The Washington Blade, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs and the Office of Women’s Policies and Initiatives, is proud to present: 40 Queer Women of Washington.
Here we celebrate some of the city’s many inspiring queer women who are the voices of change from a diverse group of industries. Nominations came from our readers; that list was then trimmed to the 40 queer women profiled here. Come meet the 40 Under 40 at a special event on Wednesday, March 27, 6-9 p.m. at the Google office at 25 Massachusetts Avenue. Get tickets online via the Blade’s Facebook page.
Name: Washington Mystics
Occupation: Professional basketball team WNBA
Passion: Compete at the highest level on the court and bring a WNBA Championship to Washington. We play to excite, inspire and unite the D.C. community — all eight wards. Our passion for the game and this city is reflected in the memory-making experiences we strive to provide to our fans each game day. We invite all to celebrate and share in these moment with us.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Demonstrating fearless character will lead to your success. Tapping into the power of unified strength that comes with a sisterhood gives you the ability to overcome any challenge or adversity. We are a part of the community we represent and you are a part of us. Celebrate the power and beauty of being a woman.
Name: Amina Brown
Passion: Being an entertainer/DJing
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? My mother told me I would grow up and have my own business when I was in the fourth grade. I would give young women the same advice that was given to me and it changed the trajectory of my life: “Fall in love with something you enjoy doing and turn it into a business!”
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? I thinks it’s important for women to be represented in the high ranks of corporations and politics. During my speaking engagements at schools, I always encourage our young girls to reach for the stars and never think that gender makes them inadequate in any industry.
Name: Bela Muney
Occupation: External affairs team
Passion: Helping others in need.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Never give up on your hopes and dreams. The sky is the limit.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? It means we’re all here and queer!
Name: Be Steadwell
Passion: My passion is for telling stories that make queer black folks feel seen and affirmed.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Someone out there needs to hear your story. Tell it with sincerity, vulnerability and it will change someone’s life.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? Black women at the center of leadership and politics is exactly what our country and our world needs. I believe the most marginalized communities have the perspective and incentive to look out for all people. Though I don’t agree with everything our mayor does, I’m proud to have her as a leader for our city.
Name: Elizabeth Lindsey
Occupation: Executive director, Byte Back
Passion: Leading an organization that helps people from all backgrounds thrive in the digital economy.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Be true to who you are. When we’re ourselves, when others see us being authentic and real, there’s nothing we can’t do. There’s such a confidence that comes from using our strengths and doing work that feels natural to us. And if someone — an employer, an investor, a partner — doesn’t want us for who we are, then they’re not the right fit for us.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? As a queer woman of color, a parent and a leader in the nonprofit sector, I am inspired every day by Mayor Bowser and the other women in D.C. leading our city. It is such a privilege for me to hardly ever be the “only” in D.C. — I’m rarely the only woman, or person of color, or member of the LGBTQ community in a room. And I’m thrilled to raise my daughters in a city like this.
Name: Raffi Freedman-Gurspan
Occupation: Director of external relations, National Center for Transgender Equality
Passion: Social justice and equal opportunity for those who have been most marginalized and historically oppressed including black people, Latinx people, indigenous peoples, women and feminine presenting individuals, LGBTQ folks, people living with disabilities and religious and ethnic minorities in the United States. My passion is to create a better world for all.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Remember to laugh, remember to have a good cry once in a while and remember to hug those you care for and remind them why they are important to you. Being a strong woman requires knowing yourself, being honest with yourself and asking for the compassionate support you deserve from those whom you love.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? Having a woman of color mayor as a woman of color myself is tremendously moving, inspirational and something I proudly share with people about our city. Mayor Bowser has been such a great friend of the LGBTQ community and as a queer woman I am proud to live in her city.
Name: Tiara Gendi
Occupation: Community organizer/trans activist
Passion: Black liberation and protection of LGBTQ+ youth
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? In a world that is designed against you, dare to be unapologetically you and do your part.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? Being a black trans and immigrant woman, having a black woman mayor means there is platform to leverage the safety and meaningful participation of queer women in decision-making processes.
Name: Alesia Lucas
Occupation: National digital manager
Passion: Connecting people
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? 1. Always trust your instincts. 2. Have an idea? Don’t wait for someone else to do it. Go for it. 3. Own your “no”; you don’t have to be anywhere or do anything you don’t want to.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? As a native Washingtonian, having a woman lead our city inspirers me deeply. It shows us what’s possible. They say D.C. is one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the United States and Mayor Bowser has no doubt contributed to that honor.
Name: Xemiyulu Manibusan Tapepechul
Occupation: I am an independent artist: a playwright, author, spoken word artist, actor and director.
Passion: I have a passion for healing indigenous transgender, intersex and gender non-conforming communities through the arts.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? It’s OK to not know who you are. It’s OK to discover who you are along your journey. It’s OK to love yourself and celebrate yourself. You got this!
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? It’s important to have representation of cisgender women, transgender women, transgender men, non-binary people and cisgender men of color, in government and other cisgender white male-dominated spaces. As a queer woman living in the capital of the empire, it’s important to see genders that have been in the minority in position of power, that are representing truth, justice and ancestor.
Name: Ashley Trick
Occupation: Community affairs engagement strategist with Capital One
Passion: Serving and elevating diverse communities.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Actively work to limit the use of “sorry” in your vocabulary, but practice radical candor every day. Women can care personally while also challenging directly.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? Women’s leadership is imperative. Diversity in leadership breeds innovation and resilience and having a black woman as the mayor of our city sets an important precedent for further leadership. Through women’s innate leadership, they transform, nurture and empower their communities and I am so profoundly proud to work under so many exceptional women.
