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Vote Brooke Pinto for Ward 2 Council

A progressive pragmatist who embraces bold ideas

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Brooke Pinto, gay news, Washington Blade
D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2)

We find ourselves trying to navigate challenging times. Size and scope are hard to fathom. Our restaurants and bars provide half of the District’s sales tax revenue and have taken a Tonya Harding like blow, and many will close and not reopen. The Council faces shrinking revenues and diminishing rainy-day funds, with the budget headed for an inevitable crisis with the hard choices still to come. And it’s worth saying the obvious: There is no recovery without small business recovery.

It’s essential for the District, but that’s not everything we are facing — the death of George Floyd has once again shown racial injustice. If it wasn’t obvious before, it’s blatantly obvious now that part of our community is still suffering, frustrated, and hurting — Black lives matter. We see the effects of economic inequities on someone’s fragile health and health care, the growing numbers of gay homeless youth, the District’s LGBTQ elderly living quiet lives of isolation, and the increasing depression and suicide rate. Undoing the damage done by Trump’s pandemic and the after-effects of the endemic are overwhelming challenges. If the Gods from Mount Olympus wanted to punish us, it’s hard to think of a more perfect scenario, and that is why I’m voting for Council member Brooke Pinto.

I want you to know Brooke like I know Brooke. She’s a progressive pragmatist that’s unquestionably qualified. Her granular understanding of the D.C. budget and its process is outstanding and can’t be emphasized enough. She’s dedicated and embraces bold ideas, and as a creative pragmatist, she’s grounded in the reality of the steps to deliver those ideas. After all, a big idea that can’t be turned into reality will remain a dream.

And Brooke is smart, very smart. Her educational background in hospitality at Cornell, a law degree from Georgetown University, and the unglamorous position as a tax attorney in Attorney General Karl Racine’s office provided the experience that makes her ideal to work on the critical recovery for small businesses, including restaurants and bars. Expertise is valuable.

Brooke’s dedication to our economic recovery’s urgent reality has her working late nights and early mornings. That’s not political puffery, it’s her work ethic and drive. And I’ve experienced her pace, as I’ve had text conversations on advocacy issues past 11 p.m. on several nights, and she’s even called on a Saturday evening to have a substantive discussion on items like dram shop reform. After listening to our restaurant’s concerns, Brooke co-sponsored a bill with Council member McDuffie to provide clarity to licensees on expanded outdoor seating for our restaurants, allowing them to plan for the future.

I also want you to know Brooke as the LGBTQ ally like I know Brooke. Going way back to her youth, she was president of her high school Gay-Straight Alliance and the first person her trans friend came out to. Brooke fought with the administration at the all-girls school they attended to ensure he didn’t have to wear the quilt uniform or a dress at graduation. Brooke learned at the age of 16 that things that seemed inevitable or comfortable for some are daily stressors for others. At an age when most of us were desperately trying to fit in, Brooke spoke out about how rules and society impact people differently. This action wasn’t to gain political capital for a Council member run; it’s just who Brooke has always been.

When Brooke was working on Capitol Hill and the landmark case giving us the right to marry, Brooke canceled work with two other important Senate offices to celebrate this moment in front of the Supreme Court with her best friend from college who had privately come out to her.

Brooke knows our community is under siege these days. The equality the LGBTQ community has gained is going to be challenged in court, and she will vigorously defend our rights as fundamental human values and needs: the ability for all of us to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, be safe in our communities, serve in the military regardless of gender identity, have access to health care, take care of the ones we love. And to help protect those fundamental values, Brooke worked on drafting hate crimes legislation to ensure that the D.C. Attorney General’s office could prosecute hate crimes. She continues to work with the Judicial Committee to ban “the gay panic and trans panic” defense.

Coming from Laramie, Wyo., this is close to my heart. On Oct. 10, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was tortured, tied to a barbed-wire fence, and left to suffer and die outside Laramie. And using a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as an excuse for murder or violence is still a valid defense 22 years later in the District. Council member Pinto has committed to our community and me to push and ensure the bill moves through the final stages to become law this Council period. Council member Pinto is committed to our beliefs, vigorously defends our values, and will promote our political needs because that is who Brooke is.

Each election, I ask myself one question: Who is the most qualified person to represent Ward 2? And without a doubt, I know it’s Council member Pinto. It’s why she has the endorsement of the majority of the SMD commissioners from ANC (2F) Logan Circle, the endorsement of Council Chairman Mendelson, and why the Washington Post endorsed her run again.

It’s not lost on me that I’m not endorsing the gay candidate, but to all my friends that feel being a member of the LGBTQ community is important: I say this is what I know for sure, a friend is a friend, an ally is an ally, and Brooke is both.

