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‘Lights Down Low’ singer MAX stoked for Pride set

Hitmaker on working with Madonna, playing for gay crowds and being a straight ally



MAX Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

Singer MAX says Pride festivals are his favorite venues to play. (Photo courtesy Crush Music)

Capitol Concert Stage

(3rd & Pennsylvania Ave.)

MCs: Jerry Houston and Destiny B. Childs

1-2 p.m.: Gay Men’s Chorus/Kim Petras

2-3 p.m.: Kristina Kelly and the Cobalt Cast/M AX

3-4 p.m.: Damarcko Price/Ella Fitzgerald/Michi/DJ Twin

4-5 p.m.: Ladies of Town/Mykul Jay Valentine/Freddie’s Follies/The Boy Band Project

5-6 p.m.: DJ Twin/Keri Hilson

6-7 p.m.: Troye Sivan

7-8 p.m.: Asia O’Hara from “RuPaul’s Drag Race”/Alessia Cara

8-10 p.m.: DJ Tracy Young

Dupont Dance Tent

(6th and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.)

Noon-1 p.m.: DJ Henry Thrill

1-2 p.m: Tim Jackson

2-3 p.m.: DJ Sidekick

3-4 p.m.: Alex DB

4-5 p.m.: DJ Andre Gutarra

5-6 p.m.: DJ Mike Reimer

6-7 p.m.: DJ Strikestone

Monument Festival Stage

(6th and Constitution Ave., N.W.)

Noon-1 p.m.: DJ Jerry Jones/The CooLots

1-2 p.m.: Kristen Ford/Jourdan Frost/Baron/RYALS

2-3 p.m.: Cheer D.C./Chris Urquiaga/Pitches Be Crazy/DJ Henry Thrill

3-4 p.m.: Brody Ray/Billy Winn/Cobalt Pride Idol Winner/D.C. Front Runners/Sub-Radio

4-5 p.m.: Resurrecting Queenz/Niva the Soul Diva/Miss Kelli/SongRise/Shemuwel

5-6 p.m.: DJ Henry Thrill/AhSa-Ti Nu/Chris Chism/PRIMME/Heather Mae

6-7 p.m.: Leonardo Martinez/Dorothy Milone/Alise King/DJ Henry Thrill

Model/actor/singer MAX (aka Max Schneider), 25, didn’t originally think his song “Lights Down Low,” now his signature song, was an obvious single choice from his sophomore solo album, 2016’s “Hell’s Kitchen Angel.”

Four others (“Gibberish,” “Wrong,” “Holla” and “Basement Party”) were released to radio first. “Lights” was released only as a promo single. But a remix of the song featuring singer gnash became a sleeper hit entering the Billboard Hot 100 a year after its release and eventually earning a Gold RIAA certification. It peaked at no. 20 and the video, which features MAX and wife Emily in an elaborate set piece featuring one angle and a couple’s lifetime of married life over many years, was noted for its detail and special effects.

MAX will perform at the Capital Pride Festival/HOT 99.5 concert Sunday at 2 p.m. on the CAPITOL Concert Stage (3rd & Pennsylvania). It’s free but $50 backstage meet-and-greet passes for MAX (with photo opp) are available through

MAX spoke to the Blade by phone last week from his home in the Big Apple.

WASHINGTON BLADE: You were doing a photo shoot today?

MAX: Yeah, we had a little photo shoot and then we’re heading into the studio. It’s just a beautiful sunny day doing all the stuff.

BLADE: How did “Lights Down Low” start to gain steam?

MAX: It’s interesting. I always knew it was a really special one and I wanted it to be a single from the beginning but because it’s a ballad and sometimes people are afraid of something that’s not like a surefire uptempo song, it’s maybe a harder sell in some ways. But it was really cool because I always believed in it. It’s the most special song for me, of course, because I wrote it for my wife and proposed to her with it. … People have been slowly coming on board over the last two years and realized that it was, maybe more than the other singles, it was awesome to have that — just people continuing to get the message.

BLADE: But how did it gain traction? When did it first crack the Hot 100?

