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QUEERY: Topher Hoffmann

The Gays Against Guns activist answers 20 gay questions

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Topher Hoffman, gay news, Washington Blade

Topher Hoffman (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Topher Hoffmann moved to Washington about two weeks prior to the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016. He saw a Facebook event page for an anti-gun gay group forming and showed up.

“I didn’t have a queer support network yet and needed to channel my grief in a healthy way,” says the 27-year-old Buffalo, N.Y., native.

Gays Against Guns (GAG) is a national organization that “names, shames and blames the gun lobby, violence profiteers and their GOP benefactors on Capitol Hill. The GAG-D.C. chapter, a volunteer group that has a 15-member core and 100 on its e-mail list, “leverages its proximity to the national political scene by taking political theater, direct action tactics to the grounds of the Capitol.”

On Saturday, March 31, the second annual GAG Ball is from 6-10 p.m. at the Living Room D.C. (1008 Vermont Ave., N.W.), a tea dance that celebrates the intersectionality of queer life and the anti-gun movement. Tickets are $17.89 on Eventbrite (the ball also has its own Facebook page) and all proceeds go to expanding GAG-D.C.’s efforts including “calling attention to the gun lobby apparatus and the (National Rifle Association’s) stranglehold on our democracy.”

Hoffmann supports what he calls “sensible” gun reform. He’s not opposed to gun ownership but says semiautomatic rifles and other weapons designed for the military need to be banned.

“Gun violence prevention is important to me because it’s a public health crisis,” Hoffmann says. “I believe addressing it opens the door to other salient issues including money-over-morals attitudes, police brutality and excessive militarism, toxic masculinity, racism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia.”

Hoffmann works as a public health research analyst and came to Washington for work after several years in Pittsburgh.

He’s single and lives in Mt. Pleasant. He enjoys reading, exercise and video games in his free time.

 

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I’ve been out for 11 years. The first person I came out to was when I was 15 in 10th grade algebra class. My parents were the hardest to tell. They hadn’t met a gay person (that they knew of) before me. I’m proud of them for how they’ve educated themselves and today they’re advocates.

 

Who’s your LGBT hero?

Historical figures: Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, James Baldwin, Oscar Wilde, Alan Turing. Also: Edward Sotomayor Jr., Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, Josh McGill, and all of the heroes of Pulse (RIP). Living inspirations include Danica Roem, Brian Sims, Jonathan van Ness and Alaska Thunderfuck.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present? 

 Trade and Uproar.

Describe your dream wedding.

Something laid back and not a big deal and intimate. Like a day brunch at a distillery or museum with smart, casual attire and an after-party at a friend’s house or local bar.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Overturning Citizens United, reforming the justice system, fighting white supremacy and promoting civic engagement and voter turnout.

What historical outcome would you change?

The 2016 presidential election comes to mind.

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

Christina Aguilera showed gays unapologetically kissing in her 2002 music video for “Beautiful” — and with tongue! I was in middle school at the time and only I knew I was gay back then, so that was a big pop culture moment to me.

On what do you insist?

Open, straightforward and honest communication.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

I posted a picture of an unbothered pug wearing sunglasses, a bow tie, giving the peace sign and holding a glass of Champagne.

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“Walk with a Purpose (and other tips for pretending like you know what you’re doing)”

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

I would welcome all of the formerly straight people to our community.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

 I’m not affiliated with any man-made religious institution, but the human spirit is undeniable. I believe all living beings and the universe are connected in a spiritual sense.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

An attack on any of us is an attack on all of us, but a victory for some of us is not necessarily a victory for all of us. Don’t leave queer people of color behind. Don’t leave out trans and gender non-conforming people. Use your unique position in society as an LGBT person to transform, heal and build a future with less oppression.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

My family and friends.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

Gay and bisexual men have this self-stereotype that we’re all shallow, status obsessed and only interested in sex. If that’s how you think of the community then yes, that’s all you’ll see, which will reinforce that image; it’s like a negative feedback loop.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

 “Shortbus.” Just thinking of that scene with the three-way and “The Star-Spangled Banner” makes me laugh to this day and it’s been years since I first saw it.

