The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, from telework to dining out, but D.C.’s singles scene perseveres with outdoor dates, igloo dinners, and Zoom meetings.
This is the seventh annual Washington Blade Most Eligible LGBT Singles issue. It began with reader nominations; from that list, our staff chose the most eligible with an eye for locals with interesting stories, those doing compelling work and yes, those who are easy on the eye.
This year’s crop of top singles agree that confidence is a turn on and bad breath is a deal breaker. Meet D.C.’s Most Eligible LGBTQ singles for 2021.
Aramis Angleró, 31, Accountant
How do you identify? Gay
What are you looking for in a mate? I’m looking for someone who challenges me and motivates me to try new things. Someone who has a great smile, knows what he wants and is driven by his passions.
Biggest turn off: Dishonesty, rudeness, someone who thinks they know it all and is not willing to grow and hear someone else’s perspective.
Biggest turn on: Someone confident in their own skin that they can hold a conversation and an active guy in sports or fitness.
Hobbies? Competitive volleyball is my passion (I play in the local league DCPVL), picked up running in 2020 and love live musicals and comedy shows.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? It’s been difficult. I normally connect with a guy face to face, which makes the interaction more organic. However, during COVID I’ve used dating apps but it sometimes feels forced.
Pets, kids, or neither? I would love to have a dog but I know it’s a lot of responsibility so co-parenting would be a plus. Kids? Well, I’m not there yet but open to the conversation if we both feel ready.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Simple answer: No. I’m open to having a conversation as long as it’s respectful and the values where we differ aren’t extreme.
Celebrity crush: Darren Criss
Name one obscure fact about yourself: One would think being Latino from Puerto Rico I would enjoy the summer weather but I hate sweating so unless I’m in a pool or at the beach, I enjoying being in A/C.
Craig Cipollini, 53, Director of Marketing
How do you identify? Gay male
What are you looking for in a mate? Someone with a sense of humor (!!!), passionate, focused, confident (but not arrogant,) responsible, caring, comfortable, relaxed, someone who loves the performing arts, someone I find physically attractive, and a sense of fun.
Biggest turn off: Arrogance
Biggest turn on: Confidence
Hobbies? Artwork, working out, dance, movies, hanging with friends
How has COVID impacted your dating life? Where to start LOL … Haven’t really been able to date or meet people, so I’ve just been hanging with my friends. I’ve tried a few dating apps and had a few dates (mostly Zoom calls) but not much dating really.
Pets, kids, or neither? No pets or kids (but I love dogs!)
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Possibly. It would really depend on how different their political views were from mine.
Celebrity crush: Can I list more than one? Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Marwan Kenzari, Regé-Jean Page, Simu Liu, Jonathan Bailey
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I’ve performed on live national television.
Maria Miller, ripe 29
Occupation: You name it, I’ve probably done it.
How do you identify? DYKE
What are you looking for in a mate? Someone to finish Patsy Cline lyrics when I’m singing terribly.
Biggest turn off: Bad tippers and people who are rude to ANY sort of service industry staff.
Biggest turn on: Kind and genuine people.
Hobbies? Community organizing, painting, making jewelry, wine.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? It’s literally non-existent.
Pets, kids, or neither? I love pets and kids, I have none.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Why would I?
Celebrity crush: Ciara and Selena (not Gomez)
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I still have two baby teeth.
Derrick Johnson, 35, Chief Diversity Officer & Director of Event Strategy
How do you identify? Gay (Pronouns: he/him/his)
What are you looking for in a mate? I’m looking for a man who is confident, thoughtful, goal-oriented, philanthropic, open-minded, and makes me laugh. He must have a sense of humor and be driven by impacting the lives of others.
Biggest turn off: Entitlement (i.e. being rude to servers)
Biggest turn on: A man who dances like no one is watching.
Hobbies? Music touches my soul; flag football and fitness classes keep me in physically good shape; video games distract my mind; traveling expands my awareness; volunteering makes me feel good.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? COVID has limited my ability to meet people while doing the things I love. It has shown me the importance of cultivating relationships and the value of maximizing moments in life.
Pets, kids, or neither? Dog(s) and kid(s)
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Political views, yes. Humanitarian views, no.
Celebrity crush: Brendon Urie (the talent…woof)
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I almost went to Mars #marsone
Amanda Haverkamp, 25
Occupation: Just started work in the cybersecurity sales arena after spending three years in the U.S. Senate.
How do you identify? Lesbian
What are you looking for in a mate? I’m looking for someone who can be my biggest cheerleader in all areas of life, and who will welcome me to be the same to her in return. I’d like my person to appreciate the grandiosity of how I show affection, but also recognize the simplest moments and be able to appreciate those together. Must haves: a strong personality, a grasp on her “story,” and a little bit of hopeless romanticism.
Biggest turn off: A “floater,” which is what I call those who don’t know what they’re looking for.