MAX: It’s been all the little things. It’s everything from my friend gnash joined the song with me about six months after I had released it originally and having him be a part of it brought a new audience to it and it’s all these different things. Amazing people started dancing to it with D-trix and Montana and then people were just putting it out there and listening to it. … Then we had the Snapchat filter worldwide on Valentine’s Day which really just sort of was unbelievable. It really brought it over the edge, which was amazing. So it was like a series of small things of people just believing in it and all of a sudden, everybody kinda knew the song, which was very humbling and amazing.

BLADE: I understand the video was quite elaborate and took months of planning, right?

MAX: Yes indeed. It was six months altogether from conception of the idea. … It was such a long process and a lot of that, probably the biggest thing was fighting for the story to be authentic whether that be because the powers that be in music didn’t want me to be open about my relationship with my wife and wanted me to appear single and whatever else, all the cliches in the music world, and I wanted to make sure people knew the story behind it — that I wrote it for her. And then it was about her being in the actual video. I wanted the song to be true to our story down to wearing exactly what we wore when we got engaged to our actual wedding outfits. … People were like, “Oh, it should be some famous DJ from the Netherlands playing your wife,” and I was like, “Screw that — it should be my actual wife and until everybody is down for that to happen, I’m not gonna make this video.” That’s why it took six months and then like three months to convince everybody to let it be my truth to the vision.

BLADE: You said people were urging you not to be who you were. That’s an interesting phrase — something you’d expect to hear more from a gay singer. What did you mean?

MAX: Oh, 100 percent — totally. Everything from what I was supposed to wear. It’s been a lot of things. Like that, it’s a lot of people being, I guess, being out there. I’m a bit eccentric and outright and an energetic kind of person and sometimes people are afraid of something that’s over the edge whether it’s me painting my nails or wearing sequins or all these different things. Everything from the fashion to the story behind it and that’s definitely been something. That’s the biggest message is people don’t have to like you or like who you love or anything like that as long as you love you and people around you are drawn to you because you’re being yourself. Those are the people you want to be with anyway, not the people who think they’re too cool to hang with you because you know, love who you want to love and wear what you want to wear. Those people suck anyway. They’re boring.

BLADE: So there’s a school of thought that if you’re a hot young singer and you’re married it will pop the fans’ bubble of you being off the market so to speak? Even though the odds of them getting with you would have been one in a million in likelihood, it pops a bubble in their minds knowing you’re married?

MAX: Yes, that was the original fear from the powers that be. But in the end, if I want people who are only loving the music because they think you’re single or you’re on the market — I mean, everybody wants to have that attention, you want as many people to be into your thing as possible, but I’ve accepted that if people aren’t into that because I’m married, then whatever. Are they gonna come to the shows anyway and be the people who are really invested in the music and message and are stoked that to watch my wife and I sort of be a happy couple and have our sort of ups and downs and be open about that? But yeah, that definitely crossed your mind like, “Oh, man — I hope people don’t not listen to my thing just because of that.”

BLADE: Why do you think you have a gay fan base?

MAX: I just think I’ve always been, you know, I grew up in New York City and I went to theater school. I’ve been surrounded by people who are open about their sexuality my entire life so I guess that’s why I’ve always been an ally and an advocate of it because everywhere we go, I’m just always putting that message out there that people should be able to love who they wanna love whether they’re gay, straight, bi, trans or love themselves because when people love themselves and are the most comfortable with themselves, they do the coolest things with their lives and we have a happier world. That’s just something I always believed growing up. It wasn’t until I went to more places where that wasn’t apparent — like I would say what the message of “Lights Down Low” was about before singing it and some places it wouldn’t get applause or people showed no excitement or maybe even I’d get booed or whatever else. That made me realize that being an ally to the community as a straight married man hopefully in my mind that makes some people who aren’t as open minded think, “Well, here’s this straight, married guy, he paints his nails, he looks super flamboyant but he’s a straight married guy, maybe I shouldn’t be such a jerk. Maybe I should accept that people love who they wanna love and they’re amazing people too.” I want people to feel accepted and safe at our shows and with our music. That’s the bottom line always and it’s beautiful that people have been drawn to that. Like last week we had a show and this incredible couple, these amazing females, got engaged at the show and that was just amazing.

BLADE: But what about “Lights Down Low” resonates with LGBT fans in your opinion? The video is very heteronormative.

