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Season’s bleedings

Calls for justice in Michael Brown case affirm that all lives matter

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Ferguson, gay news, Washington Blade
Ferguson, gay news, Washington Blade

Protests erupted around the country last week after a grand jury failed to indict Michael Brown’s killer.

The “Season’s Greetings” banner hung across South Florissant Road in Ferguson, Missouri is a far smaller piece of incongruity than the Christmas truce on the Western Front in World War I a century ago. But it provides a contemporary reminder of the contrast between our ideals and our treatment of one another.

The failure last week of a Ferguson grand jury to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of Michael Brown was criticized by several LGBT groups, including the National Black Justice Coalition, National LGBTQ Task Force, Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, Metropolitan Community Churches, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, National Center for Transgender Equality and PROMO, the statewide LGBT group in Missouri.

If gay advocacy for you is a joyful progression from understanding to understanding, you might think the story would end with these groups deploring another black son being missing from another Thanksgiving table. You would be wrong. Here is a sampling from Twitter. @HRC: “HRC expresses disappointment after grand jury fails to bring Michael Brown shooting case to trial.” @nyctrojan69: “@HRC you just lost my donations. Stick to what you know! I will never donate to you again.” @jowierey: “@nyctrojan69 @HRC bye bitch! They don’t need yo money!” (This last comment may be true, but don’t expect to see it as a new HRC slogan.)

What is the fuss about? Succinctly: A police officer who was more an occupier than a protector used deadly force to subdue a jaywalker, then prosecutors presented the case for his defense.

As protests sprang up across the nation and overseas last week, Wilson resigned from the force. St. Louis County police shut down a vigilante operation by the Oath Keepers militia. Twenty-year-old Deandre Joshua was murdered during the unrest on the night of Nov. 24. When President Obama said after the grand jury announcement, “[T]here are still problems and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up,” reactions from the right would make you think he had torched a storefront.

Carlton Lee, Michael Brown Sr.’s pastor, received dozens of racist death threats in recent weeks, and his church, far from the riots, was burned down as he was off trying to keep the peace. Vowing to rebuild at a Sunday service beside the ruins, he urged love in response to the haters.

It is an old struggle. Frederick Douglass, speaking in 1852 on the meaning of the Fourth of July to a slave, accused America of “crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.” The catalog runs from slavery to the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans to the rapacity of robber barons. Extrajudicial killings of young black men by police are ongoing. The desire for payback is perfectly natural; but we must choose between seeking revenge and building our country.

Any building, however, must be done on a foundation of truth. Here are some disturbing details that we must confront: Wilson describing Brown as a demon, as if he could bounce bullets off his body. Police leaking falsified evidence, including a convenience store security video edited to delete the part where Michael Brown paid for his cigarillos. Fox News falsely reporting that Wilson suffered a fractured eye socket. An assistant DA giving the Grand Jury a law on police use of force that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1985.

The haters portray the protesters as all looters and rioters despite extensive efforts by community leaders and ministers to keep the peace. Echoing their peers in Ferguson, the Council of Elders of Metropolitan Community Churches wrote, “Humanity has the power to do great good. Systemic racism can be dismantled. The Berlin wall was toppled. Apartheid was overthrown. Nazi Germany was defeated. Slavery was stopped. Systems of oppression are constructed by human beings and can be deconstructed by human beings. Will it be easy? No, but like every good thing we work for, it will be worth the effort. Our only regret will be that we did not act more quickly.”

The LGBT groups do not have to speak for everyone. All lives matter, and so do our voices.

 

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at [email protected].

Copyright © 2014 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    December 4, 2014 at 12:25 am

    What is the fuss about? Succinctly: A police officer who was more an occupier than a protector used deadly force to subdue a jaywalker, then prosecutors presented the case for his defense."