Biggest turn on: Charisma, decisiveness, sense of humor
Hobbies? Cars and mural-hunting! I’ve loved cars since I was a kid. There are several childhood pics of me with Hot Wheels in my hand or playing with toy trucks on the beach. In college, I focused in on German performance cars, and have never looked back! Flying through the backroads and going on road trips are my favorite activities. As for murals, whenever I visit a new city, I make it a point to scout out the street art. In fact, a lot of my Instagram is dedicated to combining these hobbies through car photography. I’m super nerdy about it, but if you think you can handle it, drop me a line (or a like) @semperamanda.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? The pandemic has led me to go on a lot more outdoorsy dates, which is awesome. Hikes, beach walks, picnics, boating, and scenic drives are some of my favorites.
Pets, kids, or neither? Neither at the moment, though my three-year plan involves adopting a cat! I’m open to pets 100%.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? This is such a Washingtonian question! Haha. I’ve done this in the past, and it hasn’t worked out, though I do believe that if the issues that a couple disagrees on are not pivotal to the point of negatively affecting others in any way, shape, or form, then it can be discussed. Definitely very case-by-case.
Celebrity crush: Jessica Chastain
Name one obscure fact about yourself: When I was in the Coast Guard stationed on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, I did my Search and Rescue swim test in the harbor where they filmed the movie “Jaws” — during the peak of great white shark mating season.
Mike Reddy, 33, Director of Advocacy at Marketing for Change
How do you identify? Open to all types of humans, except for adult fans of those Minion characters.
What are you looking for in a mate? I’m not a very “online” person, so someone who wants to do lots of stuff in the real world. But not hiking. If you enjoy hiking, I’m sure there’s someone else on this list for you.
Biggest turn off: Hiking
Biggest turn on: Hill staffers. Tell me about your proximity to power, baby.
Hobbies? Cooking Indian food
How has COVID impacted your dating life? Peace and stability are my biggest motivations right now. It’s a wild world out there!
Pets, kids, or neither? I’ve got an unruly Pitt-mix pup. And I’d love kids, but honestly I’m just so tired.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Sure! But I’m not generally compatible with people at the far ends of the spectrum.
Celebrity crush: Jacinda Ardern
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I used to take Richard Simmons’ workout class when I lived in LA.
Ari Schwartz, 34, Attorney
How do you identify? Lesbian, Jewish, Feminist
What are you looking for in a mate? Romance, kindness, vision, a ride or die, and Big Dyke Energy — a lesbian who is joyfully settled in her life and is also making it a priority to meet her last LTR and future wife/baby mama. I’m looking for a witness to my life and the opportunity to fall in love all over again every single morning with the same woman. Do you want to dance at your 50th wedding anniversary, too? Let me know via IG @apschwartzesq.
Biggest turn off: Someone who doesn’t know who they are. Know what you want and need. If you know how to ask, I’ll know how to answer. Be an active participant in every moment of the creation of your life, please.
Biggest turn on: Stability, ambition, unapologetic laughter, a big bright smile, strong hands, power lesbians.
Hobbies? You can catch me at your local plant nursery every weekend with an oat milk latte in hand. Big houseplant enthusiast, re-teaching myself piano, reconnecting with my ancestral roots by actively learning Hebrew, building lesbian community and campfires, daily REDFIN scrolling, and pretending to understand my growing crystal collection beyond their aesthetics. I’d always rather be at the beach.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? While I no longer have the chance encounter at Trader Joe’s or Home Depot, or a first-date at an arcade playing air hockey, I still make dating a priority in my life. All it takes is one moment, one person, and one decision to change the entire trajectory of your life. Don’t let COVID stop you from meeting someone that makes every nerve in your body send a shockwave through your soul each moment you’re near her (even if it’s outside from six-feet apart).
Pets, kids, or neither? I definitely want both kids and a dog. The con in dating me is that I am allergic to cats. But I’ll take Claritin for the right woman.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? As long as our core values still align, and the difference isn’t rooted in challenging my right to exist.
Celebrity crush: Bette Porter 4eva
Name one obscure fact about yourself: My playlists jump from country pop to trap music within seconds.
Murray Penner, 59, U.S. Executive Director, Prevention Access Campaign/U=U
How do you identify? Gay
What are you looking for in a mate? I’m looking for an independent, easy-going, family-oriented, trustworthy, fun-loving man who is looking for someone to complement his life.
Biggest turn off: Clingy people
Biggest turn on: Confidence
Hobbies? Travel, movies, dining out, spending time with family/friends
How has COVID impacted your dating life? I’ve mainly stayed home and haven’t dated at all during COVID, which wasn’t much of a change from pre-COVID. I’m just now getting back into dating, but I take COVID very seriously so dates will mainly be outdoors. I’m also fully vaccinated now so I will feel safer re-entering the dating life.
