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Pride Run

The 2014 Pride Run was held in Congressional Cemetery on Friday. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key) Pride Run 


2013 in photography

2013 was a banner year for the LGBT community. Here are the top Washington Blade photos of the year. (Washington Blade photos by Blake Bergen, Tyler Grigsby, Michael Key, Kevin Majoros, Damien Salas, Lee Whitman and Jon Wooten) buyphoto 


Capital Pride names award recipients, entertainers

Dean Snyder, Capital Pride Hero, gay news, Washington Blade, Foundry UMC

Rev. Dean Snyder is among this year’s Capital Pride Heroes.(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Capital Pride, the organization that sponsors D.C.’s annual LGBT Pride parade, festival and related events, has named nine prominent LGBT activists and community allies as recipients of its annual Capital Pride awards.

Awards categories include the Capital Pride Heroes recognizing significant contributions to the LGBT and allied communities; Engendered Spirits, which recognizes contributions to and support for the transgender community; the Bill Miles Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service; and the Larry Stansbury Award for Exemplary Contributions to Pride.

The recipients are scheduled to be honored May 21 from 7-10 p.m. at the Capital Pride Heroes Gala & Silent Auction at the Artisphere arts center, 1101 Wilson Blvd., in the Rosslyn section of Arlington, Va.

The Capital Pride Heroes are:

• LGBT rights advocate Nicholas F. Benton, editor and publisher of the Falls Church News-Press, which covers general interest as well as LGBT-related news in Northern Virginia.

• David M. Perez, board president of the Latino GLBT History Project and development director for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the largest and oldest Latino membership organization in the U.S.

• Rev. Dean Snyder, senior pastor at Foundry United Methodist Church in D.C. and, according to a Capital Pride biography, a “prime and unwavering leader in the fight to end discrimination against LGBT persons in the United Methodist denomination.”

• Dr. Imani Woody, founding director and CEO of Mary’s House for Older Adults, the first LGBT-friendly residential housing development project in Washington, D.C., and a diversity consultant in the field of health, aging and other issues affecting LGBT people of color.

• Tom Yates, according to the Pride committee, is “a steadfast leader and supporter of the Leather/Levi community” and its charitable activities and a longtime member, supporter and past board member for the LGBT Catholic organizations Dignity USA and Dignity Washington.

The Engendered Spirits awardees are Amy Nelson, supervising attorney at Whitman-Walker Health’s Legal Services Program, which provided services for more than 260 transgender clients in 2013; and Alexa Rodriguez, “an avid advocate for transgender Latina equality” and an activist for 12 years “fighting for the rights of the HIV positive and members of the transgender community.”

The Miles Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service is being given to Al Pellenberg, who has been involved in organizing LGBT Pride celebrations for 30 years in Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

The Stansbury Award for Exemplary Contributions for Pride is being given to Robert York, deputy director of development for Whitman-Walker Health and executive director of Capital Pride for six years – from 1999 to 2005.

Capital Pride also announced two of four entertainers for this year’s festival: DJ Cassidy and Betty Who. The remaining two headliners were to be announced after Blade deadline.


Weekend Pride events draw thousands

Capital Pride Parade, gay news, Washington Blade

2014 Capital Pride Parade (Washington Blade photo by John Jack Photography)

More than 250,000 people donned glitter, rainbow beads and, for some, their most colorful tank tops this weekend for Capital Pride, D.C.’s largest annual LGBT event.

Saturday’s parade featured former Minnesota Vikings player-turned-LGBT activist Chris Kluwe, a straight ally, as grand marshal. Marchers included D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and City Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), as well LGBT groups ranging from lesbian motorcyclist group Dykes on Bikes to the Gay Men’s Chorus. A contingent form the U.S. Armed Forces Color Guard notably participated for the first time this year.

Participants parading in Saturday’s 85-degree heat were met with attendees cheering and waving rainbow flags along the parade route, which started at 22 and P streets N.W. and coursed through Dupont Circle, along 17th Street and finally concluded at 14th  and R streets, N.W.

A small crowd of protesters joined the fray on P Street with anti-gay signs. The parade’s LGBT participants and allies drowned out their opposition with boos.

