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Proud Boys skip planned Drag Story Hour protest in D.C.

“We’ve been doing the Story Hour for six months,” said Shane Mayson, owner and operator of Crazy Aunt Hellen’s

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Parasol Patrol members gather in front of Crazy Aunt Hellen's restaurant in Barracks Row on Feb. 25, 2023, during a Drag Story Hour event. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

WASHINGTON – Dozens of supporters turned out Saturday morning outside the Crazy Aunt Hellen’s restaurant on 8th Street, S.E., in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill in anticipation of a planned protest by the far-right group Proud Boys against a reading of children’s stories by D.C. drag performer Tara Hoot to children and their parents at the restaurant.

But D.C. police, who closed the one-block section of 8th Street in anticipation of the protest, said the Proud Boys never showed up, and the street closing evolved into a makeshift block party celebrating an event known as a Drag Story Hour.

The Barracks Row Drag Story Hour event took place one week after a similar event at the Loyalty Bookstore in Silver Spring, Md., became the target of a protest by Proud Boys members. 

Silver Spring police said they dispersed the Proud Boys members and supporters of the Drag Story Hour event after the two groups shouted at each other and reports surfaced that at least one Proud Boys member assaulted one of the supporters. No arrests were made, and no injuries were reported, the police said. 

“We’ve been doing the Story Hour for six months,” said Shane Mayson, owner and operator of Crazy Aunt Hellen’s, which is located at 713 8th St., S.E., across the street from the U.S. Marine Barracks.

Mayson told the Washington Blade an organization called the Parasol Patrol, which provides support for Drag Story Hour events across the country and which attended the Silver Spring event, informed him that Proud Boys had placed his restaurant on a protest list that called on opponents of the Drag Story Hour events to show up at the event, which began 10 a.m. Saturday.

He then contacted the D.C. police LGBTQ Liaison Unit, which immediately arranged for the police presence at the time of the event, Mayson said. Among those who came to the location were members of the police LGBT Liaison Unit along with a contingent of 20 or more police officers led by Assistant D.C. Police Chief Jeff Carrol.

“Overall, I think everything went well,” Carrol told the Blade. “The business was able to have their story time, and everyone was able to come out here and peacefully support the business,” Carrol said. “And we didn’t have any incidents. So, I think overall everything went very well.”

Mayson said the children and their parents, who turned out in sizable numbers for the event, enjoyed the story readings by drag performer Hoot. 

“It was fabulously fun and gorgeous and filled with fun and love,” Hoot told the Blade after the event. “And having all these supporters out here means the world to me,” Hoot said. “I was saying to other people that I wish LGBTQIA people across the country were feeling this love and support. 

Hoot was referring to the protests against drag shows in general and against Drag Story Hour events that have taken place in recent months across the country, including some protests led by the Proud Boys group.

Asked if she had any message for the Proud Boys and others who have attempted to disrupt the Drag Story Hour events, Hoot said, “At the end of the day love is going to win. And the joy, that’s what I focus on at all my events,”

Among those standing outside the restaurant as Hoot finished reading stories to the children and parents inside was Salah Czapary, the recently appointed director of the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture. Czapary, who ran unsuccessfully last year as an openly gay candidate for the Ward 1 D.C. Council seat, said he turned out for the event to show support from the city.

“Any time our community and our constituent who is a business owner here and members of the LGBTQ community ask for government support, we’re out here,” he said. “So, we’re happy to see a robust security presence and an even more robust community presence,” he told the Blade. “And we’re here just to assure people that we’re here to support the community and to have a good time at this drag story time.”

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District of Columbia

Douglas Emhoff & Billy Porter kick off Capital Pride festivities

Nationally acclaimed singer Billy Porter, who performed the next day at the Capital Pride festival, also spoke at the press conference

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Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff speaks at a press conference at the starting location of the Capital Pride Parade on June 8. (Washington Blade/Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Douglas Emhoff, the husband of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who has the title of Second Gentleman, was among the speakers at a press conference on Saturday, June 8, at the location of the start of D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade that was called by Capital Pride organizers.

Emhoff and nationally acclaimed singer Billy Porter, who performed the next day at the Capital Pride festival and concert, and who also spoke at the press conference, each emphasized the importance of the LGBTQ rights movement at a time when lawmakers in states across the country are pushing legislation to curtail LGBTQ rights.

“It’s great to be here again to enjoy the ambiance and to celebrate with the generations of LGBTQ+ Americans who have fought for their right to live openly and proudly and authentically,” Emhoff told those attending the press conference, which included Capital Pride officials and supporters.

“I love coming to Pride,” Emhoff said. “I was here with my wife, your vice president, in 2021, when she became the first sitting vice president ever to march in a Pride parade. We go to Pride parades all over – San Francisco, L.A., and love doing it,” he said.

Porter joined Emhoff at the press conference urging people to vote “blue” in the November election.

