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The glories of gay solo travel

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 06:29 AM PST

solo travel, gay news, Washington Blade

Treat yourself, be selfish. And smile, all the time. You never know where it might lead.

"I remember years ago a guy I knew told me that people going to England find exactly what they go looking for." – 84 Charing Cross Road

Is it D.C. gays generally, or just gays of a certain age? We do tend to travel in packs. You know what I'm talking about. Twenty-person brunches, 12 or so gays crammed into a beach house here, a mountain cabin there. In the absence of children or family, we round up our boys and off we go, like little bands of cute, sassy gypsies. And don't get me wrong, I love group travel. Lots of fun, gay times to be had for sure. But have we forgotten about the glories of gay solo travel?

Recently, I took my first solo trip, and a trip abroad no less, to London and Iceland. I have to admit, I was fairly nervous going into the whole experience. There is a risk wrapped up in solo travel. But I did choose London, not exactly the end of the earth. My chief concern going into the whole experience? Will I be lonely? Happily, for various reasons, that never panned out. And I am now completely sold on solo travel. Here are but a few reasons why.

The Good in the Gay. I do think solo travel is easier for gay men, or at least very different of course. We have the gay bar after all. These are easily recognized in practically any country, and it only takes a few seconds of Googling to figure out where to go on what nights and at what times. The gay bar has been called a haven by some. And though that might be a bit of a stretch, certainly depending on the bar, there is a real value in walking into a space and knowing that you have one thing in common with everyone there. Maybe it's being fresh meat, maybe it's people practicing the biblical principal of showing kindness to weary travelers. But I was often greeted with a smile and, 'hey, why don't you join me and my friends.'

Free from Compromise. As someone who grew up with two older brothers that very much played the part, I'm somewhat used to never really getting my way. Even when you travel with a group, you can really only offer suggestions on what to do. And while you can always break away from the pack at some point, traveling solo you never have to worry about any of that. Your time is completely your own.

The Confidence in Having Nothing to Lose. Washington is a tough town to date in. But that's a topic for another column. But it seems that gays are too often not willing to take a risk. Perhaps fearing rejection, we won't approach a guy in a bar or ask someone out for dinner. What was completely refreshing about traveling by myself was the freedom of having nothing to lose. Not connecting with someone? You tried. Now, on to the next.

And again, during this whole experience at no time was I ever lonely. After all, there are at least half a dozen apps out there to find you someone. And staying in a hotel means that these guys are vertically up and down, just mere feet from you. Aside from that, being alone does not necessarily make you lonely. Sitting in a cafe or bar, you have the excitement of the experience to feast on.

As for me in London, I met a boy on the street my second day there. On Shaftesbury Avenue, not at all far from Charing Cross Road, we both did backward glances as we walked past each other. He, French. Me, American. We ended up having one of those three-day relationships you see in movies. He told me I smiled all the time. But with his English, it came out, ‘you have all the time to smile.'

Try solo travel. Treat yourself, be selfish. Enjoy every minute of it. And smile, all the time. You never know where it might lead.


Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer. He contributes regularly to the Blade.

SPRING ARTS 2018 CONCERTS: Todrick, Meshell, Lorde, k.d. oh — and Britney this summer

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 06:20 AM PST

concerts DC spring 2018, gay news, Washington Blade

Singers coming to the region this spring include Ani DiFranco, Brandi Carlile, Justin Timberlake and Lorde. (DiFranco photo courtesy of Righteous Babe Records; Carlile photo by David McClister, courtesy ATO Records; Timberlake photo courtesy RCA Records: and Lorde photo courtesy High Rise PR)

Washington boasts some of the best music venues in the country and there's no shortage of fabulous concerts to see at them this spring.

DJ Snake, the French producer and DJ responsible for massive hits like "Turn Down for What" and "Let Me Love You," spins at Echostage (2135 Queens Chapel Rd., N.E.) on Saturday, March 3. Details at echostage.com.

Bisexual feminist icon, Ani DiFranco, plays the 9:30 Club (815 V St., N.W.) on Saturday, March 5. The show will be opened by chamber pop duo Gracie and Rachel. Details at 930.com.

Master pianist and Wolf Trap favorite, John Eaton, presents "Indiana On Our Minds: the Music of Cole Porter & Hoagy Carmichael" on Friday, March 9 at the Barns at Wolf Trap (1635 Trap Rd., Vienna, Va.). Tickets at wolftrap.org.

The original Wonder Woman herself, Lynda Carter, returns to the Kennedy Center (2700 F St., N.W.) for her "Red, Rock N' Blues" show on Saturday, March 17. Details at kennedy-center.org.

The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington presents "Make America Gay Again" at the Lincoln Theatre (1215 U St., N.W.) on Saturday, March 17. For tickets, visit thelincolndc.com.

Perennial pop titan and veteran gender bender, P!nk, brings her "Beautiful Trauma World Tour" to Capital One Arena (601 F St., N.W.) on Tuesday, March 17. For tickets, visit capitalonearena.monumentalsportsnetwork.com.

Justin Timberlake may have received tepid reviews for his Super Bowl performance, but his stop on the "Man of the Woods Tour" at Capital One Arena (601 F St., N.W.) on Sunday, March 18 is sure to be a spectacle. For tickets, visit capitalonearena.monumentalsportsnetwork.com.

If you're feeling wistful for her stellar 2014 Capital Pride performance, Betty Who plays the 9:30 Club (815 V St., N.W.) on Wednesday, March 21. Pretty Sister and Spencer Ludwig open the show. Details at 930.com.

Porches, a New York-based synth pop band, play the Black Cat (1811 14th St., N.W.) on Thursday, March 22. The group's lead vocalist, Aaron Maine, identifies as straight but has earned himself a queer following with his painted nails and spaghetti strap tops. Details at blackcatdc.com.

