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Valentine’s Day gifts for the queers you love

From pasta and chocolate to an Aspen getaway

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Share the love on Feb. 14 with our thoughtful Valentine’s gift picks for everyone you like and lust.

Centrolina V-Day Pasta Kit

Washington, D.C.-based Centrolina’s seasonally inspired restaurant menu gets the delivered-to-your-door treatment with Chef Amy Brandwein’s holiday gift baskets featuring four handmade pastas and from-scratch sauces, including heart-shaped beet ravioli with ricotta and lemon butter, a mushroom and black truffle ragu, sunchoke tagliolini and oyster cacio pepe, and chestnut pappardelle, among other elevated-Italian recipes that you and your lil’ meatball can whip up on date night. $175, CentrolinaDC.com

La Maison du Chocolat

Heart-shaped candy clichés are much more palatable when the contents within are made in Paris instead of Hershey, Pa., and your intended will be sufficiently satisfied with La Maison du Chocolat’s selection of premium confections – including melt-in-your-mouth ganaches, pralinés and bouchées, oh my – available in festive and indulgent 14- and 44-piece boxes. $60-$140, LaMaisonDuChocolat.com

‘Spread the Love’ Plantable Pencils

SproutWorld’s set-of-eight Love Edition pencils set themselves up for seed-spreading jokes given Cupid’s context, but the real sentiment is sweeter: Plant the lead-free, graphite writing utensils (engraved with romantic quotes on certified wood) in potted soil and enjoy striking flowers and fragrant herbs in one to four weeks. $15, Amazon.com

W Aspen Getaway

Missed Aspen Gay Ski Week? No sweat. You’ll fight fewer crowds as the season winds down – without compromising your commitment to luxury – during a late-winter getaway to the heart of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains at the W Aspen. Book unforgettable outdoor adventures, like heliskiing and dog sledding, with the property’s always-available concierge; spend après hour on the rooftop WET deck before diving into delicious dishes at onsite restaurant 39 Degrees; see and be seen at Ponyboy, the property’s cocktail-focused modern speakeasy rooted in New York City nightlife; and pour yourself a nightcap from your in-room mini bar before relaxing in the suite’s deep soaking tub – because, ya know, all in a day’s work. Marriot.com

Nexgrill Ora Pizza Oven

Not a fan of fancy dining out? Slip into those grey sweats he won’t let you wear in public, top off the Veuve, and fire up Nexgrill’s Ora 12 portable propane pizza oven wherein a to-temp cordierite baking stone will cook your personalized pies to perfection at up to 900 degrees. That’s burnin’ love, baby. $299, HomeDepot.com

‘Just Happy to Be Here’ YA Novel

Have a they/them in your life excited to expand their winter reading list? Gift a copy of Naomi Kanakia’s newly published YA coming-of-age novel, “Just Happy to Be Here,” about Tara, an Indian-American transgender teenager seeking quiet support and acceptance within her school’s prestigious academic group but instead becomes the center of attention when she draws the ire of administrators and alumni. $16, Amazon.com

Perfect Pairings 

Set it off this Valentine’s Day with a curated selection of wine and spirits, including the Pale Rosé, created by Sacha Lichine, of Whispering Angel fame; Flat Creek Estate’s red-blend trio, featuring the 2017 Super Texan, 2018 Four Horsemen, and Buttero; Ron Barceló’s Imperial Premium Blend 40th Aniversario rum; and the Bourbon Rosemary cocktail-in-a-can from Spirited Hive. $17-$199

Moon Bath Bomb

Stars aligned for that little meet-cute you told everybody about on TikTok, and you can trust the universe to provide ample relaxation when you plop Zodica Perfumery’s Moon Bath Bomb in the tub – there’s a specific formulation for every sign, which promises vibe-setting aromatherapy, activated charcoal for deep cleansing, and skin-soothing olive oil for the self-love glow-up you’ve been waiting for. $18, ZodicaPerfumery.com

Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels.

