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Couple’s love of soccer leads to Washington Spirit investment

Scurry, Zizos on their unique personal and business partnership

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Chryssa Zizos, gay news, Washington Blade

Chryssa Zizos and Briana Scurry are new investors in the Washington Spirit. (Photo courtesy the couple)

Briana Scurry’s goalkeeper abilities are legendary in women’s professional soccer. She is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion and was a member of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team for 15 years. She was the only core team member who was African American and the only African-American player who was out.

Scurry suffered a career-ending concussion in an April 2010 hit playing for the Washington Freedom. The next three years of her life would be spent trying to receive recovery care through a worker’s compensation case. During those years, Scurry experienced depression, physical pain, and struggles maintaining steady employment. She finally received surgery at the end of 2013 to remove pea-size balls of damaged tissue from the back of her head.

Enter Chryssa Zizos, the founder of Live Wire Strategic Communications. An award-winning local PR firm that specializes in media relations, training programs, video production, and social media.

Together, they began the rebranding journey of Bri Scurry. What started as a business partnership would evolve into a life partnership. Scurry returned to her pro team, now the Washington Spirit, as an assistant coach and technical adviser for the Spirit Academy youth programs. Zizos would lead the Live Wire relationship with the Washington Spirit. The pair married in 2018.

Last month, D.C.’s National Women’s Soccer League team, the Washington Spirit, announced a new group of investors that includes Scurry, Zizos, Chelsea Clinton, Jenna Bush Hager and Dominique Dawes along with a diverse group of other individuals.

The Washington Blade sat down with Scurry and Zizos to catch up on the new venture.

Chryssa Zizos and Briana Scurry with their children. (Photo courtesy the couple)

Washington Blade: I would like to start by hearing what is occupying Bri’s time these days.

Briana Scurry: I am in the process of writing a book right now, but my main job from day to day is keynote speaking. I am speaking on concussion awareness and diversity leadership, essentially keynotes for corporations, organizations, universities, and other groups. I was in a movie last fall in Atlanta called “High Expectations,” which will be coming out either at the end of this year or early next year. There is also a documentary coming up and now we are investors for the Washington Spirit. There is a lot going on and it is not all soccer.

Blade: And how did the two of you meet?

Chryssa Zizos: A mutual friend of ours introduced us. Naomi and her wife Fran own TomboyX, which is an intimate apparel company for the LGBTQ community. I was the first investor in TomboyX outside of friends and family. One night at dinner they were telling me about Bri’s career and concussion and said, “is there any way that you could help her raise her profile in regards to the concussion?” Bri and I connected, and Live Wire took Bri on as a client. We worked together for many months and then over time, we became a little bit interested in each other. We were percolating (laughter).

Blade: All right, Bri, did you know that you were percolating?

Scurry: I did. I mean, I was in a really bad place though. My concussion saga is well-documented and at the time I was really struggling, psychologically and emotionally. The insurance company was blocking me at every turn to try to get the care I needed, and we figured that it would be a good idea to try to put some heat on them. That is when Naomi and Fran talked to Chryssa. I was very vulnerable, and I was very open about how bad things were. And I’ve been open ever since, I talk about it quite a bit. Chryssa was just such an amazing listener and she just was really making things happen for me and then things started to grow from there. I was in therapy for my concussion for over a year and was just in a state of trying to get healthy.

Zizos: We went to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Vancouver in 2015 and Bri did the Today show and we met Joe Biden when he was vice president. We just had the best time together and after we came home is when I introduced Bri to the kids. We have been together ever since.

Blade: Making your own magic at the World Cup. Very nice.

Scurry: Exactly.

Zizos: It was really important for me to take things slow and steady because I have two kids. I wanted to make sure that before I even mentioned Bri’s name, that it was something I felt really strongly about.

Blade: The actual courtship was three years before you were married?

Scurry: Yes, June 2018.

Blade: And Bri, you were working with the Spirit during those years?

Scurry: Yes. I was reintroduced to the Spirit when I moved back to the area. I was starting my journey, getting back from my concussion. We talked to Bill Lynch who was the owner of the Spirit at the time. And I clearly wasn’t quite ready to do all of that yet, but I was on my way and so we just wanted to touch base with him and then in 2018 is when I became the assistant coach.

