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Nellie’s hires Ruby Corado as community engagement director

Embroiled in controversy, D.C. gay bar apologizes to woman dragged down stairs

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Ruby Corado in front of Nellie's Sports Bar. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

In a development likely to surprise LGBTQ activists, Nellie’s Sports Bar announced in a statement released on Friday that it has hired longtime D.C. transgender rights advocate Ruby Corado to serve as a manager at the bar in a newly created position of Director of Community Engagement.

In the same statement, posted on the Nellie’s website by owner Doug Schantz, Nellie’s issued a formal apology to Keisha Young, a 22-year-old Black woman who was dragged down a flight of stairs at the bar by a security guard during a June 13 incident that was captured on video and went viral on social media.

The incident, which started during a fight between Nellie’s customers and security guards, has triggered a month-long series of protests against the bar by LGBTQ and racial justice activists.

Corado is the founder and executive director of Casa Ruby, the D.C.-based LGBTQ community services center that offers bilingual programs for the LGBTQ Latino/Latina community and has a special outreach to the transgender community.

“To be clear, we are very sorry that this horrible incident occurred, and we are sorry for what happened to Ms. Young, and we apologize to her for how she was treated,” the Nellie’s statement says.

The statement reiterated an announcement in an earlier statement that Nellie’s released shortly after the June 13 Pride weekend incident that it had terminated its arrangement with a private security company for which the guard who pulled Young by her hair down the stairs had been employed.

The latest statement released on Friday says Corado will “assist in ensuring that all of Nellie’s staff receive ongoing diversity and sensitivity and inclusion training – with a focus on the concerns of LGBTQ+ people of color.”

Corado, who showed up at Nellie’s on Friday night, found herself in the midst of yet another protest outside the bar and the subject of criticism by some of the protesters who told her she should be joining them in the street rather than working for Nellie’s.

“What I feel today is that after my conversations with the owner, that he is willing to listen to the community, to act to make this space a place where everybody feels welcome,” Corado told the Washington Blade while standing on the sidewalk outside Nellie’s 9th Street entrance.

 “And that’s why he brought me on board,” Corado said in referring to Nellie’s owner Schantz. “And that’s why I came on board, because I do feel that, once again, I can talk to the community, engage them and listen,” said Corado. “And he did say that he is acting on the concerns of the community.”

Schantz has not responded to repeated requests by the Blade for comment.

The Friday, July 16, statement issued by Nellie’s notes that in addition to firing the security company at the time of the incident with Young, Nellie’s temporarily closed “to allow for a thorough review of the incident.”

The statement does not mention that Nellie’s reopening on Tuesday of this week, after being closed for over a month, was greeted by about 50 protesters, some of whom formed a human chain across the bar’s entrance door, blocking people from entering the bar. The action prompted the bar to close earlier in the evening than its normal closing time.

When Nellie’s reopened again on Friday, protesters returned to stage another demonstration on the sidewalk outside the bar and in the streets at the bustling intersection of 9th and U Streets, N.W., where Nellie’s is located.

D.C. police, who were monitoring the protest, immediately closed off vehicle access to the streets surrounding Nellie’s while about 40 or 50 protesters called for Nellie’s to agree to a series of demands that they have issued.

Among the demands is that Nellie’s participate in a “public community listening session” in which members of the community, including former Nellie’s customers, would present details about what protesters have said are alleged racially biased practices by Nellie’s staff against Black customers.

Corado told the Blade she agreed to Nellie’s invitation to serve as its community engagement director in her role as head of a private consulting firm focusing on diversity related issues that she started five years ago that’s separate from her job as Casa Ruby’s executive director. She said she will remain in her position as Casa Ruby executive director.

She said that among other things, she will make recommendations to Schantz on how best to address community concerns raised by the protesters and others in the community.

Nellie’s statement on Friday comes at a time when Nellie’s is under investigation by the Office of the D.C. Attorney General following a report two weeks ago by the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) that it violated the terms of its liquor license under D.C. law in its handling of the fight that broke out at the time Young was pulled down the stairs by the security guard.

The ABRA report says the fight occurred after a Nellie’s staff member and one or more security guards ordered customers believed to have brought in their own bottle of liquor, which is not allowed by Nellie’s, to leave the bar. Young has said she was mistakenly identified as one of the customers who brought in their own liquor bottle.

 Among those leading Friday’s protest outside Nellie’s were Makia Green, co-conductor of the community activist group Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, and Bethelehem Yirga, co-founder of the racial justice advocacy group Palm Collective. Both said they respect Corado for her many years of advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community but were disappointed that she was working for Nellie’s.

“She should be in solidarity with the people in the streets because Ruby Corado used to be one of those people,” Green told the Blade. “And she should have been in solidarity with us.”

When Nellie’s reopened on Friday, protesters returned to stage another demonstration on the sidewalk outside the bar and in the streets at the bustling intersection of 9th and U Streets, N.W. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Minutes later, Green attempted to intervene when a verbal confrontation broke out between a man believed to be a Nellie’s customer and several of the protesters. The man, who is Black, shouted repeatedly, “You are boycotting the wrong fucking bar.” About a half dozen protesters shouted back, demanding that he leave the area.

