#Washington LGBT

#Washington LGBT

Bisexual Md. lawmaker talks coming out, conversion therapy speech

Posted: 21 Apr 2018 05:41 AM PDT

Maryland state Del. Meagan Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel) sits in her office in D.C. on April 19, 2018. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland state Del. Meagan Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel County) was having dinner with fellow lawmakers last month in Annapolis when she overheard state Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County) talking about a bill that seeks to ban so-called conversion therapy for minors.

State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced Senate Bill 1028 in the Maryland Senate. Cullison sponsored it in the House of Delegates.

Cullison told Simonaire that SB 1028 was “basically dead” in the state Senate. Cullison added it was being held up by a “certain senator” who turned out to be Simonaire’s father, state Sen. Bryan Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel County).

Meagan Simonaire in a speech she gave on the House floor on April 4 before SB 1028 passed said her parents suggested she undergo conversion therapy after she told them she had been in a relationship with another woman. Meagan Simonaire also came out as bisexual.

“I was in complete shock, of course,” she told the Washington Blade on Thursday during an interview at her office in Northwest D.C., noting she had less than two days notice that SB 1028 was moving in the state House. “[It was] kind of an out of body experience.”

Senator father ‘never said go to conversion therapy’

Meagan Simonaire in 2014 was elected to represent House District 31B in Anne Arundel County after she campaigned on a platform that included fighting human trafficking and advocating on behalf of homeless youth.

She is currently the youngest member of the General Assembly. Meagan Simonaire, who holds a cosmetology degree from Bob Jones University in South Carolina, is not seeking re-election.

Meagan Simonaire told the Blade she was “completely” closeted when she was with her first girlfriend, whose parents kicked her out when she was a teenager after she came out to them.

“Everything was on the DL,” she said.

Meagan Simonaire spent most of her time with her girlfriend at her home in Baltimore.

She said she brought her to a Christmas tree lighting when she was running for office. Meagan Simonaire also told the Blade that a Baltimore taxi driver once kicked them out of his cab after he saw them holding hands and was “grossed out.”

“I was already feeling guilt and shame of how I was raised,” she told the Blade, recalling the incident and what she had been taught about homosexuality.

“We never talked about being gay,” added Meagan Simonaire. “I just knew it was one of the sins.”

Meagan Simonaire and her girlfriend had already broken up by the time she was elected. Meagan Simonaire came out to her parents in January 2015 and told them about their relationship

“The following few months were the hardest, worst months of my life,” she said, noting she was suffering from depression and had contemplated taking her own life. “I couldn’t drive in the car without wanting to drive into a tree. It was horrible.”

Meagan Simonaire stressed her father “never said go to conversion therapy, we need to fix you.”

“He said, ‘You can get help. I’m going to try and help you because I love you,'”

Meagan Simonaire throughout the interview repeatedly stressed her parents are not anti-gay.

“My parents weren’t hateful,” she told the Blade. “They weren’t mean. They were broken-hearted. They were sad and that sometimes is worse because they’ve been the best parents.”

“I’ve always been my mom’s best friend and my daddy’s little girl,” added Meagan Simonaire. “It was really, really difficult at the same time and then add onto that oh, and I ran as a Republican.”

Father was ‘in shock’ after House speech

Meagan Simonaire said she listened to her father’s comments in opposition to SB 1028 before she wrote the speech that she ultimately delivered on the House floor.

“Obviously [I] wanted to be as respectful and loving as possible and not paint him as this monster, because he’s not,” she told the Blade. “But I just realized I said you know what, I have four days left in session . . . four more days in session, I knew that there was no option of me hiding who I am for the ret of my life. I’m not going to be 39 years old in my office with bills up on the wall and be single and/or hiding who I am dating. That’s not an option.”

Meagan Simonaire texted her father before she gave her speech and then put her phone in airplane mode. Meagan Simonaire said her father did not hear it because he was voting in the Senate.

“He was obviously in shock,” she told the Blade. “He didn’t hear my speech first so all he saw were these press releases going online and it stabbed him in the heart.”

“He felt really betrayed and hurt because that’s what he saw and that was the hardest thing for me,” added Meagan Simonaire. “I am daddy’s little girl and I just want him to love me and be proud of me.”