Name: Amanda Dennison
Occupation: Director, programs and partnerships
Passion: I have spent much of my life with my nose in a book, so much so my family feared I wouldn’t know my way around in the real world. I have always been driven by the desire to learn and understand more about the world. Through books I was able to hear other peoples’ stories, learn about communities, my chosen field of work, the world beyond the small town I grew up in. All of those books, and constantly asking “why” or “so what,” have played a big part in shaping my view of the world now and getting to where I am today.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? There are probably three main pieces of advice I would given young women. One: you are worthy and deserve to be here and to be heard. Two: be brave and don’t let the fear of leaving your comfort zone prevent you from chasing your goals and dreams. Three: be unapologetically yourself and take pride in who you are.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? Seeing Mayor Bowser leading our city and actively supporting the LGBTQ+ community is both empowering and inspiring. As a queer woman living and working in D.C., trying to live my best life and lift up our community, it means everything to have a strong female fighting to give every D.C. resident the opportunity to live their best lives. I know that our mayor supports me, our community and the important work we are trying to accomplish.
Name: Lisa Marie Thalhammer
Occupation: LOVE artist
Passion: Painting, murals, art and activism.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Trust your journey, believe in your power and live your dreams in full color.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? When Mayor Bowser spoke at the Jan 21, 2017 Women’s March on Washington, I felt an immense amount of pride to be a queer Washingtonian woman. I was in the crowd that day with a group carrying my “Strong Women LOVE” artwork, a painting on a 24-foot diameter parachute, which depicts a woman flexing her biceps in front of a rainbow-colored backdrop. I felt synergy with my mayor’s directive to speak up for women and their health care; like I was in that moment for a reason, with a purpose to live out my life’s mission of creating visual art and images that empower and uplift women.
Name: Charlotte Clymer
Occupation: Press secretary for rapid response, Human Rights Campaign
Passion: Justice for marginalized communities, the written word and seeing women present their unapologetic authenticity to the world.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? You are never “not queer enough.” You are never “not woman enough.” The only scarcity that should ever concern you is being yourself. The world doesn’t need a copy. It needs an original. It needs you.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? Mayor Bowser was one of the first public officials to speak out when I was discriminated against at a D.C. restaurant for being a transgender woman. She is not just my mayor; she is my sister. This is a leader who fights for the queer community.
Name: Sharita Gruberg
Occupation: Director, LGBT research and communications project, Center for American Progress
Passion: Making rights a reality.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? No one is ever as confident or certain as they seem. Most of the time we are all just trying our hardest and making it up as we go along. So don’t let doubt stop you!
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? We definitely need more women in every level of public office in this country.
Name: Ebone Bell
Occupation: Founder and editor-in-chief of Tagg Magazine
Passion: Creating events, building community, learning new things and friends and family.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Keep reaching for the stars! You’re closer than you think.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? I’m proud to live in a city that continues to be groundbreaking in so many ways. Not only is our mayor leading the charge, but I consistently see LGBTQ women doing the same. D.C. is a beautiful, diverse city.
Name: Lanae Spruce
Occupation: Manager of Social Media and Digital Engagement, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Passion: Locating trends on the internet and doing it for the culture. In my free time I am a foodie who loves exploring the local restaurant scene on my travels.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? When you walk into a room, don’t be afraid to be yourself and stand in your own truth. You’ve already made it past the door.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? I chose to make Washington my home because it has a long history of preserving and championing the rights of queer people. As a queer black woman, it means the world to me that my city has my back.
Name: Andrea Pino-Silva
Occupation: Digital strategy and communications manager at The National Center for Lesbian Rights
Passion: I help tell the stories of our queer resistance for a living, and it inspires me every day. I fight for a world where our struggle isn’t our full story and envision a world where every student has access to a safe, equal education free from violence and oppression.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? As a niña, my abuelito always told me: “nunca, nunca, nunca pares de luchar.” He instilled in me a belief, that no matter my upbringing, or how seemingly impossible my goal, it was achievable. Apply to that college. Apply to that job. Write that memoir. Lead that protest. La lucha is in all of us and our resistance and our passion is a gift from our ancestors. Their lucha, and their dreams live on within us.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? I’ve never lived in any other city led by a woman until moving to D.C., nor have I lived in a city with as many protections for marginalized people. As a queer woman, I feel safer and prouder to live in a city led by a strong woman like Mayor Bowser and feel more confident investing in making this city even better.
Name: Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza
Passion: Helping others find their voice.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Be fearless.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? It means everything to me, especially as a woman of color. Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, “As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we’ll all be better off for it.”
Name: Lina Nicolai
Passion: Little things in life.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Don’t give up. Work hard.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? It means that the concerns of women issues are being addressed in policy.
Name: Laura Durso
Occupation: Vice president of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress
Passion: Gender equity, fat acceptance, empiricism and music.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Try new things, care just a little bit less what other people think of you, tell friends you love them, make peace with your body, have confidence in your ability to adapt and change, learn to catch when your brain wants to give in to imposter syndrome and remember how badass you are, spend your time with people and things that nourish your soul, hire people smarter than you, lean on your networks to help you get shit done, believe you can fix things but remember not everything always needs fixing, forge a new path, bring people with you.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? The ability to govern effectively knows no gender and as a queer woman, I am both proud and comforted to live in a city where voters recognize the talent and leadership that women bring to the table. Electing leaders from diverse backgrounds and experiences opens the door for new conversations to happen and new policies to be enacted that better serve our communities and drive us toward more meaningful change.
