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‘In between the lines’

Longtime out rocker on major change, new music and industry sexism



Melissa Etheridge, gay news, Washington Blade
Melissa Etheridge, gay news, Washington Blade

Melissa Etheridge combined a rootsy yet tech-savvy approach to her first independent album ‘I am M.E.,’ her 13th studio album. (Photos by John Tsiavis)

Melissa Etheridge

This is M.E. Tour

With Alexander Cardinale

Tuesday, 8 p.m. (doors 6:30)


Lincoln Theatre

1215 U St., N.W.


On a rare night home in Los Angeles just a week into her fall tour, long-time out rocker Melissa Etheridge caught up with Washington Blade by phone. Her current “This is M.E. Tour,” which kicked off Nov. 2 in Mashantucket, Conn., comes to Washington next week.

Touring behind her Sept. 30 album of the same name, Etheridge, on the eve of a Sunday night performance at the National Radio Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, was candid on a wide spate of topics. Her comments have been slightly edited for length.


WASHINGTON BLADE: The new album feels very textured — more loops, some big, crunchy sounds. Is it hard to discern how far to go with that in the studio?

MELISSA ETHERIDGE: No. I have a rule with all the producers. I tell them right up front, I say, “Look, I’m a live artist, so I need to be able to do whatever they hear on the record live.” Now, not every little huge 10-guitar part or something but my voice, the song, the beat, they have to be able to enjoy that live and I have to be able to do it. Jon Levine (Nelly Furtado, Selena Gomez) was really great at keeping it there and Jerry Wonda (the Fugees, Mary J. Blige, Akon) was so amazing because we created it from the ground up live. … And now he’s performing it with me, so it’s really fun.


BLADE: Are those sounds difficult to replicate on stage?

ETHERIDGE: I told my drummer he can use triggers so it sounds like the record, but he has to hit it. It can’t be a loop because if I want to stop and do anything live, I have to be able to stop. You can do that with stems and take those sounds and put them in the pads so he’s playing live drums but he’s adding the sounds from the pads.


BLADE: I loved the vintage footage in the new video for “Take My Number.” Was that your idea?

ETHERIDGE: That was mine and the director, Dale. When I was making this record, I had just gone through about six months of thinking I was going to put out a box set of old stuff that no one had ever seen or heard, so I went into my attic — actually a storage space like we all have out here in California — and started going through boxes and finding all these old pictures and things. … I wanted to share some of that with my fans and I wanted them to have the feeling I had looking at it of, “Oh my God, it really has been 30 years since I’ve been doing it here in California, wow.” It fit because there’s also a lot of reminiscing in the song.


BLADE: So is the box set on ice for now?

ETHERIDGE: Yes, because right when I was about to finish it I went through this — well it was akin to the emotional and personal change that I went through about 10 years ago, I went through that again last year with my business self so last year I changed management, my record company and everything. … So when I realized I wasn’t going to make any money on the box set, Universal would make it all because they own all the masters, I started thinking, “How can I not make money on the things that I did?” So we put that away for now. Sometime I will present it when I’m not looking at it as a way to make money but just as a thing that I can release to people and share.


BLADE: Sounds like some drastic changes. Were you afraid of burning bridges?

ETHERIDGE: I have worked with some of these people for 25-30 years and I’d had relationships with them my whole career. There are some wonderful, hard-working, amazing people who obviously got me to an amazing place in my life and career and I’m so grateful and thankful for them. But it’s a different industry out there enow. The artist has more control and more power and if you can do it live, if you can bring it, if you can be real and consistently bring it, that’s worth something and you can own your own music and cultivate your social media and career, so I’m very excited about what I’m doing right now.


BLADE: You said in one recent interview that you flatlined after the last album, “4th Street Feeling” (2012). What did you mean?

ETHERIDGE: Well, I had done two or three or four tours in a row where I kind of played to the same number of people. They were wonderful shows and there are people, whether I’m on the radio station or not, there are people who if you put a show for sale in a certain town, those people are going to come see me because they have a great time. Those are my fans that I love and I couldn’t be me without them. But I also think there’s a lot of people out there in the world who, if given the chance, I’d like to think would also enjoy the music and I felt I wasn’t reaching those people. I didn’t want to be comfortable. I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could reach more people and see if I could get more people interested in this crazy thing called rock and roll.