Maryland state Sen. Bryan Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel County) (Photo public domain)

Meagan Simonaire said her father accused her of lying before she told him to watch her speech. Meagan Simonaire told the Blade he wasn’t hurt over the fact she had come out or supported SB 1028, but rather she wasn’t “clear enough on the details and how that gave a lot of room to interpret things.”

She pointed out her father had said conversion therapy can be done lovingly, which she stressed is “never going to be received well.” Meagan Simonaire also said some of the press coverage of her speech was not accurate.

“I was like I never thought that you were trying to send me away to some torture camp,” she said, referring to the conversations she had with her father after her speech. “But I don’t think it makes a difference between Christian counselor or conversion therapy when the outcome is the same.”

Meagan Simonaire acknowledged these conversion conversations were “super painful,” but she told the Blade they are slowly getting easier. Meagan Simonaire also said some of the comments that she has read about her father have been “horrible.”

“I adore him and we strongly disagree on this,” she said. “We strongly disagree that conversion therapy can be done lovingly, 100 percent, and we’ve disagreed on other things in the past too. But to say that he’s not a good father and he’s a sperm donor, you know, of course, that’s really hurtful.”

Bryan Simonaire has yet to return the Blade’s requests for comment. The Anne Arundel County Republican during an interview with Bruce DePuyt, senior reporter at MarylandMatters.org, echoed Meagan Simonaire’s criticism of how the media covered the speech.

"I'm seeing reports that we sent her to conversion therapy when she was a child,” Bryan Simonaire told DePuyt. “This was a simple family conversation when she was 25 or 26 years old. She was an adult child talking to her parents. It was one simple conversation."

"She was dealing with depression and anxiety after she had revealed that she was bisexual,” added Bryan Simonaire. “So, she was asking for advice. We gave her some advice for Christian counseling. She decided not to go to it. She never attended. And that was the end of the conversation."

Bryan Simonaire also described those who criticized him for recommending conversion therapy to his daughter as “so-called tolerant people.”

“They just spew hateful comments and they don't really have all the facts," he told DePuyt.

Meagan Simonaire hopes to become involved with LGBT rights

Eleven states and D.C. currently ban conversion therapy for minors.

The New Hampshire Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would ban the widely discredited practice in the state. A similar measure passed in the Hawaii House of Representatives earlier this month.

The California Assembly on Thursday approved a bill that would classify conversion therapy as a fraudulent business practice in the state. Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has yet to sign SB 1028, but he publicly supports it.

“I’m so happy it’s being talked about,” said Meagan Simonaire, referring to efforts to ban conversion therapy for minors.

She told the Blade she would like to become more involved with the LGBT rights movement and efforts to fight conversion therapy.

Human Rights Campaign staffers met with her on Wednesday in D.C. Meagan Simonaire has not publicly said whether she plans to leave the Republican Party over its hostility to LGBT-specific issues.

“It’s a decision that’s going to be made,” she said. “It’s almost impossible for people to stay in a Republican Party when they are not doing the right thing and standing up for people who don’t have a voice and who are being persecuted on a daily basis and it’s 2018. It’s unacceptable.”

Singer/songwriter Janis Ian keeps it real in advance of April 28 D.C.-area show

Posted: 21 Apr 2018 02:54 AM PDT

Janis Ian, gay news, Washington Blade

Janis Ian tells budding songwriters to study the classics and test your material on audiences who 'couldn't care less' about you. (Photo by Lloyd Baggs; courtesy Ian)

Janis Ian
Saturday, April 28
The Birchmere
3701 Mount Vernon Ave.
Alexandria, Va. 
7:30 p.m.

Janis Ian is having a rough weekend when we touch base April 13. The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter is soldiering on at CAMP Rehoboth Women's Fest despite being dangerously close to having no singing voice.

She plays the Birchmere next weekend (April 28) and responded to these questions via e-mail, citing vocal preservation. Her comments have been slightly edited for length.

WASHINGTON BLADE: You're playing CAMP Rehoboth Women's Fest this weekend. What are the crowds like at these lesbian events? Have you done many of them?