Queer-fronted Baltimore Indie band, Snail Mail, play Ottobar (2549 N. Howard St., Baltimore) with British rock group Shame on Thursday, March 22. Details at theottobar.com.

R&B pioneer and everyone's favorite Cinderella, Brandy, performs at the Howard Theatre (620 T St., N.W.) on Thursday, March 22. More info at thehowardthreatre.com.

Vocal LGBT ally LeeAnn Womack hopes you dance at the Birchmere (3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, Va.) on Friday, March 23. The country crooner will perform her latest album, "All The Trouble," as well as old hits. Details at birchmere.com.

Openly bisexual pop princess Demi Lovato performs alongside the ever-popular DJ Khaled at the Capital One Arena (601 F St., N.W.) on Saturday, March 24. Details at capitalonearena.monumentalsportsnetwork.com.

k.d. lang brings the 25th anniversary tour of her breakthrough album "Ingénue" to the Music Center at Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Ln., North Bethesda, Md.) on Sunday, March 25. Details at strathmore.org.

Yo La Tengo play their Indie cult classics at the 9:30 Club (815 V St., N.W.) on Wednesday, April 4. Tickets at 930.com.

Meshell Ndegeocello, a Native Washingtonian and queer critical darling since the early '90s, is back to perform her latest album "Ventriloquism" at the Kennedy Center (2700 F St., N.W.) on Thursday, April 6. Details at kennedy-center.org.

Legendary soul singer and timeless gay icon Patti LaBelle performs at the Warner Theatre (513 13th St., N.W.) on Saturday, April 7. For more info, visit birchmere.com.

Lorde brings her "Melodrama World Tour" to the Anthem (901 Wharf St., S.W.) on Sunday, April 8. Hip-hop duo Run the Jewels and indie rocker Mitski open the show. Details at theanthemdc.com.

The Washington Symphony Players host a spring benefit concert for the Maryland Heroin Awareness Advocates on Tuesday, April 17 at the Music Center at Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Ln., North Bethesda, Md.). For details and more information about the cause, visit strathmore.org.

Pritam, an Indian composer and singer famous for his Bollywood records, performs live at DAR Constitution Hall (1776 D St., N.W.) on Friday, April 20. Details at dar.org/constitution-hall.

Todrick Hall, the multitalented singer, drag queen, Broadway star and choreographer to none other than Beyoncé, appears at the Fillmore (8656 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring, Md.) on Thursday, April 26. Details at fillmoresilverspring.com.

Nancy and Beth, featuring "Will & Grace's" Megan Mullally and "Friday Night Lights'" Stephanie Hunt, bring their eponymous "punk show-biz" tour to the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue (600 I St., N.W.) on Sunday, April 29. Tickets at sixthandi.org.

HAIM perform at the Anthem (901 Wharf St., N.W.) on May 1, opened by rising feminist rapper and singer, Lizzo. For more information, visit theanthemdc.com.

Michael Feinstein, an openly gay singer and pianist, headlines the Strathmore Annual Spring Gala at the Music Center at Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Ln., North Bethesda, Md.) on May 12. Tickets at strathmore.org.

Lesbian alt-country queen Brandi Carlile performs her latest album "By The Way, I Forgive You" and old favorites at the Anthem (901 Wharf St., S.W.) on Saturday, May 19. Details at theanthemdc.com.

Soul powerhouse, Bettye LaVette, performs her latest record, all Bob Dylan interpretations, "Things Have Changed," at the Hamilton (600 14th St., N.W.) on Saturday, May 19. Details at thehamiltondc.com.

Rising pop sensation Hayley Kiyoko, whose devout fans refer to her as "Lesbian Jesus," performs at the Fillmore (8656 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring, Md.) on Friday, June 1. Tickets at fillmoresilverspring.com.

Twelve-time Grammy winner, Kendrick Lamar performs with Sza and Schoolboy Q at Jiffy Lube Live (7800 Cellar Door Dr, Bristow, Va.) on Friday, June 1. Details at pavilionbristow.com.

It's a ways off, but always better to plan ahead for Britney Spears, who makes her East Coast return at MGM National Harbor (101 MGM National Ave, Oxon Hill, Md.) on Thursday, July 12. The zeitgeisty gay icon will whip out choreo to all her classics from her "Piece of Me" Vegas residency. Details at mgmnationalharbor.com.

Preparing for a home inspection

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 06:09 AM PST

home inspection, gay news, Washington Blade

Be sure your smoke detectors have fresh batteries before a home inspection.

Congratulations, Mr. Seller! Your house is now under contract — but you may not want to start packing yet. Your contract may include contingencies, which are conditions that must be met before a real estate transaction can be completed.

Unless your buyers are paying cash, they will likely have a finance contingency to ensure that they are approved for their loan. Another common contingency requires that your home appraise at or above the agreed-upon price, often requiring renegotiation of the sales price if it does not.

The third most requested contingency is for a home inspection, which allows buyers to hire an inspector to outline the home's positive features and scrutinize it for defects. Any subsequent repair requests made by the buyers may result in further negotiations and may ultimately affect your profit, so it's often in your best interest to address some frequently encountered items prior to the home inspection or even before listing your home for sale.

First, when preparing for inspection, make the inspector's job easier by having all utilities turned on. This is normally a requirement of your contract.

Next, create a path to fixtures and systems by moving your possessions, particularly in attics and basements. If the inspector can't reach a critical item to check it, then he may have to make a second trip. This could extend the deadline of the contingency, leaving your contract in limbo longer, and possibly obligate you to pay the cost of a second visit.

