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Natalie Merchant goes deep

Former 10,000 Maniacs front woman curates solo career with new box set



Natalie Merchant, gay news, Washington Blade

When working on her new box set, Natalie Merchant says it was important to her to maintain a high quality throughout. (Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff; courtesy Nonesuch Records)

Natalie Merchant


Summer Tour 2017


‘3 Decades of Song’


Thursday, July 6


8 p.m.


Wolf Trap


Filene Center


1551 Trap Rd.


Vienna, Va.



Natalie Merchant, a ‘90s radio mainstay and former lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs, is sort of “bookending,” as she puts it, her solo material with the release of a new box set.

Out July 14 (postponed from a planned June release), “The Natalie Merchant Collection” is a deluxe, 10-CD box set that features her eight solo albums, a new studio disc called “Butterfly” that features four new songs and six catalogue tracks re-recorded with a string quartet, as well as a full disc of rarities and outtakes.

Merchant brings her summer tour to Wolf Trap on Thursday, July 6. She spoke to the Blade by phone last week from her home in upstate New York.

WASHINGTON BLADE: Why did you feel now was the right time for such a lavish box set?

NATALIE MERCHANT: It was a combination of factors. I feel that we’re definitely in the twilight moments of recorded music in the physical realm. As much as people talk about the resurgence of an interest in vinyl, I think that’s a small cult. So I felt like if I didn’t do it soon, there might not be an audience for it. I’ve also been steadily making records since the late ‘90s that have been a bit under the radar and I thought this would be an opportunity to combine all the work in one place for people who might have been familiar with what I was doing 20 years ago to see what I’m doing today.

BLADE: Was it hard to find a deal for it?

MERCHANT: Actually the suggestion came from Nonesuch a couple years ago because Nonesuch is owned by the same parent company as (her former label home) Elektra, so this idea of consolidating the whole catalogue under one roof was suggested and I thought that was a great idea. Elektra kind of folded for several years and I did feel like a lot of the records had gone out of print. Even my independent release, “The House Carpenter’s Daughter,” copies of it sell for like $50 online, which seemed silly to me because it’s really not worth that (laughs). It just felt like there were so many different factors. And also, when I did “Paradise is Here,” (a 2015 re-recording of breakthrough album “Tigerlily”), I went through all my archives, all the music, all the video, all the photography, so I had all these assets and I’d recently sort of curated them all, so this gave me an opportunity to put the book together. I just got it in the mail today.

BLADE: Oh wow, how does it feel to have it in your hands?

MERCHANT: It’s heavy! It feels very substantial. That’s my first impression. And my second impression is that it’s really so different from looking at a group of virtual files on a computer screen to have this whole thing in your hand and this 100-page book. It feels like a substantial amount of work that I think can get really distorted when you’re looking at it digitally. … It feels great.

BLADE: Did you have all this stuff yourself or did you have to round it up from various sources?

MERCHANT: It was interesting. One thing people might notice when they get the box set, is that it’s a different cover for (second solo album) “Ophelia” because the original photo was lost. Even Warner Bros. didn’t have it in their archives. I event went back to the original photographer, I went back to the original art director. I was the only person who had a lot of these assets. Also, I don’t want to sound morbid, but some day I’ll be dead and I wanted to make sure the material was presented in a way that I wanted it to be presented. I found it kind of shocking that they’d lost my art work but luckily I’m a bit of a pack rat, so I had many of the things that were necessary for this package in my basement including all the rarities which were in my own files at home.

BLADE: Do you feel a little more freedom to go deeper with your set list on your summer tour since you’re essentially touring this box set?

MERCHANT: If you include the 10,000 Maniacs songs, I’ve probably written about 250 songs. So yeah, it’s difficult to put together a set list of 26 or even 30 songs that are going to make everyone happy. But I think it’s going to be a really interesting set. I’m carrying a string quartet, piano, guitar, bass and drummer. It’s a big band and I think people will be pleasantly surprised by the arrangement of the material they know and to also hear some things they may not be familiar with.

BLADE: You sang at an anti-Trump rally earlier this year and have always been politically active. Why was that event important to you?