“I don’t care who you are. I don’t care where you come from,” he said. “It’s an election year and our democracy is at stake, period,” he continued. “There is one choice. That choice is for democracy. Vote blue down the ticket,” he said, referring to Democratic Party candidates.

 “The one thing I will say as a 54-year-old Black queer man who came out in the ’80s at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, is that I’ve lived long enough to know that love always wins,” said Porter. “I’ve lived long enough to have seen the circle of life play out in our favor,” he said.

Actor Billy Porter speaks at the Capital Pride Parade on June 8. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Others who spoke at the press conference included Kenya Hutton, deputy director of the Center for Black Equity, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual Black Pride events; Ryan Bos, executive director of Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes most of D.C.s Pride events; Ashley Smith, chair of the Capital Pride Alliance Board; and Bernie Delia, co-chair of the World Pride Steering Committee.

Bos and Smith provided details about the parade, festival, and concert during the 2024 Capital Pride weekend, while Delia provided details about World Pride 2025, the international Pride celebration that D.C. and Capital Pride Alliance were selected to host in June 2025.

Hutton said the Center for Black Equity is excited to be working with Capital Pride Alliance on plans for World Pride 2025, when the Black Pride events will be the kickoff events for World Pride. “We are especially proud of partnering with Capital Pride Alliance in organizing the World Pride Human Rights Conference,” he said.

Also speaking at the press conference were Theresa Belpulsi, Senior Vice President of Tourism, Sports, and Visitor Services for Destination D.C.; and Angie Gates, president and CEO for Events D.C. The two organizations promote tourism and business events such as conventions in D.C. and are playing a lead role in helping to promote World Pride 2025, the two said.

“Right now, our estimations are that we will see over two million visitors coming to Washington, D.C. for World Pride,” Belpulsi said at the press conference. “And that does not include our local families that are here,” she said. “What that actually means is and why this matters is the economic impact is over $787 million to Washington, D.C. over two weeks.”

Delia, who introduced D.C.’s Wanda Alston Foundation executive director June Crenshaw as his co-chair of the World Pride Steering Committee, said the committee has been “working diligently to guarantee the World Pride celebration showcases the best of the national capital region and the best of the United States.”

He said that in addition to the parade, festival, and concert, World Pride events will  include the human rights conference mentioned by Hutton, a sports festival, a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, a march on Washington, a music festival, and an international choral festival managed by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington.

In his remarks at the press conference, Emhoff told of his wife’s long record of support for the LGBTQ community in her past role as District Attorney in San Francisco, as California’s Attorney General, and as a U.S. senator from California.

“And now as vice president, she and Joe Biden are responsible for the most pro-LGBTQ+ administration in history,” he said. “And all that goes away if Donald Trump wins in November. We can’t let that happen, right?” Many in the crowd of Capital Pride supporters and volunteers attending the press conference shouted, “That’s right.”

“So, make no mistake,” Emhoff replied. “The upcoming election is about your freedom and your rights,” he said, adding, “My message today is simple. You are not alone. We are here for you. …We love you for who you are and we’re fighting right beside you. And together we are going to win this election and we are going to protect our freedoms. Thank you.”

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District of Columbia

International Trans Day of Visibility events take place in D.C.

The events on Sunday served as demonstrations of solidarity within the trans community & a call to action for continued advocacy

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Miss Trans USA 2023 Anya Marino, who is director of LGBTQI equality at the National Women's Law Center, speaks at the International Transgender Day of Visibility rally on March 31, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Amber Laenen)

By Amber Laenen | WASHINGTON – The nation’s capital on Sunday hosted a series of events coordinated by Trans USA National Pageantry and the National Center for Transgender Equality to honor the International Transgender Day of Visibility.

One of the day’s main events was the TRANSform the Vote rally, which took place on the National Mall. 

Organized by the National Center for Transgender Equality in partnership with Queer Equity Institute, the rally aimed to bring together individuals from all walks of life to celebrate transgender liberation, address issues of violence against the trans community and promote civic engagement. Elected officials, activists, and artists who participated emphasized the importance of unity and advocacy within the trans community.

TRANSform the Vote initiative is a nationwide movement of trans people and allies who want to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

Queer Equity Institute Executive Director Leigh Finke and Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins were among those who spoke at the rally. Renowned actress, advocate, singer and TRANSTech CEO Angelica Ross also took the stage. 

“Today we are here to transform the vote, there are so many trans people who are right now preparing to run, who have been running for office and we as a community have to be prepared to propel them into office,” said Ross.

Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins speaks at the International Transgender Day of Visibility rally on March 31, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Amber Laenen)

Cassils, a trans artist, also participated in the event. 

Cassils presented “Etched in Light,” a Trans Justice Art Action featuring the collaborative work of more than 100 trans and nonbinary artists. Accompanied by vocal invocations and musical scoring by the ensemble Blood Is Here, the performance resulted in the live creation of one of the world’s largest cyanotype images. 