Name: Taissa Morimoto
Occupation: Policy Counsel at the National LGBTQ Task Force
Passion: Playing guitar, crushing the patriarchy, apple juice, the Companion Cube, deconstructing colonialism and long walks on the way to protests.We each have such different life experiences, especially based on our social identities and how we are perceived in our society. I hesitate to give general advice because I can only speak from my own experiences as a queer woman of color who has many privileges. What changed my life, though, was the decision to put my own needs first. And that happened when I moved to D.C., where I was able to be my full self.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? So, for queer women of color in my shoes, I will share what I wish people had told me more often: Don’t ever apologize for who you are and who you are becoming. There are people who will love you for exactly who you are. Let them. Being vulnerable is not weak, it is a sign of growth. Lean into that discomfort. Ask for help, even when you think you can handle it on your own. You are enough. You will always be enough. I am so honored and proud to be in community with you all.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? It means finally being able to live my full complete self. To me, it means freedom.
Name: Breanna Diaz
Occupation: Co-director, Pull for Pride
Passion: LGBTQ advocacy via access to typically closed-off spaces, such as powerlifting.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Remain authentic and accountable to yourself and your community. Always center who you are, your lived experience and your values in your work. Take pride in what you bring to the table.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? Representation matters and seeing someone of the same gender as myself in a leadership position is empowering.
Name: Carlie Steiner
Occupation: Co-owner of Himitsu + Dos Mamis
Passion: Empowering women and making money.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Buy better shoes with good support.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? Watching Muriel Bowser break through the glass ceiling by becoming D.C.’s mayor both empowered and inspired me to make the final push to open Himitsu at the age of 25. Now, two-plus years later, she continues to push the boundaries of what is possible. Women serving in positions of leadership and the visibility it provides to young women is paramount. Having a role model like Mayor Bowser who is equally respected and relatable is important to women of all ages, but especially to young girls who can look up to her as an example of a woman is making change and that’s how real progress happens.
Name: Harper Jean Tobin
Occupation: Lawyer/lobbyist for trans equality
Passion: Improving trans people’s lives and living my own rich life.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Listen to your passion. Find where you’re best suited to make a difference. Ask for support. Be kind to yourself.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? We need leaders and public servants who reflect the diversity of our communities today. Women may not necessarily be better leaders, but every conversation is different when the people in the room don’t all look the same.
Name: Ashlee Keown
Occupation: Marketing specialist/entrepreneur
Passion: Creating opportunities for people
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Don’t be afraid to try something new and fail. It is also important to adjust your expectations so that you understand that anything that you do will involve growth and failure.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? It mean we are lucky enough to have someone in office who understands the challenges women and people of color face. Some who has the insight and ability to think about others.
Name: Kyrisha Deschamps
Occupation: Festival producer/operations manager
Passion: Using my skills, experience and access to create opportunities and help others. Also, intentionally finding joy in each day.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Surround yourself with positive people who support your wild dreams and act as your sounding board. Trust the process and take time for yourself when you need to.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? I’m a huge fan of women in positions of power. I am very excited about the number of women who are moving into politics to create the change that needs to be seen and felt in the world. As of today, a political career isn’t in the stars for me, but I would love to see more women and LBGTQ leaders in positions of power in government.
Name: Jennifer Patience Rowe
Occupation: Artist: primary vocalist, poet and actress.
Passion: My passion is facilitating spiritual experiences in secular spaces. I’m passionate about black folks being free. I’m passionate about honoring our grief.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? I would tell young black women that it’s OK to be unsure, its normal to constantly be discovering who you are. That change is the only constant.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? As a second generation native Washingtonian, it’s beautiful to have experienced all of the changes this city has and is surviving. Having a woman elected mayor has spoken to the great shifts and growth the capital city is capable of seeing.
Name: Kristin Lynch
Occupation: Communications director, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Passion: Politics, writing, news, sports, avocados, coffee porters
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? TDon’t be afraid to defy convention or take the road less traveled – being weird is a good thing. Work hard, be humble, and practice gratitude.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? Representation matters. When leaders who look differently than what society typically associates with power — i.e. women, people of color, queer individuals — we begin to dismantle our preconceived notions of what a leader should be and reimagine what a leader could be. Having a mayor who is both a woman and a person of color breaks down barriers and shows underrepresented groups that we too can rise to powerful leadership positions, even if we may not always see that truth reflected in our day-to-day lives.
Name: Luella Garies
Occupation: Massage therapist, dance organizer
Passion: A combination of love for partner dancing and of bringing that love to queer women and trans people.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? As a dancer, know that simply by being openly yourself in the very heteronormative world of partner dance, or by breaking gender norms therein, you are a revolutionary. You are changing the world one literal step at a time and that is something to be proud of. As an organizer, someone recently asked me what’s my secret to organizing successful events over the long-term. “Passion,” I said. Actually there are many other answers I could give, but that’s the one I would underscore. You don’t need to be extroverted, popular, talented or wealthy to bring people together. But if you have a dream that lights up your soul and you have an inkling of how to share that with others, you can find a way.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? To me this is one among many ways that D.C. is setting an example and leading the way for the rest of the country, especially since our mayor is like a governor. It’s all the more reason that we should have full voting rights.