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Girls Rock! DC empowers young people through music, social justice education

Organization founded in October 2007

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Youth leaders of Girls Rock DC! (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Girls Rock! DC, an organization operating at the intersection of art and activism, is dedicated to empowering young people through music and social justice education. 

Since its founding in October 2007; Girls Rock! DC has been creating a supportive, inclusive and equitable space that centers around girls and nonbinary youth, with a special emphasis on uplifting Black and Brown youth. At the core of Girls Rock! DC’s mission is a unique approach to music education, viewing it through a social justice and equity lens. 

“It’s a place where people can come explore their interest in music in a safe environment, figure out their own voice, and have a platform to say it,” Board Vice Chair Nicole Savage said.

This approach allows D.C.’s young people to build a sense of community and explore their passion for social change through after-school programs, workshops and camps.

The organization’s roots trace back to the first rock camp for girls in August 2001 in Portland, Ore. Similar camps have emerged worldwide since then, forming the International Girls Rock Camp Alliance. Girls Rock! DC is a member of this alliance, contributing to the larger community’s growth and advocacy for inclusivity in the music industry.

Girls Rock! DC’s annual programs now serve more than 100 young people and 20 adults, offering after-school programs and camps. Participants receive instruction on the electric guitar, the electric bass, keyboards, drum kits and other instruments or on a microphone and form bands to write and perform their own original songs. Beyond music, the program includes workshops on underrepresented histories in the music industry, community injustice issues and empowerment topics that include running for office and body positivity.

“I’ve been playing shows in the D.C. music scene for about six years, and I feel like Girls Rock! DC is the perfect amalgamation of everything that I stand for,” said Outreach Associate Lily Mónico. “So many music spaces are male dominated and I think there is a need for queer femme youth in music.”

Lily Mónico (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is evident not only in its leadership but also in the way it creates a safe space for queer and nonbinary individuals. Language is a crucial component, and Girls Rock! DC ensures that both campers and volunteers embrace inclusivity. 

“It is a very open and creative space, where there’s no judgment,” Zadyn Higgins, one of the youth leaders, emphasized. “It is the first time for a lot of us, to be in a space where we’re truly able to be ourselves.”

In creating a safe environment, Girls Rock! DC implements practices that include name tags with preferred names and pronouns, along with pronoun banners that help kids understand and respect diverse identities. 

“It’s really cool to watch these kids understand and just immediately get it,” said Higgins. 

Zadyn Higgins (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Girls Rock! DC is also more than a music education organization; it’s a community where individuals can embark on a transformative journey that extends beyond their initial participation as campers. Many start their Girls Rock! DC experience as enthusiastic campers, learning to play instruments, forming bands and expressing their creativity in a supportive environment. The organization’s impact, however, doesn’t stop there. This inspiration leads them to volunteer and intern within the organization. 

The unique progression from camper to volunteer or intern, and eventually to a full-fledged role within the organization, exemplifies Girls Rock! DC as a place where growth is not confined to a single week of camp but extends into an ongoing, impactful journey. It’s a testament to the organization’s commitment to nurturing talent, empowering individuals and fostering a lifelong connection with the values for which Girls Rock! DC stands.

One of the highlights of Girls Rock! DC is its summer camp, where kids between 8-18 learn to play instruments, form bands, write songs and perform in just one week. Higgins shared a poignant moment from a showcase,

“To see them go from, like, crying a little bit about how scared they were to going out on the stage and performing their little hearts out was so sweet,” said Higgins.

(Photo courtesy of Frankie Amitrano of Girls Rock! D.C.)

Nzali Mwanza-Shannon, another youth leader, agreed that the camp is the highlight of the program. 

“The summer camp, I’ve met so many friends, and it’s always kind of scary coming up to the end, but after we get to perform and everything, I’m so grateful that I’ve gotten the opportunity to perform and meet new people and be so creative and do it all in a week,” said Mwanza-Shannon.

