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Comings & Goings

Zongker lands at Library of Congress; honors for Morrison

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Jorge Amaro, Comings & Goings, gay news, Washington Blade

The ‘Comings & Goings’ column chronicles important life changes of Blade readers.

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at [email protected].

Brett Zongker, gay news, Washington Blade

Brett Zongker

Congratulations to Brett Zongker who is now with the public affairs office in the Library of Congress. Brett joined the public affairs team at the Library of Congress to oversee communications on exhibitions, new collections and literary programs, among other public programs. In addition he will continue to teach in the School of Communication at American University, where he has been an adjunct professor since 2012.

Upon taking the position at the Library, Zongker said, “I’m thrilled to be returning to the world of Washington’s fantastic cultural institutions, and the Library of Congress has an amazing collection. I feel very lucky to be able to help tell stories from the Library’s vast archives and share more of the collection with the public.” Zongker has previously covered the arts, culture and museums during more than 11 years as a staff writer and multimedia journalist with the Associated Press.

Before joining the Library at the end of October, Zongker most recently served as senior associate director of media relations at George Washington University where he led media strategy, editorial planning and communications for the university’s academic and research programs. He worked closely with the GW Program on Extremism, the George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum, the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, and other schools and programs.

Congratulations also to Wes Morrison on receiving the AARP DC 2017 Andrus Award for Community Service. This annual award recognizes those who make a powerful difference in their community.

Morrison certainly meets all those criteria. AARP DC will donate $1,000 to Mary’s House for Older Adults on behalf of Morrison, in honor of this recognition. This charity was selected by Morrison to support Mary’s House vision of “independent, communal housing for older adults that eliminates the intense isolation experienced due to aging, subtle and not so subtle discrimination and intolerance based on one’s sexual/gender identity or orientation.”

Morrison worked for a major television network for 32 years before he was unexpectedly laid off in 2009. At the age of 64, not ready to retire, he wanted to be of service, especially to those in the LGBTQ community. Having personally lost nearly 100 friends from AIDS and other illnesses Morrison recognized that he and others in the LGBTQ community faced challenges in the areas of social and civic inclusion.

Then Morrison met Carol Page, a former AARP DC staff member, who invited him to march with AARP in the Capital Pride parade. It wasn’t long before he was volunteering with AARP on a regular basis. Morrison said, “I began to do presentations for AARP, which allowed me to engage with people and participate fully in living. Having people smile and say, ‘Thank you I didn’t know this program existed,’ fulfills my need to help improve their well being. We live in a world now where everyone is connected by technology, but it can still be isolating. The great thing about volunteering is the connectivity to people in the community.”

In addition to AARP, Morrison volunteers with the DC Office on Aging and Age-Friendly DC; contributes to the Cleveland & Woodley Park Village; and serves as an assistant coordinator at a school for English as a second language. He is a member of the Citizens Advisory Group at Iona Senior Services. Morrison participates in various groups advocating for LGBTQ seniors including: Whitman-Walker Health Aging Coalition, Mary’s House for Older Adults, Iona Senior Services LGBTQ Live Well Academy seminars, Capital Pride Parade and Festival, and Sibley Memorial Hospital transgender program.

Wes Morrison, gay news, Washington Blade

Wes Morrison

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Chaos erupts at Loudoun County school board meeting over trans students rights proposal

Two people arrested, two others injured

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(Screen capture from Loudoun County Public Schools public domain)

The Loudoun County School Board abruptly ended its meeting Tuesday as chaos erupted after parents who were against the school district’s implementation of Policy 8040 failed to observe rules regarding disruptions and decorum.

Loudoun Now reports Vice Chair Atoosa Reaser made the motion to curtail public comment about an hour after that portion of the meeting began. A brawl then broke out between members of the public, and Loudoun County Sheriff’s Department deputies were called to clear the room. 

Two people were arrested, and two people also suffered minor injuries. The names of those who were taken into custody and injured have not been made public.

The school board resumed its meeting at 6:30 p.m. after it ended the public comment session and deputies cleared the room. The school board entered into closed session to meet with legal counsel and discuss negotiations involving a bid award.

In light of the events that transpired at the school board meeting, a group of LGBTQ groups in neighboring Fairfax County in a statement called upon prominent community members to condemn the anti-transgender hate in Loudoun County.

