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What the Blade means to me

Former employees reflect on impact of the newspaper



Washington Blade staff in the 1980’s. (Washington Blade archive photo)

As we wrap our yearlong celebration of the Washington Blade’s 50th anniversary, we wanted to provide space to former employees to reflect on what the newspaper means to them. Here is a sampling of what they had to say. Thanks to everyone for contributing.

JERYL PARADE, Blade account executive, 2009-2016

Jeryl Parade, on right, with Colleen Dermody and Blade Publisher Lynne Brown. (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

“I need to tell you this is the last issue of the newspaper you will be delivering. It’s not you. It’s us. We’re shutting down.”

“What will you do?”

“Look for a job. But not here. In D.C.

“You should apply at the Blade.”

“The Blade?”

“We’ve been there trying to get their distribution business. You should see the offices. They’re beautiful”.

“Yeah. OK. Thanks for the advice.” But I’m not gay.

On July 26, 2009, I emailed publisher Lynne Brown my three-page resume with 18 bullet points of publishing accomplishments. She responded on July 31, 2009. “Thanks for writing. There are only opportunities in life.”

In a subsequent email we agreed to meet on Wednesday at 11 a.m. Lynne wrote, “We are generally a casual group. So dress to be yourself.”

I did not know if she meant this or was being crafty. Should I really show up in a ‘90s Goth thing? I decided on a business suit. The Blade is, after all, a business.

And then some!

Happily I got the job. It was advertising sales. I had been a manager for 25 years, but when you work with clients, as I had, you are in sales.

I am able to tell on the first day of a new job if it is going to work out. On that first day — even though all I did was read the employee manual — I felt good. I was breathing in fresh air.

The next day I made my first sales call. It resulted in a sale. You know it can take 10 or more calls or emails to connect with someone and five or more contacts with said someone to seal the deal. If you’re lucky. Not so with the Blade. I was batting 1,000 percent!

Still, I was feeling stilted compared to my debonair coworkers. I remember seeing a team photo from the previous holiday season. Everyone dressed in black. I don’t think anyone was smiling. I would never be as cool as that.

About two and a half months into my tenure, on Monday, Nov. 16, 2009, we came in to work and were told (by the then parent company) to go home. Plenty has been written about the days and weeks that followed. I won’t go into that here. I consulted with my father about what to do next. I told him how the employees had a plan to keep publishing. My dad advised me to stay. He said, “It might be better.”

From then on I learned how to work on a commission-only basis and have confidence in my own and our success. I had always worked at a desk, in an office. Now I was free. An advertiser would call me on my cell while I was on the streets of downtown D.C. How cool was I now? I was Blade cool.

One of my most vivid memories of working for the Blade is from 2013 in the Venetian Jewish Ghetto. My friend was on a tour while I was in the piazza taking a call from the Washington Women’s Rugby Football Club (DC Furies) about advertising in our LGBTQ Sports Issue. I had sent an email blast earlier that week from our hotel room in Rome to let everyone know I had previewed the content and it was amazing!

Being “not gay” was never an issue. My advertisers and co-workers did not care which of the letters comprising the acronym I was. I had always assumed it was A for Ally. Now I know. It’s G. For Grateful.

KEN SAIN, Blade news editor, 2003-2005

Perhaps the most important thing we have learned since Stonewall is that visibility is everything. Many of the advances the LGBTQ community has made in these past decades are because ordinary people had the courage to come out.

Each generation has made it easier for the next, and the current one will make it even easier for those who follow. It was far easier in those early years for an Anita Bryant and others to go argue for discrimination when it was just some drag queens no one knew in San Francisco who were denied rights and being assaulted.

It’s a lot harder to make that case when it’s your uncle, or sister, or child.

So yes, give credit to the leaders for inspiring us and willing to be the face that took the criticism. But remember that each of us who had the courage to tell our truth to family and friends and co-workers also did our part to help change public opinion.

And give some credit to the Washington Blade. For 50 years it has been covering the struggle, helping to inspire new generations by telling the stories of those who came before. It was a source of news for our community when others didn’t even acknowledge our issues. The Blade did so while maintaining the highest standards of journalism and ethics.

I know from my time as news editor what a vital role the Blade has in the community. I like to think that by covering the community fairly and with integrity we achieved our goals of informing and in some cases entertaining readers. I also believe that by putting a spotlight on the stories of our community, we helped moved the needle on public opinion in some small way.

I am deeply proud of my time working for the Blade and the work we did. There is something special about working with quality people on a righteous cause. Our cause was to show that we could do great journalism for LGBTQ readers and keep them informed of the issues that that in many cases no one else was covering.

In doing so, we helped make our community more visible. And as we’ve learned during these past 50 years, being more visible is one key to being accepted.

Happy 50th anniversary, Blade.