MAX: It’s totally because of me being so outright supportive of the community. It definitely comes from that. The fight of being open with the truth of your own story has connected with people and I have noticed that which is awesome. I love that people have connected with it regardless of sexual orientation.

BLADE: How was Madonna when you did the (2010) Dolce & Gabbana ad/photo shoot? When she’s working is she friendly, imperious, aloof — what?

MAX: She’s super friendly but also — she knows exactly what she wants. My favorite story was the first shot, she walked in with her coconut water in hand, she hands it to an assistant. She was supposed to be playing my mother so she was teaching me how to dance in the bathroom and I was supposed to be like, “Oh, I’m embarrassed, my mother is teaching me how to dance,” and so she danced with me and she was like, “Why are you making those faces?” And I was like, “I don’t know — I’ll make whatever faces you want me to make, what do you want?” And she grabbed me in the small of the back and she was like, “I’ll teach you how to dance,” and she’s like such a powerhouse. That was sort of the whole day. That story — that’s basically her in a nutshell. There’s kindness there but it’s like her way or the highway and you’re just following her lead and I mean, it was one of the most powerful presences I’ve ever been in. It was really amazing to get that one surreal play date with her. Just awesome.

BLADE: How long did it take? It looked like there were several setups/scenes?

MAX: It was probably 12 hours. I got there like 8 in the morning and I left when it was just getting dark out and it was in the summer so yeah, it was wild. My other favorite story was when we went out in the street we do this shot where I’m carrying groceries and that was unplanned so there was no security for the first time all day. We’re out there and these paparazzi start taking pictures and it’s all crazy and the next day, my dad goes to the gym and picks up a paper and it says on the front page, “Who’s Madonna’s new fetus boyfriend?” And that was why it was so funny. That was her thing. She totally planned it. She knew exactly what she was doing and I was even more impressed that she had learned how to manipulate the media to make sure that her agenda gets out there. That’s a genius skill in itself.

BLADE: And yet you were supposed to be her son in the storyline?

MAX: Exactly. It was based off of this old Italian film but of course it became a little more, I don’t know, not even sexualized — it just sort of morphed into our own thing after a little bit because it was her just like sort of making it her own story which again was such a cool thing about her.

BLADE: How much backstory is usually discussed on shoots like that?

MAX: Sometimes it’s a ton, sometimes it’s like this is the storyline and this is the theme and sometimes it’s all spontaneous. Sometimes the best shots are the ones where it’s just like, “Oh, you’re changing right now — no, wait, like kind of this act of you changing is kind of an amazing shot and you should just like go into that bathroom and we’ll take a shower.” Sometimes the most spontaneous stuff is the most special but the theme stuff is super awesome and that was awesome to have such a laid-out theme for the whole shoot.

BLADE: Did they let you keep the suit?

MAX: No, I wish. I was so bummed they didn’t let me keep any of this stuff. I was just like, “Can I keep these shoes? I just wore them,” and they’re like, “Nah, nah — we’re taking them back.”

BLADE: What’s been the biggest surprise of married life?

MAX: I guess you always kinda think you’re different from everybody else’s story and you’re like, “Oh, we’re gonna be so much different,” but I think in the end it’s just — like I’ve learned even after two years, sometimes it’s hard work to make sure you and your partner are on the same page even when you think you are, sometimes I’m surprised in a way, you know, you feel like this person knows you better than anyone else but then like I forget to tell Emily something and all of a sudden she’s super upset because we’re not on the same page about something. It sucks because it’s the most important person to you, you don’t want to let them down. It’s constant hard work to make sure that you guys are completely together as a team and it’s so important. I guess that surprised me.

BLADE: How did you learn the ukulele?

MAX: I just started playing it in Central Park as a young teen. It’s just something really fun that I love doing, you know? I’m a small-sized person and it’s a small instrument so it was just kind of the perfect thing to combine the two.

BLADE: You play it regularly on your records and in your live show?

MAX: Yeah, yeah, I always incorporate it into both. I always try to do one song live and one on the record like that.

BLADE: What does your pitchfork tattoo symbolize?