An inspector will normally start his review by looking at the exterior of the home for roof, foundation and drainage issues, so clean your gutters and sweep snow and leaves from your roof. Remove dirt, mulch and firewood from direct contact with siding, divert water away from the foundation and clear basement exterior drains of debris.

Areas ripe for water penetration can also pose a problem, so if your budget permits, point up failing mortar joints in your brick or concrete block exterior. At a minimum, caulk around trim, chimneys, windows, doors and any exterior wall protrusions.

On the interior, check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, windows and sump pump to be sure they are operating properly and put a fresh filter in your furnace.

Repair any plumbing leaks, ensure toilets and fixtures are secure, and apply fresh caulk around tub and shower fixtures.

Easy electrical fixes include replacing burned-out lightbulbs and installing ground fault interrupting receptacles near water sources in kitchens, baths and laundry areas. Make sure you also leave any remote controls for ceiling fans or garage doors in sight.

Below are some common requests that buyers make of sellers after home inspections. Consider whether to do some of these in advance or wait to see if they are even issues of concern to the buyers.

Professional cleaning of the chimney and fireplace.

Air duct cleaning, particularly if you smoke or have pets and your buyers have allergies.

Repair of windows with cracked panes or broken seals.

Cleaning and servicing of heat and air conditioning systems.

Removal of peeling lead-based paint on exterior wood surfaces.

Anything related to mold, such as sealing masonry walls in an unfinished basement or installing a vapor barrier in a crawl space to keep the area dry.

Even if you're selling your home in "as is" condition, buyers will generally want to know what "as is" means for their budget, so expect a request for a "take it or leave it" inspection with the buyers ultimately deciding that they do or don't want to proceed without asking for additional repairs or monetary concessions.

Alternatively, be prepared for a potential buyer to request a "pre-offer inspection," a limited look at major systems by an inspection professional before an offer is made so that the buyer can eliminate the need for a home inspection contingency altogether. Since there is no contract in place at this juncture, you may wish to secure a written agreement from these buyers to release you from any liability and be responsible for repair of anything they damage before agreeing to allow a pre-offer inspection.

Finally, remember that buyers often inflate in their minds the price of a repair beyond its actual cost and may fear that a "honey-do" list of small items identified at a home inspection reflects a lack of proper maintenance in other areas. Making your home "inspection ready" will help to allay those fears, allow you to pack up your troubles, and speed you on your way to settlement.


Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland and Virginia and Director of Education & Mentorship at Real Living| At Home. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her at Valerie@DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook

SPRING ARTS 2018 BOOKS: Fact, fiction and beyond

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 05:42 AM PST

gay books spring 2018, gay news, Washington Blade

Out author Amber Dawn returns with her second novel 'Sodom Road Exit' on April. 3. (Photo courtesy Dawn)

In her much-anticipated memoir, "Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss and the Fight for Trans Equality" (Crown Archetype, March 6), Sarah McBride tells the story of how she went from closeted student body president at American University to the first transgender person to speak at a national political convention at the age of 26. One of the most prominent transgender activists of her time, McBride interweaves thoughtful analysis of contemporary political issues, such as bathroom access and trans health care, into her own triumphant journey. The book begins with a foreword by Joe Biden.

"Speak No Evil: A Novel" by Uzodinma Iweala (Harper, March 6) just might be the coming-out story of the year, and a Washingtonian one at that. Iweala's heart-wrenching sophomore novel follows Niru, a seemingly charmed track star at an elite D.C. private school bound for Harvard. Only his best friend Meredith knows he is gay until his sexuality is discovered by his conservative Nigerian father. The repercussions are swift and violent, catastrophic for his relationship with his family and taxing in his friendship with Meredith. The novel is a visceral but compassionate portrait of what it means to be different within a family, let alone society at large.

In "The Affliction" (Four Way Books, March 6), award-winning poet C. Dale Young makes his fiction debut with a novel told in fantastical short stories, spanning the United States and Caribbean. Among the novel's many memorable characters are a man who can disappear, a woman who can see the future and a man raised in a cult who believes he is doomed to die. Young is openly gay and of Latino and Asian descent. He is also very much left- and right-brained in that he is a full-time physician when not writing and teaching creative writing at Warren Wilson College.

"The Sparsholt Affair" by Alan Hollinghurst (Knopf, March 13) begins with a covert gay relationship at Oxford University in 1940 and spans three generations, masterfully unfolding the social and sexual revolutions that have taken place through present day. Instantly a bestseller in the U.K., the novel is anchored by David Sparsholt and Evert Dax, whose evening trysts at Oxford feel especially under the radar with the world at war. Hollinghurst, who won the Man Booker Prize in 2004, is an openly gay English author.

"Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August" by Oliver Hilmes (Brodley Head, March 27) is a fascinating historical account of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Hilmes, a gay German historian, paints an intoxicating picture of the city of Liza Minelli's "Cabaret" where queer life flourished under the Weimar Republic — contrasted with the terrifying rise of Adolf Hitler. In addition to analyzing the events of the Olympic Games, namely Jesse Owens' triumph, Hilmes also introduces us to the lives of ordinary (some queer) Berliners. The book is ultimately an ode to the city, which has since reestablished itself as one of the most dynamic creative queer capitals in the world.

Chelsey Johnson's debut novel, "Stray City" (Custom House, March 20) is the queer anti-"Gilmore Girls" you didn't know you needed. This warm, hysterical story follows 23-year-old Andrea Morales, who escaped her Midwestern Catholic childhood to create a life for herself in Portland's vibrant lesbian community. One especially debauched evening, Andrea hooks up with a man and later finds herself pregnant. The novel jumps to a decade later, as Andrea's precocious daughter Lucia starts asking questions about the father she's never met.