“A coalition of organizations based in Northern Virginia is calling on local officials … to condemn the rise of anti-LGBTQIA+ hate, in particular animosity towards transgender and gender-expansive students, on display in Loudoun County,” reads the statement 

“In addition, the coalition is asking for the denouncement of support for this hate from other local groups, including the Fairfax County Republican Committee, the Family Foundation of Virginia and the Family Research Council,” it adds. “Finally, the members of these organizations are requesting visible displays of support for LGBTQIA+ students, particularly trans and gender-expansive students, in both words and deeds.”

More than 300 people attended the school board meeting, with many of them opposing Policy 8040 which would allow transgender students to use their preferred name and pronouns regardless of the name and gender in their permanent education record. The proposed policy would also not require them to provide any substantiating evidence.

Parents also expressed their support for Policy 8040 during the public comment session.

They spoke in favor of inclusivity and equality in the Loudoun County School District.

Parents who were against the policy cited the need to respect biology and privacy as their arguments. In addition, some speakers, including former state Sen. Dick Black expressed anger at the previous school year’s events such as the suspension of physical education teacher Tanner Cross after he refused to refer to trans students using their preferred pronouns.  

“The crowd repeatedly cheered public speakers who lashed out at school board members and denounced the plan that would provide bathroom and locker room access based on a student’s gender identity,” WTOP News reports.

Only 51 of the 249 speakers who had signed up for public comment ended up speaking before Reaser’s motion was passed.

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Pride flags vandalized, stolen in Loudoun County town

‘Bigoted efforts to terrorize members of our community will not stand’

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Vandals destroyed or stole several Pride flags that had been displayed at homes in Lovettsville, Va. (Screen capture via WUSA9))

Vandals this week destroyed or stole Pride flags that Lovettsville residents had displayed on their homes.

Calvin Woehrie told WUSA the vandals used a blade to slash the Pride flag that was hanging from his house. The D.C. television station reported the vandals also targeted Woehrie’s neighbors who are a lesbian couple with four children.

The Loudoun County’s Sheriff’s Office said the vandals damaged five Pride flags from three homes and they stole two more. A spokesperson for the Loudoun County’s Sheriff’s Office told WUSA the vandalism is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

“I wanted to address events that happened over the weekend, that are deplorable and devastating to the entire community,” said Lovettsville Mayor Nate Fontaine in a letter he sent to town residents on June 16. “Over the weekend, there was destruction of property that specifically targeted our LGBTQ community. To make this even more heinous is that the destruction of property was done during Pride Month. To have property destroyed targeting members of our community is horrible and can be frightening for those targeted.” 

“For the individuals who committed these crimes, know that your bigoted efforts to terrorize members of our community will not stand,” added Fontaine. “We are working closely with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and this has also been added as an agenda item for our June 24th Council meeting.”

Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, on Saturday described the vandalism as “absolutely unacceptable.”

“Whether someone is voicing an opinion or flying a flag, as Virginians — and as human beings — we must be respectful of one another,” wrote Youngkin in a Facebook post.

“Politicians always seem to be pitting neighbor against neighbor, but I am committed to bringing people together around our shared values, like treating others the same way you want to be treated,” he added. “We must all do better by respecting others’ right to live their lives freely, without being targeted because of who they are.”

WUSA reported Lovettsville residents bought Pride flags to replace the ones that had been vandalized and stolen.

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Transgender man murdered in Va.

EJ Boykin was shot outside Lynchburg store on June 14

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EJ Boykin (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

A transgender man was murdered in Lynchburg, Va., on June 14.

The News and Advance, a local newspaper, reported EJ Boykin, who was also known as Novaa Watson, was shot outside a Family Dollar store on the city’s Fort Avenue at around 6 p.m. Boykin passed away at Lynchburg General Hospital a short time later.

A spokesperson for the Lynchburg Police Department told the News and Advance the shooting may have been the result of a domestic dispute. Authorities added there is no evidence to currently suggest the shooting was a hate crime based on Boykin’s gender identity.

Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents reported Boykin was born and raised in Baltimore and was a student at Morgan State University. The blog said Boykin celebrated his 23rd Birthday on June 10, four days before his murder.

Tori Cooper, the director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative, in a statement notes Boykin is the fifth trans man reported killed in 2021. HRC notes at least 29 trans or gender non-conforming people are known to have been murdered so far this year.

“The level of fatal violence we’ve recorded this year is higher than we’ve ever seen,” said Cooper. “All of these individuals deserved to live. We must strike at the roots of racism and transphobia, and continue to work toward justice and equality for trans and gender non-conforming people.”

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