IAN: It's a lesbian event? (grin) I made a firm decision decades ago not to do any sort of exclusionary event, so the only "gay" events I've done have been Pride marches, or events like CAMP Rehoboth or the old Bloomington Women's Music Festival (I think it has a new name now), both of which welcome all genders. As to the audiences, I'd say any time you have a festival-style event the crowds are going to be super enthusiastic because they're there for more than just a few hours. They're more relaxed and it's a different excitement.

BLADE: How do you like performing at the Birchmere? Have you played there many times?

IAN: Hah! So many, I can't even count, at the old and the new Birch. One of the best clubs in the world and I've played pretty much all of them. Not a bad seat in the house. I've even got Birchmere "war stories," which I won't go into here. Tom Paxton and I premiered our world tour there. I've premiered albums there. I can't imagine life without it. Once I made the decision to stop touring very much, the first place to approach me was the Birchmere, via Mike Jaworek. I told him I wasn't touring. He kept bothering me and bothering me and bothering me. I kept giving him reasons I couldn't do it. He kept bothering me. He wore me down. Once I agreed, I got really excited. It's like coming home and at 67, I have a perfectly good home in Tennessee already, thank you very much.

BLADE: What are the acoustics like at Carnegie Hall? Of course they're legendary, but are they that much better than other great halls?

IAN: Yes. There's the prestige of playing Carnegie, but there's also the acoustics. Someone warned me about a "bass trap" in the upper left balcony before my first solo gig, so we faced the bass amp that way, and we were told it was the best sound from a band they'd ever heard. Most of the great halls were designed for non-amplified music — vaudeville halls. All the older, great Broadway halls. European halls and Carnegie. I think they've had to tear Philharmonic Hall apart now what — three times? — to fix the acoustics. Instead of relying on experience and ears, architectural firms and "soundscape engineers" (seriously? "soundcape engineer?") rely on machines. Just stupid.

BLADE: Do you have Joan Baez's new album? Any thoughts?

IAN: I do not have it yet, but my thoughts are that Joan has always been one of the kindest people on earth to me. I wish I had a song on it, but she's done two of mine before and they're among my proudest covers.

BLADE: How do you decide what key a song you're writing is going to be in?

IAN: It feels right on my voice. Sometimes there's a conflict — it might sound better in the studio a little higher or lower. Sometimes I have to change the guitar part to suit the key.

BLADE: When other artists have recorded your songs, do they often change the key?

IAN: Honestly, I have no idea. It never occurred to me to check.

BLADE: Back in the '60s/'70s heyday of the big labels, did they let you have input into what your singles would be? Was there ever an instance where you were hoping it would be one song but the label was insisting on another?

IAN: I almost always had a good team around me, producer and A&R person, so I usually had input. I mean, no one wanted to put out a song the artist would refuse to sing on stage or TV, right? So fortunately for me, that's never been a big issue. They'd have liked it if I'd written more commercial songs, but that's not my gift.

BLADE: Amy Grant had a No. 1 hit with your song "What About the Love" in 1989. What are your memories of writing that song and do you have any idea how it got floated to a gospel artist?

IAN: I wrote it with Kye Fleming as we were sitting around her living room in Nashville, on the floor, just before Christmas I think. I was playing around with the guitar part, trying to put the first beat on the second note of the guitar pattern and making myself crazy trying to work it into my fingers. Then I began singing, "I went to see my sister. She was living with a friend …" and we were off and running. The minute we finished it, Kye said it had to go to Amy. I think Kye's publisher must have done it, but she also knew Amy, so she may have pitched it herself. And Amy's always said she's a big fan of my work — she owns a hand-written copy of "At Seventeen," for instance, so that may have helped get it in the door. Regardless, she's a lovely woman and she did a great job.

BLADE: Have you ever demo'd it or performed it yourself?

IAN: It's on the album "Breaking Silence." Morgan Creek gave the rights back to me last year, so we're in release now. In fact, I'll be selling it at the Birchmere show because so many people have asked about it. Nice to have your first album after 10 years away become a Grammy nominee (she said musingly). It really is nice. It's a fantastic audiophile recording; we've released it through Acoustic Sounds on vinyl, tape and SACD.