Sunday’s festival featured booths from local business and corporate sponsors. Rita Ora, Karmin, Bonnie McKee, Betty Who and DJ Cassidy as well as a series of local drag queens performed musical numbers throughout the day on the Capitol Stage, just blocks from the Capitol.

Many of the festival’s main stage acts were delayed, some for hours.

“We had one of our performer’s sound check run over by 45 minutes before we even started the show. From then, it’s hard to inch back up,” Michelle Mobley, communications director for Capital Pride, said. She said none of the performers had sound issues during their performances, but that the “trickle-down effect” of starting 45 minutes late led organizers to adjust the order of performances so headliners could catch their flights later in the evening.

Ba’Naka, who performed with the Ladies of Town, posted a Facebook comment that said, “All I know is I was slated to perform at 4:15. I didn’t touch that stage ’til almost 8:30.”

The parade seemed to run more smoothly.

“It’s a madhouse. It’s a mob scene,” Alexis DuCraix, a drag queen with Green Lantern, said as her group lined up for the parade Saturday. “But it’s wonderful. I think we forget sometimes that we are one giant community. We get caught up in this clique or this subgroup, but I think it’s vital to come together and realize that we are one, and we stand together, regardless of differences.”

As the LGBT community gains a foothold in the mainstream, others argue that Pride festivals might need to adjust their agenda.

“Why have ‘em?” asked Fran Petro, who works at Orbitz Travel. “When we were younger, there was no equality, so there was a reason to march.”

“They’ll start to evolve,” her partner, Carol, noted, pointing out the increasing number of straight allies attending Pride parades across the country. “It will turn into a festival of everything, and that’s OK.”

Pup Tripp, the current “international puppy” from the 30-person leather contingent, said he’s celebrating at the Pride parade for the 17th time this year.

“I think it’s very good that we get out there, show our pride and the strength we have,” he said. “We’re gonna come out and have fun, doesn’t matter what you tell us.”

Others, from political and religious groups, came with an agenda.

“This is my first Pride ever. I’ve been a big fan of Hillary [Clinton] for the past five years, and I figure if I was going to march in the parade I might as well march for Hillary” said Rafael Eggebrecht, a representative for Ready For Hillary, a political action committee raising money for a potential Clinton presidential campaign. “I do hope that should she run and should [same-sex marriage] still be an issue in a year or so — if the Supreme Court doesn’t act — that she’ll advocate for same-sex marriage and equality in all 50 states,” he said.

Donna Sokal, a member of Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, a congregation with a large number of LGBT members, said representatives from her church wanted to attend Pride even though the Christian church has largely stood on the sidelines of the LGBT movement.

“I think it’s really important for the church to always show up and support people that the bigger church isn’t always supporting,” Sokal said, suggesting that the church should fight to combat its “anti-homosexual, hypocritical, and judgmental” reputation.

“Christians in the larger society have become known for who we’re against and not who we’re for,” she said. We still have ways to go to show people that love doesn’t always come in a way that we grew up thinking, like ‘Little House on the Prairie.’”

SEE PHOTOS from the Capital Pride Parade


Ladies on the move

Maryland Stingers, sports, gay news, Washington Blade

The Maryland Stingers. (Photo courtesy the team)

Despite a lot of changes in rugby in this part of the country, the Maryland Stingers, a local women’s team, is gearing up for a busy spring.

The Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union (MARFU) was an association of youth, high school, collegiate and adult men’s and women’s rugby teams in the Mid-Atlantic United States.

In August of 2013, MARFU ceased to exist because of some reshuffling being done by USA Rugby. With approximately 6,800 players from about 180 clubs, MARFU represented the largest territorial rugby union in the United States.

MARFU was split in two and renamed the Mid-Atlantic Conference (NCR4) which now consists of two geographic unions — Capital Geographic Union and East Penn Geographic Union. The teams completed their fall 2013 season under the new designations and are still waiting on the competitive matrix schedule for the spring season.

The Stingers, a women’s Division 2-South club team, are launching their practice schedule in February in anticipation of matrix play beginning in March. The Stingers, who have a presence at Capital Pride every year, are a diverse group of lady rugby players with varying levels of skill and age.

