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Casa Ruby brings its mission to El Salvador

Ruby Corado fled country’s civil war more than 30 years ago

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Ruby Corado at Casa Ruby’s new office in San Salvador, El Salvador. (Photo courtesy of Casa Ruby)

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — A Salvadoran woman who fled the civil war arrived in D.C. full of dreams and challenges, and after years of effort she and a group of friends founded Casa Ruby in order to provide services and social programs to vulnerable LGBTQ people. This is part of the story of Ruby Corado, a transgender woman and human rights activist who has undertaken the challenge of bringing Casa Ruby to the country in which she was born.

Corado, in her words, is “a Salvadoran who migrated, but a part of her stayed here.” She, upon hearing the stories of many LGBTQ people who migrated and others she has met who still live in El Salvador, said she felt the desire to fight for bringing those dreams and challenges to her homeland.

“Our work at Casa Ruby is to avoid suffering and (to offer) support through alliances, that is why we aim to share the programs for migrants that work in Washington because we have seen that they work,” Corado told the Washington Blade on March 18 during an interview from Casa Ruby’s new office in San Salvador, the Salvadoran capital. “We will do a little more work here in El Salvador so that the LGBTQ community has greater access to these opportunities.”

The commitment to solidarity that she has shown over the years is Corado’s best letter of introduction, which has led her to support global LGBTQ rights group that include the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People (REDLACTRANS). Corado, through this work, has also realized the LGBTQ community needs a platform with programs that meet existing needs.

“I want to ensure that this new administration in the United States has a direct link from Washington to the global LGBT movement and as a trans woman, migrant, living with HIV and living in vulnerability, I want to be that voice with those international organizations that are disconnected from this reality,” says Corado, referring to international organizations based in El Salvador.

Casa Ruby’s main goals in El Salvador are to work for the LGBTQ community and support LGBTQ activists. Corado said Casa Ruby will not impose upon anyone its way of working, and their projects will aim to address present needs.

“My great project in El Salvador is a home to support displaced people,” Corado told the Blade as she smiled. “It will be a space for 15 people to start with.”

Casa Ruby in El Salvador will not only benefit vulnerable LGBTQ people, but LGBTQ people from other countries who need help.

The “Opportunity Project” will provide 25 vulnerable LGBTQ people with access to a scholarship for two years, a stipend and access to resources that will give them the tools they can use to build a better future.

“Something very important that I want to mention is that my father gave me the house to start Casa Ruby in El Salvador,” said Corado, adding she is grateful for the opportunity to be able to open the house to the community that needs help.

Corado said she hopes those who participate in the project will not be forced to flee El Salvador as she had to do in the past.

San Salvador, El Salvador, from the slopes of a volcano that overlooks the city. Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado fled the Central American country’s civil war more than three decades ago. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Corado, as director and founder of Casa Ruby, has empowered an entire LGBTQ movement in D.C.

Her team will be in charge of Casa Ruby’s operations in the nation’s capital. Corado will oversee both projects as she travels between the U.S. and El Salvador, and she will have a team in place in San Salvador that will include a communications coordinator who prefers to remain anonymous. Saul Palacios will work as director of operations and Ámbar Alfaro will be Casa Ruby’s director of programs and community outreach coordinator.

“Something we have in common with Ruby is that we share that way of dreaming and wanting to work from the community side,” Alfaro told the Blade. “It is something that has not happened in El Salvador because of different circumstances.”

“The fact that Casa Ruby is now in El Salvador with that model of working with the people and for the people is super important to me and makes me very happy to be able to continue here the legacy that Ruby has built and now has brought to her country,” added Alfaro, who also stressed Corado knows the reality through which the community in the country is currently living. “We have to work for our population in an orderly manner and with resources, with desire and conviction. This, above anything else, is what will always motivate us.”

“You have to have a heart and love your LGBTQ community to work at Casa Ruby,” Alfaro told the Blade. “And I saw that in her.”

Casa Ruby officially opened its San Salvador office on March 15, and has already begun to have meetings with both civil society and government representatives.

“We have already met with the National Youth Institute (INJUVE) to coordinate possible joint projects,” Corado said, enthusiastically. “They welcomed me to the country and for that I’m very happy.”

“We can build together as Salvadorans,” she added. “I do not expect everyone to receive me with open arms, but I guarantee that their voices will be present on the platforms that I have,”

Ruby Corado, center, with representatives of El Salvador’s National Youth Institute (INJUVE). (Photo courtesy of Casa Ruby)

Corado, with tears in her eyes, told the Blade that being part of this project in El Salvador brings her full circle.

