican Tommy Thompson, the state’s former governor, solidified Baldwin’s status as a popular and respected public official with strong support from gay and straight voters alike.

Tammy Baldwin, women, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

27. 1979: On Oct. 14, tens of thousands of people participate in the National March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights. It was the first such march on Washington. Among the many participating groups were the National Gay Task Force, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, and the D.C. Area Feminist Alliance. In the days following the march, activists from across the country descended upon Capitol Hill to speak to lawmakers about anti-discrimination laws.

45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on Oct. 14, 1979. (Washington Blade archive photo by John M. Yanson)

26. 1985: In late July, actor Rock Hudson issues a statement saying he has AIDS and is receiving treatments in Paris that are unavailable in the U.S. He died three months later at age 59. His announcement and death drew massive mainstream media attention to AIDS, and numerous AIDS fundraisers ensued to help fund research, treatment and services for people with AIDS. Actress Elizabeth Taylor, a friend of Hudson’s, went on to start an AIDS fundraising organization, the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

Elizabeth Taylor (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

25. 1997: Actress Ellen DeGeneres comes out in an article in the April 17 issue of Time magazine. The headline: “Yep, I’m Gay.” Her alter ego, Ellen Morgan, also came out in the April 30 episode of “Ellen,” becoming the first gay lead character on television. The hour-long episode featured Laura Dern as Ellen’s romantic interest; Oprah Winfrey played a therapist who assured Ellen that there’s nothing wrong with being gay.

24. 2007: A debate raged among LGBT activists over how to best advance LGBT rights after the U.S. House of Representatives passed an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that lacked explicit protections for transgender people. Rep.Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), a lesbian, introduced an amendment to add a trans provision to the bill, but withdrew it before a vote. Her move was considered a symbolic gesture to assure trans people they were not forgotten. The bill passed the House, 235-184, but after President Bush threatened a veto, the Senate failed to take up the measure.

23. 2012: The American Psychiatric Association on Dec. 2, removed Gender Identity Disorder from its list of mental disorders. The organization specifically removed GID from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel (DSM) of Mental Disorders and replaced it with Gender Dysphoria. The process to revise the DSM began more than a decade earlier.

22. 2009: Throughout the year, more same-sex couples win the right to marry. The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously strikes down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage; Vermont becomes the first state to legalize same-sex marriage via the legislative path after it overrides Gov. Jim Douglas’s veto; Maine lawmakers followed, with Gov. John Baldacci signing the bill; and New Hampshire becomes the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage.

21. 2013: More states begin to legalize same-sex marriage in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision striking down DOMA. Marriage laws in Rhode Island and Hawaii took effect on Aug. 1, 2013, and Dec. 2, 2013, respectively. Illinois’ same-sex marriage law took effect statewide on June 1. Gays and lesbians also gained marriage rights in New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania since the DOMA decision.

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(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

20. 1996: At the 1996 International Conference on AIDS in Vancouver, it’s announced that HIV/AIDS cocktails, three-drug combinations used to combat the disease, held promise in combating symptoms. The introduction of the cocktails fundamentally changed the way AIDS was perceived, shifting it away from an inevitably fatal disease to one that, while chronic, was more manageable. The cocktails showed promise in blood tests of people with access to the drugs even though the number of available cocktails was limited at the time.

19. 1982: Gay Related Immune Disorder, or GRID, becomes the first name to describe what now is known as AIDS. Cases reached epidemic proportions, moving beyond clusters of gay men in New York and San Francisco and into groups with no obvious risk factors. Scientists later agreed that Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome more accurately described the disease, which did not exclusively affect gay men. In 1984, government researchers identify what they believe is the “probable cause” of AIDS: HTLVIII, the Human T-cell Leukemia Virus. In June 1988, the Presidential Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic, a 13-member panel, released a comprehensive report of 583 recommendations to address the AIDS epidemic.

(Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

(Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

18. 1993: President Clinton angers gays across the country when he backs off his campaign promise to end the ban on gays in the military, instead endorsing a policy by Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.). Supporters touted the law — which became known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — as a compromise because it would allow gays to serve in the military provided that they didn’t disclose their sexual orientation. Under the policy, about 13,000 service members were discharged, some because their sexual orientation was disclosed by others to commanding officers.

