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Best of Gay D.C. XVII

Your picks for nightlife, community, dining and more

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Best Of Gay D.C., gay news, Washington Blade

Best of Gay D.C. is always a snapshot of life in LGBT Washington. This is the first year, for example, Town Danceboutique which closed in July, has not been represented in these awards since 2007. The legendary D.C. nightclub holds the all-time Best of Gay D.C. record with 32 total wins (counting wins for its drag queens and DJs). But it’s also a chance to welcome the new kids on the block — such as Pitchers/A League of Her Own, Dave Perruzza’s new venture in Adams Morgan.

For every perennial winner like Freddie’s Beach Bar or Miss Pixie’s, there are newer faces like Pretty Rik E (Best Drag King), Jesse Johnson (Best Fitness Instructor) and Roel Ruiz (Best Stylist). Sometimes somebody who’s been around for years but we kind of took for granted comes roaring back with a win like Kristina Kelly, D.C.’s much-loved plus-size queen. Ahhhh, I remember her from her Apex years.

Some winners and runners-up flip-flop in succeeding years. Rayceen Pendarvis and Bishop Allyson Abrams have something like a vollyeball game unfolding in these pages in the Best Clergy category.

Thankfully here, nobody has to “sashay away.” That’s the beauty of gay Washington — we can enjoy Trade one night, JR.’s another. Check out Distrkt C (“Is it hot in here or is it just me?”) one month and Mixtape another. It’s all good.

About 3,500 nominations and 20,000 votes were cast in 100 categories for the 17th annual Best of Gay D.C. Awards. The Blade’s Stephen Rutgers coordinated the process. The photographers are credited throughout. This year’s contributing writers are Brian T. Carney, Patrick Folliard, Evan Caplan, Michael K. Lavers, Chris Johnson, Mariah Cooper and Kevin Majoros.

The Washington Blade staff congratulates each of this year’s winners and finalists.

Hero Award

Danica Roem (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Danica Roem

Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) in January made history as the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the U.S. The former journalist has hit the ground running on behalf of her constituents in Virginia’s 13th District.

Roem served on the Counties Cities and Towns and Science and Technology Committees.

She is among the lawmakers who voted to expand Medicaid in Virginia. Reducing congestion on Route 28, which was a cornerstone of her historic 2017 campaign against then-state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County), remains one of Roem’s top priorities.

Roem co-sponsored several pro-LGBT bills during the 2018 legislative session. She also continues to inspire trans people around the country.

She invited an 11-year-old trans girl from Roanoke and her mother who she met during her campaign and two other young people to stand next to her during her ceremonial swearing-in that took place in the Virginia House of Delegates chamber on Jan. 20. Roem, who was wearing her trademark rainbow scarf, hugged each of them after she spoke.

“This member pin that I have right now; this is on behalf of the people of the 13th District,” she said. “This pin belongs to the people of the 13th District. This pin and every pin like it for you, for you and for you, this is ours . . . this is ours too.”

Demi Lovato invited Roem to walk with her on the red carpet at the 2017 American Music Awards, which took place in Los Angeles shortly after she defeated Marshall. Roem in June traveled to Vermont and campaigned on behalf of Christine Hallquist, a Democrat who in August became the first openly trans woman in the U.S. to become a major party’s nominee for governor.

Roem attended the annual Human Rights Campaign National Dinner that took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Sept. 13. She spoke at NOVA Pride that took place in Centreville on Sept. 29.

Roem has also spoken at events organized by the LGBTQ Victory Fund and other LGBT advocacy groups.

I’m humbled to earn the 2018 Hero Award from the Washington Blade,” Roem said. “By focusing on the core quality-of-life issues that unite our communities and region like traffic, jobs, schools, health care and equality, I hope I’ve helped demonstrate that transgender people can be inclusive elected leaders who prioritize constituent service for all our constituents — no matter what they look like, where they come from, how they worship if they do, or who they love.”

Roem also thanked her constituents and the Blade’s readers.

“To my constituents in Manassas Park, Manassas, Gainesville and Haymarket and to the readers of the Washington Blade:  You should be able to thrive because of who you are, not despite it and not for what discriminatory politicians tell you you’re supposed to be,” she said. “So, if you’re well-qualified and you have good ideas, then bring your ideas to the table because this is your America too and it’s time for you to run it.” (MKL) 

BARS/ENTERTAINMENT

Best Dance Party

Distrkt C, gay news, Washington Blade

Distrkt C (Washington Blade photo by Ben Keller)

Distrkt C

Second consecutive win in this category.

D.C. Eagle

Second Saturday of the month

D.C. Eagle

3701 Benning Rd., N.E.

distrktc.com

Editor’s Pick: Peach Pit, DC9

Best Bartender

Jo McDaniel (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Jo McDaniel, A League of Her Own

Runner-Up: Dusty Martinez, Trade

Dusty was last year’s winner and also a 2014 winner.

She may be a new addition to Pitchers, the new gay bar in Adams Morgan, but Jo McDaniel is no stranger to the queer D.C. bar scene. Slinging drinks since 2005 across the region, McDaniel is now leading A League of Her Own, the queer women’s bar that opened in August in the lower level of Pitchers.

David Perruzza, who runs Pitchers, knew McDaniel from her work at Cobalt and brought her in to be a strong leader to manage A League of Her Own and make it a welcoming space.

“From the moment I met Jo, I was impressed,” Perruzza says. “When I realized I could open a bar for queer women, I immediately thought of Jo and only Jo. She has been a godsend and everyone loves her.”

McDaniel is also shining beyond D.C. This summer, she won the coveted Stoli’s Key West Cocktail Classic, and as the first woman to win the regional competition here in D.C.

“We’ve had an incredible response from the community,” the Southern California native says. “With queer people meeting up and hanging out every day that we’ve been open. It’s more than humbling to provide something so needed to our community and I’m thrilled that I get to be part of it.”

Before A League of Her Own, McDaniel has been helping the LGBT community toss back vodka sodas and other libations at Apex, Phase One, Freddie’s Beach Bar and Cobalt. McDaniel’s biggest task is now bringing together the LGBT community at A League of Her Own as part of the larger Pitchers community. (EC)

Best Burlesque Dancer

Eat Your Hart Out, gay news, Washington Blade

Ophelia Hart (Washington Blade photo by Tom Hausman)

Winner: Ophelia Hart

Second consecutive win.

facebook.com/opheliahartburlesque

Runner-Up: GiGi Holliday

Best Avion Tequila Margarita

Winner: Nellie’s Sports Bar

900 U St., N.W.

nelliessportsbar.com

Editor’s Pick: Left Door

Best DJ

DJ Tezrah, gay news, Washington Blade

DJ Tezrah (Washington Blade photo by Tom Hausman)

Winner: Tezrah

Runner-Up: Lemz

tezrah.com

soundcloud.com/tezrah

Tezrah (real name Diana Weigel) became a DJ accidentally.

In college, a friend gave the 28-year-old Fairfax, Va., native a DJ program. She found herself  “messing around” with the music software for hours and hours as she crafted her hobby. Eventually, she thought she could turn her side gig into a main hustle.

“After I graduated, I was like ‘Hey, why not try to make this hobby into something else and make money off it.’ It just snowballed from there,” Tezrah says.

This is Tezrah’s second consecutive Best DJ win for Best of Gay D.C. She says she believes her music is so appealing to partygoers because of her diversity.

“I think that I have a very pop ear which is appealing to a wide variety of people instead of just a smaller genre of music. I play house music, hip-hop, top 40. Maybe try to throw in a little dubstep now and then in my pop sets. I think it’s because my music is eclectic the audience doesn’t get bored of one genre of music because I’m playing lots of different types of music in one set,” Tezrah explains.

You can catch her DJing at multiple LGBT venues in D.C. including Cobalt, Pitchers, A League of Her Own, XX+ and more.

She’s also available to play corporate events, private events and weddings. Find out where Tezrah is playing next, or to book her for an event, at tezrah.com. (MC)

Best Drag King

Pretty Rik E (Photo courtesy Pretty Rik E)

Winner: Pretty Rik E

See Queery

Runner-Up: Ricky Rose

Best Drag Queen

Kristina Kelly (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Kristina Kelly

Runner-Up: Jane Saw

If you’ve been to a drag event in D.C., chances are you may have seen Kristina Kelly.

Kelly (real name Christopher Smith), 39, makes the rounds at various drag events throughout D.C. She’s a regular performer at Cobalt and Shaw’s Tavern. She can also be seen at drag brunch at City Tap House and Taqueria del Barrio.

Kelly’s love for drag started at age 17 in her hometown of Lexington, Va. During a talent show around Halloween, she decided to perform in drag.

“I was like, ‘Let’s try it once’ and I’ve been doing it ever since,” Kelly says.

Now, her drag career has led her to become a full-time performer for the past decade.

Her favorite part about being in the D.C. drag community is the diversity.

“The talent in D.C. comes in all forms. What I mean by that is we have drag queens, drag kings, bio queens. It’s so much talent that people don’t get to see it. That’s why I have so many shows to show all that drag has to offer,” Kelly says.

She hopes that one day D.C. will be recognized as a city with real drag talent.

“I think there’s a lot of creativity in D.C. and I don’t think that we get to showcase our talent as much as other cities do. I hope that eventually people can see exactly how much talent there is in D.C.,” she says. (MC)

Best Drag Show

Pretty Boi Drag (Photo by Diyanna Monet; courtesy of Pretty Boi Drag)

Winner: Pretty Boi Drag

Editor’s Pick: Queeta’s Palace at Chateau Remix

Best Singer or Band

Wicked Jezabel (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Wicked Jezabel

Runner-Up: Homosuperior

Wicked Jezabel is an out, all-female, party band. Skilled musicians, they play a diverse mix of Side-A hits from the ‘60s to the present and consistently raise the energy and fun wherever the gig.

