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Activists rally at Fairfax County School Board meeting

FCPS governing body unanimously passes LGBTQ History Month recognition



Students and community activists gather for a rally outside Luther Jackson Middle School on Thursday, Oct. 6. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A group of more than 200 activists gathered outside of Luther Jackson Middle School in Vienna on Thursday to object to the new “model policies” for transgender students proposed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration.

Many activists have voiced support for the policies enacted by the General Assembly and former Gov. Ralph Northam, which were intended to protect LGBTQ students in general, and trans and gender nonconforming students in particular. However, the Youngkin administration released revisions on Sept. 16 that differ substantially from the policies passed into law in 2020.

The activists oppose the revised “model policies” for including the mandate that students use school facilities for the sex they were assigned at birth and the restriction of students to be able to change their names and pronouns without parental permission. Further, the policies direct teachers and staff not to conceal a student’s gender identity from parents, even when a student asks to keep that information private.

Activists from the student-led Pride Liberation Project were joined by state Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church), educators, students, concerned community members and activists from the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, Pride in FCPS and the Democratic Socialists of America ahead of the Fairfax County School Board meeting before it took place inside the middle school.

McLean High School senior Casey Calabia, a Pride Liberation Project organizer, spoke to the crowd.

“When I came here this afternoon, I made the active choice to forget the probability and statistics test I have because how can these classes mean anything to me when my rights are at risk, when my safety in a classroom is at risk,” said Calabia. “Education is not for parents, education is not for teachers, it is not for your next political agenda, education is for students.”

“It is to bring up the next generation to be competent, to be kind, to be loving and to feel safe where they deserve to be safe,” added Calabia. “How can my county do anything but make the necessary move for our education to keep us better? To keep us safe?”

“When it’s hard, when we face resistance, there are tons of people and thousands more that come to places like this to stand up for trans kids, to stand up for queer kids,” Calabia said. “I am proud that I get to honor a long-standing tradition of queerness, of being nonbinary, of being transgender. It is something I’m privileged to do every single day of my life. So it is here at FCPS that I’m grateful to everyone continuing to help defend my right to thrive. Every single one of my fellow students, teachers, staff and community members equally deserves their right to thrive.”

Fairfax County students were joined at the rally by parents like Laura Stokes.

“I’m a very proud parent of a trans nonbinary fourth grader in FCPS,” Stokes told the assembled activists.

“Whenever Youngkin says he’s about ‘respecting parents’ choice,’ I don’t feel like I’m reflected in that statement. What about parents like me?” Stokes asked. “I don’t see myself in that proposal. I don’t see myself in that policy.”

David Walrod of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers admonished the Youngkin administration.

“What we have seen from Glenn Youngkin and the Virginia Department of Education is unconscionable, reprehensible,” Walrod said.

“We’ve seen governors use students as political pawns before.” Walrod charged. “We’ve seen governors like Gregg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida create the most dehumanizing laws against LGBTQ students that they could think of. The Virginia legislature saw past the political games and they saw human beings, they saw students, they saw children.”

“The Northam administration supported these efforts and created policies meant to protect students, promote inclusion and equity and give students a chance to thrive,” Walrod continued. “Gov. Youngkin and Supt. Ballow on the other hand have shown us they don’t believe members of the LGBTQ+ community are worthy of protection. They’ve shown us that they support demonizing students to score political points.”

“I ask the school board to say ‘no’ to Glenn Youngkin,” Walrod said. “I ask the school board to say ‘no’ to Jillian Ballow and I ask the Fairfax County School Board to say ‘yes’ to giving students the ability to be themselves.”

Following the rally, activists filed into the Luther Jackson Middle School auditorium for the Fairfax County School Board’s public meeting.

Board Chair Rachna Sizemore Heizer began the meeting with a statement prepared by the board and acknowledged the large crowd of LGBTQ student activists in attendance.