    =============

    Demagoguery and spreading a criminal accomplice's big lie regarding the justified shooting of a violent, raving common criminal — who tried to kill said cop, btw — isn't surprising, however disappointing.
    ˙
    Stopping and arresting violent criminals and would-be cop killers are among the things civilized societies hire police officers to do. And well they should, in a nation with almost as many guns as people.
    ˙
    But such demonizing and racist bigotry, and outright, intentional lies directed at a cop for the color of his 'white' skin is just as wrongful as racism directed at people of color.
    ˙
    It is also hypocrisy of a high order coming from members of the LGBT minority, often subjected to demonizing bigotry and hate violence as well.
    ˙
    Had that outrageously belligerent, common criminal not violently assaulted his community's duly authorized police officer, grabbing his gun and trying to kill him — and had that perpetrator followed orderers to stop and get down on the ground, he'd be alive today.
    ˙
    The overwhelming majority of Americans understand that, and agree with lethal force applied in necessary situations. They reject racism and bigotry masquerading as progressive liberalism, just as they reject racism and bigotry masquerading as legitimate conservative thought.
    ˙
    A body cam would have more fully exonerated Officer Wilson for doing the right thing under the extreme, criminal circumstances Brown created — hard evidence which the GJ reviewed thoroughly. Rick, of course, did not review that evidence.
    ˙

  2. Chris Chocolatebearcub Capers

    December 4, 2014 at 11:20 am

    You're a fucking idiot! But I like how you tried to cover up subliminal thinly veiled supremacist feelings with statements about demonizing. Most whites think just like you that Michael Brown was a 'common criminal'. Did you see the FULL VIDEO from the store? If you did you will see he didn't steal nothing. Sometimes I find myself wondering why does this community considers itself a 'minority'? We are hardly that if you take away the only thing we have in common is that we are lovers of the same sex! Outside out of that everybody see things very differently. But I'd bet if that was a white gay male shot down by police you wouldn't feel like that. As sad as it is to see these instances occur. They definitely let folks know what people really feel about different groups. Especially within this community.

    But I find this Strange James Eagan Holmes walks into a theatre with multiple firearms with tear gas. Kills 12 and injures 70 and was taken into custody MIND YOU without being shot and is considered a college kid with 'issues'? Then we have Eric Frein who purposely kills a state trooper and badly injures another one goes on the lam for 48 days and finally gets caught with a loaded rifle and wasn't shot by police and cost the state of Pennsylvania 60 MILLION DOLLARS?

    And this Darren Wilson who is the same height as Michael Brown claims he was scared so he shot him to death in self defense and Michael Brown had NO GUN and shot dead like dog? I guess it is a blessing to be born white in America! Maybe Peter need not write these articles because obviously it's offensive to many in this community. No wonder Blacks are still to this day are 'Leary' about their involvement within this community.

    UGH just UGH!!!!

  3. Anonymous

    December 4, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Chris Chocolatebearcub Capers —

    Thanks. Racial profiling against people of color — by police, by vigilante predators, employers of all types, etc. — is a completely legitimate and incredibly important issue for every government level to solve.
    ˙
    This is just a poor, illegitimate case to pursue as an example of racial profiling by police.
    ˙
    For example, as soon as Brown assaulted Officer Wilson, Wilson's job was to arrest and pursue him for a felony by an obviously dangerous young man — no ifs, ands or buts.
    ˙
    And that's completely irrespective of the shoplifting/ shopkeeper assault report, which Wilson didn't associate until he got out of his vehicle and saw Brown's khaki shorts and yellow socks. That just added to the fact that he was dealing with a dangerous criminal.
    ˙
    Lying about a case and making racist assertions against a cop for his skin color only weakens the credibility of civil rights activists making the larger point against racial profiling/ civil rights violations under color of authority. Likewise trying to turn common, violent street criminals into heroes. It's nutty. Few commonsense Americans will ever believe it, and most think it's reflective of racial bias.
    ˙
    The Ohio, NY and other cases are entirely different and are easily more on point to that larger issue you make as well.
    ˙
    Quickly getting body cams on every cop in the nation is going to solve a lot of the problems. Fed bucks can help with that.

