Where the GLBT community is concerned, 2007 was a sad year that began — and ended — with death. Most months included a notable death. January was one of those, as Diamond Lee Person, a local transgender woman, was murdered by her boyfriend, Preston Randolph Langston Jan. 3.
On Jan. 12, Sgt. Brett Parson, then head of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, announced he was leaving the unit to return to his Third District street beat. The Whitman-Walker Clinic held a meeting Jan. 9 to bring other local organizations into managing Capital Pride festivities, and Gary Samuels earned the title of Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather as the Centaur MC’s MAL Weekend came to a close Jan. 14.
The Person case continued into February as Langston pled guilty to second-degree murder Feb. 8. Another death hit the community, however, as Marc Slyman, a co-founder of Metro Weekly, died Feb. 12 in Palmetto, Fla., of AIDS-related pneumonia. He was 46.
Newly elected Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) named Christopher Dyer as interim director to his Office of LGBT Affairs Feb. 7, as then-Director Darlene Nipper announced she’d be leaving the office Feb. 16. Such is politics.
Virginia’s gay community dealt with politics of its own, as state bills on same-sex hospital visitation and health insurance passed. At the same time, the commonwealth defeated a bill that could have threatened ”gay-straight alliances” in public schools. ”It’s better to see us going forward then going backwards, which is a big improvement from last year,” observed Equality Fairfax President Sarah Gustafson, at the time. Another Virginia win went to Howard Daniel, a gay masseur who was able to license his home-massage business Feb. 12 despite some seemingly homophobic resistance from corners of the Manassas City Council.
Near the end of the month, Feb. 20, Metro Weekly co-sponsored a community forum with the D.C. Chapter of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association called ”State of the Movement.” Much attention went to blogs: ”We’re talking about people contributing who had no voice before,” said Pam Spaulding, who maintains the Pam’s House Blend blog. ”It’s hard to harness that. You can’t control message, and I think that scares a lot of organizations.”
Many Americans remember Bob Hattoy for coming out as a gay man with AIDS on national television in 1992. Gay Washingtonians are just as likely to remember him for the years he spent living in Dupont, working for the Clinton administration. This Californian, back in D.C. in January 2007 for House Speaker — and friend — Nancy Pelosi’s swearing in, died March 4 of an AIDS-related illness. He was 56.
The local, non-profit Transgender Health Empowerment organization held its first pageant, the Mr. & Miss THE 2007 Pageant, March 14. That day also marked the Domestic Partnerships Joint Filing Act of 2006 becoming law, meaning D.C. domestic partners can file their 2007 D.C. taxes jointly.
Over in Maryland, there was a mixed bag as a House of Delegates committee nobly shot down an attempt to amend that state’s Constitution with a same-sex marriage ban, and a Senate committee ignobly killed a measure to ban discrimination based on gender identity/expression.
But bad news and politics took a backseat to celebrity fanfare March 24, as Cybill Shepherd, Pam Grier, Marlee Matlin and Rose Rollins rolled into town for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network‘s National Dinner at the National Building Museum.
April saw a slew of staffing changes with Kathleen DeBold‘s departure from the Mautner Project; organization co-founder C. Dixon Osburn leaving SLDN; and Craig Bowman bowing out of the National Youth Advocacy Coalition. Meanwhile, Tasha Hill took the top spot at the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League, Sgt. Tania Bell was named supervisor the Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit — with Lt. Alberto Jova remaining as commanding officer, and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington brought on Robert Johnson as executive director.
A D.C. Superior Court Judge found probable cause against senior officers at the city’s Fire & Emergency Medical Services Agency (FEMS) for their treatment of Kenda Kirby, a lesbian hired by the District to implement a diversity-training program named for Tyra Hunter, a transgender woman who was denied care after a FEMS officer denied discovered male genitalia. ”The sum total of this evidence supports findings of a history and culture of homophobia and sexism in the D.C. FEMS,” Judge Geoffrey Alprin wrote in his decision. Also in the courts, Preston Randolph Langston was sentenced to 26 years for murdering Diamond Lee Person in January.
