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Stop eating our own

Resisting Trump should bring us together at Equality March

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eating our own, gay news, Washington Blade

Officers of the LGBT Liaison Unit of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department march and ride in last year’s Capital Pride Parade. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

At a time when there’s so much to unite the LGBT+ community, we’ve gotten really good at eating our own.

It’s not a new phenomenon. In 2014, when Ellen DeGeneres hosted the Oscars telecast, I remember watching with a tear in my eye as Jared Leto accepted the Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in “Dallas Buyers Club.” Ellen did a terrific job; Leto rightly acknowledged those who died from AIDS in his beautiful speech.

The next morning when I opened my email, there was a long thread of messages on an LGBT listserv I once read religiously. To my surprise, the messages were almost uniformly critical of DeGeneres (deemed “transphobic” because of a joke she made about Liza Minnelli) and Leto (labeled a “trans mammy”). It was as though we’d all watched a different version of the Oscars. Did these folks really think Ellen was our enemy? I never posted to that listserv again.

Fast-forward to today and a similarly unfortunate scenario is playing out as a protest group called No Justice No Pride is criticizing Capital Pride for its perceived lack of diversity, its reliance on corporate sponsors and its inclusion of D.C. police representation in the Pride parade.

No Justice No Pride has argued that D.C. police have targeted LGBT people of color, especially trans women forced to engage in sex work, for arrest and harassment. They have called on Capital Pride to ban uniformed police from participating in the Pride parade and festival, including members of the police LGBT Liaison Unit, as the Blade has reported. It’s an unfortunate demand that overlooks some important history. Community activists have worked hard for decades to educate local police about LGBT concerns and to enlist the police as our allies. We take it for granted that the police will march in solidarity with us, but it wasn’t always so. In fact, the very first issue of the Blade in October 1969 included a warning about police harassment of visitors to Dupont Circle-area bars. The Stonewall riots were triggered by police harassment. Today, D.C.’s LGBT Liaison Unit is an award-winning project led by a transgender sergeant.

Just one year ago, it was Orlando police who ran toward the gunfire at Pulse nightclub when our community was attacked. If something similar were to happen in D.C., the same people who denounce the police today would be dialing 911 as fast as their fingers allow. Demonizing police in D.C. doesn’t advance understanding. Many advocates, like Brett Parson in Washington and Steve Elkins in Rehoboth Beach, have spent countless hours educating law enforcement and helping to change the culture.

That’s not to suggest No Justice No Pride isn’t making some valid points. Capital Pride leaders have said they would conduct a reassessment of how corporate sponsors are approved for 2017 and beyond. That’s a positive step. Corporations play a key role in advancing LGBT equality; we’ve enlisted their help in Indiana and North Carolina to combat “religious freedom” laws. Indeed, corporations have frequently led on LGBT equality while state and federal laws and protections for workers lagged. Alienating and demonizing corporate allies is short sighted and ignores the powerful leverage they often have over anti-LGBT lawmakers. Of course, some companies walk the walk all year, while others give us a one-week rainbow embrace at Pride season. Capital Pride should do a better job of screening its sponsors and has pledged to do so.

At a time when there’s so much at stake amid the Trump administration’s assault on progress, it’s disappointing we’re expending valuable time and energy fighting with each other and eating our own. We have plenty of real enemies who are now empowered to undermine President Obama’s important legacy. That’s why we are marching this weekend in D.C. and around the country. The Blade’s contingent will march in support of press freedoms and LGBT equality.

As we prepare to also mark the one-year anniversary of the Pulse massacre, let’s honor the words of Pastor Brei, who runs an affirming ministry in Orlando and who lost several parishioners in the attack. She told me last year, “Have faith and believe that evil and hate can be eradicated one person at a time. How do you treat someone? How do you embrace someone who treats you wrong? We all bleed, laugh, hope and have great victories and major defeats. And so, you know me, even if you don’t know my name — I’m you.”

Good advice as we consider how to respond to Trump’s supporters — and to each other. Have a safe Pride and be sure to join the Equality March on Sunday.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at [email protected].

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. BEARY FLINTSTONE

    June 8, 2017 at 5:12 am

    LOL!

  2. DeaconMac

    June 8, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    The group “No Justice No Pride” seems to have chosen the right name, as they appear to have neither. More importantly, they lack both historical context and forward-looking vision.

    In 1971, police in DC and elsewhere were notoriously anti-LGBT (actually more anti-gay, since they largely ignored the other other members of our community to concentrate on gay men). The fledgling Gay Activists Alliance (now the GLAA) had tried for nearly 2 years to gain a meeting with the DC Chief of Police to talk about the harassment, arrests, abuse and even blackmail being practiced by “DC’s Finest” but the Chief refused to meet with LGBT people.