“It has been 31 years since I fled my country, and I am now here to give my love and support to my entire community that needs it,” she said.

Casa Ruby’s team in San Salvador plans to begin working within the next 90 days on the launch of a community project that will deliver scholarships to 10 Salvadoran LGBTQ organizations and another initiative that will provide highly vulnerable people with a way to support themselves. Casa Ruby also plans to begin a campaign to stop violence against LGBTQ children and open a shelter for LGBTQ people who need support.  

This shelter is Casa Ruby’s flagship project. Another initiative to support vulnerable LGBTQ older adults is also in the works.

The Blade has published a version of this article in Spanish.

Ruby Corado with Brenda Rosales, who oversees gender and diversity issues at El Salvador’s National Youth Institute (INJUVE). (Photo courtesy of Ruby Corado)
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District of Columbia

White House officials, HHS secretary praise local monkeypox response

D.C. Health points to data showing sharp decline in new cases

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HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra praised D.C. Health’s response to monkeypox.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and two leaders of the White House monkeypox response team joined officials with the D.C. Department of Health on Thursday for a visit to D.C.’s recently opened Monkeypox Vaccine Clinic on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., S.E. in Ward 8.

In a briefing for reporters, who were invited to join Becerra and the White House officials on a tour of the clinic, the D.C. and federal officials pointed to a sharp decline in new monkeypox cases in D.C. as a sign of a successful federal and local government partnership in dramatically boosting the number of people at risk for monkeypox who have been vaccinated.

“I welcome you all to our Ward 8 Monkeypox Vaccine Clinic,” said Dr. Sharon Lewis, Interim Director of the D.C. Department of Health, which is also referred to as D.C. Health.

“Please take note that D.C. Health was very active in initiating back in May” the city’s effort to address monkeypox, she said. “We started our planning and as soon as we were aware of the first case in June, we had actually set up vaccines and were ready to implement our plan.”

Dr. Anil Mangla, the State Epidemiologist for the D.C. Department of Health, told the gathering the number of D.C. monkeypox cases peaked during the week of July 17, and new cases in the District have declined since then by an average of over 20 percent per week.

“I would call it our success story in D.C.,” Mangla said. “So, our cases peaked nine weeks ago, the week of July 17. If you look at the national trends and statistics, the nation essentially peaked about six weeks ago, so we were already three weeks in advance,” he said.

Mangla pointed out that the clinic where the HHS and White House officials visited on Thursday at 3640 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., S.E. and the city’s two other Monkeypox vaccination clinics are walk-in facilities where D.C. residents can go for a vaccination without an appointment. The other two are located at 1900 I St., N.W. and 7530 Georgia Ave., N.W.

Becerra praised Mangla and his boss, Dr. Lewis, and their team of public health officials for aggressively reaching out to those at risk for monkeypox, including gay and bisexual men, to encourage them to get vaccinated and promptly treating those who tested positive for the monkeypox virus.

“So, let me first say to Director Lewis, Dr. Mangla, and to all your team, thank you for being affirmative in bringing in the steps to stop monkeypox,” Becerra said. “And more importantly, to go where the people are rather than waiting for the people to come to you.”

He said D.C. efforts in addressing monkeypox were among the efforts in other cities and states across the country where a joint federal-local partnership was taking place. 

“We need strong partnerships,” he said. “We need your help, because you know the many trusted voices in the communities that you’ve got more of than we would,” he said. “We’ll provide the vaccine,” said Becerra, noting that the Biden administration in partnership with various federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, has distributed more than a million vaccine doses nationally.

Among the White House officials who spoke at the briefing and joined the tour of the Ward 8 Monkeypox Vaccination Clinic was Robert Fenton, who President Biden on Aug. 2 named as White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator. Also speaking was Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, who Biden named as White House National Monkeypox Response Deputy Coordinator.

A statement released by the White House at the time Biden appointed the two men says Fenton has served as Regional Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region 9 in the western part of the U.S. and was considered one of the nation’s most experienced emergency management leaders.

The statement says Daskalakis, a leading public health expert, is currently the Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of HIV Prevention.

“Widely known as a national expert on health issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ communities, his clinical practice has focused on providing care for the underserved LGBTQIA+ communities,” the White House statement says.

