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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

D.C. ceremony welcomes affirming church as ‘full standing’ UCC congregation

Bishop Abrams officially installed as pastor of UCC Empowerment Liberation Cathedral

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Bishop Allyson Abrams (far right) was installed as pastor of UCC Empowerment Liberation Cathedral.

The Mt. Rainier, Md.-based Empowerment Liberation Cathedral, which Washington Blade readers have selected for five years as the D.C. area’s Best LGBTQ Church, was honored as an official United Church of Christ congregation in a ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Plymouth United Church of Christ on North Capitol Street in D.C.

The ceremony, organized by the Potomac Association of the United Church of Christ, which admitted Empowerment Liberation Cathedral as a UCC congregation last fall, also officially installed lesbian Bishop Allyson Abrams as pastor of the now UCC-affiliated Empowerment Liberation Cathedral.

Abrams founded Empowerment Liberation Cathedral in 2014 at its original location in Silver Spring, Md., as a nondenominational Protestant church that she declared would be a welcoming and affirming congregation “where all of God’s children are welcomed,” including LGBTQ people of faith. Washington Blade readers have also named Abrams the D.C. area’s Best Clergy for seven years.

Although many consider Empowerment Liberation Cathedral a “gay” church, one of its spokespersons, Kendrick Keys, told the Washington Blade ELC considers itself a welcoming church and congregation open to everyone, even though he said a majority but not all of its members are LGBTQ.  

A biography of Abrams prepared by the LGBTQ Religion Archives Network says her founding of Empowerment Liberation Cathedral came one year after she resigned as pastor of the Zion Progress Baptist Church in Detroit in 2013 and two years after she was consecrated as a bishop at Pneuma Christian Fellowship, a religious order in Orange County, Calif.

The biography says Abrams created a stir in 2013 shortly before her resignation as pastor of Zion Progressive Baptist Church, when she announced to the congregation that she had just married another female bishop, Diana Williams, who at the time was Bishop Emeritus of the Imani Temple African American Catholic Congregation.

A short time after that, Abrams and Williams moved to the D.C.-Maryland area where Abrams mapped out plans to open the Empowerment Liberation Cathedral known as ELC.

 “Bishop Abrams came to the Washington, D.C. area with a new blitz about her marriage to another female bishop,” a statement released by ELC says. “She was outcast by many organizations and religious groups for declaring you could be gay and Christian,” the statement says.

“When Abrams decided to open a church in the Washington Metropolitan Area many media outlets discussed her keeping her faith and opening a church for those who have been marginalized and disenfranchised from the church and from their legacies in churches across America,” the statement continues.

“Bishop Abrams has remained on the forefront of ministry and has united with a denomination that believes in justice and equality for all – the United Church of Christ,” says the statement.

It was referring to the United Church of Christ’s status as an LGBTQ-affirming church that welcomes LGBTQ people into its services and congregations.

A separate ELC statement says among those attending and participating in the Feb. 25 ceremony at Plymouth Church were pastors, bishops, ministers, parishioners, community leaders, organizations affiliated with ELC and the United Church of Christ’s Potomac Association.

Among them was Japer Bowles, director of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, who delivered a statement from Bowser.

“As Mayor of Washington, D.C., I congratulate Empowerment Liberation Cathedral as you join the United Church of Christ (UCC) family and install Bishop Alyson Abrams as pastor,” the statement says. “As you gather to celebrate this momentous occasion, may both pastor and congregation be inspired to even higher heights of achievement and service to our communities,” the mayor’s statement says.

The Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride parade and festival, issued its own statement congratulating Empowerment Liberation Cathedral. The statement mentions that in 2016, Capital Pride honored Bishop Abrams as a Capital Pride Hero “in acknowledgement of her work in the faith community for the acceptance and affirmation of LGBTQ+ Christians.”

ELC spokesperson Keys said the church holds its weekly Sunday services at the Mt. Rainier Arts Center at 3311 Rhode Island Ave., Mt. Rainier, Md.