    So a group of about a dozen staged a sit-in in the police chief’s office and, after occupying the office for about 5 hours, a smaller group of 3 — Bill Bricker, Cade Ware and myself — agreed that we would be arrested, the first arrests for LGBT civil disobedience in Washington.

    When we went to trial some weeks later, we pled nolo contendere, since we knew we were guilty, but it gave us an opportunity to explain to the judge how long we had tried to get a meeting with the police, how we had been stymied in that, and why we had decided that civil disobedience was our only option. After deliberation, the judge returned and said, “Because you pled nolo contendere, I have no choice but to find you guilty. But if I had been in your position, I’d probably have done the same thing. No fine. No jail time. You are free to go.” Two weeks later, the police chief agreed to meet with us.

    And that began a process. It started with communication, spread into the adoption of new training for police recruits (training that members of the LGBT community helped conduct), then spread to better screening of new recruits, to more inclusive direction by subsequent police chiefs, to the establishment of a Civilian Complaint Review Board and, eventually, to the creation of the LGBT liaison unit. LGBT victims of crime are now assisted by openly LGBT and LGBT-supportive police officers.

    Are there still some officers who fail to live up to the standards we and their Chief expect? Of course there are; in any group of thousands, there will always be a few bad officers. But the overwhelming majority of DC’s police force do their job without prejudice. By all means, keep up the oversight, continue to push for removal of those few bad officers, but at the same time, welcome those LGBT officers and those supportive officers to march with us, to celebrate with us, to continue to make progress in respecting all LGBT people in Washington.

    There is merit in Pride looking closer at which corporate sponsorships are appropriate, but the executive board of Pride has already agreed to do that. As the founder of DC’s annual Pride Day event in 1975 and the sole sponsor of the event for the first 5 years, I have always been in favor of melding both political and social aspects in the celebration. It’s a time to celebrate our victories as well as to push for continued progress. For every commercial booth that lines Pennsylvania Avenue (and provides the bulk of the funding for the event), there are non-profit and activist booths offering Pride attendees ways to get involved. “No Justice No Pride” would be wise to participate there, too.

    As for the call to remove all the current members of Pride’s Executive Board, that’s an insult to people who have dedicated so much time and effort to the community. If you look at their bios (http://www.capitalpride.org/about/board/), you’ll see that they cross most gender and racial divisions and they have long histories of work in LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations. Likewise, the Pride staff demonstrates that ALL are welcome to the effort (http://www.capitalpride.org/about/staff/).

    Putting on the parade, the block party, the entertainment, the parties, the workshops and all the other activities surrounding Pride is a huge undertaking. If you’ve read this far, considering volunteering to make it all even better. Just don’t tear it down in the process.

  3. Count Dracula

    June 8, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Isn’t this headline offensive to lesbians?

    • LesbianTippingHabits

      June 8, 2017 at 7:08 pm

      Not if they tip generously for good service. Happy Pride!

  4. Kathy11

    June 8, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    I didn’t know Kevin wrote satire.

  5. Cole Carter

    June 8, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    I for one, have stopped attending Pride. I feel little in common with the rest of the participants. It is a time when some, not all, but some just want to be seen as the most outrageous and confrontational they can be while not minding the sensibilities of others. I’ll stay at home, perhaps go o dinner with some friends and discuss finance, politics and religion.

  6. LesbianTippingHabits

    June 10, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    Well, someone forgot to tip generously for good service today.

    Let’s hope the Blade shares – soonest – what happened.

    Thanks, and Happy Pride!

  7. Thom

    June 11, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    What a rambling convoluted mess! The operative word is “editor”. The Chris Crain tradition just won’t quit.

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Opinions

Opinion | Lovitz for Pennsylvania state representative

Accomplished gay candidate is longtime equality advocate

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Jonathan Lovitz, gay news, Washington Blade
Jonathan Lovitz (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

It’s an embarrassment of riches for residents of center city Philadelphia, which includes the “gayborhood,” as they prepare to vote for their next state representative. 

The post has been held by Rep. Brian Sims, who’s gay, since 2013. Sims is giving up the seat to run for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor. More on that later.

Two out LGBTQ candidates are among those competing in the 182nd District’s Democratic primary to replace Sims — Jonathan Lovitz and Deja Alvarez. Lovitz, who’s gay, has served as senior vice president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce for five years. If elected, it would be the first time a seat held by an LGBTQ state representative transitioned to another LGBTQ official and he would be the first LGBTQ Jewish elected official in Pennsylvania.

