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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

A look back at my work with the LGBTQ community. I first became active in the gay rights movement in 1980 when I launched my LGBTQ jo...

Sunday, January 19, 2020

How Dems Could Win From Impeachment Trial

House  managers walking articles of impeachment to the Senate
Photo: Axios

Spoiler Alert: President Donald Trump will not be removed from office as a result the upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate. Nonetheless, if they play their cards with skill and determination, the Democrats could come out winners politically.

As we experience the third time in history that a U.S. President has been impeached, Trump has now assembled his made-for-TV lawyers to defend him in the Senate trial. Too bad Matlock and Perry Mason are unavailable because for Trump it’s all about the show. On one hand Trump wanted a quick dismissal. On the other hand he sought a theatrical display whereby he is completely exonerated and will blame the radical angry Democrats for wasting everyone’s time. At this point we still don’t know what he wants.  

For their part, the Democrats, need to be key players in the show as well. With the outcome a near certainty, the charge for the Democrats is to get their messaging on point to win the political battle—no easy task with the messaging skills of Trump, Trump TV, and his sycophantic supporters in Congress and beyond.

Trump and his cheerleaders have repeatedly labeled the impeachment a hoax. Democrats should continue to shoot back saying that his own phone call to Ukrainian’s President Zelensky plus the credible testimony by foreign service and other professionals point directly to a shakedown of the Ukrainian government by withholding nearly $400 million in military aid in exchange for announcing an investigation into Hunter Biden and by extension his father Joe Biden—a leading contender to oust President Trump in November.

While each senator swore an oath of impartiality, public comments by McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham declared just the opposite. This is a strong talking point for Dems to use to declare the trial was never going to be fair from the outset.

Armed with a mountain of evidence that is credible and clear, Trump has been charged by the House of Representatives in two articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.  The question looming prior to the trial is will Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican minions allow witnesses and documentation as part of a trial.

If there is a deal whereby key witnesses, such as former National Security Advisor John Bolton and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s henchman Lev Parnas are allowed to testify, their testimony could be explosive. Never mind that Vice President Pence, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are also key witnesses who could potentially be damaging to the president as they would testify under oath.  It should be noted that Trump had exerted executive privilege in blocking these characters from testifying at congressional committee hearings.

If the Republicans manage to win a vote that prevents fact witnesses and documentation, Democrats should (and probably will) declare the trial a sham and rightfully accuse the Republicans of being willing players in a massive cover-up. The Dems should exploit this to the hilt and wreak havoc on vulnerable senators up for re-election should they be a party to this act.

Trump’s defense team denounced the impeachment case stating, “The articles of impeachment submitted by House Democrats are a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president. This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election, now just months away.”

The U.S. Senate: the scene of the impeachment trial
This is a paper thin argument and does not bode well for Trump if this is the best his dream team can come up with. For one thing, the impeachment is not taking the right away from the American people to freely choose their president. Of course, Russia’s indisputable (except by Trump and his allies) interference in the 2016 election must have been forgotten.  
Secondly, the action by the House is far from “unlawful.” 

Impeachment is enshrined in the Constitution (Article I, Sections 2-4,)—a document that Trump never read and now I have my doubts about his legal team as well.

Moreover, if Trump was actually removed, the election would not have been overturned. Vice President Mike Pence would succeed him in office, not Hillary Clinton.

We are hearing rumors that the defense team may stipulate to the facts in the articles and instead try to convince the 100-person jury (the Senate) and the American people that what Trump did does not meet the threshold of impeachment and removal.  Trump, however, will not have any of it.  Under no circumstances will he allow his defense to admit that the famous call to Zelensky was anything but “perfect.”  Look for a shake-up of the team should that stipulation materializes.

Barring a development of nuclear proportions, Trump will remain in office after this proceeding.  This is all about the 2020 election now. For Democrats, the mission is to zealously prosecute the case and remind voters that the president put our national security on the back burner in order to gain a political advantage in the upcoming election.

They need to pound the message home that Republicans again put devotion to their party and their fealty to Trump above the national interests. The Dems need to emphasize, regardless of the outcome, that nobody is above the law and our democracy is at stake.

If they do this right, the Democrats can win even by losing.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Resume Myth


History has shown that for recent presidential races, experience is overrated.

Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar  Photo: pbs.org
During the December 19 Democratic Presidential Debate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar chided South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg on his lack of experience.  She attacked him for “mocking the 100 years of experience” on the debate stage when he contrasted his own time outside of Washington. She said Buttigieg “should respect our experience when you look at how you evaluate someone.” The Indiana mayor, highlighting his military service, responded, “That is my experience, and it may not be the same as yours, but it counts, Senator. It counts.”