Blade: Did you leave the D.C. area after the concussion and then come back?

Scurry: That’s a great question. So the concussion occurred in the WPS league and that’s when the Washington Freedom was the team. When they moved to Florida I went down to become the general manager of the MagicJack team, which was the new ownership. Then I lived in New Jersey for several years until I moved back here to be closer to my medical care.

Blade: There is a lot of crossover between the two of you, even beyond the initial connection. After you became a couple, how did that evolve?

Zizos: It’s been very interesting. I manage Bri’s career, Live Wire does all of her PR and we’re married. I am obviously very emotionally involved in it, so she has her own publicist at Live Wire, Patrick Renegar. As we go out and seek opportunities for her, Patrick is always involved in it and then I do all of the negotiating. It’s been really nice.

Scurry: Live Wire and Chryssa have done amazing things for me. I am so far along with my relevance in the space, my concussion rollout and becoming an advocate, along with my work in the LGBTQ community, in leadership and with the Women’s National Soccer Team. I was featured in the Hall of Fame in the African American museum.

Blade: Yes! The Game Changers exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. I watched the video rollout of you walking past Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Venus and Serena Williams. That must have been overwhelming.

Scurry: It’s very humbling. If you’ve been to the Smithsonian, it is so intense there, and to be seen as someone who helped my community, my people, my race, to elevate through my work. Chryssa handled all of that negotiation. She has been so instrumental. I’m so much further along in a place in my life now that I never thought I’d be, even better than before when I played, to be honest with you. I am so much happier. I have such greater depth and I have purpose deeper than I had before. And a lot of it is because of what she’s been able to do. It’s really helpful that we are able to separate our relationship as each other’s wives with the business side, because it is difficult a lot of times for people to do both. She mapped out how we would do it methodically, going through all the evolutions and recreation of me. Now I’m doing movies. All this stuff I never thought I would do.

Zizos: And it’s helped Live Wire too. I mean, having Bri as a client, all of our clients love that we’re married. I started Live Wire 23 years ago and I was afraid to tell anybody I was even gay when I first started the company. And now when I’m introducing myself, I always say, “And I’m married to…” It’s an ice breaker and it’s fun. Now that we’re investors in the Washington Spirit we’ll be bringing clients to all the games. It’s really helped both of our careers in a very positive way. I also feel like from our perspective, we spend a lot of time talking about our work together and I love it. Bri was on MSNBC this morning doing an interview and then we played it back and I was media training her afterwards.

Blade: Does that mean you’re the task master?

Zizos: Yeah.

Scurry: It’s interesting I don’t know if this is because I would be able to just mentally compartmentalize things in my whole life, but I don’t take what she says in the defensive posture. It’s not my wife telling me at that moment. It’s my manager telling me, and that’s her specialty. It’s media and messaging. And she’s like, “Bri you did a great job, but what if you had done this?” And I’m like, “Oh, well, that’s brilliant.” Of course, the next time I’ll incorporate it, which is part of my ability to be coachable, and also for her that I’m coachable, that I’m willing to receive her input. She is the expert.

Blade: Let’s hear something outside of work and media and rebranding. What else have you connected on as people, as wives?

Zizos: Well, we love to travel. We got married in Saint Lucia and Jade mountain is one of our favorite places to visit. We own a beautiful home in Alexandria and we just built a pool. Almost every night when I get home from work, Bri is here and she has a bottle of wine open, and she has Pandora playing. Bri’s the sous, she does the craft for all the food. Then I get home and we start cooking. I try to get home by six every night and then by eight o’clock we’re having a gourmet meal together. We love to have friends over. Many of our friends are in the business, so either clients or former clients or associates.

Scurry: Or former players or teammates.

Blade: Let’s talk about your new roles as Washington Spirit investors. You both already had a relationship with the team, and here we are again with something that weaves the two of you together. It’s been great to watch celebrities and different types of people get involved in sports franchises, but it always feels like they’re just there in name. This feels different for some reason.

Zizos: It is.

Blade: What do you expect your role to be beyond the fact that people now know you are investors?