“The Fairfax County School Board understands that our LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and families are worried about the impact of Gov. Youngkin’s proposed model policies for transgender and gender-expansive students,” Heizer read into the public record. “Nearly one in five transgender and non-binary youth attempted suicide in the last year. LGBTQIA+ youth who found their school to be affirming reported lower rates of attempting suicide. It is necessary to ensure our school community is a place where all students can live without fear of prejudice, discrimination, harassment or violence.”

“Our policies and regulations will continue supporting our transgender and gender-expansive students, staff, and families. Fairfax County School Board Policy 1450 protects students, educators, and other staff from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Heizer continued.

Heizer then listed the protections outlined in FCPS Regulation 2603 and reiterated the board’s commitment to the Viriginia Human Rights Act, Title IX and the “settled law of Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board,” requiring respect for students’ gender identity.

“Protecting, supporting and affirming our transgender and gender-expansive students is critical to achieving a safe and respectful learning environment for all students, and providing them with equal access to educational programs, services, and activities. The work to do so in a holistically inclusive way continues, but we know that, from this commitment, we will not waiver,” concluded Heizer.

The board later unanimously passed a resolution introduced by member Karl Frisch (Providence District) recognizing October as LGBTQ History Month in Fairfax County Public Schools.



Freddie’s to hold ‘Love Fest’ Drag Story Hour after bomb threat

Arlington gay bar receives outpouring of support from community



From left, Tara Hoot and Freddie Lutz at Freddie's Beach Bar in Arlington, Va. (Photo courtesy of Lutz)

Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant, the Arlington, Va. LGBTQ establishment, has announced it is hosting a “Love Fest” celebration on Saturday, May 4 that will include a Drag Queen Story Hour brunch in response to a bomb threat that interrupted the first Drag Story Hour event it hosted four weeks earlier.

“Help us stop the hate,” a flier announcing the May 4 Love Fest event says. “Join us for our next story time brunch, dressed in your favorite Rainbow/Hippie outfit,” the flier says. “Carry your homemade signs of support.”

Freddie Lutz, Freddie’s Beach Bar owner, said a portion of the proceeds of the event will be donated to local LGBTQ charities.

Lutz has reported that separate email messages with a bomb threat were sent to the Freddie’s in the Crystal City section of Arlington, the Freddie’s Beach Bar in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and to him personally with a threat targeting his and his husband’s house located near the Freddie’s in Crystal City.

He said the first threat arrived about an hour before the April 6 Drag Story Hour was scheduled to begin, with drag queen Tara Hoot scheduled to read children’s stories to what Lutz said was a large turnout of kids with their parents and family members. After asking all patrons to exit the bar into its rear outdoor seating area and parking lot, Arlington police conducted a thorough search of the premises with a bomb sniffing dog and found no trace of a bomb.

All customers, including parents and their children, were invited back inside and the show took place as planned, with drag performer Hoot describing the event as a display of “fun and love and joy.”

Lutz has said the May 4 Love Fest event, which is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., is intended to show the community and those responsible for bomb threats at many of the past Drag Story Hour events, that these events enjoy strong community support.

“They’re trying to scare us and intimidate us, and I just don’t think as a community we can allow that to happen,” he told WUSA 9 TV News. “It emboldens me to just carry on,” he said.

He told the Washington Blade he and his staff are honored that they have received an outpouring of support from community organizations, other nearby businesses, and government officials.

The Arlington County Board, which is the governing body of the county, voted unanimously on April 9 to approve a statement supporting Freddie’s Beach Bar and the LGBTQ community in response to the bomb threat incident.

“Arlington County and the County board unequivocally support the LGBTQ+ community,” the statement says. “Arlington County Police Department’s swift response ensured the safety of patrons and staff, and the fortitude of Freddie and drag queen Tara Hoot allowed the show to go on,” the statement continues.

“With protests, threats, and violence targeting the LGBTQ+ community – and drag shows in particular – on the rise across the country, expressions of hatred and bigotry have absolutely no place in our community, and the Arlington County Board condemns these threats of violence and attempted intimidation of our community,” it says.