Founded by partners in music and marriage, Pauline Anson-Dross (guitar, vocals, percussion) and Davi Anson-Dross (vocals, percussion, keys), Wicked Jezabel gelled in 2004. Other bandmates are Sandra “Jump” Dumas (guitar), Heather Haze (sax, keys, vocals), Martha Capone (bass), and Jackie Yuille (drums). The band’s steadfast sound engineer is Elaine Giles, Dumas’ longtime partner. This is their second consecutive win in this category and third overall. They also won in 2013.

Pauline and Davi married in 2000, and again shortly after same-sex marriage was made legal in Virginia in 2014. For them, working and living together is far from a problem.  “We love it. We’re equally passionate about music and live performing so it works,” Pauline says. “We both have different strengths in the projects so it creates a balanced working relationship, and, for us, that adds dimension to our personal relationship. The only hard part is the day jobs.”

Wicked Jezabel is a continuum of Pauline and Davi’s former band, The Outskirts. “We lost some band members about 14 years ago, so we saw that as a good juncture to stop and rethink things, and that included finding some new musicians and renaming the band.”

Pauline credits Wicked Jezabel’s success and loyal fan base to the magic of live performance: “There’s nothing like it. That connection with an audience is miraculous. It’s therapy for everybody.” (PF)

Best Transgender Performer

Riley Knoxx (Washington Blade photo by Wyatt Reid Westlund)

Winner: Riley Knoxx

Runner-Up: Salvadora Dali

Best Straight Bar

Dacha Beer Garden (Photo by Ted Eytan; courtesy Flickr)

Winner: Dacha Beer Garden

Fourth consecutive win in this category!

1600 7th St., N.W.

202-524-8790

dachadc.com

Editor’s Choice: DC9

Best Karaoke

DIK Bar karaoke (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: DIK Bar (aka Dupont Italian Kitchen)

1637 17th St., N.W. 2nd floor

dupontitaliankitchen.com/bar

Editor’s Choice: Freddie’s Beach Bar

Best ABSOLUT Happy Hour

Trade (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Winner: Trade

A flip-flop of last year’s outcome. Trade also won Best Neighborhood Bar last year.

1410 14th St., N.W.

tradebardc.com

Editor’s Choice: Number Nine

Best Live Music

Troye Sivan performing at the 9:30 Club. (Photo by Katherine Gaines)

9:30 Club

A perennial favorite in this category!

815 V St., N.W.

930.com

Editor’s Choice: Wolf Trap

Best Neighborhood Bar

Pitchers (Washington Blade photo by Wyatt Reid Westlund)

Winner: Pitchers

2317 18th St., N.W.

pitchersbardc.com

Editor’s Choice: Duplex Diner

Best Bar Outside the District

Freddie’s Beach Bar (Washington Blade photo by Doug Horn)

Freddie’s Beach Bar

21st win for this Best of Gay D.C. favorite. Freddie’s has won this award every year since 2002 in addition to several others. It’s a Best of Gay D.C. all-time record.

555 S. 23rd St.

Arlington, Va.

freddiesbeachbar.com

Editor’s Choice: Grand Central

Best Outdoor Drinking

Winner: Dacha Beer Garden

1600 7th St., N.W.

dachadc.com

Editor’s Choice: The Salt Line

Best Place for Guys Night Out

presidential debate, gay news, Washington Blade

Number Nine (Washington Blade photo by Hugh Clarke)

Winner: Number Nine

1435 P St., N.W.

numberninedc.com

Editor’s Choice: Uproar

Best Place for Girls Night Out

League of Her Own, gay news, Washington Blade

A League of Her Own (Washington Blade photo by Tom Hausman)

Winner: A League of Her Own

2319 18th St., N.W.

Editor’s Choice: Women Crush Wednesday

Best Rehoboth Bar

Purple Parrot (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Purple Parrot

Same winner and editor’s choice as last year.

134 Rehoboth Ave.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

ppgrill.com

Editor’s choice: Blue Moon

Best Rehoboth Bartender

Zack West (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Winner: Zack West, Blue Moon

Runner-Up: Matt Urban, Purple Parrot

Blue Moon

35 Baltimore Ave.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

bluemoonrehoboth.com 

There are many reasons the Blue Moon (just named Editor’s Choice for Best Rehoboth Bar in this year’s Best of Gay D.C. competition) has such a dedicated fan base. For more than 30 years, tourists and residents have enjoyed great food, fabulous entertainment, wonderful ambience and an unbeatable location. But, satisfied customers also say it’s the attentive and friendly staff that keep them coming back.

Zack West is proud to be part of that team. As Tim Ragan, one of the Blue Moon’s owners, notes, “Zack’s growth as a bartender, an employee and friend has made him a highly valued part of the Blue Moon team. He embodies our philosophy of customer service.”

Zack adds, “Winning this award makes me feel honored to be part of this wonderful community I love. A big thanks to all the customers who make it easy for me to come to work every day.” (BTC)

Best Rooftop View

VIDA Penthouse Pool (Photo courtesy of VIDA)

Winner: VIDA U St Penthouse Pool

1612 U St., N.W.

penthousepoolclub.com/u-street

Editor’s Choice: POV

FOOD

Best Ethnic Restaurant

Beau Thai (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Beau Thai

1550 7th St., N.W. A

beauthaidc.com

Editor’s Choice: Rasika

Best Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary at Logan Tavern (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Logan Tavern

1423 P St., N.W.

logantavern.com

Editor’s Choice: Commissary

Best Brunch

Brunch at Le Diplomate (Photo courtesy of Le Diplomate)

Le Diplomate

1601 14th St., N.W.

lediplomatedc.com

Editor’s Choice: Agora

Best Locally Made Product

(Photo courtesy of Mason Dixon Biscuit Co.)

Mason Dixie Biscuit Co.

Approachable, affordable and portable Southern staples. Second consecutive win and runner-up in this category.

2301 Bladensburg Rd., N.E.

masondixiebiscuits.com

Editor’s choice: Compass Coffee

Best New Restaurant

Unconventional Diner (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Unconventional Diner

1207 9th St., N.W.

unconventionaldiner.com

Editor’s Choice: Little Pearl

A cursory glance at the menu (chicken noodle soup, cheeseburger, iceberg salad) and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s an actual diner.

Snug inside the Convention Center, this newcomer is anything but. Opened in December of 2017, Unconventional Diner has received several accolades for its modern comfort food, including a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand award.

The space is aiming for a cool, post-industrial, “California-chic” style that meshes with funky Warhol-esque prints on the wall and an impressive cooking pedigree. Head Chef David Deshaies worked side by side with the late and beloved Michel Richard, whose signature 72-hour short ribs grace the menu. A delicious bonus: pastry chef Ana Deshaies, married to David, churns flavorful and vibrant croissants, doughnuts, pies and other sweets during the day.

The restaurant shines brightest when getting creative with American classics. The PB&J sandwich is an umami bomb of a decadent DIY affair that involves dehydrated peanut butter, grape jelly, and foie gras custard; toast comes on the side. It’s instantly Instagrammable.

Musing on his restaurant’s first year, co-owner Eric Eden says, “Our first year has certainly been an unconventional one. We have hosted heads of state, a former First Lady and a couple of rock stars.” On its reception, Eden says, “We are so touched by how warmly we have been received by the community. We think It’s the familiar with an unexpected twist that keeps folks coming back.” (EC)

Best Food Festival or Event

Winner: RAMW Restaurant Week

ramw.org/restaurantweek

Editor’s Choice: Taste of DC

Best Craft Cocktails

A Spanish G&T at Hank’s Cocktail Bar (Photo courtesy of Hank’s Cocktail Bar)

Winner: Hank’s Cocktail Bar

819 Upshur St., N.W.

hankscocktailbar.com

Editor’s Choice: Service Bar

Best Fast Casual Dining

CAVA (Photo courtesy of CAVA)

Winner: CAVA

Locations in Chinatown, Columbia Heights, Dupont, H St., N.E., Navy Yard, Shaw, Tenleytown and Union Station

cava.com

Editor’s Choice: Sweetgreen

Best Local Brewery

DC Brau (Photo by Steph Harding Photo)

D.C. Brau

“Popular craft brewery offering free tours and tastings.” Fourth win in this category!

3178-B Bladensburg Rd., N.E.

dcbrau.com

Editor’s Choice: 3 Stars Brewing

Best Local Distillery

District Distilling (Photo courtesy of District Distilling)

District Distilling Co.

Reclaimed barn doors and brick walls are the backdrop for American fare and drinks crafted from spirits made on-site.

1414 U St., N.W.

district-distilling.com

Editor’s Choice: Founding Spirits

Best Burger

Shake Shack (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Shake Shack

Locations in Dupont Circle, F Street and Union Station. Second consecutive win in this category.

shakeshack.com

Editor’s choice: Duke’s Grocery

Best Caterer

Best of Gay D.C.

