Governor’s LGBT Tourism Task Force

McAuliffe_1Governor Terry McAuliffe announced this week a new task force geared towards promoting tourist spots for gay and lesbian couples. Since the same-sex marriage ban was lifted in Virginia late last year, the Governor wants to prove that Virginia is for all kinds of lovers. He appointed 21 people from around the Commonwealth for the task force.

Along with promoting tourism among same-sex couples and members of the LGBT community, the task force is also hoping to tackle the conservative mindset that has shadowed Virginia for years.


Governor’s LGBT Tourism Task Force for Virginia

  • Barbara Cage of South Boston, Co-owner & Manager, Bistro1888
  • Kevin Clay of Richmond, Principal, Big Spoon Agency
  • Phil Crosby of Richmond, Managing Director, Richmond Triangle Players
  • The Honorable Adam P. Ebbin of Alexandria, Member, Senate of Virginia
  • Patrick Evans-Hylton of Norfolk, Food Journalist, Virginia Wine Lover Magazine
  • Tammy Freeman of Prince William, Founder, Say I Do! LGBT Wedding Expo.
  • Matt Gaffney of Rehobeth Beach, DE, President & CEO, Capital Region USA, Inc.
  • Peter J. Goldin of Mechanicsville, Associate State Director, AARP
  • Brad Kutner of Richmond, Editor, GayRVA
  • Virginia Lamneck of Richmond, Programs Manager, Equality Virginia
  • Jesse LaVancher of Richmond, Central & Northern Virginia Development Manager, Virginia Opera
  • Jeffrey Marsh of Chicago, IL, Director of LGBT Marketing, Orbitz Worldwide
  • Amy Sarah Marshall of Charlottesville, President, Charlottesville Pride Community Network
  • Bruce Newton of Hampton, Group Sales & Visitor Center Manager, Hampton Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Katherine O’Donnell of Richmond, Vice President of Community Relations, Richmond Regional Tourism
  • Robert G. Roman of Virginia Beach, Vice President & Co-owner, Decorum Furniture
  • Jim Schuyler of Richmond, Executive Director, Virginia Community Action Partnership
  • Stephanie Shaw of Richmond, Account Supervisor, The Martin Agency
  • Michael Sutphin of Blacksburg, Member, Blacksburg Town Council; Board Member, Equality Virginia
  • Michael Thorne-Begland of Richmond, Director, Brand and Trade Channel Integrity; Assistant General Counsel, Altria
  • Bob Witeck of Arlington, President, Witeck Communications, Inc.


How Do You Make Change? Get on the Bus…What Else?

On February 3rd, you have a chance to make a difference in the lives of people in the LGBT community in Hampton Roads and the entire state of Virginia. You can sign up here for a FREE trip to our state’s capital and let your voice be heard. Here are just a few reasons that you should care and lend a voice:

1. We should all be nicer to each other.

2. Kids know it’s ok.

3. Even big kids.

4. We all just want to be ourselves.

5. Really, what’s the big deal anyway?

6. You’re gonna have to tell your mom sometime – why not do it while making change?

7. The LGBT Community is made up of every type of person.

8. We still have a lot of educating to do.

9. We all want the same thing.

10. Enough said?

Find out how you can be a part of change in Virginia!

Transgender Terminology

Transgender GlossaryTerminology within the transgender community varies and has changed over time so we recognize the need to be sensitive to usage within particular communities.

Members of the transgender community struggle with issues those outside the community never deal with. While, those outside the community can sympathize, they can’t empathize. A step towards equality in the transgender community is understanding the terminology that is appropriate use it to educate the those around them. Words have power, so let’s use them in a meaning way.

Below is a glossary, specific to transgender issues, provided by the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Transgender: A term for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Transgender is a broad term and is good for non-transgender people to use. “Trans” is shorthand for “transgender.” (Note: Transgender is correctly used as an adjective, not a noun, thus “transgender people” is appropriate but “transgenders” is often viewed as disrespectful.)