17. 1996: The Defense of Marriage Act abruptly surfaces in May before quickly working its way through Congress and winning President Clinton’s signature in September. The law prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage, and allows states not to recognize same-sex unions performed in other states. Same-sex marriage was not legal anywhere in the U.S. when Clinton signed DOMA into law, but now marriage rights for gay couples are available in six states. Because of DOMA, legally married same-sex couples in these states aren’t eligible for federal benefits.

16. 1970: A crowd of 2,000 gay demonstrators in New York commemorates the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots with a march and rally. The event, known as Christopher Street Liberation Day, occurred June 28 and reportedly took up about 15 blocks of the street. The New York Times reported there was little animosity, and “some bystanders applauded when a tall, pretty girl carrying a sign ‘I am a Lesbian’ walked by.” Pride marches took place simultaneously in Los Angeles and Chicago.

15. 2009: Mayor Adrian Fenty on Dec. 18 signed a bill approved days earlier by the D.C. City Council in an 11-2 vote legalizing same-sex marriage in the nation’s capital. The legislation successfully cleared a required legislative review by Congress and withstood efforts by opponents who attempted unsuccessfully to require that it come before voters in a referendum. The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 took effect March 3, 2010.

45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

Mayor Adrian Fenty at the same-sex marriage bill signing. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

14. 2012: Same-sex marriage laws were upheld at the ballot box for the first time. Voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington on Nov. 6 backed gay nuptials statutes in their respective states. Minnesotans on the same day rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

13. 2008: In May, a California Supreme Court ruling legalizes same-sex marriage in the state. Later that year, the Connecticut Supreme Court rules similarly. A ballot initiative to overturn the California ruling was put to voters on Election Day in November. Following an expensive campaign funded largely by the Mormon Church and anti-gay groups such as Focus on the Family, California voters passed Proposition 8, which rescinded same-sex marriage rights in the state.

12. 1977: In June, singer Anita Bryant leads a highly publicized campaign to repeal a gay civil rights ordinance in Dade County, Florida. The ordinance made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, employment, loans and public accommodations. Bryant founded Save Our Children to protest the ordinance and she led several more campaigns around the country to repeal other local anti discrimination ordinances. A boycott was organized against the Florida Citrus Commission, who used Bryant in advertising. Bryant’s campaign in Dade County was overturned in 1998.

45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

Anita Bryant (Photo public domain)

11. 1974: U.S. Reps. Bella Abzug and Edward Koch, Democrats from New York, introduce the Equality Act of 1974.The bill would have added “sexual orientation” to the 1964 U.S. Civil Rights Act, making it illegal to discriminate against gays and lesbians in employment, housing and public accommodations. The Equality Act, the first federal legislation in support of gay rights, never passed.

45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Bella Abzug (D-N.Y.) (Photo public domain)

10. 2009: Eleven years after the murder of the gay college youth for whom the bill was partly named, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. It was the first time federal protections for the LGBT community were enshrined into U.S. code. Byrd, a black man, was dragged to death behind a truck in 1998 by three white men in Texas.

45 headlines, gay news, Washington Blade

Signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

9. 1998: Matthew Shepard, a gay college student, is tortured and left to die near Laramie, Wyo., in October. He was found tied to a fence and was brought to a hospital, where he later died. The killers were sentenced in April 1999 and November 1999 to life in prison. Grief following his death led to the introduction of federal legislation that would enable the Justice Department to prosecute hate crimes against LGBT people. The bill languished in Congress for years before becoming law (see number 10).

8. 2010: After nearly two years of struggles in Congress, President Obama signed legislation known as the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal Act to lift the U.S. military’s ban on openly gay service. The armed forces discharged more than 13,000 service members under the law before it was formally lifted one year later.

Barack Obama signs DADT repeal

President Obama signed the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in December 2010, but it didn’t take effect until September 2011. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

7. 2003: On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in Lawrence v. Texas that sodomy laws are unconstitutional. In 1998, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested in Lawrence’s Houston home and jailed overnight after officers responding to a disturbance report found the men having sex. The court voted 6-3 to strike down the law, and the opinion covered similar laws in 12 other states. With its decision, the court also reversed Bowers v. Hardwick, its 1986 decision that upheld Georgia’s sodomy law on the argument that it had been harmful to gay people’s struggles for liberty and equality.

6. 2012: Ending the evolution he started 18 months earlier, President Obama announced during a TV interview with then-closeted ABC anchor Robin Roberts that he supports marriage rights for same-sex couples. Obama made history by winning re-election just six months after taking that position in a race against Mitt Romney, who remained opposed to marriage equality.