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Norfolk transgender resource center vandalized

Anti-trans graffiti spraypainted onto Southeastern Transgender Resource Center’s windows



Southeastern Transgender Resource Center (Image courtesy of the Southeastern Transgender Resource Center)

The Norfolk Police Department is investigating the vandalism of a transgender resource center’s building.

Tarena Williams, founder of the Southeastern Transgender Resource Center, told WAVY that someone spraypainted anti-trans graffiti on the windows of her organization’s offices on Sunday or Monday morning. Williams told the Hampton Roads television station that seeing the messages was like “walking into hell.”

“I opened up STRC, even the Lamina House,” she told WAVY. “I opened up that to get away from those types of words. This is a place you can come to get away from that, but to see that sprayed over the window. It’s kind of like you are walking into hell. … To be honest, I was like in shock.”

Authorities are investigating the vandalism.

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Bomb threat interrupts Drag Story Hour event at Arlington gay bar

Event resumed after police, bomb sniffing dog search of Freddie’s Beach Bar



From left, Tara Hoot and Freddie Lutz at Freddie's Beach Bar in Arlington, Va. (Photo courtesy of Freddie Lutz)

A Drag Story Hour event hosted by the Arlington, Va. gay bar and restaurant Freddie’s Beach Bar was interrupted by a bomb threat sent by email on Saturday, April 6, requiring parents and their children attending the event to exit the bar into its rear outdoor seating area and parking lot until police and a bomb sniffing dog searched the premises and found no trace of a bomb.

Freddie Lutz, owner of Freddie’s Beach Bar, located in the Crystal City section of South Arlington, said the threatening email from an unidentified sender came during the first time he has hosted a Drag Story Hour event, which includes a drag performer reading children’s stories to children accompanied by their parents.

“We had a lot of neighborhood families with kids and babies and one grandmother in there,” Lutz told the Washington Blade. “It was a great turnout, and we had to push them all out to the back parking lot,” he said. “And they waited, which I thanked them for, until the coast was clear. And then they came back in.”

Lutz said that two protesters opposed to the drag event showed up outside Freddie’s on Saturday, at the time of the Drag Story Hour event. He said drag performer Tara Hoot, who conducted the Drag Story Hour at Freddie’s, told him before the event started that some of her previous Drag Story Hour events have been targeted with bomb threats and protesters.

“So, we were kind of prepared or I guess you could say psychologically prepared for it,” Lutz said. “And sure enough, we got an email threatening the bar and also me personally at my residence, which was a little unsettling,” he said, adding that nothing was found at his nearby South Arlington house.

In response to an inquiry from  the Blade, Arlington police released a brief statement about the incident.

‘At approximately 11:15 a.m. on April 6, police were dispatched to the report of a bomb threat emailed to a business,” the statement says. “Responding officers made contact with the occupants, conducted a sweep of the business and found no evidence of criminal activity located at the restaurant during the sweep,” it says. “The investigation into the threat is ongoing.”

Hoot, who has been conducting Drag Story Hour events in the D.C. area for more than a year, said as many as eight of her past events have been targeted by hostile protesters or bomb threats, although no bombs have ever been found at the locations where the events have taken place.  

Hoot said like protesters targeting her previous events, the two protesters at the Freddie’s event, a man and a woman, cited their religious believes as their reason for opposing the Drag Story Hour event.

“They were spewing religious hate,” Hoot told the Blade. “They were trying to shame parents for bringing their kids.”

Hoot said she includes in the performances songs of interest to children and reads from children’s books such as the Very Hungry Caterpillar, a book that talks about bravery and other positive themes. “And then I give them bubbles and rainbow ribbons and we all color together,” she said. “It’s just fun and love and joy.”

Started in San Francisco in 2015 by an organization called Drag Story Hour, the story hour events have taken place across the country in libraires, bookstores, and venues such as restaurants and bars.

“In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where everyone can be their authentic selves,” the organization says on its website. 

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