Transgender Man: A term for a transgender individual who currently identifies as a man (see also “FTM”).

Transgender Woman: A term for a transgender individual who currently identifies as a woman (see also “MTF”).

Gender Identity: An individual’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.

Gender Expression: How a person represents or expresses one’s gender identity to others, often through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics.

Transsexual: An older term for people whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth who seeks to transition from male to female or female to male. Many do not prefer this term because it is thought to sound overly clinical.

Cross-dresser: A term for people who dress in clothing traditionally or stereotypically worn by the other sex, but who generally have no intent to live full-time as the other gender. The older term “transvestite” is considered derogatory by many in the United States.

Queer: A term used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual and, often also transgender, people. Some use queer as an alternative to “gay” in an effort to be more inclusive. Depending on the user, the term has either a derogatory or an affirming connotation, as many have sought to reclaim the term that was once widely used in a negative way.

Genderqueer: A term used by some individuals who identify as neither entirely male nor entirely female.

Gender Non-conforming: A term for individuals whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender.

Bi-gendered: One who has a significant gender identity that encompasses both genders, male and female Some may feel that one side or the other is stronger, but both sides are there.

Two-Spirit: A contemporary term that refers to the historical and current First Nations people whose individuals spirits were a blend of male and female spirits. This term has been reclaimed by some in Native American LGBT communities in order to honor their heritage and provide an alternative to the Western labels of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

FTM: A person who transitions from “female-to-male,” meaning a person who was assigned female at birth, but identifies and lives as a male. Also known as a “transgender man.”

MTF: A person who transitions from “male-to-female,” meaning a person who was assigned male at birth, but identifies and lives as a female. Also known as a “transgender woman.”

Sex Reassignment Surgery: Surgical procedures that change one’s body to better reflect a person’s gender identity. This may include different procedures, including those sometimes also referred to as “top surgery” (breast augmentation or removal) or “bottom surgery” (altering genitals). Contrary to popular belief, there is not one surgery; in fact there are many different surgeries. These surgeries are medically necessary for some people, however not all people want, need, or can have surgery as part of their transition. “Sex change surgery” is considered a derogatory term by many.

Sexual Orientation: A term describing a person’s attraction to members of the same sex and/or a different sex, usually defined as lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual, or asexual.

Transition: The time when a person begins to living as the gender with which they identify rather than the gender they were assigned at birth, which often includes changing one’s first name and dressing and grooming differently. Transitioning may or may not also include medical and legal aspects, including taking hormones, having surgery, or changing identity documents (e.g. driver’s license, Social Security record) to reflect one’s gender identity. Medical and legal steps are often difficult for people to afford.

Intersex: A term used for people who are born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or chromosome pattern that does not seem to fit typical definitions of male or female. Intersex conditions are also known as differences of sex development (DSD). Drag Queen: Used to refer to male performers who dress as women for the purpose of entertaining others at bars, clubs, or other events. It is also sometimes used in a derogatory manner to refer to transgender women.

Drag King: Used to refer to female performers who dress as men for the purposes of entertaining others at bars, clubs, or other events.

PrideFest Video from 2014 (In Case You Missed It)

PrideFest 2014 Norfolk, Virginia – August 23, 2014 by Hampton Roads Pride

26th Annual Festival – Norfolk’s Town Point Park

Presenting Sponsors: Decorum Furniture, Absolut Vodka

Video Credits:

Editor: Danny Epperson

Videographer: Neil Grochmal

Music: “Pride” by Cher

Thank you for your support!

The LGBT Youth Who We Have To Protect

Leelah AlcornThe death of the transgender teen, Leelah Alcorn, came as a shock. She decided to end her own short life after her parents rejected her wishes to identify as female and forced her into religious-based counseling. She explained in the note she left that she felt hopeless and didn’t see any other option. She is only one terribly sad example of the struggles that LGBT youth has to endure.

