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University of Maryland students march for LGBTQ rights on ‘Maryland Day’

Participants wore Pride flags, waved ‘say gay’ placards

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LGBTQ students march to McKeldin Mall at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., on April 30, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Tinashe Chingarande)

LGBTQ students at the University of Maryland marched across campus Saturday in response to legislation passed in many states that bars the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools. As this happened, families from across the state were gathered all over campus to celebrate the university’s annual community outreach event, “Maryland Day.” 

The “Let’s Say Gay Parade” began in the Adele H. Stamp Student Union, trekked through McKeldin Mall—where many Maryland Day attractions were situated—and ended in the student union. Students, parents and members of the campus community were in attendance. 

“For the people who aren’t at this event today, call [and email] your local representatives,” said Veena Aruldhas. 

Aruldhas, 23, is a senior studying information science at the university. They are also vice president of the school’s Pride Alliance and also work on the Pride month committee within Multicultural Involvement Community Advocacy, a campus inclusion group.

“Show up for the people who can’t speak for themselves because their rights have been infringed upon,” said Aruldhas. 

Legislation aimed at erasing discussions about gender and sexual identity in schools has been on the rise across the country. 

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill in late March that bans public school teachers from providing instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms. The bill also allows parents to sue schools that violate its prescriptions. 

Ohio lawmakers also proposed a similar bill in early April that, in addition, limits education about other “divisive concepts” such as the 1619 Project, critical race theory and “any other concept that the state board of education defines as divisive or inherently racist.”

While Maryland legislators this year haven’t launched attacks on classroom instruction like the other two states, recent efforts to provide health equity for transgender individuals through the Trans Health Equity Act were stalled in this year’s General Assembly 90-day legislative session.

Therefore, graduate student Joey Haavik, 26, believes the rise of homophobic legislation around the country escalates the need for Marylanders to review local legislation. 

“This didn’t get as much attention,” they said in reference to the Trans Health Equity Act. Haavik is studying international education and policy and works as an advisor to campus LGBTQ organizations. “So, even though people experience many differing levels of hatred, there’s many ways to advocate for our community.”

State Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City), who attended the event and also gave a keynote speech, spoke on the bill’s failure.

“Events like these empower us to mobilize against attacks on marginalized people in our communities,” she said. “We must be relentless in the fight for a fair and just world.”

House of Delegates candidate Ashanti Martinez also spoke about the bill at the event. 

Martinez is a Democrat campaigning for the District 22 seat, and if elected will be the first openly gay Afro-Latino man from Prince George’s County to represent the jurisdiction in the chamber. 

“The [bill] vanished … [and] we want to know why,” he said. “This erasure of LGBTQ folks is intentional.”

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Maryland

HRC endorses Angela Alsobrooks

Prince George’s County executive running against Larry Hogan for Cardin Senate seat

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Angela Alsobrooks supporters march in the Baltimore Pride Parade on June 15, 2024. The Human Rights Campaign has endorsed her in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Human Rights Campaign has endorsed Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

HRC President Kelley Robinson in a statement that Alsobrooks’s campaign released on Tuesday said Alsobrooks “has always been a champion for equality and freedom, from her support for the state law that legalized same-sex marriage in 2012, to becoming the first Maryland county executive to authorize flying the Progress Pride flag over county buildings, and much more.”

“With everything at stake and democracy itself hanging in the balance, Marylanders deserve that kind of champion,” said Robinson.

Alsobrooks said she is “very honored to earn the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign.”

“In the U.S. Senate, I will always stand up for the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans and make sure we have a future where our freedoms are always protected,” she said.

Alsobrooks in May defeated Congressman David Trone in the Democratic primary for Cardin’s seat. She will face off against former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in November.

“Angela is a trailblazer who is poised to defeat Trump-endorsed Republican Larry Hogan and become the first Black woman from Maryland to serve in the U.S. Senate,” said Robinson. “The Human Rights Campaign is excited and proud to put our full support behind Angela Alsobrooks and help rally Maryland’s voters to elect her in November.”