5. 1978: San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk is gunned down by Supervisor Dan White, who also shoots and kills Mayor George Moscone. Milk, who was gay and a pioneer for LGBT rights, in 1978 helped to defeat the Briggs Initiative, which would have prevented gays from working as teachers in California. On the day of his assassination, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, then the president of the Board of Supervisors, heard gunshots and called police, found Milk’s body and announced the news to the media. A candlelight vigil to the City Hall of between 25,000 and 40,000 marchers followed the assassination. More than 2,000 angry gay demonstrators protested the 1979 sentence of voluntary manslaughter of Dan White on May 21.

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Harvey Milk (Photo by Daniel Nicoletta; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

4. 1981: It is reported that an estimated 170 gay men have succumbed to a rare pneumocystis carinii pneumonia and Kaposi’s sarcoma over the preceding two years. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued reports on three studies that cited a serious malfunctioning of the body’s immune systems in these cases. By December, 43 percent of those infected with either pneumocystis or Kaposi’s had died. The reports were the nation’s first indication of the coming HIV/AIDS epidemic.

3. 2003: The Massachusetts Supreme Court rules in November that same-sex marriage is legal, making the Bay State the first in the country to grant marriage rights to gay couples. In its ruling for the case, known as Goodrich v. Department of Public Health, the court specified state law prohibited gays from marrying and gave state lawmakers 180 days to take appropriate action to address the issue. Then-Gov. Mitt Romney ordered town clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

2.  1973: The American Psychiatric Association in December resolves that homosexuality should no longer be considered a mental disorder. Officials rendered the decision after intense lobbying from gays, including veteran activist Frank Kameny, as well as an endorsement from all 68 district branches of the APA. The new resolution — adopted by 13 members of the APA Board of Trustees with two remaining members abstaining — called for an end to discrimination and repeal of sodomy laws throughout the country. The National Gay Task Force at the time called the decision “an instant cure.”

1. 2013 & 2014:  The U.S. Supreme Court issued its most historic rulings on LGBT rights to date. First, in 2013, by striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and issuing a decision restoring marriage equality to California after passage of Proposition 8. Same-sex marriage returned to the largest state in the nation, and for the first time, federal benefits began to flow to married same-sex couples. Then, just this week, the court declined to hear marriage cases from five states, instantly bringing marriage equality to Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana and Wisconsin.

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(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)


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Hip-Hop’s complicated history with queer representation

At 50, experts say the genre still doesn’t fully welcome LGBTQ inclusion



Rapper Lil Nas X faced backlash for his music video ‘Montero,’ but it debuted atop the Billboard 100.

I didn’t really start listening to rap until my college years. Like many queer Black children who grow up in the closet, shielded by puritanical Christianity from the beauty of a diverse world, I longed to be myself. But the affirming references I could pull from — in moments of solitude away from the wrath and disdain of family and friends — were in theater and pop music.

The soundtrack to my teenage years was an endless playlist of pop divas like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, whose lyrics encouraged me to sashay my hips anytime I strutted through a long stretch of corridor.

I was also obsessed with the consuming presence of powerful singers like Patti LaBelle, Whitney Houston, and the hypnosis that was Chaka Khan. My childhood, an extrapolation of Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays spent in church groups, choir practices, and worship services, necessitated that I be a fan of throaty, from-the-stomach singing. But something about the way these artists presented themselves warmed my queer little heart. LaBelle wore avant garde geometric hairdos paired with heavily shoulder-padded blazers. Houston loved an elegant slender gown. And Khan? It was the voluminous red mane that gently caressed her lower back for me. 

Listening to rap music in college was a political experience. My sociology classes politicized me and so it was only natural that I listened to rap music that expressed trauma, joy, and hope in the Black experience. However, I felt disconnected from the music because of a dearth of queer representation in the genre. 

Nevertheless, groups like Outkast felt nostalgic. While delivering hedonistic lyrics at lightning speed, André 3000 — one half of the rap duo — mesmerized with his sleek, shoulder-length silk pressed hair and colorful, flowing shirts and trousers — a style that could be translated as “gender-bending.” Despite the patriarchal presentation rampant in rap and Hip-Hop, Andr​​é 30000 represented to me, a kind of rebellious self-expression that I so badly wanted to emulate but couldn’t because of the psychological confines of my conservative upbringing. 