 

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Wearing deodorant and antiperspirant constantly. Let those pits breathe.

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

None

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

Being queer connects you to a global community and gives you magical responsibilities. Don’t let anyone make you forget that.

Why Washington?

Washingtonians want to make the world a better place and we care about civic engagement and building community. Some are turned off by how much we talk about work, but that’s a testament to how much we care about what we do.

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Rodriquez scores historic win at otherwise irrelevant Golden Globes

Award represents a major milestone for trans visibility

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Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, on right, and Billy Porter in 'Pose.' (Photo courtesy of FX)

HOLLYWOOD – Despite its continuing status as something of a pariah organization in Hollywood, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has managed to cling to relevance in the wake of last night’s behind-closed-doors presentation of its 79th Annual Golden Globe Awards by sole virtue of having bestowed the prize for “Best Leading Actress in a Television Series – Drama” on Michaela Jaé Rodriguez for her work in the final season of “Pose” – making her the first transgender performer to win a Golden Globe.

The ceremony took place as a private, no-press-or-audience event in which winners were revealed via a series of tweets from the Golden Globes Twitter account. No celebrities were present (not even the nominees or winners), although actress Jamie Lee Curtis participated by appearing in a video in which she pronounced her continuing loyalty to the HFPA – without mention of the  longstanding issues around diversity and ethical practices, revealed early in 2021 by a bombshell Los Angeles Times report, that have led to an nearly industry-wide boycott of the organization and its awards as well as the cancellation of the annual Golden Globes broadcast by NBC for the foreseeable future.

While the Golden Globes may have lost their luster for the time being, the award for Rodriquez represents a major milestone for trans visibility and inclusion in the traditionally transphobic entertainment industry, and for her part, the actress responded to news of her win with characteristic grace and good will.

Posting on her Instagram account, the 31-year old actress said: 

“OMG OMGGG!!!! @goldenglobes Wow! You talking about sickening birthday present! Thank you!

“This is the door that is going to Open the door for many more young talented individuals. They will see that it is more than possible. They will see that a young Black Latina girl from Newark New Jersey who had a dream, to change the minds others would WITH LOVE. LOVE WINS.

“To my young LGBTQAI babies WE ARE HERE the door is now open now reach the stars!!!!!”

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As You Are Bar and the importance of queer gathering spaces

New bar/restaurant poised to open in 2022

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As You Are Bar had a pop-up venue at Capital Pride's "Colorful Fest" block party in October. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than just a watering hole: As You Are Bar is set to be the city’s newest queer gathering place where patrons can spill tea over late-morning cappuccinos as easily as they can over late-night vodka-sodas.

Co-owners and founders Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike built on their extensive experience in the hospitality industry – including stints at several gay bars – to sign a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row, replacing what was previously District Soul Food and Banana Café. In a prime corner spot, they are seeking to bring together the disparate colors of the LGBTQ rainbow – but first must navigate the approval process (more on that later).

The duo decided on this Southeast neighborhood locale to increase accessibility for “the marginalized parts of our community,” they say, “bringing out the intersectionality inherent in the queer space.”

Northwest D.C., they explain, not only already has many gay bar options, but is also more difficult to get to for those who don’t live within walking distance. The Barracks Row location is right by a Metro stop, “reducing pay walls.” Plus, there, “we are able to find a neighborhood to bring in a queer presence that doesn’t exist today.”

McDaniel points out that the area has a deep queer bar history. Western bar Remington’s was once located in the area, and it’s a mere block from the former Phase 1, the longest-running lesbian bar, which was open from 1971-2015.

McDaniel and Pike hope that As You Are Bar will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture. We want people of all ages, gender, sexual identity, as well as drinkers and non-drinkers, to have space.”

