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Youngkin hosts Pride Month reception

Equality Virginia dismissed ‘performative’ event



Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Wednesday hosted a Pride Month reception that took place in the Capitol Rotunda in Richmond.

The governor’s office invited more than 100 people to the reception, but Virginia Pride and other LGBTQ rights groups boycotted it. The reception, which Youngkin’s public schedule noted, was closed to the press.

“Equality Virginia is disappointed in Gov. Youngkin’s performative attempt to celebrate Virginia’s diverse LGBTQ+ community by hosting a Pride event,” said Equality Virginia Advocates Executive Director Narissa Rahaman in a statement. “His cherry-picking of invitees sends a message that he is unwilling to listen to the LGBTQ+ organizations and community members who have worked tirelessly for decades to make our commonwealth inclusive and welcoming for all.”

Youngkin took office in January after he defeated former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the general election. Republicans last November also regained control of the Virginia House of Delegates, but Democrats maintained their 21-19 majority in the Virginia Senate.

Youngkin during his campaign against McAuliffe expressed support for Tanner Cross, a gym teacher at a Leesburg elementary school who was suspended from his job after he spoke out against Virginia Department of Education guidelines that are designed to protect transgender and non-binary students. Youngkin also said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, is the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction. Youngkin, who is the former CEO of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, in April signed into law a bill that requires school boards to notify parents about “sexually explicit materials” in the classroom.

Youngkin has expressed his opposition to marriage equality, but said during the campaign that it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and would “support that” as governor. The Human Rights Campaign in 2019 named the Carlyle Group as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index.

“The governor is committed to leading on behalf of all Virginians,” said Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter on Thursday in a statement to the Washington Blade. “We are one Virginia and events like this help strengthen our communities and the spirit of Virginia.”



Anti-LGBTQ activists protest Fairfax City Pride event

Stacy Langton organized demonstration



Anti-LGBTQ protestors gather outside Old Town Hall in Fairfax City, Va., on June 3, 2023, to protest the city’s Pride celebration. (Photo from Public Advocate of the United States /Instagram)

The Fairfax City Council declared June as LGBTQ Pride Month, with a celebration planned at Old Town Hall on Saturday to include a drag queen performance. Outside of the event in front of the building roughly two dozen people gathered in protest of the city’s Pride event.

According to the local conservative right publication the Washington Examiner, the protest was coordinated by Stacy Langton, a Fairfax County resident who gained notoriety for leading a group of parents protesting two controversial LGBTQ-themed books available in high school libraries in September 2021 that Langton falsely claimed promoted pedophilia. 

The Fairfax County School Board, and officials with Fairfax County Public Schools announced they had removed the books from the school libraries to reassess their suitability for high school students.

At the time the Washington Blade reported: “I’m not one of those activist moms or disgruntled moms,” Langton stated in an interview with Fox News. “This is not about being anti-gay, anti-trans or whatever. I would have been there and said every single word I said if this had been the depiction of a heterosexual couple with heterosexual acts — pornography is pornography and I don’t care what the gender is.”

Langton also appeared in several ads for now Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin during his 2021 gubernatorial election.

Also appearing at the protest were members of the Southern Poverty Law Center-listed hate group, Public Advocate of the United States, and its leader, Eugene Delgaudio.

The Examiner reported that Fairfax Mayor Catherine Read, who was attending the event, told the tabloid that the city is paying for the event. Other sponsors of the event include George Mason University and Fairfax Ace Hardware.

The announcement from the city published online stated:


Saturday, June 3rd
5PM – 10PM
Old Town Hall
3999 University Drive, Fairfax

The city of Fairfax and Mason are thrilled to host its inaugural “Fairfax Pride” event on June 3rd, 2023!

While Pride is celebrated 365 days of the year, it’s most recognized during the month of June. Pride Month evolved out of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and has since become a time to reflect and celebrate both the progress and the people of the LGBTQIA+ community.