BLADE: Are you still friendly with Kye Fleming? About how many songs would you say you wrote together?

IAN: Yes, of course I'm still friendly with her. We lived together two-and-a-half years! We wrote 64 songs and among them are several of the absolute best songs I've ever been involved with. It's a pity no one's pushing them, because some are still un-recorded, but we did pretty well — Diane Schuur, Amy, Bette Midler, Charlie Daniels, Maura O'Connell, Cynthia Clawson, Marti Jones. It was an incredibly fertile period and I will always, always be grateful for it, and for Kye. I learned a ton about songwriting from her. She's brilliant.

BLADE: Did you two have a private chuckle over a lesbian couple having penned a No. 1 song on the gospel music charts?

IAN: Probably not.

BLADE: Where did the material come from on your Unreleased collections? Are those alternate studio takes or songs you hadn't previously recorded or both?

IAN: Both. I've spent the past 10 years plus having everything I've written and recorded transferred, updated, transferred, put on line. There are a lot of alt versions, though very few alt studio takes. A lot of demos and work tapes that haven't, or have, been released.

BLADE: How long did it take you to write your memoirs?

IAN: I gave myself a year, because I'd never written anything that long before. I also researched and I had several fans who helped with research — dates, places, times and the like. It was good, because for a year I never set foot on a plane. I did four professional things — hosted a tribute to Odetta, sang at a tribute to Pete Seeger, played bass for Marie Knight and something else I can't remember. They were all fun things to do, and they convinced me that it was more fun to do less, but do the things that brought me pleasure, than to do too much. I had time at home — long periods of time. I hadn't had that since around 1991, so it was quite marvelous.

BLADE: What was your experience like working with John Mellencamp? What's he like in the studio?

IAN: John was great. Very honest, very hard working, very respectful. You have to remember that at the time he brought me into the studio, no one in the music business gave a crap about me. I couldn't get a publisher, a manager, a booking agent, record company — nothing and no one. John was the only professional in my field to put his money where his mouth was. I mean, it's lovely to hear, "Oh, you're a great writer, great performer, great singer," but it's not so great when they can't make space for you at the table.

BLADE: What kind of feedback did you get as an Advocate columnist? Did you enjoy the gig?

IAN: I loved working with Judy Wieder, my editor there. I'd been turning her down for a year or so, and she suckered me into lunch with her and my wife when we were in L.A. I made the mistake of going to the rest room and while I was gone, they made the deal. I learned a ton that stood me in good stead when I wrote my autobiography. Having to come up with 1,000 words every month really teaches you a lot. As does having to be funny most of the time. So yes, I enjoyed it very much. I left when Judy was promoted and I had a new editor who didn't see things the same way. When I began, I was literally hired to be the "resident iconoclast." When I left, they had a lot of those. So it was time to go.

BLADE: What's a songwriting trap you see beginning writers succumb to commonly?

IAN: Oh, gosh, there are so many. Settling. Being enthralled with yourself. Not knowing the basics. Is your second verse as strong as the first? Should your second verse be the first? Are you mixing metaphors? Are you saying that because it's true, believable, what needs to be there, or are you saying it because it feels good on your voice? So, so many. I always tell people to play out and play out for people who don't want to hear you. Don't play for your friends and family — they're obligated to like your work. Play for people who couldn't care less. That's part of how you learn. And remember the computer term GIGO — garbage in, garbage out. You listen to crap, you'll write crap. Mostly, it's the CD/technology issue. When you're young, you don't have much of a filter. You're enthralled with your last song, because it's astonishing and amazing and ennobling that you can even write a song. So, if you can make a CD for practically nothing, in practically no time, you end up putting all those songs on CDs. You make way too many CDs, too fast, and you think you're growing, but you're not. I had this discussion the other day with someone. When I started writing, none of us could afford songbooks. So we'd buy an album, listen to it, and write out the lyrics. Somehow, that connection from your hand to your brain teaches you. That's what I'd tell young songwriters. Take a song you love by someone else. Listen to it and write out the lyrics. Once, twice, three times. Play it and sing it for a week. Get it into your body. Then move on to the next. Keep it different. Go from contemporary to Johnny Mercer. Don't get tied down. And write them out.

