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D.C. trans women remembered at vigil

Nona Conner, Gisselle Hartzog died earlier this month

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About 100 people turned out on May 21 for a vigil honoring the lives of Nona Conner and Gisselle Hartzog. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Close to 100 people turned out at River Terrace Park in Northeast Washington for a May 21 vigil to honor the lives of Nona Moselle Conner, 37, and Gisselle Hartzog, 30, two D.C. transgender women who died suddenly and unexpectedly on May 13 and May 18.

Friends and LGBTQ activists who participated in the vigil called on the community to honor the two women by speaking out and taking action to address the struggles that they and many other transgender women of color have endured due to prejudice and discrimination.

People who knew the two women, including Conner’s father, who spoke at the vigil, have said the cause of death for both women had yet to be determined, but there is no evidence of foul play such as physical violence.

Several of the speakers, who did not give their names or used only a first name, described Conner and Hartzog as caring, supportive, and loyal friends who lifted their spirits. They called the two women’s unexpected passing a tragic loss for themselves and for the community.

Transgender advocates Earline Budd, who works for the sex worker advocacy organization HIPS, and Adriana Chichi Carter, an official with the transgender and sex worker advocacy organization No Justice No Pride, were among the lead organizers of the vigil. Both called on the community to rally in support of the rights and wellbeing of transgender people like Conner and Hartzog.

“We need awareness. We need to start speaking,” Carter told the gathering. “We need to stop with the hatred or judging or competing,” she said. “And we need to uplift each other and guide each other and hold each other.”

Added Carter, “And each of you who know me know I give back and I’m here to speak for my community, our community, for all of us regardless of whether you’re trans, gay, straight. It does not matter. We are human…and when we lose somebody we love, we hurt.”

Conner was involved with No Justice No Pride along with other community-based organizations providing support for the trans community, including the organization Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), where she worked as a program manager, according to a tribute to Conner on the CASS website.
Budd said the lives of Conner and Hartzog could have been saved.

“We’re here recognizing the lives of two angels, Nona Conner and Gisselle Hartzog, gone too soon,” Budd said. “We as a community tonight, I’m praying, especially those who are senior and trans, we must do more. We have to do more. We can’t stay silent anymore,” she said.

Terrance Wilson, Conner’s father, drew loud applause from the crowd when he told of how he overcame his own struggle to accept his daughter for who she was and has become an advocate for the trans community.

“First of all, I want to say thank you for your love, patience, donations, and kind words – the love means so much to me and my family,” Wilson told the crowd. “I want to say it’s my prayer that fathers all over the world don’t travel the same road that I traveled, that it took me a while for my heart to soften and for me to open up and really accept my child in this world,” he said.

“I believe that had I done something and opened up sooner, life would have been so much better,” he continued. “But I thank God for it because she did come to my heart,” he said, adding, “I love her, and I hurt every day. And I pray that all of you find love and everything you deserve.”

Wilson concluded by telling the gathering, “I committed myself and I told Miss Budd that I’m going to stand for you all. I’m going to be part of the community. I’ll be out speaking.”

Among the others who spoke at the vigil was Prince George’s County Council member Calvin S. Hawkins, who pledged to push for legislation to support the trans community both in P.G. County and nearby jurisdictions, including D.C.

“As a legislator I want you to understand, today we mourn,” he said. “But there comes a moment when action has to take the place of our mourning. Legislators must know how you feel,” he said, adding that he will work with the community to push for “legislation that makes those who believe it’s OK” to engage in violence or discrimination against the trans community to know they will be held accountable.

Also speaking at the vigil was Ruby Corado, founder and executive director of the D.C. LGBTQ community services center Casa Ruby. Corado has said both Conner and Hartzog had been clients at Casa Ruby. Corado told the Washington Blade last week that she spent time with Hartzog the day before Hartzog passed away, when Hartzog expressed optimism that she was about to be enrolled in a D.C. government housing program for the homeless.

D.C. authorities found Hartzog deceased at the site of a tent in a homeless encampment under a bridge near the intersection of 1st and L Streets, N.E.

Corado told the vigil the D.C. government has failed to take adequate action to provide needed programs to address the issue of housing and jobs for transgender people, especially transgender people of color.

Others involved in organizing the May 21 vigil were Corado of Casa Ruby, Shakita Chapman of HIPS, and JeKendria Trahan of CASS.

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District of Columbia

D.C. Council budget bill includes $8.5 million in LGBTQ provisions

Measure also changes Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs

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The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal calling for $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council on June 12 gave final approval for a $21 billion fiscal year 2025 budget for the District of Columbia that includes more than $8.5 million in funding for LGBTQ-related programs, including $5.25 million in support of the June 2025 World Pride celebration that D.C. will be hosting.

