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Trans man killed by Fairfax Police responding to mental health crisis

Parents say fatal shooting inside McLean home was unnecessary

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(Screen capture of Fairfax County Police officer’s body worn camera image via You Tube)

A Fairfax County Police officer on July 7 shot and killed a transgender man who family members say was having a mental health crisis inside the family home where he lived after the man, identified as Jasper Aaron Lynch, 26, lunged at three officers while wielding a wine bottle as a weapon and refused the officers commands to drop the bottle, according to a statement released by Fairfax Police.

Lynch’s parents released their own statement saying the use of deadly force was unnecessary and that the officers should have handled the incident “far differently.”

The police shooting incident and the release by Fairfax Police of body camera footage of the incident was widely reported in the news media.

But the news that Lynch was a transgender man did not surface until Aug. 24, when the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, released a statement disclosing that Lynch was trans and expressed support for his parents’ contention that the shooting was uncalled for.

“Aaron’s death marks the third fatal shooting by the police of a transgender person recorded by HRC since 2020,” the HRC statement says. “Transgender people, especially transgender people of color, are at increased risk of experiencing police brutality, even in the wake of other encountered violence,” the statement says.

In a detailed statement posted on their website, Fairfax Police say police involvement leading to the fatal shooting began shortly after 7 p.m. on July 7 when officers responded to the McLean home where Lynch lived with his parents and sister after receiving a call from a friend. The police statement says the friend said he was concerned for Lynch’s safety because he was throwing objects inside the home and “pacing.”

A police team arrived at the home a short time later that included an officer assigned to the police Crisis Intervention Team and a clinician from the Sharon Bulova Center for Community Health, according to the statement. It says arriving officers were told Lynch left the residence before they arrived and couldn’t be found. The police team left the scene but shortly after police received a second call at about 8:34 p.m. from a friend of Lynch’s saying Lynch had returned to the house and he was again acting erratically. A second police team was then dispatched to the house, the statement says.

“This time, three crisis intervention trained officers arrived at the home and spoke to a family member on the scene,” the statement continues. “The officers found Lynch inside holding a bottle and an object, believed to be a large decorative wooden tribal mask,” the statement says, adding, “The officers attempted to de-escalate the situation with verbal commands inside the foyer of the home.”

The statement continues, “Lynch threw the mask at an officer and began to swing the bottle in striking motion. Two officers attempted to utilize their Electronic Control Weapons,” referring to police tasers, it says. “Lynch ran toward officers while swinging the bottle. One officer discharged his firearm, striking Lynch four times. Officers immediately rendered aid until fire and rescue personnel arrived. Lynch was pronounced deceased at the scene,” it says.

The police statement concludes by saying under department policy, the officers involved have “all been placed on restricted duty pending the outcome of an administrative investigation by our Internal Affairs Bureau. An independent review will also be conducted by the Police Auditor.”

Lynch’s parents, Patrick and Kathy Lynch, declare in their own statement released to the media but that did not disclose that their son was transgender, that Lynch was “experiencing a severe mental health crisis on July 7.”

Their statement adds, “He was scared and asked for both 911 calls that were made that day. We believe that the three police officers who answered the second 911 call could have, and should have, handled this far differently.”

The statement continues, “To respond to Aaron’s mental health crisis by shooting him at all, let alone multiple times, cannot be justified. We recognize that, at times, police officers face grave and unknown dangers in the line of duty, but that was not the case for that call at our home regarding our son.”

A spokesperson for the Fairfax Police couldn’t immediately be reached on Friday to determine the status of the Internal Affairs investigation into the fatal police shooting of Lynch.    

A link to the police body worn camera video and audio recording of the shooting and an explanation by police of what prompted the shooting can be accessed here:

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Virginia

NoVA Prism Center becomes hub for local LGBTQ community

Leon van der Goetz founded organization in 2022

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(Photo courtesy of Leon van der Goetz)

The NoVA Prism Center in Oakton has emerged as a hub for LGBTQ community engagement in Northern Virginia.

Leon van der Goetz, a transgender man, founded NoVA Prism Center in 2022 after he returned to the U.S. from Japan where he had been an English teacher. The organization has steadily grown since.

NoVA Prism Center this year had five Pride events, including one at the end of May.

Fairfax County helped NoVA Prism Center organize some smaller events. NoVA Prism Center has also put on workshops, hosted monthly club meetings and other events.

NoVA Prism Center has worked with around 20,000 people even though it only has an annual budget of $12,000 that comes through online and in-person donations.

“To the best of my knowledge and research, NoVA Prism Center is the only physical space in the D.C. suburbs (i.e., outside of D.C. city limits), particularly in Northern Virginia, that is by and for the LGBTQ community, open year-round, and does not involve being around alcohol or needing to spend money,” van der Goetz told the Washington Blade in an email. “There are plenty of bars, restaurants, support groups, and meetup groups that gather in other public community spaces, but we’re the only physical LGBT+ center within an approximately 90-minute drive.”

“Before I was about to move back (from Japan), I heard that Fairfax and Loudoun Counties were having protests at the school board meetings, regarding books about people like me,” he said, discussing how the idea behind NoVA Prism Center came about.

A Loudoun County School Board committee in January 2022 voted to uphold then-Supt. Scott A. Ziegler’s decision to remove two LGBTQ-themed books — “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy” — from school libraries amid parent protests. The school board later that year fired Zeigler amid criticism over his handling of student sexual assaults.

“And I decided at that moment, rather than go the route of being a public school teacher and potentially be a first-year teacher, early in transition, I decided to specifically start protecting these books, creating NoVA Prism Center as a library and community center around providing access to information about queer lives, stories, and history,” said van der Goetz.

