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District of Columbia

Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend returns to D.C. Jan. 13-17

Organizers decide against cancellation despite surge in COVID cases

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A scene from MAL Weekend in 2020. The 2021 event was cancelled but this year’s event is planned for next week. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C.-based Centaur Motorcycle Club announced on Jan. 2 that its members had voted to hold its annual Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend events in Washington, D.C. as planned Jan. 13-17.

The announcement came at a time when other large events in D.C. and across the country are being canceled due to a surge in the number of people testing positive for the COVID-19 Omicron strain.

An earlier announcement posted on the event’s website describes the Mid-Atlantic Leather, or MAL Weekend, as an event “that attracts thousands of leather men, kinksters, fetish-lovers and curious spectators from all over the world.”

That announcement says this year’s MAL for the first time is being organized in a partnership between the Centaur Motorcycle Club, which started the annual MAL events, and the leaders of four prominent D.C. event production companies affiliated with some of the city’s largest nightclubs.

It also says proof of COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test within the previous five days will be required for entry to all events.

“We acknowledge that it is each individual’s personal choice to attend the Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend 2022,” the motorcycle club says in its Jan. 2 announcement. “More details are to come and will include any additional rules, restrictions, or other changes to help make the weekend as safe and fun as possible.”

The MAL website also says that the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill, which serves as the event’s headquarters hotel, and the nearby Phoenix Park Hotel have agreed to refund any room deposits for MAL weekend guests who decide to cancel their reservations.

Among the event company leaders who are producing five of this year’s MAL events are Dougie Meyer of Dougie Meyer Presents, Jimmy Martin of JMar Productions, Jesus Quispe of La Fantasy, and Zach Nalbone of Takeover Presents, who collectively have created a team called KINETIC to jointly produce the events for Centaur Motorcycle Club.

“Whether you’re a jock, bear, wolf, otter, or any other member of our community, all are welcome to unleash their urges on the largest dance floors MAL has ever seen,” the announcement quotes Meyer as saying.

“We have secured the city’s best and most colossal venues for KINETIC: MAL Weekend,” Quispe says in the announcement. “There will be lots of dancing, cruising, and sliding into one another,” the announcement quotes Quispe as saying.

One of the weekend’s largest dance events called “KINK,” scheduled for Saturday night, Jan. 15 at D.C.’s Echostage nightclub, “will feature live fetish acts, epic performances, and more chains and whips than can be imagined,” a statement released by MAL organizers says.

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District of Columbia

Trans woman announces candidacy for ANC race in Columbia Heights

D.C. government official to challenge gay incumbent

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Vida Rangel (Photo by Praddy Banerjee/@praddyban)

Vida Rangel, a transgender woman who currently serves as Director of Operations in the D.C. Mayor’s Office of Talent and Appointments, has announced her candidacy for an Advisory Neighborhood Commission seat in the city’s Columbia Heights neighborhood

In a statement released on July 11, Rangel said she is running for the ANC single member district seat of 1A10, which is currently held by first-term incumbent Billy Easley, who identifies as a gay man.

“I’m running a groundbreaking campaign as the first trans person of color who would be elected in the District of Columbia,” Rangel said in the statement. “Representation matters.”

Rangel’s statement says in her current city government job she is the ‘highest-ranking openly transgender official in D.C. government history.” If elected to the ANC, she said she would focus, among other things, on language access for Spanish speaking residents, affordable housing, and reliable and accessible public transportation.

“As an autistic, queer, nonbinary, transgender Latina woman, Rangel’s commitment to public service and community is shaped by her lived experience,” her campaign statement says. “Growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast, Vida was raised by working parents and grandparents, along with her six siblings. She saw firsthand how social services and support could counterbalance devastating situations like a medical emergency, an unexpected bill, or even a misfiled form,” the statement says.

“My experiences ignited a fire, propelling me to fight for the rights of all communities, whether it be nondiscrimination protections, housing justice, access to education, worker’s rights, or voting rights,” she says in the statement.

Rengel could not immediately be reached for comment on whether she disagrees with any of the positions or actions taken by incumbent commissioner Easley.

