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50 years of pioneers

Golden anniversary of Philadelphia ’65 event to honor early gay activists

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LGBT50, gay news, Washington Blade
LGBT50 Philadelphia, gay news, Washington Blade

Barbara Gittings at the 1966 Independence Day protest. (Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen, courtesy LGBT50)

LGBT 50th Anniversary

 

Thursday, July 2

 

Wreath laying at gay pioneers marker, 2:15 p.m.

National legal panel, 6:30 p.m.

National politics panel (moderated by Blade editor Kevin Naff), 8:15 p.m.

50th anniversary party, 10 p.m.

 

Friday, July 3

 

National interfaith service, 4 p.m.

“Gay Pioneers” screening, 6 p.m.

 

Saturday, July 4

 

50th anniversary VIP lunch, 11:30 a.m.

50th anniversary ceremony, 2:30 p.m.

VIP cocktail reception, 4:30 p.m.

 

Several other tie-in events are planned. There is no registration fee and most events are free and are held on or near Independence Mall. For more information, visit lgbt50th.org.

Frank Kameny was always quick to point out to anyone misinformed that the legendary Stonewall Riots of 1969 were not the beginnings of the modern gay rights movement.

“When people say, as you so often hear, that the gay movement started with Stonewall, if I have a chance under the circumstances in which it’s said, I invariably correct them very insistently,” Kameny, who died in 2011 at age 86, told the Blade in a 2009 interview on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of those riots. “And point out that the movement was just sort of 20 years old already and there was a groundwork.”

Kameny, friends and colleagues say, would be pleased that some of the lesser-known early gay rights demonstrations he co-coordinated, are getting properly commemorated. On July 2-5, the 50th anniversary of the East Coast Homophile Organization’s (ECHO), first Independence Day demonstration at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 4, 1965, an event that was continued through 1969, will be commemorated with a lavish, three-day spate of activities. The Mattachine Society of Washington, founded by Kameny and the late Jack Nichols, was one of the main ECHO groups.

The National LGBT 50th Anniversary Celebration is being coordinated by an organizing committee within Equality Forum. Malcolm Lazin, Equality Forum’s executive director and event committee chair, says it’s important these “Gay Pioneers,” (also the name of a 2004 documentary short he helped make that told of the 1965 proceedings) are remembered. A 40th anniversary event was held 10 years ago and many of the pioneers were able to attend, but Lazin says this year’s event is on a much bigger scale.

Among the festivities are panel discussions, a screening of “Gay Pioneers,” fireworks, parties, LGBT history exhibits, concerts, an interfaith service, a wreath laying at the Gay Pioneers historic marker, a street festival and a one-hour anniversary ceremony in front of Independence Hall emceed by lesbian comedian Wanda Sykes. Prominent guests will include James Obergefell, a plaintiff in the current Supreme Court marriage case, along with activists Edith Windsor, Judy Shepard and more. There is no registration fee and most programs are free. Lazin says there’s no way to predict how many might attend but says because of the holiday weekend and Philadelphia’s proximity to Washington and New York, not to mention the historic nature of the proceedings, “we expect a very, very large crowd.”

Lazin says even though the Mattachine Society had held previous protests — perhaps most notably a White House picket in April 1965 — the Philadelphia demonstration deserves special commemoration. He says there were only about 200 people out to any public degree at the time. Kameny remembered it being even fewer.

“The ones before had always been based around a specific issue such as the one at the White House to protest Fidel Castro who rounded up Cuban homosexuals,” Lazin says. “There was another one around military discharges and another around the Civil Service Commission’s prohibition against the federal government employing gays and lesbians. This one was remarkably different. It was not just one city involved, but three. Also, it was the first time it was not based around a specific issue and … it was the first time it wasn’t a one-off. These continued every July 4th from 1965 to 1969 and it was organized by the truly seminal leaders of the movement.”

Lazin calls Kameny and his longtime co-conspirator, the late Barbara Gittings, who was involved with Kameny right from the beginning (though she lived in Philadelphia) and who died of breast cancer at age 74 in 2007, the “father and mother of the LGBT civil rights movement.” Others involved included Rev. Robert Wood, now a nonagenarian whom the Blade interviewed last year (Wood authored the seminal 1960 book “Christ and the Homosexual”) and Lilli Vincenz, who lives in the D.C. area and was involved with Kameny very early on.

