At any given time in our history, Metro Weekly has never relied upon an army of writers or photographers to get things done. It’s always been up to a relative few to tell the stories of our times. Still, we have managed to get around.
These features, differing from out straightforward ”Q and A” interviews in that we craft the narrative, often include multiple perspectives and sometimes provide an opportunity to tell a story while standing right in the middle of it. They might be hard news, they might be human interest, they might be first person. It’s our hope that each serves to help illuminate the human condition.
1. ”To Serve, With Love: Behind the Scenes at Food & Friends”
November 23, 1995
By Randy Shulman. Photography by Todd Franson
At the other end of the room, far from where Smith packs up the day’s ”shipment,” stands a makeshift assembly line staffed by three of F&F’s countless volunteers. One spoons a foil-bottomed container full of the casserole, another positions a form-fitting lid into place, a third clamps the lid on with a sealing machine and stacks the tightly sealed containers onto a large tray. Chef Paul Fuzi walks by and notices that the tray is nearly full. He replaces it with an empty tray and carts the full one over to Smith.
There are no assigned duties here, no room for egos. Everyone does whatever is needed. And usually everything and anything is needed.
By morning’s end Smith, along with Fuzi and a small legion of volunteers, will have prepared enough provisions to serve the organization’s 440 ”clients” — homebound men, women, children, and families with HIV/AIDS — three nourishing, well-balanced meals.
2. ”Ride of a Lifetime: On the road with the first AIDSRide”
June 27, 1996
By Randy Shulman. Photography by Todd Franson
Kevin Mischka, who had organized a contingent of HIV-Positive riders known as the Positive Peddlers, pointed to the mud on his Tanqueray jersey. ”I had a little accident,” he said, sheepishly. ”But at least it was a glamorous accident — I went right over my handlebars into the mud!”
According to most riders, the first 48 miles were a breeze. … By day two of the ride, most of the riders were in agony from the rural route hills.
”This is the toughest bike ride I have ever done,” said Food & Friends’s Brent Minor, whose two older brothers travelled from North Carolina to ride with him. … Minor said he only walked his bike up two hills.
”They were not hills, darling, they were elevator shafts! But you know, I am loving every minute of it. I need to go out and buy a new crotch, of course, because mine is completely worn out now.”
3. ”Camp Camping It Up: The joys of gay summer camp”
July 16, 1998
By Randy Shulman
”OH, YOO HOO!” I yell to the instructor, an Australian named Emma, down below. ”I DON’T WANT TO GO THROUGH WITH THIS AFTER ALL! YOU CAN LET ME DOWN NOW!”
Emma, dear, sweet Emma, Emma of the safety line, Emma who has the power to release me, to bring me gliding gently, safely back to the comfort of the soft, brown dirt of Earth, says quite plainly, ”No.”
I decide to wait Emma out. If I don’t move, Emma will have to let me down. … A crowd has gathered. Their shouts drift skyward and probe my fuzzy, fear-addled brain. There are no taunts, no cries of ”faggot” or ”sissy boy.” There’s nothing but a verbal wellspring of encouragement and support.
”COME ON, RANDY!” ”YOU CAN DO IT RANDY!” ”RAN-DY! RAN-DY! RAN-DY!”
I never realized just how irritating — and motivating — the sound of one’s name being chanted in unison was.
How did I get here? How could I — a man who’s never climbed anything taller than a stepladder — get into this position? For the answer to that, you have to travel back a few days to Sunday, August 24, to a small propeller plane bound for a gay and lesbian summer camp in Maine called, ingeniously enough, Camp Camp.
4. ”Into the Mouse Trap: Disney’s most fabulous day of the year”
Into the Mouse Trap
June 27, 2002
By Will Doig. Photography by Michael Wichita
The daily parade is like Disney uncut. It’s Walt in his purest form. It’s when Disney World gets to stand up, throw out its hip and say, “Look how fabulous we are!” Understandably, the parade’s pretty big with the gays.
Off to the side, an elderly straight couple looks on in that blank way that old people do, their eyes rendered opaque by glasses with triple-thick lenses. I decide to fill them in on what all the red shirts are about. I guess it’s obvious, but it’s easy to assume that people from that generation might need a little nudge.