Old Blue BBQ (Photo by Ella M. Photography)

Winner: Old Blue BBQ

4580 Eisenhower Ave.

Alexandria, VA

oldbluebbq.com

Editor’s Choice: Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company

Best Juice/Fuel Bar

Barry’s Bootcamp juice bar (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Barry’s Bootcamp

1345 19th St., N.W.

barrysbootcamp.com

Editor’s Choice: Jrink

Best Liquid Lunch

Commissary (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Commissary

1443 P St., N.W.

commissarydc.com

Editor’s Choice: Old Ebbitt

Best Chef

singles, gay news, Washington Blade

Jamie Leeds (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Jamie Leeds (owner of Hank’s Oyster Bar)

Leeds was last year’s runner-up. Locations at The Wharf, Dupont Circle, Old Town Alexandria and Capitol Hill.

Editor’s Choice: Patrick Vanas Events

Best Coffee Shop

Compass Coffee (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Compass Coffee

Third consecutive win in this category!

1335 7th St., N.W.

compasscoffee.com

Editor’s Choice: A Baked Joint

Best Special Occasion Restaurant

Winner: Pineapple and Pearls

715 8th St., S.E.

pineapplesandpearls.com 

Editor’s Choice: Floriana

One of the premier tasting menu destinations in D.C., Pineapple and Pearls has the city falling in love. Opened in 2016, the Barracks Row restaurant is the brainchild of Aaron Silverman, who took the city by storm with the still-popular Rose’s Luxury, where lines routinely run down the street.

Pineapple and Pearls (named for items that represent hospitality and elegance, respectively) runs several rungs more upscale and daring. One reason it’s a special occasion: that 12-course tasting menu puts you back a hot $325, inclusive of tax, gratuity and drink pairings.

A mere $150 grants access to five courses at the bar.

Eschewing convention, Silverman’s dishes are performances themselves, joyful, spirited and intricately detailed. Head Chef Scott Muns paired with Silverman on Rose’s Luxury opening in 2013; he’s back again making masterpieces, many of which come out of the restaurant’s hand-built French stove. Check out the Fluke Veronique, in which the cut of fish floats effortlessly atop a vibrant green sauce and razor-thin slices of grape sit in for the scales; it’s a touch of sweet for the savory fish.

Another reason it’s special? The Michelin Guide awarded the restaurant with two stars for 2019, putting it in company with just one other restaurant in the city, Minibar. (EC)

Best Ice Cream/Gelato

Winner: Milk Bar Bakery

Locations in center city, The Wharf and Logan Circle (flagship)

milkbarstore.com

Editor’s Choice: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Best Farmer’s Market

Winner: FRESHFARM Dupont Circle Market

1600 20th St., N.W.

freshfarm.org/dupont-circle.html

Sundays 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. year round

Editor’s Choice: Eastern Market

Best Food Truck

DC Empanadas Food Truck (Photo by Connor Turner via Flickr)

Winner: DC Empanadas

Union Market

1309 5th St., N.E.

dcempanadas.com

Editor’s Choice: Red Hook Lobster Pound

Best Pizza

Comet Ping Pong (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Comet Ping Pong

5037 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

cometpingpong.com

Editor’s Choice: &pizza

Perhaps known as much for its pluck as its pizza and its ping pong, this restaurant’s signature thin-crust pies are only part of the game. This is Comet’s second consecutive win in this category.

At once a concert space, a kids’ birthday party venue, and trendy, always-busy pop-culture museum, it also is home to top-rated pies. Toppings range from mundane to fun combos. Try out the one with bacon, smoked mushrooms and smoked mozzarella. Of course, there are also hipster-millennial options, like wood fire-roasted beets and stuffed squash blossom salad.

Infamously, Comet Ping Pong was at the center of the bizarre Pizzagate conspiracy theory that fired up the alt-right during the 2016 Clinton campaign, so much so that a gunman traveled to investigate the “controversy” and fired shots inside.

It’s a little quieter today, though less so when the punk-rock show starts. Just don’t forget the paddle skills at home to relive those childhood pleasures of smacking around a little white ball. (EC)

Best Rehoboth Restaurant

Blue Moon (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Blue Moon

Bright, remodeled Craftsman cottage serving upscale American fare with regular live entertainment. Second consecutive win in this category.

35 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del.

bluemoonrehoboth.com

Editor’s Choice: Dogfish Head

Best Local Winery

City Winery (Photo courtesy of City Winery)

Winner: City Winery

citywinery.com

1350 Okie St., N.E.

Editor’s Choice: District Winery

MEDIA

Best Local Website

Winner: Popville

popville.com

Editor’s Choice: The Two Beer Queers

Best Local Influencer

Dito Sevilla (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Dito Sevilla

Runner-Up: Timur Tugberk

Initially Dito Sevilla thought “Best Local Influencer” was kind of a cheesy category, but he’s since warmed to the title.

As a longtime bartender at cozy Dito’s Bar at Floriana restaurant on 17th St., N.W., Sevilla says he has been “influencing from behind the bar for years and years. But it became clear to me recently that influencing is really just giving people a new perspective and advice that works for them in their lives. That’s ultimately what it’s about.”

Sevilla’s bar banter segued perfectly to social media where Sevilla boasts an undeniably strong presence. His popular Facebook page is rife with satire, politics and thinly veiled truths that his followers often share. Some of his pithy yet thoughtful posts go viral. It’s been a natural progression to a larger audience, he says.

A native Washingtonian, Sevilla keeps a big Rolodex: “I hold on to contacts and I remember people’s stories and why they needed something and when. Remember Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point”? In it, he describes three types of communicators. Well, I’m the “maven,” he’s the one in the middle who hears something and passes it on. I’m like a one-man “Angie’s List.”

Currently single, Sevilla came out at 21 around the same time he started going to gay bars. “I was doing new things. It seemed only natural that people should know what I was doing and where I was going.” Always the influencer. (PF)

Best Local TV Personality

Larry Miller (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Larry Miller, WUSA9

Runner-Up: Chuck Bell, NBC 4

(Bell was also 2015 and 2016 runner-up; 2014 winner)

Larry Miller has three goals for viewers when he anchors the news for WUSA9: impact, inform, inspire.

“I think ultimately, we want to inspire people to do more for the areas in which we live, to have impact on the lives of people — especially young people, I think that can certainly use the encouragement,” Miller says. “And just to make sure that we’re engaged as well. We have a commitment to not only covering stories, but making sure that we’re out in the community, being a part of the community that we live in.”

Miller, who’s gay, joined the WUSA9 morning team in 2015, anchors the news at noon and develops original news stories for the TV station. The Baltimore County-native lived and worked as a TV journalist in Medford, Ore., Pittsburgh and Birmingham, Ala., before returning to the Washington area to work at WUSA9.

Among his honors are Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards for hard news reporting.

Has anything surprised Miller in his three years at WUSA9? Miller struggled to find any particular incident and said “nothing really surprises me because I think I’ve seen just about every level of weird you possibly can.”

“I think if there’s anything that I find unique about Washington is the amount of diversity,” Miller says. “I’ve lived in a lot of places, and I think really cool about the metro is there’s all these different pockets of people from all over the world. And, I think, for me, it keeps me not only interested, but it keeps me learning about different groups of people that I may not always have firsthand knowledge of or I may not have exposure to.”

Miller says his proudest moment at WUSA9 was a recent investigation of food issues in D.C. in which he profiled an 82-year-old woman who had difficulty getting to the grocery store. The woman, Miller says, had to do a two-hour roundtrip from her house to the bus stop to grocery store while carrying a cart that’s filled with groceries on the return trip.

Subsequent to the news story, Miller said a non-profit called the Justice Organization stepped up and volunteered to send free groceries to the woman’s home so she won’t have to make that trip.

“And now, a result of kind of telling this woman’s story and being open, honest and authentic, she’s now getting some help, and no one’s grandmother is now having to lug a cart around the city just to make sure her refrigerator is full,” Miller says.

Miller has a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Point Park University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Pittsburgh. Miller is also a graduate of Montgomery College, Rockville Campus, where he received an Associate of Arts degree. Miller also teaches speech communication as an adjunct professor at Prince George’s Community College. (Chris Johnson)

Best Local Columnist

Eugene Robinson (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

Winner: Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

Runner-Up: Brock Thompson, Washington Blade

Best Radio Station

HOT 99.5 at the Capital Pride Festival (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Hot 99.5

Editor’s Choice: WAMU 88.5

A flip-flop of last year’s results.

PEOPLE

Best Amateur Athlete

Grace Thompson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Grace Thompson, DC Front Runners

Also won in 2016; was last year’s runner-up.

Runner-Up: Kevin McCarthy, Capital Tennis Association

Best Artist

Lisa Marie Thalhammer (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key / “LOVE” mural © 2017; Lisa Marie Thalhammer; Commissioned and funded by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, DC Creates Public Art Building Communities Program. Located in DC Alley Museum: Blagden Alley, 926 N Street rear NW, Washington, DC. www.lisamariestudio.com)

Winner: Lisa Marie Thalhammer

Runner-Up: John Jack Photography

John Jack Gallagher was the 2016 and 2017 winner.

Best Businessperson

Van Goodwin (Photo courtesy of Goodwin)

Winner: Van Goodwin, Van Allen

Runner-Up: Robert Safro, LOGOmotion

Van Goodwin is the founder and managing director of Van Allen, a boutique technology strategy consulting firm. Drawing on his extensive experience working in the government, non-profit and private sectors, Goodwin founded Van Allen in 2014 to help large companies assess their long-term technical challenges and goals and to develop personalized solutions. Their clients now range from innovative tech startups to well-established Fortune 500 companies.

Goodwin also volunteers as the president of the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CAGLCC). The Chamber is the non-profit, non-partisan network of several hundred queer and allied businesses and business leaders in the metro DC area. Its services include workshops, messaging and networking events. According to Goodwin, the Chamber helps “LGBT business owners and professionals create their success.”