Zizos: Bri has individual roles that she can tell you about. I have individual roles and then we have roles together.

Scurry: For me, this is an amazing opportunity because it helps me come full circle. I went from someone who played in a league to someone who coached in the league and now I’m in an investor group for the same team. The fact that I’m able to do it with my wife makes it that much more amazing for me. And it’s something that I’m really looking forward to. My experience as being a pro and somebody who could maybe mentor, which I’m doing with Spirit player Trinity Rodman. When they get back from Florida, working with her and the players and helping them become better pros, but also with the community. I want the DMV community to get to know the team and become part of the fabric of what the Washington Spirit is and to help us connect the two. I think that’s my two main roles. I think with the investor group, all of us have expertise in a certain area. And the cool thing, like you said, is that it’s not just about the money, it’s about the contribution of the skill set to the team as well.

Zizos: And then from my perspective, Live Wire is working with the Spirit. We did the investor group roll out with their internal team. It was a very coordinated, strategic effort. We’re working on a couple of different projects and we just produced a video. We might be producing, hopefully a second one. And then together, Bri and I are the hostesses of the investor suite on game day. On game day, Bri and I will be welcoming all the investors and sponsors in the suite at Audi Field.

Blade: On every game day?

Zizos: Every game day. We’ll be welcoming the other investors, playing matchmaker and introducing them to each other as well as the sponsors. And then Bri will have MC responsibilities on game day.

Blade: What is the MC role?

Scurry: When a game ends, the MC talks to the fans and says, thank you for coming and please come next time. That kind of thing, just chatting with the fans that way.

Blade: You mentioned hosting other investors. Do they have an obligation to attend games?

Zizos: No. But I’ve had many conversations with the investors, and I know a lot of them are planning on being there. In fact, Assia Grazioli Venier, who we just had breakfast with on Thursday morning, she’s flying here from LA for every home game. One of the beautiful things that Steve Baldwin did with this was, he picked people that didn’t want to just invest money but wanted to play a role. Every investor is bringing opportunity to the table for the club, which I think is really special. So it’s not just a PR play here. I mean, everyone who’s an investor is really, truly not only financially, but emotionally and physically invested in the team.

Blade: Do you feel like there are still things to be healed from the bad press related to Bill Lynch?

Zizos: I think it’s time to move on and time to move forward. And there’s so many good things that the team is doing. And Bill is a really good guy. We’ve known Bill for years. I adore him. I trust him. I like him. Did I say I respect him? Because I really respect him. And I consider him a personal friend of ours.

Scurry: Yeah, I like Bill too, and I really love what Steve Baldwin has done. He came on in 2019 and revolutionized the team and brought it up a level of professionalism that it needed. And now this investor group was just born out of COVID essentially. He’s really done some great things to elevate the team to new levels.

Blade: The Washington Spirit is leaving the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds for Audi Field and Segra Field. Thoughts?

Scurry: I think it’s time to bring the team home to all the DMV. Audi Field is going to be way more central for everyone and it makes it a lot fairer. I think that the soccer community out in Boyds, all the teams that play there are more than welcome to continue to support the team in any way they can. And I think it’s important.

Zizos: Washington, D.C. is a power city. We have some serious power players on our team and now we have power investors on the team. It’s a very powerful movement. Washington, D.C. is welcoming the team and Audi Field is going to be a fantastic place. I think that it demonstrates the excitement that this city has for this team.

Scurry: Also, the thing I loved about Boyds was the intimacy, but we couldn’t hold over 5,000 fans. It wasn’t possible. And if you’re going to really elevate the team to a new level and have it not only be a big sports team in D.C., but also, internationally potentially, you really need a bigger stadium.

Blade: Did the investor group happen fast, or have you been sitting on this information for a while?

Scurry: So we started talking to Bill and Steve before 2019. We were already connected with the team at that point, but then the investor group idea, I think really started to come into fruition during the pandemic. I think the seeds of it were starting before, because Steve had built that momentum from 2019 and he was going to try to broaden the diversity and also the interest in involvement in the team with more people. And then the pandemic just kind of slammed it. But then that allowed him to be able to really transform the idea and move it forward. I feel like it accelerated it.

