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Mizeur finding momentum in Maryland

Heather Mizeur, Delman Coates, Montgomery County, Silver Spring, Maryland, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade, momentum

Del. Heather Mizeurwith running mate Delman Coates. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

There’s something very exciting taking hold in my home state of Maryland. State Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery) has tapped into the same progressive energy that propelled Bill de Blasio to the mayor’s office in New York City and Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate.

Six months ago, Heather invited me to join her on probably the hottest August afternoon of the summer. She was speaking at a house party in Baltimore City. With the oppressive heat, I was expecting to meet a dozen or so interested voters. When we arrived we were greeted by over a hundred progressive activists eager to hear Heather’s vision for our state.

For nearly two hours Heather tackled tough issues – from marijuana decriminalization, to fighting for a fracking moratorium, slashing middle class taxes and campaigning against an unnecessary juvenile detention center in Baltimore City.

Heather has the momentum and her vision is resonating with voters. In a recent survey polling likely Baltimore City voters, Heather and her running mate, Pastor Delman Coates, scored a huge upset coming in second and only three percentage points behind frontrunner Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and his running mate, County Executive Ken Ulman (32 to 29 percent).

Maryland, despite being a progressive powerhouse, has never elected a female chief executive and no state in the nation has ever elected an openly LGBT governor. With the opportunity to shatter both of those barriers, national organizations are quickly coming to the aid of the Mizeur/Coates campaign.

In the last month alone, Heather earned the support of EMILY’s List, the National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority and was recently announced as one of the top “Women to Watch in 2014” by MSNBC.

Five months is an eternity in electoral politics and if Heather continues to tap into the same progressive energy that propelled de Blasio, Warren, Baldwin and others, we are going to witness a tremendous victory for our community in June.

Kevin Walling is a candidate for Maryland House of Delegates from Montgomery County.

28
Jan
2014

Burlesque on exhibit

burlesque, Burlesqueer, gay news, Washington Blade

“Workin’ the Tease” will look at burlesque’s rich history in Baltimore. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Maryland Institute College of Art’s (MICA) Exhibition Development Seminar (EDS) will present “Workin’ the Tease: The Art of Baltimore Burlesque,” an exhibition celebrating burlesque as an art form that combines slapstick humor, dance and body spectacle strip tease. From April 22 to May 7 at The Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric (140 W. Mount Royal Ave.), “Workin’ the Tease” will look at burlesque’s rich history in Baltimore through live performance and more than 70 historical and contemporary artifacts. Receptions will take place April 22, 5-9 p.m., with a performance at 7 p.m. and May 7 from 5-7 p.m.

Admission to the performances and programs are free and open to the public.  For information, visit workinthetease.com.

16
Apr
2014

Another trans woman killed in Baltimore

Eric Kowlaczyk, Mia Henderson, gay news, Washington Blade, Baltimore, Maryland, transgender, murder

Lt. J. Eric Kowlaczyk addressing the media. (Photo by Steve Charing)

Baltimore police confirmed the killing of Mia Henderson, 26, a transgender woman who died of “severe trauma.” Her body was found July 16 just before 6 a.m. in an alley in the 3400 block of Piedmont Avenue near Lake Ashburton in Northwest Baltimore.

Police officers discovered the body while attempting to serve a warrant in an unrelated case. Lt. Colonel David Reitz at a press conference held later that day indicated that the victim “appeared to have been there for a few hours.” Police released the victim’s official government ID in the name of Kevin Long. WJZ-TV reported Wednesday that the victim is a sibling of NBA player Reggie Bullock, who plays for the Los Angeles Clippers.

The discovery comes just six weeks after the murder of another transgender woman, Kandy Hall, whose body was discovered in a Northeast Baltimore field.

Among the other Baltimore City Police Department representatives involved in the press conference were Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts; Lt. J. Eric Kowalczyk, director of the Media Relations Section; and Sgt. Kevin Bailey, who is the new LGBT Police Liaison. They said that it is too early in the investigation to provide more details.

Police could not confirm if a firearm was used in the homicide until autopsy results are received.