BLADE: It irks the shit out of me in Rolling Stone when they review albums by women rockers and even when it’s a fairly positive review overall, they’ll get in these little digs and say stuff like, “She’s better when she reins in her over-the-top tendencies.” They never say shit like that about Springsteen or Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) or the male rockers. Are you kidding me? Rein it in? It’s fucking rock and roll. They can only stomach women rockers if they keep it safe and “rein it in.” Do you feel it’s sexist?

ETHERIDGE: You know Joey, sometimes I think you are the little devil on my shoulder. You know, like there’s an angel over here and a devil over here because it’s like you know the little funny things in my life that are kind of buttons for me. You have that sense of justice that I have that sometimes gets me in trouble like we did last time (comments Etheridge made in a 2013 Blade interview about Angelina Jolie went viral). But I made an oath to myself a long time ago, like 20 years ago, that I would always answer truthfully what was asked of me. I answered truthfully and I do not regret that at all. It opened up some amazing conversations, not just with me but across the nation, so it’s all good. But yes, back to Rolling Stone. My wife so gently just sort of, you know, pats me on the head and says, “Oh honey, don’t let …” because, yeah, I think those things. Why do they call it histrionic on me yet I’m singing the exact same type of thing Steven Tyler sings and you said it exactly. My rock heroes were people like Robert Plant, and he was up there singing like Janis Joplin who stood up there and sang like a black woman. It’s soul. And I mean “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” Steven Tyler presents like the male androgyny yet when I showed up on this end of androgyny it was like, “Whoah, wait a minute, there’s something uncomfortable about it” and it’s taken them a long time. But I’m being patient now. I believe that they will all understand that part of themselves and that a stronger older female is not strange. It’s actually a very ancient part of culture that we sort of let go.


BLADE: The coverage of women rockers often feels so grudging. There’s the old boys club like U2, the Stones, Bob Dylan — and I’m certainly not suggesting these acts aren’t deserving — but they fart and Rolling Stone gives them a four- or five-star review. When you or Sheryl Crow or people like that are profiled, they want to talk about your family, your kids, who you’re dating, this whole domestic thing. The male rockers get a little of that but it’s so out of proportion. Does this bother you?

ETHERIDGE: Well, it doesn’t bother me but it is one of the reasons I made the album that I made. There’s a song on it called “All the Way Home” that was banned from being played in Barnes & Noble, right? So Barnes & Noble, bless their hearts, wanted to play the album in their stores but they said they wouldn’t play that song. It’s too lusty, it’s too “I got lightening in my eyes and a fire down below.” I just get all naughty on this album because I think that’s so much of what rock and roll is. Rock and roll comes from that black woman who’s singing naughty songs that we’re not supposed to hear. But we’re under our sheets listening to her sing. That’s rock and roll and it’s easy for me to represent that. That’s why I have the band I have now, it’s a more soulful band. That’s where I was with making this album. Even though it’s more technical, it’s like the roots of rock and roll but with technology, with purpose.


BLADE: So many veteran acts just keeping milking the hits on endless tour and maybe they put out an album six or eight years ago, maybe not. You’ve kept them coming every two years or so. Are you just the kind of songwriter who would go crazy without some outlet? How do you keep that drive when the money is all in touring?

ETHERIDGE: Oh yeah, people have told me it might be better if I went away for awhile. And I went like, “I don’t want to go away. What do you mean go away? This is what I am, this is what I do.” Even my mother a few years ago, she said, “Don’t let people think this comes too easily for you.” I’m like, “Why not? This is what I do, what I love.” I love to write songs about the human experience that I’m having and I love to get on stage and say, “Oh my God, did you feel this? Can you relate to this? Can we exchange this energy?” … It’s just amazing. I love doing it.


BLADE: You often put six or eight cuts from the new album in your show. Do you sense your fans are OK with that as long as you hit the staples like “Come to My Window” and “Bring Me Some Water”?