“I’m honored and surprised to be getting this award,” Goodwin says. “It’s a vote of support from the LGBT community and also from the Blade, which has supported the area’s LGBT businesses and professionals for decades.” (BTC)

Best Clergy

Rayceen Pendarvis, gay news, Washington Blade

Rayceen Pendarvis (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Rayceen Pendarvis

Runner-Up: Bishop Allyson Abrams

A two-spirited clergyperson who answers to “he,” “she,” “Reverend and “Miss” and identifies as gay, a “gender-bender” and “earth mother to the gays,” native Washingtonian Rayceen Pendarvis isn’t connected to a single denomination or one house of worship: “I’m the goddess of love and the church of life. I can’t be tied down to one thing.”

He and runner up Bishop Allyson Abrams are perpetual flip-flops in this category. Abrams won in 2015 and 2017. Pendarvis won in 2016 and was last year’s runner-up. Abrams was the 2016 runner-up. Pendarvis is host of the D.C.-based monthly “Ask Rayceen Show” which features a wide spate of varied content.

Pendarvis’ wide-ranging spiritual mission includes wedding officiant. “It’s something I do and would love to do more of. I’m a licensed and ordained to all I’ve read the Quran, the Bible and the Torah, and I embrace all faiths and nonbelievers alike.”

Despite his exceptionally positive outlook, Pendarvis ([email protected]) readily concedes that the struggle for LGBT and racial equality remains real. Still, he refuses to let it get him down: “Every morning when I get up, the first moment I breathe, that is my gift and that is my blessing. Our community comes from a strong tradition of fighters and we don’t give up. Every little bit matters and all of us have a role to play: Letters. Protest. Write checks. Organize. There is a part for all of us.”

“I’m the father of five and the mother to many,” adds Pendarvis who has five children from two relationships. “While I’m their father, I’ve served as both mother and father to them with the help of my own mother and extended family,”

“Love,” he says, “is the greatest gift, lesson, and it will live forever.” (PF)

Most Committed Activist

Ruby Corado, detention, gay news, Washington Blade

Ruby Corado (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ruby Corado

Second consecutive win in this category. 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: Earl Fowlkes

Best DC Public Official

D.C. Elections, gay news, Washington Blade

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

Winner: Mayor Muriel Bowser

Runner-Up: Randy Downs

Same winner and runner-up as last year.

Best Hill Staffer/LGBT Bureaucrat

Sarah Jackson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Sarah Jackson

Runner-Up: Ben Rosenbaum

Despite Republican control of both chambers of Congress, Sarah Jackson said she’s motivated to work as a legislative aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) because she’s able to work on issues important to her, including issues affecting the LGBT community.

“I came to Capitol Hill thinking I would work on women’s and LGBTQ issues, but what drives me to stay in this male-dominated, heteronormative environment is working on issues that women, and especially queer women have traditionally been shut out of,” Jackson says. “As a staffer working on taxes, trade, financial services, housing and energy issues, I’m often the only woman in the room and usually the youngest. This gives me more motivation to continue learning and to continue the work to ensure a more equitable nation.”

The San Francisco-native has worked on Pelosi’s staff for three years and now serves as membership director of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association. Previously, Jackson was a congressional intern with the LGBTQ Victory Institute.

“The Hill’s energy, dynamism, and unpredictability is addicting; but what really motivates me is the power of believing in your boss and your caucus, especially in our current climate,” Jackson says. (Chris Johnson)

Best Local Pro Athlete

Elena Delle Donne (Photo courtesy of the Washington Mystics)

Winner: Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics

Runner-Up: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

In addition to her success on the basketball court (as the “small forward” for the Chicago Sky and the Washington Mystics she was named the WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2013 and the WNBA MVP in 2015 and is a five-time WNBA All-Star), openly lesbian athlete Elena Delle Donne is an award-winning author.

Her memoir “My Shot: Balancing It All and Standing Tall” recently won a Parents’ Choice Award from the Parents’ Choice Foundation. Aimed at middle school readers, the book is an amazingly frank but age-appropriate discussion of both her career highlights and her personal challenges, including her decision to come out.

Earlier this year, she also launched the “Hoops” series of novels for young readers (ages 8-12). “Elle of the Ball” introduces Elle Deluca, who closely resembles Delle Donne herself. Elle’s height is an asset on the basketball court but a liability in her ballroom dancing class where she towers over her male dance partners. The series continues with “Full Court Press” and “Out of Bounds.”

Like her fictional counterpart, Delle Donne is very tall and had an early growth spurt. She’s 6’5” and wears a size 12 shoe. She gets her height from her parents. Her dad, a real estate developer, is 6’6” and her mom is 6’2.”

She also gets her feisty spirit and determination from them. When Delle Donne was in elementary school, her doctor wanted to start her on injections to stunt her growth. Her mother refused, and, according to an interview with ESPN, she told her daughter, “Why try to be like the rest of the pack? Be your own person.”

The young athlete also had to come to terms with the fact that she could do things that her beloved older sister Lizzie would never be able to do. Lizzie, with whom Delle Donne remains close, was born deaf and blind, with both cerebral palsy and autism, and is unable to speak.

Born in Wilmington, Del., in 1989, Delle Donne rose to national prominence as a high school basketball star at Ursuline Academy. She led her team to three straight Delaware State Championships and was ranked as the number one recruit by Scout.com.

Delle Donne was recruited by the University of Connecticut but ended up playing for the Blue Hens at the University of Delaware. In 2010, she was named both “Player of the Year” and “Rookie of the Year” by the Colonial Athletic Association. Although she was diagnosed with Lyme disease during her sophomore year, she continued to excel as a college athlete and was selected second overall in the 2014 WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky. She joined the Washington Mystics in 2017.

In 2016, Delle Donne won a gold medal as a member of the Unites States women’s basketball team at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Delle Donne officially came out in an interview with Vogue magazine in August 2016 where she announced her engagement to girlfriend Amanda Clifton. The couple was married in 2017.

The award-winning out athlete, who has signed endorsement deals with Nike, DuPont and Octagon, is also a noted philanthropist. She founded the Elena Delle Donne Foundation, which raises funds and awareness for Lyme Disease research and special needs programs and is also a Global Ambassador for the Special Olympics. (BTC)

Best Local Pro Sports Team

Washington Capitals (Photo by Keith Allison via Flickr)

Winner: Washington Capitals

Editor’s Choice: Washington Nationals

Best Fitness Instructor

Jesse Johnson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Jesse Johnson

VIDA Fitness U Street

1612 U St., N.W.

vidafitness.com

Runner-Up: Mark Raimondo

Jesse Johnson worked in a typical office environment where he wore “a suit and tie” every day. Unsatisfied with his work life, he decided to get fitness training certificates in his spare time.

After friends told Johnson he could make a living doing what he loved, he decided to become a full-time fitness trainer. He’s been working for VIDA Fitness since 2011.

A training session with Johnson will be “comprehensive.” Johnson, 32, says he writes down everything that takes place in his sessions and trains people on how to work out and what foods to eat. He also likes to prep clients on how to keep up training when they aren’t in sessions with him. His favorite fitness tip is simply to “go to the gym. Eighty percent of it is just show up.”

It’s a position that’s finally fulfilling to Johnson.

“D.C. is full of a lot of professionals. A lot of people here work really hard and at the end of the day when it comes time to take care of themselves and their bodies they might not know what to do. It’s a good place to help someone get something that they were having trouble getting on their own. I’m happy to do that,” Johnson says. (MC)

Best Real Estate Agent

Stacey Williams-Zeiger (Photo courtesy of Stacey Williams-Zeiger)

Winner: Stacey Williams-Zeiger, Zeiger Realty Inc

Runner-Up: Christopher Leary, Washington Fine Properties

Real Estate Group

The Evan+Mark Team (Photo courtesy of The Evan+Mark Team)

Winner: The Evan+Mark Team, Compass

compass.com

Last year’s runner-up.

Runner-Up: The Bediz Group, Keller Williams

Best Rehoboth Real Estate Agent

Lee Ann Wilkinson (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Winner: Lee Ann Wilkinson

Runner-Up: Karen Gustafson

Best Straight Ally

Sean Doolittle, gay news, Washington Blade

Sean Doolittle (Photo courtesy of MLB)

Winner: Sean Doolittle

Runner-Up: Leigh Ann Hendricks

Ace relief pitcher Sean Doolittle was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the Washington Nationals in July 2017. He eloped with his then-girlfriend, Eireann Dolan one day after the regular baseball season ended last year. Doolittle was named a 2018 All-Star this summer; he was a member of the 2014 MLB All-Star team and this season is rounding out to be one of the best of his career.

Doolittle and Dolan received national attention in 2015 when they purchased hundreds of tickets to the Oakland Athletics Pride Night after the event received backlash from fans. The tickets were donated to local LGBT groups and an additional $40,000 was raised.

Local LGBT youth leadership and housing program SMYAL had caught the attention of Doolittle and Dolan and they donated 52 tickets to the organization for Night OUT at the Nationals in June. Going a step further, they stopped in personally to deliver the tickets at the SMYAL youth program’s headquarters and the SMYAL transitional housing program.