"Written on the Body," edited by Lexie Bean (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, March 21), is a collection of essays written by and for trans and non-binary survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. With contributions from Dean Spade, Nyala Moon, Alex Valdes, Sawyer DeVuyst and Ieshai Bailey, this book offers support, guidance and affirmation for trans survivors, whose stories are too often met with incredulousness and skepticism.

Amber Dawn, a Lambda Literary Award winner, returns with her second novel, "Sodom Road Exit" (Arsenal Pulp Press, April 3). This spellbinding paranormal thriller takes place in the summer of 1990 in Crystal Beach. Queer picaresque heroine, Starla Mia Martin, drops out of college and returns to find her lakeside village a ghost town after its beloved amusement park shuts down. Starla soon discovers an unnerving energy in the air — strange sounds, phantasmagoric sightings — and instead of hopping off the rollercoaster, she confronts every twist and turn head-on.

If you're a poetry fan, "Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color" (Nightboat Books, May 1), edited by Christopher Soto, is a stunning celebration of the diversity of the queer poetry community, as varied in style and form as it is in the experiences held by each contributor. Soto launched Nepantla with the Lambda Literary Foundation as an online journal to share the work of queer and trans poets of color. This is its first time in print, featuring canonical pieces by legends like Audre Lorde and James Baldwin alongside their contemporaries, such as Natalie Diaz, Tommy Pico and Chen Chen.

Celebrated novelist Alexander Chee makes his nonfiction debut with "How to Write an Autobiographical Novel" (Mariner Books, April 17). This revealing collection of essays is Chee's manifesto on what it means to be a contemporary writer and gay man, Korean American, artist, activist, lover and friend. While tracing the most decisive moments of his own life, Chee also examines some of the nation's biggest historical turning points, from the AIDS crisis to the election of Donald Trump.

"Little Fish" (Arsenal Pulp Press, May 1) is the debut novel from Lambda Literary Award-winning short story writer Casey Plett. The protagonist, Wendy Reimer, is a 30-year-old trans woman who discovers that her late grandfather, a pious Mennonite farmer, was likely transgender as well. In distracting herself from the problems in her own life and those of her friends — from alcoholism, to sex work to suicide — Wendy finds herself fully consumed by this familial mystery and the need to uncover the truth.

"SELF-ish: a Transgender Awakening" (Red Hen Press, May 4), a memoir by Chloe Schwenke, tells of her life and adventures living in five countries and working on projects in more than 40, mostly in Africa and the Middle East. This former Obama Administration appointee, has committed her life to assisting marginalized groups in some of the world's most challenging countries.

If you haven't gotten a chance to see it live, snag the paperback of legendary playwright Tony Kushner's "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures" (Theatre Communications Group, May 8). The play opens with Gus Marcantonio, a retired longshoreman, who has gathered his family together to discuss his decision to commit suicide. Kushner, who wrote "Angels in America" and has won a Pulitzer and two Tony Awards, uses his signature wit in telling a story of revolution, family and challenging the systemic constructs we consider inherent to our society. It will be interesting to see how it translates to the page; Theater J's D.C. production a few years ago felt like three hours of overlapping screaming.

Out playwright Tony Kushner has adapted his play 'The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide …' to the written page. (Photo courtesy Berkeley Rep)

Other releases of note include:

"The Routledge History of Queer America" (Routledge Histories), edited by Don Romesburg, offers one of the most comprehensive overviews of LGBT U.S. history, featuring nearly 30 chapters spanning the colonial era to present day. The book is $210 and releases March 14.

"Post-Borderlandia: Chicana Literature and Gender Variant Critique"(Rutgers University Press) by Jackie T. Cuevas synthesizes Chicana/o studies with queer theory and transgender studies, exploring gender identity and expression using the Chicana feminist canon and contemporary thinkers and artists. The book is $26.96 and releases March 28. 

"Transforming: the Bible & the Lives of Transgender Christians" (Westminster John Knox Press) by Austen Hartke challenges the way readers conceptualize faith and the transgender experience, analyzing Biblical figures and providing representation to modern-day trans Christians. The book is $16 and out April 7.

"Picture Us in the Light" by Kelly Loy Gilbert (Disney-Hyperion) is a poignant gay YA novel about Danny Cheng, a young artist bound for college who finds himself inexplicably panicked that he'll be moving far from his best friend, Harry Wong. He's also shaken by a disturbing discovery in his father's closet. The book is $17.99 and releases April 10.

"Not Here" (Coffee House Press) is the latest from critically acclaimed queer Vietnamese-American poet Hieu Minh Nguyen. Nguyen uses a wide variety of styles to provocatively confront whiteness, evoke both pleasure and pain, and find a sense of home in deep loneliness. The book is $16.95 and out April 10.

"The Bride Was a Boy" by Chii (Seven Seas, May 1) is a delightful autobiographical manga novel about a transgender love story, drawn in the style of diary comics. Chii, who was assigned male at birth, begins with her childhood and continues through her latest adventure: marrying the man of her dreams. The book is $12.59 and available May 1.

"Now the Night Begins" (Semiotext(e)/Native Agents) is gay French filmmaker Alain Guiraudie's first foray into literature, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman. Adopting his signature film themes, the novel is driven by disconcerting, overpowering sexual desire, centered on 40-year old protagonist Gilles Heurtebise's all-encompassing obsession with a 90-year old man in his neighborhood. It costs $24.95 and is out May 11.

"50 Queer Music Icons Who Changed the World" (Hardie Grant, May 15), written by Will Larnach-Jones and illustrated by Michele Rosenthal, is a beautiful tribute to the LGBT musicians who have been pushing boundaries since the 1920s, featuring everyone from Little Richard to Frank Ocean. It's $14.99 and available May 15.