Name: Joy Whitt
Occupation: Presidential Innovation Fellow
Passion: Creating safe, uplifting spaces for women/trans/non-binary folks who are interested in learning about technology.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Stay true to yourself. Surround yourself with people who will educate and amplify you; pay it forward.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? As a queer, black woman, it is an incredibly big deal to be a resident of a city led by a black woman. Mayor Bowser represents many of my identities while serving at D.C.’s highest level, and because of that, her initiatives (and council’s policies) create a more inclusive environment for people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community. I lead initiatives in D.C. that create professional and social opportunities for technologists of underrepresented genders (i.e. women, trans and non-binary folks, etc.). Mayor Bowser and the government of D.C. have made these efforts possible by amplifying and celebrating tech inclusion.
Name: Nicole Armstead-Williams
Occupation: Psychotherapist and mental health advocate
Passion: I’m passionate about dismantling the harmful stigma of mental health, with a particular heartbeat for reducing the risk of suicide and self-harm in QTPOC (queer/trans people of color) communities. I am passionate about creating eco-therapeutic healing spaces for survivors of trauma, loss and grief. I also really get excited about all things rooted in love, wanderlust and long-distance road trips, dogs and growing sweet potatoes.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? To a young woman walking in my shoes, I would say: wear the shoes that are the most authentic fit for you so that you can sustain the walk of your personal dream and journey.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? Experiencing leadership from not only a woman-identified mayor but a black woman mayor provides me with a greater hope that we as women/women of color can show up, can be seen and affirmed and can support growth as an agent of change. To me, as a queer women living in the District, this means voice and visibility.
Name: Yesenia Chavez
Occupation: Policy and government affairs specialist
Passion: Developing leadership pipelines of LGBTQ youth and people of color, hiking, traveling and cycling.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Remember that when you are the only woman of color, the only queer person, or first-generation person in a classroom or a board room, you carry your ancestors into that room with you. Most importantly, once you are in the room, be sure to open the door and pull up a chair for the next generation. When you pull up that chair, be intentional about who you bring to sit there. Start with those who almost never get access to those seats, i.e. trans/gender non-conforming folks, queer people of color, people with disabilities, etc. That is how you make radical change in who gets access to these rooms. We can end being the first or only one in the room if we pull each other up.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? As a queer Latina, I think it is important to have representation in all levels of government and I value seeing women of color in leadership. I was raised by a Mexican immigrant single-mother in a low-income household and know that is a unique story in comparison to the backgrounds of the voices we typically hear from. I believe it is critical for people who don’t see themselves reflected in leadership, to work to change that because as the saying goes, “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” Centering the voices of those of us who are at the intersection of marginalized identities is necessary during the policy-making process to ensure policy has a positive impact on our communities.
Name: Ashland Johnson
Occupation: Policy lawyer and sports equity advisor
Passion: Creating social equity in and through sports.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Don’t be afraid to bet on yourself. We as women, especially women of color, invest so much time warding of doubt and working to achieve someone else’s vision of success. You have to make it a priority to invest in you— your goals, your passion, your vision— all day, everyday until it becomes second nature.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? As a queer woman of color living in D.C., for me having a black female mayor is both an invaluable gift and a necessity. Representation matters. Empowerment matters. Our mayor represents and empowers women, especially women of color everyday she leads our district forward.
Name: Whitney Washington
Occupation: Attorney/legal fellow
Passion: People are my passion. I love the process of getting to know folks and learning about them. As much as I am willing to get to know absolutely anyone from whatever walk of life, I acknowledge that not all folks are willing to do the same. I understand that to greater society some folks are not worth anything because of who they are or what they may have done in the past. I feel lucky to be able to offer my skill set to show support to the people that society has written off.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? This is a funny question because I still think of myself as a young person. Three things that I remind myself of daily are one: nothing worth doing is easy, but also that the most difficult option is not always the answer — there is often a middle ground; two: I know a lot more than I think I do; and three: I have a lot to learn. Outside of my daily reminders, I think the biggest thing I would tell a younger person is: being a person is a process and that regardless who you are right now, and regardless of whoever you will become, you are valid.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? The socio-political impact of Muriel Bowser’s position as mayor of Washington cannot be overstated — it is crucial that voices like hers are amplified, especially in our current political climate. As a queer, non-binary individual, this signals to me that this historically black city values its legacy, champions its pioneers and strives to be at the forefront of change in our nation.
Name: Sarah Horvitz
Occupation: National political director at Run for Something
Passion: Encouraging and supporting young women who want to serve their communities in elected office.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? You aren’t going to be amazing at everything you do on day one. Stay focused on the specific tasks and goals you are trying to accomplish and trust you will get better the more you try. Surround yourself with other women out there who are doing their best and befriend them.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? I love living in D..C for many reasons (honestly too many to name) but I am especially proud to live in a city with a woman in charge. I know that Mayor Bowser is fighting every day by making political and fiscal decisions that prioritize equity for women and girls, especially people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. She is not only an advocate in our national’s capitol for resident’s of D.C., but is also leading the charge nationally for more representation of marginalized communities in elected office.
Name: Amber Posadas
Occupation: Specialty support
Passion: Defend the rights of the LGBT community and advocate for those who doesn’t have voice.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Never give up on your dreams and fight for what you really want in life.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? It gives me the power to know as a queer woman I too can achieve success.
Name: Katie Nicol
Occupation: As senior manager of public benefits and insurance navigation at Whitman-Walker Health, I focus on removing barriers to health care access, particularly for those who identify as LGBTQ, people living with HIV and the immigrant population.