“When Frank and Barbara and the other gay pioneers stepped forward,” Lazin says, “the federal government would not employ an openly gay person, the American Psychiatric Association classified us as mentally ill and virtually every state made it a crime for consenting adults to engage in same-sex intimacy in their own homes. Most states also made it either a crime or grounds for a loss of license for more than one homosexual to be in a bar, so homophobia was totally accepted and totally pervasive and totally toxic. It took huge courage for Frank and Barbara to step forward, knowing it would make them unemployable and personas non grata, so we all stand on their shoulders.”

Kate Kendell, director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who says it will be a great honor to pay tribute to Gittings at the anniversary ceremony at Independence Hall on the anniversary, agrees.

“It’s so often the case that we sometimes neglect to fully appreciate the shoulders we stand on,” Kendell says. “Barbara Gittings demonstrated a kind of remarkable courage that for the time was unprecedented. To march in front of the White House with a sign demanding that homosexuals not be discriminated against by the government and then to pass out literature to passersby or to those who stopped to talk, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, demanded a sort of bravery that frankly, I would not have possessed. And we know that our visibility is the most important first step to our liberation. She, and of course Frank Kameny, created that visibility out of almost nothing. There was no existing infrastructure there, there were no role models, there were no headlines and every story or reference in pop culture or in the media was shaming, negative and depicted us as a threat and sick. Barbara Gittings with a handful of other people who stood up at that time are owed an un-repayable debt.”

Kay Tobin Lahusen, Gittings’ partner of 46 years, says Gittings would be pleased at the recognition.

“She would have felt like a little bit of heaven had come down to Earth,” Lahusen, 85, says during a phone interview with the Blade. “She would have loved to have seen her fellow picketers recognized for their role in helping launch the movement. She was for anything that advanced the cause.”

Lahusen, who met Gittings at a Daughters of Bilitis picnic in 1961, is in good spirits. Though she won’t attend the festivities next month (“I’ll get lots of reports, don’t worry,” she says), she takes delight in last weekend’s landslide vote in Ireland to legalize same-sex marriage, calling it a “landmark victory of the gay cause.” She quotes an observer who said it “puts us ‘on the vanguard of social change movements’ and I would agree.” She’s also thrilled that a biography of Gittings by Tracy Baim of Windy City Times will be released by the time of the Philadelphia commemoration.

“It’s chock-full of photographs of Barbara and her activities, most of which I took,” Lahusen says. “When I survey all that has happened in the last 50 years, there has been a tectonic shift in attitudes. It’s quite amazing and thrilling.”

Paul Kuntzler, who met Kameny one night at the Chicken Hut, a long-closed D.C. gay bar, in February 1962, is one of the few survivors of the 1965 Independence Hall demonstration who will be attending the 50th anniversary. He knew Gittings well and says she and Kameny were kindred spirits and close friends.

“She was basically the Frank Kameny of Philadelphia,” Kuntzler says. “Very brainy, a very fine mind. Very quick witted. Very smart. She was truly an intellectual and like Frank in many ways.”

He says she’d be honored by the commemoration.

“She was the principal person in Philly and among women in the U.S., she was the most important, the most influential.”

Kuntzler, who has amazing recall of dates and events, remembers some details of the first July 4th event but says some of the other early demonstrations in which he participated with the Mattachine Society, stand out more in his memory.

Kuntzler had spent the weekend in Rehoboth Beach, Del., with his partner, Stephen Brent Miller (who died in 2004).

“I left that morning from Rehoboth Beach in a suit and tie and drove to Philly for the event,” Kuntzler, 73, says. “I believe it was about an hour long. And then I drove back. … I don’t remember any reaction, not particularly. I think we just did it. The one at the White House stands out much more vividly because there were so many photographers there. I guess they were expecting us. I think there were some barricades we marched around. According to people today, there were 40 there but I would be surprised if it was that many. I didn’t remember there being quite that many. But we were all in suits and ties.”

Kuntzler says the mood was festive but he was eager to return to his partner at the beach.

“We had dinner that night at the Avenue Restaurant, which was a very popular place, very good food. There were several of us at the table for dinner and I met Richard Davison, who just died a couple years ago, but he was working for the federal government at the time and I remember he was very nervous as I was talking about what had gone on earlier in the day because in those days, if you were gay and they found out, you could get fired.”

Kuntzler says to his knowledge, only a handful who attended are still alive including Randy Wicker of New York, Vincenz and a few others whose names he does not recall.

Kameny long contended that the Stonewall Riots would never have happened had he and the other pioneers not laid the groundwork. It’s a theory Lazin and Kendell readily agree with.