Billy Easley (Photo courtesy of Easley)

In his successful campaign for the ANC 1A10 seat in the city’s 2022 election Easley stated in an online statement  “Together, we can make our streets safer and our community stronger. This neighborhood is where my husband and I met, it is where we fell in love, and it’s where we’ve lived for the last ten years.”

Easley told the Washington Blade in a July 19 phone interview that he has been endorsed in his re-election campaign by Ward 1 D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau, which Easley said was a recognition of his accomplishments during his first term in office.

“In the last election I knocked on every door, and I’m going to do that again because it’s really important to me to connect with the voters and make sure that they’re being represented and to be an advocate for them,” he said. “Vida is a great person,” he added. “I have nothing bad to say about her,” he said.

“But I have a record of accomplishment and I’m going to be running on that,” he told the Blade. “And I’m going to be running on making sure that our residents’ voices are heard. So, I’m ready to go.”

He said his accomplishments in his first term in office include contacting each of the residents in his district who the city’s water department said may have lead pipes and  informing them how to get the pipes replaced through a free D.C. program; his appointment by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to her Juvenile Justice Advisory Group; organizing a Public Safety Summit with D.C. police and other city officials to address the issue of crime; and “successfully advocating” for more city funding for increased trash pick-up services in the neighborhood.

Easley points out that besides him, at least three other members of the 10-member ANC 1A10 identify as gay men.

Vincent Slatt, who serves as chair of the D.C. ANC Rainbow Caucus, said he believes between three and four-dozen ANC commissioners citywide are members of the LGBTQ community. 

“This is probably not the first time that two LGBTQ people have run against each other for an ANC seat,” Slatt told the Blade in a statement. “However, to have two out LGBTQ candidates of color in one race certainly seems like a milestone,” he said. “Recently, we have had two out trans ANCs. To have a third out trans candidate is a sign of how much further along our city is than other places in the country,” Slatt said. “Not fully enough, but on the path forward.”

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District of Columbia

New D.C. walking tour highlights LGBTQ history

Zach Patalingjug launched company in June in time for Pride Month

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Zach Patalingjug leads his Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour on July 13, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Sean Koperek)

Want to learn more about the city’s LGBTQ history while seeing some of the sights? Beyond the Landmarks’ Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour could be just the choice.

Zach Patalingjug launched the company in June, and offers walks that highlights some of Washington’s LGBTQ history.

The LGBTQ-specific tour starts with him emailing each person on the route with a meet-up location and some advice for the tour itself. His business last month saw a lot of tourists participate in his tour — in part because of Pride Month, and Patalinjug is hoping to keep the momentum. 

Patalingjug, who is from California, has traveled to more than half of the country’s states and has traveled abroad numerous times to sightsee and absorb cultures. He told the Washington Blade he became inspired to create his company after reading James Kirchick’s “Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington.”

Patalingjug spent a year researching his tour. He utilized the D.C. Central Library, where its fourth floor is dedicated entirely to the city’s history.

“I wanted to create a company that really explores the hidden gems, the lesser known history of Washington, D.C., to get the experiences that are truly authentic, and to tell stories that you don’t hear on most sightseeing tours,” he told the Washington Blade. 

The tours are between two to three hours long, depending on the group’s speed.

They officially start at 9:30 a.m., but Patalingjug recommends participants arrive 10 minutes earlier.

Each group meets in Farragut Square, directly outside of the Farragut West Metro station. The tour begins there and proceeds to Lafayette Square, where Patalingjug discusses the White House, the Hay-Adams Hotel, the former Lambda Rising bookstore, the Human Rights Campaign, the now-closed Chicken Hut near the White House, and myriad other locations. 

The tour ends in Dupont Circle.

Human Rights Campaign headquarters (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Patalingjug’s tour is more than a walk — each one is themed with topics that include “service, persecution, and liberation.

“Countless folks within the LGBTQ community have served and continue to serve the federal government,” he told the Blade.

He noted many of the people the tour highlights worked for the federal government before they lost their careers because they were outed or caught with a same-sex partner during the so-called “Lavender Scare.”

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry shortly before he stepped down in 2017 formally apologized to State Department personnel who were fired under the directive that then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued in 1953. President Joe Biden last year issued a formal proclamation on the policy’s 70th anniversary.