My discovery of Outkast was also sobering because it was a stark reminder of how queerness is also often used as an aesthetic in Hip-Hop while actual queer people are shunned, rebuked, and mocked. Queer people in Hip-Hop are like backstage wingmen, crucial to the development of the show but never important enough to make a curtain call. 

As Hip-Hop celebrates 50 years since its inception in New York City, I am filled with joy because it’s been half a century of Black people owning their narratives and driving the culture. But it’s fair to ask: At whose expense? 

A viral 2020 video shows rapper Boosie BadAzz, famed for hits like “Set It Off” and “Wipe Me Down,” rebuking NBA star Dwayne Wade and award-winning actress Gabrielle Union-Wade for publicly supporting their then-12-year-old daughter after she came out as transgender. 

“Don’t cut his dick off, bro,” said BadAzz with furrowed eyebrows and a gaze that kept turning away from the camera, revealing his tarnished diamond studs. “Don’t dress him as a woman dawg, he’s 12 years. He’s not up there yet.” 

The responses from both Wade and Union-Wade were a mixture of swift, sarcastically light-hearted, and hopeful.

“Sorry Boosie,” Union-Wade said to an audience during a live podcast appearance at Live Talks Los Angeles. “He’s so preoccupied, it’s almost like, ‘thou doth protest too much, Little Boos.’ You’ve got a lot of dick on your mind.”

Wade also appeared on an episode of podcast, “I AM ATHLETE,” and looked directly into the camera.

“Boosie, all the people who got something to say, J-Boogie who just came out with [something] recently, all the people who got something to say about my kids,” he said. “I thank you because you’re allowing the conversation to keep going forward because you know what? You might not have the answers today, I might not have the answers, but we’re growing from all these conversations.” 

This exchange between the Wades and BadAzz highlights the complicated relationship between Black LGBTQ individuals and allies and the greater Hip-Hop and rap genres and communities. While Black queer aesthetics have long informed self-expression in Hip-Hop, rappers have disparaged queerness through song lyrics and in interviews, or online rants like BadAzz, outside the recording studio. 

And despite LGBTQ rappers like Queen Latifah, Da Brat, Lil Nas X, and Saucy Santana achieving mainstream success, much work lies ahead to heal the trauma that persists from Hip-Hop’s history of  patriarchy and homophobia. 

“‘Progression’ will always be relative and subjective based on one’s positionality,” said Dr. Melvin Williams said in an email. Williams is an associate professor of communication and media studies at Pace University. “Hip-hop has traditionally been in conversation with queer and non-normative sexualities and included LGBTQ+ people in the shaping of its cultural signifiers behind the scenes as choreographers, songwriters, make-up artists, set designers, and other roles stereotypically attributed to queer culture.”

“Although Hip-Hop incorporates queerness in their ethos, ideas, and trends, it does not privilege the prospect of an out LGBTQ+ rapper. Such reservations position LGBTQ+ people as mere labor in Hip-Hop’s behind-the-scenes cultivation, but not as rap performers in its mainstream distribution,” he added. 

This is especially true for Queen Latifah and DaBrat who existed in the genre for decades but didn’t publicly come out until 2021. Still, both faced backlash from the Black community for daring to challenge gender roles and expectations. 

Queen Latifah dodged questions about her sexuality for years before acknowledging her partner and their son in 2021. (Photo by DFree via Bigstock)

Lil Nas X also faced backlash for his music video “Montero” with satanic references, including one in which he slides down a pole and gives a character representing the devil a lap dance. Conservatives such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem accused him of trying to scandalize children. 

“You see this is very scary for me, people will be angry, they will say I’m pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am,” Nas X said in a note that accompanied “Montero.” The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.”

Regardless, “Montero” debuted atop the Billboard 100. 

In an article published in “Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society,” scholar C. Riley Snorton posited that celebrating queer visibility in mainstream media could be a problem as this kind of praise relies on artists presenting in acceptable forms of gender and sexuality expression and encourages representation that is “read alongside…perceptions of Hip-Hop as a site of Black misogyny and homophobia.” 

In the case of Frank Ocean, who came out in 2012 prior to the release of his album “Channel Orange,” his reception was warmer than most queer Hip-Hop artists because his style of music is singing, as opposed to rapping. Because of this, his music was viewed more as R’n’B or pop. 