ETHERIDGE: Right. This tour was sort of a gamble for me but one I really, really believed in because I see my fan base, the ones who come out and yes, of course, they love “Come to My Window,” they love “I’m the Only One,” and thank goodness there’s those six or seven songs that they know I’m going to play. We have a great time and I love those songs, I’m so grateful for those songs. And then the rest is my choice. It might be the kind of tour where I dig a little deeper in my catalogue and pull out deeper album cuts and they’re like, “Oh, she did this song, this night,” that’s great. I love doing that. But every now and then an album comes along — and actually I haven’t really felt this strongly about one since the mid-‘90s — but I feel so strongly about the music that I play so much of the new album because I really do believe the audience will enjoy it. I believe there will be enough people who have listened to the album that they’re going to lose their minds and the other people are gonna want to go home and buy it. I’m rolling the dice on that, but I feel really confident.


BLADE: Covers albums are all the rage this season — Bryan Adams, Bette Midler, Aretha Franklin. What song would you love to cover someday?

ETHERIDGE: My whole childhood like from 13 to 27, I sang other people’s songs all the time. Something crazy rock and roll like “Mississippi Queen” (Mountain) or Springsteen “Darkness on the Edge of Town.”


BLADE: You’re not one of these artists whose stuff has been anthologized to death with these ICON CDs you see at Target and all that. Is Island going to start that now that you’re gone?

ETHERIDGE: It will be something that’s not much in my control, yeah. I haven’t ever pushed for that kind of thing because I love the feeling of being sort of a little bit underground. Even though I’m successful, always being a bit on the outside. The box gets full and falls over and I’m still there outside the box so then I’m on the beginning of the next thing. I stay in between the lines and I like it there. I love it.

Melissa Etheridge, gay news, Washington Blade

Melissa Etheridge says singing live is ‘just amazing. I love doing it.’ (Photo by John Tsiavis)


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Another busy summer season arrives in Rehoboth Beach

Fine dining, drag shows, theater, and more on tap for 2023



Joe Ciarlante-Zuber (right) with his husband and business partner Darryl Ciarlante-Zuber have another busy summer of events planned at Diego’s. (Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

The summer of 2023 will be an exciting time in Rehoboth Beach, with lots to see and do as always. Great people, and of course the sand, sea, and boardwalk. Everyone in town has been working hard over the winter to make this the best season ever at the beach. New businesses, old ones moving to new locations, milestone anniversaries, and just loads of fun all around. 

While I am often just a burger and fries’ guy, Rehoboth has become a real foodie paradise for those who enjoy, and appreciate, really fine dining. (For more on the dining scene, see separate story in the Blade.)

The City of Rehoboth has fewer than 1,500 full-time residents. Many who have a Rehoboth address like me, live outside the city boundary. But at any time during the summer season, the population swells to more than 25,000. Among them are many members of the LGBTQ community. If you are one of them, stop by CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBTQ community center, founded by Murray Archibald and Steve Elkins in 1991. 

Today, many of the businesses in town are owned by members of the community and even those that aren’t are supportive of the community. The most famous residents of the area are President Biden and first lady Jill Biden, who try to spend some weekends at their home there. Not sure how much time they will have this summer between the duties of being president and running for reelection.  I do know when there, they love the famous chicken salad sandwiches, among other great things, from Lori Klein’s Lori’s Oy Veh Café in the CAMP courtyard. Lori’s is celebrating its 27th season. If you stop in the courtyard, you will be pleased to see new tables and chairs where you can sit and enjoy your meal.

My favorite hangout on Baltimore Avenue, the gayest block in Rehoboth, is Aqua Grill. The perfect place to spend happy hour any day of the week. Chris, one of the hot and charming waiters, is back serving drinks on the deck. Then there is The Pines restaurant across the street with a great showroom upstairs and always fun entertainment. The guys who own it have expanded their operations with Drift on Baltimore and now taken over the old Philip Morton Gallery and turned it into their offices. They are also preparing to open Bodhi on 1st street. One of the great old standbys at the beach is The Purple Parrot Grill and Biergarten on Rehoboth Avenue. Owners Hugh Fuller and Troy Roberts make everyone feel welcome. The old girl has a bright new paint job this year and she’s better than ever with some great entertainment. 