Pets, kids, or neither? Dog, cat and two adult children (20 and 24 years old)
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? This is a very important issue for me. In the past, I would say yes. But in this era, I would say most likely not. Because of the polarization of political views that has occurred over the last four years, I would need to be sure that the values one has for fundamental respect and rights of all people are aligned with mine, and that who they support politically also has similar values. That would be the determining factor if I would date someone, not their political views alone.
Celebrity crush: Steve Kornacki
Name one obscure fact about yourself: People see me as outgoing and personable, but I’m incredibly shy and introverted.
Stephanie Schweitzer, 32, Graphic Designer
How do you identify? Lesbian
What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who likes adventure, traveling, and being active, while also perfectly thrilled with nights in. The counterbalance is important to me. Paired with someone who also values family, whether it’s blood related or chosen family.
Biggest turn off: Passing judgement too quickly.
Biggest turn on: Confidence. Someone who truly knows who they are at their core and isn’t intimidated by the confidence of their partner. And patience.
Hobbies? Indoor skydiving, cars/motorcycles, volunteering with animals, stuffing my face with food/drinks from new restaurants I discover. Anything art related.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? Before the pandemic, I lived a busy life; end-to-end each day with work and hobbies. COVID has forced me to slow down and focus my attention on what the next phase of my life looks like. While work and hobbies are still a huge part of that next phase, finding someone to share my life with has become more of a priority.
Pets, kids, or neither? Have pets, want kids eventually.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Sure, as long as we can meet at the understanding that difference of opinions can be a positive thing.
Celebrity crush: Rachel McAdams, Jennifer Lawrence, Chelsea Handler, Betty Who
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I’m a sculptor.
Joe Kozel, 38, Fifth Grade Teacher
How do you identify? Gay
What are you looking for in a mate? In an ideal world, I’d find someone who is honest, driven, and athletic. In the real world, I’d find someone with a cute dog.
Biggest turn off: My biggest turn off is gas lighting — and bad breath.
Biggest turn on: My biggest turn on is someone with a cute smirk and hair I can run my hands through.
Hobbies? My most recent hobbies are getting ignored on Grindr, and trying not to become popular on @gaysovercovid. Other hobbies include reading, playing chess, working out, and pretending I can cook.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? What dating life?
Pets, kids, or neither? DOGS
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? It depends on the views, and where they are on the political scale. So … maybe?
Celebrity crush: Ricky Martin
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I have run five marathons.
Drew Kelly, 28, Attorney
How do you identify? Gay
What are you looking for in a mate? Easy-going guy who enjoys nights out on the weekends and documentaries after work on the weeknights — and a guy who likes my eclectic taste in music and who prefers the beach to anywhere else.
Biggest turn off: Arrogance and guns and boat shoes.
Biggest turn on: Someone who is comfortable around others, and who makes others comfortable around them. Also good teeth.
Hobbies? Drinking rum and Cokes with friends, running, and stalking online real estate sites. Also anything water-related: boating, paddle boarding, kayaking, waterskiing.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? It has slowed things down quite a bit, but made more time for me. Hopefully when we come out of this, we all know ourselves a bit better.
Pets, kids, or neither? If my guy wants them, I want them.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Political views? Maybe. Morals and ethics? No.
Celebrity crush: Cal Shapiro, Robbie Rogers, Dacre Montgomery, Faith Hill
Name one obscure fact about yourself: My favorite restaurant is Wawa.
Jasmine “Jazzy” Garcia, 29, Scheduling Coordinator
How do you identify? Lesbian
What are you looking for in a mate? You absolutely have to make me laugh because life is too short to take so seriously. Let’s make each other laugh about anything and everything.
Biggest turn off: JEALOUSY. If I’m yours, I’m yours. I also hate tardiness. Be ready and be on time.
Biggest turn on: I’m turned on by confidence. Standing strong in who you are and your convictions is just so sexy to me (as long as your convictions do not harm a person or group). Someone who is open, optimistic, easy going, 420 friendly and a person who is spiritually connected with who she is.
Hobbies? I play a lot of video games (especially in quarantine). Before COVID, you could find me at Flash nightclub. I take my dog on hikes and when the world isn’t in shambles, I love traveling. The beach is my happy place.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? COVID has completely halted my dating life. Meeting new people right now is impossible. I tried dating apps and I delete them within a week.
Pets, kids, or neither? REGGIE! My four-year-old pitbull/beagle mix is my whole life. I take him everywhere if he’s allowed. Sometimes I’ll decline an invite if he can’t come along. He is my furry child. As of right now I have zero interest in children.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Absolutely not. Trump supporters need not apply.
Celebrity crush: Katherine Moennig (duh!), Samira Wiley and Snow tha Product.
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I am the creator and admin of Lesbians in DC Facebook group! I am also starting a podcast for queer women with a friend, so join my Facebook group for the official launch.