“In advance of the Nationals Pride night, we wanted to get involved,” Doolittle said in a July interview with the Blade. “We wanted to do something more than catch the first pitch or meet some people on the field before the game. And we love this community, we love being here, and we wanted to give back.” (KM)

Best Transgender Advocate

Charlotte Clymer (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Charlotte Clymer

Runner-Up: Rayceen Pendarvis

Politically savvy transgender woman Charlotte Clymer didn’t set out to be a transgender advocate. She was pushed into the part. “Earlier this year, I had a bad night at a downtown restaurant. I was asked to show my ID before using the restroom at Cuba Libre. When I refused, the manager threw me out even though I used my phone to show him that he was breaking the law. But because of the work of longtime transgender advocates, I was able to have a sense of safety that night and I stood up for myself.”

Out of an unpleasant experience came a lot of good, she says. “The restaurant changed its policies. We got a huge donation for Casa Ruby and Cuba Libre partnered with Casa Ruby and other D.C. restaurants in becoming more LGBTQ inclusive.”

Currently single and dating, Clymer lives on East Capitol Hill. Her challenging job as Human Rights Campaign press secretary for rapid response keeps her busy. “Essentially, I direct all messaging strategy against the Trump White House.” How does she keep her sanity? “Alcohol,” she laughs. “But seriously, I have really good friends and a great support network.”

Future goals include strengthening workers’ rights for transgender folks, especially transgender people of color, she says. “But more than anything, I want to amplify the people who are longtime trans advocates. I want to help ensure that they’re supported in their important work.” (PF)

Best Stylist

Roel Quiz (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Roel Ruiz

Logan 14 Aveda Salon Spa

1314 14th St., N.W.

logan14salonspa.com

Runner-Up: Quency Valencia

Valencia won in 2016-2017.

Roel Ruiz has been styling hair for 10 years. He’s spent three years as a stylist in D.C. at Logan 14 Aveda Salon Spa where he specializes in men’s’ grooming and does color.

Ruiz built his Logan 14 book of business pretty quickly. “For a while I was bartending at Cobalt and styling hair. I asked bar customers to come for a haircut, and encouraged clients to come by for a drink. It worked hand in hand.”

Before entering hair biz, Ruiz studied nursing.

“As a stylist I found that I got to help people out differently while using my creative juices. And I had an instant knack for it and I love the industry.”

He grew up in small town Texas. “I had loving, gay-friendly parents in a red state. I like to say my mom allowed me to be comfortable with my sexuality and D.C. is where I found my pride.” Today, Ruiz lives around the corner from work. “My commute is five minutes from my bed to the salon.”

Future goals? Ultimately, he would like to open something of his own and currently is adding a barber’s license to his resume, he says. “This allows me to do razor work and straight blade. Logan 14 is working on merging the salon and barber experience. We have a lot of LGBTQ clientele. Many men with beards, me being one of them.” (PF)

COMMUNITY

Best Art Gallery

Renwick Gallery (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Renwick Gallery

1661 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.

americanart.si.edu

Editor’s Choice: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Best Adult Store

Bite the Fruit

Third consecutive win in this category!

1723 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

bitethefruit.com

Runner-up: Lotus Blooms

Best Car Dealership

DARCARS

New and used cars at locations in Suitland, Temple Hills, Silver Spring, Md. et. al. Second consecutive win.

darcars.com

Editor’s choice: BMW of Fairfax

Best Apartment/Condo Building

Winner: F1RST Residences

1263 First St., S.E.

f1stdc.com

Editor’s Choice: Atlantic Plumbing (2016-2017 winner)

Best Doctor/Medical Provider

Dr. Robyn Zeiger (Photo by Red Leash Photography)

Winner: Dr. Robyn Zeiger

10300 Sweetbriar Pkwy.

Silver Spring, Md.

drrobynziger.com 

Runner-Up: Dr. Ray Martins, Whitman-Walker Health

Dr. Robyn S. Zeiger is a licensed clinical professional therapist with 40 years of experience working with individuals and couples. In her practice, Zeiger emphasizes that patients should not approach counseling with feelings of shame or guilt.

“It’s important for you to know that I am not in practice to judge you or the information you share with me,” she says. “Thus, I am not likely to be shocked by anything you tell me.”

She also notes that “by exploring the issues that may have held you back in the past, you can open doors to many possibilities. The overall goals are for you to be happy, satisfied, and empowered, which will allow your true self to flourish and grow.”

As a passionate lover of animals, Zeiger is a member of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement and also offers pet loss counseling to help people through the loss of beloved animal companions.

Zeiger, who is winning this award for the second year in a row, is also an adjunct senior lecturer at University of Maryland School of Public Health where she teaches in the Department of Family Science. In addition to teaching courses on counseling families and individuals, Zeiger also designed a class called “Exploring Homophobia: Demystifying LGBT Issues,” for the Honors College.

A native of Baltimore and a dedicated fan of the musical “Hamilton,” Zeiger completed both her master’s and her doctorate at the University of Maryland,

She is married to Stacey Williams-Zeiger who is the winner of the Washington Blade’s 2018 Best of Gay D.C. Award for Best Real Estate Agent. (BTC)

Best Fitness or Workout Spot

Barry’s Bootcamp (Photo courtesy of Barry’s Bootcamp

Winner: Barry’s Bootcamp

1345 19th St., N.W.

barrysbootcamp.com

Editor’s Choice: VIDA Fitness

Best Gayborhood

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Shaw

Third consecutive win in this category!

Editor’s choice: Logan Circle (2016 runner up)

Best Hardware Store

MidCity Dog Days, gay news, Washington Blade

Logan Ace Hardware (Washington Blade photo by Antwan J. Thompson)

Logan Ace Hardware

A perennial favorite in this category. Also won last year.

1734 14th St., N.W.

acehardwaredc.com

Editor’s choice: Annie’s Ace Hardware

Best Home Furnishings

Mitchell Gold, Bob Williams, furniture, design, home, gay news, Washington Blade

Mitchell Gold, on left, and business partner Bob Williams (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Mitchell Gold+Bob Williams

1526 14th St., N.W.

mgbwhome.com

Editor’s Choice: Miss Pixie’s (last year’s winner)

Best Home Improvement Service

Case Design

“Full-service home remodelers building your dreams.”

casedesign.com

Editor’s choice: The Organizing Agency

Same outcome as last year.

Best Hotel

Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington, D.C. (Photo by Cris Molina)

Winner: Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington, D.C.

An upset — The W won the last three years.

700 F St., N.W.

monaco-dc.com

Editor’s Choice: The Line

Best House of Worship

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Empowerment Liberation Cathedral

Fourth consecutive win in this category!

633 Sligo Avenue, Silver Spring

240-720-7605

empowermentliberationcathedral.org

Editor’s Choice: Foundry United Methodist Church

Best Lawyer

Michelle Zavos (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Michele Zavos

Zavos Juncker Law Group

zavosjuncker.com

Runner Up: Glen Ackerman

Flip-flop of last year’s outcome.

Best LGBT Social Group

Stonewall Sports (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Stonewall Sports

Also won last year.

stonewallnational.flywheelsites.com

Editor’s Choice: Team DC

Best LGBT Sports League

Stonewall Kickball (Washington Blade photo by Tom Hausman)

Winner: Stonewall Kickball

Second consecutive win; 2016 runner-up.

stonewallkickball.leagueapps.com

Editor’s Choice: DC Frontrunners

Best LGBT-Owned Business

DC Allen, Crew Club, gay news, Washington Blade

Crew Club owner DC Allen (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

Winner: Crew Club

1321 14th St., N.W.

crewclub.net

Editor’s Choice: District Title

Most LGBT-friendly Workplace

Whitman-Walker gala, gay news, Washington Blade

Whitman-Walker Executive Director Don Blanchon and Deputy Executive Director Naseema Shafi at the Whitman-Walker gala. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Whitman-Walker Health

Second consecutive win.

1525 14th St., N.W.

whitman-walker.org

Editor’s Choice: National LGBTQ Task Force

Best LGBT Event

Capital Pride Parade (Washington Blade photo by Cecily Kidd)

Winner: Capital Pride Celebration

Second consecutive win.

Editor’s Choice: D.C. Black Pride

Best Museum

National Gallery of Art (Photo by John Menard via Flickr)

Winner: National Gallery of Art

6th & Constitution Ave., N.W.

nga.gov

Editor’s Choice: National Museum of African American History (last year’s winner)

Best Non-Profit

SMYAL Fall Brunch, gay news, Washington Blade

SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the annual Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

SMYAL

Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders

410 7th St., S.E.

smyal.org

Editor’s Choice: Center for Black Equity

Best Private School

The Maret School (Photo by Aaron Siirila via Wikimedia Commons)

Maret School

A coed, K-12 independent school founded in 1911. Also won this category last year.

3000 Cathedral Ave., N.W.

maret.org

Editor’s Choice: Edmund Burke

Best Pet Business

Doggy Style Bakery (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Doggy Style Bakery, Boutique & Pet Spa

Second consecutive win.

1642 R St., N.W.

doggiestylebakery.com

Editor’s Choice: District Dogs

Best Place to Buy Second-hand Stuff

Miss Pixie’s (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Miss Pixie’s Furnishings and Whatnot

A perennial favorite in this category! Same outcome as last year.

1626 14th St., N.W.

misspixies.com

Editor’s choice: Buffalo Exchange (2016 runner-up)

Best Movie Theater

Landmark Theaters Atlantic Plumbing (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Landmark Theaters Atlantic Plumbing

New releases plus indie fare, foreign and avant garde. Second consecutive win.

807 V St., N.W.

landmarktheatres.com

Editor’s Choice: AMC Loews Georgetown

Best Rehoboth Business

community, gay news, Washington Blade

Purple Parrot (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Winner: Purple Parrot

134 Rehoboth Ave.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

ppgrill.com

Editor’s Choice: Blue Moon

Flip-flop of last year’s outcome.