To be sure, voters tend to want their presidential candidates to possess significant “experience” if they should find themselves in the White House as the country’s chief executive and commander-in-chief. Moreover, the candidates do not hesitate to present their gaudy resumes on campaign literature and ads, and they prominently display their bios on their respective websites. They believe that is what impresses voters. And opponents will likely pounce, as Sen, Klobuchar did, on those whom they perceive as thin in the resume department.

But it takes more than a jaw-dropping resume to be a successful candidate and ultimately a successful president.

History has taught us that the winner of the presidential election often has a lighter resume than his opponent’s.  Nixon boasted much more substantive experience including being vice president for two terms than JFK but the latter eked out a victory in 1960.  

The same could be said for Gerald Ford bowing to Jimmy Carter in 1976. Carter, for his part, had executive experience as the governor of Georgia but Ford’s experience, was longer as a vice president (for a partial term) and congressman. Ford’s pardoning of Nixon was arguably the key factor in the contest.

In 1980 Ronald Reagan steamrolled over Carter but the resume was a non-factor. The election, instead, was a referendum on Carter’s presidency and the economy at the time.

It seems nobody had a more impressive resume than 41, George H. W. Bush. Though he lost the Republican nomination in 1980 to the upstart Reagan, his experience did not help him much.  Bush did manage to soundly defeat Michel Dukakis in 1988 but any Republican would have beaten the weak Democratic candidate.

However, 1992 was telling, and it bolsters my argument about how the resume is overrated. Bill Clinton emerged as the Democratic standard bearer. The draft-dodging, pot-smoking, skirt chasing governor of the “small state” of Arkansas as Republicans often ascribed to him clearly did not have the broad experience of Mr. Bush.

But the entrance into the race by third party candidate Ross Perot doomed Bush’s bid for a second term. That plus violating the “read my lips, no new taxes” mantra by Bush, which turned off his own party, sealed Bush’s fate. The resume may have well been thrown out the window.

In 1996 Clinton who was under investigation by Kenneth Starr on a dubious land deal, which ultimately led to the president’s impeachment for lying under oath over an extramarital affair, managed to defeat the beloved war hero Sen. Robert Dole. Clinton avoided military service during the Vietnam War but triumphed over the Purple Heart recipient Dole. Again, the resume did not matter.

Former Texas Rangers executive and Governor of Texas George W. Bush had what seemed like a solid resume. He took on former two-term Vice President and former Senator Al Gore in 2000.  It would appear to be a draw in the resume department though Gore was in government much longer. Bush prevailed with the help of another third party candidate Ralph Nader and the U.S. Supreme Court. Their respective resumes turned out to be immaterial.

The pattern continued in 2008 when a little-known Senator from Illinois with a funny name as he put it, Barack Obama, defeated the iconic long-time Senator and war hero John McCain.

Then came 2016. Hillary Clinton, a former First Lady for 8 years, a U.S. Senator and ultimately Secretary of State took on the only presidential candidate in history that did not include public service or a military record on his resume. His only credentials he brought to his candidacy was his so-called business acumen. That reputation persuaded enough voters to win though it was revealed Donald Trump’s expertise in business consisted of 6 bankruptcies including casinos of all things and questionable sources of money when U.S. banks declined to grant further loans.

My point is that there is no experience that prepares one to be president because of the uniqueness of the job. It has been and will always be on-the-job training.

As Elaine Karmack in Fortune magazine wrote, “The federal government today is so big and so complex that presidents – even ones with extensive political experience, but especially those with limited experience – have trouble figuring it out.” 

Good judgment, intelligence, a commitment to American values, a strong economy, a vision for the future, and solid advisors and a penchant to listen to them will contribute to the success of the chief executive.

Of course, it is helpful that a candidate possesses executive experience or a legislative background to at least demonstrate that the candidate is knowledgeable of how government works. 

But it's not an end-all.

Pete Buttigieg has been criticized that being the mayor of a small city is insufficient to tout executive experience. Yet, Michael Bloomberg had been mayor of a city 80 times the population of South Bend and Cory Booker was mayor Newark, the largest city in the nation's most densely populated state but Buttigieg is polling higher than these two.  Moreover, take a look at the 2016 Republican presidential field with governors Christie, Bush and Kasich--all exiting the race as voters preferred Trump. 

There are, however, other factors will determine the outcome of an election, such as likability, the state of the economy, the direction of the country as perceived by voters, a candidate's political skills, ideology, whether or not the country is engaged in a military conflict, and the record and character of the opponent (and the candidate him/herself).

As for a glossy resume leading to an election, history tells us, not so much.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

OUTspoken’s Top Blog Posts for 2019

The end of the year means another list somewhere, and this blog is no exception. Since this blog is a mix of LGBT, Politics and Arts, the top 5 posts for 2019 according to page views are listed by category below. In addition, I returned to my roots with sports commentary and posted articles during the Washington Nationals’ historic championship run in October.   You may click on the title of each to access the full post.



