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Furor over closeted lesbian Queen Latifah officiating mass gay wedding at Grammys

33 couples got married at the Grammys this past Sunday, several of which were gay.

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28
Jan
2014

Ellen’s “coming out” interview on Oprah 17 years ago (video)

Ellen talks about how she was always afraid that Oprah wouldn't like her if she ever found out Ellen was gay.

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16
Feb
2014

Cartoon: Ellen Page comes out

Ellen Page, Human Rights Campaign, Juno, coming out, HRC, gay news, Washington Blade

Ellen Page comes out. (Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)

19
Feb
2014

Importance of openly gay elected officials

Jim Graham, Washington, D.C., gay news, Washington Blade, gay elected

Gay D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) (Washington Blade file photo by Jeff Surprenant)

Like so many others, I have gone through many stages as a gay man. Knowing who I am, and being comfortable with all that, has taken time. I have gone from denying my sexuality and marrying a woman (who I loved then and still do to this day), to divorce. What followed were awkward personal times working in the U.S. Senate where there was then zero tolerance for being gay.

But when I became the volunteer President of Whitman-Walker Clinic on April 1, 1981, I came out of the closet with a roar — for a time everyone (whether they liked it or not) had to be told by me that I was gay. Those were my “Billboard Years.” More change followed after 16 years as head of the Clinic. I became more “right sized.” Being gay was a key part but only one part of my make-up. When I ran for D.C. Council in 1998, I ran on that basis and got elected, and re-elected ever since.

With all that in mind, I was struck by a recent suggestion by a Blade columnist that it wouldn’t matter if the D.C. Council went from its current two gay members to none at all.

It’s amazing that a gay columnist for a gay newspaper would suggest that not having gay elected leaders is of no significance! Harvey Milk must be turning over in his grave.

I have never campaigned just as a “gay man.” Had I done so, I would never have won. When I was first elected in 1998, Ward One was 71 percent minority population — 46 percent black and 25 percent Latino. I ran against an incumbent, African-American male, well known for his leadership in D.C. and in the national Civil Rights Movement.  In 1998, one out of every four Ward 1 residents were living in poverty. My record at Whitman-Walker demonstrated a commitment to all people as well as poor people –especially those living with HIV and AIDS, from the earliest days of the pandemic.

Why do people vote a particular way? The reasons are limitless, and surely sexual orientation, race, gender, religion, are all part of it. “Identity politics” is hardly dead. It matters — sometimes positive, sometimes negative — that a candidate is gay. It can make a big difference.

My sexual orientation informs what I do and say. But being gay is only part of who I am. I work every day to integrate all aspects of my life.

Yet to suggest as the columnist did “that LGBT residents are fully integrated into the fabric of local life” — and that “sexual orientation of elected officials is inconsequential” is just plain wrong. LGBT candidates bring a unique experience to government.

For example, I was just honored by the DC Center for my work on a recently passed bill establishing an LGBTQ homeless services program with 10 beds for these kids only.

Would that have passed without the energetic support of a gay Council member? Maybe, maybe not. But the DC Center surely thought it made a positive difference.

And why else does the Victory Fund endorse openly gay and lesbian candidates?  It’s not because — as the columnist suggested — “that the gay community is fully integrated into our different communities.” It’s because that having one of our own at the table counts.

But that is just the start. I, along with hundreds of other out LGBT elected officials, cannot win without earning the trust of our communities to stand with them and fight for everyone.

14
Mar
2014

Ultimate launching pad

Crystal Bowersox, gay news, Washington Blade

Crystal Bowersox likes to test candidates for upcoming releases during her live show. She plays Wolf Trap next week. (Photo courtesy Wolf Trap)

Crystal Bowersox

The Barns at Wolf Trap

1635 Trap Road, Vienna, Va.

Wednesday

8 p.m.

Tickets: $24-28

Wolftrap.org

Conventional wisdom has it that the holidays are not a good time to come out.