Raskin endorses Madaleno for Md. governor

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 05:38 AM PST

Jamie Raskin, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin has endorsed state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) for governor. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin on Friday will formally endorse state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) for governor.

A press advisory released on Thursday said Raskin is expected to join Madaleno at East Silver Spring Elementary School in Silver Spring. The press release added more than 20 current and former state and Montgomery County lawmakers will also back Madaleno.

"He's got the values and the experience to lead the state in a progressive and an effective way," Raskin told the Washington Post. “Rich Madaleno is always in the moral center.”

Raskin in 2016 was elected to succeed then-Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who is now in the U.S. Senate.

Raskin spearheaded a bill that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples in Maryland when he was a member of the Maryland Senate. Raskin also played a leading role in securing passage of a 2014 transgender rights bill that Madaleno introduced.

"Rep. Raskin was a giant in the Maryland legislature and now a stand-out member of Congress,” said Madaleno in a statement. “He and the other lawmakers endorsing my campaign are people who have worked closely with me. They know that on the most important issues affecting families and quality of life, I am the best person to lead our state into the future."

Madaleno is among the Democrats who are running to succeed Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Madaleno last month chose Luwanda Jekins, a member of former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration, as his running mate. Madaleno could become the first openly gay man elected governor in the U.S. if he and Jenkins were to win in November.

Loneliness fuels isolation, drives violent behavior

Posted: 01 Mar 2018 01:54 PM PST

loneliness, gay news, Washington Blade

Erin Uritus (Photo courtesy of Uritus)

On the morning before the Parkland shooting, my 6-year-old daughter had a fire drill at school — her class lined up neatly outside as the building was cleared for safety. When she got home she told me she doesn't mind fire drills so much but that the really scary drills are the ones where they don't go outside. Tears welled up in my eyes as she described the drills where they have to hide under their desks or in the closets — she said she doesn't really understand them, but she knows it's about someone from the outside trying to hurt her.

We are in a national crisis. I am grateful for the people and organizations demanding sensible gun laws – something long overdue—and I am, like all of us ought to, doing self-reflection about what my part is in putting an end to these tragedies.

My life's work, at its heart, is focused on solving the problem of loneliness. Loneliness fuels isolation, it feeds pain, it is the driver of irrational and violent behavior. Loneliness at its very worst tells us that there is no one else out there, that our only hope for fullness is lashing out. Of course, all of us have felt lonely at times and of course, very few of us have acted out in violent ways, but if we can solve this for everyone, no matter how deep or shallow the feeling might run, I believe we will transform our society into one in which our children aren't having to prepare for school shooters between math and recess. And to create that transformation, it's key we understand what we're facing.

We've learned loneliness is not about social isolation, which means it's harder to spot in both directions — people can be quite fulfilled alone and not feel lonely and people can be entrenched in community and still report loneliness. In fact, a study at UCSF found that the majority of people who are lonely are married and live with others. And here's what was so worrying to me — an analytic study that drew in the experiences of more than 3 million people, found loneliness peaks in young adults. And young adults or millennials make up the largest portion of our population and in the coming years, the biggest demographic in our workforce.

 And loneliness is not just a problem, it's an epidemic. What may have been considered a concept that once lived on the pages of a meditation blog has become a serious and evidence-based area of research with half a dozen Harvard Business Review articles focused on our national wave of loneliness. Here's what we know: 40 percent of adults in America are lonely (and that's self-reported so we can be fairly certain it's actually much higher) and that loneliness reduces our lives as if we were smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Imagine someone you love was smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes a day, would you talk to them about it? If it was 40 percent of the people you knew, would you think we ought to collectively talk to them?

The ability to be our authentic selves and to see others as theirs is the antidote to loneliness. When we're the truest versions of who we are and we're welcomed and included because of that, it is all but impossible to muster up a lonely feeling. My organization works with our country's largest companies and government Employee Resource Groups to create workplaces where all of us are encouraged to be our authentic selves and all of us are included. And when we're successful in that work, what starts out as a series of handbook policies and checked boxes gets reborn as belonging. And belonging is our holy grail.

One of my heroes, Brene Brown, reminds us that it's harder to hate close up, that we need to move in. Go to work and move in. Encourage your children to find someone they don't like at school and move in. Let's, as a country, move in. Because this is not a problem that will be fixed on Capitol Hill or in a boardroom or on television—we need Congress to pass gun laws that will keep us safe, and we need all of us to commit to co-creating a world of belonging to keep us whole.


Erin Uritus is the CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, the world's premier nonprofit dedicated to achieving global LGBTQ workplace equality. She is a longtime executive with experience in corporate, non-profit and government sectors.  

Nicaragua trans advocacy group seeks to ‘create new leaders’

Posted: 01 Mar 2018 01:50 PM PST

Organization of Transgender People of Nicaragua (ODETRANS) Executive Director Venus Caballero at her organization’s office in Managua, Nicaragua, on Feb. 27, 2018. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — The head of a transgender advocacy group in Nicaragua on Tuesday said her primary objective is to “create new leaders.”

Venus Caballero, executive director of the Organization of Transgender People of Nicaragua (ODETRANS), noted to the Washington Blade during an interview at her office in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua that her organization has 30 active members across the country.

She said ODETRANS members are working in the cities of Masaya, León, Chinindega, Chontales and Orotal. Caballero, who also represents the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People (REDLACTRANS) in Nicaragua, told the Blade that ODETRANS has representatives in each of the country’s 15 departments in spite of the fact the organization’s only office is in Managua.