Forty-three young people who showcased their original songs and DJ sets at D.C.’s legendary 9:30 Club attended the first Girls Rock! DC camp in 2007. They performed to a crowd of 700 enthusiastic fans. The organization since then has grown exponentially, with each passing year bringing more energy, vibrancy and fun to the camp experience.

Since the pandemic, however, the organization has struggled financially, experiencing a funding shortage as well as reduced growth in attracting new members. 

Augusta Smith, who is a youth leader and a member of the band Petrichor, expressed concern about the potential impact on the unique and friendly environment that Girls Rock! DC provides. 

“We’ve kind of been really slow and barely making enough money. And this year, we’re having a funding shortage,” said Smith. 

The impact of Girls Rock! DC extends beyond musical skills, fostering leadership, self-expression and a passion for social change through creative collaboration and community power-building. Mwanza-Shannon hopes to be a part of Girls Rock! DC for a long time, 

“I want to keep on meeting new people,” said Mwanza-Shannon. “I want to keep on being able to perform at these different places and have different experiences.”

(Photo courtesy of Frankie Amitrano of Girls Rock! DC)
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‘Blindspot’ reveals stories of NYC AIDS patients that haven’t been told

Former Blade reporter’s podcast focuses on POC, women, trans people

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Kai Wright, a former Blade reporter, hosts the podcast ‘Blindspot.’ (Photo by Amy Pearl)

“We said that people had The Monster, because they had that look,” activist Valerie Reyes-Jimenez, said, remembering how people in her New York neighborhood reacted when people first got AIDS.

They didn’t know what to call it.

“They had the sucked in checks,” Reyes-Jimenez, added, “They were really thin…a lot of folks were saying, oh, you know, they had…cancer.”

“We actually had set up a bereavement clinic where the kids would tell us what they wanted to have when they die,” Maxine Frere, a retired nurse who worked at Harlem Hospital for 40 years and was the head nurse of its pediatric AIDS unit said, “How did they wanna die?”

“Nobody wanted to come on,” said former New York Gov. David Paterson, who in 1987 was Harlem’s state senator.

At that time, Manhattan Cable Television gave legislators the chance to do one show a year. “So I decided to do my show on the AIDS crisis and how there didn’t seem to be any response from the leadership in the Black community,” Paterson added.

These unforgettable voices with their searing recollections are among the many provocative, transformative stories told on Season 3 of “Blindspot,” the critically acclaimed podcast. 

“Blindspot: The Plague in the Shadows” is co-produced by the History Channel and WNYC Studios. The six-episode podcast series, which launched on Jan. 18 and airs weekly through Feb. 22, is hosted by WNYC’s Kai Wright with lead reporting by The Nation Magazine’s Lizzy Ratner.

The show is accompanied by a photography exhibit by Kia LaBeija. LaBeija is a New York City-based artist who was born HIV positive and lost her mother to the disease at 14. The exhibit, which features portraits of people whose stories are heard on “Blindspot,” runs at the Greene Space at WNYC through March 11.

If you think of AIDS, you’re likely to think of white cisgender gay men. (That’s been true for me, a cisgender lesbian, who lost loved ones to AIDS.)

From the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, most media and cultural attention has been focused on white gay men – from playwright and activist Larry Kramer to the movie “Philadelphia.”   

“Blindspot” revisits New York City, an epicenter of the early years of the HIV epidemic.

The podcast reveals stories of vulnerable people that haven’t been told. Of people of color, women, transgender people, children, drug-users, women in prison and the doctors, nurses and others who cared and advocated with and on their behalf.

“Blindspot,” through extensive reporting and immersive storytelling, makes people visible who were invisible during the AIDS epidemic. It makes us see people who have, largely, been left out of the history of AIDS.

Wright, 50, who is Black and gay, cares deeply about history. He is host and managing editor of “Notes from America with Kai Wright,” a show about the unfinished business of our history and its grip on our future.

