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Frog Music, gay news, Washington Blade

(Courtesy Little, Brown)

Historical fiction is all the rage these days in publishing and acclaimed novelist Emma Donoghue, a lesbian whose been widely lauded within the LGBT literary world, enters the fray with the evocative, mysterious “Frog Music,” a story woven around the real-life unsolved murder of Jenny Bonnet, killed near San Francisco in 1876.

Long after Jenny was dead, Blanche Beunon wondered if it was truly an accident that Jenny ran her over with a penny-farthing (one of those old-timey bikes with the gigantic front wheel). Jenny said she hadn’t meant it, but she’d known fully well who Blanche was; Jenny had seen her dance at the House of Mirrors, which made Blanche oddly embarrassed. So was it really an accident that a wandering woman in men’s clothing became acquainted with a burlesque dancer?

That was just one of the things Blanche pondered as she ran. Though she’d only known Jenny for a few days, they’d become fast friends. Even Arthur, Blanche’s amour since she was just 15, seemed amused by Jenny’s devil-may-care attitude and by the gun she casually carried in the pocket of her trousers. Arthur’s friend, Ernest, wasn’t quite as taken with Jenny, but Blanche wondered if that was because Jenny’s presence seemed to affect their ménage a trios.

Then again, Ernest was an odd duck, ever since their circus days. He’d been Arthur’s protégé, his best friend. Once Blanche became part of the Le Cirque d’Hiver, it was just the three of them and Ernest never seemed to mind. Until P’tit was born.

Until Jenny entered the picture.

Those were the things Blanche considered as she wandered the streets of Chinatown, nearly melting from the heat, avoiding buildings quarantined for smallpox. Were things falling apart before she brought P’tit home? Or was it, as Ernest claimed, all because of Jenny and her strange life?

How much did Blanche really know about Jenny Bonnet? Or Arthur, for that matter? She wondered, as she tried to find ways to get money to live and as she remembered the sight of Jenny’s bloody body lying on a bed.

With its bounce-around, “Pulp Fiction”-like format, “Frog Music” is confusing at first. It begins with a spectacularly bloody murder and proceeds with our heroine looking for the man she’s sure killed her friend.

But did he? Donoghue keeps her readers guessing, but we’re not merely caught up in a murder mystery. Blanche herself is just as much an enigma as the crime she’s trying to solve. I briefly even wondered if the character was imagining her surroundings, so dream-surreal is Donoghue’s writing at times.

The authenticity Donoghue brings to her work, something of a signature, lends richness and verisimilitude to the book. “Frog Music” is a can’t-miss work.


Creative flow at Fathom

Drew Mitchell, Fathom Creative, gay news, Washington Blade

Fathom Creative president and CEO Drew Mitchell discovered an interest in visual communication at a young age.

Similar to other digital success stories, it started in a garage.

Fathom Creative president and CEO Drew Mitchell discovered the art of visual communication at a young age. While eight-year-old contemporaries worked lemonade stands on the suburban Silicon Valley sidewalks of his childhood, he hosted gallery-like showings of his youthful drawings inside the family car space.

“Always creative,” Mitchell spent summers at art school instead of soccer camp. Another athletic activity, however, had Mitchell devoting five hours training daily with his high school swim team. He enjoyed “excelling in a sport where you’re primarily competing with yourself and striving for self-improvement.” It would later inspire his firm’s moniker.

In 1994, following several years first as graphic designer and soon creative director at high-profile D.C. public relations firms, including an art director stint at News Corp., he “decided to go out on my own” at the age of 29. “I always knew I wanted to start my own business before I was 30,” Mitchell notes.

Setting up shop in 1994 as sole proprietor behind an oversized plate glass window visible along Connecticut Avenue north of Dupont Circle, Mitchell would recall his days in the water when naming the soon-to-expand firm. “As soon as I thought it I knew it was right,” he says, noting its relevance to public communication.

Adopting the slogan “Think Deeper,” Mitchell’s penchant for presentation would lead him to install an oversized video monitor in the studio’s second floor window with images running day-and-night. It was an attention-getter similar to those he would employ when relocating five years ago to a storefront at 1333 14th St., N.W., in the Logan Circle area.

In the fall of 2009, when Mitchell’s original office lease expired, he and his life partner Bill Fischer decided to invest in a property suitable for both living and working. Purchasing an expansive 7,500-square-foot three-level historic commercial property, they reserved the top floor for their residence. Fischer, having coordinated the building renovation and subsequently handling business infrastructure and operations, recently returned to a career in business intelligence technology systems management.

Those among Fathom Creative’s 20 staffers working on-site are located on the ground level, currently undergoing renovation. The company has maintained a satellite office in New York City since 2003 and is preparing to open a similar San Francisco outpost late this summer.

A retail-style “showroom space” that has featured eye-catching company branding installations will soon become an independent coffee shop launched by a third party. The firm also operates Fathom Gallery on the second level, and an adjoining 1,500-square-foot outdoor deck. Each accommodates 100 guests for gatherings and approximately 100 annual event rentals – including corporate retreats and board meetings, tech industry “meet-ups,” gay and “mixed-gender” weddings, cocktail receptions, dinners and other gatherings. Fathom often invites clients and associates for grilling parties and to sample a signature beer of homegrown hops.