“We have trans leaders that are doing work in each one of these departments,” said Caballero.

Caballero said ODETRANS’ other objectives include teaching trans Nicaraguans how advocate for their rights, referring to a recent meeting in the northern part of the country that focused on empowering “girls about their human rights, self-care and self-esteem.” She told the Blade that ODETRANS also encourages trans Nicaraguans to become involved in the country’s political process.

Government ‘not against’ LGBT rights

The Nicaraguan government in 2009 created the Special Ombudsman for Sexual Diversity position within its Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman. The country’s Health Ministry in 2014 issued a resolution that bans discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in health care.

Caballero noted Vice President Rosario Murillo, who is married to President Daniel Ortega of the ruling National Liberation Sandinista Front, recently appeared on Nicaraguan television with a trans woman who had graduated from a prominent university with a communications degree. Caballero described Murillo’s decision to highlight the trans university graduate as a “real paradox” because she remains unemployed.

“She (Murillo) can say that okay, we are not against the issue (of trans rights), but we haven’t done anything to support the issue,” said Caballero.

Caballero also noted Ortega and Murillo — whose government is becoming increasingly authoritarian — describe Nicaragua as a “Christian, socialist and solidarity” country. The Roman Catholic Church and evangelicals also have significant influence over Nicaraguan politicians.

“We are a secular country,” said Caballero. “But our government professes a religion.”

Caballero further stressed discrimination based on gender identity remains commonplace in Nicaragua, even though ODETRANS and other advocacy groups continue to advocate for a comprehensive trans rights law and local nondiscrimination ordinances.

She said rates of anti-trans hate crimes and violence are lower in Nicaragua than in neighboring Honduras and other Central American countries that include El Salvador and Guatemala. Caballero nevertheless said officers with the National Police frequently harass and mistreat trans women who are in their custody.

“It is very hard to sensitize a government entity that is machista, that is patriarchal,” she said. “There is no respect on the part of the authorities.”

A billboard in Managua, Nicaragua, promotes Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Caballero told the Blade she is not afraid to leave her home or “walk down the street” because she is a trans woman. She said she has experienced unwanted touching from men on public buses, men shouting at her from their cars as she walks on the sidewalk and other forms of harassment.

“They have this concept of machismo; they have this concept of entrenched religion and in some way they feel they have the right to discriminate against trans women,” said Caballero.

Caballero, who has a journalism degree, told the Blade that only a handful of the estimated 7,000 trans people who live in Nicaragua have graduated from a university. She further pointed out many trans Nicaraguans do not have access to education because of their gender identity.

She also said trans Nicaraguans are at increased risk for HIV.

“A trans woman is viewed badly in society,” said Caballero. “Here there are bad stereotypes that have formed over many years. Trans women are viewed as drunks, as promiscuous, as alcoholics, as violent. Everything negative that society can invent is used against us in our community.”

‘I love my country’

Caballero spoke with the Blade less than two months after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and trans rights.

The decision is legally binding in Nicaragua and the other countries that recognize the American Convention on Human Rights the Inter-American Court of Human Rights enforces. The Nicaraguan government has yet to publicly respond to the ruling.

Caballero described the ruling as “an advance on the issue of human rights,” but acknowledged it has “its limitations” in Nicaragua.

She noted to the Blade that activists’ reaction to it has been muted because of concerns over the government’s “political will” to advance LGBT-specific issues. Caballero added activists also want to keep their lines of communication with the government open.

“We have allies inside the government, but allies that also have their limitations,” she told the Blade. “They cannot openly declare themselves in favor of the LGBT community because we already know the church is there.”

Caballero acknowledged trans, gay, lesbian and bisexual Nicaraguans continue to face challenges. She nevertheless added she remains hopeful about the country’s future and its LGBT rights movement.

“I love my country and I am optimistic in the sense that we have to cultivate new leaders,” said Caballero, specifically referring to the Nicaraguan LGBT community. “It is happening.”

SPRING ARTS 2018 DANCE: Pirouettes and arabesques

Posted: 01 Mar 2018 01:26 PM PST

dance 2018, gay news, Washington Blade

'Boys in Trouble' by Sean Dorsey Dance. (Photo by Lydia Daniller, courtesy Dance Place)

Bowen McCauley Dance presents "Une Soirée de Danse" at the Kennedy Center (2700 F St., N.W.) this weekend (March 2-3) at 7:30 p.m. The show will be the world premiere re-staging of Eric Hampton's "UnRavel," choreographed by Lucy Bowen McCauley, and a performance of the comedic dance "Le Café Carambole." There will be audience participation and live musicians. General admission tickets range from $40-50. VIP tickets are $150 and are available for the March 3 performance only. They include a VIP seat and admission to the after-party at the KC Café with Bowen McCauley Dance's cast, crew and board members. For more information, visit bmdc.org.

Dana Tai Soon Burgess holds a lecture demonstration at Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (8th and F streets, N.W.) on Saturday, March 3; Saturday, March 10; and Saturday, March 17 at 2 and 4 p.m. Burgess, who is choreographer-in-residence at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (and also gay), will explore eurythmics and themes found in the exhibit "Portraits of the World: Switzerland."Admission is free. For more details, visit dtsbdc.org.

Dissonance Dance Theatre presents "The J.I.N. Project" at Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts (8270 Alumni Dr., College Park, Md.) on Saturday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m. The contemporary ballet, which explores relationships, family and community, will be performed to the music of Jill Scott, India Arie and Nina Simone. Student tickets are $15. General admission tickets are $25. For more information, visit ddtdc.org.