Although she didn’t need the big windup, as a 31-year resident of Logan Circle, a lifelong proud member of the LGBTQ community from Laramie, and a 30-year small business owner, I’m proud to enthusiastically endorse our Democratic nominee for Ward 2, Council member Brooke Pinto.

John Guggenmos is a longtime D.C. resident and local business owner.

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Opinions

The future of lesbian bars

Resolve to support our queer spaces in 2022

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lockdown zone, gay news, Washington Blade

This New Year, I hope you wish for more lesbian bars across the country. The story of lesbian bars in the U.S. has been slightly tragic of late: as of January 2021, there were only 15 clubs or bars dedicated to queer women across the country. 

That’s right—only 15. Across all 50 states. 

In Washington, D.C., my hometown, A League of Her Own stands out as the only lesbian bar in the city, dedicated to queer women. Located in Adams Morgan, A League of Her Own, also known as ALOHO, is a small mecca for queer ladies to pass through, socialize, and flirt. ALOHO is a chic gathering point for all queer folk, with posters of softball players dotting the walls and gender neutral signs lying about. 

Several years ago, another lesbian bar called Phase 1 existed in Southeast, where queer women could slam eight balls in pool games and engage in raunchy yet ever-so-hot jello wrestling competitions. 

Unfortunately, Phase 1 shut its doors in 2016. 

So what explains the closure of so many lesbian bars, while bars for gay men continue to flourish? Perhaps many queer women view gay bars as a space for their own as well, whereas gay men view lesbian bars as less of a place for them to socialize. 

Either way, we need to give support to lesbian bars now more than ever. Tokens of support can take many forms. 

For one, make sure to socialize in spaces dedicated to queer ladies. There are three lesbian bars in New York City: Cubbyhole (281 W. 12th St.), Gingers in Brooklyn (363 5th Ave.), and Henrietta Hudson (438 Hudson St.). Next time you visit the Big Apple, make sure to give these three spots some love. Maybe drag your experimenting bi friend to these locations. Or your pansexual roommate. 

Back in D.C., you can buy unisex shirts in A League of Her Own’s merchandise store, available online. 

Proceeds will go toward funding the bar, and making sure it stays afloat, especially during this COVID economy. 

Most of all, I hope you encourage your queer lady friends to keep on frequenting queer lady destinations. After all, there is only one thing that will keep lesbian bars afloat—and that is attendance. 

I, for one, will be frequenting many lesbian destinations this new year.  

Isaac Amend is a Yale graduate and participated in National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ documentary. He also is a member of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, and contributes regularly to the Blade. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @isaacamend.

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Opinions

Breaking barriers as an out trans ‘Jeopardy’ champion

Amy Schneider’s run inspires us all

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Amy Schneider (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Television)

“When was the last time anybody said ‘wow!’” a friend asked me.

I couldn’t remember the last time anyone I know (including me) had any “Wow!” moments. Until I heard about trans woman and software engineering manager Amy Schneider’s 29-game winning streak on “Jeopardy.”

You wouldn’t think anything could dispel our COVID exhaustion and political divisiveness. Yet, news about a champion on “Jeopardy,” a quiz show that has been on TV since 1964, has broken through our gloom.

In our culture, there are few things that everyone loves. But, “Jeopardy” is beloved by many, from theater geeks to 80-year-old sports nuts. A progressive friend was over the moon when his brother was a “Jeopardy” contestant. A buddy, a hetero (non-Trump) Republican, is a “Jeopardy” fanatic and a gay librarian pal is a “Jeopardy” freak.

Many of us daydream about being on “Jeopardy.” But we know that we wouldn’t have a chance on this legendary quiz show with its deceptively simple format: You give the answer to the (often incredibly hard) clues in the form of a question. You have to have a strategic military commander’s and a world-class athlete’s coordination: so you can press the buzzer to answer the clue.

The game’s categories run the gamut from opera to mountain ranges. Most of us, mere mortals, would be lucky to know even one category in the first round of the game. Let alone in the “Double Jeopardy” round or the “Final Jeopardy” clue. I might jump on clues about Katharine Hepburn movies or M&Ms. But that would be it for me.

It’s exciting to watch a “Jeopardy” contestant become a long-running champion. You marvel at the player’s intelligence, endurance, and nerve. It’s thrilling when the contestant on a winning-streak is part of your community.

Many of us LGBTQ “Jeopardy” fans are thrilled by Schneider’s record-setting winning streak. As I write this, Schneider has won more than $1 million in 29 games of “Jeopardy.” She is the fifth millionaire in “Jeopardy” history, and only the fourth player to reach this milestone in the regular season. She has won more than any other female “Jeopardy” contestant.

