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Pride Alley premieres at 2017 Awesome Con

New feature is spotlight for queer creators and fans



Awesome Con, gay news, Washington Blade

Last year’s Awesome Con drew enthusiasts of many realms of pop culture and sci-fi. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Awesome Con
June 16-18
Washington Convention Center
801 Mt. Vernon Pl., N.W.

This weekend, Awesome Con returns to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, promising plenty of fun, excitement and costumes worthy of Fantasy Fest.

At its heart, Awesome Con embraces all aspects of geekdom and pop culture, offering a wide assortment of comic books, collectibles, toys, games, original art, cosplay and more. Special events include discussion panels, costume contests, trivia contests, gaming tournaments, and tons of activities for kids.

A new feature this year is Pride Alley, which involves a dedicated programming track celebrating LGBT comic creators and a special area of its Artist Alley. It will also offer three days of panels and special events.

“Awesome Con is proud of all of our fans, guests, exhibitors and artists and as we started to build this year’s event, we wanted to do more and create a bigger platform to better celebrate and educate D.C.’s LGBTQ community,” says Ben Penrod, founder of Awesome Con. “This is important to us and who we want to be.”

Joey Stern, president and co-founder of Geeks OUT, a non-profit community organization that has been obsessed with making queer geek safe spaces since 2010, was a big part in bringing Pride Alley to life. Stern was the mastermind behind Flame Con, a two-day comic, art, and entertainment expo showcasing creators and celebrities from all corners of LGBT fandom.

“This is a joint venture between Awesome Con and Geeks OUT,” Stern says. “We have been going to Awesome Con now for three years and it’s one of the most accepting and open creative conventions we attend. We developed a relationship with the organizers and through that, we discussed ways to better integrate the LGBTQ presence already there to make it more visible.”

Those who have been to Awesome Con before understand that there’s a lot going on and it’s wall-to-wall people, booths and events, so it’s easy for things to be lost in the crowd.

“If you’re serving a niche market, like primarily making queer art, you want to make sure that people who don’t know about you can find you,” Stern says. “The same thing goes for panels and discussions. You might need to seek it out and people may miss out on events they want to see.”

Pride Alley was created as a way to better get LGBT artists and creators in front of their fan base as well as open up a chance to be discovered by more people.

“We wanted to put ourselves on the floor in a way that was clear and noticeable and gives it its own breathing space, while also being integrated with the convention itself,” Stern says. “It’s part of the show, it’s part of the experience, yet it’s called out special.”

Numerous interesting and thought-provoking panels are part of Pride Alley, there’s a special T-shirt designed for the occasion and some of the best LGBT artists working today.

“This is unique integration that I hope other conventions will think about,” Stern says. “You as a queer person who is attending can find it, can see what you’re looking for, but at the same time are not shifted away from the rest of the convention.”

LGBT HQ will be among those exhibiting (booth 1434) featuring its infamous LGBT Passport with interactive programming, Kid Riot comics courtesy of the Demon Hotel, cosplayer/actress/advocate Jay Justice, Mr. Green Lantern 2017 Danny Lantern, and the cosplay and advocate staff of LGBT HQ.

“This is our second year exhibiting and our booth is primarily a hub for whatever interactive LGBT programing happens at the convention at any given time,” says Matthew Levine, LGBT HQ’s director. “We provide a safe space for everybody who is there.”

The booth has a superhero background, offering fun photo opportunities, and will play host to the panel, Cosplay Rule 63, dissecting the difficult navigating of gender-bent and cross-play cosplay with speakers Jay Justice, Danny Lantern, Les Levi, Jazmine Cosplays and Mischief Matthew.

“In addition, we do a LGBT passport program, which acts as a scavenger hunt and brochure all in one,” Levine says. “It lists all the active LGBT cosplayers, vendors and supporters at the Con, and people go around getting their signatures for a chance to win great prizes.”