“Nellie’s staff is racially, ethnically and gender-identity diverse,” the Nellie’s statement released on Friday says. “It always has and always will,” it says. “As we reopen to serve the community and ensure continued employment of our team of 50 employees – all of us at Nellie’s renew our mission to be an inclusive, welcoming and safe space for women, for all people of color, for the entire LGBTQ+ community and for all our neighbors and friends.”

The statement concludes, “We also recognize that being an inclusive business is an ongoing process, and we pledge to continue to investigate ways to do better. We promise to see you, to listen to you, to embrace you and to welcome you each night.”

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Monika Nemeth to run for Ward 3 D.C. Council seat

First known trans elected official in city

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ANC Rainbow Caucus, Monika Nemeth, gay news, Washington Blade
Monika Nemeth, the first known trans person to win election to public office in D.C., is running for Council.

Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Monika Nemeth, who became the first known transgender person to win election to public office in D.C. when she won her ANC seat in 2018, says she plans to run as a Democrat for the Ward 3 D.C. Council seat currently held by incumbent Democrat Mary Cheh.

Nemeth is a former president of D.C.’s Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, which recently changed its name to the Capital Stonewall Democrats. She currently serves as chair of the ANC Rainbow Caucus, which advocates for LGBTQ issues. She holds the seat for ANC 3F 06, which represents the neighborhoods of North Cleveland Park and Wakefield.

Nemeth’s LinkedIn page says she has worked for more than 25 years in the Information Technology field. She says she currently manages a team of software developers for an IT company.

“Yes, I am planning a run for Ward 3 D.C. Council in 2022,” Nemeth told the Washington Blade. “I will be running as a Democrat, so I plan to be on the Democratic primary ballot,” she said. “I will pursue the public finance option for my campaign.”

When asked what she would do differently from Cheh, who is a longtime supporter of LGBTQ rights and who is expected to run for re-election, Nemeth said only that she will announce her platform at the time she formally announces her candidacy, which she expects to happen in early September.

Cheh was first elected to the D.C. Council in 2006. She is an attorney and tenured professor of constitutional law at George Washington University Law School.

The Washington City Paper has reported that at least one other candidate is considering running against Cheh for the Ward 3 Council seat – Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority attorney Petar Dimtchev. Dimtchev received the Washington Post endorsement when he ran unsuccessfully against Cheh in 2018 as an independent, according to the City Paper.

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UDC hit with anti-trans discrimination complaint

University accused of misgendering student

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Emma Alexandra accuses UDC of misgendering her and outing her to fellow students and faculty. (Photo courtesy Alexandra)

A female transgender student at the University of the District of Columbia on Aug. 2 filed a discrimination complaint against the university on grounds that it is violating the city’s Human Rights Act by continuing to use her legal name on school documents and class enrollment lists unless she obtains a legal name change.

Emma K. Alexandra, 28, a part-time student who was admitted to UDC in April, states in her complaint filed with the D.C. Office of Human Rights that she informed UDC officials that she was not ready to immediately undertake a legal name change. She states in her complaint that she has repeatedly asked that her chosen name alone be used on all documents and student lists that can be viewed by fellow students and professors.

She said she understands that her legal name may be needed for legal admissions and academic transcript related documents. But to her dismay, Alexandra told the Washington Blade, UDC officials put in place what they consider a compromise position that identifies her on all public university documents and student class lists by both her legal name and her chosen name.

She said the university began and currently continues to identify her by her male legal name with her preferred name written next to her legal name inside parentheses in this way: Legal First Name (preferred name Emma); Legal last name (preferred name Alexandra).

“This is an egregious solution,” Alexandra told UDC President Ronald Mason Jr. in a July 4 email. “This is the name that appears everywhere now,” she wrote Mason. “Most notable, it’s the name that was displayed to my fellow students and professor during the class I took this summer on Blackboard,” she said, which is an online site like Zoom on which UDC conducts classes.

“This effectively outed me as trans to every other student and my professor,” she told Mason. “I assume the same will continue when I go to campus in the fall and get an ID. My ID will have this name and out me to everyone I show it to,” she wrote. “This is completely unacceptable, disrespectful and dangerous.”

Alexandra said she currently works full time as a Web Application Architect for Bloomberg Industry Group as part of its News Engineering team. She said the company is fully accepting of her using her chosen name without obtaining a legal name change. She said she has enrolled at UDC to take courses she needs to qualify for applying to medical school to fulfill her dream of becoming a psychiatrist.  

Under longstanding procedures, the D.C. Office of Human Rights investigates discrimination complaints and usually calls on both parties to consider reaching a conciliation agreement over the complaint if possible. If conciliation cannot be reached, OHR makes a determination of whether probable cause exists that discrimination occurred in violation of D.C. law.

If such a determination is made, the case is sent to the D.C. Commission on Human Rights, which conducts a trial-like hearing that includes testimony by witnesses before it issues a ruling on the case.