Specializing in all aspects of business branding, strategic communications and social/digital messaging for national and local-based clients, Fathom serves as an off-site creative department for some and project fulfillment agency for others. GSA-certified for federal contracts alongside handling association and advocacy accounts, Fathom is also one of only five U.S. firms with recognized expertise in Prezi – a sophisticated alternative to PowerPoint presentations.

“Our work is often complex but always exhilarating,” Mitchell modestly offers in light of 20 years of proven results for a diverse client base.

Mitchell adopted the title “fearless leader” along the way, with whimsical job descriptors for staff. “It’s a reminder to me and a promise to clients,” he says, “reflecting our attitude when taking on new challenges.”

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


Rochester to cover transgender services

Rochester, New York, gay news, Washington BladeROCHESTER, N.Y. — The city of Rochester will add transgender health care benefits for employees and their families starting on Jan. 1, 2015, the Rochester City Newspaper reports.

The new coverage means that services related to gender reassignment procedures such as medical and psychological counseling, hormone therapy and reconstructive surgeries will be covered by insurance. To receive the benefits, employees will have to purchase an enhanced coverage plan, the paper said.

The City of San Francisco has offered the benefits since 2001and studies show that about 3 percent of the city’s employees use them.


A son’s case for marriage equality

Sandy Stier, Kris Perry, David Boies, Chad Griffin, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Proposition 8, Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, Prop 8, California, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

Prop 8 plaintiffs Sandy Stier and Kris Perry addressed onlookers after a historic ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The first time anyone asked me if I was disadvantaged to be raised by lesbian moms was in the first grade. A friend from my class asked what my mom and dad did for a living, and when I told him I had two moms, he told me that I wasn’t normal, that we were different.

Growing up, friends would ask questions like, “who cooks?” or, “who works?” trying to fit our puzzle piece where we just couldn’t. To me, my family was different because I had three parents; a step mom and two other moms; a twin and two step brothers; the fact that my parents were gay never made me think of them as different, until those outside my family made a point of it.

It wasn’t until my freshman year in high school that I finally saw how my family was “different.”

Elliott and I woke up early on Jan. 11, 2010, and put on our only suits. We shuffled into the back of Kris and Sandy’s SUV and the four of us drove across the Bay Bridge to a Victorian home in San Francisco. There, we met with Chad Griffin, president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Paul Katami, and Jeff Zarrillo (who with my moms would be the plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case). The five of them stepped outside to meet the press, and it was Jeff who said, “We’re all Americans who simply want to get married like everybody else.”

In minutes, Elliott and I were on our way to the Federal District Courthouse. We were led through the back while our moms and a battalion of lawyers weaved their way between picket lines. It seemed that in no time Judge Walker was banging his gavel and the trial began.

One of our lawyers, David Boies, called Jeff and then Paul. The opposing lawyer, Charles Cooper, cross-examined Paul, and then, Ted Olson, our other lawyer, asked Kris to take the stand.

After a few questions, Ted asked Kris what it felt like to be discriminated against. It was the first time I had ever heard any of my moms describe what it was like to face prejudice. She told Ted about growing up in the Central Valley of California and hiding who she was. She told him how she was teased and mocked as she grew up and how that blanket of constant hate had lowered the quality of her life. She also said she had never allowed herself to be truly happy and how she didn’t want any kid to know what that felt like.

Looking around as Kris joined us again on the bench, I could see my brother, Sandy, and our friends in tears.

I had finally found my answer: Families like mine are no different than anyone else’s. We share the same love. We’re only different in that we felt the brunt of living under discriminatory laws.

When a family like mine is denied equal protection under the law, when society tells us that because you are a minority, you don’t get the rights of the majority, it hurts. It validates hate against that minority. It teaches kids in states with same-sex marriage bans that your family isn’t worthy of protection.

Perry v. Hollingsworth was appealed again and again until it reached the Supreme Court.  My first trip to D.C. was much like that drive to San Francisco three years earlier. Elliott and I woke up early to stand in line outside the courthouse. We walked behind our parents to sit behind Ted Olson and David Boies. In the midst of Charles Cooper’s oral argument, Justice Kennedy asked, “Forty thousand children in California … that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?” Cooper responded saying there was no evidence that children, my brothers and I, would benefit from Kris and Sandy being married.

Today the same question is being asked in court cases across the country that challenge state bans on marriage equality and like Perry v. Hollingsworth have the potential to bring the battle of universal marriage equality to the Supreme Court.

Four months after the Supreme Court oral arguments, the court lifted the ban on same-sex marriages in California and I got to know exactly what that benefit is. Take it from a son –I’ve never felt prouder or more patriotic than when my moms were legally married one year ago on June 28. Every son and daughter in every state should have the right to feel that way.

