October 19, 2017 at 12:00 pm EST | by Staff reports
Best of Gay D.C. 2017: PEOPLE
gay D.C. people, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Local Hero

Gavin Grimm

The American Civil Liberties Union in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Gavin Grimm, who was a student at Gloucester County High School in Gloucester, Va., at the time.

Grimm and his lawyers argued the Gloucester County School District’s policy that prohibited him from using the boys restroom or locker room because they were not consistent with his “biological gender” is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The lawsuit also alleged the regulation violated Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits schools receiving federal funds from discriminating on the basis of sex.

The Justice Department under the Obama administration argued in Grimm’s case that Title IX requires school districts to allow trans students to use restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. The Department of Education’s Office of the General Council at the time also filed a brief in support of Grimm.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond — which is the first federal appeals court to consider whether Title IX allows trans students to use facilities that are consistent with their gender identity — in April 2016 ruled in favor of Grimm. The Gloucester County School District subsequently announced it planned to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

The Supreme Court last October said it would hear Grimm’s case. Oral arguments were scheduled to take place on March 28, but the justices remanded the case to the 4th Circuit after President Trump rescinded the Title IX guidance.

The 4th Circuit in July sent Grimm’s case back to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The ACLU subsequently withdrew Grimm’s request for an immediate injunction against the Gloucester County School Board policy.

Grimm, 18, graduated from Gloucester County High School in June.

“I am in this for the long haul,” he said in an ACLU press release that announced the decision to amend his case. “I remain hopeful that my case will help make sure that other transgender students are able to attend school safely and without discrimination.”

Grimm in February was among those who spoke at a White House protest that corresponded with Trump’s decision to rescind the Title IX guidance.

“We will not be silenced and that we will stand with and protect trans youth,” said Grimm, speaking through tears with his mother standing by his side. “No matter what happens, no one, not even the government can even defeat a community so full of live, color, diversity and most importantly love.”

Equality Virginia and GLAAD are among the organizations that have honored Grimm over the last year.

— MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Gavin Grimm (Photo by Scout Turankjian; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Best Amateur Athlete

Mark Hofberg, D.C. Gay Flag Football

Runner-up: Grace Thompson, D.C. Front Runners (last year’s winner)

Mark Hoffberg (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Artist

John Jack Gallagher

Runner-up: Glenn Fry

John Jack Gallagher has been taking photos since his first boyfriend gave him a 35-millimeter camera for his birthday more than 30 years ago. In 2012, he started shooting professionally after members of the Stonewall Kickball team he’d been photographing insisted he shoot their wedding. This is his second consecutive win in this category. (JD)

John Jack Gallagher (Photo courtesy of John Jack Photography)

Best Businessperson

Dr. Gregory Jones

Capital Center for Psychotherapy & Wellness

1330 U St., N.W.

capitalpsychotherapy.com

Runner-up: Bob Witeck

Dr. Gregory Jones (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Clergy

Bishop Allyson Abrams

Abrams reclaims her 2015 title after being last year’s runner-up. Abrams is the founder and pastor of Empowerment Liberation Cathedral in Silver Spring.

Runner-up: Rayceen Pendarvis (last year’s winner)

Bishop Allyson Abrams (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Most Committed Activist

Ruby Corado

Corado was named Best of Gay D.C. Local Heroine in 2014 and Most Committed Activist in 2015.

Casa Ruby

2822 Georgia Ave., N.W.

casaruby.org

Runner-up: Jason Lindsay

Ruby Corado (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best D.C. Public Official

Mayor Muriel Bowser

Runner-up: Randy Downs

Muriel Bowser, Lesbians Who Tech, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Hill Staffer/LGBT Bureaucrat

Yesenia Chavez

Runner-up: Scott Filter

Yesenia Chavez identifies as queer. She got her start on Capitol Hill interning with the Victory Fund during her senior year at the University of Houston. After graduating with a degree in political science, she returned to the Hill in 2013 to work as a professional staffer for Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva. “Typically, I handle LGBT policy and push my boss on different efforts like the LGBT Data Inclusion ACT,” she says.

Chavez also serves on the board of LGBT Congressional Staff Association.

“For the past three years I’ve been coordinating events,” she says. “Our goal is to increase the professional development growth of members interns, fellow and staff on the Hill on the House side.”

“It’s important to have queer women of color at the table,” says Chavez, 26. “We’re a smaller contingency on the Hill. We must make sure we’re safe there.”

Chavez recently bought a home with her partner in D.C.’s Eckington neighborhood and is looking to put down roots.

“Washington is an interesting place to live. Young professionals come her because they feel passionate about giving back and doing something to make the country a better place, despite their political leaning. I don’t have the same conversation here that I have with people at back in Texas.” (PF)

Best of Gay D.C.

Yesenia Chavez (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Local Pro Athlete

Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

Last year’s runner up!

Runner-up: John Wall, Washington Wizards

Bryce Harper (Photo by Arturo Pardavila III; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Best Local Pro Sports Team

Washington Nationals

Editor’s choice: D.C. United

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Massage

Ben Auman

Runner-up: Jacob Gough

Ben Auman says he “values connections over everything else.” That’s what led him to a successful and fulfilling career as a massage therapist.

“I’m making connections with people I never would have gotten to make connections with before,” he says.

Auman moved to D.C. from North Carolina in 2005 and worked as a non-profit association manager and financial consultant. Helping his clients with their goal setting and financial planning led him to follow his own true passion: massage therapy. He studied at the Potomac Massage Training Institute and is now a Massage Therapist at Logan 14 Aveda Lifestyle Salon/Spa and the owner of Auman Massage Therapy.

