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Muriel Bowser for mayor

After so many successes, she has earned a third term



D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

(Editor’s note: This is the opinion of the author and not an official Washington Blade endorsement.)

Endorsing Muriel Bowser for a third term is an easy call. There is no logical reason I have heard from anyone that would lead the good people of the District of Columbia to not reelect a strong, smart, savvy, African-American woman who has led us effectively for the past seven years. She worked tirelessly, 24/7, to keep us safe during the pandemic. Bowser has stood strong for every resident in our city. Be they LGBTQ, Latino, African American, Asian, white or immigrant, they are heard and represented in the diverse administration she has led effectively. 

Some might remember when Mayor Bowser was first elected there were those who questioned her ability and readiness to lead and manage the government. Those questions were quickly put to rest when it became evident she was more than prepared to do so, and has done so with grace. 

Bowser is a respected national figure. She stood up to Donald Trump and has the respect of Joe Biden whom she now works with. She won the respect of many in Congress making more progress fighting for statehood than any mayor before her. For seven years she has balanced D.C.’s budgets, maintained our high bond ratings, and helped D.C. thrive in so many ways. 

Is everything perfect? Of course not. Are there areas for improvement? The answer in any government is yes. The District, like the rest of the country, is seeing increasingly higher rates of crime. Homicides are up as are car jackings, and people are afraid. But rational thinking tells us this is not a situation we can lay at the feet of the mayor, though that is sometimes the easy answer, especially for someone who is running against her. Like other mayors, Bowser is working hard to try everything possible to make our city safer for all of us. She is working with Police Chief Contee and forming coalitions with neighboring governments trying every possible way to keep residents safer. 

It is my hope the Council, rather than attack her, will support the mayor’s 2023 budget, which has earmarked $1.7 billion of the proposed $19.5 billion budget for public safety and justice. Many will remember instead of supporting her last budget, the Council, including her current challengers, thought the thing to do was vote to cut the police budget. Even then, the mayor understood cutting the budget wasn’t the way to go. Rather, she proposed adding every other tactic to increase public safety to a strong MPD was the right thing to do. Bowser has funded initiatives, including violence disrupters, gun violence prevention initiatives and Family Success Centers to help empower communities and families in this fight for our neighborhoods. She always understood we must have a strong MPD, never calling to defund it, rather calling for better training for its members. Her initiatives are now adding 200 new MPD officers and enhancing the MPD cadet program with 150 more cadets in 2022. In addition, the mayor has called for adding many more women officers to the MPD.

The mayor has always been clear about her goals: to guarantee every person in the District a decent home, a good education, a good job, all leading to a fair and equal shot at success, while living in a safe community. 

To that end, Bowser has made good on many of her commitments. She has built more affordable housing in the District, including both rental housing and giving residents more opportunity to buy their own home. The District now has funding for first time homebuyers and for renovations in existing homes. There are more than 50 different resources available to current and future homeowners. The success of the Bowser administration is clear. Overall homelessness is down 38%, family homelessness down 73% and veterans’ homelessness down 47%. These statistics mean something real to the people of the District. 

When it comes to education, Mayor Bowser has invested heavily. We know during the pandemic, while education was virtual, our children, particularly those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, suffered greatly. The mayor has now reopened our schools and added millions of dollars to the school budget to bring our children back to where they were prior to the pandemic and allow them to move forward. She has invested in early childhood education knowing the crucial time in a child’s life is from birth to 3 when synapses connect. The mayor added more than 1,240 infant and toddler child care seats in the District. There will be new pre-K classrooms and a child development center opening in the Old Randle school this year. For our older children there are now 50 technical education programs across DCPS and the budget includes millions more to re-imagine work-based learning. The 2023 budget proposes a new middle school in Shaw and new high school in Palisades to relieve overcrowding at Woodrow Wilson High School.

In addition to children suffering from the pandemic our business community took a huge hit, as did businesses across the nation. To help restaurants and their employees the mayor worked to allow more than 300 eateries to open across D.C. and they have changed the restaurant dynamic in the District, likely forever. Money for main streets and grants to invest in recurring outdoor activations such as markets, co-working spaces, festivals, cultural events and seasonal activities all helped to keep our city open and now moving forward. Added to that are new bike lanes and re-imagined pedestrian-friendly open streets, new bike share stations, and outdoor trails including the Metropolitan Branch Trail. D.C. continues to win awards as a healthy, greener, resilient city. 

Then there are the bigger projects either completed or underway. The beautiful new Frederick Douglas Bridge opened early. The advances at St. Elizabeth’s East include the new soccer stadium and the groundbreaking for the long planned and desperately needed new hospital, named the Cedar Hill Regional Medical Center. Mayor Bowser has overseen the groundbreaking of the long-promised innovations at Skyland Town Center in Ward 7 including a new grocery store, restaurants, and residences, and the completion of phase one of the Wharf in Ward 6, now a showplace and destination for both D.C. residents and tourists.  

This is just part of Bowser’s record of success and one any mayor should be proud of. But Mayor Bowser understands there is more to be done, which is why she is running for a third term. No announced competitor can realistically compare their promises to all the real accomplishments of Mayor Muriel Bowser. 