“What am I, stupid?” the woman responds to my innocuous query of whether she knew it was Gay Day. “They’re all wearing them,” she says.
Indeed, she’s right. They are all wearing them. Her husband is pretending he doesn’t know I’m there, or maybe he genuinely doesn’t. I press on with my attempt to open her mind.
“What do you think about all this?” I ask vaguely.
“Well, it’s their problem. They’ll have to deal with it,” she says.
I want more information — how will they have to deal with it? Are we talking about Hell now? Eternal damnation? Or are we simply touching on the discrimination and persecution that they’ll have to face because of people like herself? I’m about to ask her when she whispers, “Are you one of them?” Like, literally whispers, as if it’s 1954 and I’ve just been caught cruising J. Edgar at a black tie State Department function.
I tell her I am indeed one of them, and she repeats that it’s my problem and that eventually I’ll have to deal with it. I’m sensing that I’m not going to get any more specifics out of her, so I thank her for her time and return to the parade.
By ten past three, the parade begins to round the corner. Someone tells me that its official name is the “Share a Dream Come True” parade. Disney songs blare from every nook, including the Mickey Mouse song once again, this time a deep house remix. The parade boils down to a procession of floats, each with a different Disney character under a glass covering, the kind of coverings a waiter might remove with a voila! from a serving of Baked Alaska. Mickey comes first, and a recording of his voice plays different sound bites while the Mickey in the bubble acts like he’s speaking them. He points and nods at the crowd. Everyone loves it. The crowd goes nuts.
5. ”Buzz Cut: With Nation’s Friday night party closed, will Feds focus on Velvet?”
By Will Doig
Buzz has also accused the D.C. Police Department of harassing and intimidating patrons. Huie, who also serves as the club’s night manager, claims to have been “whipped around to a wall by five police officers” while exiting the club through a side door, and then detained for 25 minutes. She believes the officers’ intention was to intimidate passersby who were walking toward the club. Narcotics Inspector Hilton Burton of the D.C.P.D. denies the accusations.
“We don’t harass anyone. When we go in to do a drug operation it’s pretty clandestine up to the point where we lock someone up. When we lock them up, we take them out of the club. There’s no harassing. We enforce the law.”
Ed Bailey doesn’t believe such harassment has occurred on Saturday nights, saying his customers are a vocal group and that “if something had happened, we would have heard about it.”
With Buzz gone, Velvet moves up a rung as one of Washington’s biggest weekly parties. Although it shared the same venue as Buzz, the link between the two events ends there. But people who don’t make Nation their home on weekends are apt to miss this little byte of information and see the whole thing as one package deal, worries Bailey.
“It depends on the sophistication of someone’s knowledge about the industry,” he says. “I don’t know how the government and all of its agencies look at Nation nightclub, but it’s probably unlikely that they’re able to look at it and see that Friday nights and Saturday nights are separate.”
Still, Velvet thus far has not been directly affected. The party’s DJ lineup is booked through the rest of the year, and Bailey has no plans to change that.
“You have to go on, and we have every intention of doing so,” he says.
6. ”AIDS Walk’s Last Stand?”
By Sean Bugg
As AIDS changed, AIDS Walk changed.
Since 1997, Whitman-Walker has seen at least some drop in attendance and money raised in each year’s AIDS Walk. But even with that general trend, the first two years of the new decade have been particularly rough. Where in 1999 AIDS Walk raised about $1.5 million for the Clinic’s AIDS programs, AIDS Walk 2000 dropped by almost half, to just over $850,000. That was nearly halved again in 2001, with the event pulling in less than $500,000.
And these trends aren’t confined to AIDS Walk Washington, says Whitman-Walker’s Executive Director Cornelius Baker, who points to AIDS Walks in New York, Los Angeles and Seattle that have watched their returns drop. However, while Seattle experienced yet another difficult year, the New York and Los Angeles Walks rebounded in 2002.
“The question is will we be like Seattle or New York,” Baker says.