Cassils’ ‘Etched in Light’ exhibition that contains the work of more than 100 transgender and nonbinary artists at the International Transgender Day of Visibility rally on March 31, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Amber Laenen)

Miss Trans USA 2023 Anya Marino, who is the director of LGBTQI equality at the National Women’s Law Center, spoke with the Washington Blade about the importance of visibility for trans people. 

“The fear that you’re feeling is reasonable, the fear that you’re feeling is real, and one can only respond that way, especially given the hostility that many of us are encountering every single day of our life,” said Marino. “Living openly and authentically as an act of faith. It’s an act of courage. And it’s an act of defiance against those of those in power who would do us harm.”

In addition to the TRANSform the Vote rally, the Blossom Gala took place at Hook Hall.

Monica Beverly-Hillz from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” was among the notable personalities who participated in the event. The night ended with CHERRY BOMB, an all-trans drag showcase featuring internationally renowned entertainers and local stars.

Miss Trans DC 2023 Katja Attenshun, who performed at the Blossom Gala, stressed the importance of events like these on the International Transgender Day of Visibility as a tribute to past struggles and a declaration of determination to shape the future. 

“Visibility matters,” said Attenshun. “It’s a tribute to those who came before us, who fought for our rights. It’s also a statement about our determination to shape the future, to confront the challenges we still face, and to advocate for the changes we seek.”

Miss Trans USA 2023 Anya Marino at the Blossom Gala on March 31, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Amber Laenen)

These events on Sunday served as demonstrations of solidarity within the trans community and as a call to action for continued advocacy and visibility. 

“I’ve talked to so many youth, so many young adults, what I’m hearing is they’re scared, like, am I going to be able to grow up to be a trans adult? So, what I’ve been telling people is, while I’m proud of my visibility, I’m also tired, and I need allies to step up and be visible too,” said Mr. Trans USA 2023 Trey C. Michaels, program coordinator at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. 

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Amber Laenen is a senior at Thomas More Mechelen University in Belgium. She is majoring in journalism and international relations. Amber is interning with the Blade this semester as part of a continued partnership with the Washington Center.

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District of Columbia

Detention hearing delayed in case of D.C. LGBTQ center founder

The judge ordered that the detention hearing would resume on Tuesday, March 12, when she expects to issue her final ruling

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Ruby Corado (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – A United States District Court Judge on Friday postponed a decision on whether Ruby Corado, 53, the founder and former executive director of Casa Ruby, should be held in custody while she awaits a trial following her arrest on March 5 on multiple charges related to allegations that she embezzled at least $150,000 from Casa Ruby.

The decision by U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Robin M. Meriweather to postpone this decision came during a dramatic detention hearing in which Corado’s court appointed Federal Public Defender Service attorney and the lead prosecutor with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. presented opposing arguments over whether Corado should be held in custody or released while awaiting trial.

Meriweather said she needed more information about a proposal by defense attorney Diane Shrewsbury that Corado, if released, could be placed in the custody of a family member in Maryland. The judge ordered that the detention hearing would resume on Tuesday, March 12, when she expects to issue her final ruling.

The judge ordered that Corado, who has been held in custody since her arrest on March 5, remain in custody until at least the Tuesday hearing.

The Friday hearing came one day after prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a 12-page Memorandum In Support of Pretrial Detention that called for Corado to be detained on grounds that chances are significant that she would flee to El Salvador if she were to be released.

“Defendant Ruby Corado poses a unique and serious flight risk,” the prosecutors’ memorandum states.

It points out that the charges pending against her include Bank Fraud, Wire Fraud, Laundering of Monetary Instruments, Transportation with Criminally Derived Proceeds, and Failure to File Report of Foreign Bank Account – all related to allegations that she embezzled funds from Casa Ruby that came from at least two federal COVID pandemic relief programs.

The memorandum also states that Corado fled to El Salvador in 2022 shortly after news media reports surfaced that she was being investigated for financial improprieties and the Office of the D.C. Attorney General filed civil charges against her for alleged violations of the DC Nonprofit Corporations Act.

The March 7 memo says prosecutors believe Corado fled to El Salvador in 2022 knowing she would face criminal charges related to absconding with Casa Ruby funds. 

“On February 25, 2024, the defendant returned to the United States from El Salvador,” the prosecutors’ memorandum says. “Law enforcement promptly sought the instant arrest warrant for the defendant, which this Court issued on March 1, 2024,” it says.

“On March 5, 2024, the defendant was arrested on that warrant in a hotel located in Laurel, Maryland. The defendant was alone at the hotel,” it says. “At the time of the arrest, the defendant was in possession of a passport issued by the Republic of El Salvador which had been issued on February 23, 2024.”

Prosecutors have not disclosed whether they know why Corado returned to the U.S. and how the FBI, which is leading the investigation that led to Corado’s arrest, learned of her return and her lodging at the hotel in Laurel, Md.

“Today, the defendant owns no property – not even a vehicle – in the United States,” the memorandum continues. “The defendant has no employment or other source of income,” it says, adding that Corado maintains citizenship in El Salvador. “She has bank accounts of unknown balances in El Salvador which she has failed to disclose to the U.S. government,” it says.