Nikki Goldschein, 27, PAC Manager
How do you identify? Lesbian, Gay, Queer
What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who is outgoing and has a strong sense of humor. Liberal, duh. A person who gets excited about a good drink or fun activity. Affectionate. A woman who is DOWN (ex. we’re hosting a dinner party tonight, great! We’re going to a costume party, let me grab my wig. I need some space tonight, see ya).
Biggest turn off: Cats and someone who is super messy.
Biggest turn on: Someone ambitious and passionate about their work or hobbies. Good cooks. Someone living their life loud and proud. Someone who has been around the sun a few more times than I have.
Hobbies? Cooking and baking. Being outdoors: beach and mountains. Road tripping. Newly into tennis.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? Woof. It’s been, uh, tough.
Pets, kids, or neither? Don’t have either but hoping for both
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Hard to imagine in this day and age, especially since my politics and work life are so deeply intertwined. Plus, the right has really gone off the deep.
Celebrity crush: Toni Collette, Rosario Dawson (sorry Cory) and Aubrey Plaza (like most other gays on Twitter this year)
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I was president of my high school’s GSA.
Calvin Seino, 31, IT Delivery Manager
How do you identify? Gay
What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who is true to who they are, that goes to therapy, and takes vacations.
Biggest turn off: Not having drive or ambition
Biggest turn on: Drive and ambition
Hobbies? Cooking, listening to music, going to concerts, working out, and reading tech/car blogs.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? I prefer to meet people organically, ideally while doing things we both enjoy. COVID has forced that interaction to happen online. I find it extremely difficult to read personality via a screen.
Pets, kids, or neither? I have a beautiful Goldendoodle named Belair. Kids are on my life vision board.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? I try to give people room to be individuals in thought and even embrace/explore differences. I actually prefer to not date people who are too similar in thought as it stifles each other’s growth. However, there is a hard line with social injustice, and systematic issues.
Celebrity crush: Regé-Jean Page
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I think capers can go in almost any dish.
Meet the LGBTQ leaders behind D.C. statehood fight
‘We’re still second class — it’s just so unfair’
In the nation’s capital, home to one of the country’s largest LGBTQ populations and where more than half of the citizens identify as people of color, residents have no voting representation in Congress. LGBTQ statehood advocates have been fighting for decades to expand voting rights, autonomy, and representation to Washington’s 700,000-plus residents.
Philip Pannell moved to the District from New York City in 1975 to work for the D.C. Council. As he made his way through his new home, he said he was immediately struck by the lack of representation. He felt then, and still feels today, like a second-class citizen, he said.
“For us to be here in the District of Columbia, to be living in what is essentially a colony, is unconscionable,” said Pannell, 70, executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council. “We’re still second class. It’s just so unfair.”
LGBTQ statehood advocates Bo Shuff, Barbara Helmick and John Klenert of DC Vote; Monica Hopkins of ACLU; Stasha Rhodes of 51 for 51; and Pannell all have two beliefs in common — a hope statehood will become a reality someday, and that the movement is intertwined with LGBTQ rights and racial justice.
Residents pay federal and state taxes, serve on juries and register for the draft — but don’t have the same liberties as those who reside in the 50 states. Eleanor Holmes Norton represents the District in Congress but as a non-voting delegate.
Statehood is supported by the Biden administration and by Democratic representatives in the House and Senate.
Bo Shuff, executive director, DC Vote
Shuff, who identifies as gay, has long worked on the frontlines of LGBTQ policy, including the fight for marriage equality. He became involved in the statehood movement when working as Mayor Muriel Bowser’s campaign manager.
Statehood first appeared on the ballot in 2016 when Mayor Bowser called for a districtwide vote on whether the nation’s capital should become a state, Shuff said. Before that, statehood was introduced in Congress but never brought forward and other solutions were considered.
The bill for statehood has passed the House twice and was discussed in the Senate. But Shuff, 48, said legislation moves slowly and he expects statehood to take time.
“It is simply a large hill to climb,” he said. “And if you’re climbing Mount Everest, you don’t always make it on your first try.”
The current system where Congress oversees the District, which has no voting representation on the federal level, is “textbook racism,” he said.
“You have a majority white body, the United States Congress, making decisions and passing all of the laws that impact a majority Black community,” he said.
Other voting rights bills, like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act, are essential, and statehood should be considered when crafting legislation on voter suppression, Shuff said.
Education around these bills across the country, including statehood, is important, he said. Including statehood in this advocacy educates those outside the area that statehood is, at its core, a voting rights issue, Shuff said.
Philip Pannell, executive director, Anacostia Coordinating Council
Pannell works in the revitalization of Washington’s neighborhoods east of the river and has led the Anacostia Coordinating Council for 25 years. The organization has accomplished much for Wards 7 and 8, including garnering community support to build the Anacostia Metro stop.
Currently, Pannell and the council are sponsoring a poetry contest for middle and high school students on why statehood is important to them personally.