For the most part LGBT kids are happy and balanced until their school years begin.  Without a supportive, caring and loving environment in the educational institute they attend, LGBT youth suffer devastating consequences.

One in five LGBT people skip school because they fear being bullied.

One in five LGBT people skip school because they fear being bullied.

According to the CDC, LGBT youth are more likely to face difficulties in their lives and in their schools than heterosexual youth.

Negative attitudes toward LGBT kids are one of the biggest problems these youths endure. The negative attitudes include verbal violence, teasing, harassment, bullying, etc.

According to a study by Youth Risk Behavior, which includes data compiled from 2001-2009 from seven states and six urban school districts, the percentage of threatened or injured LGBT kids by/with a weapon on school property rose from 12% to 28% in those years.

Analyzing these statistics, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that suicidal thoughts and behaviors among LGBT teens are double than those among heterosexual teens.

Transgender youth are even at higher risk.

The above mentioned risk factors lead to more and more problems. As an LGBT child experiences violence or bullying in school and feels unsafe as a result, that child is unable to concentrate on studying and will often miss more school than their cis counterparts. According to CDC: “LGBT students (61.1%) are more likely than their non-LGBT peers to feel unsafe or uncomfortable as a result of their sexual orientation”. As a result “the percentage of gay, lesbian, and bisexual students who did not go to school at least one day during the 30 days before, because of safety concerns ranged from 11% to 30% of gay and lesbian students and 12% to 25% of bisexual students.”

These risk factors indicate that LGBT youth are far more likely to suffer adult depression and other emotional disorders later in life.

As a society, it is our responsibility to create an environment where everyone is equally free to receive an education and to have a happy, healthy childhood. It is our responsibility to teach children accountability for their actions and to teach them to accept and celebrate diversity.

lgbtnewsfeedArticle reposted with permission from LGBT News Feed


Training The Next Generation Of Doctors To Get LGBT Health Right

lgbt-finalIf you’re gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender, odds are that you’ve had a doctor flinch or flounder through an appointment. The next generation of physicians needs to do better, the Association of American Medical Colleges announced Tuesday.

The organization published a 306-page manifesto intended to change medical school curricula so that future doctors are competent in helping patients who are LGBT, gender nonconforming or born with sex differences in development.

How’s that going to work? We asked Dr. Scott Leibowitz, an assistant professor of child psychiatry at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Leibowitz studies gender identity in children and teenagers, and was part of the committee who wrote the manifesto. This is an edited version of our conversation.

How did this decision come about?

There are surveys that clearly show that doctors aren’t comfortable around this issue. And the many health disparities that continue to exist for these patients are clear-cut and well documented.

Many people don’t trust their health care providers; I think there’s good reason behind that. We all have blind spots; even well-meaning providers do. But we want everyone to feel welcome, and to feel that their unique needs are being met.

How have med schools been teaching about LGBT health?

Some medical schools are already doing a good job; usually there are a lot of student-led initiatives and also faculty champions. But even in the best of medical schools a significant barrier is faculty; not all the teachers are up to speed on this.

So how do you want to go about changing that?

We’ve moved away from trying to add extra content. It’s not adding a lecture on gay or lesbian people, it’s not adding a lecture on transsexual people, because that continues to reinforce the idea that they are other.

Instead, we translated the issues into the language of what we call competency-based medical education in pre-existing courses. We’re not saying add an endocrinology course on what it means to be transgender. We’re saying when you’re already teaching on the hormonal axis, say, “For transgender people this is how it would be.”

We give them very useful examples: here’s where you could potentially insert this in your preclinical years; here’s how you could potentially insert this in your clinical years.

I can’t say more strongly how revolutionary this document is. We’ve set the bar really high by defining 30 competencies that all medical students need to have. But there’s a lot of work that needs to take place.

One huge issue is how people are treated when they’re in the doctor’s office or ER. A lot of people feel that they’re treated with disrespect. How did you address that?