The GLBT Gertrude Stein Democratic Club offered a substantial contingent to march for voting rights on D.C. Emancipation Day, April 16. Two days later, heavy-hitting Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) remembered Bob Hattoy at a gathering of family and friends in the Capitol. Politics were front and center in Maryland, too, as activists celebrated passage for three gay-friendly bills affecting health insurance, life insurance and discrimination lawsuits.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced April 13 that heterosexual Americans had caught up to their gay male peers, with more than 5 percent of their gonorrhea infections resistant to what had been standard treatment.
Omega turned 10 with an April 24 party, Fab Lounge celebrated its one-year anniversary April 26, and Youth Pride Day kicked off the area’s Pride season April 28 with special guest John Amaechi, the newly self-outed pro basketball player.
The May 1 special election in the District didn’t offer much to the gay community. Neither winner for the two open City Council seats — Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) — had earned top marks from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance’s candidate ratings. Nor did the Getrude Stein Democrats endorse Bowser for Ward 4. That group did, however, endorse Alexander, who had scored a 2.5 rating on GLAA’s plus-or-minus-10 scale.
Richard Rausch, longtime activist and co-founder of the Stein Democrats, died May 29 of pneumonia and post-surgery infections at age 71.
Ward 5, home to Councilmember Tommy Thomas (D), saw the opening of Club 2120, the rebirth of the displaced Glorious Health and Amusements venue from Southeast. April also saw a Ward 5 town-hall meeting to counter displaced adult venues from the city’s stadium land-grab relocating in that ward.
On May 8, the Virginia Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in a nasty, lesbian parental-custody case, deferring to an earlier Vermont decision, seen as a win in the fight for same-sex parenting equality. At the U.S. Supreme Court, 19 attorneys from GAYLAW, a local organization of GLBT lawyers made history May 29, sworn to the Bar of that court en masse — a first for the 17-year-old GAYLAW.
D.C. Black Pride kicked-off its six-day event with an interfaith service May 23, keeping the pride season rolling along. Rowing along, Out 2 Paddle, sponsored by metropolitan Washington’s Asian/Pacific-Islander Queers United for Action (AQUA) and the only gay rowing contingent in the sixth annual Dragon Boat Festival May 19-20, took first place in the 500-meter open category. Also in motion, Rehobus, a regular weekend service to GLBT’s summertime gay beach, launched May 25 from Duplex Diner.
Trans Pride joined the area’s Pride season events June 3, a first for D.C., as part of Capital Pride, running June 2-10. Cherry also joined the parade, moving from early spring to June — though it appears to be headed back to April for 2008.
On the political front, the City Council voted June 5 in favor of gay Councilmember Jim Graham‘s (D-Ward 1) effort to loosen licensing restrictions on adult venues displaced by the baseball stadium. Meanwhile, the city closed Club 2120 June 26, open little more than a month, after an inspector spotted pornography on offer, among other peculiarities for a venue licensed to operate as ”office space.” Still, Club 2120’s short existence was more than any of the other displaced venues have seen as yet.
D.C.’s Fire & Emergency Medical Services Agency (FEMS), on the heels of the April finding of homophobia, appointed its first GLBT liaison officer, Sgt. J.B. Wallace, whose ”goal is to make sure that nothing like [the Tyra Hunter tragedy] ever happens again.” A June appointment also went to Melvin White, a gay man, sworn in as president of the D.C. Bar Association June 21.
On the arts front, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington treated the area to ”This House Shall Stand: Songs of My Family,” an original piece commissioned specifically for GMCW, performed at the Kennedy Center with D.C.’s Different Drummers’ Capitol Pride Symphony. One In Ten took advantage of the beautiful weather with an outdoor screening of Pillow Talk at the Hillwood Museum June 23, complete with a Doris Day look-alike contest. Local gay artist Scott G. Brooks opened the cutting edge ”Art in Heat” exhibit of multiple artists June 30.
Despite that exhibit’s success and the lovely weather at Capital Pride, heat was also the enemy in June as fire devoured longtime activist, community filmmaker and archivist Cheryl Spector‘s Rosyln apartment June 6.
