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Re-elect Muriel Bowser mayor of D.C.

No one will fight harder to improve the lives of city residents

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re-elect Muriel Bowser, gay news, Washington Blade

Muriel Bowser has earned a second term as D.C. mayor. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The District of Columbia has been my home since 1978. When I first moved here it was a small sleepy southern town. In trying to explain why it’s complicated and doesn’t always work John F. Kennedy once said, “Washington is a city of northern charm and southern efficiency.”

We have come a long way from JFK’s time and from when I moved here. The District of Columbia is a bustling, growing modern city. Our population has reached 700,000 and it’s projected that by 2045 there will be one million people living here. We have growing and balanced budgets and it is difficult to remember the time we had a federal control board. We are spending more money on affordable housing, education, social services and healthcare than ever before. Yet we still we have many problems and a long way to go to meet the needs of all our residents, to ensure equality, and deal with the structural racism that exists.

Muriel Bowser is a fifth generation Washingtonian. She grew up in North Michigan Park in the same house where you can still find her dad who was an ANC commissioner and her mom a nurse. They inculcated in Muriel the value of a good education and importance of giving back to the community.

Ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed and thrive is what forms Muriel’s vision for her second term. She knows no matter how much was accomplished in her first term it’s only a start of all she wants to accomplish for the people of the District. Make no mistake she has accomplished a lot.

She focused on areas crucial to moving people forward and giving them a better life. Education has been a major focus for her and she understands the recent issues we are uncovering in that area must to be dealt with head on. She has said after the primary she will begin the process of hiring a new DCPS chancellor, one who will work with her to ensure no student graduates high school unprepared to go to college or begin a career. Muriel will look for a chancellor who charts a course ensuring D.C. can again be the fastest improving school district in the country. Even with the problems, D.C.’s public school system is making progress under her leadership. But she and we the voters know it’s not fast enough. This year will see the mayor make the largest investment in public education ever in the District. Soon after her election, Muriel quickly negotiated a contract with the teachers’ union after teachers worked without one for five years. In response to the need, the mayor opened the District’s first all-male high school, the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School. Again we know there is much more to do but building a public education system in our city were every child has an equal opportunity for a quality education is a goal moving closer to reality.

In the area of public safety this mayor’s efforts have resulted in a drop in crime including violent crime and property crime. In addition, Muriel has focused on providing second chances to our citizens who commit a crime by connecting returning prisoners to workforce training and real opportunities. She understands the way to fight recidivism is by providing these opportunities. There is more to do in this area as well. The mayor launched the largest deployment of body worn cameras to our police officers, which is helping increase accountability during community and police encounters. This helps build the community’s trust in our police, a crucial need when you are combating crime. Under a program sponsored by the mayor, every resident, business and church that installs a security camera can apply for a rebate; another way to combat crime and make our residents safer.

​During Muriel’s first term, her efforts to promote the economy have seen unemployment across the District decrease and her administration is proud that this includes those communities that are often seen as underserved. The mayor announced a new Infrastructure Academy to train D.C. residents for job opportunities in good paying infrastructure jobs. She has invested in workforce programs through the LEAP and Career Connections programs that are putting D.C. residents to work. She understands there is much more to be done. The mayor is justifiably proud of the expanded Mayor Marion Barry Summer Youth Leadership Program now serving young people to age 24. These are just a few of the ways Muriel is fighting every day to protect and defend D.C. values and give expanded opportunities to D.C. residents.

Muriel understands we must celebrate our diversity and inclusivity and has said in no uncertain terms our city will not tolerate hate. She invested $1 million to help our undocumented neighbors access legal help. She fought to bring the Gay Games to D.C., even taking a 24-hour trip to Paris during the effort. While we didn’t get the games it was one more effort made to ensure the District is an open and welcoming place for the LGBTQ+ community. Muriel joined with mayors across the globe to support the Paris climate agreement. Under her leadership, D.C. was named the first LEED Platinum city in the world. Muriel continues the fight to make D.C. the 51st state.

​For these and so many more reasons I urge voters in the District to give Muriel Bowser a second term. No one is perfect but no one will fight harder to improve the lives of all the people of the District of Columbia.

 

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Trans rights have reached a crisis point

We should fear DeSantis more than Trump

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Michael Knowles speaks at CPAC. (Screen capture via Vimeo)

Trans rights have reached a crisis point. There’s no other way to say it. 

On March 4, CPAC speaker Michael Knowles plainly stated that “if [transgenderism] is false, then for the good of society, transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely – the whole preposterous ideology.”