Make sure you read the Blade’s column on food at the beach but here are just some of the places I passed on my walk around town on sidewalk sale weekend. There are Eden Restaurant, Azafran, and La Fable on the beach block of Baltimore Avenue. Then the always reliable standby the Blue Moon. In addition to some of the best food in town, the Moon has an extensive calendar of special events planned for summer, including the much anticipated return of talented NYC pianist Nate Buccieri beginning June 25. He plays Sunday-Thursday for most of the summer; check for specifics.

There is also Ava’s and Theo’s and Frank and Louie’s on the second block.The venerable Back Porch on Rehoboth Avenue has been serving some of Rehoboth’s finest food for decades, and, of course, Houston White further up the street if you’re craving a steak.Then there is Goolee’s Grill on 1st street and the new location of JAM on 2nd. Goolee’s is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a cocktail party on June 1, 5-9 p.m.; tickets are $15 and available online.

My favorite morning place, it has become my afternoon place as well, is the totally refurbished Coffee Mill in the mews between Rehoboth Avenue and Baltimore Avenue, just next to the wonderful Browseabout Books on Rehoboth Avenue. Dewey Beach residents will soon have their own Coffee Mill in a beachfront location, 1700 Coastal Highway. It will have a great view of the beach and ocean from its rooftop deck. Mel and Bob are going to be busy this year with all their places including Brashhh on 1st street, now celebrating its 11th year, and The Mill Creamery serving Hopkins ice cream. Longtime Rehoboth business owner Steve Fallon, one of the best promoters of the beach I know, has the fun Gidget’s Gadgets on Rehoboth Avenue and his second place selling vinyl records, Extendedplay. Then there is Coho’s Market and Grill on Rehoboth Avenue. 

Back on the gayest block in Rehoboth, Baltimore Avenue, don’t forget to stop in and purchase some incredible one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces, and now original art, at Elegant Slumming and then get your hair cut in The Grateful Head Salon.  

For more afternoon and evening entertainment there is the popular Diego’s Bar and Nightclub (37298 Rehoboth Avenue Ext.), a perfect spot for outdoor happy hours and late night dancing. Local legend Magnolia Applebottom holds court all summer with performances slated for the Thursday and Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. Sunday’s show runs 6-9 p.m. followed by DJ Mags “with her boys” from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. In addition to Magnolia, Diego’s brings internationally known DJs to town during the summer. And the free parking is a nice bonus in a town with a chronic shortage of parking spaces. Diego’s has an exciting summer of special events planned, so follow them online for updates. Among the acts coming to Diego’s this summer are “Jaws the Musical” (June 18), Ada Vox (July 5), and Edmund Bagnell (July 17). 

Don’t miss the always fun Freddie’s Beach Bar on 1st street, where the amazing Freddie Lutz has brought his wonderful concept from Virginia to the beach. The beloved Pamala Stanley performs periodically at Freddie’s; follow her on social media for updated dates.

Remember Rehoboth still has some great culture even if the town commissioners have been trying to force it out of town. The amazing Clear Space Theatre is stillon Baltimore Avenue. This season’s productions include Lucy in the Sea with Darvon, Jesus Christ Superstar, Kinky Boots, and The Spongebob Musical

This will be a summer not to miss at the beach. Better make your plans to visit soon, if you haven’t already, because hotels and rentals are booking fast. 

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Pride season arrives!

LGBTQ community events planned across region



A scene from the 2022 Capital Pride Parade. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Pride season has already begun. Last month’s Roanoke Pride filled the Virginia city’s Elmwood Park with rainbow flags. Pride events begin in D.C. this month and continue through June. Regionally, some cities have opted to hold their Pride events as late as the fall. 


Organizers of Trans Pride D.C. ( plan a full day of workshops and events on Saturday, May 20 at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library (901 G Street, N.W.). These events are currently listed on Facebook and Eventbrite as running from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. 

The HIV/PrEP Programs at the Charles County Department of Health are hosting PrEP for Pride 2023 at 4545 Crain Highway in White Plains, Md. on Saturday May 20 from 12-7 p.m. 

The festival is free, though those who RSVP will be entered into a door prize drawing. PrEP for Pride’s Eventbrite page advertises a pride walk, a PrEP Mini Ball, music, art, health & wellness information, food options and other vendors.