Recently, Wright, who worked as a reporter at the Washington Blade from 1996 to 2001, talked with me in a Zoom interview. The conversation ranged over a number of topics from why Wright got into journalism, to how stigma and health care disparities still exist today for people of color, transgender people and poor people with AIDS to the impact he hopes “Blindspot” will have.

“I came to work at the Blade in 1996,” Wright said, “the year after I got out of college.”

He’d done two six-month stints at PBS and “Foreign Policy.” But Wright thinks of the Blade as his first proper journalism job.

From his youth, Wright has been committed to social justice and to understanding his community. Reporting, from early on, has been his connection with social justice. “I often say, journalism has been my contribution to social justice movements,” Wright said.

His first journalistic connection to the Black community came when he was 15. Then, Wright became an intern with the Black newspaper, the Indianapolis Recorder.

“That’s how I got the [journalism] bug,” Wright said.

Since then, Wright said, he’s worked almost exclusively with media that have a connection with the community.

Wright grew up in Indianapolis and went to college at Emory University in Atlanta. He didn’t intend to be a journalist, he wrote in an email to the Blade. At Emory, he studied international politics.

Wright’s life and work changed direction when he began working at the Blade. “I was a kid,” Wright said, “I’d just come out. I used journalism to find out what it meant to come out.”

Wright, when he came to Washington, D.C., was, as he recalled, just a kid. He didn’t know anyone in D.C. and there was a Black, queer community. This helped Wright to come out. “I couldn’t have told you that at the time,” he said, “but in retrospect I can see that I moved to  D.C. to come out.”

Journalism was Wright’s way of finding his way through coming out.

“I didn’t know if the Blade was hiring,” Wright said, “I just walked in.”

He didn’t have a deep resume but he had a lot to say. The Blade hired him and immediately put him to work reporting on AIDS.

“It was a pivotal cultural and political moment – a pivotal moment for the community,” Wright said.

That year, when Wright began working with the Blade, life-saving treatments (early drug cocktails) were emerging for AIDS.

“There was no way that HIV and AIDS wouldn’t become a central part of my journalism,” Wright said, “I really wanted to report on it.”

With the emergence of treatments, white gay men with health insurance began to feel that they were turning the page and that AIDS was no longer a death sentence.

“But, as a reporter, I was meeting Black gay men who were going into emergency mode about the AIDS epidemic,” Wright said.

Black people, poor people, drug users and others without health insurance and access to treatment were still dying and transmitting AIDS. “‘This is getting more and more dire,’ the activists said,” Wright recalls.

They told Wright, “The rest of the community is starting to turn the page. We can’t turn the page.”

In D.C., Wright could see, through his reporting, the racial discrimination in the community at large in the AIDS epidemic, and in the queer community.

Two things are true simultaneously, Wright said, when asked if there is still stigma and discrimination around HIV and AIDS today.

“Science has made so much progress,” Wright said, “It’s no longer necessary for any of us to die from HIV.”

“I take a pill once a day to prevent me from catching HIV,” he added, “I can do that. I am a person with insurance…with a great deal of social and economic privilege.”

But many people in the United States don’t have health insurance, and exist outside of the health care system. The divergence in treatment and stigma that he saw as a young reporter in 1996 are still there today, Wright said.

“The divergence in class and race has grown even more profound,” he said, “among people of color, young people – transgender people.”

Wright hopes  “Blindspot” will make people who lived through the epidemic and whose stories weren’t told, feel seen. And that “they will hear themselves and be reminded of the contributions they have made,” Wright said.

The queer press plays an important role in the LGBTQ community, Wright said. “We need a place to hash out our differences, share stories and ask questions that put our experience at the center of the conversation,” he emailed the Blade.

“There’s more space for us in media than when I started my career at the Blade,” Wright said, “but none of it is a replacement for journalism done by and for ourselves.”