“They understand what the issue of statehood is all about,” he said. “It’s just so encouraging.”
If statehood passes, the District would be home to the highest percentage of people of color in the United States. That in itself makes the movement a racial justice issue, he said.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” he said.
Pannell has been arrested at several LGBTQ and statehood protests, including a
statehood rally in 1993 with then-Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly and many others for blocking an intersection near the Capitol.
“Being involved in the statehood movement means just as much to me being involved in the struggle for LGBT rights,” he said.
Stasha Rhodes, campaign manager, 51 for 51
Rhodes, who identifies as queer, initially moved to Washington from Louisiana to work in gun violence prevention, but was struck when congressional Republicans sought to roll back measures.
“I was a little confused about how Republicans would be able to do that, considering they were local laws, and learned what lack of statehood meant for residents of D.C.,” she said.
Now, as the campaign manager for 51 for 51, an organization advocating for statehood, she said she sees the movement as “the most intersectional work of our time.”
During a time when voting rights bills are being debated at multiple levels of government, statehood should be a priority, Rhodes said.
“If we truly want to live up to the ideals of our democracy and fight the current wave of voter suppression sweeping across the country, D.C. must be granted statehood and D.C. residents must be given full voting rights,” Rhodes, 34, said.
Rhodes comes from a family of advocates stretching back generations. Her grandparents, who lived in rural Louisiana, were active in the early days of the civil rights movement. They would help register people to vote and worked as key organizers in the area, she said.
“I sort of had the bug early,” she said.
Barbara Helmick, director of programs, DC Vote
Helmick, 70, moved to the District in the late ‘70s. Her first brush with shortfalls due to the lack of statehood was when sodomy was decriminalized in 1981 but quickly overturned by Congress. It was not until 1993 when it was legalized.
“That was a wake-up call — Congress wouldn’t let this jurisdiction, our locally elected officials, deal with that,” Helmick said.
The District’s lack of power and autonomy is inefficient, she said, and restricts the area from easily drafting and applying laws that work best for the community.
But press coverage of statehood is a hopeful sign, as well, Helmick said. Activity in the House and Senate is also positive, she said.
“I am extremely optimistic,” Helmick said.
Monica Hopkins, executive director, ACLU DC
Hopkins, who identifies as bisexual, began leading the District’s ACLU chapter seven years ago after running ACLU Idaho. When she moved to Washington, she said she immediately felt a disconnect because of the lack of federal representation.
“I don’t think that you can live in D.C. and not feel that disconnect of not having a voice,” she said. “It’s very disempowering.”
Hopkins, 48, said statehood is integral for the District for many reasons. More power would be allotted in approving and crafting budgets, and oversight without congressional votes would end, for example.
The District’s lack of statehood has intersected with LGBTQ equality issues through the years, she said. In the ‘80s, the District attempted to start a needle exchange program to curb high rates of AIDS. In 1998, Congress banned the use of federal funds for needle exchange programs because of fears the program would encourage drug use. Local municipalities could still use their own money to pay for the program — except the District.
The ban was lifted in 2007, but Washington still sees the ramifications of nixing the program today, Hopkins said.
“We couldn’t, at the time, do what D.C. residents wanted to do with our own taxpayer money,” she said.
The District also has no control over its own National Guard, which was highlighted during the Jan. 6 riots when Mayor Bowser was unable to call in reinforcements and was forced to wait on approval from the Pentagon. This showed the rest of the country the issues in the District’s governance, Hopkins said.
“Some of the most devastating sorts of things can happen when we don’t have control over our own state,” she said.
John Klenert, chair, DC Vote board
Klenert, 72, developed his interest in the movement after writing a paper on voting rights in the District and the 14th amendment while at college at the Catholic University of America. He’s been involved on the fringes of the movement since then and joined DC Vote 10 years ago.
His gay identity is “the icing on the cake” in his advocacy for statehood, he said.
A scholar of constitutional history, Klenert said statehood is essential in upholding democracy in the United States.
Other solutions to the lack of representation have been attempted, but he believes statehood would be the most successful avenue in expanding protections to District residents.
“We live here in the District of Columbia, many, many of us are citizens of this country, which means that we belong to a constitutional democracy,” he said. “And yet, we have no say in how this government is run.”
D.C. summer ablaze with events, concerts, art
A plethora of activity in wake of COVID restrictions loosening up
After a year of public events being cancelled and residents staying cooped up in their homes due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the “outside” is finally open and D.C. is effervescing with events. Check out ways to make up for lost time during the remaining months of this year’s summer season:
The Baltimore Museum of Art will open Women Behaving Badly: 400 Years of Power & Protest, an exhibition dedicated to the women who rebelled on Sunday, July 18. The exhibition combines prints, photographs, and books to tell the stories of past heroines and modern trailblazers, celebrating women throughout history who broke rules, transgressed boundaries, and insisted upon recognition of their human rights. For more information, visit the BMA’s website.