“And her spouse lives and works in El Salvador. The Court simply cannot be confident that the defendant will not flee the country again should the Court release her pending trial,” the memorandum concludes.

But in a court motion she filed on Friday and in her arguments at the Friday hearing, defense attorney Shrewsbury disputed the prosecutors’ claims, saying Corado would absolutely not be a flight risk. Shrewsbury disclosed that Corado returned to the U.S. last week with the intention of remaining in the D.C. area, where she has lived for at least 35 years.

The attorney said Corado came back to the D.C. area to take a job, the details of which Shrewsbury did not disclose. But the attorney said Corado has long standing family ties and many friends in the D.C. area and very much wants to fight the charges against her in court.

One more reason for releasing Corado from jail while she awaits trial is that she has been currently placed in the D.C. Jail’s male residential section under rules, according to Shrewsbury, that require inmates to be placed in a residential section based on their birth gender. This placement has endangered Corado’s safety, the attorney’s court document says.

Corado identifies as a transgender woman and for many years since founding Casa Ruby became known as an outspoken and admired advocate for LGBTQ rights. Under her leadership, Casa Ruby, as a nonprofit organization, among other things, provided transitional housing and related support services to LGBTQ youth with an outreach to transgender women of color.

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However, local transgender rights advocates Earline Budd and Jeri Hughes told the Washington Blade the D.C. Jail has changed its policy and now allows transgender inmates to choose which section of the jail they prefer to be placed. Budd and Hughes, who are members of a special jail committee that reviews placement of trans inmates, said Corado was scheduled to come before the committee on Monday, March 11, to present her preferences on where to be placed.

An arrest affidavit filed in court on March 6 says the federal charges pending against Corado came about after FBI investigators learned that Corado received through Casa Ruby more than $1.3 million over a two-year period from the federal Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Both were COVID-19 pandemic related programs. 

The arrest affidavit says she allegedly stole at least $150,000 of those funds by transferring the money to bank accounts she held in El Salvador that she opened under her birth name of Vladamir Orlando Artiga Corado.  

Casa Ruby shut down its operations in July 2022 after Corado’s departure to El Salvador and after it failed to pay its employees and was being evicted from its headquarters building and several of its other properties for failing to pay rent.

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District of Columbia

Founder of now defunct LGBTQ center arrested on federal charges

Ruby Corado, the founder & longtime executive director of the now defunct D.C. Casa Ruby, was arrested by FBI agents at a hotel in Maryland

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Ruby Corado in El Salvador. (Washington Blade photo by Ernesto Valle)

WASHINGTON – Ruby Corado, the founder and longtime executive director of the now defunct D.C. LGBTQ community services organization Casa Ruby, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday at a hotel in Laurel, Md., on charges of bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and other offenses based on allegations that she embezzled at least $150,000 from Casa Ruby before it closed its doors in 2022.

The Office of the United States Attorney for D.C. announced the arrest in a statement released Wednesday, stating that Corado was being held until at least Friday when she will appear for a detention hearing at U.S. District Court for D.C., when a judge will decide whether can be released while awaiting trial.

Corado had been living in El Salvador for at least the past two years or more following her decision to step down as executive director of Casa Ruby in 2022. Charging documents filed in federal court in D.C. on Wednesday do not say why Corado returned to the U.S., when she returned and how FBI investigators learned of her return.

“According to court documents, Corado received more than $1.3 million from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program,” a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office says. 

The two federal programs were put in place at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic to assist businesses and community organizations adversely impacted by the pandemic. 

“Instead of using the funds as she promised, Corado stole at least $150,000 by transferring the money to bank accounts in El Salvador, which she hid from the IRS,” the statement says. “During 2022, when financial irregularities at Casa Ruby became public, Corado sold her home in Prince George’s County and fled to El Salvador,” the U.S. Attorney’s statement continues. 

“FBI agents arrested Corado on March 5, 2024, at a hotel in Laurel, Md., after her unexpected return to the United States,” the statement says. “Corado is being held pending a detention hearing on Friday.”

Patricia Hartman, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, pointed to court documents for the Corado case released on Wednesday that say they were held under seal until Corado’s initial court appearance. 

In addition to the FBI, the criminal case against Corado is being investigated by D.C. Office of the Inspector General, court documents show. 

The U.S. Attorney’s statement points out that the charges filed against Corado are serious. Bank fraud carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years and money laundering also carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Among the details disclosed in a 19-page affidavit in support of Corado’s arrest filed in U.S. District Court initially under seal on March 1, Casa Ruby effectively ceased operating in July 2022 when it closed its transitional housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth, it had not paid its employees and was being evicted from several of its properties for failing to pay rent. 

Corado was outspoken in identifying as a transgender woman and provided services for trans youth and spoke out for trans rights in her role as director of Casa Ruby. But in what may come as a surprise to those who knew her, the arrest affidavit states that Corado transferred the money she is now accused of embezzling from Casa Ruby to a bank account in El Salvador she opened using her birth name. 