  4. Efrem Capers

    December 4, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Brian he didn't steal anything and there is no PROOF that he hit Officer Wilson! But no use in trying to prove that to you your mind is made up.

    http://www.addictinginfo.org/2014/08/18/ferguson-pd-busted/

  5. Anonymous

    December 4, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Efrem Capers
    ˙
    Hey, thanks for that link– i had heard about that full version video but hadn't seen it.
    ˙
    Still, it shows a simple assault of the shopkeeper by Brown — whatever the cause, it's highly belligerent behavior, under any circumstances.

    The store assault was really a distraction, however, to the *REPEATED* acts of assault Brown perpetrated against Officer Wilson. Brown's criminal actions at the scene of his death, and Wilson's account is reliably corroborated by BOTH the physical evidence and eyewitness accounts.
    ˙
    Repeatedly physically assaulting a police officer is outrageous, common criminal behavior. It can never be tolerated in any civilized society.
    ˙
    It's too bad this young man was taught to have such a blind hatred for white police officers. Given the parents comments, actions and behavior, it's not hard to speculate where all that belligerence and hate came from.
    ˙

  6. Chris Chocolatebearcub Capers

    December 4, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    brians.ions SERIOUSLY?For you say "It's too bad this young man was taught to have such a blind hatred for white police officers" How do you know this? No criminal history, Was on his way to college. Here goes that good word that is called PERCEPTION it's everything! But I'm glad you think those white police officers love Blacks LOL! Anyway it also shows how divided gays are on this again just like the recent Mayoral election. It all came down to RACE in the end!!!!! Oh wells he's dead and gone. Eric Garner is dead and gone and the cops got off. Oh well! Good Ol' AMURICA'

  7. Anonymous

    December 4, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Chris Chocolatebearcub Capers
    ˙
    "It's too bad this young man was taught to have such a blind hatred for white police officers" How do you know this?
    =============================
    ˙
    Chris, for sure it's speculation — but it's rooted in some common sense, too. People don't generally physically assault police officers unless they have a profound dislike or hatred for them.
    ˙
    What bothers me most about this, is the credibility that all progressives/ Democrats (and civil rights activists of all stripes) are losing as a result of what most Americans recognize as an outrageous lie to further narrow special interests — and maybe celebrity journalists' special interests..
    ˙
    When riots and protest demonstrations disrupting innocent bystanders result from such a lie, Americans, left, right and center, are likely to react to what they see as an unfair assault on their freedom, their institutions and their public safety.
    ˙
    We've seen that kind of voter reaction/rebellion in broad, middle class democratic nations all over the world– whether the protests were regarding racial bias, labor/management issues, students's free speech, social safety net cutbacks, etc. Conservative, 'law and order' governments are typically swept into power — and for substantial blocks of time. A freeze on political and social reforms usually results.
    ˙
    The last time it occurred in the United States was after the King assassination riots and the Democratic Convention/ anti-war protest ('police riot') in 1968. It resulted in Republican 'law and order' presidents being elected for 20 of the next 24 years– a whole generation's block of time. Civil rights advances for all groups were generally downplayed and put on back burners.
    ˙
    The depth and breadth of the Republican sweep last month is pretty shocking. Progressives and civil rights activists can not afford to be angering independent and crossover voters. Our 'political capital' has clearly been spent — for a nation still waiting for an economic recovery and weary of boots-on-the-ground wars.

