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Center director David Mariner reflects on 20 years in Washington

Longtime gay D.C. community leader heading to Rehoboth with new husband



David Mariner, gay news, Washington Blade
David Mariner has been credited with helping the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community expand its programming exponentially during his 11-plus years as executive director. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

David Mariner began in 2008 as a volunteer and then a part-time employee when the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community had a small office suite in the American Dental Association’s building on 14th Street, N.W. next to Thomas Circle.

Mariner, who soon became the Center’s executive director, recalls that the center’s volunteer treasurer told him back then that the organization had about $2,000 in the bank.

Now, a little over 10 years later, the D.C. Center operates in a comfortable suite of offices in the city’s Reeves Municipal Center building at 14th and U Streets, N.W. with an annual budget of $442,000 and an expected 2020 budget that Mariner says will reach the half-million dollar mark.

The Corning, N.Y., native, who moved to Washington in 1999 after graduating from college at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., departs Monday for a similar job at CAMP Rehoboth in Rehoboth Beach, Del., with his husband of one week, Khusan. He spoke to the Blade this week about his decade-plus at the D.C. Center.

WASHINGTON BLADE: When did you start at the D.C. Center?

DAVID MARINER: I began working at the D.C. Center in 2008. I volunteered for the first few months, and then they brought me on part time. When I started volunteering, they did not have the budget to hire me, but we worked up to that.

BLADE: What were things like back then?

MARINER: When I started Jim Marks (gay activist and former Washington Blade feature writer) was our treasurer. And other than a grant to work on crystal meth, which we were doing collaboratively with other organizations, we had about $2,000 in the bank, and for the first few months I would always ask Jim where we were money wise, and he would always say we have about $2,000.

BLADE: And where was the Center located at that time?

MARINER: At that time we had a suite at the American Dental Association Building on 14th Street, near the Green Lantern. 

BLADE: That was the first office the Center had when you began working there?

MARINER: Uh-huh. We had no full-time staff when I started, and now we will soon have a team of six or seven people in October. So we’re going to have the biggest and most robust team we’ve ever had at the Center.

BLADE: So when did you begin as the full-time executive director?

MARINER: That was January 2009, one year later.

BLADE: Can you tell a little about how the Center has changed since that time? You’ve been credited with helping to grow it quite a bit.

MARINER: We have a $47,000 grant from the Department of Aging and Community Living, which is the first time DACL has ever funded an LGBT group, which is exciting. The grant expands our social support network for LGBTQ older adults. We will continue having regular lunches and weekly coffee socials for LGBTQ older adults and expand into other programming, including yoga. We will also have a part-time case manager on site to support our LGBTQ older adults. One of the things we’ve asked for is for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to get to 20 housing vouchers for LGBTQ seniors. And I still don’t know where that stands, but a case manager like the one we will have is really important in helping older adults utilize those vouchers.

BLADE: Was there one other place the Center moved to before moving to the current location at the Reeves Municipal Building at 14th and U Street, N.W.?

MARINER: In 2009, we moved out of the American Dental Association Building at 1111 14th Street, Suite 350 and moved into the Whitman-Walker Space at 1810 14th Street, N.W., where Doi Moi is now. JBG Properties gave us the opportunity to stay there at a very reasonable rent knowing they were planning to demolish the building. When JBG moved forward with demolishing that space, we moved to another JBG property 1308 U Street N.W., in June of 2010. We encouraged the city to release an RFP for vacant space at the Reeves Center. There is still a lot of unused space at the Reeves Center including a hair salon that has not been touched for many years. We submitted our application with others that included a convenience store and a restaurant. At one point after our RFP was accepted there was a proposal for the city to trade the Reeves Center. Ultimately those plans fell apart. However, the future of the Reeves Center is still up in the air.

BLADE: Since moving into the Reeves Center the D.C. Center appears to have grown considerably. What do you see as your accomplishments there?

MARINER: Well when I visited other community centers through my consulting, what I loved most about them is how they created a space for everyone in the community, and how easy it was for community members to organize and support each other because they had a space to gather. I really wanted the D.C. Center to be a place where everyone felt welcome, which is difficult in a city that is so often divided. And I wanted it to be a space where we could work together to make D.C. better for everyone. Some of the work I’m most proud of is not the work I did, but the work community members did. The D.C. Center just made it easier by supporting their work. So for example, I’m very proud that D.C. for Marriage was a program of the Center, and (marriage equality leader) Michael Crawford and others did such amazing work creating marriage equality in D.C. long before it was nationwide. I’m proud of Daniel O’Neal, who worked on HIV prevention when we saw an increase in new HIV cases among younger gay/bi/trans men, and I’m really proud of the work Eddy Ameen and the Youth Working Group did holding forums and advocating for more beds for homeless LGBTQ Youth. As you remember, the Youth Working launched a petition for more beds for homeless LGBTQ youth when there were only a handful of beds. That has thankfully changed. And of course I’m proud of the fact that the D.C. Center is filled with activities almost every evening we are open. Many of our meetings at the D.C. Center are peer-facilitated support groups. There are 18 different peer-facilitated support groups that meet at the D.C. Center including our newest, which is for LGBTQ military members and first responders. In an era where trans people and people living with HIV are being pushed out of the military, I’m very excited we can offer this service

BLADE: What is the D.C. Center’s current budget?