MERCHANT: It’s very disturbing what’s happening in our country right now. I believe that rally was on the even of the inauguration and I was in New York near Trump Tower. It was announced, I think, just two or three days before and we had 30,000 people there. That was encouraging and the next day was the women’s march and that was further confirmation that those of us who really sensed that the election of this man was extremely dangerous, you know, to have that many people show up in Washington the day after and protest was really encouraging. I’m hoping that we win back the House in 2018 at the very least. That would be a step forward. I don’t know about impeachment. I don’t know if that’s going to happen or how much things would improve if we have President Pence. So it’s frightening, really frightening, especially when he stepped away from the Paris accord. We don’t have time to mess around at this point. We have to transition from being a fossil fuel-based, energy-consuming country or we will not survive. It’s just really horrifying to think that we now have a president, whether he thinks global climate change exists or not, who would do that. That, to me, is the most important issue. But there’s women’s issues, there’s the health care issue, it’s overwhelming that there’s so many different fronts now and that we have to be fighting on. But I think without stabilizing the environment, or at least severely reducing the negative impact we’re having on the environment, we’re all fucked.

BLADE: Tell me more about the “Butterfly” disc. Of all the new material you might have recorded, why did you go with  the string quartet approach?

MERCHANT: Since 2008 I’ve been doing orchestral shows and quartet shows almost exclusively so when it came time to make this record, I think there are about 40 songs now that I have string arrangements for. I had the entire “Paradise is There” album, celebrating the 20th anniversary of “Tigerlily,” so I’d used several of the arrangements on that record, so this was an opportunity to do that with some of those other songs in the new arrangements that had never been recorded.

BLADE: Sometimes long-time fans balk at these kinds of sets and say, “Oh, she’s making us buy all this stuff we already have just to get the new material.” Was that a concern?

MERCHANT: I think the fan that has every single thing I’ve ever released is rare. I think most people will be kind of grateful, at least I am when there’s an artist I’m interested in, I may not have everything they’ve ever released. I buy a lot of box sets because I’ve missed some of the pieces and I guess I’m kind of the personality who’s a completist. I like to have complete sets. And people will be able to digitally access the two new (discs) if they want. There’s also  talk of a vinyl version (of the new material) coming out in the fall, so that’s another opportunity, but I don’t know. We’ll have to see. I also insisted it be very reasonably priced. I wanted it to be $50 or less.

BLADE: That’s certainly fair for a 10-disc set. 

MERCHANT: And I think Amazon will be selling it for $40-something.

BLADE: Did you have any creative battles at Elektra or did they pretty much let you do your thing?

MERCHANT: Well, two interesting things happened. When I went solo, Bob Krasnow, who’d been the chairman of the company the entire time I’d been on Elektra, I can’t remember under what circumstances he departed, but he was gone and Sylvia Rhone came in and I think Sylvia was eager to prove herself and she really liked the song, “Carnival.” She’d been responsible for breaking a lot of African-American bands and artists but not a white artist and and I think that was her challenge and she loved that song so that was a stroke of luck. And I heard that Jon Landeau, who’d been executive managing Bruce Springsteen since the beginning of his career, Bruce was taking a hiatus so Jon started managing me, so I had this encouraging situation at the company and had great management, so I felt protected and respected. I didn’t feel it was an antagonistic relationship with Elektra at that point. I think I’d proven myself with three platinum records with 10,000 Maniacs.

BLADE: Did you choose the singles or the label on your first few albums? 

MERCHANT: I think it was pretty obvious what the singles were on the first record. I don’t remember there being any discussion of that. I think with (third album) “Motherland” (2001), I wasn’t happy with a couple of the choices, but the first couple albums, it was fine. At that point, I was 30 years old, I’d been with the label since I was 19 and to be honest with you, I’d outlives just about everybody who worked at the label except the woman who ran the publicity department. I think we were the last two standing by the time it folded (laughs). … As people started doing more and more file sharing, the art department disappeared, the video department, it felt like departments were disappearing weekly until eventually the label just folded.

BLADE: Will you keep making records or is this set a sort of a bookend for you?

MERCHANT: It’s a little bit of a bookend because I’ll never be able to make records the way I did before. That leisurely two months in the studio, that’s just unheard of. “Leave Your Sleep” (2010) was the final project that I did on that scale and it took a full year to make that record. I employed, I think, 135 different musicians and it was folly in a way, but it was a beautiful folly. I still haven’t recouped and that was seven years ago (laughs). I felt like Orson Welles making “Citizen Kane” or David Lean making “Bridge on the River Kwai.” It felt like I had to make it even though it made absolutely no sense financially. But I learned so much from it and it still sold a quarter of a million copies which is still kind of unheard of in today’s market.

