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QUEERY: Byron Macfarlane

The Howard County, Md., register of wills answers 20 queer questions

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Byron Macfarlane, gay news, Washington Blade

Byron Macfarlane (Washington Blade photo by Drew Brown)

For Byron Macfarlane, becoming register of wills in Howard County, Md., followed a logical succession of events. He sensed an opening and went for it.

Macfarlane took an estates and trusts course in law school and enjoyed it. He was later working at a law firm with a growing probate practice and was given a bunch of cases and told to “figure it out.”

He familiarized himself with the registers of wills — a position only Maryland and a few other states have — and found it “really fascinating,” the 36-year-old Ellicott City, Md., native says. Macfarlane knew the person in the seat — each Maryland county has its own — was one of the last Republicans left in elected office in the county. According to the state constitution, the register “is responsible for appointing personal representatives to administer decedents’ estates and for overseeing the proper and timely administration of these proceedings.”

“I started asking around about what people thought of her, if they had seen her out and about lately, and the impression I got was that she had really lost touch with the community,” he says. “So, I ran. Public office is how I can give back to the community that has given me so much. It’s a chance to help people and make their lives a little easier and I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to serve.”

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. His opponents started playing the “gay card” as soon as he decided to run in 2010.

“I was running against a six-term incumbent Republican,” Macfarlane says. “‘You know he’s gay, right?’ is the line she would repeat to voters. She and her supporters told people I was part of a gay mafia. This whisper campaign was both hateful and frankly, bizarre.”

Those same folks united behind a GOP challenger in 2018 who argued residents deserved a “better” public servant, Macfarlane says.

“There’s a way that Republicans talk about others, meaning women, people of color, non-Christians and those of us who identify as LGBT,” he says. “They talk about us like we’re inherently inferior because of who we are. And what becomes dangerous is when one human being views another human being as inherently inferior, they adjust their behavior accordingly. How far you might go to tear someone down changes. How personal and hateful and borderline violent you are toward them changes. I’m fairly certain if I were straight, married, with kids, my opponent wouldn’t have been so eager to get personal and dirty. I’m glad the voters rejected the hate.”

Macfarlane is up for reelection in 2022.

Howard County has its first Pride event on Saturday, June 29 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Details at howardcountypride.org.

Macfarlane says there’s a large LGBT population in the county and an active PFLAG chapter, though not the same degree of community one generally finds in cities.

Macfarlane is a life-long Howard County resident. He’s single and lives in Columbia, Md. He enjoys biking, hiking, cooking, reading and board games in his free time.

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

I came out in 2006. The hardest person to tell was my mother. She was raised in a conservative Catholic family and had been a lifelong Republican (she switched parties and got active in local Democratic politics after I came out). I had no idea what to expect, really, but after I told her she simply said, “You’re my son and I love you no matter what.” I couldn’t ask for a more loving and supportive mother and am so grateful for her.

Who’s your LGBTQ hero? 

Harvey Milk. He helped blaze the trail to make it possible for people like me to run for office.

What LGBTQ stereotype most annoys you? 

I try to find humor in just about everything so I’m not sure there is one.

What’s your proudest professional achievement? 

My grandfather, also named Byron, was a CPA and had regretted never getting his law degree. He was thrilled that I chose to go to law school, giving him the chance to sort of fulfill this life goal of his vicariously. He was a constant source of support and encouragement. I graduated and became the first lawyer in our family just a few months before he passed away.

What terrifies you? 

Trump people.

What’s something trashy or vapid you love? 

Comedy Central Roasts (William Shatner’s was the best).

What’s your greatest domestic skill? 

Cooking! I’m a very adventurous cook.

What’s your favorite LGBTQ movie or show? 

“The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert”

What’s your social media pet peeve? 

Vaguebooking. Just spit it out, people.

What would the end of the LGBTQ movement look like to you? 

It’s hard to imagine when the work will end. I’d say a few signs we’re on our way would be the absence of state-sponsored discrimination and hate, like bathroom bills and “religious freedom” initiatives, nationwide legal protections for all LGBTQ Americans and the general cultural rejection of heteronormativity.

What’s the most overrated social custom? 

Saying farewell to a host before leaving a party. I support the Irish goodbye.

What was your religion, if any, as a child and what is it today? 

I was raised Episcopalian and have a lot of fond memories of church services and Sunday school. Today, I’d say I’m spiritual but not religious.

What’s Howard County’s best hidden gem? 

In Patapsco Valley State Park, you can hike to the ruins of St. Mary’s College and walk around the Thomas Viaduct, the world’s oldest multiple arched stone railroad bridge (still in use).

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

“Lord of the Rings” being made into movies. My friends and I do a marathon of the extended editions every year.

What celebrity death hit you hardest? 

Politician: Paul Wellstone. Non-Politician: Carrie Fisher.

If you could redo one moment from your past, what would it be? 

I’ve seen enough time travel movies to know if you change something in the past, it can dramatically unravel the present. My past mistakes, however regrettable, have all pushed me to learn and grow and have led me to where I am today.

What are your obsessions? 

Politics, history, exploring new and unique things in the world, trying new food, nature, “Star Trek” and dance mixes of songs from the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Finish this sentence — It’s about damn time: 

We had more LGBTQ Americans in state and local elected office, in judgeships, in Congress and in the White House. We have a lot of “firsts” left to go.

What do you wish you’d known at 18? 

How quickly time flies in adulthood. It’s so important to carefully safeguard our spare time and make sure it’s being spent on our own well-being and on people who love us.

Why Howard County? 

There’s something really special about this place. Howard County is in my bones and I just love living here and helping the people I serve. Relocating does cross my mind sometimes. I also really love both D.C. and Baltimore, so who knows what the future holds?

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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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