MARINER: Our current 2019 budget is $442,000 and next year we will surpass the half million mark. That includes about $190,000 in government grants, $60,000 in private foundation grants and generous community support that comes through monthly donors, special events and our professional partners.

BLADE: What was your vision for the Center when you started and how much of that were you able to make happen?

MARINER: A lot of the goals that I set for myself when I started at the D.C. Center have been met. And 11 years is a long time to be with any organization. For me, I wanted to build an LGBTQ community center that I knew would last after I left and I believe that we’ve done that. I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done, but I’m ready for a new adventure and I’m ready to see what someone will bring to the D.C. Center when they take over.

BLADE: Will your new endeavor in Rehoboth Beach bring some changes in your personal life?

MARINER: Personally, this year has had some changes for me as I’ve gotten married. And I’m excited to be moving to Rehoboth with Khusan and be able to get a bigger place to live and for us to have a new beginning together. We’ve been together for two years

BLADE: How did you and Khusan meet?

MARINER: Khusan and I met at Trade (the D.C. gay bar) in August 2017, and got engaged in Key West, Fla., on July 13, 2019, and then we got married this past Friday, Sept. 20. Christopher Dyer was our officiant and it was a very small gathering of friends.

BLADE: How did you find out about the job opportunity at CAMP Rehoboth?

MARINER: I saw the Rehoboth job posting through CenterLink, the national association of LGBT Centers, and it felt like a great fit and a great opportunity. I applied and went to Rehoboth for two different interviews and got a chance to meet the team there. I had the opportunity to meet the board of directors and staff, and they are truly an amazing group of people, and Rehoboth itself is simply a very special place for the LGBTQ community.

BLADE: What if any new projects to you expect to be working on when you begin your new job in Rehoboth?

MARINER: Well I think the first task at hand for me when I get to Rehoboth is to really learn more. There are so many programs that CAMP Rehoboth offers and so many amazing volunteers and supporters that I want to learn from. Obviously there is a lot of overlap between what different LGBT Centers do across the country, but CAMP is also a unique place that I need to learn more about. One thing that is going to be unique for me is having a (U.S.) Senator and Representative that can vote, and I’m really looking forward to learning more about local politics. Obviously I could not be more excited that (transgender rights advocate) Sarah McBride is running for office, and CAMP has always played a role not just in Rehoboth, but in the state of Delaware. I’m excited to learn more about how we can support students in our area, and how we can best support LGBTQ older adults as well. I’m also excited to make some connections between D.C. and Rehoboth. For example, I know there are LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness who’ve never had a day at the ocean. And being so close to the ocean, I would love to have some D.C. visitors. So I’ve already started some of those conversations with local organizations about visiting.

BLADE: Do you have any thoughts about carrying on the legacy of the late Steve Elkins, who co-founded CAMP Rehoboth and served as executive director for over 25 years before his death last year?

MARINER: Steve Elkins had such a profound impact on Rehoboth and the entire state of Delaware. The entire team at CAMP Rehoboth continues that legacy. I was impressed when I recently visited Rehoboth for the Sundance weekend and met so many elected leaders and community leaders who are deeply invested in CAMP and our future. Much like D.C., I believe that those of us who are fortunate enough to live in parts of our country that are LGBTQ supportive, have a responsibility to move the ball forward in the quest for full equality, and there is still much work to do.

BLADE: What can you say about the selection of your successor at the D.C. Center and what that person will be dealing with in the next few years?

MARINER: The board of directors is working with our friends at CenterLink to conduct a job search. I believe there has recently been a renewed focus on LGBTQ advocacy locally in D.C. and I very much hope to see that continue. This includes passing the LGBTQ Older Americans and Older People Living HIV legislation, the Bella Evangelista and Tony Hunter Gay and Trans Panic Defense Bill, and the bill to Decriminalize Sex Work in D.C. I know the D.C. Rainbow Caucus (of LGBT Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners) and others will continue to push for more local funding and I hope to see that happen. And if we are pushed out of our current space at the Reeves Center, I hope to see at least twice as much space in our new home, as we continue to grow.

David Mariner (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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Rodriquez scores historic win at otherwise irrelevant Golden Globes

Award represents a major milestone for trans visibility



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



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



‘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.


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.


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.


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,

• DC Center, our local community center that operates a wide range of programming,

Food & Friends, which delivers meals to homebound patients,

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

• SMYAL, which advocates for queer youth,

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

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

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

• 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,

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