Whether the AIDS Walk rebounds or not for 2002 is, perhaps, of more vital importance than at any other point in the event’s 16-year history — if AIDS Walk doesn’t meet its fundraising goal of $850,000, Baker says, the Clinic will face “severe budget reductions.” That means possible cuts in programs, waiting lists for services, and staff layoffs. In the days leading up to the Walk, it’s too early to tell if the Clinic will meet that goal.
7. ”Play Time: The toys of leather”
By Randy Shulman. Photography by Todd Franson
Sometimes where it all comes together is in the wonderful world of electricity.
And within that wonderful world lies a handy, albeit pricey, item known as The Violet Wand, a hand-held generator that comes complete with multiple glass and metal attachments which, depending on how much power is juiced through them, produce anywhere from a tingling sensation to a full-blown shock to the system.
“The Violet Wand is a very low voltage type toy,” says [Patti] Brown. “It’s something that came about at the turn of the last century that was used by doctors to cure everything from headaches to kidney disease to female troubles. These little low doses of electric shock were thought to be the new medical breakthrough at the time.”
Of course, the wand didn’t cure anything. But it might have aroused more than a few highly charged prurient interests.
“The stimulation it provides can be very erotic,” says Brown. “And it can get extremely intense depending on what you’re doing with it.”
“The Violet Wand is used for a sharp, stinging pain,” says [Melissa] Fishman, who specializes in electric play. “You can use anything metal, taking it anywhere from just making a wet spot to actually branding someone.”
8. ”Where Do We Fit?: Social conservatives on gay Americans and the new order”
By Will O’Bryan. Photoillustration by Todd Franson
“I would describe that end as gaining access to the institution of marriage, to have homosexuality received as normative,” [Brian] Fahling says. “I think they tried to advance far too swiftly, and they attempted to gain in the courts what they could never accomplish in the legislative arena. And I think that built resentment. There may be a slower, more methodical approach, to allow time to fill in the gaps, to have hearts and minds changed over the longer goal. …
“I’m not convinced they’ll ultimately be successful,” Fahling concludes, saying that for gay Americans to be fully integrated into American society, they’ll have to trump the “nature of man.” In other words, it’s an ultimate winner-take-all battle between civil rights and procreation. “I don’t regard the long-term prospects of the homosexual movement are very cheery for them.”
9. ”Hostile Territory: The Fight for Gay Equality in Virginia”
By Sean Bugg. Photography by Todd Franson
It’s not just the size of the crowd in the room that speaks to the concern and the urgency about what’s happening in Virginia. You can see the concern in their faces as well, along with an eagerness to do something to make these things right. But how optimistic can you be in a state that’s seriously considering making the license plate a daily slap in the face?
“These are very large odds we’re up against,” says Jay Fisette, chair of the Arlington County Board of Supervisors and a board member of Equality Virginia. Fisette is one of the few gay elected officials in the state, along with Alexandria’s gay representative in the House of Delegates, Adam Ebbin.
Fisette exhorts the crowd to make sure their voices are heard by coming out and telling their personal stories so legislators will understand the real impact of the legislation they are considering.
“To be gay or lesbian in 2005 is to be political. You’ve been made political.”
10. ”The Last Inning: A Whole New Ballgame in Southeast DC”
The Last Inning
April 14, 2005
By Sean Bugg. Photography by Todd Franson
The proposed location of the new baseball stadium — a prize piece of the multi-million dollar deal that brought the national pastime to the nation’s capital — lands squarely atop a block of businesses along O Street in Southeast that cater to the gay community.
Ziegfeld’s. Secrets. Glorious Health and Amusement. The Follies. Club Baths. Heat. All lie just beyond the proposed right field. Just outside of the stadium’s environs would be longtime nightlife stalwarts Edge/Wet and Nation — locations that many believe will eventually succumb to the ancillary development the stadium will engender.
“I’m not happy at all with anything happening here,” says Bob Siegel. He’s sitting in his office at Glorious Health, security monitors behind him keeping tabs on the late afternoon street traffic. Siegel owns all the buildings along this stretch of O Street, with the exception of the Club Baths, and is a landlord for the other businesses.
“I want to continue to be here with what I have here,” he says. “I don’t want to go anywhere.”