BLADE: Did you have a noticeable lesbian fan base before you were outed or did that come later?

IAN: If you're referring to the Village Voice piece by a writer who's now dead, I can't comment on that. I'd lived with a man, I then lived with a woman. I married a man, then married a woman. I identify as gay because that's my tilt, but I wasn't "known" as a gay woman until I chose to come out with it myself. I did it around the release of "Breaking Silence" because of a conversation I had with (longtime LGBT activist) Urvashi Vaid.

BLADE: You seem so at peace and pragmatic about life and the music business. Joni Mitchell has had almost a second career giving brutally candid interviews criticizing the music industry and calling it a cesspool. Do you applaud her candor or think she just sounds bitter and overly negative?

IAN: Joni also believes she was never paid enough and she has no musical equals. I don't listen to it much.

BLADE: You've been through some scary times in the country with your father and the red scare. Are you fairly confident our national guardrails and checks and balances can withstand Trump? How closely are you following this?

IAN: We're still an experiment; remains to be seen. I follow it as closely as everyone else and I wish people would listen to various news sources and go off line for a while.

BLADE: Will there be a new Janis Ian studio album of new material at some point?

IAN: Yes. It's part of why I'm setting deadlines for my last touring days and my last album release. And a large part of why I'm touring so little.

BLADE: What would you guess is your ratio of released (you or other artists) vs. unreleased material of the songs you've written?

IAN: Not a clue.

BLADE: How regularly do you write these days?

IAN: Just depends on where I am and what I'm doing at the time.

BLADE: Was it ever hard to keep writing in leaner career periods?

IAN: Depending on the era, the assumption's that if you're not on TV, you're dead. (Or your career is.) If you're not on tour, you're dead. (Or your career is.) If you're not on Facebook, you're dead. (Or your career is.) Artists don't stop being artists. We don't stop creating. Record companies stop wanting us. Promoters stop wanting us. Even audiences stop wanting us. But we don't stop. That's just not how it works.

CARTOON: A long shadow

Posted: 20 Apr 2018 06:40 PM PDT

(Washington Blade editorial cartoon by Ranslem)

Theater J’s ‘Roz and Ray’ mines early years of HIV

Posted: 20 Apr 2018 06:33 PM PDT

Roz and Ray review, gay news, Washington Blade

Susan Rome and Tom Story in 'Roz and Ray.' (Photo by C. Stanley Photography; courtesy Theater J)

'Roz and Ray'
Through April 29
Theater J
1529 16th St.

Roz and Ray review

Though not the usual play about HIV/AIDS, Theater J's current offering, "Roz and Ray" by Karen Hartman, tells an important story of both queer history and the history of HIV/AIDS in America. While it's widely known that hemophiliacs were hit hard at the onset of the crisis, the disturbing details surrounding what happened to those boys and how drug companies were involved isn't common knowledge. Here, the facts are laid bare.

Directed by Theater J out artistic director Adam Immerwahr, the San Diego-set two hander spans some tough years, 1976-1987, and one difficult day in 1991. Dedicated pediatric hematologist/oncologist Roz (Theater J associate artist Susan Rome) is charged with the complicated care of the hemophilic young twin sons of single father Ray (local favorite Tom Story). The play focuses on the pair's unlikely relationship and how Roz reacts when new wonder drug, Factor VIII, is discovered to be giving patients HIV/AIDS at an enormously high rate.

Factor VIII was a pooled blood product derived from plasma. And because it was a concentrated blood product, each dose contained blood from up to 20,000 donors, very often drawn from high risk populations, at a time before heat treatment was used to remove the virus from blood products. The implications were staggering.

"Roz and Ray" spoke to Immerwahr immediately. He says that Theater J, a Jewish theater company, "has a long history dealing with plays that tackle tricky questions about values. How do you live in the world and make decisions you make and how do you do the right thing in impossible situations? For us theses are deeply Jewish questions."

Immerwahr says it was a tricky time because while a few hemophiliac children in the early '80s had died of gay-related immune deficiency (GRID) and eight more exhibited symptoms, Factor VIII was also responsible for keeping children alive and giving them normal lifespans. Conflicting information from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Hemophilia Association flummoxed doctors and parents.