“Because of the transient nature of the D.C. area, recruiting new players is an ongoing process,” says Taryn Michelitch of the Stingers. “In addition to former rugby players, we get a lot of crossover from lacrosse and soccer. Beginners are also always welcome.”

The Stingers’ schedule consists of spring and fall seasons played under the rugby fifteens rules and a summer season played under the rugby sevens rules.

Practices for the spring and fall seasons are held under the lights at Duvall Field in College Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Practices for the summer season are held at the Tacoma Education Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9 p.m.

Dues for the team are tiered with first-year members paying a lower amount. All players must join USA Rugby to compete.

For those who have never played Rugby, the Stingers offer skills practices at the beginning of each season.

“We start the seasons out with ‘rookie practices’ consisting of non-contact skills,” Michelitch says. “An experienced player will spend concentrated time with the rookies going over skills and rules.”

In addition to league play, the Stingers compete in rugby tournaments throughout the year. In the past they’ve competed at Ruggerfest in Manassas, Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington and Cape Fear in Wilmington, N.C.

Despite their busy schedule, the lady Stingers find time to give back to the community.  Periodically during the year, they can be found doing clean-up on Duvall Field.

They have also volunteered their time in the United States Quad Rugby Association. The University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopaedic Institute is home to Maryland Mayhem, a collision (wheelchair rugby) team.

Look for the Stingers to start bi-weekly practices in February for the spring season.

“Our roster of players usually ranges from 20 to 30 players,” Michelitch says. “We have a core group of women who play consistently from year to year which is why the team has remained active since the early 1980s.”


U Hall/TNX plan ‘PRIDE, Honey!’ dance party

Honey Dijon, gay news, Washington Blade

Honey Dijon (Photo courtesy TNX)

U Street Music Hall and the NeedlExchange (TNX) plan a new event next month with “PRIDE, Honey!,” a Pride closing night dance party, slated for 7 p.m.-2 a.m. on Sunday, June 8 after the Capital Pride Festival.

The party will be held at U Street Music Hall (1115 U St., N.W.), named one of the Top 10 best dance clubs by Rolling Stone, and will feature several high profile DJs from New York, San Francisco and more. TNX is the group behind the Sunday night parties at Velvet Lounge on U Street that have been gathering steam over the last year.

“We wanted something that would touch on essentially every aspect of the community,” Bil Todd of the NeedlExchange, an artist and DJ collective, says. “Which is all about diversity and inclusion and we wanted to make sure everybody’s voice is heard on stage or dancing or whatever, that they feel comfortable. We want a safe space that closes out Pride with a really fun and exciting experience.”

Headliners are Honey Dijon, a trans DJ from New York; Honey Soundsystem from San Francisco; Nancy Whang from New York and local support from DJ Lisa Frank and the TNX guys — Baronhawk Poitier William, Tommy Cornelis and Bil Todd.

U Street Music Hall’s Morgan Tepper, who’s bi, says she’s seen the exciting vibe the Sunday night parties offer and thought a Pride-themed dance was a great fit. “It’s been a few years since U Street has done something and this is a lineup that reaches out to several different audiences,” she says.

Todd, who’s gay, says many in the community crave something new and different. “So much of what you hear in the gay clubs is homogenous and passe and there’s often a real lack of soul on the dance floor,” he says. “Sometimes I think I’ll die if I hear one more tired Katy Perry or Rihanna remix. That doesn’t really represent our community. … So often you hear the same music, see the same people at every dance party you go to. People just crave more diversity.”

“PRIDE, Honey!” is not an official Capital Pride event. Buy advance tickets at


The business of a broadening pride in equality

corporate, gay news, Washington Blade

Enterprise takes as much pride in standing with us as we do in joining with one another and a supportive community. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Gay Pride celebrations across the country this summer have offered a unique reflection of an astounding moment in time. Now part internal community celebration and a simultaneous measure of external engagement and broader public affirmation, these annual events have increasingly become more party and less protest.

In D.C., some have casually predicted that the local Capital Pride festivities will soon involve attendance by as many non-gay area residents as the high-profile Halloween-themed “High-Heel Race” now does each October on 17th Street in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Others wonder whether gay participation in Pride events will begin to diminish in coming years, especially in localities like the District where the LGBT community enjoys a full complement of civil equality and commonplace community embrace.