Being able to develop rapport with all individuals is one of the competencies that we address, regardless of gender identity, gender orientation or body type. Nonverbal facial reactions can sometimes make a patient feel judged, or feel like they’re not going to be able to disclose what they’re truly ashamed about. And that may mean they’re not going to get care that they need. Even if it’s something positive, like positive healthy sexual development for someone who engages in male-to-male sex. Doctors need to be able to promote positive images of sexual health to individuals who may be having a different type of sexual behavior than they are. Everyone’s entitled to positive sexual health.

Re-posted with permission from

Debi Jackson’s Beautiful Speech About Her Trans Child

“My daughter is six years old. She transitioned, which means she changed her outward appearance from male to female and started living full time as her true gender, when she was four. Until that point she was quite a rough and tumble little boy with a buzz cut and a shark tooth necklace.”

And so begins the absolutely beautiful speech Debi Jackson gave earlier this year about her transgender daughter, AJ, at the Unity Temple on the Plaza in Kansas City. As Jackson continues, she outlines how her family came to realize that AJ is transgender, what happened the first day she went to school “in girl clothes” and the bigotry her family faced.

But the best part of the video may be when Jackson addresses the comments she’s heard about her daughter and sets the record straight about statements like you “wanted a girl so you turned your child into one” and “kids have no idea what they want or who they are — my kids wants to be a dog, should I let him?”

Spend six minutes and get to know Jackson and her family a little better. You’ll be happy you did.

Below are some great resources for for transgender and gender non-conforming people, their families, and friends. 

Coming Out

Homosexuality: Your Coming Out Journey

Coming OutComing out? 10 surprising reactions your spouse may have.

Shared life, shared bed, shared closet. A spouse coming out changes all of that. It might seem a little crazy, but when you’re a gay person in a heterosexual marriage, you’re both coming out of the closet.

His side: jeans, ratty T-shirts, the mandatory sport coat, a few shoes, and of course the duffel bag the ever-frequent trips to the gym.

Her side: jeans, T-shirts that go from casual to office wear, suits, skirts, cocktail dresses, brunch dresses, Friday night dresses, and of course the sacred homage to footwear that covers an entire 8′ x 10′, floor-to-ceiling wall.

His and hers closets. Similar, and yet so different. Metaphorically speaking, both have closets to come out of when he or she admits that “I’m gay!” Two words, uttered in under five seconds, that have the power to bring the shrine of shoes crumbling down, leaving a miss-mash of flats paired with sling backs, and Mary Janes paired with platform stilettos. All of a sudden, you’re hyper aware of the person you are — and the image you’re presenting to the world. No stylist, personal trainer, make-up artist, or mere living a healthy lifestyle can prepare a spouse for the moment they discover their partner would rather be messing up the sheets, and building a life with “one of their own kind”.

Shock, anger, sadness, death all prevail. (Hopefully not literal death). Rather, an honest death of a shared life, a person who suddenly becomes a complete stranger, and a relationship laid to rest. In reality, the “comer outer” has consciously and subconsciously been preparing for this reveal. On the other end of the shockwave, the spouse who had no intentions of coming out, other than from their walk-in closet looking fabulous, is now facing their own truth and ramifications. Their confidence may be just as shaken.

Often times, the “comer outer” is shocked that his or her spouse’s reactions. Common thoughts about anger, disappointment, lying, deceit, are verbal bombshells most anticipated by the spouse, but there may be some surprises along the journey. Fortunately, even though the jilted spouse won’t recognize it immediately, both parties are on a coming out journey, walking very similar paths. The freshly out person may ask him or herself “was it worth it?” The answer, while hard to believe at times, is yes.

10 Surprising Reactions To A Spouse Coming Out:

1. Therapy the gay away. The denial a spouse will be in will often have him or her believing that couples counseling and individual therapy will magically make the gay disappear. A much better approach is to use marriage therapy for unraveling the relationship in a healthy manner that benefits both parties.