Tschabalala Self: By My Self is on view at the BMA through Sept. 19, 2021. Explore 13 paintings and two related sculptures curated by Cecilia Wichmann that reveal artist Tschabalala Self’s depth, intricacy, and singularity. The exhibition explores how the compositional process generates meaning in Self’s work, reflecting her theory of selfhood as a consciousness that is at once produced by external images and by an ongoing reworking and evolving of forms into a new whole. Self was born in Harlem, New York, in 1990 and is based in New Haven, Conn. For more information, visit the BMA’s website.
The 1455 Summer Festival will begin on Thursday, July 15 at 4 p.m., featuring a stellar lineup of literary leaders and creatives (many of whom are part of the LGBTQ community) who will share their insights into the art of storytelling. The lineup will include literary superstar Brian Broome, author of “Punch Me Up to the Gods,” and Booker-Prize-winning author “Shuggie Bain” and fashion designer Douglas Stuart, among others. Some of the festival’s events include “What Makes a Successful (Queer) Narrative?” a panel that’ll dissect queer storytelling throughout the years. There will also be a teen poetry contest with a $5,000 grand prize. For more information, visit the festival’s website.
The National Museum of Asian Art will open Hokusai: Mad about Painting on Saturday, Aug. 28. The exhibition will feature work by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) best known for his iconic woodblock print, “The Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa” and a breathtaking painting titled “Breaking Waves” that was created 15 years after Great Wave at the height of Hokusai’s career. Drawing on the museum’s impressive Hokusai collection, visitors have the opportunity to see a new presentation, with artworks being added throughout the summer. In addition to Breaking Waves, the exhibition includes works large and small, from folding screens and hanging scrolls to paintings and drawings. For more information, visit the NMAA’s website.
Awesome Con will be from Friday, Aug. 20 to Sunday, Aug. 22. The event is D.C.’s own Comic Con, a celebration of geek culture, bringing more than 70,000 fans together with their favorite stars from across comics, movies, television, toys, games, and more. Awesome Con is home to Science Fair, Book Fair, Awesome Con Jr, Pride Alley, a celebration of queer creators and fans curated by GeeksOUT, and Destination Cosplay. For more information, visit awesomecon.com.
The Maryland Renaissance Festival will begin on Saturday, Aug. 28 and runs Saturdays and Sundays and Labor Day Monday through Sunday, Oct. 24 for nine weekends of thrills, feasting, handmade crafts, entertainment and merriment in Crownsville, near Annapolis, Md. The 27-acre Village of Revel Grove comes to life each autumn with more than 200 professional performers on 10 stages, a 3,000 seat arena with armored jousting on magnificent steeds and streets filled with village characters. For more information, visit rennfest.com.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts will be open for special evening hours from Thursday, Aug. 5 to Friday, Aug. 6 from 5-8 p.m. The featured exhibitions are Mary Ellen Mark: Girlhood, which presents images photographer Mary Ellen Mark made throughout her career depicting girls and young women, and Selections from the Collection, which highlights historical and contemporary art by women around the world. Free timed tickets are required so that the museum can ensure the safety of patrons and their staff. Visit their website for more information.
The 13th Annual Ukefest will begin on Friday, Aug. 13. Celebrating a decade dedicated to this small but mighty music maker, UkeFest Artistic Directors Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer return alongside extraordinary instructors like Peter Luongo, Kevin Carroll, Ginger Johnson and more. The program orientation will kick off on Friday night, followed by four days of classes and evening events. For those looking for more intensive skill development, Strathmore’s UkeFest is the only program of its kind that offers an advanced track. Admission is $225 and more information is available at Strathmore.org.
The Drive-In at Union Market will start at 7:30 p.m. every first Friday of the month through October. While watching films under the stars, enjoy dozens of local, regional, and international foods: Egyptian favorites by Fava Pot, night market noodles from Som Tam, ice cream locally churned by The Creamery, tasty takeout burgers from Lucky Buns and more. Movie audio will be transmitted through an FM transmitter on the radio and through speakers placed on Neal Place. All movies are shown with open captioning, and the movie plays rain or shine. Each showing costs $20 per car. For more information, visit unionmarketdc.com.
Unwind with an hour-long vinyasa outdoor yoga session taught by District Flow Yoga every Tuesday and Thursday on District Pier and every Sunday morning on Recreation Pier at The Wharf. Enjoy waterfront views and fresh air as you shed the stress of the day or greet the new one. The outdoor yoga class on Sunday, July 25 is hosted on Recreation Pier from 9-10 a.m. and costs $10. Tickets must be purchased on Eventbrite. For more information, visit wharfdc.com.