Switching careers gave Auman a whole new perspective on life. “Before, getting up and going to work was a way to get paid. Now, I’m getting up every morning to do something I love and that I’m passionate about. It’s very fulfilling.” (BTC)

Ben Auman (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Fitness Instructor

Jared Keith Lee

Runner-up: Grace Thompson

After relocating from New York to Washington, Jared Keith Lee felt out of place in his new surroundings, and longed for a feeling of belonging. He found what he was looking for at SoulCycle.

“I left my job as a graphic designer to become a SoulCycle instructor,” he says. “I was having a hard time finding my own way here and a place that fit. At SoulCycle people were accepting. And it was fun.”

With inspirational coaching, loud music, candle light and a full body workout (they’ve added hand weights and core work), SoulCycle is indoor cycling re-invented.

“The music and lighting allows riders to separate from their inhibitions and insecurities. It’s an individual journey, and we welcome all levels of experience,” says Lee who’s been an instructor for two years and currently works at SoulCycle’s 14th and U and Mount Vernon locations.

Lee grew up in Virginia Beach, Va. He won a soccer scholarship to Hampden-Sydney College in Farmville, Va. And while he came out in his freshman year there, Lee never felt at home on the conservative campus, so he transferred to Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore to study photography and design. (PF)

Jared Keith Lee (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Real Estate Agent

Valerie Blake

Runner-up: Stacey Williams-Zeiger

Valerie Blake has sold real estate professionally in the D.C. area for 20 years.

Blake’s eclectic former positions include working as a diplomat overseas, a federal government executive and an adult education administrator for a training school in the federal government. She has lived in 12 states, D.C. and two foreign countries.

For Blake, working in the region is a great match.

“I think that there are so many people who are transients here that provide an opportunity to meet a lot of people that I would not get the opportunity to do otherwise,” Blake, who also won this award in 2015, says.” They come from all walks of life which really helps with my varied background because I’ve found that there are very few people that I can’t find something in common with. That’s one of the things that I think makes me help them.”

Blake, a straight ally and regular Blade contributor, has serviced the LGBT community since 1999.

“They have been a continued source of great clients and wonderful friends over the years,” Blake says.

As for her best tip for buying a home in the area, she says it’s all about balance.

“Find out how much of a mortgage you’re approved for and then reduce it so that you can continue to have a life as well as a house,” Blake says. (MC)

Valerie Blake

11 Dupont Circle, N.W.

dchomequest.com

Valerie Blake (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Real Estate Group

The Bediz Group, Keller Williams

1918 18th St., N.W.

bediz.com

Runner-up: The Evan and Mark Team, Compass

(Photo courtesy of the Bediz Group)

Best Rehoboth Real Estate Agent

Chris Beagle

Third consecutive win in this category!

Runner-up: Andy Staton

Chris Beagle (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Best Straight Ally

Pamala Stanley

Runner-up: Muriel Bowser

Singer Pamala Stanley joins an elite group as this year’s Best Straight Ally. Past title holders include everyone from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to local allies such as Meghan Davies (Whitman-Walker), Leigh Ann Hendricks (Level One) and Phil Hicks (PFLAG).

Stanley is beloved for her string of Billboard Hot Dance Club Play hits such as “This is Hot,” “I Don’t Want to Talk About It,” “Coming Out of Hiding” and more in the late ‘70s through the mid-‘80s.

Stanley says it’s hard to convey why she’s always felt so strongly at home with her gay fans.

“There’s a love for life there. They listen to what you have to say and you can really be yourself,” the dance diva says. “Years ago with the straight crowd, I felt there were certain things I couldn’t talk about — dating, life, men. I had to always make sure that I kept it a certain way. But when I played for the gay crowd, I could tell them anything — good, bad, whatever, and they just got a big kick out of it. They didn’t judge, they just loved you no matter what you were doing and … I think I needed that. They were always very good to me and just fun people.”

Stanley splits her time between her home on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and Rehoboth Beach, Del., where she performs year around at tea dances, jazz brunches, private parties and more. She’s at the Blue Moon (35 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del.) every Sunday and Monday and says she’s grateful to be in demand.

“I’m very busy here,” she says. “I’m lucky.” (JD)

Pamala Stanley (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Transgender Advocate

Sarah McBride

Runner-up: Gavin Grimm

By any measure, Sarah McBride has an impressive resume and an amazing list of accomplishments.

She first came to national attention in 2012 when she came out as transgender while serving as student body president at American University. Following her graduation, she interned at the Obama White House, becoming the first openly transgender woman to work there in any capacity. When McBride spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, she became the first openly transgender person to address the national convention of major political party.

McBride, who also won this category last year, has worked on LGBT issues at the Canter for American Progress and is currently the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign. A native of Wilmington, Del., she is also on the board of Equality Delaware and is widely credited with leading the successful effort to add gender identity and expression to her state’s nondiscrimination and hate-crimes laws.

McBride describes herself as an “outgoing introvert” and says that some of her major influences are Barack Obama, Franklin Roosevelt, Carl Sagan, Hilary Clinton and Abraham Lincoln. She dedicates her fierce activism to her late husband Andrew Cray, a transgender man and fellow advocate. They met when McBride was working at the White House. Cray was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2014, and just days after they married, he died. His death instilled in McBride a firm belief in the urgency of political and social change.

Her first book “Tomorrow Will Be Different” will be published in March. (BTC)

Human Rights Campaign Fund

1640 Rhode Island Ave., N.W.

hrc.org

sarahmcbride.com

Sarah McBride speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Stylist

Quency Valencia

Second consecutive win in this category!

Salon Quency

1534 U St. N.W. No. 1

salonquency.com

Runner-up: Bryan Smith

Quency Valencia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

To see winners in other categories in the Washington Blade’s Best of Gay D.C. 2017 Awards, click here.

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