“Any loss of life in Baltimore City is unacceptable,” said Batts. “We need to solve this case and solve the cases that are open.” Prior to the press conference, Batts spoke to community stakeholders at a separate meeting offering assurances the police are working hard to solve these crimes and that community members “need to look for things out of the norm” and report it to the police immediately. “We need data—any information or any clues.”

Police would not say if they believe the two murders are connected. Both victims were black and their bodies were found in the early morning. The police determined that Kandy Hall had been stabbed. They have not yet made such a determination on the latest homicide, however.

Members of the community are urged to call Homicide at 410-396-2100 or they can call Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LockUp and remain anonymous if they have any information relating to these two cases.

17
Jul
2014

Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day set

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, World AIDS Day, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Prevention and Health Promotion Administration (PHPA) under the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has tapped Feb. 7 as National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). NBHAAD is an HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative for blacks in the U.S. There are four specific focal points: Get Educated, Get Tested, Get Involved and Get Treated.

Baltimore-Towson had the sixth highest estimated HIV diagnosis rate of any major metropolitan area: 33.8 diagnoses per 100,000 population during 2011.

National estimates suggest that there are approximately 6,250 Marylanders who are HIV positive and are unaware of their status.

PHPA is asking organizations around the state to indicate if they are planning any events or activities in observance of this day. The purpose for this request is to include these events in the NBHAAD 2014 Events Calendar currently being developed by PHPA.

Information should be sent by Jan. 31 to carmi.washington-flood@maryalnd.gov.

29
Jan
2014

Study: HIV incidence 4x higher in people with mental health diagnoses

This study points out that those patients with mental illness may not be getting screened for HIV appropriately.

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16
Apr
2014

Equality Md. celebrates passage of FAMA

Fairness, gay news, Washington Blade

A series of happy hour parties are to be held throughout the state celebrating the Fairness for All Marylanders Act.

Equality Maryland has scheduled a series of celebrations around the state to mark the passage of the Fairness for All Marylanders Act. At these casual happy hour celebrations there will be food and drink specials and no cover charge. All ages are welcome.

The next celebration will take place in Baltimore on July 29 between 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Waterstone Bar and Grille, 311 W. Madison St.

24
Jul
2014

BHT awards $75,000 in grants

Brother Help Thyself, BHT, Ziegfeld's, gay news, Washington Blade, grants

The Brother, Help Thyself grant awards ceremony was held at Ziegfeld’s last weekend. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

Brother, Help Thyself, a local organization that supports LGBT and HIV/AIDS work, awarded about $75,000 in grants to 31 area nonprofits last weekend at a reception held at Ziegfeld’s/Secrets nightclub.

Among the grant recipients were: AIDS Action Baltimore, the DC Center’s HIV Working Group, DC Rape Crisis Center, Equality Maryland Foundation, Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, Helping Our Brothers and Sisters, HIPS, Latino GLBT History Project, Rainbow History Project, SMYAL and the Wanda Alston Foundation.

“What really makes this annual event so wonderful, on top of the awarding of the actual checks, is the opportunity for our grantees to network and connect,” said BHT President Jim Slattery. “They all do such great work and their expertise and best practices are vital to our community and each other.”

In addition to the grants, BHT presented four annual awards. The Billy Collison Award, BHT’s underdog award, was given to Baltimore’s Hope Springs. The George Dodson Business award went to GayRVA.com. The Founders Award, given to an organization doing great work with little funding, went to Casa Ruby LGBT Community Center. And the Anthony J. Bachrach Award, which recognizes an individual doing outstanding work on behalf of the community, was presented to David Mariner, executive director of the DC Center.

Click here to see a photo gallery of the event.

29
Jan
2014

Despite advances, poverty persists for Baltimore’s LGBT residents

Baltimore Black Gay Pride, Carlton Smith, gay news, Washington Blade

Carlton Smith, executive director of Center for Black Equity-Baltimore. (Photo courtesy of Carlton Smith)

Courtney, a 20-year-old transgender woman from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, has been trying to get a job for more than a year but has been unable to do so because of her gender identity and expression.