KRISTINA CAMPBELL, Blade reporter, managing editor and editor, 1992-2002

Kristina Campbell (Washington Blade archive photo)

The thing I remember most about the Blade was the company’s elegant balance as a fun and often lighthearted atmosphere that was also a professional workplace where we were serious about our mission and our product. I felt close to everyone in the newsroom, especially as I rose the editor ranks and started supervising people who had been my colleagues. It was an honor to be trusted with that role. I remember the work being challenging but rewarding, every day of my tenure there, until the ownership changed and some workplace issues started clouding my focus on the news. I felt an obligation to the community the entire time I worked at the Blade, because it was so important to get the information correct, to be fair, to create a record for information and developments that the mainstream media was only beginning to cover. And I also felt a responsibility to act with objectivity and to give fair and respectful treatment to adversaries of the community or its civil rights work. That was sometimes difficult, but it made me a better journalist and, I think, a better person.

I grew up in that job, and I had fun doing it. It was an exciting time to cover gay civil rights issues — news was always developing and it felt like we as a community were on the brink of big things. Indeed, the big things gradually took shape. I often think about the current presidential administration and how working at the Blade would be so different now, and likely frustrating, as significant pieces of the progress we covered is at risk of (or in the process of) being rolled back.

The Blade was, I insisted then and maintain now, the most reliable and professional source of hard news about the gay movement anywhere in the world when I worked there, for most of the 90s and into the next decade, And that was quite something to be part of. I always had such deep respect for the people who hired me and shaped me into a professional — Don Michaels and Lisa Keen — because they gave their careers to being the daily historians of a civil rights movement. The same is true for the longest-tenured Blade staffer in history, Lou Chibbaro Jr., whose professionalism and hard-nosed reporting style made each issue of the paper better. I was fond of everyone on the staff, but those three really made that newspaper into an institution I was proud to participate in.

RHONDA SMITH, Blade reporter, features editor, 1997-2005; intern, 1984

Rhonda Smith (Washington Blade archive photo)

I was a journalism undergraduate at Howard University during the early 1980s when I became an intern at the Washington Blade under the tutelage of Lisa Keen and Don Michaels. At the time, I was just coming out and trying to find my way in the world as the daughter of a Southern Baptist minister and a public school teacher from a small town in Texas. The Blade helped shape a key part of my identity in a way that few others did at that time.

I get nitty-gritty details about the LGBTQ experience from the Blade that other media organizations might still tend to gloss over. Writers and editors at the Blade take a deeper dive on topics that help determine the extent to which we thrive. The Blade reminds me that my sexual orientation is a blessing that should be embraced.

My favorite memory working at the Blade: Watching Lou Chibbaro, Jr. get the story.

BRIAN MOYLAN, Blade intern, reporter and features editor, 2000-2006

Gather round, children and let Grandpa Moylan tell you about the bad old days before marriage equality, Grindr, and RuPaul’s Drag Race. In 2000, during my senior year at George Washington University I was about to graduate and needed a job badly. As an English major with a minor in Thursday College Night at Badlands, I didn’t have many prospects, so I opened up the Washington Blade and faxed my resume to every job listing in the want ads. Don’t worry, kids, if you don’t understand half of the things in the previous sentence.

The only two responses I got from my resume were from the Blade itself and the Crew Club, both of them situated on 14th Street when you were more likely to see a prostitute or a shooting in the area rather than an Aesop. I interviewed at the Blade and, as I was getting dressed to go to my interview at the Crew Club, managing editor Kristina Campbell called and told me I got the job. I decided to ditch the Crew Club and become a journalist instead of a jizz mopper. It was my Gwyneth Paltrow “Sliding Doors” moment.

I was an editorial assistant making $22,000 a year, which was not very much even back then. One of my first responsibilities was to go to the Supreme Court and pick up the rulings for Boy Scouts of America V. Dale, where the court ruled it was perfectly acceptable for private groups to discriminate against gay people. It was a startling setback and I thought, “This is going to be a tough job if the news is always this bad.”

The news, back then was often bad: Iowa’s governor rescinded gay protections already in place, several states banned same-sex adoptions, the Millennium March stiffed its vendors, hate crimes bills got voted down left and right, “Brokeback Mountain” lost to “Crash.” Seriously? Crash?! To make it even worse, Cobalt even burned down. Then George W. Bush was elected and things got even worse as that closet case Ken Mehlman used gay marriage bans to stoke Republican turnout at the polls. Often being at work was painful.

But looking back at my time at the Blade (where I eventually rose to be the features editor before I quit in 2006 to move to New York), I don’t remember all of that awful news. Most of all what I remember is the amazing people I worked with, especially Campbell, Lyn Stoessen, and Will O’Bryan, the patient lesbians who taught me how to be a journalist. (Don’t worry, Will always self-identified as a lesbian.) And of course I think of Kevin Naff, still running the gay paper of record, and Lou Chibbaro Jr., the best reporter I have ever encountered in 20 years in journalism. (I also think of the one coworker I slept with, but we should probably not be naming names.)