Equality Prince William Pride ( will be held on Sunday, May 21 at the Harris Pavillion (9201 Center Street, Manassas, Va.) from 12-4 p.m., according to its Facebook events page.

The event is billed as a family-friendly event with music, vendors and kids activities. Performers include musician John Levengood, BRUU Band & Choir and the drag artists Coco Bottoms, Muffy Blake Stephyns and Ophelia Bottoms.

D.C. Black Pride ( events are held throughout the city May 26-29 primarily at the Renaissance Washington DC Downtown Hotel (999 9th Street, N.W.). 

Official events include a Unity Ball, a vendor expo, a talent showcase, forums, parties and the annual Pride Festival in the Park at Fort Dupont Park on May 29 from 12-7 p.m.

A scene from the Us Helping Us Black Pride Festival at Fort Dupont Park last May. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The third Caroline County Pride Festival ( “A Carnival Adventure” will be held in downtown Denton, Md. (301 Market Street) on Saturday, May 27 from 3-8 p.m. according to the group’s Facebook event page.


Last year’s Baltimore Trans Pride March was held on June 5, 2022. (Washington Blade file photo by Linus Berggren)

Baltimore Trans Pride ( kicks off the month at 2117 North Charles Street in Baltimore, Md. on Saturday, June 3, according to Baltimore Safe Haven’s Facebook event page.

The Baltimore Trans Pride 2023 Grand March is to be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday along North Charles Street between 22nd and 23rd. The Block Party continues at 3 p.m. with performances beginning at 4 p.m.

Afterparties are scheduled at The Crown (1901 North Charles Street) and Ottobar (2549 North Howard Street). Baltimore Safe Haven also hosts a kickoff ball on Friday, June 2 at 2640 Saint Paul Street at 6 p.m.

Annapolis Pride ( holds its annual parade and festival on Saturday, June 3 from 12-5 p.m. on Inner West Street in Annapolis, Md. according to the Facebook event page

Hundreds lined the streets of downtown Annapolis for the Annapolis Pride Parade. (Photo by Jaime Thompson courtesy Fleur de Lis Photography)

Reston Pride ( holds its annual festival at Lake Anne Plaza (1609 Washington Place) in Reston, Va. on Saturday, June 3 from 12-6 p.m., according to the Facebook event page.

Last year’s Reston Pride festival was held at Lake Anne Plaza. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Ellicott City, Md. holds OEC Pride ( on June 3-4 in Old Ellicott City. Events include a mascara run up and down Main Street and a movie presentation of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”. 

Suffolk, Va. holds its third annual Suffolk Pride Festival ( on Saturday, June 3 from 5-8 p.m. at Bennetts Creek Park (3000 Bennetts Creek Park Road, Suffolk, Va.), according to the Facebook event page.

Portsmouth Pride Fest ’23 ( is the second annual LGBTQ community celebration in Portsmouth, Va. The festival is to be held on Saturday, June 3 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Portsmouth Festival Field next to Atlantic Union Pavilion, according to the Facebook event page.

The Alexandria LGBTQ Task Force presents the sixth annual Alexandria Pride ( at Alexandria City Hall in Market Square of Old Town Alexandria, Va. (301 King Street) on Saturday, June 3 from 1-5 p.m.

Newport News, Va. has its first I Am What I Am (IAWIA) Pride Festival on Sunday, June 4 from 12-7 p.m. at Tradition Brewing Company (700 Thimble Shoals Boulevard, Newport News, Va.), according to the Facebook event page.

The 2023 Cumberland Pride Festival ( will be held at Canal Place (13 Canal Street, Columbia, Md.) Sunday, June 4 from 12-4 p.m., according to the Facebook event page.

The 2022 Cumberland Pride Festival was held at Canal Place in Cumberland, Md. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Culpepper County in rural Virginia will be getting its very first pride celebration with Culpepper Pride Festival ( on Sunday, June 4 from 12-5 p.m. at Mountain Run (10753 Mountain Run Lake Road, Culpepper, Va.). An after-hours 21+ drag show will be held.

Equality Loudoun’s “Across the Decades” 2023 Loudoun Pride Festival ( will be held on Sunday, June 4 from 1-7 p.m. at Claude Moore Park (21668 Heritage Farm Ln, Sterling, Va.). This is a ticketed event with a $5 general admission.