“To say Stonewall started everything is like saying the Boston Tea Party started the American Revolution,” Lazin says. “And forgetting that Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and other seminal founding fathers had laid the groundwork. … What’s remarkable about Frank and Barbara is that not only did they lead the way prior, they continued leading the way after Stonewall as well.”

Kameny told the Blade in 2009 about the convergence of events around the time of Stonewall, which had happened less than a week before the final Independence Day protest in 1969. Kameny, who had been in Washington when Stonewall happened but heard about it immediately through fellow ECHO contacts, said he was elated. Kameny happily joined in the first Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day March on June 28, 1970 — the first Pride march — and said he was thrilled to realize the movement was at a major turning point.

“I remember … seeing this vast horde of people and I was absolutely speechless,” said Kameny, who was used to counting protest participants in the dozens rather than the thousands. “Flowing in like a river into the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, if nothing else, there it was in front of one’s eyes. It would have been impossible in terms of anything movement-wise prior to that. We had clearly overstepped a line. We had transitioned.”

As exciting as that was, Kendell says it would be a travesty if the earlier efforts of Kameny and Gittings and their comrades were forgotten.

“First you start to see the small tremors and people start to question the dominant patriarchy and they start to question the way power is structured and they start to question their own oppression,” Kendell says. “But then there’s a moment when the match just gets lit. … When Stonewall happened, the fury of it was ignited by that simmering sense of injustice, which was, I think, in large part ignited by the events in Philadelphia.”

Kendell also says, even with the enormous strides that have been made, LGBT people today can still be inspired by the examples of Kameny and Gittings.

“For me, the moral of the story is that you can resist wherever you are and whoever you are,” she says. “It’s not something that happens somewhere else. We’re agents in our own liberation.”

LGBT50, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay protesters at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 4, 1965. (Photo courtesy LGBT50)

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A rainbow shield

Parasol Patrol protects children from protesters at LGBTQ, BIPOC events

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But sometimes, these events can get hectic. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bowen also plays Dorothy’s ex-husband Stanley.

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

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

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

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

Blanche ‘weaponizes what God has given her’

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

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

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

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

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

‘Ahead of their time’ on LGBTQ issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swanson and Kelley both teased bits of the play.

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

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

Kelly noted the play is “all new material.”

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

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

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

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D.C.’s most eligible LGBTQ singles

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

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

Matthew Koerber

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 33

Occupation: Realtor

How do you identify?: Gay

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

Biggest turn off: Green text messages

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrity crush: Chris Hemsworth

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


Kelsey Watson

(Photo by Briana Smith)

Age: 28

Occupation: Nonprofit professional

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

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

Biggest turn off: Fatphobia and hot breath

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

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

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

Pets, kids, or neither?: Neither

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

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

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


Barbi Lopez

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 30

Occupation: Bar manager/bartender

How do you identify?: She/her

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

Biggest turn off: Immaturity

Biggest turn on: A submissive dom

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

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

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

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

Celebrity crush: Kehlani


Philip Pannell

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 72

Occupation: Non-profit executive director

How do you identify?: Gay

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

Biggest turn off: Lack of engagement with community issues

Biggest turn on: Commitment to community progress

Hobbies: Community volunteerism and playing bridge

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

Pets, kids, or neither?: Neither

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

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

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I watch Fox News


Michael Wolfe

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 43

Occupation: Recruiter

How do you identify?: Gay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrity crush: Jay Hernandez, Chris Evans, Patrick Mahomes

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


Mel May

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 42

Occupation: Recruiting leader

How do you identify?: Queer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Elizabeth Falcon

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 40

Occupation: Non-profit executive director

How do you identify?: Queer

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

Biggest turn off: Being rude to service workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chloe Thompson

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 25

Occupation: Community Manager at TPSS Co-op

How do you identify?: Bisexual/queer woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrity crush: Kehlani. Real ones know.

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


Maria Miller

(Photo by @itsjacqill)

Age: 31

Occupation: Bartender, produce slinger, sandwich artisan

How do you identify?: Dyke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Al Castillo

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 22

Occupation: Research specialist

How do you identify?: Queer trans man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrity crush: Patrick Dempsey and Rina Sawayama

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


Aurora Lloyd

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 30

Occupation: Entertainer/Entrepreneur/Activist

How do you identify?: Transsexual woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrity crush: Michael B. Jordan and Tyler James Williams

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


Andrew Bunting

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 34

Occupation: Higher education administration/bartending

How do you identify?: Gay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Javen Marquise Kostrzewa

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Age: 30

Occupation: JD/MBA student at Georgetown

How do you identify?: Bisexual

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrity crush: Michael B. Jordan

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

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