“Frank Ocean ain’t no rapper. He’s a singer. It’s acceptable in the singing world, but in the rap world I don’t know if it will ever be acceptable because rap is so masculine,” rapper Snoop Dogg told the Guardian in 2013. “It’s like a football team. You can’t be in a locker room full of motherfucking tough-ass dudes, then all of a sudden say, ‘Hey, man, I like you.’ You know, that’s going to be tough.”

So what’s the solution for queer people in Hip-Hop? Digital media.

Williams, the Pace University professor, says that being divorced from record labels allows queer artists to be independent and distribute their music globally on their own terms. 

“We witnessed this fact with artists such as Azealia Banks, Cakes Da Killa, Fly Young Red, Kevin Abstract, iLoveMakonnen, Lil Nas X, Mykki Blanco, and Saucy Santana, as well as legacy LGBTQ Hip-Hop acts like Big Freeda, DeepDickCollective, and Le1f,” he said. “The music industry has experienced an increasingly mobilized market due to the rise of digital media, social networking platforms, and streaming services.”

“More importantly, Black queer Hip-Hop artists are historicizing LGBTQ+ contributions and perspectives in documentaries, films, news specials, public forums, and podcasts. Ultimately, queer people engaging in Hip-Hop is a revolutionary act, and it remains vital for LGBTQ+ Hip-Hoppers to highlight their cultural contributions and share their histories,” he added. 

(Hip-Hop pioneers Public Enemy and Ice-T will headline The National Celebration of Hip-Hop, free concerts at the West Potomac Park on the National Mall in D.C. on Oct. 6 and 7.)

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Cuisine and culture come together at The Square

D.C.’s newest food hall highlights Spanish flavors



(Photo by Scott Suchman)

Downtown got a bit tastier when “the next generation of food halls” opened its doors on Tuesday near the Farragut West Metro stop. Dubbed The Square, its half-dozen debut stalls are a Spanish-flecked mix of D.C. favorites, new concepts, and vendor-collaborative spirit.

After two years of planning – and teasing some big-name chefs – the market is, according to the owners, “where cuisine, culture, and community are woven together.”

Behind this ambitious project with lofty aims are Richie Brandenburg, who had a hand in creating Union Market and Rubén García, a creative director of the José Andrés Group who also was part of the team of Mercado Little Spain, the fairly new Spanish-themed Andres food hall in Hudson Yards.

Food halls have come a long way since the new Union Market awakened the concept a decade ago. Instead of simply rows of vendors in parallel lines, The Square has a new business model and perspective. This food hall shares revenue between the owners and its chef partners. Vendors are encouraged to collaborate, using one software system, and purchasing raw materials and liquor at scale together.

“Our goal was two-fold: to create a best-in-class hospitality offering with delicious foods for our guests; and behind the scenes, create the strong, complex infrastructure needed to nurture both young chefs and seasoned professionals, startups, and innovation within our industry,” says Brandenburg.

The Square has embraced a more chef-forward methodology, given that the founders/owners themselves are chefs. They’re bringing together a diverse mix of new talent and longtime favorites to connect, offer guidance to each other, and make the market into a destination. 

(Photos by Scott Suchman)

The first phase of The Square premiered this week. This phase encapsulates a selection of original concepts from well-known local chefs and business owners, and includes:

• Cashion’s Rendezvous – Oysters, crab cakes, and cocktails, from the owners of D.C. institutions and now-closed Cashion’s Eat Place and Johnny’s Half-Shell (Ann Cashion and John Fulchino).

• Jamón Jamón – Flamenco-forward food with hand-cut jamón Iberico, queso, and croquetas, sourced by García himself.

• Brasa – Grilled sausages and veggies are the stars here. Chef García oversees this Spanish street-food stall as well.

 Taqueria Xochi – Birria, guisado, and other street tacos, plus margs. Named after the ruins of Xochitecatl in Central Mexico, and from a Jose Andres alum.

• Yaocho – Fried chicken, juices, sweets, and libations.

• Junge’s – Churros and soft serve ice cream. Brandenburg and García both have a hand in this stall.

• Atrium Bar – The central watering hole for drinks. Atrium Bar serves cocktails, wine, and beer curated by The Square’s Beverage Director Owen Thompson.