LGBTQ

1.     Gay Christian Delivers Heavenly Performance on ‘Idol’ (March) -  Son of Christian pastor comes out as gay to national audience during audition for American Idol. Not only was this post the most viewed in the category but it was also the most viewed post of the year.

2.     A Prideful First for Howard County (April) - The first ever Pride celebration in Howard County is set to go.

3.     Straight Pride: Another Way to Mock LGBTQ Folks (June) -  Anti-LGBTQ people think they deserve to hold a “straight pride” event. Why this is wrong.

4.     Howard County H.S.Students to Hold First Rainbow Conference (July) -  First student-led LGBTQ conference in Howard County to be held in May 2020.

5.     Jumel Howard:Leading Howard County to Pride (May) - A profile on the man who started with a vision and helped bring LGBTQ Pride to Howard County for the first time.



Politics

1.     The Resume Myth (December)
Pete Buttigieg has been criticized for his lack of experience but recent elections show that the resume will not necessarily win an election.

2.      Trump’s Shutdown: Another Losing Bet (January) – https://stevecharing.blogspot.com/2019/01/trumps-shutdown-another-losing-bet.html
As had been the case throughout Trump’s career, the government shutdown he brought on his own, is destined to fail politically.

For Dems to succeed, they must take it to Trump.
 
4.     Trump is Not as ‘Sharpie’ as He Thinks (September) - https://stevecharing.blogspot.com/2019/09/trump-is-not-as-sharpie-as-he-thinks.html
Trump’s use of a sharpie to falsify a hurricane warning demonstrates his profound degree of dishonesty brought attention to his other exaggerations and lies.

5.     Why Not, For Pete’s Sake (April)https://stevecharing.blogspot.com/2019/04/why-not-for-petes-sake.html A case made for the candidacy for president of Mayor Pete Buttigieg right after he formally announced and his contrasts with President Trump.



Theatre

1.     Curtain Up! Light the Lights! Gypsy Comes Up Roses at Toby’s (February)- Cathy Mundy’s ... acting is top-notch; full of passion and conviction and portrays the loud, single-minded stage mother to the hilt.”

2.     With Cabaret at Olney, Even the Orchestra is Beautiful (September) - “…An intricately staged, brilliantly costumed spectacle…”

3.     A First Class ‘Pygmalion’ on Display at Spotlighters  (February) - “In a superb presentation at the Spotlighters Theatre, Shaw’s views through Pygmalion come to life with a potent drama laced with razor-sharp wit and humor.

4.     Hitting the Right Notes More Than ‘Once’ at Olney (February) - “Once is a different type of musical from what we’re accustomed and… features a tender romantic story of looking back at what has been, how to bounce back from despair and to try anew while beautiful songs fill the theater.”

5.     The Hunchback of Notre Dame' at Toby’s is a Bell Ringer (April) - “... An extraordinary production that captures your imagination from centuries past while serving as a reminder that many of the same human issues exist today.



Sports

1.     The Pressure is More on the Dodgers in Game 5 (October 8) -  Facing elimination once again, the LA Dodgers were feeling more pressure than the Nationals.

2.     In Defense of Kershaw (October 10) -  Dodger fans blamed the Game 5 loss on Clayton Kershaw for blowing a lead, but there was plenty of blame to go around.
 
3.     How Sweep It Is (October 16)- The Nats exorcised past demons from the 2012 series with the St. Louis Cardinals to sweep their old nemesis in the 2019 NLCS.

4.     Kings of the Road (October 31) –  The Houston Astros and Washington Nationals set a Major League Record for winning all the away games in a 7-game World Series. Fortunately for the Nats they played one more of those games than the Astros.

5.     Nationals ‘Managed’ Historic Win in Wild Card (October 2) -  Nats manager Davey Martinez pulled all the right strings as the Nats won their first postseason series—the National League one-game Wild Card match over the Milwaukee Brewers.



Blasts from the Past

Besides those popular posts from 2019 (above), below are several posts from previous years still garnering many views in 2019 (in no particular order):








Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Electric ‘Superstar’ Rocks the Hippodrome


Paradoxically this month, while billions around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre is presenting a musical that delves into the last days of Christ’s physical time on Earth. The latest revival of the 1970 rock-opera Jesus Christ Superstar, with the stellar score by superstar-in-his-own-right Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, has rolled into town depicting Rice’s loosely interpreted events as related by the Gospels in the New Testament.

What has been billed as the 50th Anniversary Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar, the production is more akin to a rock concert than the garden variety Broadway musical. Songs coming at you one right after the other in rapid-fire sequences; high voltage dance numbers abound; hand-held mic’s and mic stands are employed and sometimes double as props; high-tech lighting (designed by Lee Curran) bathe the stage from above as if the rays were emanating from Heaven; fog effects blend beautifully with the lighting; and performers playing musical instruments onstage—all packed in 90 minutes with no intermission to quell the momentum.  