Passion: I’m passionate about helping others, geeking out over insurance eligibility policy and nuance, logistics and the work of Whitman-Walker Health. I have the privilege to be a part of an organization that represents what it means to provide culturally competent care free of stigma and judgement and to serve a patient population I identify with.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Stay true to your queer self, give yourself room to grow and evolve and don’t take yourself too seriously. Take every opportunity to learn from your experiences, mistakes and from others. Your relationships are your greatest assets — personally and professionally — so nurture those connections. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and follow your instincts; sometimes your greatest hurdle is fear.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? In today’s political climate where woman, let alone a woman of color, are marginalized, it’s a reminder that women — regardless if queer or not — are equal to men. It is additionally inspiring to live in a city where a woman of color of color is a true representation of Washingtonians and our values, which include inclusivity for all residents, regardless of immigration, sexual orientation or gender expression.
Name: Emily Hammell
Occupation: Events manager for LGBTQ Victory Fund & Institute
Passion: Oh gosh, so many to chose from! My most noteworthy passion is my collection of commemorative plates. But I also love Raquel Raccoon (my three-legged cat), relationship anarchy, tattoos, LGBTQ+ rights, gender and racial equity, sex workers rights and harm reduction.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Be as out and loud as you’re able to, it matters so much to those who can’t. And if you can’t be out and loud? Please be kind to yourself, you are still part of the queer family and you matter so much.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? It’s pretty dang inspiring to see a woman of color succeed in the political world. I may not always agree with Mayor Bowser, but I absolutely respect how hard she has worked to climb that ladder.
Name: Brittany Rheault
Occupation: Director of sports operations at United Fray
Passion: My passion at work is making fun possible. I have the pleasure of bringing “play” into everyday life with my job. I couldn’t ask for a better profession. As for the rest of my life, my passion is to make people feel included, whether that’s on a dance floor or with my friends, I’m always striving for laughter and fun and connection.
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Hustle. What separates you from the pack is your willingness to step in or step up. Being complacent is never an option. You have to be willing to show up and impress with commitment and work ethic.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? To me, it’s inspiring that I am living in a city that would not only elect but reelect a female mayor.
Name: Check It Enterprises; Star Bennett, CEO
Occupation: CEO of Check It Enterprises
Passion: fashion design
What advice would you give to a young woman walking in your shoes? Chase your dreams and never give up.
Washington is one of the few major cities in America with a female mayor. What does this mean to you as a queer woman living in the District? That females have the same ability men have.
Melissa Etheridge shares Q&A in advance of April 26 Tysons tour stop
Rock pioneer finds inspiration in the past — from revisiting old demos to reconnecting with celeb pals like Ellen
We caught up with rock legend Melissa Etheridge on April 8 by phone from Snoqualmie, Wash. — it’s about 26 miles east of Seattle —where she was playing the Snoqualmie Casino on her “One Way Out Tour,” which plays our region on Tuesday, April 26.
It’s named after her latest album, released last fall, which found Etheridge, who’s been out since ’93, revisiting demos from early in her career.
Her comments have been slightly edited for length.
WASHINGTON BLADE: “One Way Out” sounds like such a cool project. Was it all re-recorded stuff of old songs or were some of those vintage takes on the record as well?
MELISSA ETHERIDGE: The last two songs, the live songs, were from where? From 2002? OK, but the other songs were newly recorded.
BLADE: And how many of them did you remember?
ETHERIDGE: You know, when I found them again, they all came back very clearly. And I was like, “Oh, this is — why did I throw that away? That’s weird.” And I really enjoyed, you know, hearing them, they were just old demos. I’d never done full-blown recordings. So I thought, “This is great, I want to do these songs.”
BLADE: We have a relatively new venue you’re going to be playing, Capital One Hall. I’ve only been there once. You excited?
ETHERIDGE: Yeah, it’s always fun. I love the D.C.-area crowd. It’s just really, really nice.
BLADE: And how do you decide where you’ll be? Or do you have any say in it?
ETHERIDGE: Well, it’s not necessarily me. I do have a say in it, in what I want the whole tour to look like. But it is really up to William Morris, my agent, to find the right venue that understands what we need and the kind of atmosphere we’re looking for that and the amount of people and, you know, that sort of thing.
BLADE: Tell me about Etheridge TV. I just wonder, when we were in that acute phase of the pandemic, wasn’t it even remotely tempting to you to just take a break?
ETHERIDGE: No, because since I was 12 years old, I sang all the time for people, like five days a week and it’s just been what I do. And so when it was like, I was looking at a massive, cavernous amount of time that I was going to be home, I still needed a way to pay the bills, so we put our heads together — I’ve got one of the greatest television minds with me, you know, my wife (TV producer Linda Wallem), so I had the space and I had the equipment, and I was like, “Let’s do it.” And it was really fun to learn new things. It was fun to learn about computers and sound and streaming and lights and cameras and all these things that I didn’t know. … I feel a little smarter.
BLADE: When did you start back on the road?
ETHERIDGE: We went out last fall. We went out September, October, right around there. And you know, it was a little different, Now things are things are loosening up … but some places still require masks. But people are starting to get back out and it feels good. It’s not the overwhelming thing that it was a few months ago.
BLADE: And what was it like being on ‘Ellen’ again for her final season?
ETHERIDGE: Oh, I love her. She’s such an old friend. You know, I say that about myself, too. (chuckles) But, you know, she’s just a relationship in my life that I have treasured. We’ve watched each other grow and the changes we’ve made and the successes and what we’ve gone through and I love that she had me on and just it was just a really — she’s a dear friend. And she showed an old photo there, and we both said, “Oh, that was before we were so busy.”
BLADE: Do you talk to her often?