BLADE: You wouldn’t be happy doing something on a smaller scale? I saw Sheryl Crow last night and she has this great new album out that she made in her home studio while her kids were at school and it’s this really fun little album. You wouldn’t want to do something like that?

MERCHANT: I have two projects I’d like to do. One is to make an online database of folk music for children, performed by children. The other is a children’s theater company. I feel compulsive about creativity and there are so many different aspects to it. I’d love to do costume design, I would love to hire a choreographer and do some dance, or maybe research folk tales from other lands and other music. There are so many other things I want to do with music that don’t involve going into a studio, recording a pop record and going on tour. It used to be that years ago you’d get to a certain point in your career and then you’d start producing other artists. I think I would have done that more if the industry hadn’t collapsed.

BLADE: Did you have a lot of stuff to pull from for the rarities disc? Did you ever toy with the idea of doing a two- or three-disc set of all rarities?

MERCHANT: Well, for the rarities I wanted to put out music of high quality. I didn’t want it to just be all home demos and bad outtakes. It really is a combination of little-known tracks, like the collaboration I did with David Byrne for “Here Lies Love” or the track I did with the Chieftains, which I really loved going to Ireland and recording with them, that were really special moments in my career. And there was other unknown stuff that I’d been holding on to like “The Village Green” and “Too Long at the Fair” that were all recorded by great musicians in world-class studios under different circumstances. I did a session back in 2008 when I was looking for a label to put out “Leave Your Sleep” and I recorded a group of demos and we recorded some covers that were lovely covers, they just never belonged on a record. I wanted to put out only rare tracks that were of great quality.

Natalie Merchant says her self-described ‘pack rat’ tendencies came in handy when putting together her lavish new, 10-disc box set. (Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff; courtesy Nonesuch Records)


a&e features

Another busy summer season arrives in Rehoboth Beach

Fine dining, drag shows, theater, and more on tap for 2023



Joe Ciarlante-Zuber (right) with his husband and business partner Darryl Ciarlante-Zuber have another busy summer of events planned at Diego’s. (Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

The summer of 2023 will be an exciting time in Rehoboth Beach, with lots to see and do as always. Great people, and of course the sand, sea, and boardwalk. Everyone in town has been working hard over the winter to make this the best season ever at the beach. New businesses, old ones moving to new locations, milestone anniversaries, and just loads of fun all around. 

While I am often just a burger and fries’ guy, Rehoboth has become a real foodie paradise for those who enjoy, and appreciate, really fine dining. (For more on the dining scene, see separate story in the Blade.)

The City of Rehoboth has fewer than 1,500 full-time residents. Many who have a Rehoboth address like me, live outside the city boundary. But at any time during the summer season, the population swells to more than 25,000. Among them are many members of the LGBTQ community. If you are one of them, stop by CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBTQ community center, founded by Murray Archibald and Steve Elkins in 1991. 

Today, many of the businesses in town are owned by members of the community and even those that aren’t are supportive of the community. The most famous residents of the area are President Biden and first lady Jill Biden, who try to spend some weekends at their home there. Not sure how much time they will have this summer between the duties of being president and running for reelection.  I do know when there, they love the famous chicken salad sandwiches, among other great things, from Lori Klein’s Lori’s Oy Veh Café in the CAMP courtyard. Lori’s is celebrating its 27th season. If you stop in the courtyard, you will be pleased to see new tables and chairs where you can sit and enjoy your meal.

My favorite hangout on Baltimore Avenue, the gayest block in Rehoboth, is Aqua Grill. The perfect place to spend happy hour any day of the week. Chris, one of the hot and charming waiters, is back serving drinks on the deck. Then there is The Pines restaurant across the street with a great showroom upstairs and always fun entertainment. The guys who own it have expanded their operations with Drift on Baltimore and now taken over the old Philip Morton Gallery and turned it into their offices. They are also preparing to open Bodhi on 1st street. One of the great old standbys at the beach is The Purple Parrot Grill and Biergarten on Rehoboth Avenue. Owners Hugh Fuller and Troy Roberts make everyone feel welcome. The old girl has a bright new paint job this year and she’s better than ever with some great entertainment. 