  8. Anonymous

    December 5, 2014 at 10:37 am

    The huge difference between Ferguson and the murder in New York…
    ˙
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/12/04/why-eric-garner-isnt-ferguson-politically-speaking/
    ˙
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_s8JklrBSlk
    ˙
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/national/ferguson-grand-jury-findings/
    ˙
    ——-
    ˙
    And PBA's/ New York's Police union's bossy bullying of minorities…
    ˙
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/04/pat-lynch-eric-garner_n_6272738.html?utm_hp_ref=eric-garner
    ˙
    The New York police union ('PBA') is a disgrace to every police department in the country. It is time for federal and state legislation to limit the power of police union bosses. They can not be permitted to intentionally bully minorities and the public they are sworn to serve and protect.
    ˙

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Opinions

Biden’s empty political theater on LGBTQ equality

President is a nice man who lacks the passion to fight

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Joe Biden, gay news, Washington Blade
President Joe Biden (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Shortly before Joe Biden was inaugurated, LGBTQ Nation leaked a conference call between mainstream LGBTQ advocates and the president-elect in which he backed off repeated, forcible campaign promises to make passage of the Equality Act a top priority during his administration’s first 100 days.

I wrote an article criticizing him for reneging on his pledge. The Los Angeles Blade picked up my piece as an op-ed, and it went viral. I got a tremendous amount of feedback, much of it negative, more of it counseling patience, but now that a year has passed, let’s take a look at how things worked out.

In the first days of his presidency, Biden did vital work with pro-LGBTQ executive orders — redirecting the federal bureaucracy, which had become overtly homo/transphobic under Trump, and working to fix transgender military policy — but he never pushed for the Equality Act, which would have finally offered LGBTQ people status as free people in our own nation, protected by law from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, education, etc.

Without the Act, his executive orders won’t be worth the paper they’re written on when the next Republican president takes office.

Not only did President Biden fail to spend political capital to make the Act a top priority in his first 100 days, he never made it a priority of any kind.

Beltway insiders tell me the president did nothing behind the scenes to honor the pledge he made repeatedly to LGBTQ people in exchange for our votes. He did nothing publicly either. No national speeches. No fireside chats. No appeals to the better angels of the American people. He just stopped talking about the Equality Act, like if he never mentioned it again, we’d forget he promised to prioritize it.

The House passed the Act again this year, but it stalled in the face of Senate filibuster rules, which require 60 out of 100 votes for most legislation to pass. Progressive Democrats have been calling for ending or changing the filibuster since the day Biden took office, but not until last week did he announce support for changes, which brings us to the second half of today’s grievance.

In recent days, pressure has been intensifying on President Biden to lead on passing meaningful protections to counter strict new state laws that Republicans have been enacting to make voting more difficult, especially for Black voters.

Two federal laws proposed by Democrats, — the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — would protect voter rights by (among other things) creating national standards for mail-in voting and restoring stripped-out elements of the Voting Rights Act. Republicans know the only way they can stay in power in many states is to suppress votes, especially the votes of Black people and other people of color. Republican senators fiercely oppose voter protection and will filibuster.

President Biden traveled to Atlanta last week to make a speech about supporting voter protection. Finally, after nearly a year in office, he indicated he might support changing the filibuster custom. The nation yawned. Black voters blinked. LGBTQ voters sighed in dismay.

A number of influential Black political activists in Georgia snubbed Biden’s speech, saying in advance they would not bother attending an event they called a “waste of time.” Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams was notably absent, which she and Biden both claimed was due to a scheduling conflict, but Georgia political insiders say she was sending the president a powerful message: Get serious. Take action. Stop with meaningless political theater, especially on my turf, where I’ve been doing the kind of real work you won’t do.

Obviously, the 50/50 Dem/Rep split in the Senate is not the president’s fault. Nor is he responsible for the recalcitrance of Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. They have each refused to consider filibuster reform, and without their votes it can’t happen.

But does Biden even want filibuster change?

He has consistently served up weak tea on the issue, calling himself an “institutionalist” and an “incrementalist,” which Democratic leaders have taken to mean he either doesn’t support overhauling Senate rules, or that he won’t get tough on Democratic senators who vote against overhauls.

If Biden has tried even half-heartedly to strong-arm Manchin and Sinema, he has not done so in public. Beltway insiders say he hasn’t done anything, just like he hasn’t prioritized the Equality Act.