Also included in the budget is $1.7 million in funds for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which includes an increase of $132,000 over the office’s funding for the current fiscal year, and a one-time funding of $1 million for the completion of the renovation of the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community’s new building in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.

The D.C. LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition earlier this year asked both the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser to approve $1.5 million for the D.C. Center’s building renovation and an additional $300,000 in “recurring” funding for the LGBTQ Center in subsequent years “to support ongoing operational costs and programmatic initiatives.” In its final budget measure, the Council approved $1 million for the renovation work and did not approve the proposed $600,000 in annual operational funding for the center.

The mayor’s budget proposal, which called for the $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025, did not include funding for the D.C. LGBTQ Center or for several other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition.

At the request of D.C. Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), the Council’s only gay member, the Council approved at least two other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition in addition to the funding for the LGBTQ Center. One is $595,000 for 20 additional dedicated housing vouchers for LGBTQ residents who face housing insecurity or homelessness. The LGBTQ housing vouchers are administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

The other funding allocation pushed by Parker is $250,000 in funds to support a Black LGBTQ+ History Commission and Black LGBTQIA+ history program that Parker proposed that will also be administered by the LGBTQ Affairs office.

Also at Parker’s request, the Council included in its budget bill a proposal by Parker to change the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to become a “stand-alone entity” outside the Executive Office of the Mayor. Parker told the Washington Blade this change would “allow for greater transparency and accountability that reflects its evolution over the years.”

He said the change would also give the person serving as the office’s director, who is currently LGBTQ rights advocate Japer Bowles, “greater flexibility to advocate for the interest of LGBTQ residents” and give the Council greater oversight of the office. Parker noted that other community constituent offices under the mayor’s office, including the Office of Latino Affairs and the Office of Veterans Affairs, are stand-alone offices.

The budget bill includes another LGBTQ funding provision introduced by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) that allocates $100,000 in grants to support LGBTQ supportive businesses in Ward 6 that would be awarded and administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Allen spokesperson Eric Salmi said Allen had in mind two potential businesses on 8th Street, S.E. in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill as potential applicants for the grants.

One is the LGBTQ café and bar As You Are, which had to close temporarily earlier this year due to structural problems in the building it rents. The other potential applicant, Salmi said, is Little District Books, D.C.’s only LGBTQ bookstore that’s located on 8th Street across the street from the U.S. Marine Barracks.

“It’s kind of recognizing Barrack’s Row has a long history of creating spaces that are intended for and safe for the LGBTQ community and wanting to continue that history,” Salmi said  “So, that was his kind of intent behind the language in that funding.”

The mayor’s budget proposal also called for continuing an annual funding of $600,000 to provide workforce development services for transgender and gender non-conforming city residents experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

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Virginia

Suhas Subramanyam wins Democratic primary in Va. 10th Congressional District

Former Obama advisor vows to champion LGBTQ rights in Congress

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Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Fairfax County) (Photo courtesy of Subramanyam's campaign)

Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Loudoun County) on Tuesday won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) in Congress.

Subramanyam won the Democratic primary in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District with 30.4 percent of the votes. The Loudoun County Democrat who was an advisor to former President Barack Obama will face Republican Mike Clancy in November’s general election.

“I’m thrilled to be the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 10th, and to have won this election during Pride Month,” Subramanyam told the Washington Blade on Wednesday in an emailed statement. “As I have done in the state legislature and as an Obama White House policy advisor, I will always stand as an ally with the LGBTQ+ community.”

Wexton, who is a vocal LGBTQ rights champion, last September announced she will not seek re-election after doctors diagnosed her with progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurological disorder she has described as “Parkinson’s on steroids.” Wexton is a vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus and a previous co-chair of its Transgender Equality Task Force.

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Baltimore

Police say they didn’t spray a chemical agent at Baltimore Pride. Why don’t those who attended believe it?

Attendees allege city failed to adequately respond to emergency

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A parade participant is photographed clutching on to a rainbow flag at Baltimore’s Pride Parade held on June 15, 2024. (Photo by Ronica Edwards/Baltimore Banner)

BY BRENNA SMITH and JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | A chemical agent that disrupted Pride Parade festivities last weekend continues to cause confusion and raise suspicion among many in the Baltimore LGBTQIA+ community, who question the police account of what happened.

The Baltimore Police Department said Tuesday that they had determined the released substance was Mace, but did not say how they came to that conclusion. A BPD spokesperson said that the chemical was released after two groups of people got into an altercation. Three people were treated and released from a nearby hospital because of injuries from the spray.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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