MAX: So being from New York, I always kind of represent that acceptance and I like that if you have a symbol and you see somebody else with that same symbol, you know that’s somebody else who has the same beliefs of being who you’re meant to be and accepting people for who they are. And being that I don’t get to be home as much as I’d like, so often I like to make sure that I carry that piece of home with me. I carry that belief, that vision of making sure I don’t fall into other people’s beliefs or accept things that are wrong in the world in other places or that I believe are wrong. That’s sort of the reason it’s so apparent on my arm. I can’t hide it. It’s on my sleeve.

BLADE: Have you played many Pride events before?

MAX: Oh yeah, a ton. I love Pride festivals. They’re the most fabulous humans mostly because of their energy. we just did one in Louisville a couple months ago and there were a couple of slaying drag queens that were just killing the game and it just like erupted on stage and it’s always like, you never know what to expect. It’s just a place for people to be who they are which is why I love performing at them probably more than any other style show because it’s so beautiful to see so many people so excited. Prideful, of course, and just stoked on all the energy of life. Those are the audiences you want to play for, at least for me. People who are just living their best life. I love all that stuff.

BLADE: You have a band or sing with tracks? How long is your set?

MAX: A little bit of both. My partner Ryan, he plays keytar live, we have, you know, talk box, guitar, a lot of fun instruments and then there’s a lot of tracks and stuff too but it’s between 30 minutes and an hour and we like to bring as much energy as possible. I like to call it an emotional party. We got “Lights Down Low,” which kind of gives you the feels, then we do our rendition of “Ms. Jackson,” by OutKast and all the more sort of hyped-up songs like “Holla,” “Basement Party.” I like people forgetting about everything in their own world and falling into this world of the show. That’s always our biggest want to have people just like lose themselves in this environment.

BLADE: Oh, so you’ll be doing some Party Pupils (his side venture with Ryan Siegel) stuff too then?

MAX: Oh yeah, you know it baby. We’re stoked.

BLADE: So is MAX and Party Pupils always sort of running parallel or is one sometimes front burner, the other back burner? How does it roll?

MAX: We try to balance them equally. When MAX was going for radio and stuff like that, it sort of was the leader but since Ryan’s always with me, we try to incorporate Party Pupils as much as possible and bring that funky energy. We got a song called “Sax on the Beach” coming out this Friday which is a Party Pupils record but we play it in the MAX show and try to combine both worlds as much as we can so one doesn’t get lost because it’s hard enough to be committed to your own thing, but it’s a beautiful balance of the two and we’ve been really lucky because we’ve worked so hard and he does such an incredible job producing all the tracks and remixes. So yeah, it’s gonna be a nice mix of both for sure at the show.

BLADE: Can you truthfully say, though, that a sea of gay men out there thinking you’re hot at a Pride event doesn’t weird you out even maybe one or two percent?

MAX: Oh no, not at all. It’s the best. I love the energy. At the last Pride festival, I did have a drag queen give me a real solid butt slap which, you know, don’t slap anybody you don’t know. But other than that, as long as there’s no physical butt slap, I love all the love. I love giving love to everybody. That was definitely a hilarious one, though because she really just grabbed one butt cheek and I was just like, “All right — that’s hilarious, but also, please don’t grab my butt cheek. My wife would not be happy about any human grabbing my butt cheek.”

BLADE: That does sound like a bit much.

MAX: Yeah, it was but as long as it’s not too much, I’m always down with love. I’m a very loving person and it’s beautiful having that transfer of energy.

BLADE: Are your abs always as popping as they look in some of your photos? How do you maintain that?

MAX: I just kind of dance around at shows. I eat a lot of food and I just dance around. I’m sure eventually I’ll have to do a lot more than that, but I just kind of wiggle around and try to keep in shape.

BLADE: Launching this whole career on the indie route but also having success with Billboard and getting radio airplay and so on, have you often bumped up against the industry gatekeepers, like when you referenced the powers that be earlier. What’s that been like?

MAX: No, I just try honestly to give love to people who support us. I think it’s easy to want to suck up to people who can help you but I think you should just take time to be kind to everybody whether they can help you or not. That’s the policy I’ve tried to keep regardless of where things get to. I give love to anybody whether it’s Spotify or Apple or radio stations. If they’re giving us love, I try to give as much as I can back.

MAX says balancing his solo material with his side project Party Pupils keeps him musically stoked. (Photo courtesy Crush Music)


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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a&e features

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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