Zizos: I mean, they came to our house, both Bill and Steve together and individually many times to speak. Three times?

Scurry: Yeah.

Zizos: Three times to speak with us and we were the first to commit and write the check. I think that created some positive momentum and excitement and I think they were really excited to have Bri.

Blade: Where do you see yourselves in five years with this project?

Scurry: Oh, wow. That’s a great question. I really feel like the team can become an internationally known property at a level that’s been not seen before.

Zizos: I think five years is probably aggressive, but 10 years I think is on the horizon. It’s going to be phenomenal. And I think we’re going to make a lot of money on this investment.

Blade: Good, that’s the best answer yet.

Zizos: I just love what we’re doing together. We’re doing some really cool things professionally together, and we have an amazing family too. My kids, her step-kids, call Bri their bonus mom. One is 18 and she’s going to Duke next year. The other is 14 and he’ll be a freshman in high school next year.

Scurry: They are awesome.

Blade: This has been a great conversation. You are both amazing role models for so many different communities.

Scurry: Thank you.

Zizos: Thanks.

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Girls Rock! DC empowers young people through music, social justice education

Organization founded in October 2007

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Youth leaders of Girls Rock DC! (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Girls Rock! DC, an organization operating at the intersection of art and activism, is dedicated to empowering young people through music and social justice education. 

Since its founding in October 2007; Girls Rock! DC has been creating a supportive, inclusive and equitable space that centers around girls and nonbinary youth, with a special emphasis on uplifting Black and Brown youth. At the core of Girls Rock! DC’s mission is a unique approach to music education, viewing it through a social justice and equity lens. 

“It’s a place where people can come explore their interest in music in a safe environment, figure out their own voice, and have a platform to say it,” Board Vice Chair Nicole Savage said.

This approach allows D.C.’s young people to build a sense of community and explore their passion for social change through after-school programs, workshops and camps.

The organization’s roots trace back to the first rock camp for girls in August 2001 in Portland, Ore. Similar camps have emerged worldwide since then, forming the International Girls Rock Camp Alliance. Girls Rock! DC is a member of this alliance, contributing to the larger community’s growth and advocacy for inclusivity in the music industry.

Girls Rock! DC’s annual programs now serve more than 100 young people and 20 adults, offering after-school programs and camps. Participants receive instruction on the electric guitar, the electric bass, keyboards, drum kits and other instruments or on a microphone and form bands to write and perform their own original songs. Beyond music, the program includes workshops on underrepresented histories in the music industry, community injustice issues and empowerment topics that include running for office and body positivity.

“I’ve been playing shows in the D.C. music scene for about six years, and I feel like Girls Rock! DC is the perfect amalgamation of everything that I stand for,” said Outreach Associate Lily Mónico. “So many music spaces are male dominated and I think there is a need for queer femme youth in music.”

Lily Mónico (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is evident not only in its leadership but also in the way it creates a safe space for queer and nonbinary individuals. Language is a crucial component, and Girls Rock! DC ensures that both campers and volunteers embrace inclusivity. 

“It is a very open and creative space, where there’s no judgment,” Zadyn Higgins, one of the youth leaders, emphasized. “It is the first time for a lot of us, to be in a space where we’re truly able to be ourselves.”

In creating a safe environment, Girls Rock! DC implements practices that include name tags with preferred names and pronouns, along with pronoun banners that help kids understand and respect diverse identities. 

“It’s really cool to watch these kids understand and just immediately get it,” said Higgins. 

Zadyn Higgins (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Girls Rock! DC is also more than a music education organization; it’s a community where individuals can embark on a transformative journey that extends beyond their initial participation as campers. Many start their Girls Rock! DC experience as enthusiastic campers, learning to play instruments, forming bands and expressing their creativity in a supportive environment. The organization’s impact, however, doesn’t stop there. This inspiration leads them to volunteer and intern within the organization. 

The unique progression from camper to volunteer or intern, and eventually to a full-fledged role within the organization, exemplifies Girls Rock! DC as a place where growth is not confined to a single week of camp but extends into an ongoing, impactful journey. It’s a testament to the organization’s commitment to nurturing talent, empowering individuals and fostering a lifelong connection with the values for which Girls Rock! DC stands.