The set designed by Tom Scutt features multi-level steel girders upstage with grid-like compartments on the second level where members of the orchestra are situated with some of the performers joining them from time to time. This change in eye level adds an effective dimension to the optics.  The major set piece is a large cross dominating the stage that is used as a runway among other purposes and, ultimately, the Crucifixion.  

Though the story line’s contours are derived from the Gospels’ account of Jesus’ last days from his arrival in Jerusalem to the Crucifixion, if you are among those not familiar with the New Testament, you could be at a disadvantage. There is nary a spoken word as this is a sung-through musical, and there is no narration other than the lyrics contained in the songs. Moreover, most of the principals are not readily identified and placed into context. The assumption is that the audience is knowledgeable of the story.

Jesus Christ Superstar with its well-known catalogue of songs is riveting entertainment. Originally, the songs were part of a rock-opera concept album before it migrated to a stage production. Rock, folk and gospel themes reflect the 1970’s era with the lyrics containing modern colloquialisms and other modern references. Among the more popular songs are “I Don’t Know How To Love Him,” “Superstar,” and my personal favorite “Gethsemane.”

Mary (Jenna Rubah) comforts Jesus (Aaron LaVigne)
The show focuses on emotional relationships and conflicts that touch on such themes as power, greed, celebrity and betrayal as seen through the eyes of Judas  (played stirringly by James Delisco Beeks), one of Jesus’ twelve apostles.

His concern is that Jesus, the King of the Jews (played by Aaron LaVigne), is moving in a direction that will offend the Romans that could bring wrath upon the Jews. In the end, Judas betrays Jesus and terminates his own life. #hocoarts

Mr. Beeks performs the role zestfully especially in such numbers as “Heaven On Their Minds,” “Damned For All Time/ Blood Money” and “Judas’s Death.” 

In the title role sexy Aaron LaVigne with his lithe physique is onstage throughout much of the production dealing with his apostles, his relationships with Judas and Mary, and the conflicts with the high priests and their followers as well as the conflicts within himself as to whether he should be an inspirational leader or martyr. God was to make that decision for him.

Mr. LaVigne performs many challenging songs and experienced a couple of rough patches early on the evening this performance was reviewed. But his vocals rebounded and improved markedly as the show progressed. His rendition of the moving, gut-wrenching solo “Gethsemane” is one of the show’s highlights as Jesus comes to grips with his ultimate demise.

He excels during the number “Trial By Pilate/39 Lashes” as Jesus receives the punishment following his famous trial. In a shocking display, each of the 39 lashes is accompanied by glitter where some of that adheres to his already bloodied body. He winces and recoils and convulses from each of the lashes. It is quite a spectacle.  Mr. LaVigne’s overall performance is stellar.


Jesus Christ Superstar with its well-known catalogue of songs is riveting entertainment.

As Mary Magdalene, the prostitute who provides comfort to Jesus and develops a love interest for him, Jenna Ruball is spot-on. Her soulful, sweet voice is evident in “I Don’t Know How To Love Him,” another of Superstar’s iconic songs.

Alvin Crawford plays Caiaphas, a high priest, who along with others, sought to persecute Jesus. His bass vocals are excellent and notable in the sinister “This Jesus Must Die” and in the group number “The Arrest” where he is joined by another high priest Annas, played well by Tyce Green.

Tommy Sherlock portrays Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea who dreams of Jesus’ crucifixion only for it to actually happen. He excels in the song “Pilate’s Dream” and the production number “Pilate and Christ.”

Simon, one of the hawkish apostles, is played by Eric A. Lewis. His number is “Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem” and demonstrates strong vocals.

James Delisco Beeks as Judas
Also possessing a solid singing voice is Tommy McDowell as Peter, another disciple who denies Jesus three times at the time of Jesus’ arrest to save himself. He performs in “The Arrest,” “Peter’s Denial” and in the duet with Ms. Ruball in “Could We Start Again, Please.”

Then there’s King Herod, King of Galilee, played by Paul Lewis Lessard, who had a role during the trial. Decked out in flamboyant garb co-designed by Keith Caggiano and Nick Lidster that I can visualize Liberace and Elton John fighting over, Mr. Lewis performs well in the aptly named “Herod’s Song.”

The remainder of the company under the direction of award-winning Timothy Sheader and choreographer Drew McOnie, also an award recipient, as well as Musical Director Shawn Gough, is exceptional in voice and through their up-tempo precise dancing.

With such a compact production and without dramatic dialogue, there is insufficient opportunity to provide a more in-depth look into the relationships among the principals. And, as most people are aware, this is not a feel-good story in any shape or form.