Secondly, what I remember are all of the amazing events I covered. As an editorial assistant I had to go to a gay community meeting every week and report on it. I met gay SCUBA divers, Black and White Men Together, gay gun enthusiasts, Log Cabin Republicans, and gay affinity groups for every religion you could possibly imagine, including gay atheists. I think of every High Heel Race, all of the Black Prides, each of Ed Bailey’s amazing Madonnaramas at Velvet Nation, all the gay cowboys at the Atlantic Stampede, every film I reviewed at the Reel Affirmations film festival (even the wretched musical based on Matthew Shepherd’s murder).

The Blade ushered a 21-year-old kid from a small town in Connecticut into a gay community far more vibrant than he ever could have imagined. It taught me that no matter how bad things got or how slowly progress came, that we always had each other, that there was always a reason to celebrate, and another Halloween was just around the corner.

By and large many of the things we were fighting for back in the early 2000s — marriage equality, the end of the gay military ban, outing Ken Mehlman — have come to pass. Gay news these days is much sunnier and is covered by every outlet from Vice to the New York Times. But that doesn’t mean that the Blade is obsolete. The one thing it will always have going for it is that it is of the community and by the community. No one else had the dedication or support to make it through 50 years of the bad old times. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of that legacy. Back in 2000, the Blade gave me a job and since then it has given me a career in media. But the most important thing it gave me, that it still gives me, is hope.

PHILIP VAN SLOOTEN, Blade intern, 2019

Philip Van Slooten (Washington Blade file photo)

It’s important for the LGBTQ community and our issues to be treated respectfully and normalized in the same manner that mainstream media does for the cisgender-heterosexual community. The Blade takes our lives and opinions on all topics seriously and not just as “quirky” news. For example, the Blade would interview a drag performer about their political views and that becomes the news whereas the news for the straight press is simply that someone performs in drag. Their level of education or insights aren’t of interest.

I’ve read a few other LGBTQ publications in the region and very few strive to elevate LGBTQ discourse beyond the sensational.



Trans women banned from track and field, intersex athletes restricted

World Athletics Council policy to go into effect March 31



CeCé Telfer (Photo courtesy of Instagram)

The organization that makes the rules for track and field meets around the world declared Thursday it will bar transgender women who have experienced male puberty from competing, a move that was anticipated following a similar trans ban issued last year by the governing body for world swimming.

As the Associated Press noted, at this moment there are zero trans women competing at the elite level of track and field. But the edict, which the World Athletics Council announced will take effect on the Transgender Day of Visibility, March 31, is crushing news for one hopeful. 
In May 2019, CeCé Telfer won the 400m hurdles at the Division II championships and became the first out trans woman to win an NCAA title. She’s been training ever since for her shot at the Olympics, despite being ruled ineligible for Beijing at the trials in 2021. The Jamaican-American had set a goal of qualifying for Paris in 2024. But the World Athletics ban ends that dream.

Telfer tweeted Thursday, “It feels as though the world stopped moving.”

Another ruling by the group will likely mean no shot at the Olympics for another Black woman athlete, two-time gold medalist Caster Semenya. The South African track icon is not trans, but because of her higher than typical testosterone levels, she has been barred from competing in her signature event, the 800m. World Athletics took that from her around the same time Telfer made history, in May 2019. 

The group issued an eligibility ruling that prohibits female athletes like Semenya who have Differences in Sexual Development from competing in women’s events, from the 400m to one mile (1600m), unless they reduce their testosterone levels. So, Semenya chose to run in longer events than she did previously. She finished 13th in her qualifying heat at 5,000 meters at world championships last year as she worked to adapt to longer distances, in preparation for Paris. 

“I’m in the adaptation phase, and my body is starting to fit with it. I’m just enjoying myself at the moment, and things will fall into place at the right time,” the South African runner told the AP.

That time may now never come. On Thursday, World Athletics announced athletes who have DSD will have to undergo hormone-suppressing treatment and maintain a testosterone level of below 2.5nmol/L for 24 months, in order to be eligible to compete in any event in the female category.

Semenya vowed following the 2019 ruling that she would never again take any testosterone suppressing medication, terming the rules discriminatory and unfair.

This new rule could impact not only Semenya but also as many as a dozen other elite runners, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said. Among them, Olympic 200-meter silver medalist Christine Mboma of Namibia, who won a silver medal in Tokyo two years ago but didn’t compete last year because of an injury. Mboma has not publicly stated whether she would be willing to undergo hormone therapy.

Like Semenya, Olympic 800-meter silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi has said she will not undergo hormone suppression. 