The District has come through the pandemic in a healthy state. But the past two years have highlighted some issues that need to be worked on and the mayor is ready to do that. One crucial area is technology and the District must upgrade its capabilities. There were issues that became clear, such as lagging unemployment checks and other grant checks. While people did get what they were promised and needed, we know it can be done better. We have seen other tech issues recently such as when the Health Department’s program to let people get information on their vaccination history didn’t initially work. There are other longstanding issues. The mayor is committed to undertaking a large and needed reengineering of the District’s technology. Bowser is committed to making the District a leader in this area and based on her successes in so many other areas residents can feel confident she will succeed. 

What is clear is we don’t need to change our mayor; we need to join with her and together keep moving our city forward. Muriel Bowser has proven what so many of us have always known — that women make great leaders. She has proven herself a visionary and a successful leader. Muriel Bowser has earned my vote for a third term. 

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Queer kids are not brainwashed

Trans children are real transgender people, not trend chasers



In some conversations with progressive friends, my peers, despite their proclaimed liberal attitudes, voice concern over the fact that children can experiment with gender and sexuality. They say things like “kids are too young to question their gender…that seems dangerous” or “a lot of children are just following gender trends and are not actually trans.” Other friends state that they don’t believe that transgender children should have access to hormone blockers. 

All of these statements are bogus and harmful. Many people who question gender fluidity in children don’t realize that they themselves have been brainwashed into thinking, from a young age, that being cisgender and straight is the norm. It should not be the norm. In fact, queerness is ever more common now among Gen Z’ers, and this is because the youth of today are feeling more and more comfortable opening up about their different sexuality and gender from an early age. 

Being able to safely come out as trans or gay in high school is an extremely healthy process and greatly improves the mental health of kids who would otherwise struggle. In red states, and conservative high school districts, this kind of coming out is still difficult, and might even be banned in the future, if Republicans continue with their cruel agenda. But there is hope in progressive cities like Portland and New York, where students feel free to question cishet and straight standards. 

Much research points to the fact that trans children are who they say they are: real transgender people, and not trend chasers. Kristina Olson, a psychologist at the University of Washington, started running a long-term study on trans youth in 2013. Olson eventually amassed a group of more than 85 trans kids. Olson kept in touch with both the children and their parents over the years. Her team ultimately found that an overwhelming, vast majority of the children stayed consistent with the gender nonconforming identity they chose in childhood. In other words, these trans children were correct about their gender identity from a young age. The notion that children pick up trans identities as a “fad,” or are wrong about them, is outdated. 

We already know that Republicans are dangerous to trans children, and have already prevented them from receiving health care or playing sports in many red states. But what we need to stop is dialogue from progressive voices that discourages gender fluidity in youth. These statements from otherwise liberal leaning people are contradictory to the very values that Democrats stand for. 

Isaac Amend (he/him/his) is a trans man and young professional in the D.C. area. He was featured on National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ in 2017 as a student at Yale University. Amend is also on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Find him on Instagram @isaacamend.

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A rare misstep for the amazing Nancy Pelosi

Taiwan trip a distraction amid good news for Democrats



House Speaker Nancy Pelosi leads a U.S. delegation in Taiwan. (Photo via Speaker Nancy Pelosi's official Twitter)

I have always supported House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and continue to do so. She is an amazing woman. She has championed women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, the rights of all minorities, and the rights of people with disabilities. She has worked hard to make our country a better and more equal place for all.

So seeing the repercussions of her trip to Taiwan playing out, with even the South Korean president avoiding a meeting with her, she must now realize the visit may have been ill timed. Speaker Pelosi is a smart woman and politician. I assume her insistence on the trip may have been a response to some promises she made to the Chinese community in her district and around the nation. She has always been a strong supporter of human rights and has criticized the Chinese government in the past. She recently tweeted, “28 years ago, we traveled to Tiananmen Square to honor the courage & sacrifice of the students, workers & ordinary citizens who stood for the dignity & human rights that all people deserve. To this day, we remain committed to sharing their story with the world. #Tiananmen30.” 

The question some are asking is did this trip do anything for the people of Taiwan or could it potentially hurt the people there and here if China decides to restrict trade and begin new sanctions?

As the Washington Post reported, “The visit lasted barely 19 hours. But Nancy Pelosi’s contentious trip to Taiwan was a defining moment in the increasingly bitter rivalry between China and the United States. A fuller picture of the Chinese response will emerge over the coming weeks and months, and there are already signs it will encompass greater economic as well as military coercion. Whatever the final shape of Beijing’s retaliation, Pelosi’s visit heralds a new phase in China’s efforts to control Taiwan’s fate — and those measures are likely to increase the risk of conflict with U.S. forces in the western Pacific.” The New York Times said,  “Ms. Pelosi’s visit was ill timed” and called it “provocative.”