Make sure you read the Blade’s column on food at the beach but here are just some of the places I passed on my walk around town on sidewalk sale weekend. There are Eden Restaurant, Azafran, and La Fable on the beach block of Baltimore Avenue. Then the always reliable standby the Blue Moon. In addition to some of the best food in town, the Moon has an extensive calendar of special events planned for summer, including the much anticipated return of talented NYC pianist Nate Buccieri beginning June 25. He plays Sunday-Thursday for most of the summer; check for specifics.

There is also Ava’s and Theo’s and Frank and Louie’s on the second block.The venerable Back Porch on Rehoboth Avenue has been serving some of Rehoboth’s finest food for decades, and, of course, Houston White further up the street if you’re craving a steak.Then there is Goolee’s Grill on 1st street and the new location of JAM on 2nd. Goolee’s is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a cocktail party on June 1, 5-9 p.m.; tickets are $15 and available online.

My favorite morning place, it has become my afternoon place as well, is the totally refurbished Coffee Mill in the mews between Rehoboth Avenue and Baltimore Avenue, just next to the wonderful Browseabout Books on Rehoboth Avenue. Dewey Beach residents will soon have their own Coffee Mill in a beachfront location, 1700 Coastal Highway. It will have a great view of the beach and ocean from its rooftop deck. Mel and Bob are going to be busy this year with all their places including Brashhh on 1st street, now celebrating its 11th year, and The Mill Creamery serving Hopkins ice cream. Longtime Rehoboth business owner Steve Fallon, one of the best promoters of the beach I know, has the fun Gidget’s Gadgets on Rehoboth Avenue and his second place selling vinyl records, Extendedplay. Then there is Coho’s Market and Grill on Rehoboth Avenue. 

Back on the gayest block in Rehoboth, Baltimore Avenue, don’t forget to stop in and purchase some incredible one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces, and now original art, at Elegant Slumming and then get your hair cut in The Grateful Head Salon.  

For more afternoon and evening entertainment there is the popular Diego’s Bar and Nightclub (37298 Rehoboth Avenue Ext.), a perfect spot for outdoor happy hours and late night dancing. Local legend Magnolia Applebottom holds court all summer with performances slated for the Thursday and Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. Sunday’s show runs 6-9 p.m. followed by DJ Mags “with her boys” from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. In addition to Magnolia, Diego’s brings internationally known DJs to town during the summer. And the free parking is a nice bonus in a town with a chronic shortage of parking spaces. Diego’s has an exciting summer of special events planned, so follow them online for updates. Among the acts coming to Diego’s this summer are “Jaws the Musical” (June 18), Ada Vox (July 5), and Edmund Bagnell (July 17). 

Don’t miss the always fun Freddie’s Beach Bar on 1st street, where the amazing Freddie Lutz has brought his wonderful concept from Virginia to the beach. The beloved Pamala Stanley performs periodically at Freddie’s; follow her on social media for updated dates.

Remember Rehoboth still has some great culture even if the town commissioners have been trying to force it out of town. The amazing Clear Space Theatre is stillon Baltimore Avenue. This season’s productions include Lucy in the Sea with Darvon, Jesus Christ Superstar, Kinky Boots, and The Spongebob Musical

This will be a summer not to miss at the beach. Better make your plans to visit soon, if you haven’t already, because hotels and rentals are booking fast. 

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Pride season arrives!

LGBTQ community events planned across region



A scene from the 2022 Capital Pride Parade. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Pride season has already begun. Last month’s Roanoke Pride filled the Virginia city’s Elmwood Park with rainbow flags. Pride events begin in D.C. this month and continue through June. Regionally, some cities have opted to hold their Pride events as late as the fall. 


Organizers of Trans Pride D.C. ( plan a full day of workshops and events on Saturday, May 20 at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library (901 G Street, N.W.). These events are currently listed on Facebook and Eventbrite as running from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. 

The HIV/PrEP Programs at the Charles County Department of Health are hosting PrEP for Pride 2023 at 4545 Crain Highway in White Plains, Md. on Saturday May 20 from 12-7 p.m. 