11. ”Marching On: As the door to MMM participation closes for the black LGBT community, another door to increased activism may be opening”
By Will O’Bryan. Photography by Ward Morrison
On Saturday morning, Oct. 15, following the successful opening reception for the Unity Weekend at Us Helping Us the night before, [H. Alexander] Robinson walked grimly about Freedom Plaza, looking like a man whose hopes had been dashed. “You’ve heard the news, haven’t you?” he asked.
The news was not good. [Donna] Payne and [Keith] Boykin reported to the MMM event early that day, only to learn that Boykin would not be speaking. Payne said that [Rev. Willie] Wilson cited an ambiguous procedure for the reason Boykin was pulled from the lineup. “[Wilson] smiled and said, ‘You will not be speaking today,'” Payne told those gathered back at Freedom Plaza. “I’m so angry.”
As the marquee at National Theater touted Les Misérables across the street, the small Freedom Plaza crowd of about 200 soldiered on.
“You see we still have challenges, but you see how we’ve lifted the community up for the past nine months,” [Carlene] Cheatam told the group. “The fact that I am black, that I am lesbian, is all good. … I’m brave enough to believe they can’t make it without us.”
12. ”Forever Annie’s: The steakhouse that transformed 17th Street”
By Will O’Bryan. Photography by Todd Franson
Some say it’s a landmark. Some say it’s an institution. Some call it a part of Washington’s gay identity. Whatever Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse is, there’s one thing it ain’t — pretentious. Between the menu and the staff, this anchor on 17th Street exudes comfort. And it’s been doing it for more than 50 years.
Annie Kaylor, 78, personifies the attitude of her namesake restaurant. Sitting in a booth by the bar, she’s brought some prepared notes to help her find the words to describe Annie’s — handwritten on her personalized Ziggy stationery from home. It makes you want to hug her or call her “Momma.” Plenty do.
“Dining out at Annie’s is definitely a homey atmosphere,” she reads. Sidney, her husband of 40 years sits across the aisle at the bar. Her sister, Sophie, is there, too. They’ve all worked at Annie’s at one time or another.
“No one is treated better than anyone else. We are all accepted. It’s a fun environment. To say the least, the food is great and basic. It’s a fun experience in that there are no strangers where you go to Annie’s,” she says. “Our customers know we care about them. This means the world to us. The love is there. The love comes from the man who built this restaurant, by the name of George Katinas.”
13. ”Silver Celebration: Twenty-Five Years of Singing and Outreach from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington”
By Will O’Bryan. Photography by Todd Franson
On June 18, 1981, Ronald Reagan was president. Lady Diana Spencer was a little more than a month away from marrying Prince Charles. Pope John Paul II had been shot a month prior. And the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus performed at the Kennedy Center.
“For me, it was an incredibly big deal,” says Steve Herman, a non-singing, support member of the GMCW since the beginning — earning him the title Grande Dame. “By the time all this happened, I was 39 years old. I’d been out most of my life. I was very comfortable with my life, my relationships, my family. At the same time, our lives were really in the bars, kind of behind the scenes. It was ‘inner circle’ things. Then, all of a sudden, you hear that a group with ‘Gay’ in its title was going to be at the Kennedy Center for all to see and hear. For people like me, this was an incredibly major thing to happen. I remember a lot of proud people on the stage, and a lot of proud people in the audience. Several hundred gay men were up there singing. For me, it was a major turning point.”
An ominous coincidence in the GMCW’s June 1981 founding was the initial discovery that same month of five gay Los Angeles men with a rare form of pneumonia found only in people with weakened immune systems. As Herman talks about the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington offering a new kind of pride, nobody could have known just how valuable that would be as this new illness began ravaging the gay community. Scores of members would soon die of AIDS-related illnesses.
“The first year, it didn’t really hit. Then it started to become far more in our consciousness,” says Herman. “We began to have members — and friends, partners of members — coming down with AIDS. At that point, the chorus wanted to do something for the community, so we sang at AIDS services. “I consider us family,” he continues. “We really, really support each other.”