One of the highlights of Girls Rock! DC is its summer camp, where kids between 8-18 learn to play instruments, form bands, write songs and perform in just one week. Higgins shared a poignant moment from a showcase,

“To see them go from, like, crying a little bit about how scared they were to going out on the stage and performing their little hearts out was so sweet,” said Higgins.

(Photo courtesy of Frankie Amitrano of Girls Rock! D.C.)

Nzali Mwanza-Shannon, another youth leader, agreed that the camp is the highlight of the program. 

“The summer camp, I’ve met so many friends, and it’s always kind of scary coming up to the end, but after we get to perform and everything, I’m so grateful that I’ve gotten the opportunity to perform and meet new people and be so creative and do it all in a week,” said Mwanza-Shannon.

Forty-three young people who showcased their original songs and DJ sets at D.C.’s legendary 9:30 Club attended the first Girls Rock! DC camp in 2007. They performed to a crowd of 700 enthusiastic fans. The organization since then has grown exponentially, with each passing year bringing more energy, vibrancy and fun to the camp experience.

Since the pandemic, however, the organization has struggled financially, experiencing a funding shortage as well as reduced growth in attracting new members. 

Augusta Smith, who is a youth leader and a member of the band Petrichor, expressed concern about the potential impact on the unique and friendly environment that Girls Rock! DC provides. 

“We’ve kind of been really slow and barely making enough money. And this year, we’re having a funding shortage,” said Smith. 

The impact of Girls Rock! DC extends beyond musical skills, fostering leadership, self-expression and a passion for social change through creative collaboration and community power-building. Mwanza-Shannon hopes to be a part of Girls Rock! DC for a long time, 

“I want to keep on meeting new people,” said Mwanza-Shannon. “I want to keep on being able to perform at these different places and have different experiences.”

(Photo courtesy of Frankie Amitrano of Girls Rock! DC)
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‘Blindspot’ reveals stories of NYC AIDS patients that haven’t been told

Former Blade reporter’s podcast focuses on POC, women, trans people

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Kai Wright, a former Blade reporter, hosts the podcast ‘Blindspot.’ (Photo by Amy Pearl)

“We said that people had The Monster, because they had that look,” activist Valerie Reyes-Jimenez, said, remembering how people in her New York neighborhood reacted when people first got AIDS.

They didn’t know what to call it.

“They had the sucked in checks,” Reyes-Jimenez, added, “They were really thin…a lot of folks were saying, oh, you know, they had…cancer.”

“We actually had set up a bereavement clinic where the kids would tell us what they wanted to have when they die,” Maxine Frere, a retired nurse who worked at Harlem Hospital for 40 years and was the head nurse of its pediatric AIDS unit said, “How did they wanna die?”

“Nobody wanted to come on,” said former New York Gov. David Paterson, who in 1987 was Harlem’s state senator.

At that time, Manhattan Cable Television gave legislators the chance to do one show a year. “So I decided to do my show on the AIDS crisis and how there didn’t seem to be any response from the leadership in the Black community,” Paterson added.

These unforgettable voices with their searing recollections are among the many provocative, transformative stories told on Season 3 of “Blindspot,” the critically acclaimed podcast. 

“Blindspot: The Plague in the Shadows” is co-produced by the History Channel and WNYC Studios. The six-episode podcast series, which launched on Jan. 18 and airs weekly through Feb. 22, is hosted by WNYC’s Kai Wright with lead reporting by The Nation Magazine’s Lizzy Ratner.

The show is accompanied by a photography exhibit by Kia LaBeija. LaBeija is a New York City-based artist who was born HIV positive and lost her mother to the disease at 14. The exhibit, which features portraits of people whose stories are heard on “Blindspot,” runs at the Greene Space at WNYC through March 11.

If you think of AIDS, you’re likely to think of white cisgender gay men. (That’s been true for me, a cisgender lesbian, who lost loved ones to AIDS.)

From the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, most media and cultural attention has been focused on white gay men – from playwright and activist Larry Kramer to the movie “Philadelphia.”   

“Blindspot” revisits New York City, an epicenter of the early years of the HIV epidemic.