Schneider, like so many of us, doesn’t want to be defined by her gender identity or sexuality. Schneider’s life is multi-faceted; she has many interests. Schneider lives with her girlfriend Genevieve. They have a cat named Meep.

Yet, Schneider doesn’t want to hide that she’s trans. On “Jeopardy,” Schneider brilliantly dealt with this dilemma. She didn’t make a big deal about being out. She just wore the trans Pride flag pin.

“It was something that I wanted to get out there and to show my pride in while not making it the focus of what I was doing there,” Schneider told the New York Times. “Because I was just there to answer trivia questions and win money.”

As a cisgender lesbian, I can’t speak to how Schneider’s record-setting “Jeopardy” streak feels to transgender people.

But, as a trans ally, I’m cheering for Schneider. Kudos for her bravery! At a time when many states are passing anti-trans laws, it takes guts to be out on TV and the Internet.

Few things are as mainstream as “Jeopardy.” I bet that many “Jeopardy” viewers who are frightened at the idea of trans people, will become more comfortable with transgender people after watching Schneider on the popular quiz show. Because folks on TV come into our living and bedrooms and we feel as if we know them after watching them for a while.

“Amy looks like everybody else,” my neighbor said when I told her Schneider was trans. “She doesn’t act odd. She’s not strange.”

Transgender people encounter violence and discrimination in everything from housing to health care to employment.

I know Schneider’s “Jeopardy” triumph won’t end transphobia. But her winning streak will go a long way toward jumpstarting a change in hearts and minds.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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Opinions

SCARY: Tucker Carlson now the conscience of GOP

Cruz bows down, kisses ring of Fox host

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Tucker Carlson (Screen capture via Fox on YouTube)

The Republican Party has sunk to a new low, hard to do, when a sleazebag like Tucker Carlson is now their conscience. Seeing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) groveling before him is laughable, disgusting, and frightening all at the same time. 

As reported in Rolling Stone, Cruz said, “We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week. It is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this Capitol.” Then “Cruz was lambasted by Tucker Carlson that night, prompting him to hop on Carlson’s show Thursday and beg for forgiveness. “The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and it was frankly dumb,” Cruz said before Carlson cut him off and said he didn’t believe him. Cruz took it up a notch, stammering through an absurd bit about how he wasn’t talking about the “patriots across the country supporting President Trump,” only those who assaulted police officers, and that he’s always described anyone who assaults a cop as a terrorist.

Carlson has made a career of being a pompous commentator. Interestingly he worked at CNN, PBS, and MSNBC, before finally landing at Fox in 2009. According to his Wikipedia page he went to Trinity College where he earned a bachelor’s degree and Carlson’s Trinity yearbook describes him as a member of the “Dan White Society,” an apparent reference to the American political assassin who murdered San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. After college, Carlson tried to join the CIA, but his application was denied, after which he decided to pursue a career in journalism with the encouragement of his father, who advised him that “they’ll take anybody.” Reading this clearly raised my opinion of the CIA and based on what we see in some media today I agree with Carlson’s father on his view of journalism. 

When you have a moment of silence in the House of Representatives to honor those who lost their lives on Jan. 6 and only two Republicans show up, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and her father Dick Cheney, the former vice president, one understands the influence Carlson has on the GOP. The rest were afraid of being criticized on-air by him or lambasted by Trump. 

Dick Cheney remarked on the GOP, “It’s not a leadership that resembles any of the folks I knew when I was here for 10 years.” He spoke to ABC News saying, “I’m deeply disappointed we don’t have better leadership in the Republican Party to restore the Constitution.” 

There is a leadership void in the Republican Party today. Their so-called leaders are afraid to say what they think if it differs in any way from Trumpism or Carlson’s view of the world, which requires total fealty to Trump. He found a home on Fox where he can lie with impunity and have millions believe his lies. 

President Biden said, in what many think was the best speech of his presidency so far, these people are “holding a dagger to the neck of democracy.” He went on to say, “For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.” 

Tucker Carlson and his ilk have never bothered to answer a question the president threw at them, which is how they can accept all their down ballot victories, governors, and members of Congress, which occurred on the same ballots, cast by the same people, on the same day, as those for president. Of course, Carlson has no need to make sense, tell the truth, or speak rationally because of his platform on Fox, which doesn’t require that.

My question is whether Carlson is as dumb as he makes himself sound or is he brilliant and this is all a big act? Either way the acolytes that follow Trump don’t seem to care and are bowing down to Carlson’s big audience. It’s as if he can tell any Republican senator or congressperson, or Republican candidate for those jobs, to just ‘bend over and take it’ and they do. All we can do is mourn for the GOP of Lincoln and Eisenhower. Non-Trumpers will have to work hard and speak out if they ever want to resurrect a GOP that can be respected.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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