She said during a recent interview that she has been able to work odd jobs and received some money from her parents. Courtney, who spoke on condition that her last name not be used, is working with Free State Legal Project, a Baltimore-based organization that advocates on behalf of low-income LGBT Marylanders, to legally change her name.

“I don’t have a job,” said Courtney. “I can’t afford to do it myself.”

Courtney is among the estimated 50,000 to 75,000 Marylanders who live in poverty, according to Free State Legal Project Executive Director Aaron Merki. LGBT rights advocates with whom the Blade has spoken indicate the problem is most acute in Baltimore.

The U.S. Census notes 23.4 percent of Baltimoreans lived below the poverty line between 2008-2012, compared to 9.4 percent of Marylanders during the same period.

A Williams Institute analysis of the 2000 Census notes LGBT people of color are more likely to live in poverty than their white counterparts.

The report notes black same-sex couples are “significantly more likely” to be poor than African-American married heterosexuals. The Williams Institute also found these couples are three times as likely to live in poverty than white same-sex couples.

Free State Legal Project handles several hundred cases each year. Merki told the Blade his organization’s case load is growing at least 50 percent annually.

“It’s a large population,” he said.

Merki said the “concept” that African Americans are “more homophobic than white people” is largely a stereotype. He acknowledged there are many black Baltimoreans who are members of homophobic religious congregations.

New Harvest Ministries, Inc., in Baltimore in October 2012 hosted a rally against Maryland’s same-sex marriage law during which a California pastor described gay men as “predators.” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Congressman Elijah Cummings, Rev. Donté Hickman of Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore, Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Prince George’s County and state Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) are among the prominent people of color who backed the gay nuptials law that voters approved in November 2012.

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore, gay pride, gay news, Maryland, Washington Blade

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Polls released before the vote indicated a majority of black Marylanders backed the same-sex marriage law that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed.

“For many people, the church is the foundation of their livelihood and their family,” said Rev. Meredith Moise, who has been an ordained minister in Baltimore for a decade. “If you’re hearing negative messages about homosexual persons or transgender persons, it is more likely to impact negatively how you see transgender people. Even if a black person is not religious, people may use religious texts or dogma to support their homophobia.”

Moise, an alumna of Morgan State University, told the Blade that President Obama’s support of marriage rights for same-sex couples and the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s advocacy in support of the issue prompted “sustained conversations” around LGBT people in the black community.

“There was a lot of kitchen table talk, barber shop talk about this,” said Moise, referring to black gay couples, a “tom boy” who lost her job when she came out or a gender non-conforming man whose neighbors only see him late at night on the stretch of East Baltimore Avenue known as the Block where prostitution is common. “This literally changed the face of how we see gay and trans people.”

Criminal justice system exacerbates poverty

Other advocates with whom the Blade spoke attributed LGBT poverty in Baltimore to the city’s criminal justice system.

A study that Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health graduate students conducted in early 2005 found 33 percent of the 148 female inmates at the Baltimore City Women’s Detention Center surveyed identified as lesbian or bisexual; 70 percent of the respondents identified as black, compared to only 16 percent who said they are white.

Five percent of those who took part in the Johns Hopkins survey said they are living with HIV; 7.4 percent of inmates at the Baltimore City Women’s Detention Center had the virus in 2004.

A fifth of respondents who participated in the Johns Hopkins survey said they make less than $400 a month. More than a third of respondents said they had engaged in sex work for money, drugs or a place to stay within a month of their arrest.

The study also noted bisexual women were four times less likely to have a place to live upon their release from jail than heterosexual inmates.

Jacqui Robarge in 2001 founded Power Inside, an organization that serves more than 300 women each year who are either in jail or have had experiences with the criminal justice system.

She told the Blade that a third of her clients are lesbian, bisexual or trans. Robarge referenced an American Civil Liberties Union report that said black Baltimoreans were 5.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.