Saying that feelings of exhaustion were likely exacerbated by the June fire, Cheryl Spector visited a doctor in early July. The diagnosis was not good: acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Still, Spector embodied a fighter’s spirit, saying, ”I feel like I’m a strong person and I’m going to beat this thing…. I have fought struggles and I think that this is just another one.” The community got squarely behind Spector July 28 for a fundraiser at RnR Lounge with the theme, ”She lost many things in the fire, but let’s make sure she doesn’t lose hope!”
Efforts by Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and the GLAA paid off July 1, as the Potomac Electric Power Company’s parent company, Pepco Holdings Inc.’s policy of treating employees’ domestic partners and spouses equally in terms of benefits went into effect July 1.
Councilmember Graham floated the idea of using the derelict Dupont Down Under space to house a couple of the displaced adult venues from Southeast during a City Council breakfast July 10. Though WTOP reporter Mark Segraves, who sat in on the meeting and broke the story, says Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), in whose ward Dupont Circle sits, found the idea intriguing, it went nowhere. There was a more concrete change in Dupont Circle July 14, as Graham — second vice chair of Metro’s board — and others unveiled two large inscriptions along the walls to the north entrance of Metro’s Dupont Circle station honoring HIV/AIDS caregivers.
Marjorie C. MacGregor, who worked for 40 years at 17th Street’s Trio Restaurant died July 8 at age 89. Meanwhile, Baltimore’s Hippo celebrated its 35th anniversary July 7, and Nellie’s gay sports bar opened its doors July 16.
At the end of the month, July 24, Mayor Fenty had his first meeting with his LGBT Advisory Committee. ”The primary thing we want is for various departments to be collecting data as it relates to the LGBT community,” then-committee chair Abilly Jones said shortly after the no-nonsense meeting. ”That’s because a response we often get when our issues are put on the table is, ‘There’s no data to support that.’ If there’s no data, it’s easy to pooh-pooh.”
The political business that closed July continued in August, as Fenty on Aug. 3 named Clark Ray, a prominent member of the local GLBT community, to head the District’s Department of Parks and Recreation. The appointment makes Ray the highest-ranking openly gay Fenty appointee. On Aug. 9, Fenty announced that Dr. Shannon Hader would head the District’s HIV/AIDS Administration. Another summer appointee, Michelle Rhee, entrusted to clean up D.C.’s failing public school system, met with the Getrude Stein Democrats Aug. 13. Seven weeks into the job at the time, she cleared an evening to devote to the group, but she wasn’t about to promise herself into a corner: ”I don’t want to tell you what I think you want to hear, and then not deliver…. I think the District is great at saying things and then not following through.”
On the social calendar, August saw the D.C. Bear Invasion; a first-time culture and arts extravaganza, Phase Fest 2007; and Chesapeake Pride. The latter took a bit of a hit as its new venue, the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds, baked in the summer sun. ”The heat index was 115 degrees out there at the fairgrounds,” explained Wayne Schwandt, chair of the Chesapeake Pride planning committee. ”With the humidity, it was just unbearable.”
The D.C.-based National Black Justice Coalition flexed tech-muscles with the launch of a Web cast series Aug. 15, and Annie Kaylor of Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse celebrated her 80th birthday at the iconic 17th Street restaurant Aug. 20. Christian ”Chris” Jansen, co-founder of Ziegfeld’s/Secrets (one of the venues displaced by the baseball stadium) and Phase 1, died Aug. 31 of heart failure. He was 61.
After a 10-week battle with leukemia, Cheryl Spector died Sept. 4. ”It’s like the world got a little grayer today,” said her sister, Barbara Spector Yeninas, reflecting the mood of the community. A celebration of Spector’s life was held Sept. 30 to raise money for the Rainbow History Project to maintain Spector’s massive archive of videos and photographs of the D.C. GLBT community.
September also had dubious distinction for hate crimes. Three made headlines: On Sept. 9, a young man was beaten and subjected to homophobic epithets near the Georgetown University Campus. A young transgender woman was attacked near Gallery Place Sept. 19, and a gay man was attacked Sept. 22 in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood. The violence took a different turn Sept. 25 when a woman was shot in the neck outside the Mount Pleasant Safeway where she worked in an apparent domestic-partner attack.