“For so many members of the LGBTQI+ community, hate, discrimination, and isolation throughout our country’s history have denied them the full promise of America,” Biden said. “The ‘Lavender Scare’ epitomized — and institutionalized — this injustice.”

Patalingjug’s tour highlights Frank Kameny, founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, the city’s first politically active LGBTQ rights group that organized one of the country’s first gay rights protest that took place in front of the White House in 1965.

The protest highlighted the federal government’s discrimination against gays and lesbians. Kameny in 1957 lost his job as an astronomer in the Army Map Service because he was gay.

Frank Kameny Way in Dupont Circle is part of Zach Patalingjug’s Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour (Washington Blade photo by Sean Koperek)

The tour also highlights Margaret “Midge” Costanza, an advisor to former President Jimmy Carter who invited members of the National Gay Task Force, which is now known as the National LGBTQ Task Force, to the White House in 1977.

“I’m just incredibly excited to be able to tell the authentic stories of people who lived through this period of history,” said Patalingjug.

Log onto Beyond the Landmarks’ website for more information.

Michael K. Lavers and Lou Chibbaro, Jr., contributed to this story.

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District of Columbia

Ruby Corado pleads guilty to wire fraud in plea agreement

Reduced charge says she stole at least $150,000 in COVID-relief funds

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Ruby Corado in El Salvador (Photo via Facebook)

Ruby Corado, the founder and executive director of the now-defunct LGBTQ community services organization Casa Ruby, pleaded guilty Wednesday, July 17, to a single charge of wire fraud as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors with the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The charge to which she pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for D.C. says she diverted at least $150,000 “in taxpayer-backed emergency COVID relief funds to private off-shore bank accounts for her personal use,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Court records show that U.S. District Court Judge Trevor N. McFadden, who is presiding over the case, has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 10, 2025.

Corado’s guilty plea came a little over six weeks after prosecutors on May 31 filed a one-count criminal information charge of wire fraud against her that replaced an earlier criminal complaint charging her with bank fraud, money laundering, monetary transactions in criminally derived proceeds, and failure to file a required report of a foreign bank account.

The earlier complaint was filed at the time the FBI arrested Corado on March 5 of this year at a hotel in Laurel, Md., shortly after she returned to the U.S. from El Salvador. The initial complaint, like the new criminal information that replaced it, accused Corado of diverting at least $150,000 of federal pandemic relief funds to her own bank accounts in El Salvador. The charges say the funds were intended for use by Casa Ruby to support indigent LGBTQ clients in need of housing and other support services.

At the request of Corado’s court-appointed attorney and against the wishes of federal prosecutors, who said Corado would be a flight risk, another judge agreed to release Corado into the custody of her niece in Rockville, Md., under a home detention order. The release order came seven days after Corado had been held in jail since the time of her arrest on March 5.

In addition to a prison sentence, the charge of wire fraud also includes a possible penalty of financial forfeiture for which Corado could be required to pay restitution to the government. The plea agreement filed in court includes this statement to Corado’s attorney: “Specifically, your client agrees to the entry of a forfeiture money judgment in an amount ordered by the Court, which is equal to the value of any property which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offense in Count One of the Information in which your client is pleading guilty.”

However, legal observers have said that under a plea agreement like the one offered to Corado, prosecutors most likely will ask the judge for a lesser sentence. Corado’s attorney is also expected to point out that this is a nonviolent, first-time offense for Corado, which merits a lesser sentence.

Corado has denied wrongdoing in her operation of Casa Ruby in response to a separate civil complaint filed against her and Casa Ruby by the Office of the D.C. Attorney General. That complaint is still pending in D.C. Superior Court.

In its July 17 statement the U.S. Attorney’s office refers to court documents showing that Corado, “on behalf of Casa Ruby, received more than $1.3 million from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.” The statement adds, “Instead of using the funds as she promised, Corado stole at least $150,000 by transferring the money to bank accounts in El Salvador, which she hid from the IRS.”

The statement says that in 2022, “when financial irregularities at Casa Ruby became public, Corado sold her home in Prince George’s County and fled to El Salvador.” It says FBI agents arrested her at the hotel in Laurel, Md. on March 5 “after she unexpectedly returned to the United States.”

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