Crystal Bowersox didn’t quite do it around a Christmas Day family meal, but she definitely didn’t follow the usual path either.

When Bowersox released her Christmas album last December, one of the songs was called “Coming Out For Christmas” and the singer came out as bisexual during her touting of the record.

“I think it’s important that people in the public eye be public about where they stand and who they are because it will give kids around the world the confidence to be who they are,” she says. “It’s not good for anyone to hate any aspect of themselves and I think it sets a good example for young people to love themselves.”

America was introduced to Bowersox in 2010 as a contestant on “American Idol,” a single mother with dreadlocks who had a voice that crossed the territories of blues, country, folk and rock. Although she finished second to Lee DeWyze, her star was on the rise.

“Before ‘Idol,’ I had never done any excessive touring. I did some local gigs in my hometown and I was happy doing what I was doing,” she says. “When I had my son, I realized I wasn’t doing it on the level I needed to be doing it on to provide a stable income and life for my child.”

Historically, “American Idol” has elevated a number of members of the LGBT community to fame, including former runners-up Clay Aiken (season two) and Adam Lambert (season eight) — but like Bowersox, none came out until after their time on the show was over. Still, their braveness paved the way for the show’s first openly gay contestant, MK Nobilette, to compete and make it to the top 10 this season.

“The show changes your life in every possible way. There’s no other way to be heard by 30 million people,” Bowersox says. “The show gave me everything. It gave me a sounding board, industry cred and taught me what I was capable of as a performer. I learned a lot and now I can take what I learned and go out there and do what I do.”

The “American Idol” fave makes her Wolf Trap debut on Wednesday. Bowersox will play tunes off her critically acclaimed debut album “Farmer’s Daughter,” her latest “All That For This” and an EP she released quietly pre-“Idol” called “Once Upon a Time.” She also plans some possible candidates for an upcoming EP. She likes to sing them live to gauge audience reaction.

“It will be an evening of songs and storytelling,” she says. “I really like to interact with my audience and my show is like an on-going conversation with them. During the show people are calling things out and we’re telling jokes and having a lot of fun. I just hope people come, are entertained and leave feeling good.”

One of the things she loves most about a concert date is seeing the audience singing along with her — something she never imagined would happen.

“It’s nice to have recognition in something you created and have a crowd know every single word and sing them back to you,” she says. “That’s the true reward of being a singer/songwriter and performer.”

Bowersox will also surprise one lucky audience member with a trip to join her on stage, and after the show, she will make herself available for photos and autographs to every single person who wants one.

“I love to say hello and meet people,” she says. “I get a lot of feedback from people after the show and I just want them to be honest and help me know what’s working for my fans and what isn’t.”

Bowersox is also attached to the musical, “Always … Patsy Cline,” which has been rumored to make it to Broadway sometime in the next year. The singer plays the famous title character and croons the best of Cline.

She’s fulfilling a dream she’s had since she was little. In first grade, Bowersox played Suzy Snowflake in a school production and from there on in, wanted to perform for a living.

“I always loved to sing and dance but didn’t know I could make money doing it,” she says. “Eventually, I learned I didn’t have to go and get a job at Burger King, I could get people to pay for this service. I haven’t done much else since then. I am very lucky that I could do what I love for a living.”

20
Mar
2014

PFLAG panel features parents of gays

PFLAG, Baltimore, Baltimore Pride Parade, Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, gay news, Washington Blade

PFLAG

When a child comes out as LGBT, parents often jump into that very same closet themselves by not revealing to others that their child is LGBT. At the regularly scheduled general meeting of the Columbia-Howard County chapter of PFLAG on April 8, there will be a panel discussion presented by parents of LGBT children. The panel members will share their experiences of their own coming out to family and friends. Following the panel presentation, an open discussion of the parental coming out process will transpire.

The meeting takes place between 7:30-9:30 p.m. at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, 7246 Cradlerock Way in Columbia. All meetings are free, confidential and open to the public. For more information visit pflagmd.org.