A Sept. 26 report on ABC 7 of a woman and her family living in vermin-infested public housing — and mice chewing through her quadriplegic son’s feeding tubes — resulted in some gay philanthropy, with James Millner, Thomas Drury and Philippe Suissa stepping in to get her family temporarily housed in Hotel Palomar.
Mayor Fenty named Christopher Dyer as his permanent liaison to the GLBT community Sept. 7, and a Maryland Court of Appeals upheld a 1973 law defining marriage as between a man and woman Sept. 18.
October began with a ”rally against hate” on the Georgetown University campus Oct. 1 in response to the Sept. 9 hate crime. Public displays of politics continued Oct. 6 as transgender activists protested outside the Human Rights Campaign’s national dinner at the Washington Convention Center. Protestors were angry that HRC would not repudiate the amended Employment Non-Discrimination Act from which protections for transgender people had been removed. Also in early October, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier issued guidelines in an attempt to improve interactions between police officers and the transgender community. She also re-tooled the GLLU yet again, this time placing all her special liaison units under Sgt. Brett Parson’s leadership.
A same-sex couple claimed they were kicked out of the Rite Aid at U and 13th Streets NW Oct. 12, resulting in a festive ”hug in” at the store Oct. 30. The D.C. Strokes gay rowing team also made a splash in October, unveiling its first calendar on National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11. Aubrey Sarvis filled the top spot at SLDN Oct. 4, and Chip Arndt of The Amazing Race came to town to lead the 21st AIDS Walk Oct. 6.
Like October, November began with a community rally. This time, Nov. 3, it was DC Fights Back! and the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association’s march for HIV awareness. D.C.’s Damien Ministries, also active in the fight against HIV/AIDS, marked its 20th anniversary Nov. 10.
On Nov. 13, the Montgomery County Council voted 8-0 to prohibit gender-identity discrimination.
Two prominent members of the community died this month. On Nov. 6, Noi Chudnoff, 59, one of the city’s favorite straight allies, died of head trauma after falling at Holy Cross Hospital while being prepared for surgery to deal with a recent diagnosis of colon cancer. The District declared Nov. 10, 2007, ”Noi Chudnoff Day.” Cornelius ”Neil” R. Alexander Jr., who served on the D.C. Human Rights Commission and was a leader in the local leather community, died Nov. 18. Alexander, 55, had been battling prostate cancer.
Even with the bad news, Ed Bailey and John Guggenmos showed that the beat goes on in the GLBT community, unveiling their new venue, Town, with a Nov. 17 party.
The year’s unfortunate trends continued in December with the death of Willette Griffin, a fixture in the local African-American GLBT social scene for decades, on Dec. 4. Nathaniel Salerno was attacked on Metrorail Dec. 8 in a mugging that seemed to escalate into a hate crime.
The Dakota Cowgirl restaurant, with Titan’s Ramrod upstairs, filed for bankruptcy Dec. 8, according to the Washington Post, with the doors officially closing Dec. 23. The Universal Gear clothing store on 17th Street closed its doors as well, but only long enough to move to a new, larger space on 14th Street Dec. 7.
At a Dec. 8 meeting of community leaders at The D.C. Center, the GLBT center’s president, Mike Sessa, floated the question of whatever happened to Jerrie Linder‘s remains. Though the longtime community activist died in 2005, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia in early December accused Robert Bruening, former head The D.C. Center, with defrauding her estate of approximately $150,000. At the time of her death, Bruening reportedly volunteered to try to secure Linder’s remains, as she had no will or next of kin. Turns out Linder’s remains were cremated and interred at a cemetery near Baltimore.
On Dec. 10, the Kensington, Md., Town Council and mayor ended the year on a happy note by passing the Freedom & Civil Marriage Protection Act, encouraging legislators to allow same-sex marriages. And on Dec. 13, Adam Dahl carried the distinction of becoming Metro Weekly‘s 2007 Coverboy of the year.