The podcast reveals stories of vulnerable people that haven’t been told. Of people of color, women, transgender people, children, drug-users, women in prison and the doctors, nurses and others who cared and advocated with and on their behalf.

“Blindspot,” through extensive reporting and immersive storytelling, makes people visible who were invisible during the AIDS epidemic. It makes us see people who have, largely, been left out of the history of AIDS.

Wright, 50, who is Black and gay, cares deeply about history. He is host and managing editor of “Notes from America with Kai Wright,” a show about the unfinished business of our history and its grip on our future.

Recently, Wright, who worked as a reporter at the Washington Blade from 1996 to 2001, talked with me in a Zoom interview. The conversation ranged over a number of topics from why Wright got into journalism, to how stigma and health care disparities still exist today for people of color, transgender people and poor people with AIDS to the impact he hopes “Blindspot” will have.

“I came to work at the Blade in 1996,” Wright said, “the year after I got out of college.”

He’d done two six-month stints at PBS and “Foreign Policy.” But Wright thinks of the Blade as his first proper journalism job.

From his youth, Wright has been committed to social justice and to understanding his community. Reporting, from early on, has been his connection with social justice. “I often say, journalism has been my contribution to social justice movements,” Wright said.

His first journalistic connection to the Black community came when he was 15. Then, Wright became an intern with the Black newspaper, the Indianapolis Recorder.

“That’s how I got the [journalism] bug,” Wright said.

Since then, Wright said, he’s worked almost exclusively with media that have a connection with the community.

Wright grew up in Indianapolis and went to college at Emory University in Atlanta. He didn’t intend to be a journalist, he wrote in an email to the Blade. At Emory, he studied international politics.

Wright’s life and work changed direction when he began working at the Blade. “I was a kid,” Wright said, “I’d just come out. I used journalism to find out what it meant to come out.”

Wright, when he came to Washington, D.C., was, as he recalled, just a kid. He didn’t know anyone in D.C. and there was a Black, queer community. This helped Wright to come out. “I couldn’t have told you that at the time,” he said, “but in retrospect I can see that I moved to  D.C. to come out.”

Journalism was Wright’s way of finding his way through coming out.

“I didn’t know if the Blade was hiring,” Wright said, “I just walked in.”

He didn’t have a deep resume but he had a lot to say. The Blade hired him and immediately put him to work reporting on AIDS.

“It was a pivotal cultural and political moment – a pivotal moment for the community,” Wright said.

That year, when Wright began working with the Blade, life-saving treatments (early drug cocktails) were emerging for AIDS.

“There was no way that HIV and AIDS wouldn’t become a central part of my journalism,” Wright said, “I really wanted to report on it.”

With the emergence of treatments, white gay men with health insurance began to feel that they were turning the page and that AIDS was no longer a death sentence.

“But, as a reporter, I was meeting Black gay men who were going into emergency mode about the AIDS epidemic,” Wright said.

Black people, poor people, drug users and others without health insurance and access to treatment were still dying and transmitting AIDS. “‘This is getting more and more dire,’ the activists said,” Wright recalls.

They told Wright, “The rest of the community is starting to turn the page. We can’t turn the page.”

In D.C., Wright could see, through his reporting, the racial discrimination in the community at large in the AIDS epidemic, and in the queer community.

Two things are true simultaneously, Wright said, when asked if there is still stigma and discrimination around HIV and AIDS today.

“Science has made so much progress,” Wright said, “It’s no longer necessary for any of us to die from HIV.”

“I take a pill once a day to prevent me from catching HIV,” he added, “I can do that. I am a person with insurance…with a great deal of social and economic privilege.”

But many people in the United States don’t have health insurance, and exist outside of the health care system. The divergence in treatment and stigma that he saw as a young reporter in 1996 are still there today, Wright said.

“The divergence in class and race has grown even more profound,” he said, “among people of color, young people – transgender people.”

Wright hopes  “Blindspot” will make people who lived through the epidemic and whose stories weren’t told, feel seen. And that “they will hear themselves and be reminded of the contributions they have made,” Wright said.

The queer press plays an important role in the LGBTQ community, Wright said. “We need a place to hash out our differences, share stories and ask questions that put our experience at the center of the conversation,” he emailed the Blade.