In his remarks at the briefing on Thursday, Daskalakis also praised D.C. Health officials and the communities they have reached out to for encouraging behavioral changes among the groups most at risk for monkeypox.

“So, the clear message is that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, transgender individuals, and other gender diverse folks who have sex with men are not only getting the vaccine and testing, but also what they can do in their daily lives to be able to prevent infection,” he said. “I think that is another testament to the work you’ve done and is another example of the great partnership between federal public health and local public health.”

The D.C. Department of Health’s most recent data on monkeypox cases in the city shows that as of Sept. 15, the city had a cumulative total of 488 cases, with 19 hospitalizations and no deaths. Out of the 488 total, 97.3 percent were male, and 1.2 percent were female.

Regarding the sexual orientation of those who make up the 488 cases, 48 percent were listed as gay, 5.7 percent as bisexual, 3.9 percent as straight/heterosexual, 1 percent as “other,” and 41.4 percent as “Unknown.” The data released included an asterisk for the number of lesbian cases, which a footnote says could be four or fewer such cases.

At the briefing on Thursday, the Blade asked Dr. Mangla, the D.C. Health epidemiologist, to explain why he thought the number of D.C. monkeypox cases in gay men and other men who have sex with men were initially listed by D.C. Health officials to be over 90 percent of the total cases. But in recent weeks, the Blade pointed out, the data show the number of “gay” cases were at about 50 percent or a little lower and a new category of “unknown” sexual orientation cases was in the 40 percent to 50 percent range.

Mangla said he thought the discrepancy was due to a flaw in the data gathering during the early stage of the monkeypox outbreak in D.C. that has since been corrected. “It took us a few weeks to make that kind of adjustment and to say we are now confident enough that the data is accurate for policy decisions and anything else,” he said.

He did not say whether he or D.C. Health knows which demographic groups made up the “Unknown” category of 41.4 percent in the most recent data released.

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Maryland

FreeState Justice files lawsuit against former executive director

Jeremy LaMaster allegedly launched ‘coordinated attack’ on organization’s operations

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Former FreeState Justice Executive Director Jeremy LaMaster (Photo courtesy of Jeremy LaMaster)

FreeState Justice on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit against its former executive director who has accused its board of directors of having a “white supremacist culture.”

The lawsuit, which FreeState Justice filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, notes the board on Sept. 16 informed Jeremy LaMaster that “they were relieved of their duties, and the final two weeks of their employment were to be spent cooperating in the transition of FreeState’s operations.”

“LaMaster abruptly left the meeting early and immediately began a coordinated attack on FreeState’s operations; in particular, its IT assets,” reads the lawsuit. “When FreeState discovered LaMaster’s improper interference, it terminated their employment effective immediately, ordered them to cease and desist and to rectify their actions. LaMaster did not abide and continued to hijack and misappropriate FreeState’s IT infrastructure and documents.” 

The lawsuit alleges that LaMaster “unilaterally and without authorization changed user permissions and shared login information so only they had access to numerous systems and accounts.” 

“They also removed employees’ administrative access to numerous systems and accounts, leaving such access to only themself,” reads the lawsuit. “In doing so, LaMaster has left FreeState’s employees with little to no access to client files, case files, dashboard reports,and case notes. LaMaster also changed the password to FreeState’s WordPress account, leaving LaMaster in sole control of FreeState’s website.” 

LaMaster, who uses nonbinary and binary pronouns, in a message they sent from his FreeState Justice email account on Monday announced their resignation after they said the board declined to step down.

“This morning, I requested the FreeState Justice board of directors to submit their immediate resignations due to persistent violations of our board handbook, consistent failures in their fiduciary responsibilities, and using positions of power to engage in partisan lobbying within FreeState Justice and their repeated refusal to add new members and leadership to the board,” wrote LaMaster.

LaMaster in their email noted they “exhausted every avenue over the past two years to get our board fully staffed and running, and I made good faith efforts to work with the board to ensure that our clients and low-income LGBTQ Marylanders remained at our center.” 

“Instead, the board has refused to accept any new board members since 2021 and refused to staff and run core board activities as per our handbook,” wrote LaMaster. “Instead, they have worked to consolidate power and amend the board handbook in secret to lower the minimum number of board members required and ensure that our policy positions prioritize relationships with legislators, not the best interests of our clients and community. I have provided clear warnings and consistent concerns over these issues that were repeatedly ignored.”