Corado’s arrest comes close to two years after the Office of the D.C. Attorney General filed a civil suit against Casa Ruby and Corado on grounds that Casa Ruby, under Corado’s leadership, violated the D.C. Nonprofit Corporations Act in its alleged improper financial dealings. 

The local LGBTQ youth services organization Wanda Alston Foundation, which a D.C. Superior Court judge named to take over Casa Ruby as a court appointed receiver, has also filed a lawsuit against Corado and Casa Ruby’s former board members seeking monetary damages to compensate former employees and former Casa Ruby clients who lost services when Casa Ruby closed its doors. 

Related story here: (Link)

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District of Columbia

After queer safe space pled for help, community rallied to rescue

“AYA gives us a place to feel community, it is so rare to find a queer space where I can have fun and feel safe”

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As You Are bar in March 2022 (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Less than a week after the D.C. LGBTQ café and bar As You Are located in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill issued a GoFundMe appeal on Feb. 5 seeking emergency financial support to prevent it from closing, the popular business reached its goal of $150,000 to get out of debt.

And as of Sunday night, the fundraising appeal had pulled in $171,471 from more than 3,000 individual donations, according to As You Are’s GoFundMe site.

In comments posted on the GoFundMe site, many of the donors said they were motivated to contribute to As You Are because they view it as a special, safe space that offers a welcoming, accepting place for them and their LGBTQ friends or family members.

In their GoFundMe message, As You Are co-owners Jo McDaniel and Rachel “Coach” Pike describe how they view their business as offering community center type programming beyond just a bar and café.

“AYA is a café, bar and dance floor that hosts diverse programming nearly every night of the week, including social sport leagues, Queer youth socials, weekly karaoke, book clubs, open mics, Queer author events, dance parties and much more,” the two said in their message.

“We have faced some particularly tall and costly hurdles that have set us back significantly since the beginning,” the two said in their GoFundMe message. “As we are tapping every resource we can imagine with creativity and open minds we need urgent assistance,” they said. 

“Rach and Jo are truly loved, and AYA is so important to so many people and everyone knew that,” said gay D.C. civic activist Mike Silverstein, who is one of the GoFundMe donors. “The response was absolutely amazing,” Silverstein said. “From every part of our community. People put everything aside, worked together and focused on saving a space that means so much.”

As You Are opened for business in March 2022. McDaniel and Pike have said the financial problems were caused, in part, by a delay in their planned opening due to complications associated with getting their required occupancy permit from the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The two said negotiations with the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which demanded certain soundproofing structures be installed for the interior walls of their building, also added to the delay and increased costs.

Like other bars and restaurants across the city, McDaniel and Pike said their rent became a financial burden during a slow period for business last summer. They told the Washington Blade their landlord declined a request to renegotiate the lease to make an allowance based on sales. The two told the Washington Post that their rent is $27,000 per month, which they had to begin paying before they were able to open for business, and they spent $40,000 on soundproofing the walls, all of which contributed to a debt of about $150,000.

McDaniel and Pike, who spoke to the Blade at the time they launched their GoFundMe appeal, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the success of their fundraising and their future plans for As You Are. They told the Post now that they are no longer in debt, they plan to take up several offers of financial advice and they’re looking into possibly buying a property rather than renting. They said they also plan to apply for D.C. government business grants now that they have caught up on back tax payments.

Among those who posted comments on the As You Are GoFundMe site after making a contribution was Megan Mowery, who wrote, “AYA gives us a place to feel community, it is so rare to find a queer space where I can have fun and feel safe.” Mowrey added, “The programming AYA puts on absolutely has something for everyone. I love you AYA!!!”

Helena Chaves, another donor, stated in a GoFundMe post, “As You Are has been a monumental addition to the LGBTQIA+ community in Washington, D.C. They hold so many events and fundraisers, provide beautiful accommodations for us disabled folk, and have protocols in place to diminish harassment in the space.” 

Among the larger donors shown on the As You Are GoFundMe site is the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride festival and parade, which donated $2,500. 

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District of Columbia

No Pride in Genocide marches from Dupont Circle to HRC

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says nearly 30,000 people have died in the enclave since the war began

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Activists march in a No Pride in Genocide march from Dupont Circle to the Human Rights Campaign headquarters on Feb. 14, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Upwards of 200 people on Wednesday marched from Dupont Circle to the Human Rights Campaign headquarters and called upon it and other LGBTQ rights groups to “demand an end to the genocide and occupation of Palestine.”

No Pride in Genocide, which describes itself in a press release as a “recently launched coalition of queer and trans Palestinians, Arab and SWANA (Southwest Asian and North African) people, Jews and allies,” organized the march. A press release that No Pride in Genocide released included a list of demands for HRC and other advocacy organizations, LGBTQ elected officials and celebrities.