Spencer M. Perry is the son of Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, plaintiffs in the Perry v. Hollingsworth case that overturned California’s ban on same-sex marriage. He studies economics and public policy at George Washington University.

Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Spencer Perry, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, Kris Perry, Spencer Perry and Sandy Stier (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)



CNBC outs Apple CEO Tim Cook, who then appears at SF Pride

Cook is facing "the Queen Latifah problem," where people widely assumed to be gay refuse to come out.


Burger King’s amazing gift for Gay Pride (video)

"A burger has never made me cry before."


Grant money to help hoarders in San Francisco

hoarder, hoarders, hoarding, gay news, mess, Washington Blade

(Photo by Shadwwulf; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

SAN FRANCISCO — A local organization here that assists people with hoarding and cluttering issues will soon receive grant money to help it determine how to best help residents with this issue, many of whom are LGBT according to the Bay Area Reporter, a San Francisco-based LGBT newspaper.

The Mental Health Association of San Francisco offers support groups and other services to people who struggle with the issue. All services are free.

The association is partnering with the University of California at San Francisco, which is set to receive an estimated $2 million in grant funding over three years from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. The Mental Health Association’s part of the funding will be about $200,000 a year, although the details are still being worked out, the Reporter noted.

The funds are meant to study the efficacy of peer-led treatment groups compared with therapist-led groups.

Experts say hoarding may be a problem when the accumulation of possessions has begun to affect someone’s quality of life and is keeping them from using their home for its intended purposes. Someone may be unable to sleep in their bed, not have access to their bathroom, or be prevented from using their stove.


Is it sexist to objectify an awfully hot (male) cop?

There's a bit of a phenomenon going on with a rather hot male cop in San Francisco, by the name of Chris Kohrs.


Houston mayor marries longtime partner

Annise Parker, Houston, gay news, Victory Fund, Democratic Party, Washington Blade

Houston Mayor Annise Parker married longtime partner Kathy Hubbard last week. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

PALM SPRINGS, Calif.—Houston Mayor Annise Parker and her partner of more than two decades, Kathy Hubbard, married on Jan. 16.

A press release the city of Houston released said Parker and Hubbard, who celebrated their 23rd anniversary on their wedding day, exchanged vows at a Palm Springs home.

Rev. Paul Fromberg of San Francisco officiated the wedding that Parker’s mother, Hubbard’s sister and a small group of family and friends attended. Harris County Civil Judicial District Court Judge Steve Kirkland and Mark Parthie were witnesses.

“This is a very happy day for us,” said Parker. “[Hubbard] is the love of my life and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life married to her.”

Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill, who is suing Parker and Houston over the extension of benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees, criticized the wedding.

“This is about a bigger political agenda for her,” said Woodfill as Lone Star Q reported.

Houston voters first elected Parker as mayor in 2009. She won re-election for a third term last November.


Robin Williams’ depression a familiar battle

Robin Williams, depression, gay news, Washington Blade

Actor Robin Williams took his own life this week after a long battle with depression. (Photo by Eva Rinaldi; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

I am among the untold numbers of people who remain deeply saddened by the death of Robin Williams, who took his own life in his home outside San Francisco on Aug. 11. I sat stunned on the couch in the den of our Dupont Circle apartment as my partner and I watched news reports that indicated the celebrated actor and comedian committed suicide after suffering from what some have described as “severe depression.”

Reading the details of how Williams hanged himself with a belt in the bedroom of his Marin County home nearly brought me to tears.

This tragic news hit too close to home because I am among the millions of Americans who live with some form of depression.

My doctor diagnosed me with the disorder in September 2012 after I sent him a late night e-mail in which I admitted that I was likely experiencing many of the symptoms associated with depression: mood swings and a lack of energy in particular. The best way I can categorize this disorder for those who are fortunate enough not to live with it is that it is comparable to walking through a thick fog that leaves you disoriented and saps your strength.

I had done enough research before reaching out to my doctor to understand that I had likely lived with the disorder for quite some time. I had — and continue to have — a very fulfilling personal and professional life and a family that unconditionally accepts me as a gay man, so there was no reason for me to feel so bad.

I simply reached a point where I wanted to confirm my own suspicions and do something about it.

I am fortunate enough to live with a mild form of depression that allows me to function normally with a low dose of prescription medication that costs less than $2 a month with insurance that I am privileged enough to have. I am also fortunate enough to have a doctor and a partner who continue to remind me there is nothing wrong with me simply because I am living with a disorder.

There are days when I struggle with mood swings and a lack of energy for no apparent reason, but overall I am able to life my life on my own terms without any disruptions.

Others who live with depression are far less fortunate.

I have never been someone who wants people to feel sorry for me, and I certainly don’t expect anyone to start now because I have publicly discussed the fact that I live with depression. It is simply a part of my story.

Williams’ untimely death provides a stark reminder that millions of people in this country and around the world live with this disorder, and some of them unfortunately lose their struggle. I celebrate this amazing man on the sad occasion of his untimely death and keep those who live with depression and struggle with it in my thoughts.