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HRC and Planned Parenthood rescue Equality March

Thank you for helping to fund the resistance

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Human Rights Campaign, gay news, Washington Blade, Equality March

Activists carry Human Rights Campaign flags at the Equality March for Pride and Unity on Sunday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Two organizations deserve thanks for stepping up to the plate in a big way to help make Sunday’s Equality March for Unity and Pride the rousing success it was. The Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood came across with big donations and guarantees to allow us to pay for everything. That included portable toilets, the stage, the cost of covering the mall, hiring the organization that helped with the basics such as helping to secure the final permits, organizing volunteers, arranging security and ensuring the event would be accessible for those with a disability.

Months ago, David Bruinooge, who first proposed the march on Facebook, was joined by a small group of activists who spent countless hours working hard on this event. They chose the co-chairs and did the work to determine the platform and program. The group working with David included, among others, Anika Simpson, Ashley Smith, Khadijhah Tribble, Marvin Bowser, Jose Plaza, Ted Jackson, Sue Doster, Layha Spoonhunter, Robert York, Ryan Bos, Daryl Levine and Chris Dyer. They kept in mind the goal of ensuring this remained a grassroots event.

But the closer we came to the march it became clear the grassroots weren’t raising enough to pay for it. The Human Rights Campaign was the only one of our national LGBTQ+ organizations willing to front the needed money. Until the week before the march none of them even sent out dedicated emails to their constituents talking about the march and directing them to the official website where they could have donated. The thousands who came and marched in D.C. had no idea that until two weeks before the march the money to pay for the basics wasn’t there. The money for the rally and stage wasn’t guaranteed until the week before the march.

There are many reasons for this. The major one is the fear of some in the LGBTQ+ community that corporations and our national organizations have too much control and don’t represent us fully on every issue. Some still would insist on a purity of purpose in anyone who participates, which leads them to overlook some of the history of our movement and of other movements that have fought for civil and human rights.

It is not unusual that allies in any movement don’t conform to every nuance of the movement. The corporate world has become a needed and strong ally necessary to our progress. We fought decades to get major corporations to lead the way espousing diversity and practicing what they preach. Today, the success of our community in some fights such as North Carolina and Indiana wouldn’t have been possible without them. Our national organizations are by nature political. They deal with the world the way it is, not the way we would like it to be. Sometimes that leads to making decisions not acceptable to all in our community. I stand second to no one in having criticized a number of them. But despite that it is important to recognize why they must be there and remain strong.    

As a cisgender white male in no way can I feel what some in our community feel or deal with every day. The slights I face as a gay white male can never compare to what my African-American LGBT friends, or a Latina transgender woman, face every day. But we can and do fight together for all our rights.

It was heartening that for the Equality March for Unity and Pride we all joined hands; African American, white, Latino, Asian, gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, questioning, two spirit and everyone who may self-identify in another way. For at least one day we were able to blend and raise our voices demanding equality, full civil and human rights for all.

Looking out at the crowd it was inspiring to see we were joined by allies. The straight community; immigrants fighting for their rights, women still fighting for their rights, men who understand their world will be better when everyone is equal; all speaking out for us as we must speak out with and for them. John Donne wrote the poem “No Man is an Island.” That is truer today than ever before. We are all under attack by an administration and a congress with few morals and less understanding of what decency and equality are. We must stand together and ‘resist’ and the Equality March for Unity and Pride was a beautiful and inspirational part of the resistance.

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

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. T!me Warper

    June 12, 2017 at 11:18 am

    No surprise here. The moochers mooched as they always do and white guy money funded their separate agendas yet again. That’s another reason the defund the HRC and build a real gay rights group.

  2. Kathy11

    June 12, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    50-80,000 people can hardly be called a rousing success for a national march. Maybe for a small city. NY had what – 30,000 marchers alone & 2 million attendees?

    Kind of an embarrassment.

  3. Thom

    June 12, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    “Rousing success”? “Us”?

    “There are many reasons for this.” ? How about the fact that most people thought this was a pathetic attempt for third rate hacks to perceive themselves as important on the national stage. I wonder what the other pandering sycophants will have to say.

    Rosenstein is too dim witted and full of himself to understand the concept of being co-opted. Chad Griffin doesn’t take a &*$t without an ulterior motive.

  4. uhhuhh

    June 13, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Ugh, get off the floor and stop licking the boots of people who put nursing their subidentity victimhood ahead of opposing Trump.

  5. Rich C.

    June 14, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Just like I don’t want to pay for anyone’s abortion with my tax money, I don’t want any of PP’s blood money.

  6. Kemwit Tall Tree

    June 27, 2017 at 11:51 am

    50,000-80,000 demonstrators is a success? Not in my book. Anyone remember back in 1993 when almost a million people descended on the city?