01
Apr
2014

The 7 gayest Aaron Schock Instagram posts of 2013

Aaron Schock's not gay, but his Instagram account is.

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02
Jan
2014

Anti-gay GOPer Aaron Schock locks down Instagram account as outing rumors swirl

Anti-gay GOP Cong. Aaron Schock locks down his Instagram account as gay rumors grow.

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04
Jan
2014

NYT kinda outs Aaron Schock

The NYT reported on Itay Hod's outing of an unnamed GOP congressman, then linked to multiple stories naming him.

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16
Jan
2014

Russia LGBT rights record threatens to overshadow Olympics

Don't Cross the Line, Major League Soccer, gay news, Washington Blade

Major League Soccer last year launched an anti-discrimination campaign. The league highlighted it during the MLS All-Star game in Kansas City, Kan., on July 31. (Photo courtesy of Major League Soccer)

Growing outrage over Russia’s LGBT rights record threatens to overshadow the 2014 Winter Olympics that will take place in the country in February.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in June signed a broadly worded law that bans gay propaganda to minors under which individuals will face fines of between 4,000 and 5,000 rubles ($124-$155.) Government officials would face fines of between 40,000 and 50,000 rubles ($1,241-$1,551,) while organizations could face penalties of up to 1 million rubles ($31,000) or suspension of their activities for up to 90 days.

Foreigners who violate the law would face up to 15 days in jail and deportation from the country.

A second law that Putin signed in July bans same-sex couples and anyone from a country in which gays and lesbians can marry from adopting Russian children. A 2012 statute requires LGBT advocacy organizations and other groups that receive funding from outside Russia to register as “foreign agents.”

These laws have come into effect against the backdrop of increased anti-LGBT violence and discrimination in the country.

Two men near Volgograd in May allegedly sodomized a man with beer bottles before killing him after he reportedly came out to them. Authorities on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East said three men stabbed and trampled a gay man to death a few weeks later before they set his car on fire with his body inside.

Police in May arrested 30 LGBT rights activists who tried to stage a Pride celebration outside Moscow City Hall. Authorities in June detained dozens of LGBT advocates who sought to hold a similar gathering in St. Petersburg

Officials in Murmansk in July arrested four Dutch LGBT rights activists who were filming a documentary about gay life in Russia.

Reports of ultra-nationalists torturing gay Russian teenagers whom they met though fake accounts they created on a Russian social media network continue to emerge.

Gay crackdown prompts calls to boycott Olympics

Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein in July called for a boycott of the Sochi games.

Author Dan Savage and LGBT rights advocates Cleve Jones are among those who have called for a boycott of Russian vodka. Gay bars in Chicago, New York and Seattle stopped serving Stoli and other brands, but D.C. establishments have not backed the boycott.

Andy Cohen on Aug. 14 told E! News he turned down a request to co-host the 2013 Miss Universe pageant that will take place in Moscow in November, in part, because “he didn’t feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia.”

Donald Trump, who co-owns the pageant along with NBC Universal, did not respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on Cohen’s decision. The Miss Universe Organization said in an Aug. 20 statement it is “deeply concerned” over the gay propaganda ban and anti-LGBT violence in Russia.

“Both the law, as well as the violence experienced by the LGBT community in Russia are diametrically opposed to the core values of our company,” the statement read.

Gay Olympic diver Greg Louganis, who was unable to compete in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow because then-President Jimmy Carter boycotted them over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan the year before, is among those who feel the U.S. should compete in the Sochi games. President Obama, retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova and a coalition of LGBT advocacy groups that include Outsports.com and Athlete Ally also oppose an Olympic boycott.

Retired tennis champion Billie Jean King, who came out in 1981, told the Blade on Monday she feels individual athletes themselves should decide whether to compete in Sochi.

“They should get the vote,” she said. “This is the Olympics. This is about the athletes and the fans, so it’s a really hard call.”

Gay New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup in July announced he will wear a Pride pin in Sochi if he qualifies for the Olympics.