LGBT HQ will also sponsor its third annual unofficial cosplay contest at Green Lantern Bar (1335 Green Court, N.W.), starting at 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 17. Guest judges include Aaron Paul and Mr. Green Lantern 2017 Danny Lantern.

“You can’t ask for a better name for an after party of a comic con than a bar named Green Lantern,” Levine says. “There are no presumptions. The event is just so much fun and very tongue-and-cheek. It provides the campy atmosphere that people want when they put on costumes and go to Awesome Con.”

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DC Aquatics Club swimmers reflect on world title win

Team took 125 gold medals en route to breaking 72 DCAC records



The District of Columbia Aquatics Club sent 42 swimmers to the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics world championships in Palm Springs, Calif. (Photo courtesy DCAC)

The District of Columbia Aquatics Club sent 42 swimmers to the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) world championships in Palm Springs, Calif., in April on a mission to capture their first world title since 2013.

It was a long road back to international competition for the DCAC swimmers after the disruption of training and travel brought on by the worldwide pandemic.

When the team returned from IGLA in Melbourne, Australia in March of 2020, their training pools were closed, and all competitions were canceled.

By May they had established a training site in the South River in Annapolis where they swam until November of that year. Eventually, pools began to reopen, and the team was faced with battling for training time in COVID-restricted pools.

Following the postponement of the 2022 Gay Games in Hong Kong, the IGLA community scrambled to put together a competition in Palm Springs that would be hosted in tandem by West Hollywood Aquatics and the Long Beach Grunions. 

DCAC’s swimmers in Palm Springs consisted of a mix of veterans and rookies ranging in age from 22 to 76 years old. Each swimmer was eligible to enter five individual events and three relay events.

With 67 teams in attendance, DCAC jumped out to an early lead on day one in the large team category with West Hollywood Aquatics and San Francisco Tsunami in close pursuit. 

Despite the disqualifications of two of their winning relays for early takeoffs, DCAC held on to their lead over the remaining three days to claim their first world title in nine years.

Three DCAC swimmers, Grant Casey, Carmen Robb and Jerry Frentsos, won gold in all five of their individual events. In total, the team won 125 gold, 66 silver and 35 bronze medals en route to breaking 72 DCAC team records.

Addison Winger was a first time IGLA swimmer and hadn’t competed in 12 years. He had heard the tales from past IGLAs and wanted to join in on the fun.

“It was a great experience to compete for DCAC at an international competition. I had never been in a championship meet before where you go through the process of tapering, shaving, and suiting up in tech gear,” says Winger. “The relays were amazing, and I enjoyed taking advice and feedback from our coaches to incorporate into future races. It was also great spending quality team with my teammates outside of the pool.”

Olivia Kisker had competed with DCAC at IGLA Melbourne in 2020 and was looking forward to traveling with her team again.

“Even though the days were long at the pool, we still had time for Joshua Tree, the gondolas and all that Palm Springs has to offer,” Kisker says. “I love traveling and doing it with your teammates provides a setting for bonding and getting to know people better. I also enjoyed competing against my teammate Sarah. It’s like a friendship and a rivalry.”

Craig Franz restarted his post-COVID competitive swimming at IGLA Palm Springs and went on to a training camp and open water race in Hawaii this past month.

“The whole thing about this team is relationships and sharing swimming as a common denominator. The swim competitions legitimize building relationships and supporting each other in healthy ways,” say Franz. “Palm Springs felt like a more relaxed setting, and we needed this meet to rebuild the team. It provided a nutritional base for what we are about – swimming and friendships.”

Sarah Padrutt had not competed since 2019 and all the talk about past IGLAs prompted her to attend for the first time.

“I had so much fun, and it was cool having people cheering and being supported by teammates,” Padrutt says. “It was also a nice wakeup call, a reminder of how much I like competing. I like the pressure of racing and being on relays with my team. It was a very positive experience.”