McDaniel (she/her) began her career at Apex in 2005 and was most recently the opening manager of ALOHO. Pike (she/they) was behind the bar and worked as security at ALOHO, where the two met.

Since leaving ALOHO earlier this year, they have pursued the As You Are Bar project, first by hosting virtual events during the pandemic, and now in this brick-and-mortar space. They expressed concern that receiving the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) liquor license approval and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, or ANC, approval will be a long and expensive process.

They have already received notice that some neighbors intend to protest As You Are Bar’s application for the “tavern” liquor license that ABRA grants to serve alcohol and allow for live entertainment (e.g. drag shows). They applied for the license on Nov. 12, and have no anticipated opening date, estimating at least six months. If ABRA and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board give final approval, the local ANC 6B and nearby residents can no longer protest the license until the license comes up for renewal.

Until approval is given, they continue physical buildout (including soundproofing) and planning their offerings. If the license is approved, ABRA and the ABC Board can take action against As You Are Bar, like any bar, at any time if they violate the terms of the license or create a neighborhood disturbance that violates city laws such as the local noise ordinance.  In the kitchen, the duo snagged Chef Nina Love to develop the menu. Love will oversee café-style fare; look out for breakfast sandwiches making an appearance all the way until close. They will also have baked goods during the day.

McDaniel and Pike themselves will craft the bar menu. Importantly, they note, the coffee bar will also serve until close. There will be a full bar as well as a list of zero-proof cocktails. As with their sourcing, they hope to work with queer-, minority-, and women-owned businesses for everything not made in-house.

Flexible conceptually, they seek to grow with their customer base, allowing patrons to create the culture that they seek.

Their goal is to move the queer space away from a focus on alcohol consumption. From book clubs, to letter-writing, to shared workspaces, to dance parties, they seek an all-day, morning-to-night rhythm of youth, families, and adults to find a niche. “We want to shift the narrative of a furtive, secretive, dark gay space and hold it up to the light,” they say. “It’s a little like The Planet from the original L Word show,” they joke.

Pike notes that they plan on working closely with SMYAL, for example, to promote programming for youth. Weekend potential activities include lunch-and-learn sessions on Saturdays and festive Sunday brunches.

The café space, to be located on the first floor, will have coffeehouse-style sofas as well as workstations. A slim patio on 8th Street will hold about six tables.

Even as other queer bars have closed, they reinforce that the need is still present. “Yes, we can visit a café or bar, but we always need to have a place where we are 100 percent certain that we are safe, and that our security is paramount. Even as queer acceptance continues to grow, a dedicated queer space will always be necessary,” they say.

To get there, they continue to rally support of friends, neighbors, and leaders in ANC6B district; the ANC6B officials butted heads with District Soul Food, the previous restaurant in the space, over late-night noise and other complaints. McDaniel and Pike hope that once nearby residents and businesses understand the important contribution that As You Are Bar can make to the neighborhood, they will extend their support and allow the bar to open.

AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel signed a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)
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Need a list-minute gift idea?

Books, non-profit donations make thoughtful choices

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‘Yes, Daddy’ by Jonathan Parks-Ramage is the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older man.

You knew this was coming.

You knew that you were going to have to finish your holiday shopping soon but it snuck up on you, didn’t it? And even if you’re close to being done, there are always those three or five people who are impossible to buy for, right? Remember this, though: books are easy to wrap and easy to give, and they last a while, too. So why not head to the bookstore with your Christmas List and look for these gifts.

And if you still have people to shop for, why not make a donation to a local non-profit in their name? A list of D.C.-area suggestions follows.

BOOKS: NONFICTION

If there’s about to be a new addition to your family, wrapping up “Queer Stepfamilies: The path to Social and Legal Recognition” by Katie L. Acosta would be a good thing. In this book, the author followed forty LGBTQ families to understand the joys, pitfalls, and legalities of forming a new union together. It can’t replace a lawyer, but it’s a good overview.