Alvarez, who’s transgender, is director of community engagement at World Healthcare Infrastructures and serves as chair of the Philadelphia Police LGBT Liaison Committee. She would become the first out trans person to serve in the Pennsylvania Legislature if elected.

Both are excellent candidates who would make their own bit of history if elected, but Lovitz stands out as the strongest choice to replace Sims in the legislature, a change that local residents desperately need.

To paraphrase Oprah in her famous endorsement of Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton: Just because I am for Lovitz, doesn’t mean I am against Alvarez. I am acquainted with Lovitz and know him to be an ethical, smart, hard-working professional who is deeply dedicated to his work and to the residents of Philadelphia. He would make a fearless and tireless advocate for Philly and for equality issues in Harrisburg.

At NGLCC, Lovitz has helped write and pass more than 25 state and local laws, including in Pennsylvania, extending economic opportunity to LGBTQ-owned businesses around the country. As the country struggles to emerge from pandemic restrictions, we need more legislators at all levels of government who understand the importance of small business. Lovitz has the experience in business and in his work on equality issues to deliver tangible results for Philadelphia. 

Contrast his record with that of Sims and it’s a no-brainer that the people of the 182nd District have nowhere to go but up. Sims has sponsored or introduced scores of bills in the past year, but only one has been enacted, according to BillTrack50. Sims has been criticized in the district for his endless media tour and social media self-promotion. He is more interested in thirst-trap selfies than in constituent service. He lacks the professionalism and temperament for elected office, favoring profane outbursts and juvenile insults over diplomatic compromise and legislative achievement. As Christopher Pinto wrote in the Philadelphia Gay News, “Almost a decade in the State House, and he has no legislative victories that he can claim as his own. He spent more time out of the district than inside it, flying from one speaking engagement to the next, while abusing his state issued travel budget and being shrouded in a lengthy ethics investigation.”

Lovitz will not succumb to such vanities. He is a grounded professional who understands how to craft legislation and, more importantly, how to get it passed. He won’t alienate colleagues as Sims has done. 

On equality issues, Lovitz has worked on behalf of marginalized communities at NGLCC and last year he organized PhillyVoting.org, which works to boost turnout among Black and LGBTQ voters. 

“The ongoing violence against our communities, especially against our trans siblings, is a stunning reminder that our work together continues,” Lovitz wrote in an op-ed for the Philadelphia Gay News. “Once again the movement for long-overdue social change in America is being led by communities of color, especially right here in Philly,” he wrote. “And the LGBTQ community must continue to stand in solidarity with them.”

Lovitz understands the moment. He has a passion for business and for helping entrepreneurs to succeed, something cities desperately need after more than 200,000 small businesses have shuttered due to COVID, according to the Wall Street Journal; more than 1,000 Philly businesses closed in just the first five months of the pandemic, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Voters, donors, and our national advocacy organizations should support his bold campaign and help retain an out LGBTQ voice in Harrisburg while improving constituent service for residents of the district. 

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at [email protected].

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Opinion | LGBTQ Virginians advocate D.C. statehood

The right of all Americans to be part of our democratic society

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My hometown will always be Washington, D.C. It’s the place where I was born and spent all of the first seven days of my life. As a lifelong Virginian however, where I live and attended schools, I straddle two communities important to me. 

As a business owner of 30 years in Washington, D.C., I pay many of my taxes and payroll taxes to the Nation’s Capital while I also pay income tax to Virginia where I’m a citizen.

Most important of all, as a gay Virginia voter, I can think of few lifelong political goals more important to me than achieving statehood for Washington, D.C. One of the compelling reasons I still make my home in Virginia and cross the Potomac River every day of my life, is because of my right as a Virginian to vote for two U.S. senators and for a member of the House of Representatives with the power to vote in Congress.

(It is still shocking to know that, with Washington, D.C. statehood still beyond grasp, the Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton who represents D.C. in the U.S. House of Representatives, has never yet had the authority to vote on the floor of the House.)

At an early age, I was dumbfounded to know that D.C. then did not even have a local government. We lacked an elected mayor and city council, with almost all decisions for the District of Columbia made by the federal government. Yet today, even with a mayor and local government in place, it is breathtaking to know that my friends, neighbors and co-workers still have zero voice in the Capitol and no one to vote for them – and for us – in Congress.

Consider that one of the world’s most diverse and educated cities has so often been bullied by extreme conservative leaders on Capitol Hill who – whenever possible – turn back the clock for D.C. citizens on voting rights, abortion rights, gun measures and our civil rights including LGBTQ equality. Not a single voter in D.C. has much, if any, say over any of those decisions.