Even though Niyonsaba, Mboma and Semenya are not trans like Telfer and former Connecticut high school track athletes Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller — who have been targeted in federal court by opponents of inclusion — there is one thing all these women have in common: They are all women of color, and all targeted for being too fast because of their natural gifts.

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Chicago Blackhawks: No Pride jerseys over Russia concerns

Several of the team’s players are Russian



Chicago Blackhawks players wearing 'Pride Night' jerseys in April of 2022 (Photo Credit: Chicago Blackhawks/Facebook)

The National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks franchise have opted to not wear the team’s Pride-themed warmup jerseys before Sunday’s Pride Night game against the Vancouver Canucks based on security concerns over the recently expanded Russian law prohibiting mention of LGBTQ rights in Russia the Associated Press reported.

According to the AP, the decision was made by the NHL organization following discussions with security officials within and outside the franchise, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke to the AP on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the move.

Blackhawks defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is a Moscow native, and there are other players with family in Russia or other connections to the country the AP noted.

The team has participated in the LGBTQ themed part of the ‘Hockey is for everyone‘ campaign and has in previous years set aside recognition for the LGBTQ community in Pride night celebrations.

While the team will forgo the jerseys, the AP noted that DJs from the LGBTQ community will play before the game and during an intermission, and the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus also is slated to perform. There also are plans to highlight a couple of area businesses with ties to the LGBTQ community.

The decision by the team has sparked outage including Outsports editor Cyd Zeigler, who noted on Twitter that the NHL has an inclusion problem as the Chicago team joins the New York Rangers, who opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their Pride night this past January despite previously advertising that plan. The Rangers’ Pride Night was held 10 days after Ivan Provorov, the alternate captain for the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers, opted out of participating in the team’s Pride Night charity event before the game Tuesday, claiming a religious exemption based on his Russian Orthodox faith.

San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer didn’t take part in the Sharks Pride Night wearing Pride-themed jerseys in support of the LGBTQ community, telling multiple media outlets that support of the LGBTQ community runs counter to his religious beliefs.

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Reading ‘Blue Hunger’ is like watching a Stanley Kubrick film

Lush, dreamlike, and you won’t be able to stop thinking about it



(Book cover image courtesy of Bloomsbury)

‘Blue Hunger’ 
By Viola Di Grado, translated by Jamie Richards
c.2023, Bloomsbury
$27/ 216 pages

You can’t stop thinking about it.

It’s been rolling around in your mind since it happened and you can’t stop. You replay it over and over, how it started, how it progressed, why it ended. You wonder if it’ll happen again and in the new novel “Blue Hunger” by Viola Di Grado, you wonder if you truly want it to.

Shanghai was not her first choice for a place to live. Sometimes, she wasn’t really even sure why she came there, except that it was Ruben’s dream.

For months and months, he spoke of Shanghai, showed her maps, talked of a life as a chef living in a high-rise apartment, and he taught her a little bit of the language. She never fully understood why Ruben loved China and she never thought to ask before her other half, her twin brother, her only sibling died.

She was brushing her teeth when it happened. Now, weeks later, she was in his favorite city, a teacher of Italian languages in a Chinese culture, alone, friendless. Then she met Xu.

It happened at the nightclub called Poxx and she later wondered, with a thrill, if Xu had been stalking her. Xu claimed that she was a student in the Italian class, but though she was usually good with faces, she didn’t remember the slender, “glorious” woman with milk-white skin and luminous eyes.

She did remember the first place she and Xu had sex.

It was a hotel, but Xu liked it outside, too; in public, on sidewalks, in abandoned buildings, and in crowded nightclubs. They took yellow pills together, slept together in Xu’s squalid apartment; she told Xu she loved her but never got a reply except that Xu starting biting.

Xu had used her teeth all along but she started biting harder.

Soon, she was bleeding, bruising from Xu’s bites, and seeing people in the shadows, and she began to understand that Ruben wouldn’t have liked Xu at all.

You know what you want. You’re someone with determination. And you may want this book, but there are a few things you’ll need to know first.

Reading “Blue Hunger” is like watching a Stanley Kubrick movie. It’s surreal, kind of gauzy, and loaded with meanings that are somewhat fuzzy until you’ve read a paragraph several times – and even then, you’re not quite sure about it. Author Viola Di Grado writes of sharp, unfinished mourning with a grief-distracting obsession layered thickly on top, of control and submission, and while the chapters are each brief, they feel too long but not long enough. There are so many questions left dangling within the plot of this story, so many small bits unsaid, but also too much information of the mundane sort. You’ll feel somewhat voyeuristic with this book in your hands, until you notice that the sex scenes here are humidly uber-fiery but not very detailed.

Overall, then, “Blue Hunger” is different but compelling, short enough to read twice, quickly. It’s lush, dreamlike, and once started, you won’t be able to stop thinking about it.

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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