FUTURES, the first building-wide exploration of the future on the National Mall, will open in the late summer and run through summer 2022. This exhibition is your guide to a vast array of interactives, artworks, technologies, and ideas that are glimpses into humanity’s next chapter. Smell a molecule. Clean your clothes in a wetland. Meditate with an AI robot. Travel through space and time. Watch water being harvested from the air. Become an emoji. The FUTURES is yours to decide, debate, delight. Patrons are encouraged to dream big, and imagine not just one future, but many possible futures on the horizon—playful, sustainable, inclusive. Visit the Arts and Industries Building’s website for more information.
The National Portrait Gallery will open “Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands” on Friday, Aug. 27. Hung Liu (b. 1948) is a contemporary Chinese American artist, whose multilayered paintings have established new frameworks for understanding portraiture in relation to time, memory, and history. Often sourcing her subjects from photographs, Liu elevates overlooked individuals by amplifying the stories of those who have historically been invisible or unheard. More information is available at the gallery’s website.
After a long COVID drought, music is back! The 9:30 Club has a schedule of shows starting in September, notably the return of the Bob Mould Band on Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. (tickets are $25 and still available). Tinashe performs her “333Tour” on Oct. 3 (tickets on sale July 16). Visit 930.com for the full schedule and hurry, because many shows are already selling out.
Meanwhile, at I.M.P.’s Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, more shows are headed our way, including James Taylor and his All-Star Band on Aug. 10. Wilco and Sleater-Kinney perform Aug. 20. For more throwback fixes, New Kids on the Block are slated for Aug. 4 and Alanis Morissette with Garbage and Liz Phair play on Aug. 31. Visit merriweathermusic.com for the full lineup.
Wolf Trap has a full schedule of events planned this summer as well. Highlights include Renee Fleming on Aug. 6, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on Aug. 12, and ABBA the Concert on Aug. 15. Visit wolftrap.org for the full schedule.
Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington celebrates 40th anniversary with virtual concert, retrospective
Veteran choir soldiers undeterred through pandemic with Zoom rehearsals
GMCW Turns 40
Streaming begins Saturday, June 5 at 7 p.m.
Available through June 20
Discussion of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington quickly becomes emotional for its members both veteran and newbie(-ish). They’re the kind of strong feelings that only exist when one has sacrificed and invested in something.
“It’s an experience that touches our soul in a way that not that many LGBTQ+ people get to experience,” says tenor Javon Morris-Byam, a gay 28-year-old music teacher who joined three years ago. “We have music tying us together and in the end, we make a product that we can share with the public and that’s a humbling experience.”
Steve Herman, 79, is a founding member, though he doesn’t sing. One of a group of “non-singing members,” he joined in June 1981 and has helped over the decades painting scenery, designing ads, serving on the board and more. His partner at the time had joined the chorus as a singer.
Now retired after 47 years in the federal government, he says the Chorus “has been a major centerpiece of my life.”
“This may sound corny, but I couldn’t imagine my life without the chorus,” Herman says.
The chorus is celebrating its 40th anniversary this weekend with a streaming concert simply dubbed “GMCW turns 40” that can be streamed starting Saturday, June 5 at 7 p.m. and can be viewed until June 20.
Selections will include “From Now On” (from “The Greatest Showman”), “Rise Up,” “Make Them Hear You” (from “Ragtime”), “Truly Brave” and a new song called “Harmony’s Never Too Late!” written for the occasion by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, composers of “Ragtime.” Video clips of past performances will also be included in a montage. Tickets are $25 at gmcw.org.
Thea Kano, the Chorus’s artistic director since 2014 (she was associate director for a decade prior), says “Make Them Hear You” has “kind of become our anthem over the last 10 years,” so contacting its composers for a commission made sense. They premiered it last summer virtually at the Chorus’s Summer Soiree, a COVID-induced postponement of its usual Spring Affair.
Kano, a straight ally, directs the Chorus with aid from Associate Conductor C. Paul Heins, Assistant Conductor Joshua Sommerville and accompanist Teddy Guerrant. Justin Fyala has been the Chorus’s executive director since 2016. Staff also includes Craig Cipollini (director of marketing), Kirk Sobell (director of patron services) and Alex Tang (accompanist).
Under the main Chorus umbrella are five ensembles: 17th Street Dance, a 14-member performance troupe started in 2016; Rock Creek Singers, a 32-voice chamber ensemble; GenOUT Youth Chorus, a teen choir of about 25; Potomac Fever, a 14-member harmony pop ensemble; and Seasons of Love, a 24-voice gospel choir.
Musically, the Chorus’s repertoire is eclectic.
“(We sing) everything from spiritual to glam rock to punk to traditional classical, and everything in between,” Morris-Byam says. “I love when the chorus is all together and able to produce a big powerful sound.”
Kano says working with Fyala is “a dream” and says under his leadership the Chorus is “in a very healthy financial place, which is wonderful and a very humble thing to be able to say right now particularly given that we’re in a pandemic — that’s not the case with a lot of arts organizations.”