He said a nonprofit community services organization created by ELC called Empowerment Justice Center, is located at 1015 15th Street, N.W., Room 653 in D.C. The church office is also at that location, Keys said. 

Further information about church services and events can be obtained by contacting ELC at 202-798-4371 or at empowermentliberationcathedral.org.

But Keys said the church’s location in Maryland had not been updated on the website, which lists its former location in Lanham, Md., rather than its current location in Mt. Rainier.

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Virginia

Va. lieutenant governor misgenders Danica Roem

Manassas Democrat is first trans person elected to state Senate

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Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears speaks at CPAC in 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears on Monday misgendered state Sen. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) on the Virginia Senate floor.

WVTF Richmond Bureau Chief Brad Kutner in an X post said Earle-Sears, who is a Republican, referred to Roem, who is a transgender woman, as “sir” during a debate on House Bill 964, which would allow attorneys to serve as the executive director of the Virginia Board of Medicine. 

Kutner said the Senate went “recess twice after reportedly ‘Sears refused to apologize.'”

“I’m not here to upset anyone, I’m here to do the job the people of Virginia have called me to do,” Earle-Sears later said, according to Kutner.

Roem in 2018 became the first trans person seated in a state legislature in the country when she assumed her seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Voters in the 30th Senate District last November elected her to the Senate. Roem is the first trans person seated in the chamber.

The Washington Blade on Monday reached out to Roem, but she declined comment.

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District of Columbia

GW transgender, nonbinary student group criticizes Utah governor’s on campus comments 

Spencer Cox decried ‘genital-mutilation surgeries’

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Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (Photo courtesy of Cox's office)

A George Washington University transgender and nonbinary student group has criticized Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s comments about gender-affirming health care that he made last week during an on-campus.

The GW Hatchet reported Cox on Feb. 21 described gender-affirming health care as “genital-mutilation surgeries” during a “Disagree Better” event the university’s School of Media and Public Affairs hosted. Jonah Goldberg, a conservative writer and commentator, and NPR “Morning Edition” host Michel Martin also participated in the event that Frank Sesno, a GWU School of Media and Public Affairs professor who was previously CNN’s Washington Bureau chief, moderated.

The Transgender and Nonbinary Students of GW in a post to its Instagram page said it is “hurt, ashamed and frustrated that such harmful language was allowed to be given a platform on our campus.”

“Fear mongering claims that young trans people are ‘mutilating our bodies’ are factually incorrect and damaging to our community,” said the group in its post that notes the event took place days after Nex Benedict, a nonbinary student in Oklahoma, died after a fight in their high school’s bathroom. “Gender-affirming care for minors saves lives, and is approved by reputable institutions, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Psychiatric Association.”

The GW Hatchet notes Cox told Sesno that he invited trans youth and their families to the Governor’s Mansion in Salt Lake City “to discuss state measures that pertain to transgender people, a conversation that he said led to legislative change.” 

Cox in 2022 vetoed a bill that banned trans students from playing on sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. The Utah Legislature later overrode his veto.

The governor last year signed a bill that bans gender-affirming health care for minors in his state. Cox last month signed a bill that prevents trans and nonbinary people from using restrooms and locker rooms in public schools and government buildings that correspond to their gender identity.

The GW Hatchet reported Cox in response to a student’s question said “no one” in Utah has died by suicide because they were unable to access gender-affirming care.

“I care deeply about these kids. I love these kids. I want these kids to thrive. I want these kids to be successful,” Cox said, according to the GW Hatchet. “I think there’s a better way to do that than by having genital-mutilation surgeries before they’re 18 and old enough to have a rational decision, to actually make a decision for themselves. And so we can disagree with that.”

“As the only trans student org at GW, we refuse to let our community have their right to exist be put up for debate and threatened by disinformation,” said the Transgender and Nonbinary Students of GW in their statement. “We call on GW administration to consider ways in which they can repair the harm caused by Gov. Cox’s statements on campus, and make the safety of their trans students, faculty and staff a priority in a sociopolitical climate that is fixated on our eradication.”

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