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Acclaimed trans activist Sharmus Outlaw dies

Policy advocate focused on health, sex worker issues

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Sharmus Outlaw, gay news, Washington Blade
Sharmus Outlaw, gay news, Washington Blade

Sharmus Outlaw died at age 50 last week. (Photo courtesy Generosity.com)

Sharmus Outlaw, a D.C.-based advocate for transgender and sex worker rights and people with HIV/AIDS in the United States and internationally for more than 25 years, died July 7 at a hospice in Arlington, Va., from complications associated with lymphoma. She was 50.

Outlaw most recently served as a national policy advocate focusing on transgender rights and health care access for the Best Practices Policy Project, an organization that provides technical, public policy, and logistical support for other organizations advocating for sex workers.

She also served as the U.S. representative for the Program Advisory Committee of the Red Umbrella Fund, an Amsterdam-based international fund that assists sex worker rights organizations.

“An internationally known activist, she spoke out against injustice in all settings, from interactions with police in the streets to meetings with the U.S. government to high-level U.N. gatherings,” a statement released by the Best Practices Policy Project says.

“Sharmus has left us much too soon but she has achieved so much,” the statement says. “In 2001 she was a founding member of Different Avenues, a grassroots organization working with people in the street and other informational economies in the District of Columbia,” according to the BPPP statement.

She also worked or volunteered for a number of other D.C.-area organizations, including the sex worker advocacy group HIPS, the LGBT youth advocacy group SMYAL, Casa Ruby and Us Helping Us.

The BPPP statement says Outlaw was an “integral part of the community-based research team that collected data on police interactions with people profiled as sex workers in the District of Columbia, which was published as the seminal report, ‘Move Along: Policing Sex Work in Washington, D.C.’”

The group says she was co-author of another first-of-its-kind report that addressed the issue of public policy related to HIV/AIDS and sex workers.

D.C. transgender activist Darby Hickey said Outlaw spoke at the International AIDS Conference in 2002 in Barcelona, Spain, and again in 2012 in D.C.

During the 2012 International AIDS Conference, held the Walter Washington Convention Center, Outlaw was among the leaders of a protest that disrupted a panel of U.S. public officials discussing HIV policy. The protesters said their aim was to highlight what they believed was the U.S. government’s harmful position against sex workers’ rights.

Outlaw, telling the press that she, too, had been a sex worker as a means of survival, told reporters covering the protest, “Before I’m transgender, before I’m a sex worker, before I am anything, I’m human. I have rights just like anyone else.”

Hickey created an online appeal for funds for a memorial and funeral arrangements for Outlaw on the site generosity.com. She said funeral arrangements were being made in Outlaw’s home state of North Carolina but plans for a separate memorial gathering in D.C. would be announced soon.

“Sharmus achieved so much but there was still more she wanted to do,” Hickey said in a message on the generosity.com site.

“She always had her eyes ahead looking out to that horizon of a better day when we will all be enlightened with the idea that together we are human,” Hickey said.

 To contribute, click here.

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Maryland

Protests interrupt Moms for Liberty meeting about removing books in Howard County schools

Guest speaker led book-removal campaign in Carroll County

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Gabriella Monroe holds a poster that says 'Ban Bigotry Not Books' outside Howard County’s Central Branch library in Columbia on Feb. 26, 2024 (Photo by Sam Mallon for the Baltimore Banner)

BY KRISTEN GRIFFITH | When a Howard County chapter of Moms for Liberty wanted to learn how to remove books from schools, they were met with a swarm of protesters sporting rainbow colors and signs looking to send the message that such actions are not welcome in their district.

The conservative parents’ group met Monday night at Howard’s Central Branch library in Columbia to brainstorm how they could get books they deemed inappropriate out of their children’s school libraries. Their guest speaker for the evening was Jessica Garland, who led a successful book-removal campaign in Carroll County. The Howard chapter wanted the playbook.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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Rehoboth Beach

Former CAMP Rehoboth official pleads guilty to felony theft

Salvatore Seeley faces possible jail time, agrees to reimburse $176,000

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Salvatore “Sal” Seeley, who served as an official at the Rehoboth Beach, Del., CAMP Rehoboth LGBTQ community center for 20 years, has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of Theft In Excess of $50,000 for allegedly embezzling  funds from the organization for at least a two-and-a-half-year period, according to a Sussex County, Del., Superior Court indictment and a spokesperson for the Delaware Office of the Attorney General.