Last year’s Loudoun Pride. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Delaware Pride ( is being celebrated as a festival on Saturday, June 10 at Legislative Hall (411 Legislative Avenue, Dover, Del.) from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. according to the Facebook page.

D.C.’s massive Capital Pride ( includes the 2023 Capital Pride Parade on Saturday, June 10 and the 2023 Capital Pride Festival on Pennsylvania Avenue on Sunday, June 11. On top of the many official events, there are a great number of parties in venues throughout the city over the week, including the not-to-be-missed Pride on the Pier and Fireworks Show, held 2-9 p.m. on Saturday, June 10 at the Wharf. There are two timed VIP sessions that include catered food and open bar. The region’s only Pride fireworks display, sponsored by the Leonard-Litz Foundation, takes place at 9 p.m. Visit for tickets and information.

Jerry Houston and Elizabethany of HOT 99.5 served as emcees of the 2022 Capital Pride Festival. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Third annual Pride in the ViBe, will be held at ViBe Park (1810 Cyprus Avenue, Virginia Beach, Va.) on Sunday, June 11 from 1-6 p.m., according to the Facebook event page.

Scenic Chesapeake, Va. is the backdrop for Pride in the ‘Peake 2023 at City Park Section B next to the basketball courts on Sunday, July 11, according to an posting.

Eastern Panhanlde Pride is to be held on Saturday, June 17 from 12-5 p.m. in downtown Martinsburg, W.Va., according to EPP’s Facebook page.

The Delmarva Pride Center presents DELAMRVA Pride ( with events from June 16-18. The DELMARVA Pride Festival is to be held on Saturday, June 17 along South Harrison Street in downtown Easton, Md. Other events include a drag show and a Sunday brunch, according to the Pride Center’s Facebook page.

The Ghent Business Association presents Ghent Pride “Party at the Palace Shops” on Tuesday, June 20 from 6-10 p.m. at The Palace Shops and Staton (301 West 21st Street, Norfolk, Va.), according to the Facebook event page. This is a ticketed event with general admission $13.

The Human Rights Commission of the City of Rockville holds the seventh annual Rockville Pride ( on Saturday, June 24 from 1-4 p.m. at Rockville Town Square (131 Gibbs Street, Rockville, Md.).

Arlington Pride ( holds events from June 23-25 that include a pageant, a brunch, a festival and an afterparty. The Arlington Pride Festival returns for its second year on June 24 from 12-7 p.m. at the Rosslyn Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway, Arlington, Va.), according to the Eventbrite listing.

Fredericksburg Pride ( holds events throughout the month, but everything culminates in the Pride March and then Festival on Saturday, June 24. The Pride March is held at Riverfront Park (705 Sophia Street, Fredericksburg, Va.) at 10 followed by the Festival at 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Old Mill Park (2201 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg, Va.).

The 10th anniversary Frederick Pride ( is to be held at Carroll Creek Linear Park on Saturday, June 24 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. with food, music, drag, vendors and more, according to the Facebook event page.

Chasity Vain performed at last year’s Frederick Pride. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Salisbury Pride ( Parade and Festival is on Saturday, June 24. The Parade begins at 2 p.m. at West Main Street and Camden Street. The parade moves along Main with the festival following the parade at 2:30. Magnolia Applebottom is the headliner and grand marshall, according to Salisbury Pride’s Facebook page.

The “Break Free 23” Hampton Roads Pride ( is set for Saturday, June 24 at Town Point Park (113 Waterside Drive, Norfolk, Va.) and includes the famous boat parade.

The Pride Center of Maryland hosts a number of Baltimore Pride ( events June 19-25. The big events include the annual parade and block party on Charles Street on Saturday, June 24 and the festival at Druid Hill Park on Sunday.

