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QUEERY: Taylor Lianne Chandler

The D.C.-area trans/intersex activist answers 20 gay questions

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Taylor Lianne Chandler, gay news, Washington Blade
Taylor Lianne Chandler (Photo by Diva Murillo; courtesy Chandler)

Taylor Lianne Chandler arrived in the D.C. area in 2013 newly divorced, seeking a fresh start and ready to find work full time as a sign language interpreter. 

Listing her job titles as author/actress/activist/model, Chandler soon got involved with the local trans/intersex community. 

Chandler will appear as a celebrity judge at the annual “#AskRayceen Mini Ball,” this month’s installment of “The Ask Rayceen Show” slated for Wednesday, April 3 at HRC Equality Center (1640 Rhode Island Ave., N.W.) at 7 p.m. It’s free and open to the public. Now in its eighth season, “Ask Rayceen” runs the first Wednesday of each month March through November with hostess Rayceen Pendarvis. 

“She always makes me smile,” Chandler says of Rayceen. “I’m happy to support anything she does. We always take a selfie together every time we see each other. It’s our thing.” 

She calls “Ask Rayceen” and the ball competition “an amazing time to see our community come together in a safe space and shine.”

Chandler is also active with We the People, SaVanna Wanzer’s local trans group that’s gearing up for May’s launch of its second annual May Is? All About Trans series of events. 

“Under this administration that wants to ban and erase us, we need a chance to celebrate and come together in safe spaces,” the 46-year-old Cape Coral, Fla., native says. “I was the first person she asked two years ago. I didn’t hesitate. When SaVanna asks, you step to the plate and do what is necessary. You just do it.” 

Chandler credits Wanzer with helping her bounce back after an ugly breakup — more below — a few years ago. Full details of May Is? at  mayistransdc.com.

Chandler is engaged to Matthew Meagher-Walker. They live in Burke, Va. Chandler enjoys reading, travel, coffee and being near the water in her free time. 

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

I was outed on the cover of the National Enquirer, TMZ and Radar Online November 19, 2014. I didn’t choose on my own to be out. My relationship with Michael Phelps put my life in a public forum for all to see and scrutinize and pass judgment. I don’t have the luxury of telling someone. My whole life is public, the good, the bad and the ugly! 

Who’s your LGBT hero? 

Caroline Cossey, Tula. She was the first person I ever saw myself in. She has been a rock over the last five years as she was outed and went through it all publicly too. She tells me often, “chin up always.”

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

I love me some Dirty Goose, but I pretty much like them all! I truly miss Town, but now we have Avalon Saturdays. If I’m feeling a little naughty, Secrets is a guilty pleasure! 

Describe your dream wedding. 

Something small and simple with close friends, but elegant and traditional. I want it to have an outdoor stage with jazz, classical and contemporary music. I want it formal but fun down to every detail. I want to marry my best friend who loves and adores me. A man who will be loyal and cherish me. I want a love that others wish they had. I’m so lucky to have found my fairytale with Matthew. 

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? 

Being intersex, I’m passionate about laws stopping gender mutilation surgery in infants to fit conveniently into a binary world. Close second is economic justice, health equity and equal pay for women. 

What historical outcome would you change? 

Trump becoming president. He has taken the intersex and transgender communities back 100 years with no end in sight. Our country has never been so divided!

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

For me, it was when  I did “The Howard Stern Show” with Bradley Cooper in January 2015.

On what do you insist? 

Not waiting in lines, one small perk of fame. 

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? 

My last tweet was a video of me speaking at Trans Day of Remembrance about the state of the world under President Trump last year. My last Facebook post was promoting my friend Rhonda Sheer on HSN. 

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

My first book is “The Making of Going For the Gold.” My next book is called “Beyond the Gold: The TaylorLianne Chandler Story.” I hope to finish it by the end of this year. I also wrote a fiction book called “Super Bowl Surprise.” 

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

Not a damn thing, I like being straight and I love my gay friends just the way they are! The world would be boring if we were all the same! I’d rather science discover a way to stop hate. 

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

I believe in God and I’m anxious to meet my mom, who died when I was 3 months old. I think of her as my angel watching over me. 

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? 

Come together, try to play nice. You get more bees with honey. The people who had to fight hard against the establishment deserve our respect, but we need to welcome a kinder, deliberate strategy to take over the reins for the better good going forward into the future. Coming together as a whole we can accomplish so much more. We need the Caitlyn Jenners as much as the Janet Mocks, Laverne Coxs, Jazz Jennings and Kim Petras of the world. 

What would you walk across hot coals for? 

To let go of the pain of the past. To be free of the trauma of my childhood that haunts me.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most? 

When people ask, “What is Intersex”? Does that mean you are trans?” No, not the way you think, but I did choose to become one gender different from what I was originally corrected to be so I identify as both. 

What’s your favorite LGBT movie? 

“Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” Swedish versions.

What’s the most overrated social custom? 

Valentine’s Day

What trophy or prize do you most covet? 

I want to live in a world where the greatest Olympian of all time can love somebody like me. 

What do you wish you’d known at 18? 

When people show you who they are believe them right away. Also how precious time is and you don’t get it back.

Why Washington? 

It’s a city rich in history and fueled by constant change. I love the political game here. I like feeling like I am at the front line of change for the better. 

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Rodriquez scores historic win at otherwise irrelevant Golden Globes

Award represents a major milestone for trans visibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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As You Are Bar and the importance of queer gathering spaces

New bar/restaurant poised to open in 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books, non-profit donations make thoughtful choices

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

You knew this was coming.

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

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

BOOKS: NONFICTION

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

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

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

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

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

FICTION

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

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

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

NON-PROFIT GIVING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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