Best Salon/Spa

Logan 14

Third consecutive win in this category!

1314 14th St., N.W.

logan14salonspa.com

Editor’s Choice: The Burrow

Best Alternative Transportation

Winner: Lyft

lyft.com

Editor’s Choice: Capital Bike Share

Best Day Trip

MGM National Harbor (Photo by Robb Scharteg; courtesy MGM)

Winner: MGM National Harbor

101 MGM National Ave.

Oxon Hill, Md.

mgmnationalharbor.com

Editor’s Choice: Easton, Maryland

Best Place to Take Kids

Winner: National Zoo

3001 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

nationalzoo.si.edu

Editor’s Choice: National Aquarium Baltimore

Best Tattoo Parlor

Tattoo Paradise

2444 18th St., N.W.

tattooparadisedc.com

Second consecutive win.

Editor’s Choice: Jinx Proof Tattoos

Best Theater

Winner: Studio Theatre

An upset  — Kennedy Center won the last three years. A flip-flop of last year’s outcome.

1501 14th St., N.W.

studiotheatre.org

Editor’s Choice: Kennedy Center

Best Theater Production

Winner: Hamilton – Kennedy Center

Ran June 12-Sept. 16

Editor’s Choice: Waitress – National Theatre

Best Vet

CityPaws Animal Hospital

1823 14th St., N.W.

citypawsanimalhospital.com

Fourth consecutive win in this category.

Editor’s Choice: Friendship Animal Hospital

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What to expect at the 2024 National Cannabis Festival

Wu-Tang Clan to perform; policy discussions also planned

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Juicy J performs at the 2023 National Cannabis Festival (Photo credit: Alive Coverage)

(Editor’s note: Tickets are still available for the National Cannabis Festival, with prices starting at $55 for one-day general admission on Friday through $190 for a two-day pass with early-entry access. The Washington Blade, one of the event’s sponsors, will host a LGBTQIA+ Lounge and moderate a panel discussion on Saturday with the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.)


With two full days of events and programs along with performances by Wu-Tang Clan, Redman, and Thundercat, the 2024 National Cannabis Festival will be bigger than ever this year.

Leading up to the festivities on Friday and Saturday at Washington, D.C.’s RFK Stadium are plenty of can’t-miss experiences planned for 420 Week, including the National Cannabis Policy Summit and an LGBTQ happy hour hosted by the District’s Black-owned queer bar, Thurst Lounge (both happening on Wednesday).

On Tuesday, the Blade caught up with NCF Founder and Executive Producer Caroline Phillips, principal at The High Street PR & Events, for a discussion about the event’s history and the pivotal political moment for cannabis legalization and drug policy reform both locally and nationally. Phillips also shared her thoughts about the role of LGBTQ activists in these movements and the through-line connecting issues of freedom and bodily autonomy.

After D.C. residents voted to approve Initiative 71 in the fall of 2014, she said, adults were permitted to share cannabis and grow the plant at home, while possession was decriminalized with the hope and expectation that fewer people would be incarcerated.

“When that happened, there was also an influx of really high-priced conferences that promised to connect people to big business opportunities so they could make millions in what they were calling the ‘green rush,'” Phillips said.

“At the time, I was working for Human Rights First,” a nonprofit that was, and is, engaged in “a lot of issues to do with world refugees and immigration in the United States” — so, “it was really interesting to me to see the overlap between drug policy reform and some of these other issues that I was working on,” Phillips said.

“And then it rubbed me a little bit the wrong way to hear about the ‘green rush’ before we’d heard about criminal justice reform around cannabis and before we’d heard about people being let out of jail for cannabis offenses.”

“As my interests grew, I realized that there was really a need for this conversation to happen in a larger way that allowed the larger community, the broader community, to learn about not just cannabis legalization, but to understand how it connects to our criminal justice system, to understand how it can really stimulate and benefit our economy, and to understand how it can become a wellness tool for so many people,” Phillips said.

“On top of all of that, as a minority in the cannabis space, it was important to me that this event and my work in the cannabis industry really amplified how we could create space for Black and Brown people to be stakeholders in this economy in a meaningful way.”

Caroline Phillips (Photo by Greg Powers)

“Since I was already working in event production, I decided to use those skills and apply them to creating a cannabis event,” she said. “And in order to create an event that I thought could really give back to our community with ticket prices low enough for people to actually be able to attend, I thought a large-scale event would be good — and thus was born the cannabis festival.”

D.C. to see more regulated cannabis businesses ‘very soon’

Phillips said she believes decriminalization in D.C. has decreased the number of cannabis-related arrests in the city, but she noted arrests have, nevertheless, continued to disproportionately impact Black and Brown people.

“We’re at a really interesting crossroads for our city and for our cannabis community,” she said. In the eight years since Initiative 71 was passed, “We’ve had our licensed regulated cannabis dispensaries and cultivators who’ve been existing in a very red tape-heavy environment, a very tax heavy environment, and then we have the unregulated cannabis cultivators and cannabis dispensaries in the city” who operate via a “loophole” in the law “that allows the sharing of cannabis between adults who are over the age of 21.”

Many of the purveyors in the latter group, Phillips said, “are looking at trying to get into the legal space; so they’re trying to become regulated businesses in Washington, D.C.”

She noted the city will be “releasing 30 or so licenses in the next couple of weeks, and those stores should be coming online very soon” which will mean “you’ll be seeing a lot more of the regulated stores popping up in neighborhoods and hopefully a lot more opportunity for folks that are interested in leaving the unregulated space to be able to join the regulated marketplace.”

National push for de-scheduling cannabis

Signaling the political momentum for reforming cannabis and criminal justice laws, Wednesday’s Policy Summit will feature U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate majority leader.

Also representing Capitol Hill at the Summit will be U.S. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) — who will be receiving the Supernova Women Cannabis Champion Lifetime Achievement Award — along with an aide to U.S. Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio).

Nationally, Phillips said much of the conversation around cannabis concerns de-scheduling. Even though 40 states and D.C. have legalized the drug for recreational and/or medical use, marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I substance since the Controlled Substances Act was passed in 1971, which means it carries the heftiest restrictions on, and penalties for, its possession, sale, distribution, and cultivation.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services formally requested the drug be reclassified as a Schedule III substance in August, which inaugurated an ongoing review, and in January a group of 12 Senate Democrats sent a letter to the Biden-Harris administration’s Drug Enforcement Administration urging the agency to de-schedule cannabis altogether.

Along with the Summit, Phillips noted that “a large contingent of advocates will be coming to Washington, D.C. this week to host a vigil at the White House and to be at the festival educating people” about these issues. She said NCF is working with the 420 Unity Coalition to push Congress and the Biden-Harris administration to “move straight to de-scheduling cannabis.”

“This would allow folks who have been locked up for cannabis offenses the chance to be released,” she said. “It would also allow medical patients greater access. It would also allow business owners the chance to exist without the specter of the federal government coming in and telling them what they’re doing is wrong and that they’re criminals.”

Phillips added, however, that de-scheduling cannabis will not “suddenly erase” the “generations and generations of systemic racism” in America’s financial institutions, business marketplace, and criminal justice system, nor the consequences that has wrought on Black and Brown communities.

An example of the work that remains, she said, is making sure “that all people are treated fairly by financial institutions so that they can get the funding for their businesses” to, hopefully, create not just another industry, but “really a better industry” that from the outset is focused on “equity” and “access.”

Policy wonks should be sure to visit the festival, too. “We have a really terrific lineup in our policy pavilion,” Phillips said. “A lot of our heavy hitters from our advocacy committee will be presenting programming.”

“On Saturday there is a really strong federal marijuana reform panel that is being led by Maritza Perez Medina from the Drug Policy Alliance,” she said. “So that’s going to be a terrific discussion” that will also feature “representation from the Veterans Cannabis Coalition.”

“We also have a really interesting talk being led by the Law Enforcement Action Partnership about conservatives, cops, and cannabis,” Phillips added.

Cannabis and the LGBTQ community

“I think what’s so interesting about LGBTQIA+ culture and the cannabis community are the parallels that we’ve seen in the movements towards legalization,” Phillips said.

The fight for LGBTQ rights over the years has often involved centering personal stories and personal experiences, she said. “And that really, I think, began to resonate, the more that we talked about it openly in society; the more it was something that we started to see on television; the more it became a topic in youth development and making sure that we’re raising healthy children.”

Likewise, Phillips said, “we’ve seen cannabis become more of a conversation in mainstream culture. We’ve heard the stories of people who’ve had veterans in their families that have used cannabis instead of pharmaceuticals, the friends or family members who’ve had cancer that have turned to CBD or THC so they could sleep, so they could eat so they could get some level of relief.”

Stories about cannabis have also included accounts of folks who were “arrested when they were young” or “the family member who’s still locked up,” she said, just as stories about LGBTQ people have often involved unjust and unnecessary suffering.

Not only are there similarities in the socio-political struggles, Phillips said, but LGBTQ people have played a central role pushing for cannabis legalization and, in fact, in ushering in the movement by “advocating for HIV patients in California to be able to access cannabis’s medicine.”

As a result of the queer community’s involvement, she said, “the foundation of cannabis legalization is truly patient access and criminal justice reform.”

“LGBTQIA+ advocates and cannabis advocates have managed to rein in support of the majority of Americans for the issues that they find important,” Phillips said, even if, unfortunately, other movements for bodily autonomy like those concerning issues of reproductive justice “don’t see that same support.”