ETHERIDGE: I would say we see each other socially once or twice a year. It just seemed like once we started having children, all my friends from my 20s and 30s when we were not as busy — it just gets harder to stay in touch and life got crazy.
BLADE: So when you were hanging out back in the day with Ellen and Rosie and everybody, how was it that Brad Pitt was in that group too?
ETHERIDGE: Well, my girlfriend (Julie Cypher) had been married to Lou Diamond Phillips and we were all very good friends with Dermot Mulroney and Catherine Keener and Catherine Keener did a movie with Brad, like a movie nobody saw, like Johnny Dangerously or something (1991’s “Johnny Suede”), some really weird movie. So I met Brad before he was terribly famous. He was a part of that group. There was a whole group of all of us that just hung out, and we were all totally different. We were just like young, hungry Hollywood and we’d talk about, “Oh, I had this audition,” or “I went and did this,” and we were just all trying to make it in that town. So we’d get together and have fun.
BLADE: I was so terribly sorry to hear about Beckett (Etheridge’s son, who died in 2020 at age 21 after struggling with opioid addiction). How are you and the rest of the family, especially (Beckett’s twin) Bailey, dealing with it now?
ETHERIDGE: There are many, many families like us that deal with a loss like that. It just blows a family sideways. But we have a deep love and connection, all of us. We all knew he had a problem and it’s a problem that starts way before he actually passes, so it was not a surprise. So now we’re just living with the missing aspect. You try not to think about what could have been and you try to think about him in a happier place and that he’s out of pain, so that helps us.
BLADE: Had he and Bailey been as close in recent years?
ETHERIDGE: They were very close, but in the last couple of years as he made worse and worse choices, we couldn’t support that, so they were less close, but of course in her heart, it was her brother, he was very dear to her.
BLADE: Did you watch the Grammys? Was there anybody you were particularly rooting for?
ETHERIDGE: I watched bits and pieces of it. I had a show that night, so I didn’t get to see the main thing, but I have seen pieces and I just love the crazy diversity and you know, the TikTok people winning stuff, it’s like, “Wow, this is so not the Grammys I remember from the ’80s,” but that was what, 30 years ago? So it’s all good.
BLADE: You were such a perennial favorite back in the day in the best rock female category. Were you pissed when they eliminated it?
ETHERIDGE: It’s sad because I felt like the criteria they were using to judge what is female rock, they just really dropped the ball. I still think there are some amazing musicians that could be considered, you know, rock, but it feels like we’re having a hard time even defining what rock and roll is now anyway. There’s a whole bunch of strong women out there playing, rocking, you know, playing guitar, being excellent musicians and songwriters. If you can’t call it best rock female, OK, call it something else.
BLADE: I remember so vividly when you were on the Grammys in 2005, in the midst of chemo, when you sang “Piece of My Heart.” I remember you saying you were wondering how people would react to seeing you bald. Having been through that, any thoughts on the Will/Jada Oscars situation since her baldness, too, was due to a medical condition?
ETHERIDGE: You know, it’s funny, I did feel a little remembrance of (thinking), “I just hope people don’t make fun of me.” That was kind of the first thing because to go out there bald, that was so different for me as an artist whose hair had kind of defined her. I was thinking, “How am I gonna rock without my hair?” I thought people might make fun of me, but I got over that. I just thought, “Well, if somebody makes fun of me, that just makes them look bad.” So I just walked through it. And you know, it’s hard to draw the line between what’s funny and what’s painful and how to look at something. I feel for all parties involved.
BLADE: When you go on these cruises, do fans give you some space or do they swarm around the minute you walk out? Is it even enjoyable for you?
ETHERIDGE: Yeah, it is. You know, we did our last one, now we’re doing Etheridge Island, we now have a destination in Mexico, outside of Cancun, it’s just this island that we’re going to that is really fantastic. But I do I make myself available, I don’t run away. When I have to be somewhere, I have a great company we work with called Sixthman that knows how to get me from point A to point B without being bogged down. But I do my make myself available. Everyone gets a picture with me. It’s my work, but I love it. I try to make myself available but also have some time just for myself too.
BLADE: You Tweeted a few nights ago about having a tight curfew of just 90 minutes at a casino but then it worked out and you got to do a full set. Why are the curfews so tight at casinos?
ETHERIDGE: Why do you think? They want people at the tables. Like for tonight, we we settled on 100 minutes. They’re giving me 10 extra minutes. I don’t like it, but in some areas, the only really good venue is a casino, so if you want to reach your folks there, you kind of have to meet them half way.
BLADE: Yeah, but it seems like in concert halls, the curfews can sometimes be really tight too. Even Madonna got her lights shut off a couple years ago. Of course, she’s notoriously late, but why are they so strict with these things nowadays?
ETHERIDGE: There are all different situations — concert halls often have union crews that will absolutely shut you down if you go one second over. There are also sound curfews, noise curfews, mostly with outdoor venues, but sometimes indoor as well. They have an agreement with the neighborhood. So you have people in the neighborhood standing by with their phones ready to pounce the minute it goes over one minute, they’re gonna call the police. As a performer, you just realize, “OK, it’s not just about me.” When I don’t have a curfew, I usually land at about two hours and some change. That seems comfortable to everyone. Any longer and I think I’m wearing my audience out. When I’m at a place with a shorter show, I just do my best.
BLADE: I know you’re a big Chiefs fan. Did you watch that game back in January all the way to the end?