Yet, the music, staging, the talented performers, electric atmosphere and the technical effects at the Hippodrome make this a fundamentally enjoyable experience and a timely Christmas present. But hurry, the show’s tour stop in Baltimore ends on December 22, 2019 A.D.

_____________
Running time. One hour and 30 minutes with no intermission.

Jesus Christ Superstar runs through December 22 at the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, 12 N. Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD 21201.  For tickets, visit Ticketmaster.com, BaltimoreHippodrome.com, call 800-982-ARTS, or visit the Hippodrome Box Office located at 12 N Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD 21201.

Photos: Matthew Murphy





Sunday, December 08, 2019

Morella Spins a Spirited ‘Christmas Carol’ at Olney

Paul Morella

There is no shortage of Christmastime traditions: Santa Clause, gift-giving, Christmas trees, caroling, eggnog, wreaths, poinsettias, and parties, just to name a few. There is still another tradition: Paul Morella performing his one-man show, A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas at the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab at the Olney Theatre Center. #hocoarts

Celebrating his 10th anniversary of staging this unique presentation at Olney, Mr. Morella, who adapted the Dickens classic, seems to always add a fresh layer to his performance. In this version there is more of a ghostly theme and a more in-depth exploration of the characters. #hocoarts

Any accomplished actor will tell you that playing a role is not simply memorizing lines from a script and following the play’s director. One needs to conduct research and delve into the character’s qualities and persona and for a couple of hours lose one’s own identity and virtually become that character. 

In a tour-de-force, multiple Helen Hayes Award nominee and Olney stage veteran Paul Morella does exactly that.  Except there is a major difference: he does not portray a singular character; he plays dozens of characters in this heartwarming, imaginative adaptation of Charles Dickens’ 1843 classic novella A Christmas Carol.  And for good measure, Mr. Morella directs his own performance.

Mr. Morella’s hand in this one-man show stretches out from not only performing the myriad roles but is also the theater’s usher welcoming audience members with a warm smile and handshake.  Prior to the presentation Mr. Morella advises the audience that he is not to be seen as an actor performing this play but instead a “guide” to the story whereby the audience is urged to let their imagination run free. He is too modest, however, as Mr. Morella conducts an acting clinic and turns in a virtuoso performance as a storyteller that indeed provokes the audience to imagine.

Surrounded by an assortment of early Victorian furnishings on the cozy stage including a period desk, chairs, fireplace, Persian rugs; a scattering of clocks, books, candles. spectacles and the like, Mr. Morella spins the fabled yarn that centers on the miserly-turned-loveable Ebenezer Scrooge (Bah! Humbug!) who finds redemption and becomes an admirable chap at play’s end.

As the sole performer Mr. Morella recites Dickens’ prose as they were intended, and Dickens, at times, actually performed the novella by himself.  Therefore, along with the charming set that also displays a foggy vapor at various points in the story, there is a great deal of historical authenticity that enriches the experience. 

"Mr. Morella conducts an acting clinic and turns in a virtuoso performance as a storyteller..."

Adding to the genuineness, many of the characters’ good attributes as well as shortcomings in A Christmas Carol related in some manner to Dickens’ own life’s experiences that included struggling to make ends meet.  Ebenezer Scrooge’s Christmas Eve to Christmas Day evolution from when he began as a mean, arrogant and friendless soul to one that ended up as a caring, generous human being embodies the true meaning of the Christmas holiday spirit.

This extraordinary transformation in Scrooge’s personality was accomplished through the eerie appearance of the ghost of Scrooge’s late partner Jacob Marley followed by the nocturnal visits from three other ghosts: one representing Christmas Past, one from Christmas Present and one from Christmas Future.  These ghosts pointed out Scrooge’s failures, the effects of his actions, and the consequences that could occur in the future.

Besides narrating the story as Dickens, Mr. Morella deftly switches characters with amazing fluidity using all the acting tools in the toolbox.  He accomplishes this competently not with tedious wardrobe changes but with voice inflections, facial expressions, gestures and mannerisms unique to each character.  Mr. Morella is in constant motion on the stage as he relates the story.

At one moment he is Scrooge and then he seamlessly switches to either Bob Crachit, Tiny Tim, each of the three ghosts and a host of other characters including females and children.  When reverting back to Scrooge or another character, there is solid consistency.

Adding substantial texture to the play is Edward Moser’s excellent sound design that creates echoes when the ghosts speak, the ringing of church bells, folks laughing in the background, cats scratching on a door as well as other effects.  Sonya Dowhaluk’s superb lighting design contributes to the gothic atmosphere by employing light fades and keeping the stage illuminated at a subdued level (but not too low) to simulate candlelight. Patrick W. Lord is the Projection Designer, and Josiane M. Jones skillfully directs the overall production.