Smartly, Hartman doesn't tell an HIV/AIDS story without including gay men. Ray was married to his sons' mother and is having episodic relationships with men.

"At the time, many more men were closeted and came out well into adulthood in a gradual shifting and changing way," Immerwahr says. "And that's what Ray does. To be coming out of closet while HIV/AIDS crisis at its height is an interesting time in gay history, His coming to terms with his sexuality and eventual public identification as gay takes the course of the play."

For out actor Tom Story, Ray offers some firsts: "He's an interesting character, a type that I haven't played before. He's from Texas, smart but uneducated. He married young and after his wife leaves him, he becomes the single father of two young sons. I've never played a father."

Story also says his characters possible bisexuality adds layers for him to work with.

"We want to categorize people," Story says. "He does eventually come out. And he talks about waiting to be free. But still, Ray is capable of having fulfilling sexual and emotional relationships with women. That's unusual onstage."

Then there's his complicated relationship with Roz. They share an interest in Ray's sons' wellbeing. They meet when the kids are 7. She gives them life changing drug that turns out to be deadly. "It's a love story in some ways but there's a lot of rage," Story says. "They get into a romantic thing and she wants him to be mother to his kids. It's about attraction and survival."

Hartman's play is devastatingly sad. It's also timely.

"We as a society want regulations or some might call them protection in the products we interact with. In a quiet way the play makes a statement on what the role of profit motivated companies is in protection us or failing to protect us," Immerwahr says.

"When the play takes place, a lot of gay men were acting up in response to HIV/AIDS, but unfortunately it was hard for the hemophilia community to ally with them," he says. "Many of them saw gays as the enemy who were polluting the blood supply. 'Roz and Ray' is a complicated story told by two extraordinary performers. It's also a wonderful way to learn history."


Posted: 20 Apr 2018 06:06 PM PDT

Cannabis Festival, gay news, Washington Blade

Stoner Fest and Up in Smoke are among parties piggybacking on National Cannabis Festival.

Gifts From Earth hosts D.C's third annual 420 Stoner Fest on Friday, April 20 from 2-8 p.m. at a secret location. There will be a dessert bar, buffet, non-alcoholic drink bar and live musical performances. Gift certificates are included with tickets to use for souvenirs. Stoner tickets are $28.45 and include general admission and two gift certificates. A Pair of Stoners is $46.39 and gives general admission for two and four gift certificates. 420 VIP is $107.62 and gives unlimited access to the VIP section, unlimited access to the buffet, a VIP gift certificate and a wristband for re-entry all day. For more information, visit facebook.com/giftsfromtheearthdc.

The High Society of D.C. Events hosts its second annual Up in Smoke 420 at an undisclosed location on Friday, April 20 from 5 p.m.-2 a.m. There will be vendors, glass blowing, food, music, live art and performing artists. General admission tickets are $10. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. For more details, visit facebook.com/thehighsocietydc.

Mamajuana Edibles has a weekend filled with events starting with its 420 Day Party at an undisclosed location on Friday, April 20 from 3-8 p.m. There will be gifts, giveaways, music, vendors and more. Admission is a $10 donation. A portion of the donation will benefit a cannabis non-profit organization. Location will be revealed with RSVP.

The 420 After Party follows at the Abigail (1730 M St., N.W.) on Friday, April 20 from 11 p.m.-3 a.m. Drink specials will run all night. Tickets are $23.16. On Saturday, April 21 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.  there will be a Wake and Bake Session. There will be giveaways, vendors, music and more. Location will be released with RSVP. Admission is free. For more information, visit facebook.com/mamajuanaedibles.

CREW D.C. hosts "Marijuana+CRE: A Pipe Dream," a panel discussion, at the W Hotel (515 15th St., N.W.) on Thursday, April 26 from 10:45 a.m.-1:30 p.m. The panel will discuss emerging real estate issues within the cannabis industry. Speakers include David Grosso (D.C. councilman at-large); Chanda Macias, owner of the National Holistic Healing Center; and attorney Stanley Jutkowitz. Tina Reed, staff writer for the Washington Business Journal, will moderate. For more information and to register, visit crewdc.org.