More than a third of the community’s center’s library are LGBTQ-themed books that have been challenged or banned in schools. NOVA Prism Center also has a closet that allows community members who may not feel comfortable shopping at thrift or retail stores for clothes that correspond with their gender identity or expression.

“It started with our binder exchange program, where we started collecting chest binders for the trans masculine community,” said van der Goetz. “When I was early in my transition, I found that I needed more masculine clothing. And I had a whole bunch of feminine clothing to get rid of.”

NoVA Prism Center founder Leon van der Goetz (Photo courtesy of Leon van der Goetz)

NoVA Prism Center also publishes “The Lantern,” an online magazine. It includes art, poems and short stories from community members. “The Lantern”’s first issue is on NoVA Prism Center’s website, while its second is available for purchase. The e-zine’s third issue is currently in the works.

NOVA Prism Center is looking for a more permanent location, but the office building in which it is currently located remains a safe space for anyone who participates in their events. 

The organization hopes to raise money for a new space at their annual fundraising event in October, Coming Out Gay-la, an 18+ LGBTQ prom. Funds will support NOVA Prism Center itself, community programs and expansion of their events. 

NoVA Prism Center next month will begin to promote the prom on its social media pages. https://www.instagram.com/novaprismcenter/ or https://www.facebook.com/NoVAPrismCenter/

Van der Goetz described NoVA Prism Center as an “oasis in the storm” for LGBTQ people who continue to face harassment and efforts to curtail their rights. 

“I see people making connections, building friendships and support structures,” he said. “By being together and protecting each other I think that we’re going to be able to make it through.”

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Virginia

J.D. Vance lives in LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood in Alexandria

VP nominee’s home in Del Ray is near newly opened gay bar

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Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) speaks at the Republican National Convention on July 18 in Milwaukee. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a development that may come as a surprise to some, U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, who Donald Trump has chosen as his vice-presidential running mate and who has voted against LGBTQ rights legislation, has lived for a little over a year on a quiet street in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Va., that has a sizable number of LGBTQ residents.

Public property records show that Vance and his family live on a side street two blocks off a section of Mt. Vernon Avenue, which is Del Ray’s main commercial street, where the gay pop-up bar Pride On The Avenue opened in June.

Vance’s house in Del Ray, which the Washington Post reports was purchased for $1.6 million, is also located in the district of gay Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), which includes all of Alexandria and parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties.

“Being a resident of a district as diverse as mine gives J.D. Vance an opportunity to experience what truly makes America great,” Ebbin told the Washington Blade. “With a bilingual elementary school and LGBTQ gathering space nearby, I’d encourage Mr. Vance to visit with some of my constituents so he can hear from them on how they will be negatively impacted by anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT policies put forward in the GOP Party Platform and Project 2025,” Ebbin said in an email.

Ebbin was referring to the 900-page far-right policy document prepared by the conservative Heritage Foundation as a plan of action for a new Trump administration if Trump wins the presidential election in November. The Project 2025 document, among other things, opposes LGBTQ rights initiatives and calls for repealing existing LGBTQ rights legislation.

Bill Blackburn, a co-owner of Pride On The Avenue, recalls that people referred to then as members of the gay community moved to Del Ray in the early 1990s and possibly earlier in large numbers and played a lead role in buying old, often rundown houses and renovating them.

“It’s interesting that Del Ray was kind of gentrified by a lot of the gay community in the ‘90s,” Blackburn said. “And there’s still a lot of residents in Del Ray from that early period who kind of reinvigorated Del Ray,” he said. “So, it’s interesting how this neighborhood evolved and how it’s become such a sought-after neighborhood that we even get right-wing Republicans who see the value of living here.”

According to Blackburn, Vance “lives like a hundred yards away” from Pride On The Avenue.

People familiar with Del Ray point out that during Pride month in June many of the stores and shops along Mt. Vernon Avenue display Pride flags. Blackburn said Pride On The Avenue, which is currently the only gay bar in Alexandria, “has been very well received” by nearby residents and visitors to the neighborhood.

Voting records from past elections show Del Ray, even more than Alexandria as a whole, has elected Democrats over Republicans and has supported Democrats in statewide elections. In the 2020 presidential election, President Joe Biden won against Donald Trump in Del Ray by a greater than 80 percent margin, according to the Washington Post.

Washingtonian magazine has reported that after news surfaced last year that Vance and his family had moved into their house in Del Ray, a local artist staged a one-person protest by placing rainbow colored striped cloth and Pride flags in the area, including on a tree across the street from Vance’s house.

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Historic marker to honor Lilli Vincenz in Arlington

Pioneering activist co-founded Blade in 1969

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Lilli Vincenz (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia Board of Historic Resources has approved a historic marker that will honor Washington Blade co-founder Lilli Vincenz.

The Arlington County Historic Preservation Program sponsored the marker that will be located at 817-829 S. Carlin Springs Road.

Vincenz, along with Frank Kameny and others, in the 1960s participated in gay rights protests that took place in front of the White House and Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Vincenz in 1969 co-founded the Blade.

A Virginia Department of Historic Resources press release says Vincenz hosted the Gay Women’s Open House in her home in Arlington’s Columbia Heights West neighborhood from 1971-1979. It also notes Vincenz’s “documentaries recording significant gay rights marches brought visibility to the movement.”

Vincenz died on June 27, 2023, at the age of 85.

“Dr. Lilli Vincenz was a pioneering leader whose work as a journalist, filmmaker, and psychotherapist empowered the national gay civil rights movement,” reads the Virginia Department of Historic Resources press release.

The marker will be the first one in the state that specifically highlights LGBTQ history. The Virginia Board of Historic Resources approved it and four other markers during their June 20 meeting.

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