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Juliet Hawkins’s music defies conventional categorization

‘Keep an open mind, an open heart, and a willingness to evolve’

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Juliet Hawkins (Photo by David Khella)

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Emerging from the dynamic music scene of Los Angeles, Juliet Hawkins seamlessly integrates deeply soulful vocals with contemporary production techniques, crafting a distinctive sound that defies conventional categorization.

Drawing inspiration from the emotive depth of Amy Winehouse and weaving together elements of country, blues, and pop, Hawkins’ music can best be described as a fusion–perhaps best termed as soulful electronica. Yet, even this characterization falls short, as Hawkins defines herself as “a blend of a million different inspirations.”

Hawkins’s musical palette mirrors her personae: versatile and eclectic. Any conversation with Hawkins makes this point abundantly clear. She exhibits the archetype of a wild, musical genius while remaining true to her nature-loving, creative spirit. Whether recording in the studio for an album release, performing live in a studio setting, or playing in front of a live audience, Hawkins delivers her music with natural grace. 

Juliet Hawkins (Photo by David Khella)

However, Hawkins’s musical journey is far from effortless. Amid personal challenges and adversity, she weaves her personal odyssey of pain and pleasure, transforming these experiences into empowering anthems.

In a candid interview with the Blade, Hawkins spoke with profound openness and vulnerability about her past struggles with opiate and heroin addiction: “That was 10 years ago that I struggled with opiates,” she shared. Yet, instead of letting her previous addiction define her, Hawkins expressed to the Blade that she harbors no shame about her past. “My newer music is much more about empowerment than recovery,” she explained, emphasizing that “writing was the best way to process trauma.”

Despite her struggles with addiction, Hawkins managed to recover. However, she emphasizes that this recovery is deeply intertwined with her spiritual connection to nature. An illustrative instance of Hawkins’ engagement with nature occurred during the COVID pandemic.

Following an impulse that many of us have entertained, she bought a van and chose to live amidst the trees. It was during this period that Hawkins composed the music for her second EP, titled “Lead with Love.”

In many ways, Hawkins deep spiritual connection to nature has been profoundly shaped by her extensive travels. Born in San Diego, spending her formative years in Massachusetts, and later moving to Tennessee before returning to Southern California, she has broadened her interests and exposed herself to the diverse musical landscapes across America.

“Music is the only thing I have left,” Hawkins confides to the Blade, highlighting the integral role that music has in her life. This intimate relationship with music is evident in her sultry and dynamic compositions. Rather than imitating or copying other artists, Hawkins effortlessly integrates sounds from some of her favorite musical influences to create something new. Some of these influences include LP, Lucinda Williams, Lana Del Rey, and, of course, Amy Winehouse, among others.

Juliet Hawkins (Photo by David Khella)

Hawkins has always been passionate about music—-she began with piano at a young age, progressed to guitar, and then to bass, eagerly exploring any instrument she could get her hands on. However, instead of following a traditional path of formalized lessons and structured music theory, Hawkins told the Blade that she “has a hard time following directions and being told what to do.”

This independent approach has led her to experiment with various genres and even join unexpected groups, such as a tribute band for Eric Clapton and Cream. While she acknowledges that her eclectic musical interests might be attributed to ADHD, she holds a different belief: “Creative minds like to move around.”

When discussing her latest musical release — “Stay True (the live album)” which was recorded in a live studio setting — Hawkins describes the experience as a form of improvisation with both herself and the band:

“[The experience] was this divine honey that was flowing through all of us.” She explains that this live album was uncertain in the music’s direction. “For a couple of songs,” Hawkins recalls, “we intuitively closed them out.” By embracing creative spontaneity and refusing to be constrained by fear of mistakes, the live album authentically captures raw sound, complete with background chatter, extended outros, and an extremely somber cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” coupled with a slow piano and accompanied strings.

While “Stay True” was a rewarding experience for Hawkins, her favorite live performance took place in an unexpected location—an unattended piano in the middle of an airport. As she began playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, Hawkins shared with the Blade a universal connection we all share with music: “This little girl was dancing as I was playing.”

After the performance, tears welled in Hawkins’ eyes as she was touched by the young girl’s appreciation of her musicianship. Hawkins tells the Blade, “It’s not about playing to an audience—it’s about finding your people.”

Juliet Hawkins (Photo by David Khella)

What sets Hawkins apart as an artist is her ability to connect with her audience in diverse settings. She highlights EDC, an electronic dance music festival, as a place where she unabashedly lets her “freak flag” fly and a place to connect with her people. Her affinity for electronic music not only fuels her original pop music creations, but also inspires her to reinterpret songs with an electronic twist. A prime example of this is with her electronic-style cover of Tal Bachman’s 90’s hit, “She’s So High.”

As an openly queer woman in the music industry, Hawkins is on a mission to safeguard artistic integrity. In songs like “My Father’s Men,” she bares her vulnerability and highlights the industry’s misogyny, which often marginalizes gender minorities in their pursuit of artistic expression.

She confides to the Blade, “The industry can be so sexist, misogynist, and oppressive,” and points out that “there are predators in the industry.” Yet, rather than succumbing to apathy, Hawkins is committed to advocating for gender minorities within the music industry.

“Luckily, people are rising up against misogyny, but it’s still there. ‘My Father’s Men’ is a message: It’s time for more people who aren’t just white straight men to have a say.”

Hawkins is also an activist for other causes, with a fervent belief in the preservation of bodily autonomy. Her self-directed music video “I’ll play Daddy,” showcases the joy of embracing one’s body with Hawkins being sensually touched by a plethora of hands. While the song, according to Hawkins, “fell upon deaf ears in the south,” it hasn’t stopped Hawkins from continuing to fight for the causes she believes in. In her interview, Hawkins encapsulated her political stance by quoting an artist she admires:

“To quote Pink, ‘I don’t care about your politics, I care about your kids.’”

When Hawkins isn’t writing music or being a champion for various causes, you might catch her doing the following: camping, rollerblading, painting, teaching music lessons, relaxing with Bernie (her beloved dog), stripping down for artsy photoshoots, or embarking on a quest to find the world’s best hollandaise sauce.

But at the end of the day, Hawkins sums up her main purpose: “To come together with like-minded people and create.”

Juliet Hawkins (Photo by David Khella)

Part of this ever-evolving, coming-of-age-like journey includes an important element: plant-based medicine. Hawkins tells the Blade that she acknowledges her previous experience with addiction and finds certain plants to be useful in her recovery:

“The recovery thing is tricky,” Hawkins explains, “I don’t use opiates—-no powders and no pills—but I am a fan of weed, and I think psilocybin can be helpful when used at the right time.” She emphasizes the role of psychedelics in guiding her towards her purpose. “Thanks for psychedelics, I have a reignited sense of purpose … Music came naturally to me as an outlet to heal.” 

While she views the occasional dabbling of psychedelics as a spiritual practice, Hawkins also embraces other rituals, particularly those she performs before and during live shows. “I always carry two rocks with me: a labradorite and a tiger’s eye marble,” she explains.

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Lavender Mass and the art of serious parody in protest

Part 3 of our series on the history of LGBTQ religion in D.C.

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The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have been parodying religion for decades. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

(Editor’s note: Although there has been considerable scholarship focused on LGBTQ community and advocacy in D.C., there is a deficit of scholarship focused on LGBTQ religion in the area. Religion plays an important role in LGBTQ advocacy movements, through queer-affirming ministers and communities, along with queer-phobic churches in the city. This is the final installment of a three-part series exploring the history of religion and LGBTQ advocacy in Washington, D.C. Visit our website for the previous installments.) 

Six sisters gathered not so quietly in Marion Park, Washington, D.C. on Saturday, October 8, 2022. As the first sounds of the Women’s March rang out two blocks away at 11 am, the Sisters passed out candles to say Mass on the grass. It was their fifth annual Lavender Mass, but this year’s event in particular told an interesting story of religious reclamation, reimagining a meaningful ritual from an institution that seeks to devalue and oppress queer people.

The D.C. Sisters are a chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an organization of “drag nuns” ministering to LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities. What first began as satire on Easter Sunday 1979 when queer men borrowed and wore habits from a production of The Sound of Music became a national organization; the D.C. chapter came about relatively late, receiving approval from the United Nuns Privy Council in April 2016. The D.C. Sisters raise money and contribute to organizations focused on underserved communities in their area, such as Moveable Feast and Trans Lifeline, much like Anglican and Catholic women religious orders.

As Sister Ray Dee O’Active explained, “we tend to say we raise funds, fun, and hell. I love all three. Thousands of dollars for local LGBTQ groups. Pure joy at Pride parades when we greet the next generation of activists. And blatant response to homophobia and transphobia by protest after protest.” The Lavender Mass held on October 8th embodied their response to transphobia both inside and outside pro-choice groups, specifically how the overturn of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 intimately affects members of the LGBTQ+ community.

 As a little history about the Mass, Sister Mary Full O’Rage, shown wearing a short red dress and crimson coronet and veil in the photo above developed the Lavender Mass as a “counterpart” or “counter narrative” to the Red Mass, a Catholic Mass held the first Sunday of October in honor Catholics in positions of civil authority, like the Supreme Court Justices. The plan was to celebrate this year’s Lavender Mas on October 1st at the Nuns of the Battlefield Memorial, located right across the street from the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, where many Supreme Court Justices attend the Red Mass every year.

 As Sister Mary explained, this year “it was intended to be a direct protest of the actions of the Supreme Court, in significant measure their overturning of reproductive rights.”