The festival is free, though those who RSVP will be entered into a door prize drawing. PrEP for Pride’s Eventbrite page advertises a pride walk, a PrEP Mini Ball, music, art, health & wellness information, food options and other vendors.

Equality Prince William Pride ( will be held on Sunday, May 21 at the Harris Pavillion (9201 Center Street, Manassas, Va.) from 12-4 p.m., according to its Facebook events page.

The event is billed as a family-friendly event with music, vendors and kids activities. Performers include musician John Levengood, BRUU Band & Choir and the drag artists Coco Bottoms, Muffy Blake Stephyns and Ophelia Bottoms.

D.C. Black Pride ( events are held throughout the city May 26-29 primarily at the Renaissance Washington DC Downtown Hotel (999 9th Street, N.W.). 

Official events include a Unity Ball, a vendor expo, a talent showcase, forums, parties and the annual Pride Festival in the Park at Fort Dupont Park on May 29 from 12-7 p.m.

A scene from the Us Helping Us Black Pride Festival at Fort Dupont Park last May. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The third Caroline County Pride Festival ( “A Carnival Adventure” will be held in downtown Denton, Md. (301 Market Street) on Saturday, May 27 from 3-8 p.m. according to the group’s Facebook event page.


Last year’s Baltimore Trans Pride March was held on June 5, 2022. (Washington Blade file photo by Linus Berggren)

Baltimore Trans Pride ( kicks off the month at 2117 North Charles Street in Baltimore, Md. on Saturday, June 3, according to Baltimore Safe Haven’s Facebook event page.

The Baltimore Trans Pride 2023 Grand March is to be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday along North Charles Street between 22nd and 23rd. The Block Party continues at 3 p.m. with performances beginning at 4 p.m.

Afterparties are scheduled at The Crown (1901 North Charles Street) and Ottobar (2549 North Howard Street). Baltimore Safe Haven also hosts a kickoff ball on Friday, June 2 at 2640 Saint Paul Street at 6 p.m.

Annapolis Pride ( holds its annual parade and festival on Saturday, June 3 from 12-5 p.m. on Inner West Street in Annapolis, Md. according to the Facebook event page

Hundreds lined the streets of downtown Annapolis for the Annapolis Pride Parade. (Photo by Jaime Thompson courtesy Fleur de Lis Photography)

Reston Pride ( holds its annual festival at Lake Anne Plaza (1609 Washington Place) in Reston, Va. on Saturday, June 3 from 12-6 p.m., according to the Facebook event page.

Last year’s Reston Pride festival was held at Lake Anne Plaza. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Ellicott City, Md. holds OEC Pride ( on June 3-4 in Old Ellicott City. Events include a mascara run up and down Main Street and a movie presentation of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”. 

Suffolk, Va. holds its third annual Suffolk Pride Festival ( on Saturday, June 3 from 5-8 p.m. at Bennetts Creek Park (3000 Bennetts Creek Park Road, Suffolk, Va.), according to the Facebook event page.

Portsmouth Pride Fest ’23 ( is the second annual LGBTQ community celebration in Portsmouth, Va. The festival is to be held on Saturday, June 3 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Portsmouth Festival Field next to Atlantic Union Pavilion, according to the Facebook event page.

The Alexandria LGBTQ Task Force presents the sixth annual Alexandria Pride ( at Alexandria City Hall in Market Square of Old Town Alexandria, Va. (301 King Street) on Saturday, June 3 from 1-5 p.m.

Newport News, Va. has its first I Am What I Am (IAWIA) Pride Festival on Sunday, June 4 from 12-7 p.m. at Tradition Brewing Company (700 Thimble Shoals Boulevard, Newport News, Va.), according to the Facebook event page.

The 2023 Cumberland Pride Festival ( will be held at Canal Place (13 Canal Street, Columbia, Md.) Sunday, June 4 from 12-4 p.m., according to the Facebook event page.

The 2022 Cumberland Pride Festival was held at Canal Place in Cumberland, Md. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Culpepper County in rural Virginia will be getting its very first pride celebration with Culpepper Pride Festival ( on Sunday, June 4 from 12-5 p.m. at Mountain Run (10753 Mountain Run Lake Road, Culpepper, Va.). An after-hours 21+ drag show will be held.