ETHERIDGE: Well, at the end of it, I was on the floor. My wife was like, “Honey, honey, there’s still 13 seconds,” and I was moaning and sort of getting my feet on the floor and, you know, laying down and throwing a fit. And she’s like, “No, there’s still 13 seconds.” I dragged myself back to the television. And I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Wait a minute. Did we just win?” You know, just really crazy, really crazy stuff. … When you’re a fan like that, it’s a ride you can’t fully explain.
BLADE: Are you in a cordial or good place with your exes? Does it get easier when the kids are starting to grow up?
ETHERIDGE: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And you realize that it’s best for the kids if you can really get along and that any sort of conflict that can’t get resolved, that gets emotional, does no good for anyone. And absolutely, I have, I’ve gotten better at that as the years have gone by.
BLADE: Do you have the slightest inkling yet what the next studio album might be like?
ETHERIDGE: Well, I’ve got some interesting projects that I’m not ready to talk about just yet. But they have to do with my life story. There’s a lot of digging up of my past and really telling the story. So I imagine the next series of music you’ll get from me is going to be very focused on my journey.
New Cranes sommelier brings spirit to wine and sake program
Stewart-Woodruff curates eclectic list for Michelin-starred restaurant
Outfitted in a blue damask dinner jacket with satin lapels and an energetic smile, Eric Stewart-Woodruff carves an impressive figure when chatting about his favorite vintages. Stewart-Woodruff, who’s gay, is the new sommelier at Michelin-starred Cranes in Penn Quarter.
Stewart-Woodruff curates an eclectic wine – and sake – program focusing on pairings with celebrated Chef Pepe Moncayo’s innovative, global flavors. Cranes, which explores intersections of Spanish and Japanese cuisine, opened just before the pandemic, and received a coveted Michelin star in 2021.
Stewart-Woodruff did not start off in the wine industry. In fact, he does not have any formal training in wine. Instead, after a career as a professional photographer, he pivoted to the restaurant industry, where he developed his love of wine. While working for a distributor, he connected with D.C.’s own District Winery. This opportunity allowed him to express his truest self, as a lead tour guide, wine ambassador and sommelier. He credits his identity and personality as his reason for thriving.
“I bring my whole self to work,” he says, “offering a level of humanity and approachability.”
After the pandemic temporarily shuttered District Winery, Stewart-Woodruff found himself interviewing at Cranes, enamored with Moncayo’s “creative vision,” he says – and was sold. He began in late summer of 2021.
Through his work in hospitality, Stewart-Woodruff notes that the industry can be hetero-male dominated. He has been able to break through by not holding back on his identity.
“I tend to play with expectations of what a sommelier may look or act like,” he says. “I move away from what one may stereotypically look like, but still present like one.”
For him, that means talking about wine and wine education “as if it were gossip,” he says. “I like to view wine like we are at brunch. Wine has personality, it’s performative, and it has stereotypes.” He is seeking to break molds of specific likes and dislikes, exploring the depth that wine has to offer, in the context of the Spanish-Japanese Cranes menu. In fact, he says, Moncayo is supportive of his innovative, certification-less angle. “I become more relatable,” he says.
He also presents original events. He paired with local guest sommelier Andrew Stover (also a gay man) on Tuesday, March 29 for a springtime showcase of specialty rosé wines paired with Moncayo’s dishes. The duo poured tastes of specialty, small-batch wines from Brazil, Italy, Spain, Uruguay, and Maryland.
Leaning into the innovative spirit, the wine-by-glass list is not split by color. Instead, it is divided into evocative categories. For example, both a chardonnay and a pinot noir fall into the “Elegant, round, and mellow” category.
As a Spanish-Japanese restaurant, Cranes not only possesses an extensive wine cellar, but has consistently expanded its sake program. Sakes by the glass are split into the same exact categories. The very same “Elegant, round, and mellow” list includes Ginjo Nama Genshu and junmai daiginjo.
Stewart-Woodruff explains that wine and sake should be attended to similarly. “Sake is something you can think about like a beer in terms of production but treat like a wine,” he says. Sake is a fermented polished-rice beverage, dating back more than two millennia in Japan.
“Sake has aromatics, texture, body, and finish.” He takes pride in discussing customers’ palate preferences, and turning them onto a specific sake, for their qualities of earthiness, acidity, or others.
“Many people don’t experience sake outside of college or bars. Now, I can be a sommelier for sake, and for the marriage of Eastern and Western cuisine and beverage.” He expresses excitement at being innovative in his sake beverage pairings, occupying a niche space. When discussing both wine and sake, he aims to bring an artistic flair and tour-guide enthusiasm to the table.
Woodruff credits his identity and background for his success. He aims to bring a level of humanity and approachability to what has been a formal, stuffy area. He has high ambitions to portray sake as sophisticated as wine in the customer’s mind, “but it pairs well with Moncayo’s conceptually ambitious menu,” he says.
“Wine and sake are as eclectic as humanity. I want people to accept experiencing wine like the world has accepted me.”
Legalization trend continues as Nat’l Cannabis Festival kicks off
D.C.’s 420 Week runs April 16-24
The sixth annual National Cannabis Festival kicks off in D.C. on April 16 as the nation continues to see advances in legalizing cannabis, particularly for medical uses.
Just this week, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed HB 933 and SB 671, to provide numerous operational improvements to the state’s medical cannabis program, including eliminating the requirement that patients register with the Board of Pharmacy after receiving their written certification from a registered practitioner.
“These legislative improvements will bring great relief to the thousands of Virginians waiting to access the medical cannabis program,” said JM Pedini, NORML’s Development Director and the Executive Director of Virginia NORML. “We hear from dozens of Virginians each week who are struggling with the registration process and frustrated by the 60-day wait to receive their approval from the Board of Pharmacy,” Pedini added.