  • Publicly denounce the use of pink washing to justify the occupation and genocide of Palestinians
  • Immediately boycott, divest and sanction the systems and entities that enable the genocide, including severing ties with weapon manufacturers and donors profiteering off genocide
  • Call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, to lift the siege and for all food, clean water, supplies and medical support be allowed into Gaza 
  • Publicly denounce the increased surveillance the Israeli Occupation Forces use against Palestinian queers
  • Call for the release of all political prisoners being held by the Israeli occupation
  • Use their platforms to call for an end to all imperialism and occupation, from the river to the sea, from Turtle Island to Palestine 

March participants who gathered in Dupont Circle before the march chanted slogans that include “Israel lies using queer lives. We say no to genocide” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Many of them held signs that, among other things, read “HRC = harmful racist complicit” and “Full ceasefire in Gaza now!”

(WASHINGTON BLADE VIDEO BY MICHAEL K. LAVERS)

A person who No Pride in Genocide described as “a Palestinian organizer who wishes to remain anonymous” spoke in Dupont Circle before the march. She read a message from a “queer Palestinian” in the Gaza Strip who said a man he had kissed died in an Israeli airstrike two days later. 

“I am here as a queer Palestinian, while Israel uses my life and all of our lives to justify the murder of more than 30,000 Palestinians over the past five months,” said the organizer. “We will not let them continue to use our name for this genocide.”

Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, launched a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, 2023.

The Israeli government has said roughly 1,200 people have been killed, including at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in a kibbutz near the border between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli government also says more than 10,000 people have been injured in the country since the war began and Hamas militants kidnapped more than 200 others.

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says nearly 30,000 people have died in the enclave since the war began. Israel after Oct. 7 cut electricity and water to Gaza and stopped most food and fuel shipments.

The International Court of Justice last month heard legal arguments in South Africa’s case that accuses Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has strongly denied the accusations.

“Israel continues to use queer and trans lives as a justification of their genocidal campaigns,” said the No Pride in Genocide organizer who spoke before the march. “After spending hundreds of millions of dollars in ads to paint itself as a safe place for queer people in the Middle East, it uses that same narrative to justify and legitimize its eradication of queer and trans Palestinians.” 

“When you hear Zionists argue and say why don’t you go to Palestine, you’ll be murdered there. You know what? I would be murdered there because of the 1,008 bombs dropped a day by Israel and the U.S. on Gaza,” she added. “All of this is happening while the institutions that claim to represent queer and trans people and claim to defend our rights have remained completely silent while a genocide is being carried out in our name. We refuse to let that happen.”

(WASHINGTON BLADE VIDEO BY MICHAEL K. LAVERS)

The National LGBTQ Task Force last month called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

An HRC spokesperson on Thursday did not specifically respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment about the No Pride in Genocide protest and their demands. The spokesperson did, however, highlight HRC President Kelley Robinson’s statements about Oct. 7.

“The loss of life unfolding in the Middle East is heartbreaking and the human rights violations are appalling,” said Robinson in a series of posts to her X account on Oct. 9, 2023. “Hamas killed hundreds of Israeli civilians over the weekend in a terrorist attack. And now countless more Palestinian and Israeli people are dying as the violence escalates while Jewish, Arab and Muslim people in the U.S. and around the world fear backlash and hate-motivated crimes. LGBTQ+ people are everywhere and violence against civilians, anywhere, is wrong. Our thoughts are with the people in the Middle East living through this horror.” 

Robinson in a statement that HRC released on Oct. 13, 2023, reiterated her previous thoughts and added “the toll on both Israeli and Palestinian civilians lives rises daily.” 

“Many in the United States who are Jewish and Muslim recognize that hate-motivated bias and violence will rise here,” she said. “Antisemitism is wrong. Islamophobia is wrong. Full stop.”

Robinson in a message sent to HRC supporters on Nov. 10, 2023, said “each day of this conflict brings a new weight of grief, shock and disbelief at the unrelenting toll of war. In times like these, it’s important to note there are no easy answers or quick solutions.

  •          No statement will ever be enough in times of war, but what’s not hard, nor complex, is knowing right from wrong.
  •          The Hamas terrorist attack was wrong.
  •          The killing of 11,000 Palestinians and counting is wrong.
  •          The bombing of hospitals and the killing of children is wrong.
  •          The denial of safe food, water, telecommunications and safe passage is wrong.
  •          The antisemitism and Islamophobia escalating in the United States is wrong.”

Robinson has also publicly condemned attacks on Palestinians and Muslims in the U.S. that have taken place since Oct. 7. These include Wadea Al-Fayoume, a 6-year-old Muslim boy who was stabbed to death in Plainfield Township, Ill., on Oct. 14, 2023.

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Washington D.C. city official shovels snow for ailing trans activist

Budd continues to recuperate from a respiratory infection that landed her in the hospital for close to three weeks last month

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Councilmember Zachary Parker shovels snow in front of the home of Earline Budd, longtime D.C. transactivist. (Photo courtesy of Budd)

WASHINGTON – Longtime local transgender rights advocate Earline Budd said she was surprised and “greatly appreciative” when D.C. Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5) came to her house in the city’s Trinidad neighborhood and shoveled the snow from her sidewalk on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

Budd, 56, continues to recuperate from a respiratory infection that landed her in the hospital for close to three weeks last month and required follow-up treatment at a rehab center in Maryland.