“These are the hallmarks of white supremacist culture: The concentration of power, power hoarding, defensiveness, right to comfort, fear of open conflict, hyper-individualism, and a false sense of urgency,” added LaMaster.

FreeState Justice in response to LaMaster’s allegations said it fired them on Sept. 16 “after prolonged and thoughtful deliberation” and further noted their statement “does not reflect the views or ideals of FreeState Justice’s board and staff.” FreeState Justice has named Phillip Westry as LaMaster’s successor.

The lawsuit alleges LaMaster “has commandeered” Westry’s Google account, “rendering him unable to access his emails, internal work calendars, and collaborative documents shared and worked on via Google Drive.” 

“LaMaster also now has unfettered and improper access to employee lists, donor lists, volunteer lists, mailing lists, client lists, and pro bono attorney lists,” reads the lawsuit. 

“Despite FreeState’s insistence that they cease their unlawful activities and restore operations immediately, LaMaster proceeded to upload a defamatory post to FreeState’s website and disseminated it to approximately 43,000 recipients on FreeState’s mailing list, which they accessed without authorization,” it notes. “The post, titled, ‘Whistleblowing: Public Call for the Resignation of the FreeState Board of Directors’ falsely depicts the circumstances surrounding their departure from FreeState by stating that they resigned, without basis alleged that the Board engaged in ethical violations, and likened FreeState’s Board to White Supremacists, claiming they supported white supremacist culture and practices, and were not ‘anti-racist.’ This is false, defamatory, and denigrating of FreeState and its board members, and extraordinarily damaging for a social justice organization.” 

The lawsuit further notes that because “LaMaster did not comply with FreeState’s cease and desist letter, because LaMaster continues to infiltrate FreeState’s systems and accounts, and because LaMaster, after receiving FreeState’s cease and desist letter published a post defaming FreeState, and without authorization, posted it to FreeState’s website, and disseminated it to its mailing list of approximately 43,000 people with his FreeState email address, FreeState has no choice but to seek judicial intervention to prevent further unlawful conduct, and irreparable harm to FreeState.”

“FreeState requests an immediate hearing on this matter,” reads the lawsuit. “It can be reasonably presumed that LaMaster will continue to use FreeState’s proprietary information to interfere with FreeState’s business relations and continue to interfere with FreeState’s possessory interests in its systems and accounts, depriving FreeState personnel of access to the accounts, documents, and files they need to perform their work.”

The Washington Blade has reached out to LaMaster for comment on the lawsuit. 

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Local

Comings & Goings

O’Connor moves from Logo to L’Oréal

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Zachary O'Connor

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

 The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, landed an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Zachary O’Connor on his new position as Director of Global Digital Content & Social, L’Oréal Group. 

“Working at Logo for the past seven years was an incredible opportunity,” O’Connor said. “I was able to make my mark on the historic brand, and help it transition from a TV network to a strong digital brand for the LGBTQ+ community. Queer media’s existence is important, and I wish Team Logo the best of luck as I move on to a new and exciting chapter in my career.” 

O’Connor held a number of roles at Logo over seven years including: Manager of Social Media, Digital, and before that he served as Senior Social Media Coordinator. Prior to that he was with the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials, as Communications and Publications Specialist.  He has received a number of awards and honors, including being nominated as Outstanding Online Journalism – Video or Multimedia, for a GLAAD Media Award; Webby Award for Best Documentary (Single or Series), “Logo’s Meet the Logo Legends: Brooklyn Trans Liberation.” 

O’Connor earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from American University, School of Public Affairs in D.C.  

Congratulations also to Viet Tran on his new position as Press Secretary, Office of Communications, U.S. Office of Personnel Management. On taking the position Tran said, “It’s an honor to serve as a political appointee in the Biden administration. As press secretary for the Office of Personnel Management, I look forward to working with the OPM team to support the agency’s mission and the Biden administration’s commitment to building a federal workforce that reflects the diversity of America.”

Prior to taking this role, Tran held positions at a number of different organizations, including: Senior Consultant, RALLY; Media Relations Director, Dot Movement Digital; Press Secretary, Human Rights Campaign; Media Relations Specialist, DAWN Design Studios; and Communications Manager, Center for the Study of Social Policy. As a volunteer he has served on the Board of Directors, Stonewall Sports; speechwriter and media adviser, AAPIs for Biden, Biden-Harris Campaign; and on the board of directors, Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership. 

Tran earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from UC, San Diego. 

Viet Tran
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