Team D.C.’s Night of Champions honors mayor, local student athletes

Posted: 20 Apr 2018 05:51 PM PDT

Team DC, Caroline Hutcheson, gay news, Washington Blade

Claire Hutcheson, center, with her parents, Carolyn and John. (Photo by Kevin Majoros)

Last weekend marked the return of Team D.C.'s Night of Champions. The annual event honors members of the LGBT sports community and recipients of the Team D.C. College Scholarship program.

This year's sold-out event at the Washington Hilton featured a visit from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who received the Champions Award for her advocacy in the LGBT sports community.

In addition to the community awards, Team D.C. awarded six college scholarships to local LGBT student-athletes. The Scholarship Program was created in 2008 with a goal to support openly out student-athletes and to educate and foster discussions with coaches and school administrators about the challenges facing LGBT athletes.

One of the scholarship recipients who spoke at the event was Claire Hutcheson, who rows crew at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax.

Her sports path started with competitive swimming which continued through her freshman year of high school. She switched over to rowing her sophomore year and earned a spot in the top varsity boat rowing 4s and 8s.

"Rowing is such a great team sport," Hutcheson says. "You have four or eight people on the water together, several hours a day, up to six days a week. Even though it's a great workout, it is also very calming."

Hutcheson was out to her teammates but chose not to come out to her coach.

"One of my first girlfriends was on the team but I wasn't sure if our coach would be accepting," Hutcheson says. "Coming out to him felt too much like I was mixing my personal life with business."

Hutcheson will attend College of William & Mary this fall with plans to major in international relations. She has already checked out the club rowing team and visited the boathouse at William & Mary. With her swimming background, she is also intrigued by the possibility of playing club water polo.

Attending the Night of Champions with her were her parents, John and Carolyn. She says they have been super supportive and were excited for her to receive the sports scholarship.

"It is a very niche, unique experience to be an LGBT athlete," Hutcheson says. "I am excited to see how it translates on the college level. I know I have a good community waiting for me on the women's crew team."

"The reception from the high schools has risen over the years and they are now reaching out us directly," says Brent Minor, executive director and founder of Team D.C. "LGBT students are aware of the scholarship as early as their freshman year and just waiting to apply. The comfort level of the counselors, educators and coaches has evolved and I think that is a direct result of more athletes coming out. It's not a huge shock anymore for a gay person to be an athlete. Now that's progress."

This year's Team D.C. College Scholarship recipients:

Reeves Gift, Chesapeake Math & IT Academy, Laurel, Md.; University of Southern California

Nakiyea Harris, Dunbar High School, Washington; undecided

Caroline Hill, T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, Va.; Virginia Commonwealth University

Claire Hutcheson, W.T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, Va.; William and Mary University

Doratea Delback Macri, School Without Walls, Washington; University of California-Berkeley

Thea Shaw, Dunbar High School, Washington; Washington Adventist University

Along with the Mayor's Award and the scholarship recipients, Team D.C. also recognized the following local LGBT sports community leaders:

Sharifa Love: Washington Furies Women's Rugby Team

Jesse Anderson: D.C. Pride Gay Volleyball League

Bud Rorison: Capital Tennis Association

Les Johnson: Capital Area Rainbowlers Association

Balance Gym: support of the local sports community

Thomas Roberts donates money from hosting Miss Universe to HRC

Posted: 20 Apr 2018 12:43 PM PDT

Thomas Roberts at HRC’s DC donor gathering (Screenshot via YouTube)

Journalist Thomas Roberts has announced plans to make a $25,000 donation to the Human Rights Campaign — indirectly from the pocket of President Donald Trump.

While accepting HRC’s Leadership & Visibility Award at its Maryland Summit on Saturday, Roberts reminded the audience that he emceed the 2013 Miss Universe competition in Moscow.

“In 2013, when I was working for NBC, I traveled to Russia with the president. He wasn’t the president then, he was just Donald Trump from ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ owning Miss Universe,” Roberts begins.

The former MSNBC anchor explains that he decided to host the event, “because I wanted people to know that members of the LGBTQ community are not a threat to you.”