The 2022 Baltimore Pride Parade was held on June 25. (Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

July and beyond

You can look forward to LGBTQ pride celebrations in Harrisburg, Pa. and the Maryland towns of Hagerstown and Westminster as well as Black Pride RVA in Richmond, Va. in July. Other municipalities have decided to hold their pride celebrations a little later in the year. These pride events include Winchester Pride in Winchester, Va. (Sept. 9), Shenandoah Valley Pride in Harrisonburg, Va. (Sept. 16), SWVA Pridefest in Vinton, Va. (Sept. 16), Virginia Pridefest in Richmond, Va. (Sept. 23), TriPride in Johnson City, Tenn. (Sept. 23), Staunton Pride in Staunton, Va. (Oct. 7), Upper Chesapeake Bay Pride in Harve de Grace, Md. (Oct. 7), Pride Franklin County in Chambersburg, Pa. (Oct. 8) and Laurel Pride in Laurel, Md. (Oct. 14).

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Self-identification: What the plus in ‘LGBTQ+’ means

Terminology rapidly expanding into mainstream dialogue



(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

For a long time, many Americans refrained from talking about sexual orientation and gender identity because it was taboo. While these conversations are still uncomfortable for some people, others stay quiet simply because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. 

Among allies, there is fear that misgendering someone or misspeaking about another person’s sexuality will be viewed as being less inclusive. Meanwhile, older generations, even those within the LGBTQ+ community, also struggle to keep up as terms beyond “LGBTQ” rapidly enter mainstream lingo.

In either scenario, the plus in “LGBTQ+” can be misunderstood. But as awareness of these terms continues to rise, it’s important to know what they mean. 

Below are some of the most popular but misunderstood terms of self-identification, compiling gender identities (one’s concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither and what they call themselves) and sexual orientation (how one identifies in terms of whom they are romantically and/or sexually attracted to). 

Asexual refers to someone who lacks a sexual attraction or interest in sexual activities with others. Often called “ace(s)” for short, asexual individuals exist on a spectrum, wherein someone can be completely or partially asexual, meaning they may experience no, little, or conditional sexual attraction to another person. Little interest in sex, however, doesn’t diminish a person’s desire for emotionally intimate relationships. 

Cisgender, or simply “cis,” describes a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth. The terms cisgender and transgender originate from Latin-derived prefixes of “cis,” meaning “on this side of,” and “trans,” meaning “across from.” Just as “trans” can be added to terms describing gender to identify someone as a trans-woman or trans-man, the same can be done to say cis-woman or cis-man to identify someone as adhering to the sex associated with their gender at birth.

Meanwhile, gender non-conforming refers to someone who doesn’t behave in line with the traditional expectations of their gender. These individuals may express their gender in ways that aren’t easily categorizable as a specific gender. While many gender non-conforming people also identify as transgender, that isn’t the case for all gender non-conforming people.

Under the larger umbrella of gender non-conforming identity, non-binary describes a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or completely outside of those labels. 

Some non-binary people identify as transgender, but non-binary also references other identities such as agender (a person who does not identify as any gender), bigender (a person with two gender identities or a combination of two gender identities), genderqueer or gender-fluid.

Genderqueer people commonly reject notions of rigid categories of gender and embrace a fluidity of gender identity and sometimes sexual orientation. People with this identity may see themselves as being both male and female, or neither as they fall outside of binary gender norms. Gender-fluid is also within this range of non-conformity as these individuals don’t identify with a single fixed gender.

In terms of sexuality, pansexual refers to someone with the potential for emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to people of any gender. These feelings don’t necessarily arise simultaneously or to the same degree, and sometimes the term is used interchangeably with bisexual.

More recently, the two-spirit gender identity has enjoyed more mainstream use. Chosen to describe certain North American Indigenous and Canadian First Nation people who identify with a third gender, the term implies a masculine and feminine spirit in one body. 

Other gender expressions such as masc, referring to representations of masculinity without necessarily claiming a relationship to manhood, and femme, meaning expressions of femininity regardless of gender and relations to womanhood, are also used to describe how people dynamically express gender outside of gender norms.

Yet, just as terminology for self-identification is introduced, so are also new ways to describe how an individual feels about their identity. One term that everyone can relate to or aspire to have is gender euphoria – the joyful experience and sense of self that occurs when a person’s authentic gender is expressed and acknowledged by themselves and/or by others.

Most importantly, though, LGBTQ+ people use a variety of terms to identify themselves, some of which may not be mentioned in this article. Always listen for a person’s self-identification to use the preferred terms for them. 

(The Human Rights Campaign and Johns Hopkins University contributed to this report.)

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