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Storm’s Sullivan becomes first out bisexual player in pro hockey

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Manchester Storm defenseman Zach Sullivan (Image via Twitter)

Yet another figure in the world of professional sports has come out of the closet.

Last weekend, Manchester Storm defenseman Zach Sullivan came out as bisexual on social media. According to Outsports, he is believed to be the first professional ice hockey player to do so during their career.

The 25-year old UK hockey player made his revelation as his team’s Elite Ice Hockey League held its first-ever Pride weekend, in partnership with You Can Play. Hockey website RMNB reports that support for the weekend was league-wide; individual teams selected a local LGBT+ charity to work with, with initiatives ranging from the use of Pride tape, specially designed Pride jerseys, raffles and auctions to win player’s shirts, Pride merchandise for sale, and some proceeds going to directly to LGBT+ organizations. The weekend received heavy promotion across social media and in national and local news coverage across the UK.

Ahead of Sunday’s game between the Storm and rival team the Dundee Stars, Sullivan took to Instagram and Twitter with a the following post:

“With this being the first ever EIHL #PrideWeekend I feel now is the best time to speak about what I have known for many years. I have battled with mental health problems over this issue and with the support, understanding and acceptance from my family, friends and teammates, I finally feel read to say; I’m bisexual. I have never been more proud to wear a jersey before, especially one that celebrates all gender identities and sexualities.”

His post on Twitter was accompanied by a photograph of himself and teammates Cam Critchlow and Jared Aulin, each of them wearing the Manchester Storm Pride jersey.

#PrideWeekend #ICanPlay #YouCanPlay @officialEIHL @Mcr_Storm pic.twitter.com/2FH6AtDZ4f

— Zach Sullivan (@ZachSully11) January 26, 2020

Response to Sullivan’s revelation came quickly from both fans and players of the Storm, as well as from fans and players of other teams both within and outside of the Elite League, and was described by RMNB as “overwhelmingly positive.” The Tweet currently has 6.6K likes and 1.1K retweets, while the Instagram post has nearly 1700 likes.

Among the many supportive comments:

“Huge thanks for your courage in sharing your story, @zachsully94, & being proud of who you are! Your authenticity & bravery will make a difference in the lives of more lgbtq youth worldwide than you can imagine. Much continued success & #BeTrue! ? ? ?️‍?♥️” (@gamcockgrad84 on Instagram)

“To be open and honest on who you are will forever be the best desicion you will ever make. So proud of you!” (@hans.morten.storsveen on Instagram)

“So proud of you. This shows how important having this weekend is for our sport it’s allowed you to live your truth and just be you.” (@DaytonDevil on Twitter)

“Sending much love your way. Not sure you’ll ever know how you’ll have helped gay hockey fans like myself. #icehockeypride #stormtheice (@theicehockeynut on Twitter)

Following Sullivan’s initial social media posts, Manchester Storm posted a follow-up statement on their website, in which they said were “extremely proud of Zach,” and called him “a role model for so many people, young and old, in the sporting world.”

The statement also included additional comments by Sullivan, who explained, “I’m not doing this in the hope of any publicity. I’ve always been a very private guy, but I realise that I have a unique opportunity to do some good. If I can be open and honest about my sexuality, then hopefully that will give other hockey players around the country the same confidence to do the same.”

Manchester Storm went on to beat the Dundee Stars 3-0 at Sunday’s game. One fan who attended the game, Hilary Keane, told RMNB “When they called his name and number as he stepped onto the ice for warmups the cheer was noticeably louder than it was for any other player. Then, when he was called to do the ceremonial puck drop the entire building cheered and got on their feet for him.”

On Monday, Sullivan went on radio station BBC Manchester, where he told an interviewer:

“I think it’s a journey that everyone has to take at their own pace. By no means, just because I’ve done it, do I expect hundreds of other people to do it, that’s not what I’ve done this for. If me saying this can help someone else feel better about themselves or move them a little bit further on their journey, then that’s my end target. Everyone’s different, but at the end of the day everyone’s still human. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you believe in, or who you fall in love with. My suggestion is to just be yourself and take it at your own pace.”

Sullivan’s opening up about his bisexuality comes just a few months after Jon Lee-Olsen, goalkeeper for Denmark’s Rungsted Seier Capital, became one of the few professional hockey players ever, and possibly the only one currently playing in the world, to come out openly as gay.

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PHOTOS: Not Another Drag Show

‘Blackout Edition’ celebrates musical artists of the 1990s

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Drag performer Tiffany D. Carter hosted “Not Another Drag Show: Blackout Edition” at Dupont Italian Kitchen Bar on Monday. Performers included Carter, Nubia Love-Jackson, Uju Betta and Echinacea. The show featured the songs of Black artists popular in the 1990s.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson doc premieres this weekend

Remembering 10 times iconic singer was there for LGBTQ community

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Janet Jackson’s two-part, four-hour documentary debuts this weekend. (File photo by Shilla Patel)

Iconic singer Janet Jackson, a longtime LGBTQ ally, unveils her long-awaited documentary simply titled “Janet” on Friday, Jan. 28. It concludes the following night; each installment is two hours long. 