14. ”State of Play: LGBT advocacy is evolving – despite setbacks and challenges”
By Chris Geidner. Illustration by Scott G. Brooks
Even Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of Get Equal – the organization that burst onto the scene with a dramatic challenge to [Joe] Solmonese when Dan Choi and James Pietrangelo II chained themselves to the White House fence on March 18 – acknowledged that when it comes to putting forth the strategy that will lead to success, “I don’t know that answer.”
But – and where she and Solmonese might differ – she adds, “All that we know is that by playing by the traditional rules, it’s not working.”
From the advent of GOProud, which board Chairman Chris Barron says is “not interested in the group hug from the gay left,” to Chad Griffin’s decision to recruit top-tier lawyers to file a federal lawsuit aimed at striking down Proposition 8 in California when none of the established legal groups would do it, the traditional rules and traditional roles are being challenged.
The impact and longevity of those challenges remain open questions. But for all the questions about the pursuit of LGBT equality, there are many voices, often leading many people in sometimes differing directions.
For groups like the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which works to elect qualified LGBT candidates, this has impacted the organization’s work.
“My job is to work with the candidates and the officials,” Victory Fund President Chuck Wolfe says. “Anything I can do that helps them win, that’s what we do. And, in some cases, that’s advising candidates on how to traverse some of these questions when organizations might disagree with each other on positions.”
15. ”Domestic Disturbance: Before DOMA, there was another debate over marriage – within the gay and lesbian community”
By Chris Geidner. Photoillustration by Todd Franson
Elizabeth Birch, then the executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, describes 1996 as a very uncertain time. “This is what we understood,” she says. “Hawaii was bubbling along – even the legal organizations were very nervous about Hawaii in the beginning. At the time, it was one of the most potent, difficult issues. Even Democrats had tremendous issues with it privately – even our best friends.”
Including President Bill Clinton, whose political advisers pushed him to sign the bill, according to Richard Socarides, Clinton’s liaison to the gay and lesbian community at the time.
“Fifteen years later, I think we can be fairly candid about why that happened,” Socarides says. “And the only reason it happened is because the people who believed that vetoing the bill would have jeopardized the president’s election won the political argument. That’s the only reason the bill got signed.”
But for Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson, who was a lawyer at Lambda Legal at the time and was co-counsel on the Hawaii case, DOMA is a complicated story.
“If I had had to pick which would you rather have, a win in Hawaii or subsequent state or blocking DOMA, I would have chosen the win. Because, without the wins first, we weren’t going anywhere,” he says. “If necessary, we would overturn DOMA on the strength of the wins, and that’s exactly what’s now happening.”
16. ”Over and Out: Servicemembers wake to a world with one less piece of official discrimination”
Over and Out
By Chris Geidner and John Riley. Photography by Todd Franson and Ward Morrison
On the screens behind the bar appeared a picture of the American flag with a clock counting down the hours, minutes and seconds until the repeal of the military’s policy banning lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers from serving openly.
After a brief announcement by Alex Nicholson and Jarrod Chlapowski of Servicemembers United, the countdown began. As the seconds ticked down to midnight, the crowd was on its feet, chanting.
“5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1!”
Then the crowd shouted with joy. On the video screen, the words flashed over and over: “DADT IS HISTORY.”
The DJ started up the music and the beat of Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” filled the club.
17. ”Sarah Smiles: AU student president comes out as transgender”
By Will O’Bryan. Photography by Todd Franson
Instead, in these days after coming out, [Sarah] McBride is learning to live fully. And she knows that her position – with regard to race, familial support, socio-economics and all the rest – grants her far more privilege than so many other transgender people. She is emphatic in that recognition, taking nothing for granted. Nor does she take her life as Tim for granted, saying that despite her struggle with identity, she is proud of all her pre-coming-out accomplishments. Still, no one can fault McBride for enjoying the simple indulgence of finding her footing, navigating her new life – even throwing a sort of “birthday” for herself last Saturday, May 5.
“Saturday was the first day of presenting as myself full time,” says McBride, adding that the party included friends from both D.C. and Delaware. It was a celebration that helped to prepare her for moving about the AU campus Monday as herself, where she felt “a thousand eyes” looking at her. She’s also faced down two women she passed on the street near her home who seemed to laugh at her.