In response to a question from the Blade about whether a refusal by a D.C. university to use a transgender person’s chosen name violates the Human Rights Act, OHR Director Monica Palacio said OHR cannot provide legal advice on such a question. But in a statement to the Blade, Palacio said for educational institutions, the Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on 15 protected characteristics, including gender identity and expression.

OHR’s regulations related to educational institutions “prohibit creating a hostile environment which could include deliberately misgendering a student,” Palacio said. “If anyone believes the statute has been violated, they may file a complaint with OHR,” she said. “OHR investigations are confidential.”

Alexandra said she had yet to receive a direct reply to her email message to Mason as of early this week. But last week she was contacted by phone by an official from the university’s admissions office and from Dr. William Latham, UDC’s Chief Student Development and Success Officer on behalf of Mason.

According to Alexandra, the two explained that her legal name was needed on certain legal documents. She said Latham explained that a software system the university uses to manage student records known as the Banner system, doesn’t support preferred names and currently prevents the school from displaying only her preferred name.

The officials said the university planned to upgrade to a newer version of Banner in October and the new system “may” support using preferred names, Alexandra said.

“Overall, I thought this was a really ridiculous conversation where folks from UDC tried to convince me that they are using my preferred name while also stating that they cannot use my preferred name as it should be used, mostly due to limitations of software,” Alexandra told the Blade. “I don’t think the Human Rights Act has an exception for software systems,” she said.

The Blade contacted UDC President Mason by email on July 20, asking him to comment on Alexandra’s concerns and asking him what, if any, problems would be caused if the university used Alexandra’s chosen name rather than her legal name on the various public, external documents and lists in which her legal name is being used.

“In response to your July 20 email, the Office of the Registrar can enter the student’s preferred name in Banner (via all access screen for faculty and staff awareness), however all official documents, such as the academic transcript, will require the use of the student’s official legal name,” Mason told the Blade in a one-sentence response.

His response didn’t address the issue raised by UDC official Latham in his phone conversation with Alexandra in which Latham said the Banner software system couldn’t currently identify Alexandra only by her chosen name. Mason also didn’t respond to the Blade’s question of why UDC could not adopt a policy like the D.C. Public Schools system, which accepts a request by transgender students to use their chosen name without having to obtain a legal name change.

Alexandra, meanwhile, points out that UDC’s refusal so far to allow her chosen name alone to be used on all public university documents and student lists without her legal name being attached to it appears to be at odds with a May 4 open letter Mason released to the university community expressing strong support for using the appropriate pronouns for transgender and gender non-conforming students.

“The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) strives to be an inclusive campus that supports and values all members of our community, including LGBTQIA+, nonbinary, intersex and gender non-conforming students,” Mason says in his letter.

“Choosing to not use or ignore the pronouns someone has requested you to use implies that person shouldn’t and doesn’t exist and does not deserve respect,” Mason wrote in his letter. “Therefore, we encourage all faculty and staff to use pronouns in their email signatures as an act of solidarity and to foster a culture of respect for every Firebird,” he concludes in referring to the symbolic name used for members of the UDC community.

UDC is governed by a 15-member independent Board of Trustees. Eleven of the members are appointed by the D.C. mayor and confirmed by the D.C. Council. Three are appointed by UDC alumni and one by students, according to information on the UDC website.

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LULAC Lambda announces 2021 scholarship awards

Castro, Javier Rodriguez win $1,000 honors

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Brian Castro and Victor Javier Rodriguez are this year’s LULAC award winners.

The D.C.-based LGBTQ Latinx organization LULAC Lambda has announced it has selected two D.C. residents bound for graduate studies in foreign affairs and higher education to receive its 2021 annual scholarship award.

“For a fourth year in a row, LULAC Lambda will provide scholarships to outstanding scholars who come from our LGBTQ+ Latinx community,” said Erik Rodriquez, the LULAC Lambda president, in a statement released by the group. “Our scholarship program will help these scholars achieve their academic goals and reduce their student debt,” Rodriquez said.

The statement says one of the two scholarship awards, for $1,000, will go to Brian Castro, who will begin studies for a master’s degree in the fall of 2021 at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.

“The generous scholarship provided by LULAC Lambda will complement my studies by going directly into my tuition costs,” Castro said in the statement. “Though I have been a resident of Washington, D.C., working full-time at a leading public health consulting firm, I am grateful to have received the support from an organization that is also committed to social justice,” he said.

The other scholarship, for $1,300, will go to Victor Javier Rodriguez for his doctoral work in education at Florida State University. The LULAC Lambda statement says Javier Rodriquez’s academic interest lies in “exploring the relationship between school communities and districts’ implementation of anti-racist practice and student success.”

In his own words, Javier Rodriquez said, “A long-term career goal of mine is to affect change at the federal level through the United States Department of Education, in which I would work to address our nation’s education crisis by advocating for equitable policies and practices that improve the outcome for all our students, especially those who are most vulnerable.”

LULAC Lambda says it was founded in October 2014 “to mobilize and strengthen the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities of Washington, D.C. through community and civic engagement.” It is one of 1,000 chapters across the country affiliated with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the nation’s largest and oldest Latinx volunteer-based civil rights organization, the group’s statement says.

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