This collaborative event will kick off In Old Town Hall with informational vendors from both Mason campus and the NOVA area, as well as children’s activities, such as face-painting, Fairy Hair, crafts and more! Later in the evening, a warm welcome will be given by representatives from both the city of Fairfax and Mason, to commemorate this exciting new event. The event will conclude with a dance party featuring several drag queen performances throughout the evening.

All are invited and welcome to attend! 

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Danica Roem condemns Zooey Zephyr censure

Transgender Mont. lawmaker filed lawsuit on Monday



Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) speaks at the LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in D.C. on April 23, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) on Monday condemned the censure of Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr after she criticized her fellow lawmakers over their support of an anti-transgender bill.

“Censuring Rep. Zephyr is by all evidence an arbitrary and capricious abuse of power by a Republican supermajority whose ‘Freedom Caucus’ members on April 18 — without condemnation or censure for breaking decorum — also insisted on disrespecting her by ‘deliberately’ (as noted by the AP on April 19) misgendering her because they refuse to acknowledge the identities of their trans constituents, let alone their colleague,” Roem told the Washington Blade in a statement.

Roem in 2018 became the first openly transgender person seated in a state legislature in the U.S. Roem the following year became the first out trans state legislator to win re-election in the country.

Montana Republicans last week banned Zephyr, a trans woman who represents House District in the Montana House of Representatives, from the chamber floor after she criticized them over their support of a bill that bans gender-affirming health care for children.

Republican Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte on April 28 signed the measure, even though his nonbinary child had urged him to veto it. Zephyr on Monday filed a lawsuit that challenges her censure.

“Given the precedent established and repeatedly re-established, there is no justification for depriving the people of District 100 their equal representation in the state House,” Roem told the Blade. “Their representative’s full rights and privileges of the floor should be reinstated immediately.”

Manassas Democrat running for state Senate

Roem last May announced she is running to represent Senate District 30, which includes western Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

Robert Ruffolo, one of the Republicans who hopes to challenge Roem, has made a series of anti-trans comments on his Twitter account. These include asking a Twitter user who said “trans women are natural women” and “trans women are biological women” whether they are saying “God made a mistake by creating you as a male?”

Robert Ruffolo is one of the Republicans who hope to run against Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) in the Senate District 30 race. He made this anti-transgender comment on social media last August. (Screen capture of Ruffolo’s Twitter page)

“We know what we’re up against in this race,” Roem told the Blade on April 23 during an interview before the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund’s National Champagne Brunch that took place at the JW Marriott Hotel in D.C. “We know it is absolutely going to get personal, as well as its going to get on policy. We know that there’s going to be a lot at stake.”

Democrats currently have a 22-18 majority in the Virginia Senate, and they blocked the 12 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced during the 2023 legislative session.

“That is the only thing keeping Virginia from being in the same league as West Virginia, as Kentucky, as you’re about to see in North Carolina now that they got their supermajority, as you’re seeing in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma,” said Roem. “It gets worse, right? Arkansas, another one. Missouri, geez their attorney general is now trying to block trans care for adults.”

“The only thing that’s keeping us from that is that four seat majority,” she added.

Lieutenant Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, who presides over the state Senate, and Gov. Glenn Youngkin are both Republicans. Roem told the Blade the governor this cycle is going to try and flip the “state legislature of a Democratic-voting state.” 

The Senate Health Subcommittee earlier this year killed state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Colonial Heights)’s bill that would have banned transition-related health care for trans youth. 

Roem in 2020 introduced a bill that bans Virginia health care providers from discriminating against their patients based on their gender identity. Then-Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, signed the measure into law. Roem noted to the Blade that Chase’s measure would have repealed the statute.

“I’m not saying that we were in imminent danger of that bill,” said Roem, referring to Chase’s bill. “If they (Republicans) have majorities in both chambers and they have this governor, that bill passes. That bill might be introduced by a different member, but that bill passes.”