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Meet D.C.’s most eligible LGBTQ singles

Find a date just in time for Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day is approaching and if you’re single, there’s still time to find a date. Each year, the Blade highlights D.C.’s Most Eligible Singles with help from our readers. Here is this year’s list.

Antoinette C., 36, marketing executive

Antoinette C. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Queer/she/her

What are you looking for in a mate? A kind long-term partner who is looking to have a plus 1 in exploring and venturing into new hobbies, interests, and ways of thinking. Someone who isn’t afraid to have hard and honest conversations and is comfortable with failing at them and trying again; a good communicator!

Biggest turn off: Irritable around children, waitstaff or any person in customer service, and too serious.

Biggest turn on: Great sense of humor, not afraid to be “emotional”, hobby/interest they love and are committed to, and they have established friends/friend groups.

Hobbies: I play with ChocCityCornhole and go to tournaments during the week. Presently learning ASL (slowly), attending Broadway shows, puzzles/Legos, interactive art exhibits

What’s your biggest goal for 2024? Kickstart one of the many business ideas I have locked up in my head. And, learn four recipes I can cook from memory and keep the taste consistent each time.

Pets, kids, neither? I have one dog. I love kids and would love to have kids in my life – whether that’s adopting, by surrogate, or simply fostering.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? It depends.

Celebrity crush: Regina King and Florence Pugh

Name one obscure fact about yourself: Finding a job in finance in 2009 was rough. I did odd jobs with my roommates. One job was cleaning Whitney Houston’s house in Mendam, N.J.

Ashley Smith, 48, hotel management/community volunteer leader

Ashley Smith (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Gay

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone who is personable, witty, charming, loving, driven, a visionary, who is motivated, possesses a great sense of humor, is adventurous, spontaneous, and a leader, who is considerate, passionate, and well rounded.

Biggest turn off: A lack of respect for one’s self and others, someone who lacks humility and is not driven.

Biggest turn on: A great smile, someone who is smart, physically active, able to hold thought-provoking conversations, and we enjoy each others’ company.

Hobbies: Working out, travel, reading, family time, movies, board games, theater, music, learning about wine, meeting new people and learning more of their experiences to know how we all can work to achieve goals, listener, motivator, and supporter.

What’s your biggest goal for 2024? In addition to continuing to work out, I would like to add more family time, visit three new countries, and devote more time to building an even better version of myself as I strive to make the most out of the journey of life.

Pets, kids, neither? None

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Not typically.

Celebrity crush: Rege-Jean Page, just one of many different crushes!

Name one obscure fact about yourself: My passion is to make people smile and see the best they have to offer to the world. Always best to lift your family and friends up. And had the pleasure of singing in the Opening and Closing 1996 Olympic Ceremonies with the Morehouse College Glee Club.

Mark Stephens, 45, business development and marketing/advertising for iHeart Media

Mark Stephens (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Most importantly, I identify as a human being, proudly southern born and bred. No one should be 100% defined by any self-imposed labels. I’ve always referred to myself as “just gay” – because that was the only label available when I was figuring myself out, but I have traits that align with both pansexual and demisexual identities. The most important being that physical attraction, for me, is only 20% of the equation. The other 80% is determined by personality, trust, and connection over time.

What are you looking for in a mate? “Am I LOOKING for a mate?” would be more accurate. Ultimately, yes, I’d love to find someone who is confident, self-sufficient, with a LARGE personality. They’ll need to have a very diverse set of interests, activities, and be willing to share them with me while they explore mine. They’d have to challenge and inspire me to be a better person and I would want to do the same for them.

Biggest turn off: Indifference

Biggest turn on: A caring, sincere personality and a GREAT (read as: dorky) sense of humor.

Hobbies: I’m equally comfortable walking a red carpet, sitting in a boardroom, climbing under a car or on top of a horse. I love the theater – spent years of my life performing professionally (acting, singing, dancing, stunt work) and enjoy all kinds of shows, from either side of the curtain. I love horses, horseback riding. I also enjoy diving elbow-deep into an engine, working on cars, and recently added boat engines to that list, too.