Meanwhile, while the Democratic Party led by Joe Biden waffles and drifts, the Republicans maintain tight party discipline and look set to take the House back this year. They will continue to push agendas cementing themselves in power, putting democracy itself in grave danger, and making life for minorities increasingly unequal, painful, and difficult.

We don’t care about your institutions, Joe. We don’t value Senate customs and traditions, which mean nothing to us beyond what they can or can’t accomplish. We care about action. We demand results. You promised to deliver, and you’re failing us. Now you choose to go to Atlanta and say some pretty words? Nobody wants pretty words, Joe. You can keep them.

Look, we know your heart is in the right place, but we want your muscle to be in the right place. We want you to take charge, to LEAD, to exercise some of the awesome power of your office.

We expect you to play to win, to twist arms, to name and shame, to do whatever it takes to keep the promises you made to us when you needed our votes.

You need to get serious, Mr. President. If you don’t start kicking ass and taking names, don’t count on us to vote for you again. I mean that. There’s a REASON you’re dropping precipitously in the polls. It’s us, man. It’s Democratic members of minorities fed up with your milquetoast, do-nothing, business-as-usual approach to crises we see as EXISTENTIAL. While Republican rank-and-file are telling pollsters they believe armed violence against the government may be desirable, and while they’re demonizing Black people, immigrants, and queer people, you’re acting like everything is relatively fine.

It’s not.

We voted for a champion, but we got you instead, a very nice man who evidently lacks the gonads to fight for us. Please turn that around. Please get real. Please get tough. Please start fighting to win.

Today would be an excellent day to start keeping your promises.

James Finn is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, and a frequent columnist for the Blade. Reach him at [email protected].

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Support the arts: See ‘Our Town’ at Shakespeare Theatre

In-the-round production features diverse, stellar cast

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When we finally had the chance to go to live theater again, the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) opened its doors with the pre-Broadway production of “Once Upon a One More Time” with Britney Spears’ music. It was a risk Simon Godwin, STC’s artistic director, took and it succeeded. Seats filled beyond expectations with many who had never been to an STC production before.

Now it’s hoped many of those new theatergoers will come back to see the classic play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. It will be at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s (STC) Harman Hall, Feb. 17-March 20. Many of those new audience members could find it a memorable and deeply thought-provoking night in the theater. 

The play is being directed by the talented D.C. resident Alan Paul, associate artistic director of the STC. Paul is a Helen Hayes award-winning director of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and has numerous Hayes nominations for productions, including “Comedy of Errors”; Studio Theatre 2ndStage “Silence! The Musical”; and “Man of La Mancha.” 

“Our Town” is Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play and its various productions over the years imbued audiences with a wonderful shared sense of humanity, something we are in desperate need of in today’s world. 

The play tells the story of the fictional American small town of Grover’s Corners between 1901 and 1913. It’s told through the everyday lives of the people of the town. Through them and what some might see as their generally typical lives, we are led to understand some universal truths about life and death, love, and community. 

In looking at the cast Paul chose, I realized all the ones I knew were from our own community. When I asked him about this he told me, “When I decided to direct ‘Our Town,’ the only way to do it would be to use the riches of talent who live in Washington, D.C. I saw many people out of work during the pandemic — actors and freelance artists were hit the most — so when we decided to do this play, I wanted to get the best actors I could find and found them here and knew I wanted to showcase them.” Turns out the great talent in our city is very diverse. The cast is white, Black, Latino, Asian and includes four who, along with Paul, are part of the LGBTQ community — Holly Twyford, Tom Story, Sarah C. Marshall, and Christopher Michael Richardson, all brilliantly talented and known to the community from their previous roles in various theaters around the DMV. The rest of the talented cast includes: Felicia Curry, Elliot Dash, Natascia Diaz, Josh Decker, Eric Hissom, Hudson Koonce, Jake Loewenthal, Tommy Nelson, Chinna Palmer, Maisie Ann Posner, Suzanne Richard, Kimberly Schraf, Craig Wallace, Summer Wei and Travis Xavier. 