 Unfortunately, the October 1st event was canceled due to heavy rain and postponed to October 8th at the recommendation of Sister Ruth Lisque-Hunt and Sister Joy! Totheworld. The focus of the Women’s March this year aligned with the focus of the Lavender Mass—reproductive rights—and this cause, Sister Mary explained, “drove us to plan our Lavender Mass as a true counter-ritual and protest of the Supreme Court of who we expected to attend the Red Mass,” and who were protested in large at the Women’s March. 

The “Lavender Mass was something that we could adopt for ourselves,” Sister Mary spoke about past events. The first two Masses took place at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, right around the corner from the Supreme Court. The second Mass, as Sister Mary explained, celebrated Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; “we canonized her.” Canonization of saints in the Catholic Church also takes place during a Mass, a Papal Mass in particular.

 During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sisters moved the Mass outside for safety, and the third and fourth Masses were celebrated at the Nuns of the Battlefield Memorial. “It celebrates nuns, and we are nuns, psycho-clown nuns,” Sister Mary chuckled, “but we are nuns.” After the Mass, the Sisters would gather at a LGBTQ+ safe space or protest at the Catholic Church or Supreme Court. Although they often serve as “sister security” at local events, working to keep queer community members safe according to Sister Amore Fagellare, the Lavender Mass is not widely publicly advertised, out of concern for their own.

 On October 8th, nine people gathered on the grass in a circle—six sisters, myself, and two people who were close with professed members—as Sister Mary called us to assemble before leading us all in chanting the chorus to Sister Sledge’s 1979 classic song “We Are Family.” 

Next, novice Sister Sybil Liberties set a sacred space, whereby Sister Ruth and Sister Tearyn Upinjustice walked in a circle behind us, unspooling pink and blue ribbons to tie us together as a group. As Sister Sybil explained, “we surround this sacred space in protection and sanctify it with color,” pink for the choice to become a parent and blue for the freedom to choose not to be a parent but also as Sybil elaboration, in recognition of “the broad gender spectrum of people with the ability to become pregnant.” This intentional act was sought to fight transphobia within the fight for reproductive rights.

After singing Lesley Gore’s 1963 song “You Don’t Own Me,” six speakers began the ritual for reproductive rights. Holding out our wax plastic candles, Sister Sybil explained that each speaker would describe a story or reality connected to reproductive rights, and “as I light a series of candles for the different paths we have taken, if you recognize yourself in one of these prayers, I invite you to put your hand over your heart, wherever you are, and know that you are not alone – there is someone else in this gathered community holding their hand over their heart too.”

The Sisters went around the circle lighting a candle for those whose stories include the choice to end a pregnancy; those whose include the unwanted loss of a pregnancy or struggles with fertility; those whose include the choice to give birth, raise or adopt a child; those whose include the choice not to conceive a child, to undergo forced choice, or with no choice at all; those who have encountered violence where there “should have been tenderness and care;” and those whose reproductive stories are still being written today.

After each reading, the group spoke together, “may the beginnings and endings in our stories be held in unconditional love and acceptance,” recalling the Prayer of the Faithful or General Intercessions at Catholic Masswhere congregations respond “Lord, hear our prayer” to each petition. Sister Sybil closed out the ritual as Sister Mary cut the blue and pink ribbons between each person, creating small segments they could take away with them and tie to their garments before walking to the Women’s March. The Sisters gathered their signs, drums, and horns before walking to Folger Park together into the crowd of protestors.

 At first glance, the Lavender Mass may appear like religious appropriation, just as the Sisters themselves sometimes look to outsiders. They model themselves after Angelican and Catholic women religious, in dress—they actively refer to their clothing as “habits,” their organization—members must also go through aspirant, postulant, and novice stages to be fully professed and they maintain a hierarchical authority, and in action. Like white and black habits, the Sisters all wear white faces to create a unified image and colorful coronets, varying veil color based on professed stage. Sister Allie Lewya explained at their September 2022 meeting, “something about the veils gives us a lot of authority that is undue,” but as the Sisters reinforced at the Women’s March, they are not cosplayers nor customers, rather committed clergy.  

As such, the Sisters see their existence within the liminal spaces between satire, appropriation, and reimagination, instead reclaiming the basis of religious rituals to counter the power holders of this tradition, namely, to counter the Catholic Church and how it celebrates those in positions of authority who restrict reproductive rights. Similarly, the Lavender Mass is modeled after a Catholic or Anglican Mass. It has an intention, namely reproductive rights, a call to assemble, setting of a sacred space, song, chant, and prayer requests. It even uses religious terminology; each section of the Mass is ended with a “may it be/Amen/Awen/Ashay/aho.”

 While this ritual—the Lavender Mass—appropriates a religious ritual of the Catholic Church and Anglican Church, this religious appropriation is necessitated by exclusion and queerphobia. As David Ford explains in Queer Psychology, many queer individuals retain a strong connection to their faith communities even though they have experienced trauma from these same communities. Jodi O’Brien builds on this, characterizing Christian religious institutions as spaces of personal meaning making and oppression. This essay further argues that the fact this ritual is adopted and reimagined by a community that the dominant ritual holder—the Catholic Church—oppressed and marginalized, means that it is not religious appropriation at all.

Religious appropriation, as highlighted in Liz Bucar’s recent book, Stealing My Religion (2022), is the acquisition or use of religious traditions, rituals, or objects without a full understanding of the community for which they hold meaning. The Sisters, however, fully understand the implications of calling themselves sisters and the connotations of performing a ritual they call a “Mass” as women religious, a group that do not have this authority in the Catholic Church. It is the reclamation of a tradition that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence understand because some were or are part of the Catholic Church.

 Some sisters still seek out spiritual meaning, but all also recognize that the Catholic Church itself is an institution that hinders their sisters’ access and actively spreads homophobia and transphobia to this day. As such, through the Lavender Mass, the sisters have reclaimed the Mass as a tool of rebellion in support of queer identity.

 Just as the Sisters recognize the meaning and power of the ritual of a Mass, along with the connotations of being a sister, the Lavender Mass fulfilled its purpose as a ritual of intention just as the Sisters fulfill public servants. “As a sister,” Sister Ruth dissected, “as someone who identifies as a drag nun, it perplexes people, but when you get the nitty gritty, we serve a similar purpose, to heal a community, to provide support to a community, to love a community that has not been loved historically in the ways that it should be loved.

 The Sisters’ intentionality in recognizing and upholding the role of a woman religious in their work has been well documented as a serious parody for the intention of queer activism by Melissa Wilcox. The Lavender Mass is a form of serious parody, as Wilcox posits in the book: Queer Nuns: Religion, Activism, and Serious Parody(2018). The Mass both challenges the queerphobia of the Catholic Church while also reinforcing the legitimacy of this ritual as a Mass. The Sisters argue that although they would traditionally be excluded from religious leadership in the Catholic Church, they can perform a Mass. In doing so, they challenge the role that women religious play in the Catholic Church as a whole and the power dynamics that exclude queer communities from living authentically within the Church.

By reclaiming a tradition from a religious institution that actively excludes and traumatizes the LGBTQ+ community, the Lavender Mass is a form of religious reclamation in which an oppressed community cultivates queer religious meaning, reclaims a tradition from which they are excluded, and uses it to fuel queer activism (the fight for reproductive rights). This essay argues that the Lavender Mass goes one step further than serious parody. While the Sisters employ serious parody in their religious and activist roles, the Lavender Mass is the active reclamation of a religious tradition for both spiritual and activist ends.

 Using the celebration of the Mass as it was intended, just within a different lens for a different purpose, this essay argues, is religious reclamation. As a collection of Austrian and Aotearoan scholars explored most recently in a chapter on acculturation and decolonization, reclamation is associated with the reassertion and ownership of tangibles: of rituals, traditions, objects, and land. The meaning of the Lavender Mass comes not only from the Sisters’ understanding of women religious as a social and religious role but rather from the reclamation of a physical ritual—a Mass—that has specific religious or spiritual meaning for the Sisters.

 When asked why it was important to call this ritual a “Mass,” Sister Mary explained: “I think we wanted to have something that denoted a ritual, that was for those who know, that the name signifies that it was a counter-protest. And you know, many of the sisters grew up with faith, not all of them Catholics but some, so I think ‘Mass’ was a name that resonated for many of us.”  

 As Sister Ray said, “my faith as a queer person tends to ostracize me but the Sisters bring the imagery and language of faith right into the middle of the LGBTQ world.” This Lavender Mass, although only attended and experienced by a few of the Women’s March protests, lived up to its goal as “a form of protest that is hopefully very loud,” as Sister Millie Taint advertised in the Sisters’ September 2022 chapter meeting. It brought religious imagery and language of faith to a march for reproductive rights, using a recognized model of ritual to empower protestors.

The Lavender Mass this year, as always, was an act of rebellion, but by situating itself before the Women’s March and focusing its intention for reproductive rights, the Sisters’ reclaimed a religious ritual from a system of authority which actively oppressed LGBTQ+ peoples and those with the ability to become pregnant, namely the Catholic Church, and for harnessing it for personal, political, and spiritual power. In essence, it modelled a system of religious reclamation, by which a marginalized community takes up a religious ritual to make its own meaning and oppose the religious institution that seeks to exclude the community from ritual participation.  

Emma Cieslik will be presenting on LGBTQ+ Religion in the Capital at the DC History Conference on Friday, April 6th. She is working with a DC History Fellow to establish a roundtable committed to recording and preserving this vital history. If you have any information about these histories, please reach out to Emma Cieslik at [email protected] or the Rainbow History Project at [email protected].

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