I am passionate about helping others. I serve on the board of directors for the Maryland STEM Festival, volunteer with Capital Pride, and fundraise for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

What’s your biggest goal for 2024? I’m in a rebuilding phase of sorts, so there are several. I’m looking forward to getting into my new house, then rebuilding my life after several really hard losses and changes over the past seven months. Details available, inquire within. Not what you came here to read.

Pets, kids, neither? In a weird & unexpected turn of events this past year, I now have both. My incredible nephew recently moved in with me, because the DMV is a much safer and friendlier place to pursue his gender transition than his home state of Alabama AND he brought his cat with him. It’s a really good thing I love my nephew, because his cat is not even trying to curry favor with me. It’s quite the opposite, actually. For context, the cat is appropriately named Hela after the Norse Goddess of Death and Destruction. The nephew’s name is Matt, just like the book of the Bible.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? This answer depends on how MUCH they differ. Of course, there is a point where the opposing views might prove too much to handle, however, I’m not interested in being surrounded by people with the exact same views as me. We learn, grow, and evolve from those with whom we surround ourselves. Seeking out identical political views seems boring to me – make me challenge and defend my own views and I’ll do the same in return.

Celebrity crush: Sorry folks, but if Ricky Martin, Jason Momoa or Sandra Bullock come calling – I’m gonna carpe THAT diem!

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I’m severely allergic to ALL artificial sweeteners.

Ashanti Martinez, 27, Maryland state delegate

Ashanti Martinez (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Gay

What are you looking for in a mate? Genuine partnership — I’ve been in situations where things weren’t evenly yoked, and it ultimately led to issues.

Biggest turn off: Poor personal hygiene and unnecessary rudeness to service workers.

Biggest turn on: A warm smile and inviting eyes.

Hobbies: Spending time with loved ones. I work often, so any free time I have I try to spend with the people I love.

What’s your biggest goal for 2024? My goal for this year is to do the most good for as many people as possible.

Pets, kids, neither? Yes to both.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? It’d be difficult, especially because of my career.

Celebrity crush: Jeremy Pope, Keiynan Lonsdale and Omar Apollo

Name one obscure fact about yourself: If you’re into astrology well, I’m a Taurus who was raised by a Taurus and has multiple Taurus family members and best friends.

Molly Whitehorn, 30, campaign professional at the Human Rights Campaign

Molly Whitehorn (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Bi

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone funny, smart, independent, and confident. I love meeting different types of people and experiencing new things; I’d love to find someone who is friendly and can easily adapt to different social situations.

Biggest turn off: Rudeness and folks who don’t pay attention to current events.

Biggest turn on: Kindness and a good sense of humor

Hobbies: Reading, barre, going to museums, pilates, thrifting, indoor cycling, volunteering, and watching horror movies.

What’s your biggest goal for 2024? I want to become an early morning workout person. It’s not going great so far.

Pets, kids, neither? You tell me.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Republicans need not apply.

Celebrity crush: Julien Baker, duh!

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I used to host a concert web series out of Elvis’s first home in Memphis.

DJ Heat, 44, DJ

DJ Heat (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Lesbian

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone to share my world and have fun/laugh with. I picture us doing everything from going to concerts and sporting events, to strolling the cereal aisle, lol.

Biggest turn off: People who have constant negative energy and a pessimistic outlook. Rudeness and impatience toward others is also a big turn off, as well as the overuse of Snapchat filters.

Biggest turn on: A beautiful smile and intelligence. I’m also a sucker for a woman that can cook. I know that a lot of love goes into preparing a meal for a loved one, and I’m greatly appreciative of that.

Hobbies: I’m one of the few people that still loves going to the bookstore and purchasing books and magazines. When the weather is nice I love being outdoors, visiting parks, museums, etc. And of course going to live music and sporting events.