The D.C. Chorus is a quasi-unofficial spin off of its San Francisco counterpart. During an early ’80s national tour, the San Francisco group performed at Washington’s Kennedy Center and had a profound effect on local audiences. Marsha Pearson, a straight woman who lived in Dupont Circle at the time and enjoyed hanging out with gay men, was one such person.
“I couldn’t believe we didn’t have one of these,” she told the Blade 10 years ago for a story on the Chorus’s 30th anniversary. “I thought, ‘We’re the nation’s capital, how come we don’t have this?’”
She hand wrote fliers — four to a sheet — had her sister photocopy them at her office, cut them up by hand and passed them out at Capital Pride in 1981. Accounts vary about how many showed up to the first practice at the long-defunct gay community center (no connection to the D.C. Center) on Church Street. Pearson remembers about 30. Others say it was more like 15-ish. It was June 28, 1981 and, by all accounts, an innocuous beginning.
Pearson never sang with the group — it was exclusively a men’s chorus. She asked if anybody had any conducting experience. The late Jim Richardson did and became the first director.
“I still remember the first chord,” Pearson told the Blade in 2011. “It was just a simple thing, you know, like do, mi, so, do, but I just got goosebumps. I was just elated that even one note came out, I was so excited. I got those same goosebumps at the anniversary concert last weekend. I put their CDs on and I get the same thing, especially on certain things they sing. You just can’t believe it sounds so great.”
COVID has, of course, wreaked havoc on the operation. Thankfully, Kano says, no members have died from it, though a handful (she says fewer than 10 that she knows of), including Kano, have had it and recovered.
The Chorus continued its Sunday evening rehearsals via Zoom, which, because of the precision required for musical performance, was tougher to take online than, say, a business meeting. It never occurred to the Chorus leadership to take a hiatus.
“I look back now like, ‘Why didn’t we take some time off,’ but I think off the top of my head at the time it was like, “We sing and we’re a social justice organization and community is such a big part of who we are,’” Kano says. “And so for suddenly, with no notice, to have something that we love so much and are so passionate about …. to suddenly just turn the lights off, that wasn’t even an option.”
With the Chorus and dancers and GenOUT, there are about 200 current volunteer performers. It’s been slightly higher at times. Some were deterred by the thought of rehearsing via Zoom although some former members no longer in the D.C. area — even a few overseas — rejoined when virtual participation became possible.
The murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement last summer and beyond was a galvanizing event. The Chorus responded with its “Let Freedom Sing” concert, which Kano says celebrated the intersection of Black and LGBTQ people.
“It was our way of saying we raise our voice in solidarity with those facing injustice,” Kano says.
But does that get messy at times? Surely not everyone in a choir of this size is on the same page politically, even in a progressive city like D.C., right?
As a nonprofit, the Chorus avoids anything ostensibly political. Kano says the issue did arise when they were invited to sing at a Virginia-based gun-reform event last year. They participated, but carefully.
“So anytime you mentioned guns, it becomes political,” Kano says. “It’s not about whether or not we support the Second Amendment. It’s us standing in solidarity with those who have been victims of gun violence.”
Kano says there’s “a very good chance had this been a non-pandemic year,” they would have been invited to sing at the Biden-Harris inauguration, which she says they “absolutely” would have agreed to.
“We did wonder, though, a few years ago what we would have said if 45 were to ask us,” she says. “We didn’t spend a lot of time on it because we knew that wasn’t gonna happen,” she says with a chuckle.
Herman says performing at big, pro-LGBTQ “statement”-type events is woven into the Chorus’s history and is understood.
“Every Christmas Eve, we’d sing for the patients at NIH,” he says. “We still do, only then it was primarily AIDS patients. We sang special concerts when the (AIDS) Quilt was first displayed and when there was a March on Washington. We did a lot of community work and outreach at a time when it was really needed.”
Morris-Byam says even today, with so much progress having been made, the Chorus still is needed. He, by the way, calls Kano “one of the most brilliant musicians I’ve ever met.”
“I believe the Chorus is a strong political statement in itself,” he says. “When we’re making a strong, joyful noise, it’s celebrating everything we are, what we can be, and everyone who has gotten us where we are.
There have been challenges over the years — finding new office space, patching together individual vocal parts for virtual performances — but no warring factions. Kano is, by most accounts, extremely well liked.
The future, Kano says, is bright. She hopes to resume in-person rehearsals in the fall. She spent a big chunk of early lockdown transcribing a Puccini “Gloria Mass” for tenor/bass chorus. She plans to program it with works by Cole Porter eventually.
Ultimately, Kano says, her goals for the Chorus are about making great art.
“Art comes first,” she says. “Because that’s how we deliver our mission. And if we put great art first, it’s going to attract great people. It’s going to both as members and as audience members and patrons, and therefore it’s going to attract great funding, and then all that goes right back into the arts we can further our expansion and our ability to get the mission out.”
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