She noted some of the young lesbians with whom her organization works have been homeless for up to a decade because their families threw them out of their homes because of their sexual orientation. Robarge said they enter the criminal justice system because they engage in prostitution, shoplift, sell drugs and other “survival strategies.”

“In our experience, African-American women who are masculine expressing or transgender are disproportionately and specifically targeted by law enforcement for harassment, searches, arrests and incarcerations,” she told the Blade. “Once released from jail, these women are routinely denied access to basic supports, driving them deeper into the street economy and often back to jail.”

“Violence, whether interpersonal or institutional, is often ignored if the survivor is black — and particularly if she is a lesbian or transgender,” added Robarge.

Carlton Smith, executive director of the Center for Black Equity-Baltimore who founded Baltimore Black Gay Pride in 2002, noted young and older LGBT Baltimoreans remain particularly vulnerable to poverty.

“When parents and guardians find out a young person is coming out, they tend to be thrown out and are not usually able to stay with relatives,” he said.

Smith said a low-income LGBT person may face discrimination in a city-run senior housing development in which he or she lives.

“If you’re LGBTQ, they’ll put you right back into the closet,” he said. “It makes people introvert and puts them back in the closet because they don’t feel safe.”

Baltimore City is among the five Maryland municipalities that have added gender identity and expression to their anti-discrimination laws.

The Maryland House of Delegates last month approved a measure that would ban anti-transgender discrimination throughout the state. The Free State Legal Project and the Center for Black Equity-Baltimore are among the members of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality that worked with Equality Maryland and other advocacy groups to increase support for Senate Bill 212 that state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced in January.

Robarge told the Blade there are “more subtle” forms of discrimination that take place against the backdrop of laws and other measures that officially prohibit it. These include dress codes and criminal background checks.

“It protects you against outright discrimination, but most isms aren’t outright,” she said.

5 percent of Baltimoreans with HIV homeless

A survey of the metropolitan area that includes Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard and Queen Anne’s Counties the Greater Baltimore HIV Health Services Planning Council conducted last year found 85 percent of the 374 people with HIV/AIDS who responded identified themselves as “non-Hispanic black.” Nearly 60 percent of those who took part said their annual income that was less than the federal poverty line.

Slightly more than 5 percent of respondents said they were homeless.

The study also noted the Baltimore metropolitan area in 2010 had the third highest rate of HIV among U.S. cities, with only Miami and New York having higher infection statistics. Maryland in the same year had the fourth highest HIV rate among states and territories that include D.C.

“There are men, many other persons who are HIV-positive like myself and LGBTQ who are struggling to get housing for themselves and their families,” said Smith. “Even though we have marriage equality, the laws are slowly coming through. If you’re not aware of what the policy is as an LGBTQ person, you don’t know.”

Mayor: Poverty in Baltimore ‘breaks my heart’

Rawlings-Blake told the Blade “it breaks my heart, in general, to know about the many challenges that our impoverished residents face.”

“It is even more complex when it involves a member of the LGBT community, as they often times face extra challenges,” she said.

Rawlings-Blake said her administration is “focused on improving the quality of life for all residents and ending homelessness in Baltimore altogether.” She noted she supported a bill the Maryland Senate approved earlier this month that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 by 2018.

Rawlings-Blake pointed out to the Blade she hired a new director and recruited a new board for Baltimore’s 10-year plan to end homelessness. She noted her administration also partners with city agencies and non-profits to expand access to health care, employment and housing for low-income Baltimoreans.

“Although a lot has been accomplished, the LGBT community still has many barriers to overcome,” said Rawlings-Blake, acknowledging racial disparities often exacerbate the problem. “I remain a committed, vocal supporter of the LGBT community and it is my desire that everyone has a roof over his or her head and is able to provide for his or her family.”

Free State Legal Project’s Transgender Action Group, which conducts outreach and other services to Baltimore’s trans sex workers, is among the ways it continues to work on poverty reduction in the city. The organization’s Youth Equality Alliance is a coalition of city and state agencies and non-profits that work with school personnel and foster parents to ensure they are providing a supportive environment in which LGBT children can learn and live.