The spokesperson, Mat Marshall, sent the Blade a copy of the indictment, which he said was handed down against Seeley on Feb. 27 and which provides the only specific court information that the Washington Blade could immediately obtain.

“Salvatore C. Seeley, between the 27th day of February 2019 and the 7th day of September 2021, in the County of Sussex, State of Delaware, did take property belonging to Camp Rehoboth, Inc., consisting of United States currency and other miscellaneous property valued at more than $50,000, intending to appropriate same,” the indictment states.

“I can further confirm that the Defendant entered a guilty plea to one count of Theft in Excess of $50,000,” spokesperson Marshall told the Blade in an email message. “Mr. Seeley also agrees to make restitution of $176,199.78 to CAMP Rehoboth,” Marshall said. “He will be sentenced on April 5 and does face the possibility of prison time.”

Marshall declined to provide additional information on the findings of the law enforcement investigation into Seeley’s alleged theft. The restitution figure of $176,199.79 suggests investigators believe Seeley embezzled at least that amount from CAMP Rehoboth during the time he worked for the organization.

Seeley couldn’t immediately be reached for comment

CAMP Rehoboth describes itself as a nonprofit LGBTQ community service organization and the largest organization of its type “serving the needs of LGBTQ+ people in Rehoboth, greater Sussex County, and throughout the state of Delaware.” The statement adds that the organization “is dedicated to creating a positive environment inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities in Rehoboth and its related communities.”

Kim Leisey, who began her job as executive director of CAMP Rehoboth in July of 2023, said it was her understanding that officials with the organization discovered funds were missing and opened an investigation in September of 2021, a short time before Seeley left the organization. Leisey said that at the time of his departure, Seeley served as CAMP Rehoboth’s director of health and wellness programs. 

At that time, former D.C. Center for the LGBT Community director David Mariner was serving as CAMP Rehoboth’s executive director and reportedly took steps to open an investigation into missing funds. Wesley Combs, CAMP Rehoboth’s current board president, said Seeley resigned from his job around that time in 2021.

“I know that I took this job knowing there was a concern and a problem and an investigation,” Leisey told the Blade. “And I also know that the board of CAMP Rehoboth has done everything it needs to do to ensure that we were compliant, cooperative and that things are going really well here at CAMP Rehoboth.”

Leisey said CAMP Rehoboth currently has a staff of six full-time employees and several contract employees. She said the organization has a current annual budget of $1.4 million.

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2024 Pride theme

‘Totally radical’ a nod to 80s and 90s

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Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos, on left, announces this year's Pride theme at the Pride Reveal party on Thursday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Pride Alliance on Thursday announced this year’s Pride theme is “totally radical.”

The organization made the announcement at Penn Social in Downtown D.C.

“Capital Pride’s 2024 theme celebrates the courageous spirit and unwavering strength and resilience that defined the LGBTQ+ community during the transformative decades of the 1980s and ‘90s,” said Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos. “It’s about embracing our authenticity, pushing boundaries and advocating for a world where everyone can live their truth without fear or discrimination.”

Capital Pride on Thursday announced this year’s Pride parade, which will take place on June 8, will begin at 14th and T Streets, N.W., and end at Pennsylvania Avenue and 9th Street, N.W.

The Capital Pride Block Party and Family Area will once again take place on 17th Street in Dupont Circle. A Tea Dance will also take place on Constitution Avenue, N.W., near the end of the parade. 

The Capital Pride Festival and Concert will take place on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., on June 9.

Capital Pride has also launched a campaign to raise $1.5 million for a new D.C. LGBTQ community center. 

WorldPride will take place in D.C. in 2025. The event will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Pride events in the nation’s capital.

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