The absence of statehood and the lack of real voting rights means that the unforgivable strains of racism and homophobia often held sway not just for Washington D.C., but in denying the United States a true progressive majority on Capitol Hill too. 

Virginians get it. In the past decade, we’ve worked very hard in every county and city in the commonwealth to turn our regressive political past into a bright blue political majority. We have elected LGBTQ candidates to state and local offices in unprecedented numbers. Our vote is our power.

More significantly, through the work of Equality Virginia and its many allies, we are repealing scores of anti-LGBTQ measures and reforming our statutes and constitution to secure equal rights as LGBTQ voters, adoptive parents, married couples, students, and citizens. Doesn’t Washington, D.C. deserve that future?

Virginia needs more states – like D.C. – to join forces and represent all Americans. To achieve this, and to defeat or neuter the anti-democratic Senate filibuster rule, we need our friends, allies and neighbors, the citizens of Washington, D.C. to share in our democratic ambitions.

Long ago, Washington, D.C. resident, abolitionist and civil rights leader, Frederick Douglass declared that “the District is the one spot where there is no government for the people, of the people, and by the people. Washington, D.C. residents pay taxes, just like residents of Nevada, California or any other state. Washington, D.C. residents have fought and died in every American war just like residents of Ohio, Kentucky or any other state. The District deserves statehood and Congress should act to grant it.” 

Speaking for LGBTQ Virginians, we agree. Conferring statehood is not a gift nor a blessing from the rest of us, but instead, it is the absolute right of all Americans to be part of our democratic society. As LGBTQ Americans, if we are to pass the Equality Act and other fundamental civil rights measures, we need the State of Washington, D.C. and its voters by our side.

Bob Witeck is a longtime LGBTQ civil rights advocate, entrepreneur, and Virginian, with long roots and longstanding ties to D.C.

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Opinion | Representation matters: The gayest Olympics yet

From one out athlete to more than 160 in just 33 years

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OK, I really want a Tom Daley cardigan. The now gold-medal Olympian told Britain’s The Guardian that he took up crocheting during the pandemic. He even has an Instagram page dedicated to his knit creations, MadeWithLoveByTomDaley. It’s all very adorable; it’s all very Tom Daley. 

All that aside, you’d have to be practically heartless to not feel something when Tom Daley and his diving partner Matty Lee won the gold on Monday in the men’s synchronized 10-meter diving competition, placing just 1.23 points ahead of the Chinese. And then seeing him with tears in his eyes on the podium as “God Save the Queen” played. Later that week, he knitted a little bag featuring the Union Jack to hold and protect his medal. So very wholesome

Daley is certainly one of the highest profile LGBTQ athletes in these games. Besides the diver, the 2020 Summer Olympics, now in 2021 because of the pandemic, are hosting more than 160 out athletes. A record to be sure, but calling it a record does it somewhat of an injustice. The United States sent the first out athlete to the 1988 Summer Olympics, Robert Dover an equestrian rider competing in dressage. Dover remained the only out (sharing the title once in 1996 with Australian diver Craig Rogerson) for 10 years. Then, during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the number of out athletes jumped to 15. London’s 2012 Olympics saw the number increase to 23. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro saw the number jump to 68 out athletes. And now we’re at over 160. 

So you get the trend building here. From one out athlete to more than 160. So very far, so very fast. And competing in everything from handball to sailing to golf to skateboarding. Also, noteworthy, New Zealand sent the first trans athlete, weightlifter Laurel Hubbard. These are but numbers and names, but to be sure, this sort of representation, this sort of visibility, is hugely important. Not just for athletes coming up behind them, but let’s think too of those out there, not yet even out, maybe watching in their parents’ living room. Seeing Tom Daley thank his husband, mention their son, this sort of queer normality being broadcast as if it is both groundbreaking and at the same time nothing at all — the importance of this cannot be overstated. 

On top of that, growing up gay, how many times were we all told, whether outright or simply implied, that sports were more or less off limits to us. Meant to display the peaks of gender and ability, sports were not meant for those who couldn’t fit neatly into that narrative. But it appears that that narrative is slowly becoming undone. Just look beyond the Olympics, to the wider world of sports. Earlier this summer, pro-football’s Carl Nassib came out.   

And maybe I’m just of a generation that marvels at the destruction of each and every boundary as they come down. We had so very little as far as representation back then. Now to see it all, and in so many different sports, you can’t help but to wonder what the future will hold for us; and it really delights the imagination, doesn’t it? 

It is the gayest Olympics yet. And if the trend laid out above continues, it will only get gayer as the years go on. And if it’s a barometer for anything, I think we will see a lot of things getting a bit gayer from now on.

Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer. He contributes regularly to the Blade.

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