For the parent who wants to ensure that their child grows up with a lack of bias, “Raising LGBTQ Allies” by Chris Tompkins is a great book to give. It’s filled with methods to stop bullying in its tracks, to be proactive in having That Conversation, and how to be sure that the next generation you’re responsible for becomes responsible in turn. Wrap it up with “The Healing Otherness Handbook” by Stacee L. Reicherzer, Ph.D., a book that helps readers to deal with bullying by finding confidence and empowerment.

If there’s someone on your gift list who’s determined to get “fit” in the coming year, then give “The Secret to Superhuman Strength” by Alison Bechdel this holiday. Told in graphic-novel format (comics, basically), it’s the story of searching for self-improvement and finding it in a surprising place.

So why not give a little nostalgia this year by wrapping up “A Night at the Sweet Gum Head” by Martin Padgett? It’s the tale of disco, drag, and drugs in the 1970s (of course!) in Atlanta, with appearances by activists, politics, and people who were there at that fabulous time. Wrap it up with “After Francesco” by Brian Malloy, a novel set a little later – in the mid-1980s in New York City and Minneapolis at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.

The LGBTQ activist on your gift list will want to read “The Case for Gay Reparations” by Omar G. Encarnacion. It’s a book about acknowledgment, obligation on the part of cis citizens, and fixing the pain that homophobia and violence has caused. Wrap it up with “Trans Medicine: The Emergence and Practice of Treating Gender” by Stef M. Shuster, a look at trans history that may also make your giftee growl.

FICTION

Young readers who have recently transitioned will enjoy reading “Both Sides Now” by Peyton Thomas. It’s a novel about a high school boy with gigantic dreams and the means to accomplish them all. Can he overcome the barriers that life gives him? It’s debatable… Pair it with “Can’t Take That Away” by Steven Salvatore, a book about two nonbinary students and the troubles they face as they fall in love.

The thriller fan on your list will be overjoyed to unwrap “Yes, Daddy” by Jonathan Parks-Ramage. It’s the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older, more accomplished man with the hopes of sparking his failing career. But the older man isn’t who the younger thinks he is, and that’s not good. Wrap it up with “Lies with Man” by Michael Nava, a book about a lawyer who agrees to be counsel for a group of activists. Good so far, right? Until one of them is accused of being involved in a deadly bombing.

For the fan of Southern fiction, you can’t go wrong when you wrap up “The Tender Grave” by Sheri Reynolds. It’s the tale of two sisters, one homophobic, the other lesbian, and how they learn to forgive and re-connect.

NON-PROFIT GIVING

Like nonprofit organizations throughout the country, D.C.-area LGBTQ supportive nonprofit groups have told the Blade they continue to rebuild amid the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted their fundraising efforts while increasing expenses, at least in part by prompting more people to come to them for help.

This holiday season, if you’re looking for a thoughtful gift, consider making a donation to one of our local LGBTQ non-profit organizations in someone else’s name. This list is by no means exhaustive, but a good place to start your research.

Contributions to the LGBTQ supportive nonprofit organizations can be made via the websites of these local organizations:

• Blade Foundation, which funds local scholarships and fellowships for queer student journalists, bladefoundation.org

• DC Center, our local community center that operates a wide range of programming,  thedccenter.org/donate

Food & Friends, which delivers meals to homebound patients, foodandfriends.org

HIPS, which advances the health rights and dignity of those impacted by sex work and drugs, hips.org

• SMYAL, which advocates for queer youth, smyal.org

Wanda Alston Foundation, which offers shelter and support for LGBTQ youth, wandaalstonfoundation.org

• Whitman-Walker Health, the city’s longtime LGBTQ-inclusive health care provider, whitmanwalkerimpact.org

Casa Ruby, which provides shelter and services to youth in need, casaruby.org

• Us Helping Us, which helps improve the health of communities of color and works to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Black community, ushelpingus.org/donate

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