What’s your biggest goal for 2024? My two biggest goals are health and career related. I’m a firm believer though in working in silence and letting the success be the noise. So I will definitely share the accomplishments once they happen. Because they WILL happen.

Pets, kids, neither? I don’t have any pets or kids, but I LOVE dogs! I can’t wait to get one. I have my eyes set on a Shiba Inu.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? It truly depends on what their views are. As a Black gay woman, it’s definitely a problem if you have views aligned with a politician that is against rights for Blacks, gays, and women.

Celebrity crush: Issa Rae and Janelle Monae. Whew!

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I’m currently on a journey to try as many different hot chocolates as possible.

Alex Held, 34, small business manager

Alex Held (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Gay male

What are you looking for in a mate? I’m looking for a companion someone to share life with and go on adventures together.

Biggest turn off: People who don’t vote. Especially in this political era.

Biggest turn on: Someone that takes care of their physical and mental health and is open and accepting of others.

Hobbies: I love staying active and I regularly box, lift, run, bike, or swim. In addition I love music festivals and EDM.

What’s your biggest goal for 2024? To help elect a Democratic majority in the House and Senate and defeat Donald Trump.

Pets, kids, neither? I love pets and have a Brittany named Mila. I also like cats and all other animals. I’m undecided on kids at this time, but I’m open to the idea.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Potentially; however, I can’t be down with a MAGA Republican.

Celebrity crush: Michael B. Jordan

Name one obscure fact about yourself: As a kid I grew up bottle feeding baby cows.

Nati Reyes, 35, cancer research

Nati Reyes (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Queer  

What are you looking for in a mate? Looking for someone to be as silly and goofy as I am. Interested in traveling, even just for short trips. Has a decent personal or social life (ie. hobbies ). If you are a great communicator who has currently or recently been to therapy, is super hot to me. In general, a person who is queer, Sapphic, Trans or Non binary, who is interested in growing old together. ( compatibility and chemistry is important). Age isn’t too much of a deal breaker, but 28+ would be nice.

Biggest turn off: People who are mean spirited, send mixed signals, aren’t confident in who they are or what they want, and anyone who thinks they are always right.

Biggest turn on: A sense of humor, confidence, GREAT kisser, quality time and a sucker for a nice smile. ( Oh, did I mention therapy?)

Hobbies: I’m part of a trivia team, roller skate, in a band called 2 hit wonders, and I do a varied amount of community building and organizing from south Korea to NYC to DC. My passion is holding space of mutual care and support of marginalized groups.

What’s your biggest goal for 2024? My biggest goal in 2024 is to get more connected with meditation and the metaphysical world. Work on doing more creative work that I love and to rest.

Pets, kids, neither? I have a cat who I’m allergic to but I love her.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? In 2024? No.

Celebrity crush: Surprisingly, I don’t have one. If I had to I’d say Aubrey Plaza and Rihanna.

Name one obscure fact about yourself: Maybe not that obscure but I really try to hide that I snort when I laugh.

Nicole Lohr, 41, attorney

Nicole Lohr (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Gay

What are you looking for in a mate? Haha, uh, mate is such a weird word. I want to be with someone who is confident, driven, and authentic. But most importantly, someone who has a great sense of humor — who can make the whole room laugh. 

Biggest turn off: Insecurity, rudeness, and open-mouth chewing.

Biggest turn on: Intellectual, sporty, long-haired butches.

Hobbies: Playing pickleball, traveling, and watching “Jeopardy” and the Celtics.

What’s your biggest goal for 2024? Paint a wall in my house a fun color and start lifting weights so I can live longer.

Pets, kids, neither? I have a chunky orange cat named Lasagna.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Republican? No. Communist? Maybe.

Celebrity crush: Naomi McPherson, Tegan Quin, Kelley O’Hara, Elena Delle Donne, Kate McKinnon, and Towa Bird.

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I actually have wildly curly hair.