“Having been part of Jose Andres’s restaurant group and getting to know Ruben and Richie, it’s amazing to see how their values align with ours at Taqueria Xochi. Seeing all these incredible chefs heading into Square feels like a full-circle moment,” said Geraldine Mendoza of Taqueria Xochi.

Slated for fall 2023, the next round of openings includes Flora Pizzeria, Cebicheria Chalaca, KIYOMI Sushi by Uchi, Shoals Market (a retail hub), and more. Additionally, chef Rubén García’s Spanish restaurant, Casa Teresa, will soon open next door to The Square.

The Square is just one of a handful of new food halls blossoming in and around D.C. Up in Brentwood, Md., miXt Food Hall is an art-adjacent space with tacos, a year-round fresh market, coffee, and beer. Across from Union Market is La Cosecha, a Latin marketplace with everything from street food to a Michelin starred restaurant and a festive vibe. Closer to The Square is Western Market by GW University, which opened in late 2021 with a buzzy, relaxed style.

For now, the Square is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Square plans to open on weekends and extend hours to offer dinner service in the coming months. A few alfresco seats will accompany the hall.

(Photo by Scott Suchman)
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Charles Busch reflects on the paths he didn’t take in new book

‘Leading Lady’ a riveting memoir from legendary entertainer



'Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy' comes out on Sept. 12.

“Charles, I’m telling you, I go to plays in rat-infested basements where I’m the only one who shows up,” the late queer icon Joan Rivers once told the queer, legendary playwright, actor, director, novelist, cabaret performer and drag icon, Charles Busch. “I can see the actors peeking through the curtain and groaning, ‘Oh God, that old bitch in the fur coat is here. Does that mean we’ve gotta go on?’”

Busch reminded Rivers that she’d seen him perform in a rat-infested basement.

This is just one of the many stories that Busch, born in 1954, tells in his riveting memoir, “Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy,” which comes out on Sept. 12.

“Leading Lady” is a page-turner. Some of its tales of Busch’s life and career, such as his account of a Christmas party with Rivers as a guest, are dishy. Others, like his memories of trying to care for his beloved Aunt Lil, when he knew she was dying, would make even the Wicked Witch in Oz tear up.

The memoir, is, as Busch says on his website (, the story of “a talented artist’s Oz-like journey.” 

“Leading Lady” isn’t linear. This isn’t a detriment. Busch deftly intertwines memories of his life and career from his mom dying when he was seven to being raised by his loving Aunt Lil to being the author and star of the cult classic “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” to watching Kim Novak handle fans to being the Tony-nominated writer of “Tales of the Allergist’s Wife” to being creative during the pandemic.

“Storytelling is a huge part of my life,” Busch told the Blade in a lengthy phone interview, “I get into various adventures and, I think, this could be a good story to tell.”

Interviewing Busch is like chatting with a fab storyteller over coffee or a glass of wine. Except that you’re talking to a legend who’s entertained and inspired queers (and discerning hetero audiences) for decades. (I’m wearing my “Vampire” T-shirt as I write this.)  

As a playwright, Busch writes “linear” plays, with a beginning, middle and an end, he said. As a cabaret singer, “the way I sing songs is telling a story,” Busch said.

Since childhood, he’s been creating vivid scenes in his imagination. From early on, Busch has felt as if he’s both a spectator and star in the movie of his life.

It seemed inevitable that he’d write a memoir. It’s the ultimate form of storytelling. “You reach a certain point in your life,” Busch said, “where you’re more reflective and see your life as a whole.”

“You reflect on the paths you didn’t take,” he added.

Busch spent his childhood in Hartsdale, N.Y. He had two older sisters, Betsy and Margaret. His mother’s death was devastating for Busch. His Aunt Lil and Joan Rivers have been among the women who have been “mothers” to Busch since his mom died.

Once, Busch said he and Rivers dined with friends. “Joan Rivers said ‘I wish I had a gay son I could phone at midnight and discuss whatever movie was on TCM,’” he recalled.

Busch would have loved to have been Rivers’s “gay son.”

Life in Hartsdale was hard for Busch after his mother passed away. His father was often absent and showed little interest in his children.

Things were miserable for Busch when his grandmother, for a time, cared for the family. He knew, as a boy, that he was gay and hated going to school where a movie-and-theater-loving kid who liked to draw wasn’t one of the cool kids.

Yet Busch forgave his “father’s failings,” he writes in “Leading Lady, “because he gave me the theater.”