Equality Loudoun’s “Across the Decades” 2023 Loudoun Pride Festival ( will be held on Sunday, June 4 from 1-7 p.m. at Claude Moore Park (21668 Heritage Farm Ln, Sterling, Va.). This is a ticketed event with a $5 general admission.

Last year’s Loudoun Pride. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Delaware Pride ( is being celebrated as a festival on Saturday, June 10 at Legislative Hall (411 Legislative Avenue, Dover, Del.) from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. according to the Facebook page.

D.C.’s massive Capital Pride ( includes the 2023 Capital Pride Parade on Saturday, June 10 and the 2023 Capital Pride Festival on Pennsylvania Avenue on Sunday, June 11. On top of the many official events, there are a great number of parties in venues throughout the city over the week, including the not-to-be-missed Pride on the Pier and Fireworks Show, held 2-9 p.m. on Saturday, June 10 at the Wharf. There are two timed VIP sessions that include catered food and open bar. The region’s only Pride fireworks display, sponsored by the Leonard-Litz Foundation, takes place at 9 p.m. Visit for tickets and information.

Jerry Houston and Elizabethany of HOT 99.5 served as emcees of the 2022 Capital Pride Festival. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Third annual Pride in the ViBe, will be held at ViBe Park (1810 Cyprus Avenue, Virginia Beach, Va.) on Sunday, June 11 from 1-6 p.m., according to the Facebook event page.

Scenic Chesapeake, Va. is the backdrop for Pride in the ‘Peake 2023 at City Park Section B next to the basketball courts on Sunday, July 11, according to an posting.

Eastern Panhanlde Pride is to be held on Saturday, June 17 from 12-5 p.m. in downtown Martinsburg, W.Va., according to EPP’s Facebook page.

The Delmarva Pride Center presents DELAMRVA Pride ( with events from June 16-18. The DELMARVA Pride Festival is to be held on Saturday, June 17 along South Harrison Street in downtown Easton, Md. Other events include a drag show and a Sunday brunch, according to the Pride Center’s Facebook page.

The Ghent Business Association presents Ghent Pride “Party at the Palace Shops” on Tuesday, June 20 from 6-10 p.m. at The Palace Shops and Staton (301 West 21st Street, Norfolk, Va.), according to the Facebook event page. This is a ticketed event with general admission $13.

The Human Rights Commission of the City of Rockville holds the seventh annual Rockville Pride ( on Saturday, June 24 from 1-4 p.m. at Rockville Town Square (131 Gibbs Street, Rockville, Md.).

Arlington Pride ( holds events from June 23-25 that include a pageant, a brunch, a festival and an afterparty. The Arlington Pride Festival returns for its second year on June 24 from 12-7 p.m. at the Rosslyn Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway, Arlington, Va.), according to the Eventbrite listing.

Fredericksburg Pride ( holds events throughout the month, but everything culminates in the Pride March and then Festival on Saturday, June 24. The Pride March is held at Riverfront Park (705 Sophia Street, Fredericksburg, Va.) at 10 followed by the Festival at 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Old Mill Park (2201 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg, Va.).

The 10th anniversary Frederick Pride ( is to be held at Carroll Creek Linear Park on Saturday, June 24 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. with food, music, drag, vendors and more, according to the Facebook event page.

Chasity Vain performed at last year’s Frederick Pride. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Salisbury Pride ( Parade and Festival is on Saturday, June 24. The Parade begins at 2 p.m. at West Main Street and Camden Street. The parade moves along Main with the festival following the parade at 2:30. Magnolia Applebottom is the headliner and grand marshall, according to Salisbury Pride’s Facebook page.

The “Break Free 23” Hampton Roads Pride ( is set for Saturday, June 24 at Town Point Park (113 Waterside Drive, Norfolk, Va.) and includes the famous boat parade.

The Pride Center of Maryland hosts a number of Baltimore Pride ( events June 19-25. The big events include the annual parade and block party on Charles Street on Saturday, June 24 and the festival at Druid Hill Park on Sunday.