To liken transness as a mere ideology is problematic on many different counts, but that paled in comparison to Knowles’s need for us to be eradicated. Eradication rhetoric is a genocidal tool, to ask and plead for an entire subpopulation to go away in one fell swoop is murderous and brutal. Genocides begin with this kind of rhetoric, then escalate to dangerous politicians being elected to office, then escalate even more to harsh policy, then escalate yet again when those harsh policies force humans to have to do many things — be locked in a cage, move out of the country, or even detransition, in this case. 

Look no further than what happened at the southern border during Trump’s years in office, when images of migrants and their children surfaced at maximum security facilities, lying on the floor with nothing but a meager blanket and barbed wire surrounding their bodies. 

Indeed, a lot of the CPAC conference was dedicated to engaging in these culture wars — but Knowles’s statement of eradication goes beyond the normal cultural bickering. This is why trans politics are at a dangerous turning point. 

Adding to this chaos are bathroom bills and sports policies that prevent trans high schoolers from accessing the bathroom they need, or playing on the right side of their sports team. 

In conversations with professionals, academics, and friends, I like to mention the fact that Republicans take peoples’ rights away when they notice that those people have gained more freedom. Think of it this way: when I was in high school, in 2010, far fewer trans people were out with their identities. Transness didn’t take a center stage in culture — be it on the left or on the right. And as a result, trans students were only attacked by bullies and in locker rooms, not by state politicians. 

But the rise of Gen Z has witnessed many high schoolers now flouting gender norms, going by nonbinary pronouns, and being proud of their gender variance. Moreover, society is filled with many more trans models and celebrities. When our presence becomes celebrated and known, Republicans will then take the necessary tools to push us back into the closet. 

What’s adding to the concern is the rise of smarter Republican candidates for the 2024 election who have exactly the same feelings of Trump but with higher intellects. Ron DeSantis is an example of a presidential contender who mirrors Trump’s bigotry and policies but is far more targeted and intelligent in his approach to public speaking and politics. Indeed, Democrats should be more afraid of DeSantis than of Trump. 

On an end note, I like to summon an old saying by the late Martin Luther King. “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” No matter how much cruelty Republicans will put us through, they won’t succeed in the long run. More and more of society is catching up to the fact that trans people deserve respect and fairness. There will come a day when we have to sigh less and less about the state of our rights. 

Isaac Amend (he/him/his) is a trans man and young professional in the D.C. area. He was featured on National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ in 2017 as a student at Yale University. Amend is also on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Find him on Instagram @isaacamend.

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The ‘Find Out’ generation: A new generation for a new America

We are willing to face down the forces of status quo

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(Photo by Ben Gingell/Bigstock)

In an op-ed I wrote in April entitled “On Gun Violence, the New Generation Will Not Be Silenced,” I wrote about Tennessee State Representative Justin Thomas and Justin Pearson being expelled from the Tennessee Legislature.

Since then, both have been reinstated by local county governing boards that sent them back to the legislature unanimously. Let’s recall they and the remaining legislator Gloria Johnson’s “crime,” was deciding enough was enough by protesting against gun violence on the legislative floor. The national support they have received since then has been enormous. 

Similarly, in Montana, Zooey Zephyr, the first transgender legislator there, was silenced by the Republican majority legislature there, being censured (prevented from public speaking) for saying there would be “blood on the hands” of members that voted on an anti-trans piece of legislation.

Zephyr and the “Tennessee Three,” as they’ve come to be called, are part of a new generation of leaders in America, or the “find out” generation that won’t settle for business as usual and are willing to face down the forces of status quo that want to maintain a system built on White supremacy and assimilation. 

They follow a lineage of resistance of those willing to cause “good trouble,” as the late Congressman John Lewis once said. As the former head of the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee in the 60s, Lewis was arrested multiple times and was part of the Tennessee sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville. (He would later, in 2016, bring Congressional House proceedings to a halt in a protest against gun violence.)

Justin Jones himself has been arrested 13 times for non-violent protest and jokes that one of the reasons he ran for the state legislature is that “members of the Tennessee Legislature can’t be arrested,” which is true, at least while in session. But Justin’s arrests are part of the tradition of the civil rights movement in the South. Tennessee was indeed the home resistance. 

In May of 1960, over 150 students were arrested by the police for attempting to desegregate lunch counters in downtown Nashville. During the trial, the students, including Diane Nash, were defended by a group of 13 lawyers, headed by Z. Alexander Looby, a Black lawyer from the British West Indies, whose house was later bombed by segregationists. Looby and his wife were thankfully unharmed.