Busch became entranced with the theater when his father, an aspiring opera singer who performed in summer stock, took him to the old Metropolitan Opera House in New York City to hear Joan Sutherland sing the role of Amina in Bellini’s “La Sonnambula.”

Busch was saved from a life of boredom and bullying when Aunt Lil, his mother’s sister, took him to live with her in Manhattan. There, like Auntie Mame, she raised him. She prodded him into applying to the High School of Music and Art in New York City. He was accepted there.

After high school, Busch graduated with a bachelor’s degree in drama from Northwestern University in 1976.

“My Aunt Lil is the leading lady [of the title of his memoir],” Busch said, “she was the most influential person in my life.”

One of the reasons why Busch wrote “Leading Lady” was to paint a full portrait of her. “It was important that it not be this kind of gauzy, sentimental memory piece,” he said, “making her out to be a saint.”

Aunt Lil adopted Bush when he was 14. Her goal was that he would go to college, become independent, be a survivor – make a place for himself in the world.

“I don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t stepped in,” Busch said.

“She was very intellectual,” he added, “I’ve never met anyone [else] with such a pure devotion to thinking. It was a little intimidating.”

Aunt Lil’s standards for caring – for giving of oneself – were so high that it was almost impossible to meet them. “She believed that you should anticipate what people would need,” Busch said, “before they told you.”

Looking back, Busch is most proud of himself when, “I’ve gone past my natural self-absorption,” he said, “when I’ve thought of someone else.”

Busch is being too hard on himself. In “Leading Lady,” and when interviewed, he’s caring and curious as well as witty, savvy, and as you’d expect, a bit campy.

His sister Margaret died recently. “She declined gradually over nine months,” Busch, said, choking up, “I gave her my bedroom and I slept on my sofa.”

Like many of her generation, Aunt Lil didn’t understand queerness or drag. But she loved Busch. She didn’t go to see his productions, he said. “She could have gone like other parents,” he said, “and been tight-lipped. And said something nice that she didn’t believe.”

But “she didn’t want to lie or be hurtful,” Busch added, “so, for her, it was: can’t I just love and support you, and not go?”

Aunt Lil didn’t get Busch’s sexuality. But she knew about secrecy. Busch learned of a terrifying secret that his aunt had long kept hidden. In the 1930s, during the Depression, Aunt Lil worked as a nurse. One day, when she worked overtime, one of the patients suffered a burn. She had to leave nursing. “Her sister in a nasty mood revealed this,” Busch said, “Aunt Lil never discussed it.”

In the 1970s, Busch had trouble getting into theater because there were only roles for actors playing straight male characters. “The only way I could get on stage was to write my own roles,” he said, “I have a rather androgynous nature.”

Busch found that the feminine within him was a place of authority and strength. “I’m fine when I play male characters,” he said, “but I’m better when I play female characters.”

Why this is so liberating for him is a bit of a mystery to Busch. “But I accept and love it,” he said.

Times have changed since Busch made his first big splash with “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom.” “In 1985, being a drag queen was considered a negative,” Busch said, “my generation of drag performers bristled at being referred to as drag queens.”

Busch no longer bristles. “I feel like the characters,” he said, “I enjoy costumes and getting the right wig.”

“But, I go from male to female not through trickery or anything visual, I transfer through my soul.”

In “Leading Lady,” Busch recalls AIDS and other dark moments from the past. Many of his friends and colleagues died from AIDS. “AIDS was the World War II of our generation,” he said.

But Busch, in his memoir and in his life, isn’t only looking back. He’s very much in the present. Busch is embarrassed to say he was lucky. During the pandemic, devastating to many, he made art. He did play readings on Zoom and finished writing “Leading Lady” which he’d worked on for 14 years.

During the pandemic, Busch with Carl Andress co-wrote and co-directed the movie “The Sixth Reel.” The film’s cast includes Busch, Julie Halston (Busch’s longtime muse), Margaret Cho and Tim Daly.

Busch describes the film, an homage to the Hollywood madcap movies of the 1930s, as “a comic, caper movie.” 

“I play a disreputable dealer in movie memorabilia,” Busch said, “a legendary lost film is found, and I see it as my ticket out of debt.”

The “Sixth Reel” is playing from Sept. 21 to Sept. 27 at the LOOK Dine-In Cinema West 57th Street in New York City.

“I hope the run in New York will encourage people to distribute this little movie,” Busch said.

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