Sarah Pope, 32, nonprofit director

Sarah Pope (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Nonbinary, queer

What are you looking for in a mate? Someone kind that strikes the balance between playful, curious, and motivated to change the world for the better. 

Biggest turn off: Being on your phone during a date, being rude to service workers, and putting down others, even if it’s a “joke.”

Biggest turn on: Flirty and witty banter, a great smile, and engaging body language.

Hobbies: The two p’s – pottery and plants. I can make you a vase and then put a clipping in it. I also watch way too much TV, but balance it out by reading a fair amount.

What’s your biggest goal for 2024? Continuing to build more community and trying more things that scare me.

Pets, kids, neither? A three-legged cat son named Birdie.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? If it’s a political view akin to “I prefer tea over coffee,” I can work with that, but otherwise need to be aligned.

Celebrity crush: To capture the spectrum: Mae Martin, Janelle Monae, Alexandra Hedison, Devendra Banhart

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I get really into the spoken portion of songs – think the part of “One of Your Girls,” when he goes “Look at you, skip the application, interview.” Big on a dramatic reading and any excuse to be a tiny bit theatrical.

Ralph Alston, 35, graphic designer

Ralph Alston (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? he/him/his

What are you looking for in a mate? Charm, a sense of humor, and an active lifestyle (physically or socially)

Biggest turn off: Gossip

Biggest turn on: Equal parts smiles and surprises.

Hobbies: Playing Just Dance, tending to my plants, hot tubs, league sports (darts, bocce, cornhole, trivia) and anything crafty.

What’s your biggest goal for 2024? This year, I really want to break out of my comfort zone and try something new. Maybe it’s hiking, maybe studying a new language. Something I don’t have to do on my own would be pretty great too! 

Pets, kids, neither? I have my four-year-old Pug named Tofu. He’s soft, squishy, and easy to spoil, and a Sag just like dad.

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? I don’t think I could. (I’m a liberal, btw.)

Celebrity crush: Michael B. Jordan

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I love to cook, but I have the ability to recreate any dish I’ve ever eaten, without ever referring to a recipe.

Malachi J. Stewart, 35, public health analyst

Malachi J. Stewart (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Queer/gay  

What are you looking for in a mate? Communicative, transparency, confidence and ambition.  

Biggest turn off: Deception, manipulation, and elitism. 

Biggest turn on: Empathy, vulnerability, and strong verbal communication skills. 

Hobbies: Kickboxing/boxing, skating, bowling and museums. 

What’s your biggest goal for 2024? Launching a college-based sexual health campaign.  

Pets, kids, neither? I have a very possessive Shorkie, so I’m a dog lover! Kids are optional. 

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? Of course. Let’s talk about it. Perhaps you can convince me? 

Celebrity crush: Winston Duke 

Name one obscure fact about yourself: As a kid, I was An ASL interpreter for my church.  

Megan Green, 31, practice owner and psychotherapist

Megan Green (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

How do you identify? Lesbian 

What are you looking for in a mate? In a mate I look for someone ideally my age, who is kind, confident. I am looking for someone who knows what is important to her and is living in accordance with that. 

Biggest turn off: My biggest turn off is probably “negging”. I am a Leo and one of my love languages are words of affirmation. Words matter a lot to me. 

Biggest turn on: I love watching someone’s face light up when they talk about something they are passionate about. Whatever it is you can’t get off your mind, I want to hear about. 

Hobbies: I enjoy fitness, crafts, video games, cooking, reading and reality TV. 

What’s your biggest goal for 2024? I am investing time and money into developing a plot of land into a rental property in eastern Georgia. So that is a goal I am actively working on and hoping to make a lot of progress with this year.  

Pets, kids, neither? I have neither, I have no qualms about dating a pet parent. I am not sure that I am interested in children. 

Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? No. 

Celebrity crush: Kristin Kreuk 

Name one obscure fact about yourself: I can sing pretty well. 

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