There are more than 47,000 program registrants, with an estimated 8,000 applicants still awaiting approval.
The new laws will take effect July 1. Until that time, patients will still be required to register with the Board of Pharmacy in order to shop at one of the state’s ten operational dispensaries. After July 1, patients who would like to receive a physical card will still have the option to request one by registering with the Board of Pharmacy.
The changes in Virginia law reflect growing support nationwide for reforming marijuana laws. Most Americans favor the enactment of a broad array of legal reforms specific to marijuana policy, according to new nationwide polling data provided by YouGov.com.
Specifically, six-in-10 Americans say that “marijuana should be made legal in the United States.” Majorities of Democrats (72 percent) and independents (60 percent) back legalization, while most Republicans (46 percent) do not.
Last week, members of the United States House of Representatives voted 220 to 204 in favor of The MORE Act, which removes marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act thereby allowing states to legalize cannabis markets free from federal interference. Most Democrats (217) voted for the bill while all but three Republicans voted against it.
A majority of Americans also support amending federal law so that banks and other financial institutions can explicitly partner with state-licensed marijuana businesses. Support for the policy change is strongest among Democrats (66 percent) and weakest among Republicans (38 percent).
Under existing federal law, financial institutions are discouraged from partnering with state-licensed cannabis businesses. According to the most recent financial information provided by the US Treasury Department, only about ten percent of all banks and only about four percent of all credit unions provide services to licensed cannabis-related businesses.
House members have voted on six separate occasions to pass federal legislation (The SAFE Banking Act) to reform this policy, but Senators have never taken any action to advance it in the Upper Chamber. Most recently, House members voted in February to include SAFE Banking provisions in HR 4521: the America COMPETES Act. Senators failed to include similar language in their version of the bill. (Courtesy NORML)
420 Week arrives in D.C.
D.C. is gearing up for a blazing 420 Week, featuring several days of exciting panels, art and community-building events and parties culminating in the National Cannabis Festival on April 23, featuring Wiz Khalifa, Lettuce, Ghostface Killah, Backyard Band, DuPont Brass, Shamans of Sound, Cramer, and more.
This year, the sixth annual National Cannabis Festival, which celebrates progress on cannabis legalization, is expanding to a full weekend of epic cannabis-related events, including the National Cannabis Policy Summit April 22 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and the National Cannabis Championship, presented by Gentleman Toker and slated for April 24 at Echostage with Slick Rick. The weekend is the capstone of 420 Week, hosted by the National Cannabis Festival organizers in partnership with the Eaton Hotel and DC Brau. The week kicks off on Saturday, April 16, with movie screenings, evening parties, a beer launch and more. Read on for the week’s highlights, courtesy of Festival organizers:
Saturday, April 16 – Sunday, April 24
Eaton Hotel + DC Brau
From the Hemp and Hops Panel and launch of NCF Legalize It! Lager at DC Brau (3178-B Bladensburg Rd. NE) on April 16 to the 4/20 Kickback Party featuring Khalifa Kush and panel with artists discussing cannabis’s role in their practice at the Eaton Hotel (1201 K St, NW), 420 Week promises something for everyone with an interest in cannabis culture. Take a tour with Luckie Chucky tours, participate in a “Plantwave Soundbath” and more. Nearly all events are free; RSVP required. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com for details.
National Cannabis Policy Summit
Friday, April 22, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Join a who’s who of activists, industry pioneers, government leaders, journalists and more for an electric and illuminating day looking at the era’s most pressing cannabis policy challenges and opportunities. U.S. Senate candidate and Civil Rights activist Gary Chambers; Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform; Portland Cannabis Program Manager Dasheeda Dawson; Aamra Ahmad, senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union and many others will be on hand to discuss environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation, banking legislation, decriminalization and more. Afterward, stay for a reception sponsored by Weedmaps. All events are free; registration is strongly recommended. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com/ncf-policy-summit for details.
National Cannabis Festival
Saturday, April 23, 12 p.m.
RFK Festival Grounds
2400 East Capitol St., NE, Lot 8
The highlight of 420 Week events is the East Coast’s largest ticketed cannabis gathering, which returns to Washington’s RFK Campus with performances from Wiz Khalifa Lettuce, Ghostface Killah and many others. Also on tap: a wide range of exhibitors, five pavilions on topics from wellness to agriculture to education, and a brand-new culinary pavilion featuring top chefs from Maydan, Maketto, Moon Rabbit, as well as the Munchies Zone, with 75 of the region’s most popular food trucks including Peruvian Brothers, Jerk at Nite, Reba’s Funnel Cakes and more. (Note: No THC infused foods are permitted to be sold or sampled at NCF; festival-goers must be 21 and up.) Tickets range from $75-$375 for one or two-day admission to the festival and National Cannabis Championship. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com/tickets.
National Cannabis Championship Presented by Gentleman Toker
Sunday, April 24, 12 p.m.
2135 Queens Chapel Rd., NE
Slick Rick and DJ Footwerk are giving festival-goers a sendoff to remember on the final day of 420 Week and the festival weekend, at the National Cannabis Championship at Echostage, new this year. Presented by Gentleman Toker, this awards show and bash celebrates the incredible cannabis cultivation taking place in the Washington area and across the Mid-Atlantic. Expect exhibitors, comedy, munchies, drinks and a chance to chill with some of the biggest names and brands in cannabis cultivation. Tickets are $55. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com/tickets.
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