    The reason the march didn’t raise any funds from the gay community is because the march had little to do with the gay community.

    Oh and Planned Parenthood? Maybe the money used in supporting the march was diverted from killing the unborn. We can only hope.

    Although, you have to give credit to Capital Pride, they didn’t an excellent job with setting up all of the events.

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Commentary

Sondheim’s art will be with us for the ages

Iconic work explored sadness, rage, irony, and love of humanity

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Stephen Sondheim (Screen capture via CBS)

“The only regret I have in life is giving you birth,” his mother wrote in a letter to Stephen Sondheim.

The only regret so many of us feel now is that Sondheim, the iconic composer and lyricist, died on Nov. 26 at his Roxbury, Conn. home at age 91.

He is survived by Jeffrey Romley, whom he married in 2017, and Walter Sondheim, a half-brother.

F. Richard Pappas, his lawyer and friend, told the New York Times that the cause of death was unknown, and that Sondheim had died suddenly. The day before he passed away, Sondheim celebrated Thanksgiving with friends, Pappas told the Times.

“Every day a little death,” Sondheim wrote in “A Little Night Music.”

This isn’t the case with the passing of Sondheim. Whether you’re a Broadway star or a tone-deaf aficionado like me, you’ll sorely miss Sondheim, who the Times aptly called “one of Broadway history’s songwriting titans.”

Like multitudes of his fans, I don’t remember a time in my life when a song from a Sondheim musical hasn’t been in my head.

When I was a child, my parents repeatedly played the cast album of “Gypsy,” the 1959 musical with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents. My folks loved the story of the show, which was loosely based on the life of the burlesque artist Gypsy Rose Lee. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Ethel Merman belt out “Everything’s Coming Up Roses!” When I need to jumpstart my creative juices, I remember that “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.”

In college, I felt that “Company,” the 1970 musical with music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by George Furth, spoke to my generation. 

As was the case with Sondheim’s musicals, “Company” didn’t have a conventional plot, happy ending, or tidy resolution. It takes place during Bobby’s 35th birthday party. Bobby, who is single, is celebrating with his friends (straight, married couples). Bobby likes having friends but doesn’t want to get married.

Sondheim didn’t come out as gay until he was 40. Yet, even in the 1970s, it was hard not to think that Bobby in “Company” wasn’t gay.

Once you’ve heard Elaine Stritch sing “The Ladies Who Lunch” from “Company,” it becomes indelibly etched in your brain.

Who else but Sondheim could have written, “And here’s to the girls who play/smart-/Aren’t they a gas/Rushing to their classes in optical art,/Wishing it would pass/Another long exhausting day/Another thousand dollars/A matinee, a Pinter play/Perhaps a piece of Mahler’s/I’ll drink to that/And one for Mahler!”

In September, I, along with legions of other theater lovers, were thrilled when Sondheim told Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show,” that he was working with David Ives on a new musical called “Square One.”

In his musicals from “Follies” to “Sweeney Todd” to “Sunday in the Park with George,” Sondheim, through his lyrics and music, revealed the internal depths of his characters and the sadness, tenderness, bitterness, rage, irony, wit, and love of humanity. Sondheim’s wordplay was so brilliant that he did crossword puzzles for New York magazine.

Over his decades-long career, Sondheim won every award imaginable from the Pulitzer Prize for “Sunday in the Park with George” to the Presidential Medal of Freedom (awarded to him by President Barack Obama in 2015). He received more than a dozen Tony Awards for his Broadway musicals and revivals as well as a Tony Award for lifetime achievement in 2008.

Thankfully, Sondheim’s art will be with us for the ages.

A remake of “West Side Story,” directed by Steven Spielberg with a screenplay by Tony Kushner, premieres this month.

Sondheim is a character in the Netflix film “tick, tick BOOM!,” directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The movie is based on an autobiographical posthumous Jonathan Larson (the composer of “Rent”) musical. Sondheim is supportive of Larson’s work.

Thank you Stephen, for your art! R.I.P.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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Publish trans employment stats

Not enough corporations that march in Pride are hiring non-binary staff

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On Nov. 10, the top-tier consulting firm McKinsey published a report on discrimination toward trans people in the workplace. The report came out with numbers that we have all known true for a long time and lead to one conclusion: Trans people have a harder time finding jobs, holding them down, and advancing in their careers. 

Specifically, McKinsey cited the fact that cisgender people are twice as likely to be employed as trans people, and that more than half of trans employees are uncomfortable being out at work. Meanwhile, cisgender employees make 32% more than trans employees in the workplace, even if those trans employees hold the same positions or higher positions. 

On top of this, trans people are 2.4 times more likely to be working in the food and retail industries, which pay entry level wages that are much less than decent pay. 