His appearance earned him $25,000 but Roberts announced he wants to donate the money to HRC.

“Because of all the stuff that’s come out in light of the Russians, I don’t know whose money that is. So, I don’t want it. And not that I believe that it’s in any way bad money, because I thought at the time I was earning it for good intent. Because I wanted to show the stories of the LGBTQ community that was under this harsh spotlight by the Russian government. That really hasn’t changed. I earned that money for good intent and I’d like to donate that money to you [HRC],” Roberts says.

HRC has been spotlighting the persecution and torture of gay and bisexual men in the Russian republic of Chechnya with its #EyesOnChechnya campaign. 

Watch below.

‘Glee’ actor Kevin McHale comes out in Ariana Grande tweet

Posted: 20 Apr 2018 12:15 PM PDT

Kevin McHale (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr)

“Glee” star Kevin McHale came out as gay in a tweet praising Ariana Grande’s new single “No Tears Left to Cry.”

McHale, 29, tweeted “#NoTearsLeftToCry is gayer than me and I ACCEPT. Ty @ArianaGrande” in response to Grande’s single release.

“I’d like to request a remix with @JanetJackson. ty for ur time. @ArianaGrande,” he added.

McHale had already hinted on Instagram that he was in a relationship with actor Austin McKenzie. McHale had posted photos of himself holding hands with someone who eagle-eyed followers thought to be McKenzie. He also posted a photo of himself cuddling with McKenzie.

The pair both starred in the LGBT mini-series “When We Rise.”


A post shared by Kevin McHale (@kevinmchale) on


A post shared by Kevin McHale (@kevinmchale) on

Actor Tom Holland confuses ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ for car race

Posted: 20 Apr 2018 11:56 AM PDT

Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Holland (Screenshot via Facebook)

While promoting the film “Avengers: Infinity War,” actor Tom Holland sent Twitter into a meltdown for confusing “RuPaul’s Drag Race” with car racing.

In an interview for Absolute Radio, Holland and co-star Benedict Cumberbatch were playing a game of “Showbiz Scenarios.” The game gives three celebrities and has the guests choose which celebrity would be best in that scenario.

Cumberbatch and Holland are asked “Who would win ‘RuPaul's Drag Race’? Tom Hiddelston, Bradley Cooper, or Robert Downey Jr.?"

"I think Downey would win at Drag Race because he has the fastest cars,” Holland replies.

Cumberbatch corrects Holland saying  "Ah, it's not that kind of Drag Race. RuPaul, man.”

Holland’s answer was also ironic considering he went viral for dressing in drag and lip-syncing to “Umbrella” on “Lip Sync Battle.”

Twitter reactions ranged from shock and awe to sympathy.



Cher pens heartfelt essay to Adam Rippon for Time 100 Most Influential list

Posted: 20 Apr 2018 11:35 AM PDT

Adam Rippon (Screenshot courtesy of Twitter)

Adam Rippon has had many achievements this year including helping Team USA win bronze at the Winter Olympics, getting a shout out from Britney Spears and earning a spot in the cast of the upcoming season of “Dancing with the Stars.”

Now, the 28-year-old Olympic figure skater can add a note of approval from Cher to the list.

Rippon was included on Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2018 and Cher gave a glowing review in a letter published in the magazine’s annual issue.

"Adam is a skater who happens to be gay, and that represents something wonderful to young people. When I was young, I had nobody who made me think, Oh, I could be like them. They represent me. Adam shows people that if you put blood, sweat and tears into what you're doing, you can achieve something that's special. You can be special. And I think that's very brave,” Cher writes.

The pop icon also praised Rippon’s harness suit that he donned to the Oscars this year.

"It wasn't about the suit, really. It was about the fact that he dares to be different in a world where being different always comes with a cost," Cher writes. "I thought it was fabulous, of course."

Other LGBT mentions on Time’s list include journalist Ronan Farrow, gay Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar, transgender actress Daniela Vega, bisexual Parkland shooting survivor and activist Emma González, lesbian screenwriter and actress Lena Waithe, transgender activist Janet Mock and painter Kehinde Wiley.

Read Cher’s full letter here.