Choreographer Damian Woetzel hosts his third annual "Demo" series show "Woke" at the Kennedy Center (2700 F St., N.W.) on Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. The show will feature recent commissions and D.C. premieres including a new work from choreographer Pam Tanowitz and the Kennedy Center premiere of "Fandago" by Alexei Ratmansky. Other dancers performing include street dancer Lil Buck, Sara Mearns from the New York City ballet, Jason Collins from Pam Tanowitz Dance and more. Tickets range from $39-49. For more details, visit kennedy-center.org.

The Washington Ballet debuts three world premieres from three emerging choreographers at the Harman Center in Sidney Harman Hall (610 F St., N.W.) on Wednesday, March 14 at 7:30 p.m. Performances run through Sunday, March 18. Featured choreographers will be Clifton Brown from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Gemma Bond from American Ballet Theatre and Marcelo Gomes from American Ballet Theatre. Tickets range from $25-118. For more information, visit washingtonballet.org.

Capitol Movement presents "a commUNITY Showcase" at Montgomery College Theater (7995 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Md.) on Saturday, March 17 at 7 p.m. There will be performances from Bowen McCauley Dance Company, Capitol Movement Dance Company, Capitol Movement Pre-Professional Company, The CMI Kidz, Dr. Badlove and the Remedies and many more. Student tickets are $20. General admission tickets are $25. For more details, visit capitolmovement.org.

UpRooted Dance performs "Circling the Line" at Dance Place (3225 8th St., N.E.) on Saturday, April 7 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 8 at 7 p.m. The surrealist performance fuses the 2D design from printmaker Susan Goldman with the 3D movement of the dancers. Tickets range from $15-25. For more details, visit uprooteddance.com.

Falun Dafa Association of D.C. presents "Shen Yun" at the Kennedy Center (2700 F St., N.W.) from April 10-15. The show explores the beauty of traditional Chinese culture through dance, scenographic effects and a live orchestra. Tickets range from $80-250. For more details, visit kennedy-center.org.

'Shen Yun' (Photos courtesy of the Kennedy Center)

The Washington Ballet performs "Mixed Masters," a selection of ballets from choreographers George Balanchine, Frederick Ashton and Jerome Robbins, at the Kennedy Center (2700 F St., N.W.) from April 11-15. Tickets range from $25-140. For more details, visit washingtonballet.org.

The Cherry Fund hosts "Cherry: Kaleidoscope," its annual dance benefit weekend, on April 12-16 at various venues in D.C. The weekend kicks off with "Catalyst" at Cobalt (1639 R St., N.W.) from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. New York City-based DJ Kenneth Rivera and DJ Danny Verde, from Italy, will play music all night. Tickets are $20. The final dance party will be "Infinity" at Soundcheck (1420 K St., N.W.) on Sunday, April 15 from 9 p.m.-4 a.m. DJ Nina Flowers and DJ Alain Jackinsky will spin tracks.Tickets are $30. Proceeds will benefit Washington D.C. HIV/AIDS community organizations.For a complete list of events, visit cherrydc.com.

ClancyWorks Dance Company presents "Resilience," a debut work from Artistic Director Adrienne Clancy, at Dance Place (3225 8th St., N.E.) on Saturday, April 14 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 15 at 7 p.m. The performance showcases how people learn to adapt from the shocks in the current world.Tickets range from $15-30. For more details, visit clancyworks.org.

ReVision dance company holds performances April 28-29 at 4 and 7 p.m. The contemporary modern dance company works with both professional and beginner dancers. Tickets range from $15-30. For details, visit danceplace.org.

Sean Dorsey Dance, led by transgender choreographer Sean Dorsey, presents "Boys in Trouble" at Dance Place (3225 8th St., N.E.) on Saturday, May 19 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 20 at 7 p.m. The piece examines masculinity from a transgender and queer perspective. Tickets range from $15-30. For more information, visit seandorseydance.com.

Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company presents "Remix: Swiss Beats" in the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (8th and F. streets, N.W.) on Thursday, May 24 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. The performance will bring together American and Swiss cultures in dance, music, art and food. Admission is free. For more details, visit dtsbdc.org.


Single man builds boyfriend out of wine boxes

Posted: 01 Mar 2018 11:52 AM PST

Michael James Schneider and his wine box boyfriend (Photo courtesy of Twitter)

Michael James Schneider, an artist and photographer from Portland, Oregon, found himself at a loss after a bad breakup in 2015. He decided to channel his creativity into building himself a boyfriend made of wine boxes.

“A couple of years ago I had a rough breakup and self-medicated through wine,” Schneider, 44, told BuzzFeed News. “Though I’m over the breakup now (and the copious consumption) I always thought it would be sad, funny, and a little sweet to make a companion from the empty cartons left over.”

Schneider set up photo shoots for himself and his wine box boyfriend doing activities that other couples do such as cooking together, grocery shopping and reading the newspaper. He posts the photos online which have received thousands of likes.

He landed his first gallery show and hopes to keep adding to the wine box boyfriend series.

“I think I'll make it a regular series I revisit from time to time to see how the wine box boyfriend and I's relationship is progressing,” Schneider says.

SPRING ARTS 2018 MOVIES: ‘Simon’ says he’s gay?

Posted: 01 Mar 2018 11:39 AM PST

2018 movie, gay news, Washington Blade

Nick Robinson in 'Love Simon.' (Photo by Ben Rothstein; courtesy Twentieth Century Fox)

The spring 2018 movie season gets off to an explosive start Friday with the wide release of "Death Wish," a contemporary reimaging of the classic 1974 revenge thriller. Bruce Willis takes on the role made famous by Charles Bronson.

"Love, Simon" (March 16) is about a gay teen (Nick Robinson) who can't quite get up the nerve to come out of the closet. The problem isn't his supportive parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel) or his close-knit group of friends, but rather his own insecurities. Things change when he befriends another gay teen online and then tries to track down his elusive electronic pen pal.