I would never question the speaker’s commitment to the human rights of the Chinese people. But at this time, as the third in line to the presidency, there may have been some unintended ramifications from what she did and what the implications could be. I think the very unusual may have occurred, and the speaker may not have considered everything. The trip was likely spurred on by her knowledge this is likely to be her last year as speaker and this was the last time she could arrange for such a trip having the clout she does. I think Speaker Pelosi may be thinking about what she did and if it was worth adding this to the international problems the White House is now facing.

We are living in interesting and difficult times. With the help of Speaker Pelosi for the first time in a while the Biden administration and Democrats are having an incredible run of successes here at home. Passing the first gun control bill in decades, the infrastructure bill, the chips bill, and now the Senate has passed the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022” as a reconciliation package. The nation added 528,000 new jobs in July and unemployment is at the lowest it has been, matching pre-pandemic times, at 3.5%. Gas prices are steadily going down and inflation has likely peaked. Then there is the vote on the abortion amendment in Kansas, which the pro-choice side won by nearly 60/40 in a landslide definitely not predicted in that very red state. So, poking the Chinese at this time, generating negative headlines, doesn’t make much sense. I hope it will be only a blip in time.

This week we will see Pelosi do what she does best. She will move the House of Representatives to pass impactful legislation. She will keep her small Democratic majority together to pass the ‘Deficit Reduction Act of 2022’ and send it on to the president to sign. In 2018, she cut a deal to become Speaker for two more terms. That time is now coming to an end. If the Democrats manage to hold the House of Representative much of the credit must go to her. Should she then actually leave the speakership, the next speaker will have the unenviable task of trying to fill those four-inch stiletto heels. 

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Monkeypox is a gay thing — we must say it

Will there be stigma, judgments, and homophobia? Of course



The mainstream media and public health officials are being so damn careful not to label monkeypox “a gay disease” that they’re doing a disservice to the gay men who most need important information about the outbreak – while misleading everybody else.

In a July 28 New York Times story of the excruciating symptoms and lack of care available for those with monkeypox in that city, the sexuality of the men profiled isn’t referenced until 11 paragraphs into the story, and even then it refers to them as “men who have sex with men,” which is technically correct but dodgy. Moreover, the article, which supposedly addresses barriers to care, ignores the fact that gay men routinely experience apathy and even judgment from health providers.

Other media stories, and statements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have mentioned monkeypox cases in the context of “the LGBT community.” Really? Should lesbians be lining up for a monkeypox vaccine, whenever the heck they become widely available? This is happening to gay men. Say it.

Journalist Benjamin Ryan, in his excellent Washington Post opinion piece, draws a hard line between attempts not to unnecessarily stigmatize gay men and the importance of telling the truth about monkeypox, writing that “public health officials cannot be expected to police the public’s reactions to epidemiological facts.”

Ryan lays out those facts plainly:

Here is what we can discern from data collected about monkeypox so far: This viral outbreak isn’t just mostly occurring among men who have sex with men. The confirmed cases, at least to date, have consistently almost entirely occurred among this demographic, which accounts for 96 percent or more of diagnoses where data are available.

Per capita, the few monkeypox cases in women and children remain minuscule compared with the rate among gay and bisexual men. Of course, substantial transmission could always occur among such other groups. But researchers at the WHO and elsewhere have speculated that the monkeypox reproduction rate will likely remain significantly lower in such demographics — meaning the virus will more likely hit transmission dead ends among them than among gay and bisexual men.

An uncomfortable truth, one documented in peer-reviewed papers, is that sexual behaviors and networks specific to gay and bisexual men have long made them more likely to acquire various sexually transmitted infections compared with heterosexual people. This includes not only HIV, but also syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B and sexually transmitted hepatitis C.

Global public health experts agree that skin-to-skin contact in the context of sexual activity between men has been the principal driver of the monkeypox outbreak, at least thus far.

Such experts have also asserted that the risk of monkeypox to the broader population not having multiple sex partners remains low — even “very low.” This is hopeful news, and the wider public deserves to be reassured accordingly. Assuaging fears of contagion will help fight unhelpful hysteria and prevent gay and bisexual men from being subjected to even greater stigma should they be painted as culprits of the spread of virus to others.

Monkeypox didn’t begin with gay men, that much is true. As Yale infectious disease expert Gregg Gonsalves explained to the New York Times, “This is not a gay disease; it has been circulating in West and Central Africa for many years… What likely happened, in this case, is that somebody who had monkeypox had a lesion and showed up at a gay rave in Europe, and it spread to those in that social and sexual network.”

Whatever the origins, we’re now dealing with an outbreak almost entirely limited to gay men in the United States and Europe. And that is worth saying explicitly.

Why? Because identifying those at risk and getting information to them is a basic public health strategy for containing an outbreak. Gay men are getting monkeypox and suffering greatly. When gay men understand the threat, we are more likely to take precautions, get vaccinated, or be informed about treatment.

Will there be stigma and judgements and homophobia? Of course. And we’ll have to deal with that. But that doesn’t mean we bury crucial facts in vague, evasive messaging.

Monkeypox is a gay thing. That’s the truth.

Mark S. King is an award-winning blogger, author, speaker, and HIV/AIDS activist who has been involved in HIV causes since testing positive in 1985.

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