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D.C. schools work to boost LGBTQ support, while Va. students face new challenges

Youngkin policy proposals spark fear among trans, nonbinary youth



Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration seeks to roll back transgender students’ rights. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

After Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration proposed changes to transgender students’ rights in September 2022, 72,000 public comments flooded in. But with no indication of when policies that restrict bathroom use and pronoun preference could be implemented, some students in Virginia public schools are afraid of losing their safe spaces at school.

“Many students have reported increased anxiety and fears related to the model policies’ ramifications,” said Abram Clear, the school programs coordinator for Side by Side, an organization working with schools across Virginia to support LGBTQ youth. “In particular, trans and nonbinary students who have found safe, affirming spaces at school have expressed concerns about being forcibly outed to their guardians.”

While some guardians openly support their student’s sexuality, other discussions about gender identity can be dismissed or misunderstood at home. If the new policies on transgender students are passed and educators are required to out students to their guardians, LGBTQ students can run a higher risk of negative mental health, as well as possible physical danger at home.

Transgender and nonbinary students also worry that these policies embolden educators who are already dismissive of their identities. Supportive educators express similar concerns as they worry they will be contractually obligated to out students or enforce measures that harm their students. 

“Morally, they feel it’s imperative to continue affirming their trans and nonbinary students by using their requested names and pronouns, regardless of documentation,” said Clear. “But this would be at odds with the 2022 [Virginia Department of Education] protocols.”

Virginia’s proposed policies would require more than one million students to only use bathrooms and locker rooms associated with the sex assigned to them at birth. Students would also only be allowed to participate in sports or extracurricular activities in accordance with the same rule. 

The legal name and sex of a student would also have to align with their sex at birth unless official legal documents or court orders are provided, regardless of whether a parent gives permission. This would require teachers and other school officials to only refer to a student by the pronouns associated with their sex at birth.

In one month alone, nearly one-third of LGBTQ students missed at least one day of school because they felt unsafe, according to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network’s 2021 report. Just over 75% of LGBTQ youth also experienced in-person verbal harassment at school in the past year due to their sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity.

But as students in Virginia try to unpack the potential ramifications of changes to the 2022 Virginia Department of Education’s Model Policies, D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) continues to push for visible allyship in middle and high schools.

Each year, DCPS distributes a survey to middle and high school students to ask about gender identity and sexuality. Asking students to best describe their identity, DCPS uses the survey to learn about student perceptions of themselves to improve school climate and social-emotional learning.

DCPS policies on transgender and non-confirming students also advise school-based staff to be aware of student identification preferences and always use their preferred reference when speaking to or about the student. 

Staff in DCPS can even become trained LGBTQ Liaisons, wherein they offer visible allyship and resources to students and families. Also tasked with developing and running a Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) in their school, liaisons work to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues in their school community.

A strong GSA presence in schools offers a consistent space for LGBTQ students to discuss their experiences with peers and trusted advisers. The Duke Ellington School of the Arts, for instance, gathers weekly during lunch or advisory periods to discuss current issues and plan community-building initiatives.

With more than 60% of queer youth living in non-affirming homes, the presence of GSAs has shown to increase the academic performance of LGBTQ-identified youth, decrease bullying, and create a more inclusive school culture. 

“Holding a consistent, brave space for LGBTQ+ students to gather can be transformative for a school’s environment,” Clear said. “GSA meetings may be one of the only safe spaces LGBTQ+ students have to fully express themselves and build community, which is especially crucial if they lack familial support.”

Side by Side is concentrating efforts in the greater Richmond, Va., area to connect more than 25 GSAs at middle and high schools. But GSAs aren’t run in every middle and high school in the state, so the challenge to offer affirming in-school club spaces remains a priority as the state faces potential changes to students’ rights. 

“In particularly homophobic and transphobic school environments, LGBTQ+ students may not have any trusted adults to advise and sponsor the club,” Clear added. “Unfortunately, this creates a barrier in schools where student access to a GSA may be most crucial.”

GSAs in public schools are protected under the Federal Equal Access Act. However, for transgender and non-binary youth, assurance that school is a safe and affirming place for them may change.

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