Budd, who lives in Ward 5, said she and Parker have spoken regularly about LGBTQ issues since Parker won election to his Council seat in 2022. She said Parker called her earlier this week to ask how things were going and she told him she had recently returned home after her stay at Georgetown Hospital and physical therapy treatment at the Clinton Healthcare Center in Clinton, Md.

“He said oh, my God, I wish I had known. I would have come to visit you. What is your immediate need now,” Budd recounted in a telephone interview with the Blade. She said she informed Parker it’s difficult for her to walk and she was unable to shovel the snow in front of her house, which could make it difficult for her to leave the house to be taken to her next kidney dialysis treatment session. Budd has and continues to be treated for kidney failure for the past several years.

“And he said, well, I can come. I’m close to you and I and a staffer can come before I go in for a Council hearing,” Budd recalls Parker saying. “I can come in and shovel the snow for you,” she recalls Parker as saying.

“And I said that’s a lot to ask, Council member,” Budd told the Blade. “He said Miss Budd, you’ve done enough for this city that the city should be doing something for you. Now I’m on my way.”

According to Budd, a short time later, “They were out there shoveling the front sidewalk and my neighbor took a picture of them doing it,” she said, referring to Parker and one of his staff members. “And they got everything done in less than 15 minutes.”

Budd has been involved in local LGBTQ rights and trans rights activities for 35 years, according to information released in December 2022, when she was honored at a ceremony officially unveiling a large mural depicting Budd as the first transgender person to be included in D.C.’s citywide wall mural program.

A mural depicting Earline Budd is in an alley next to the Atlas Performing Arts Center at 1333 H St., N.E.
(Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

The Budd mural is located on the side of a building on the 1300 block of H Street, N.E., near the offices of the LGBTQ supportive service organization HIPS, where Budd currently works as a case manager. 

“Earline Budd is more than a neighbor,” Council member Parker said in a statement to the Blade. “She’s a trailblazer who unrelentingly gives of herself for our community. I want her to know that she is seen and loved and appreciated. Shoveling snow was a small gesture simply to say thank you.”

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D.C., Trans woman shot & another had legs run over by car

“Both cases remain under investigation & detectives are following up on leads, collecting evidence, and interviewing potential witnesses”

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Metropolitan Police Department/Los Angeles Blade graphic

WASHINGTON – Police in the nation’s capital say they are investigating a Nov. 1 incident in which a transgender woman was knocked down on a street by a man who backed his car into her and then drove over both of her legs after he was shot in the arm in an unrelated dispute with another person outside an apartment building at 5920 Foote St., N.E.

The woman, Latisa Moorman, said she spent a month at Washington Hospital Center recovering from her injuries before being transferred to a rehabilitation center for continued treatment of her injured legs.

Police are also investigating a second incident in which another transgender woman was shot in her “pelvic region” by an unidentified male suspect causing a nonfatal injury on Nov. 29 inside the same apartment building. The shooting followed an “argument about a sexual act that was performed and payment of money,” according to a D.C. police report.

The victim of the second incident couldn’t immediately be reached to determine if she would like her name to be disclosed.

Moorman, the victim in the first incident, told the Washington Blade a police detective informed her that the man who hit her with his car and drove away has been arrested. She said the detective gave her the name of the arrested man. But the man’s name could not be found in court records and police have not responded to a Blade request to confirm the arrest.

A police report says police were investigating what they listed as separate cases of the shooting that injured the man who drove over Moorman’s legs as well as the incident in which the man who was shot hit Moorman with his car and drove away.

“Both cases remain under investigation and detectives are actively following up on leads, collecting evidence, and interviewing potential witnesses,” D.C. police spokesperson Paris Lewbel told the Blade in an email. “Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, we cannot discuss specific investigative steps that have been taken by detectives,” Lewbel said.

The case of the Nov. 29 shooting of the trans woman inside 5920 Foote St., N.E. and the incident in which Moorman was hit by the car outside that same building took place in a location that trans and LGBTQ activists say is known as an area where female trans sex workers as well as trans women who are not engaged in sex work congregate along Eastern Avenue and nearby side streets.

The Foote Street apartment building where the two incidents took place is located at the intersection of Foote Street, 60th Street, and Eastern Avenue.

Less than a mile away one block off the Prince George’s County side of Eastern Avenue transgender woman Ashanti Carmon, 27, was shot to death on March 30, 2019. That case remains unsolved, with no arrest made. About 100 people led by transgender activist Earline Budd held a candlelight vigil one month later in honor of Carmon at the site of where the shooting took place.

Gay D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green, whose district is located near the Eastern Avenue area where trans women hang out, expressed concern that D.C. officials are not adequately addressing the issues related to why trans women are engaging in sex work in that area.