These statistics are true based on a number of factors. For one, many trans people have a harder time passing at work, and people who don’t pass well face worse job prospects. (As a side note, on top of that, the study pointed to the fact that many trans people exert undue emotional and psychological energy into trying to pass really well and not be discriminated against, which takes a toll on their mental health.) 

So what is a concrete step that corporations can take to make the trans experience in the workplace better? It’s time that corporations step up their game by publishing and making transparent the number of trans employees that they actually hire. Such numbers can be published in any kind of company document: a pamphlet, online report, or even annual shareholder’s report. As it is, most corporations do not publish numbers on LGBT employees. 

“Rainbow capitalism” is a term we know all too well: major corporations and multinationals flaunting a rainbow and trans pride flag during the month of June, but seemingly doing little to hire more trans people or give back to the community during other months. 

Every corporation surely has the time and company-wide infrastructure to get statistics on their trans employees. All they need to do is implement a company-wide survey to new hires. This takes extremely little effort and time in the grand scheme of company workings. 

If major corporations like McKinsey, Bain, Deloitte, defense contractors, and hundreds of other huge companies published statistics on trans employees, they would be held accountable for their actions and words.

If these statistics were to be published today, we would probably find out that not enough corporations that march in Pride parades are hiring trans and gender nonconforming employees. 

Turning the numbers against corporations will ensure that these same corporations finally live up to their words about workplace inclusion and diversity. It won’t cure everything about the issue of being trans in the workplace, but it’s a step in the right direction. 

Isaac Amend (he/him/his) is a trans man and young professional in the D.C. area. He was featured on National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ in 2017 as a student at Yale University. Isaac is also on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Find him on Instagram @isaacamend.

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Should we be scared of Omicron?

A reminder to stay vigilant against latest mutation

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It’s Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend when I sit down to write this column. The craziness in the world continues but other than the scare of the new COVID mutation, which has been named Omicron, there isn’t one headline to grab attention. Instead, there are many, including some manufactured by the news media to gain viewers or sell papers. Some like the car rampaging through the Christmas parade is frightening but incidents like this seem to be happening all too often.  

The stock market went down 1,000 points on Friday because market players freaked out about the new COVID mutation coming out of South Africa. However that didn’t seem to stop people from spending their money on Black Friday. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) was again on the attack this time against fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) accusing her of being a Muslim terrorist. She apologized, or pretended to, but again the Republican leadership wouldn’t condemn her statements. These things seemed to be grist for the news media with no one else unfortunately really voicing concern. 

Boebert’s comments were taken as old hat. They are disgusting, offensive, and dangerous, but as long as her constituents reelect her we will have to live with them. She is joined by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.),  Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), and Paul Gosar  (R-Wyo.) who represent the worst in Congress and the worst of the American people. Yet again until their constituents throw them out we have to live with their stupidity and the absurdity of their being where they are. 

The new COVID mutation out of South Africa is potentially a game changer. But it will be important for scientists to look at this carefully to determine how quickly it spreads and whether or not the current vaccines will offer any protection against it. Countries around the world, including the United States, have quickly instituted travel bans for South Africans and those in countries surrounding it. The World Health Organization at this time has suggested this should not be done as it will have limited impact on its spreading and could have severe and detrimental economic impact on countries whose people are being banned. One thing we must learn from this is how important it is to ensure everyone all over the world has access to vaccines as we know the more people who are inoculated the harder it is for the virus to mutate. It is not time to panic yet and by Sunday there was some reporting this new mutation may not be any more difficult to deal with than the current ones and not lead to any more severe illness. The takeaway from all this is we need to keep vigilant, get vaccinated and get booster shots, and make sure we vaccinate our children. Continue to wear masks indoors and wash our hands. 

Now the other interesting stories last weekend were about what will happen in the Senate in the weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays. Remember the House of Representatives passed President Biden’s Build Back Better bill as a reconciliation measure, which means it can pass the Senate with a simple majority. That would mean every Democratic senator and the vice president. The focus is on two senators: Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sinema (D-Ariz.). In reality we need to look at a number of others who will fight to either take out or put something into the bill the House passed. It is clear it will not pass in the current form and then it has to go back to the House again. 

Another issue that will be taken up is the debt ceiling. It may be a little easier than thought because as recently reported, “After taking a hard line and refusing to negotiate with Democrats during the last standoff over the debt limit, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is quietly looking for a way to get the issue resolved without another high-profile battle.” Then there is the budget and since none is passed Congress will have to pass another continuing resolution since the one they passed in September expires on Dec. 3. 

So for the next few weeks there will be a focus on the Senate to see what they do and how obstructionist Republicans want to be. Seems while things change, they somehow remain the same.

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

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