Mr. Morella’s ability to tell this classic story is captivating and is theatre at its best.  This would make a great pre-holiday gift or a stocking stuffer for anyone who loves theatre and appreciates the skills of a superb actor (and guide and usher).
____________

Running time: Two hours with an intermission.

A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas runs through December 29 at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832. 

Performances are Thursday-Saturday evenings at 7:45 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3:00 pm. There are additional performances on Wednesday, December 18 at 3:00 p.m. at 7:45 p.m., Monday, December 23 at 3:00 p.m. and 7:45 p.m., Tuesday, December 24 at 3:00 p.m., and Thursday, December 26 at 3:00 p.m. No performances on December 4 & 5, Wednesday, December 11 and Wednesday, December 25. No evening performance on Wednesday, December 26.

Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at 301-924-2654 or visiting online .

Photos: Teresa Castracane Photography

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road


A look back at my work with the LGBTQ community.

I first became active in the gay rights movement in 1980 when I launched my LGBTQ journalism career. It was very clear to me that religion-inspired discrimination was not the only problem facing our community. That and the prevalence of hatred, violence and marginalization that exist even today got my attention.

While considerable progress was achieved over these four decades, much work still needs to be done regarding such areas as LGBTQ-related suicides, bullying of LGBTQ youth, foster care injustices, LGBTQ youth homelessness, violence directed at transgender individuals and other members of our community, discrimination against and harassment of the aging LGBTQ population, combating HIV/AIDS, among other issues.

Then there are problems stemming from inside the community. Racism is a significant concern. Divisions within the LGBTQ components are also palpable. I’ve always maintained and still do that we can never advance unless we are united. That is our number one challenge as we face a hostile president, a hostile vice president, a hostile attorney general, virtually all Republican members of Congress and potentially a hostile U.S. Supreme Court. 

Another challenge impeding progress has been a prevailing degree of apathy within our own community. My mission has been to educate those who are apathetic so that they understand the issues that affect them and help motivate these folks to be more engaged. Those who were and are currently active in these efforts still need to be informed so that they can be more effective in their activism.

Moreover, I have endeavored to shed light on those topics that have been relegated to the background, not covered in the mainstream media and not apparent to the average LGBTQ individual. 

I took on this journey for little or no monetary compensation to engage our community as well as our straight counterparts through Journalism, Activism and Education.  These areas are discussed below.

JOURNALISM
Over these four decades I had written well over 2,000 articles covering a wide swath of subjects
Fromer Equality Maryland Executive Director
Dan Furmansky addressing media outside Maryland Court
of Appeals following arguments on marriage equality
including hard news, commentary, the gut-wrenching struggle for marriage equality and transgender rights, politics all levels, a host of rallies and demonstrations, the all-too-sad vigils for fallen members of our community, culture, books, theatre, art, television, sports, travel, antiques and other areas as they pertain to or of special interest to members of our community.

I was an editor of the Baltimore Gay Paper, a subsidiary of the then Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore (now called The Pride Center of Maryland), and co-chair of the Newspaper Committee. Later, I became the Senior Political Analyst, Managing Editor and Local News Editor for Baltimore OUTloud. For a decade I was an opinion writer and ultimately wrote a weekly summary of LGBTQ news involving Baltimore and its surrounding suburbs for the Washington Blade—the oldest LGBTQ newspaper in the country and considered by many as “the paper of record.” I also provided a local news summary to Gay Life prior to its cessation.

Through this period I was an eyewitness to many of the significant developments with respect to LGBTQ matters—good and bad—on the national and local scenes. I spotlighted individuals and LGBTQ organizations that were instrumental in the growth of our community and who did good deeds. 

I have written about the unique issues facing bisexual individuals who rightly feel left behind. Accordingly,  I tried to publicize support groups that service the bisexual community. 

I also attempted to hold individuals and organizations accountable through my opinion-oriented OUTspoken column that was initiated while at Baltimore OUTloud and continues on this blog  today. My belief is that if organizations seek donations from our community, its leaders and governing bodies must be held accountable as to the manner in which resources are spent and safeguarded. At the same time, I made every effort to publicize and promote these organizations’ fundraisers, events and programs believing that the success of LGBTQ organizations only strengthens our community.

Sen President Mike Miller, Governor Martin O'Malley
and House of Delegates Speaker Michel Busch
at historic signing of marriage equality into law
While I covered the standard LGBTQ news, such as crime, gay bar openings and closings, many local Pride celebrations, key legislation at the national, state and local levels, dozens of published interviews of LGBTQ leaders and personalities as well as other newsworthy developments, I also reported on and written stories that I believe produced tangible, consequential results.