“It’s been a positive reaction so far,” he told the Blade on Monday during an interview from Calgary, Alberta, where he continues to train. Outsports.com and other LGBT sports groups and others have backed a fund that seeks to raise at least $15,000 to help Skjellerup qualify for the games. “Everybody is behind the idea and are excited to see that I am proud of who I am and that I’m going to show that in Sochi.”

American runner Nick Symmonds earlier this month criticized the gay propaganda ban during an interview with the Russian news agency RIA Novosti after he competed in the men’s 800 meter final at the World Athletic Championship in Moscow. High jumper Emma Green Tregaro and sprinter Mao Hjelmer, who are from Sweden, painted their fingernails in rainbow colors as they competed in the same event.

Figure skater Johnny Weir, whose husband is of Russian descent, told CBS News he is “not afraid of being arrested” while at the Sochi games.

“If it takes me getting arrested for people to pay attention and for people to lobby against this law, then I’m willing to take it,” Weir told the network.

Russia to enforce anti-gay law during Olympics

Russian authorities have repeatedly said authorities will enforce the gay propaganda ban during the Sochi games, in spite of repeated assurances the International Olympic Committee said it has received from the Kremlin that the law would not impact athletes who plan to compete in the Olympics. The IOC told the Blade those who participate in the games could face disqualification or loss of their credentials if they publicly criticize Russia’s gay propaganda ban while in Sochi.

Green Tregaro wore red fingernail polish during a high jump competition at the World Athletic Championship on Aug. 17 because Swedish athletic officials reportedly asked her to change their color.

“The athletes are always going into countries with laws different than his or her own country,” U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun told RIA Novosti during an Aug. 14 interview. “They’re going to agree with those laws in some ways, they’re going to disagree with those laws in other ways. It’s our strong desire that our athletes comply with the laws of every nation that we visit. This law is no different.”

USOC spokesperson Patrick Sandusky later sought to clarify Blackmun’s position on the gay propaganda law, saying on his Twitter account on Aug. 16 that it is “inconsistent with fundamental Olympic principles.” He said the organization has also “shared our view with the IOC.”

Skjellerup applauded the Canadian Olympic Committee’s response to the gay propaganda law and Russia’s LGBT rights record. He also plans to march with COC members during this weekend’s Calgary Pride.

“Canada is probably one of the countries that is actually leading the growth of support for their athletes and [against] the atrocity that is going on in Russia at the moment,” Skjellerup told the Blade.

Yelena Isinbayeva, an Olympic pole vault champion, criticized Green Tregaro and Hjelmer during an Aug. 15 press conference after she won her third world title at the World Athletic Championships. Isinbayeva also defended the gay propaganda ban.

“We are Russians. Maybe we are different than European people, than other people from different lands,” she said during the press conference. “We have our law that everyone has to respect.”

Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings defended Isinbayeva’s comments.

“I’m an Orthodox and that says it all,” he said, according to Russian journalist Igor Eronko.

Russian sprinter Kseniya Ryzhova on Aug. 20 dismissed suggestions she and teammate Tatyana Firova challenged the law when they kissed on the medal podium after they won the women’s 4 x 400 meter rally at the World Athletic Championships.

Protests banned in Sochi ahead of Olympics

Putin on Aug. 19 issued a decree that bans demonstrations, protests and other meetings in Sochi “not connected with” the Olympics between Jan. 7 and March 21.

Polina Andrianova of Coming Out, an LGBT advocacy group in St. Petersburg whom authorities fined under the “foreign agents” law, told the Blade she feels the order seeks to stop protests of the gay propaganda ban during the Sochi games.

“It is designed to prevent demonstrations around the propaganda against homosexuality law and other violations of civil freedoms,” Andrianova said.

As for Skjellerup, he told the Blade he is not concerned about any potential repercussions he could face in Sochi over his decision to wear his rainbow pin.

“I’m wearing a pin as an Olympian and it’s an Olympic pin,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any, I guess, illegal activity taking place.”

28
Aug
2013