“There’s more space for us in media than when I started my career at the Blade,” Wright said, “but none of it is a replacement for journalism done by and for ourselves.”

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Valentine’s Day gifts for the queers you love

From pasta and chocolate to an Aspen getaway

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Share the love on Feb. 14 with our thoughtful Valentine’s gift picks for everyone you like and lust.

Centrolina V-Day Pasta Kit

Washington, D.C.-based Centrolina’s seasonally inspired restaurant menu gets the delivered-to-your-door treatment with Chef Amy Brandwein’s holiday gift baskets featuring four handmade pastas and from-scratch sauces, including heart-shaped beet ravioli with ricotta and lemon butter, a mushroom and black truffle ragu, sunchoke tagliolini and oyster cacio pepe, and chestnut pappardelle, among other elevated-Italian recipes that you and your lil’ meatball can whip up on date night. $175, CentrolinaDC.com

La Maison du Chocolat

Heart-shaped candy clichés are much more palatable when the contents within are made in Paris instead of Hershey, Pa., and your intended will be sufficiently satisfied with La Maison du Chocolat’s selection of premium confections – including melt-in-your-mouth ganaches, pralinés and bouchées, oh my – available in festive and indulgent 14- and 44-piece boxes. $60-$140, LaMaisonDuChocolat.com

‘Spread the Love’ Plantable Pencils

SproutWorld’s set-of-eight Love Edition pencils set themselves up for seed-spreading jokes given Cupid’s context, but the real sentiment is sweeter: Plant the lead-free, graphite writing utensils (engraved with romantic quotes on certified wood) in potted soil and enjoy striking flowers and fragrant herbs in one to four weeks. $15, Amazon.com

W Aspen Getaway

Missed Aspen Gay Ski Week? No sweat. You’ll fight fewer crowds as the season winds down – without compromising your commitment to luxury – during a late-winter getaway to the heart of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains at the W Aspen. Book unforgettable outdoor adventures, like heliskiing and dog sledding, with the property’s always-available concierge; spend après hour on the rooftop WET deck before diving into delicious dishes at onsite restaurant 39 Degrees; see and be seen at Ponyboy, the property’s cocktail-focused modern speakeasy rooted in New York City nightlife; and pour yourself a nightcap from your in-room mini bar before relaxing in the suite’s deep soaking tub – because, ya know, all in a day’s work. Marriot.com

Nexgrill Ora Pizza Oven

Not a fan of fancy dining out? Slip into those grey sweats he won’t let you wear in public, top off the Veuve, and fire up Nexgrill’s Ora 12 portable propane pizza oven wherein a to-temp cordierite baking stone will cook your personalized pies to perfection at up to 900 degrees. That’s burnin’ love, baby. $299, HomeDepot.com

‘Just Happy to Be Here’ YA Novel

Have a they/them in your life excited to expand their winter reading list? Gift a copy of Naomi Kanakia’s newly published YA coming-of-age novel, “Just Happy to Be Here,” about Tara, an Indian-American transgender teenager seeking quiet support and acceptance within her school’s prestigious academic group but instead becomes the center of attention when she draws the ire of administrators and alumni. $16, Amazon.com

Perfect Pairings 

Set it off this Valentine’s Day with a curated selection of wine and spirits, including the Pale Rosé, created by Sacha Lichine, of Whispering Angel fame; Flat Creek Estate’s red-blend trio, featuring the 2017 Super Texan, 2018 Four Horsemen, and Buttero; Ron Barceló’s Imperial Premium Blend 40th Aniversario rum; and the Bourbon Rosemary cocktail-in-a-can from Spirited Hive. $17-$199

Moon Bath Bomb

Stars aligned for that little meet-cute you told everybody about on TikTok, and you can trust the universe to provide ample relaxation when you plop Zodica Perfumery’s Moon Bath Bomb in the tub – there’s a specific formulation for every sign, which promises vibe-setting aromatherapy, activated charcoal for deep cleansing, and skin-soothing olive oil for the self-love glow-up you’ve been waiting for. $18, ZodicaPerfumery.com

Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels.

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