Examples:

♦ There was a story on three members of the Maryland House of Delegates who backed an amendment to the state constitution that would bar same-sex marriage. That by itself is not shocking. However, these three represented a district that includes Charles Village and surrounding neighborhoods that comprise the highest density of LGBTQ persons in the state, and their opposition was largely unknown to their LGBTQ constituents. 

One of these delegates, through an on-the-record interview with me, cited religious beliefs. Another claimed “gays were never helpful to me.” When the story was published on the front page of Baltimore OUTloud, I was told that their offices received a high volume of calls complaining about their stances. While one passed away prior to the legislature taking up marriage equality, the other two reversed their positions.

♦ Another story titled “Bodies for Bucks” focused on the police crackdown on male prostitutes and their “johns” in the Patterson Park area of Baltimore. With the help of a local attorney, I emphasized the legal jeopardy and physical dangers posed by this activity. Eventually, the hustling scene abated in this area and relationships between gays and the principal local community association improved significantly.

♦ In an investigative report, I had written about the homelessness crisis in Baltimore involving LGBTQ individuals. This group constituted a disproportionate share of the overall homeless and runaway population in the city with transgender individuals comprising an even more disproportionate share. 

The physical safety and health of these individuals are at risk as is the need to engage in criminal activity just to survive while the exposure to being victims of crime increased. This story may have had an indirect impact on the eventual establishment by AIRS/HOME of an apartment facility called Restoration Gardens in northwest Baltimore that houses homeless LGBTQ individuals.

Byron Macfarlane, first out LGBT to be elected in
Howard County, being sworn in as Register of Wills
♦ Then there were stories concerning open LGBT individuals who were running for office. Principal among these were Mary Washington who is now a State Senator and is a candidate for Mayor of Baltimore and was the first openly LGBT African-American elected official in Maryland and only the second such state legislator in the country; Luke Clippinger who is a State Delegate; and Byron Macfarlane who, when elected as Howard County Register of Wills, became the first openly LGBTQ person to be elected in Howard County.

Each of these was profiled in front page coverage of their nascent candidacies in Baltimore OUTloud and have acknowledged that the stories helped galvanize support, monetary contributions and volunteers from our community for their ultimately successful campaigns. 

♦ Another was the revelation that the Harford County public school system in 2010 blocked LGBT websites from the schools’ computers. Public outrage resulting from this article led to the school board backing down.

♦ A report for the Washington Blade indicated that two individuals were attacked and robbed by a person using Grindr to lure them to a particular location in Baltimore. The article served notice to users of Grindr to be extra cautious in arranging liaisons.

♦ More recently and over a two year period, I wrote a half dozen articles on the emergence and progress of the first Pride celebration to take place in Howard County (HoCo Pride) as well as a media advisory and press release while being a member of the Pride Planning Committee. Clearly, the surprisingly large attendance at the first such event in 2019 was boosted by the publicity gained by these articles.

Other Highlights:

♦ Covering the historic signing ceremony in Annapolis after the bill legalizing same-sex marriage was passed the Maryland State General Assembly.

♦ Covering the first ever legal same-sex marriages in the state that took place in Baltimore City Hall.

♦ There was my story, also published in Outsports.com, about former Duke University basketball star JJ Reddick who was erroneously perceived as gay by some fans and how he, a devout Christian, handled that pressure.

The first legal same-sex marriages officiated at City Hall
on New Year's Day 2013
♦ Covering the announcement of the closing of Baltimore’s iconic gay bar, the Club Hippo, as well as reporting on the establishment’s final events.

♦ Conducting an exclusive interview of a bartender who was on duty the night the Stonewall Inn was raided and whose account comports with more recent historical research.

♦ Breaking a story of an incident that took place in M&T Banks Stadium at a Ravens game in 2010 where two lesbians were ejected from the stadium because of what they believe was a result of kissing. The official explanation from security hired by the Ravens’ organization was that one of the members of the couple was accused of pilfering an empty paper cup at a concession stand. This explanation defied credulity, and the story received wide local and even national media attention.

♦ Writing about the emergence of a new LGBTQ community center in Frederick, Md. called The Frederick Center and highlighting its mission and how well the group is organized. While TFC does not have a dedicated physical space for their operations, they have managed to provide key programs for the LGBTQ community in and around Frederick and have demonstrated exceptional partnering with business leaders and government officials on many projects and goals.

♦ Exclusive coverage of several BMore Proud Leadership conferences whereby LGBTQ college students and allies from the Baltimore area convene to participate in workshops, listen to addresses by leaders and discuss common issues.

ACTIVISM
A prevailing rule is that either you are a journalist or an activist but you can’t be both. I ignored this rule as the times and issues dictated that direct action must be taken. There is no substitute for being on the front lines to fight for a cause.