Charles Cockrell has been a Masters swimmer for decades and is the chair of the Legislation Committee for United States Masters Swimming. He came out in 2019 and these championships marked his first time competing at IGLA.

“I wanted to compete at a swim meet that was a combination of the LGBTQ community and the sport of swimming. It was a fun, accepting and engaging environment,” says Cockrell. “The takeaway was that everyone was enjoying themselves and it was nice to be gathered together in a queer space. There was an atmosphere of camaraderie, and it was great being attached to a big team like DCAC.”

Coming up next for DCAC is the United States Masters Swimming Nationals in Richmond in August. Next year, the team will travel to London for the 2023 IGLA world championships to be held in the London Olympic Pool.

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Out & About

10 LGBTQ events this week

See more than just the fireworks in the days ahead



From movie nights to dance parties, there is a lot to do in the region this week. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Below are our picks for some of the most fun and creative things to do this week in D.C. that are of special interest to the LGBTQ community.

MNSkating’s Pride Too!

Monday, June 27
7:30 p.m.
Laurel Skating Center
9890 Brewers Court
Laurel, Md.
Facebook | Meetup

Join the Monday Night Skaters for a Pride-themed skating party in Laurel, Md. on Monday.

Queen of the Capital at Adams Morgan Movie Nights

Tuesday, June 28
8-11 p.m.
Adams Morgan Soccer Field

The Adams Morgan Partnership BID will be showing “Queen of the Capital” from local documentary maker Josh Davidsburg.

Pride Night at Frederick Keys

Wednesday, June 29
6-9 p.m.
Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium
21 Stadium Drive
Frederick, Md.
Facebook | Tickets

Join Pride on the Patio for a night of baseball as the Frederick Keys hold Pride Night sponsored by the Frederick Center.

LGBTQ Families Discussion & Beer Tasting

Wednesday, June 29
7-8 p.m.
Aslin Beer Company
847 South Pickett Street
Alexandria, Va.
Facebook | Tickets

Rainbow Families will have an informal discussion about such topics as coming out, celebrating your child’s identity, being a good ally in the workplace and more . . . followed by a beer tasting! No charge, but donations will be taken.

First Friday LGBTQ+ Social with GoGayDC

Friday, July 1
7-9 p.m.
The Commentary (in the Westin)
801 North Glebe Road
Arlington, Va.
Facebook | Eventbrite

Join GoGayDC for a monthly social gathering in Ballston.

Drag Race All-Stars Viewing Party

Friday, July 1
7-9 p.m.
JR.’s Bar
1519 17th Street, N.W.

Get together with other Drag Race super fans for an evening viewing party hosted by Citrine.

Outdoor Movie Night

Friday, July 1
8:30-10:30 p.m.
Stead Park
1625 P Street, N.W.

Bring your blanket and catch a movie on the big screen at Stead Park.

FireWerk with DJ Chord

See more than just the fireworks in the days ahead

Friday, July 1
9 p.m.
AquaGrill Reho
57 Baltimore Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Kick off Independence Day weekend in Rehoboth with a no cover dance party at AquaGrill.

Zodiac Drag Contest

Zodiac Drag Contest (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Sunday, July 3
8 p.m.
Freddie’s Beach Bar
555 23rd Street S
Arlington, Va.
$5 cover

The monthly amateur drag competition returns to Freddie’s on Sunday. Check out the new talent (or try it out yourself).

Flashy 4th of July Weekend

Sunday, July 3 – Monday, July 4
10 p.m.
645 Florida Aveune, N.W.
Facebook | Eventbrite

Celebrate Independence Day with a Flashy 4th of July on the dance floor of Flash.

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PHOTOS: Loudoun Pride

LGBTQ community celebration held at Claude Moore Park in Sterling, Va.



Loudoun County, Va. elected officials gather on the main stage at Loudoun Pride on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The first Loudoun Pride was held at Claude Moore Park in Sterling, Va. on Saturday, June 26.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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