“LGBT poverty is rooted in stigma and discrimination a lot of the time,” said Merki. “LGBT poverty also starts with youth.”

24
Apr
2014

Spirited discussion at Pride town hall

town hall, Baltimore Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

A majority of those surveyed were unhappy with this year’s Baltimore Pride celebration. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

There was some heat and a bit of a storm on the night of July 23 but we’re not referring to the weather outside the Waxter Center, the new home of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore (GLCCB).  It was billed as a town hall meeting to provide feedback regarding the Pride celebration of June 14-15, but the meeting morphed into a sometimes heated discussion of the broader issues regarding the GLCCB’s past and current lack of accountability and relevancy.

In an open letter to the LGBT community, the Center’s interim executive director Kelly Neel wrote, noting the urgency, that the community is disengaging with the Center and vice versa,  “I am here to ask for your help in bringing it back. It will take time, patience, and a lot of community elbow grease, but I’m confident that we can learn from our past mistakes and revive the bond between Baltimore’s LGBTQ community and its community center.”

Neel sent out email invitations to the Center’s mailing list and through social media inviting people to the town hall and to complete an online feedback survey. About 60 people showed up to listen to the Pride coordinators and GLCCB board members and to voice their concerns. The survey extends to Aug. 15.

Neel said there was insufficient time to adequately plan for Pride 2014 given the Center’s move to a new building and the departure of the previous executive director, Matt Thorn.

“We got started late in the game,” explained Neel. Dates had to shift, and a new “footprint” to the Mt. Royal area required permits and added security. The decision to move the events was made before Neel assumed her duties.

Expenses for Pride 2104 exceeded $114,000 while revenue was close to $178,000 resulting in a $64,000 profit, which is a modest total as Pride is the main fundraising activity for the Center.

Based on the survey results, the GLCCB is considering a return to Druid Hill Park for the Sunday celebration, which would add a family-friendly element to the event. It will also try to deal with concerns about the beer garden and the drag stage, among other tweaks suggested via the survey. Of the 61 responses received at the time of the meeting, 58 percent were either unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with Pride this year.

The meeting was opened up to comments from the audience. Initially, some issues with Pride were brought up, such as why there was no open drinking permitted.

Then comments came about a range of topics, including the Center’s outreach to minorities, a perceived lack of transparency, the sale in 2013 of its long-held building, the need for face-to-face communication with the community rather than electronic dispatches, renewed charges of racism and classism in board selections, that transgender people are not made to feel welcome, the Center’s failure to respond to invitations to faith-based events, and a lack of a specified mission or purpose.

Mike McCarthy, board president since 2012, and others stated that the board has never intended to exclude anyone. Since the meeting, a board application was made available at GLCCB.org.

Neel and the board members thanked the audience and promised to take this feedback seriously. “We heard what needs to be heard—not just Pride but the Center,” Neel said following the meeting. “Changes are needed. It starts here.”

28
Jul
2014

Students to attend LGBT Leadership Summit

Zach Wahls, Democratic National Convention, Washington Blade, gay news

Zach Wahls will speak at the B’More Proud LGBTQIA Leadership Summit. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

At least 200 undergraduate and graduate students from Baltimore area colleges and universities are expected to attend the 2014 B’More Proud LGBTQIA Leadership Summit on March 30. The daylong event, whose theme this year is “Breaking Boundaries: The Intersections of Our Identities,” will take place at Levering Hall on the campus of Johns Hopkins University.

At the conference there will be several breakout sessions, a resources fair whereby organizations, companies and agencies offer information and answer questions, and entertainment at the end of the summit. Comedian Julie Goldman will perform.

The planners are developing the topics and leaders for the upcoming summit. Author, performer and trans-bi activist Julia Serano will be a keynote speaker as well another activist, Zach Wahls. Three years ago, Wahls gave moving testimony to the Iowa House Judiciary Committee to support his two moms when that legislature was considering a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

There is no charge to participants and meals will be provided. To register as a participant, to host a breakout session, to volunteer or take part in the resources fair, visit bmoreproud.org.

24
Feb
2014