Most of my activism occurred along with my partner who eventually became my spouse as member
Participating in demonstration against homophobic
Westboro Baptist Church who was protesting near
Towson University
s of the PFLAG-Howard County chapter. While I was the chapter’s media coordinator and a member of the Steering Committee for several years, we were also members of the organization’s Advocacy Committee. My efforts focused largely on the quest to achieve marriage equality and codifying protections based on gender identity in Maryland.

Members of this committee engaged in discussions with local elected officials from both political parties. We told our stories and explained why marriage equality will not undermine the institution of marriage; in fact, it would strengthen it. Many of these politicians were sympathetic to the cause in that their hearts were with us, but some were hesitant because of the potential political risk it may cause. This was explicitly apparent during a one-on-one meeting I had with a U.S. Representative.

Over time, and as we continued to share our stories and make strong arguments, most came around, and some emerged as strong vocal advocates. We were most appreciative of their evolution.
To bolster this effort, I participated in and covered just about all of the Lobby Day rallies and discussions with lawmakers in Annapolis that were organized by Equality Maryland.

Appearing on the late Dennis Lane's (l.) podcast
I had testified on marriage equality before the Howard County delegation during a hearing on pending bills in the General Assembly and testified at a House of Delegates committee hearing on the same subject. I also appeared on a local podcast in 2011 hosted by the late Dennis Lane extolling the virtues of marriage equality just prior to a new General Assembly that was about to begin.

During the period the law that legalized same-sex marriage was challenged by a referendum, I participated in numerous rallies, fundraisers and events, most notably in an effort called the “Light Brigade.” This is where a bunch of us—mostly PFLAG members and supporters—held up lit panels with each representing a letter to spell out messages like “Vote Yes on (Question) 6” at overpasses and intersections in various areas of Maryland.

Still believing that the pen is mightier than the sword, I have written numerous letters to the editor on a variety of subjects related to the LGBTQ community. They were published in the Howard County Times/Columbia Flier, the City Paper, the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, USA Today, and TIME.  In addition, I wrote articles for The Business Monthly that highlighted the work of PFLAG.

Presenting at BMore Proud Conference at JHU
I served on the previous County Executive’s LGBTQ Round Table and represented the LGBTQ community in the #OneHoward committee. In the latter capacity, I analyzed the county’s Master Aging Plan noting the absence of LGBTQ-specific issues regarding the aging population and, accordingly, no remedies to deal with those concerns.

EDUCATION
My involvement with PFLAG has enabled me to help educate the community through coordinating a variety of programs for the chapter’s general monthly meetings. Among those I coordinated or led included a panel discussion on the intersection of Black and Gay; talks by the editors of the Washington Blade;  a panel on “Expanding Rainbow Families; a discussion on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’; Authors Night whereby LGBT authors discussed their latest works; and a panel on LGBT Homelessness.

As a member of PFLAG’s Speakers Bureau, I made presentations at Howard County government Diversity Day events, spoke at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, and spoke to employees at the Carroll County Times.  

I represented PFLAG at the GLSEN Youth Summit in Towson and the Howard County Leadership U, the Youth Development Coalition, Employment Day at Oakland Mills H.S. and Breaking the Silence Youth Summit.

Other speaking events:

♦ Addressed National Honor Society  students at a River Hill H.S. and students at Centennial H.S. on Diversity Day.

♦ Spoke at Baltimore City Community College, which was hosting a conference of statewide human resources managers.

Presenting at the GLSEN Youth Summit
♦ Made a presentation to Baltimore City 9th grade history teachers at a diversity conference at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

♦ Participated with Equality Maryland staff to educate WMAR personnel on acceptable terminology in covering LGBT news.

♦ Appeared on a BlogTalkRadio program,

♦ On multiple occasions spoke before the Prime Timers of Baltimore.

♦ Presented at several collegiate BMore Proud conferences at Johns Hopkins University, U.M.B.C. and Stevenson University principally on the topic of how best to utilize the media to advocate on issues of interest and the role of and need for the LGBTQ press.

♦ Participated on numerous panels on LGBTQ issues. 

_______________________

My journey down the rainbow road has been, like most roads, smooth at times but also fraught with obstacles, potholes and detours. It has been worth it, however, and the main constant has been that my husband Bob Ford has been by my side with unrelenting support and attempted, with varying degrees of success, to keep me out of trouble. The journey continues.

________________________

As a postscript, I want to point out that I have written non-LGBTQ articles for other publications and sites.  They include:

♦ Writing about antiques in The Jeffersonian.

♦ Writing on a variety of subjects in The Business Monthly, such as eco-friendly and "green" building construction in Howard County,  the advent of women entrepreneurs, the emerging attention to financial literacy and others.

♦ Political commentary in JMore Magazine.  

♦ Theatre reviews for MD Theatre Guide, DC Theatre Scene and this blog.