The annual Pride Parade on Saturday that kicks off the early June weekend in the nation’s capital each year has gradually become at least as well-attended as the next-day downtown Festival and a broadly shared community-wide event. More than ever before, this year an entire city and metropolitan area took notice of the dual events amid a wave of unprecedented local media coverage, community news features and special publication and broadcast profiles.

Businesses large and small, and national and local, are the major event sponsors and primary financial underwriters.

Dorothy, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

The accelerating nationwide acceptance of lesbians and gays alongside political approval of same-sex relationships and marriage equality has heightened the focus of the larger community. With distinct national majorities now in full support of gay rights and approving of our relationships and right to marry should we so choose, locally it seemed an entire city wanted to share in a commemoration of that development. It was essentially “gay weekend” for everyone, unlike any previous iteration.

Of course, all of this might be merely a temporary phenomenon, perhaps a collective exhale that local and national culture has progressed to dominant status with normative acceptance of gays and lesbians within a framework of equal treatment under the law as the new societal standard. The larger citizenry’s involvement in marking this advance may end up mirroring our own declining and potentially growing disinterest in this tradition of memorialized revelry.

For the time being at least, broad civic engagement and corporate sponsorship of these annual Stonewall-saluting events will remain substantial and business engagement is likely to grow even more prominent. As notable as the increasing corporate participation and brand affiliation with Pride events has become, it represents an overall explosion in general marketing to the gay community year-round. While prior national outreach to gays and lesbians was largely limited to alcohol and other specific product categories with already-established consumer and venue relationships, commercial communication now involves an enlarged spectrum of commerce.

Especially significant, no longer is this association narrow in breadth of exposure or limited to being “dog-whistle” in nature. It is direct and non-ambiguous, as well as pervasive, utilizing images as authentic as our lives today. Conveyed with the nonchalance it should be, corporate outreach is now an ordinary marketplace activity.

Companies have caught on that the benefits of reaching out to a wide range of diverse market segments without hesitation or hidden from others includes the gay community. Businesses understand the value of target-specific communication, whether a national or local product or service. Nowadays it also reaps benefit within other demographics by signifying a contemporary cultural affinity critical to creating a positive brand image reflective of modern mores.

Cultural codification through corporate encouragement rivals even the impact of legislation, as it empowers the community change in attitude that paves the way for it.

Corporate America and local businesses alike are strong allies for equality. Enterprise takes as much pride in standing with us as we do in joining with one another and a supportive community.

That’s important to business and is the part of winning that should make us proud.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at


Pride Reveal party set for next week

Pride Reveal, Capital Pride Alliance, gay news, Washington Blade

Last year’s Pride Reveal event at the W Hotel drew a large crowd to the P.O.V. Lounge. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Capitol Pride and Pride Partners reveal the 2014 Pride theme and marquee events at “Pride Reveal 2014” at the W Hotel in the P.O.V Lounge (515 15th St., N.W.) Thursday from 7-10 p.m.

Enjoy giveaways, food, drinks, prizes and entertainment while learning about the plans for this year’s Pride.

Tickets are $25. For details and to purchase tickets, visit


Pride Heroes Gala

The 2014 Pride Heroes Gala was held at Artisphere in Arlington, Va. on Wednesday. The 2014 Pride Heroes included Nicholas Benton, David Pérez, Rev. Dean Snyder, Dr. Imani Woody and Tom Yates. Engendered Spirit awards were presented to Amy Nelson and Alexa Rodriguez. The Larry Stansbury Award for Exemplary Contributions to Pride was presented to Robert York. The Bill Miles Award of Outstanding Volunteer Service was given to Al Pellenberg. Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam and Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette spoke at the event. Entertainment was provided by the string quartet Well-Strung. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Ben de la Creme 


Pride Reveal

The Capital Pride Alliance held the 2014 Pride Reveal event at the P.O.V. Lounge of the W Hotel on Thursday evening to announce the theme for Pride 2014: “Build Our Bright Future.” (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key) buyphoto