“Our Town” is introduced and narrated by the stage manager (Holly Twyford), who welcomes the audience to the fictional town of Grover’s Corners, N.H., early on a May morning in 1901. The play then follows the characters for 12 years through their everyday lives. After the stage manager’s introduction, the activities of a typical day begin. Howie Newsome (Christopher Michael Richardson), the milkman, and Joe Crowell, Jr. (Hudson Koonce), the paperboy, make their delivery rounds. Dr. Gibbs (Eric Hissom) returns from delivering a set of twins at one of the homes in town. Mrs. Gibbs (Natascia Diaz) and Mrs. Webb (Felicia Curry) make breakfast, send their children off to school, and meet in their gardens to gossip. 

What should make this show particularly exciting is for the first time at the Harman a play will be done in-the-round. The stage will be extended out into the theater and the audience will be seated around it with some seats actually on the stage. Some cast members may actually be in the audience and speak from their seats helping to bring the audience into the action. 

Paul also assembled a superb artistic team for this production including among others; Scenic Designer Wilson Chin, Lighting Designer Yi Zhao, Composer Michael John LaChiusa and Costume Designer Sarafina Bush.

The Shakespeare theatre will abide by all CDC and DC guidelines in place at the time to ensure the safety and health of its staff, actors, and patrons.

Supporting the arts is something we all should do; going to the theater is something all of us can enjoy. I have high hopes for a great night at the theater with “Our Town.” Tickets can be purchased online.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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The future of lesbian bars

Resolve to support our queer spaces in 2022

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lockdown zone, gay news, Washington Blade

This New Year, I hope you wish for more lesbian bars across the country. The story of lesbian bars in the U.S. has been slightly tragic of late: as of January 2021, there were only 15 clubs or bars dedicated to queer women across the country. 

That’s right—only 15. Across all 50 states. 

In Washington, D.C., my hometown, A League of Her Own stands out as the only lesbian bar in the city, dedicated to queer women. Located in Adams Morgan, A League of Her Own, also known as ALOHO, is a small mecca for queer ladies to pass through, socialize, and flirt. ALOHO is a chic gathering point for all queer folk, with posters of softball players dotting the walls and gender neutral signs lying about. 

Several years ago, another lesbian bar called Phase 1 existed in Southeast, where queer women could slam eight balls in pool games and engage in raunchy yet ever-so-hot jello wrestling competitions. 

Unfortunately, Phase 1 shut its doors in 2016. 

So what explains the closure of so many lesbian bars, while bars for gay men continue to flourish? Perhaps many queer women view gay bars as a space for their own as well, whereas gay men view lesbian bars as less of a place for them to socialize. 

Either way, we need to give support to lesbian bars now more than ever. Tokens of support can take many forms. 

For one, make sure to socialize in spaces dedicated to queer ladies. There are three lesbian bars in New York City: Cubbyhole (281 W. 12th St.), Gingers in Brooklyn (363 5th Ave.), and Henrietta Hudson (438 Hudson St.). Next time you visit the Big Apple, make sure to give these three spots some love. Maybe drag your experimenting bi friend to these locations. Or your pansexual roommate. 

Back in D.C., you can buy unisex shirts in A League of Her Own’s merchandise store, available online. 

Proceeds will go toward funding the bar, and making sure it stays afloat, especially during this COVID economy. 

Most of all, I hope you encourage your queer lady friends to keep on frequenting queer lady destinations. After all, there is only one thing that will keep lesbian bars afloat—and that is attendance. 

I, for one, will be frequenting many lesbian destinations this new year.  

Isaac Amend is a Yale graduate and participated in National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ documentary. He also is a member of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, and contributes regularly to the Blade. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @isaacamend.

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