Also opening on March 16 is "Tomb Raider," a continuation of the Lara Croft saga starring Alicia Vikander, who won an Academy Award for "The Danish Girl."

One of the most highly anticipated releases of the spring is Disney's adaptation of "A Wrinkle in Time." Based on the beloved novel by Madeline L'Engle and directed by Ava DuVernay ("Selma," "Queen Sugar" and "13th"), the all-star cast includes Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, Zach Galifanakis and Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which. Newcomer Storm Reid plays Meg Murry who goes on a dangerous multi-dimensional journey to save her scientist father.

Director Ava DuVernay and actor Storm Reid on the set of 'A Wrinkle in Time.' (Photo courtesy Disney)

One of the highlights at the AFI Silver is "Wes World: The Films of Wes Anderson" which runs March 19-April 26. The AFI tribute to this stylish auteur includes his first film ("Bottle Rocket") along with a number of fan favorites ("Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums," Fantastic Mr. Fox," "Moonrise Kingdom" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel"). Starting on March 28, AFI will also screen Anderson's latest film, "Isle of Dogs," a delightful stop-motion-animated adventure about a boy who rescues his dog from the awful Trash Island.

Other special programs at AFI include "Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Legacy on Screen"; "Directed by Michael Curtiz" featuring "Casablanca," Errol Flynn in "The Adventures of Robin Hood," Joan Crawford's star turn in "Mildred Pierce" and a gory double bill of "Doctor X" and "The Mystery of the Wax Museum"; and two films screened in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month: "The Rape of Recy Taylor," and "The Color Purple." will be co-presented with a variety of local partners, including AHA! Moment and the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, home of the Reel Affirmations Film Festival.

In addition to its partnership with AFI, Reel Affirmations will continue to present monthly screenings at the HRC Screening Room. Upcoming movies are slated to include "Q Mason," "A Moment in the Reeds" and "Water in a Broken Glass."

From March 22-25, the increasingly popular Annapolis Film Festival returns to several scenic venues around Maryland's state capitol. The schedule for the sixth annual festival has not been announced yet, but the staff have a few sneak peeks.

The LGBT feature-length films at the festival will include "Stumped," a documentary about gay filmmaker Will Lautzenheiser who turns to stand-up comedy as therapy after he becomes a quadruple amputee; "Kiss Me," an effervescent French lesbian comedy; and "Finding Home," a moving portrait of three LGBT people who sought refugee status in the U.S. shortly before the 2016 elections.

The various programs of shorts also offer several queer films including "Men Don't Whisper" about a gay couple who go to extremes to prove their masculinity; "Humbug," a holiday story that features a hot lesbian kiss beneath the mistletoe; and the wonderful "The Whole World" about the special bond between a man and his mother.

The non-profit Avalon Theatre offers a wide variety of diverse films. In addition to its regular programming, the Avalon presents a number of special events, including "Exhibition on Screen" and the "Wednesday Signature Series." On May 6, the theater will host "We'll Always Have Casablanca," a fundraiser that includes a special screening of the movie and a presentation by film historian Noah Isenberg.

Slated for an April release, "Disobedience" is a tumultuous lesbian romance set among London's Orthodox Jewish community. Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams play childhood friends who reunion turns into a romance. Sebastián Lelio ("A Fantastic Woman") directs and Alessandro Nivola plays McAdam's rabbi husband.

The recently "rescued" SNF Parkway Theatre in Baltimore includes three theaters and offers innovative cinematic programming year-round. Some of the queer programming on tap for the spring includes a free community screening of the award-winning documentary "The Times of Harvey Milk" on March 22 and "Queer Edward II," Derek Jarman's bold and beautiful queer reconsideration of Christopher Marlowe's gay Elizabethan play "Edward II."

Other programming at the Parkway includes "The Young Karl Marx," directed by Raoul Peck ("I Am Not Your Negro") and Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott's delicious "Big Night," part of the Parkway's exciting ongoing collaboration with Baltimore's Everyman Theatre.

The Parkway, named for philanthropist Starvos Niachros, will also be one of the sites for the 20th annual Maryland Film Festival which runs May 3-6. Programming for the festival has not been announced, but one event is guaranteed. Baltimore film provocateur John Waters will be on hand to personally introduce one of his favorite cringe-inducing camp classics. Past choices have included the mother-daughter team of Tippi Hedren and Melanie Griffith in "Roar" and the husband-wife team of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Tennessee William's "Boom."

The popular Washington Jewish Film Festival runs May 2-19. The festival slate will officially be announced in April, but the producers have already confirmed that the fascinating "Rated LGBTQ" series will be returning.

Other notable spring openings include:

"Journey's End" (March 23),  a stirring World War I drama based on the famous play by gay author R. C. Sherriff,

"The Death of Stalin" (March 16). a political satire about a dark period of Soviet history. Steve Buscemi stars as Nikita Khrushchev and Andrea Riseborough ("Battle of the Sexes) appears as Stalin's daughter Svetlana,

"Avengers: Infinity War" (May 4), another visit to the Marvel Comic Universe,

And, on a much lighter note, a treat for the whole family: "Sherlock Gnomes" (March 23), a sequel to the clever and punny "Gnomeo and Juliet" (2011).

In the lead-up to Memorial Day and the summer blockbusters, three very different movies (with three very different LGBT fan bases will vie for box office dollars: Melissa McCarthy stars in the raucous comedy "Life of the Party" (May 11), Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga star in the fourth Hollywood remake of "A Star is Born" (May 18), and on May 25, the off-year franchise movie "Solo: A Star Wars Movie" zooms into theaters.