Later that day, 3,000 protesters marched to Nashville City Hall to confront Mayor Ben West to demand something be done about the violence. He agreed the lunch counters should be desegregated but that it should be up to the store managers.

The city later reached an agreement to desegregate numerous stores before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited desegregation altogether. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. later came to Nashville, saying he “did not come to bring inspiration, but to find it.” 

Meanwhile, in Montana, Zooey Zephyr, the first transgender state legislator in Montana, follows in the footsteps of early LGBT activists/officeholders like the late Harvey Milk of San Francisco. Zephyr’s courageous stance against a majority of the legislature who voted for an anti-trans bill prohibiting gender-affirming healthcare for minors resulted in Zephyr being censured and prohibited from giving speeches on the House floor. Since then, there has been a tremendous national backlash against such fascist tactics both there and in Tennessee. 

As we look ahead to Junteenth and Pride next month, Jones, Pearson, and Zephyr are visible symbols of the rise of a new generation coming up, the “find out” generation that refuses to accept the status quo and who is willing to put everything on the line to face injustice in the name of service to their communities.

Whether it is gun violence, housing, or hate, leadership like this will create the multigenerational, intersectional leadership we need at the local, state, and federal levels in the Halls of Congress to bring about solutions to the issues we have been facing. To create a new America that works for everyone. And I’m here for it. 

A millennial based in Los Angeles, Steve Dunwoody is a veteran, college educator, and community advocate.

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Pride month should be every month

Let’s not keep supportive CEOs and LGBTQ police out of our parades

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

I find it interesting we celebrate our Pride only one month a year. I take pride in being gay all year long. I am not opposed to celebrations in June; parades and festivals are great fun. I appreciate Capital Pride naming me a Pride Hero in 2016. Those magnetic signs decorating the convertible I rode in, now adorn my refrigerator. But for me Pride in being gay is something I have all year long.

It took me many years to feel that way. I was 34 when I finally came out, sharing who I was with others. One of the factors keeping me in the closet as a young person was the desire to run for public office. That wasn’t possible as an openly gay man, even where I grew up in New York City. It was only moving to Washington, D.C., away from family and childhood friends, that finally focused me on my true self, allowing me to come to grips with who I was, a gay man.

In 1978, D.C. was a place people could feel comfortable taking those first steps toward coming out. Many people were away from their family and old friends, ready to take a step into their own reality. You could go to a bar like Rascals in Dupont Circle, meet congresspersons, congressional staff, government officials, non-profit and business CEOs, teachers and reporters, all still in the closet and not afraid they would be outed. Back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, before AIDS, many of us were still in the closet.

Thankfully, there were some who were not. In the 1978 D.C. mayoral race, won by Marion Barry, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the gay Democratic club in D.C., played a major role in his victory. Barry openly thanked them. He was a four-term mayor who supported the LGBTQ community. It wasn’t until the end of his career, when he was a Council member from Ward 8, that he came out against gay marriage. I remember how jarring it was for so many when he stood on Freedom Plaza with some homophobic ministers, and told us he opposed our right to marry. But he was the anomaly in D.C. The work of activists over the years, I was proud to be one of them, won. The D.C. Council passed marriage equality.

In today’s troubling times the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, the African-American community, and all minorities, are at risk. With white supremacy on the rise, and anti-Semitism once again rearing its ugly head, it’s important to celebrate our Pride all year long. I want every month to be a Pride month, so people in Florida will know they cannot deprive us of our rights, or erase us from their schools. So, a young boy or girl in Mississippi or Montana, who struggle with who they are, and who they love, will be able to see they are great and loved, and can live their life fully, and safely, being their true self.

I hope by the time we celebrate World Pride in D.C. in 2025, inviting the world in to see who the United States really is, we can be proud of who we are. Today that is not the case in many ways. I want a transgender person to come to the United States for World Pride and feel comfortable, not only on the streets of D.C., but anywhere in our country. I want us to be able to show off and say, here you are safe. I want the feeling I had, as a privileged white cisgender man, coming out safely in D.C., to be the feeling everyone has. To do that we will have to fight not only homophobia, but racism, and sexism. It is all interconnected and we must recognize that and join hands, if we are to be successful. While today in D.C. we have African-American Pride, Transgender Pride, Youth Pride, and Latino Pride, maybe we can all join together for World Pride. Let us have pride in each other, as well as ourselves. Let us have that pride every month, every day, and every hour, all year long.

We can do this and still have fun in June. Let’s not keep LGBTQ police, and military, out of our parades. Let us be as proud of them, as they are of themselves. Let us invite the corporate entities that support us. I would be proud to march with Disney CEO Robert Iger. We will only make progress if we do so together.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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