The 2022 Baltimore Pride Parade was held on June 25. (Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

July and beyond

You can look forward to LGBTQ pride celebrations in Harrisburg, Pa. and the Maryland towns of Hagerstown and Westminster as well as Black Pride RVA in Richmond, Va. in July. Other municipalities have decided to hold their pride celebrations a little later in the year. These pride events include Winchester Pride in Winchester, Va. (Sept. 9), Shenandoah Valley Pride in Harrisonburg, Va. (Sept. 16), SWVA Pridefest in Vinton, Va. (Sept. 16), Virginia Pridefest in Richmond, Va. (Sept. 23), TriPride in Johnson City, Tenn. (Sept. 23), Staunton Pride in Staunton, Va. (Oct. 7), Upper Chesapeake Bay Pride in Harve de Grace, Md. (Oct. 7), Pride Franklin County in Chambersburg, Pa. (Oct. 8) and Laurel Pride in Laurel, Md. (Oct. 14).

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Self-identification: What the plus in ‘LGBTQ+’ means

Terminology rapidly expanding into mainstream dialogue



(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

For a long time, many Americans refrained from talking about sexual orientation and gender identity because it was taboo. While these conversations are still uncomfortable for some people, others stay quiet simply because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. 

Among allies, there is fear that misgendering someone or misspeaking about another person’s sexuality will be viewed as being less inclusive. Meanwhile, older generations, even those within the LGBTQ+ community, also struggle to keep up as terms beyond “LGBTQ” rapidly enter mainstream lingo.

In either scenario, the plus in “LGBTQ+” can be misunderstood. But as awareness of these terms continues to rise, it’s important to know what they mean. 

Below are some of the most popular but misunderstood terms of self-identification, compiling gender identities (one’s concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither and what they call themselves) and sexual orientation (how one identifies in terms of whom they are romantically and/or sexually attracted to). 

Asexual refers to someone who lacks a sexual attraction or interest in sexual activities with others. Often called “ace(s)” for short, asexual individuals exist on a spectrum, wherein someone can be completely or partially asexual, meaning they may experience no, little, or conditional sexual attraction to another person. Little interest in sex, however, doesn’t diminish a person’s desire for emotionally intimate relationships. 

Cisgender, or simply “cis,” describes a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth. The terms cisgender and transgender originate from Latin-derived prefixes of “cis,” meaning “on this side of,” and “trans,” meaning “across from.” Just as “trans” can be added to terms describing gender to identify someone as a trans-woman or trans-man, the same can be done to say cis-woman or cis-man to identify someone as adhering to the sex associated with their gender at birth.

Meanwhile, gender non-conforming refers to someone who doesn’t behave in line with the traditional expectations of their gender. These individuals may express their gender in ways that aren’t easily categorizable as a specific gender. While many gender non-conforming people also identify as transgender, that isn’t the case for all gender non-conforming people.

Under the larger umbrella of gender non-conforming identity, non-binary describes a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or completely outside of those labels. 

Some non-binary people identify as transgender, but non-binary also references other identities such as agender (a person who does not identify as any gender), bigender (a person with two gender identities or a combination of two gender identities), genderqueer or gender-fluid.

Genderqueer people commonly reject notions of rigid categories of gender and embrace a fluidity of gender identity and sometimes sexual orientation. People with this identity may see themselves as being both male and female, or neither as they fall outside of binary gender norms. Gender-fluid is also within this range of non-conformity as these individuals don’t identify with a single fixed gender.

In terms of sexuality, pansexual refers to someone with the potential for emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to people of any gender. These feelings don’t necessarily arise simultaneously or to the same degree, and sometimes the term is used interchangeably with bisexual.

More recently, the two-spirit gender identity has enjoyed more mainstream use. Chosen to describe certain North American Indigenous and Canadian First Nation people who identify with a third gender, the term implies a masculine and feminine spirit in one body. 

Other gender expressions such as masc, referring to representations of masculinity without necessarily claiming a relationship to manhood, and femme, meaning expressions of femininity regardless of gender and relations to womanhood, are also used to describe how people dynamically express gender outside of gender norms.

Yet, just as terminology for self-identification is introduced, so are also new ways to describe how an individual feels about their identity. One term that everyone can relate to or aspire to have is gender euphoria – the joyful experience and sense of self that occurs when a person’s authentic gender is expressed and acknowledged by themselves and/or by others.

Most importantly, though, LGBTQ+ people use a variety of terms to identify themselves, some of which may not be mentioned in this article. Always listen for a person’s self-identification to use the preferred terms for them. 

(The Human Rights Campaign and Johns Hopkins University contributed to this report.)

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