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Maryland

Bethesda church hosts transgender, nonbinary photo exhibit

Photographer Gwen Andersen showcases community members of all ages, backgrounds

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One of the photos that is part of photographer Gwen Andersen's "Becoming Ourselves" exhibit. (Photo courtesy of Gwen Andersen)

Amid the spate of anti-transgender legislation, the bullying of trans students and lack of gender-affirming care for young people across the country, photographer Gwen Andersen’s photo exhibit seeks to portray the trans and nonbinary community in a positive light.

Andersen’s “Becoming Ourselves” exhibit that documents trans and nonbinary people will be on display at the Bethesda United Church of Christ (10010 Fernwood Road) this summer.

Andersen spearheaded the exhibit along with the Rev. Dr. Jill McCrory from Bethesda UCC. The church paid for the project with a donation it received from Stevie Neal, a trans woman who passed away and left part of her estate to McCrory.

McCrory herself has been a pillar in the LGBTQ community for decades, including while pastor at Twinbrook Baptist Church.

The congregation that McCrory closed dispersed more than $1 million to various ministries and LGBTQ organizations, founded the MoCo Pride Center, and married a same-sex couple on the rainbow stage of Capital Pride in 2010.  Bethesda UCC has also marked the Transgender Day of Remembrance, and hosted a renaming ceremony for a trans baptized member. 

“I happen to have access to a wonderful transgender woman’s (Stevie) donation that she left me to do something for the transgender community,” said McCrory over a Zoom interview. “Andersen came to Rev. McCrory in November of 2023 with the idea. “Gwen knew Stevie. I thought this would be perfect because this is something that would benefit the transgender community.” 

“WIthout Stevie, this surely would not have happened. And I say that with great confidence,” Andersen said in a Zoom interview. 

Stevie Neal with her dog. (Photo courtesy of Gwen Andersen)

“Becoming Ourselves” debuted at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville in March. 

The exhibit features photos of trans and nonbinary people from across the country that Andersen and a number of other photographers took.

The photos feature people from all ages — from preteens to elders from all walks of life that include teachers, community leaders, and athletes. Andersen’s exhibit also showcases people who are proudly showing their top surgery scars. It also shows trans and nonbinary people in a variety of ways, from enjoying music, playing sports, and working.

The exhibit most importantly shows them being happy. 

Anderson’s exhibit has two main goals: Give a space for trans and nonbinary people to see others in their community in a positive way, and to shift the narrative on how people see trans and nonbinary people. 

“It was an emotional issue that won hearts and minds.” said Andersen in reference to the LGBTQ movement to legalize same-sex marriage. “I believe we will reduce the hostility against transgender people by winning hearts and minds.” 

“One of the most effective messages is to protect trans kids,” she added. “Right now the hostility has not just gone against adults, it has gone against children, and children are being harassed, beaten up, and killing themselves. In much the same way as gays and lesbians were killing ourselves 30 years ago. I think what will be effective is tugging on hearts and minds and reclaiming the narrative from hate and fear, to love.”

Andersen wants to eventually get a more permanent location for the exhibit rather than bringing it to different venues. But until then, she plans to bring it to other churches that are interested in hosting it.

Anyone interested in supporting Andersen’s exhibit can log onto the “Becoming Ourselves” website, or directly help any of the photographers whose work is showcased. Andersen has directed folks to support photographer Liam Woods, whose online name is Analogue Papi.

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Moore pardons more than 175,000-plus cannabis-related convictions

Governor signed executive order at State House on Monday

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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

BY BRENDA WINTRODE and PAMELA WOOD | Gov. Wes Moore pardoned more than 175,000 cannabis-related convictions Monday, nullifying guilty verdicts decided when carrying small amounts of the drug or paraphernalia was illegal.

The Democratic governor signed an executive order during a State House ceremony, granting clemency to thousands of people convicted in Maryland. The convictions to be pardoned include more than 150,000 misdemeanors for simple possession and more than 18,000 for possession of drug paraphernalia with an intent to use.

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

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