Jackson has said she spent five years compiling footage and creating the documentary, which airs at 8 p.m. both nights on A&E and Lifetime networks. It was produced by Jackson and her brother Randy Jackson and it’s timed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of her 1982 debut album. 

An extended trailer for the film reveals Jackson will talk candidly about her brother Michael and the 2004 Super Bowl incident, including the news that Justin Timberlake reached out and asked her to join him during his widely panned 2018 Super Bowl return performance. 

Prior to the pandemic, Jackson announced a new studio album and tour titled “Black Diamond,” but both were postponed due to COVID. No official word about the status of either, but speculation is rampant that she will finally release the new album once the documentary airs.

“Musically, what I’ve done, like doing ‘Rhythm Nation’ or doing ‘New Agenda’ or doing ‘Skin Game,’ creating those bodies of work with Jimmy and Terry, I feel like I’ve laid a certain foundation,” Jackson tells Allure magazine in a new cover story this month. “I would hope that I’d be able to continue if I choose to. You know what I mean? But only time will tell.”

As Jackson’s legion of queer fans awaits this weekend’s premiere, the Blade takes a look back at 10 times Janet was there for the LGBTQ community. 

1. “The Velvet Rope” project. In 1997, Jackson released her critically acclaimed sixth studio album “The Velvet Rope,” an introspective and deeply personal collection of songs that touched on her depression, but also tackled LGBTQ issues. On the track “Free Xone,” she spoke out forcefully against anti-LGBT bias. She also covered Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night,” without changing the pronouns in the love song, prompting speculation about her sexual orientation. But it was her international No. 1 hit “Together Again” that continues to resonate with LGBTQ fans. An upbeat, joyful dance song, it was conceived as a tribute to Jackson’s friends who died of AIDS.

2. GLAAD award. In 2008, Ellen DeGeneres presented Jackson with the Vanguard Award at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards. GLAAD’s president said, “We are delighted to honor Janet Jackson at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles as such a visible, welcoming and inclusive ally of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Ms. Jackson has a tremendous following inside the LGBT community and out, and having her stand with us against the defamation that LGBT people still face in our country is extremely significant.”

3. Ebony magazine interview about her sexuality. In 2001, Jackson gave an interview to Ebony magazine in which she was asked about her sexual orientation. “I don’t mind people thinking that I’m gay or calling me gay,” she said. “People are going to believe whatever they want. Yes, I hang out at gay clubs … I go where the music is good. I love people regardless of sexual preference, regardless of race. No, I am not bisexual. I have been linked with dancers in our group because we are so close. I grew up in a big family. I love being affectionate. I love intimacy and I am not afraid to show it.”

4. Video support for It Gets Better, Trevor Project. In 2010, Jackson recorded a video for the Trevor Project and later appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” to promote awareness of youth suicide. “If you’re LGBT you’re probably thinking you’re all alone, but you’re not,” she said in the video. “I can relate because I was one of those kids who internalized everything.”

5. “State of the World Tour.” Jackson’s LGBTQ support continued in 2017. Her tour’s opening sequence highlighted a range of problems facing the world, from famine and war to police brutality and included a call for justice and for LGBTQ rights.

6. “The Kids.” Jackson has always employed a diverse crew of professional dancers for her videos and tours. Some of her closest friends and collaborators over the years have been prominent out gay and lesbian choreographers, singers, dancers, makeup artists and designers. She lovingly refers to her backup dancers as “the Kids.”

7. NYC Pride performance. In 2004, Jackson performed for a packed audience at Pride Dance NYC at Pier 54.

8. “Will & Grace” cameo. In 2004, Jackson made a memorable cameo on “Will & Grace,” judging a dance-off between Jack and another dancer.

9. HRC, AIDS Project Los Angeles awards. In 2005, Jackson was honored by both the Human Rights Campaign and AIDS Project Los Angeles for her work raising money for AIDS charities.

10. Janet’s Blade interview. In 2006, Jackson granted an exclusive interview to the Washington Blade. It was one of the rare times she touched on the Super Bowl controversy and her brother Michael’s acquittal on child molestation charges, telling Blade Editor Kevin Naff, “I got all of that out of my system, that’s not what I’m feeling right now. I wrote about [those controversies] but I didn’t choose to put it out there on the album.” In the interview, Jackson also reiterated her support for marriage equality, said she’d never had a sexual relationship with a woman and revealed that she’d never met Madonna.

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Out & About

International Women Club set for Jan. 24

Event at National Harbor

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International Women United Organizer will host “Multicultural International Women Club” on Monday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. at National Harbor.

The goal of this event is to bring together women from different countries and cultures for friendship, support and community. Guests will get to share interesting facts about their country, talk about their culture, values, styles, and differences with others while learning from others and making friends from all over the globe. Those who speak English as a second language are welcome to attend.

This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

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