“The angle we come from is the city needs to provide services for Black trans women along this corridor as opposed to constantly trying to arrest them and hoping that will keep them away from Eastern Avenue or away from where they work out of desperation, out of necessity,” Green told the Blade.

“But that has never worked. And we tell them that over and over,” Green said. “These ladies have not been given an opportunity to advance in this city. They’ve been forced to the edges of this city,” he said, adding that the D.C. government “should be bringing social services to that corridor.”

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Hundreds of thousands attend pro-Israel rally in Washington

A Wider Bridge members among participants

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Hundreds of thousands of people attended the March for Israel on the National Mall in D.C. on Nov. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — Organizers of a pro-Israel rally that took place on the National Mall on Tuesday said upwards of 290,000 people attended.

House Majority Leader Mike Johnson (R-La.); Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.); House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.); U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa); U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), Deborah Lipstadt, the special U.S. envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, actress Debra Messing, CNN’s Van Jones, Israeli singer Omer Adam and relatives of some of the Israelis who militants from Hamas and other Muslim extremist groups kidnapped on Oct. 7 are among those who spoke at the March for Israel.

“Oct. 7 was a crime against the Jewish state, indeed against humanity, so barbaric that it cannot be ignored,” said Torres. “It cannot go unpunished. Hamas must be brought to justice.”

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), center, speaks with March on Israel attendees on Nov. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Israeli President Isaac Herzog spoke virtually from Jerusalem.

U.S. Sens. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Eric Sorensen (D-Ill.), Steny Hoyer, Norma Torres (D-Calif.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Jim Hines (D-Conn.), Maryland state Rep. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery County), former Arizona state Rep. Daniel Hernández, Rabbi Jake Singer-Beilin of Congregation Bet Mishpachah in D.C. and A Wider Bridge Executive Director Ethan Felson also attended the march that the Jewish Federations of North America organized.

“Today, the LGBTQ community marched with Israel in Washington, D.C.,” said A Wider Bridge on its Facebook page.

U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D- Pa.) at the March on Israel in D.C. on Nov. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Matt Adler, a Jewish Israeli American, attended the rally with A Wider Bridge. He was holding a sign with the slogans “we are one family” and a “special thank you to our brave Israeli Druze and Arab soldiers” written in English, Hebrew and Arabic when he spoke with the Washington Blade. 

“It’s really important to show that Hamas is bad for all peoples: Palestinian and Israeli,” said Adler. “As an LGBTQ community member, I think it’s important to stand on the side of peace for all, and Israel represents that peace for me.”

(washington blade video by michael k. lavers)

The rally took place roughly five weeks after Hamas, which the U.S. and Israel have designated a terrorist organization, launched a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel from the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli government has said roughly 1,200 people have been killed, including at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in a kibbutz near the border between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli government also says more than 5,000 people have been injured in the country since the war began and Hamas militants kidnapped more than 200 others.

Hamas rockets have reached Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ben Gurion Airport and other locations in central and southern Israel. Israeli Defense Forces and Hezbollah, another militant group, have exchanged fire across the Israel-Lebanon border.

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says more than 11,000 people have died in the enclave since the war began.

The Israeli government has cut electricity and water to Gaza and has stopped food and fuel shipments. 

The IDF on Tuesday entered Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Israel has said it has “concrete evidence” that Hamas has operated out of the facility that is the enclave’s largest hospital.

Pictures of IDF soldiers holding Pride flags inside Gaza circulated on social media on Sunday. Helem, an LGBTQ+ rights group in Lebanon, condemned them.”Love doesn’t manifest through genocide, occupation, colonization, killing, bombing and detention,” said the organization in a post on its X account. “Not in our name!

Tens of thousands of people took part in a pro-Palestine rally in D.C. on Nov. 4.

A Free Palestine poster on 17th Street in Dupont Circle on Oct. 23, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected growing calls for a ceasefire in Gaza. The Biden-Harris administration, meanwhile, has sought to address incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia that have increased since Oct. 7. 

“We need to hear more American voices, especially from the progressive left that I am a part of, speaking out for human rights for Jewish people in addition to all peoples in the region,” Adler told the Blade. “We all deserve safety and security.”

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Maxine Waters to deliver U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS keynote

Annual gathering to take place this week in D.C.

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U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) (Photo via Twitter)

WASHINGTON — More than 3,000 people are expected to attend the annual U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS this week in D.C.

California Congresswoman Maxine Waters on Wednesday will deliver the keynote address at the conference the National Minority AIDS Council organizes. This year’s conference theme is “A Love Letter to Black Women.”

“The 27th annual U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS (USCHA) brings together community leaders and HIV advocates to learn the latest information and build skills to provide effective HIV prevention and treatment services,” reads the conference media advisory.

NMAC Executive Director Paul Kawata and B. Kaye Hayes, deputy assistant secretary for infectious disease in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health who is also the executive director of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, is among those who are also scheduled to speak at the conference.

The conference will take place at the Marriott Marquis in D.C. through Sept. 9.

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