“It’s disappointing, but lots of people have to deal with more than people laughing at them.”
18. ”The Choice: While Romney’s secured some LGBT support, most seem well aware of what Obama has delivered”
By Justin Snow
“Sure, there are plenty of issues facing lesbians, gay men and bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans that ought to be discussed,” [the Washington Post‘s Jonathan] Capehart wrote. “But after years of gays being used in bigoted ways as wedges in American politics by Democrats and Republicans, the silence is a blessed relief.”
Although Capehart argued that no discussion of LGBT issues symbolizes a broader shift in the views of voters toward key issues like marriage equality, not everyone agrees.
“It’s disappointing,” Dustin Lance Black, the gay activist and screenwriter of Milk, said of the failure to mention LGBT issues after the first debate last month.
“I’m always disheartened because I feel like whenever we talk about gay and lesbian equality we have an opportunity to get the truth out and that is what changes minds,” Black told Metro Weekly during the Human Rights Campaign’s national dinner. “The more people learn about gay and lesbian equality, the more people end up taking our side. And once they’ve come to the side of equality they almost never leave.”
19. ”From Wyoming to Washington: Ford’s builds a month of programming around ‘The Laramie Project”’
By Will O’Bryan
“I said, ‘We have this gallery space downstairs and we’d really like to do something great with that,'” [Paul] Tetreault recalls telling Judy Shepard. “And she said, ‘Well, you know, we have these letters. After Matthew’s beating and murder, we got over 10,000 letters and cards. They’re in the basement of our home in Casper and no one’s ever seen them. You can have access to those.’ That meeting, in this room, is where that exhibit was born. We sent a team of four people to Casper, Wyo., shortly after that.”
Heading that team was Tracey Avant, Ford’s curator of exhibitions, who found herself in a somewhat surreal setting, standing in a storage room off the Shepards’ finished basement, facing several boxes of correspondence and other materials related to Matthew Shepard’s death and the response it generated – a very sizable response.
“They had these tubs, bins stacked up with the materials,” Avant explains of her expedition to Casper. “We knew going in there would be about 10 of these bins filled with letters. Someone had gone through them when they got donations and things like that, but they weren’t organized in any particular way.”
The most surprising find, Avant says, wasn’t in anything they discovered, but what they did not.
“The biggest thing I took away from this experience is that when these things happen, you realize that more people are compassionate and caring and understanding than not,” she says. “In the course of these 10,000 letters, they probably received less than a handful of hate mail, which to me was shocking. I would’ve assumed that there would’ve been a lot more.”
20. ”The Decline and Fall of the Ex-Gay Movement: How a multimillion-dollar industry that seeks to ‘cure’ gay people was brought to its knees”
The Decline and Fall of the Ex-Gay Movement
By Justin Snow. Photoillustration by Todd Franson
With a policy that did not permit dating, the group proved a perfect haven for someone trying to avoid dealing with their sexuality. “Basically [they believed] God would tell you who you were going to marry. You’d pray about it and go talk to your counselor and pastor about it and they’d advise if it was God’s will and the guy would propose to the girl and they’d get married,” [Tracey] St. Pierre says.
St. Pierre would be a member of the ministry for the next 12 years and celibate for nearly 15 years.
“During that time I would pray, fast and beg God to change me and to change my desires. I think I was in self-deception for a lot of that time because during that time I didn’t really allow myself to have feelings for women, but when I look back I can see all these crushes that I had on all the different women,” St. Pierre continues. “And, somehow, God never told me I was going to marry a guy.”
St. Pierre’s story is not unique. It mirrors the stories of thousands of people who, often as adolescents, underwent various forms of “reparative” or “conversion” therapy to rid themselves of their homosexuality. Many were told they were to blame and had let sin into their lives. Others were told one of their parents hadn’t loved them enough, or had loved them too much, or that they were the victims of child abuse. For St. Pierre, it was her religious beliefs that pushed her to try to “pray away the gay.” For others, shame and societal condemnation pushed them into therapy. Often such measures weren’t a choice, but something thrust upon them by parents.