2. Have your cake and eat it too. Really? Yes. More often than you might think, a spouse actually will consider keeping the relationship together and allowing the other spouse to “have your gay flings”. In some relationships this works, in others it won’t. If and when this conversation turns up, let your spouse talk it through. He or she, has some very solid reasons why they believe they could have this type of relationship. Of course, then you’ll need to weigh in on how that would or wouldn’t work for you.

3. Be gay but not here! This kind of “out of sight out of mind” approach makes it less real. Here’s a parallel: If you’ve been having same-sex relationships while being in your hetero-normative relationship, you might have been having your liaisons while you’re out of town or at least in the next city or town adjacent to where you live. Often the “not happening here” thought for both you and your spouse makes your “gayness” seem not quite so real. In reality, whether you’re gay in Paris or gay in the Castro, you’re gay. It’s just part of your DNA.

4. They ask, don’t tell. Similar to “Don’t ask, don’t tell”, your spouse may demand you not tell anyone within your joint circle of friends, family, acquaintances about your “secret”. Realize this is out of embarrassment; it’s a personal shield of shame they wear. Funny how that’s similar to the shame you had to go through before you finally realized there is no shame.

5. Shhh… don’t tell the kids! This is a touchy subject that often divides the couple more than the actual fact that the spouse is gay: Do we tell the kids or not tell the kids? Personally and professionally, I recommend talking with your kids about sexuality at an age-appropriate level that they can understand. I simply cannot advocate a stance that’s shown up a couple of times in my practice where the spouse doesn’t want anything said to the children until they’re 18 and in college.

6. You’ll make our kids gay. Take a deep breath and realize this is an uneducated person speaking. In fact, if you haven’t armed yourself with articles and support materials for your spouse and kids to read about homosexuality, then shame on you. It also helps in these moments to be solid in your own values and beliefs about being gay.

7. You cheated? Ironically, the infidelity blow can be more painful than the “I’m gay” smack in the face. This is actually a common reaction, even if you haven’t cheated. Your spouse may view online gay porn that you’ve been watching or gay fiction you’ve been reading as infidelity. This is a signal that fidelity, honesty, truth are high values to them and be now operating as best as you can playing to those values, you may find the ride through the tornado a little more bearable.

8. Fine, but I’m not getting a divorce. This response is rare, and usually shows up in the heat of the moment, so take it for what it might be. However, in some cases, the spouse being shunned for someone of the same sex would prefer to stay married for “appearances” reasons. Hey, if it works and you’re both good with it, then go for it. After, the man and his mistress have been around since the dawning of time so why not give this a try too.

9. Break all ties. This request/demand has as many shades of grey as Christian Grey’s playroom. There’s a high probability that not only will your spouse ask you to say nothing to anyone, they may even request that you break all ties with mutual friends, their family, and virtually anyone you share in common, even if it is cousin Mildred three times removed. Again, this is a fear response or a control move. Best advice: agree to disagree if the friendships or connection are worth it. Of course, if there are kids involved in your relationship, this just isn’t an option.

10. Cool, I always suspected. What? A spouse who’s totally cool with their spouse being gay is a complete surprise. There is the rare occasion where the relationship has grown apart for a wide variety of reasons and the coming out is just the icing on the cupcake. Not that the spouse is jumping up and down and marching beside you in the pride parade; it’s more of a mutual acceptance that we’re not meant for each other and this little tidbit of information just solidified the truth.

Coming out is a life changing experience for all who are touched by the journey. Ironically, when you lay the paths, feelings, emotions, and experiences each person is having side-by-side, what you’ll find is mirror images. The spouse and the spouse coming out are both going through the closet door. The only difference is who they are, and who they choose to be once the emerge.


YourTango is the premier media company dedicated exclusively to love and relationships. Their mission is to help people love their best and be at the center of this never-ending conversation.

The Best Way to Come Out When Older

Although coming out can be easier when you’re surrounded by supportive friends and a loving family, that doesn’t mean that everything is always smooth sailing. Sometimes, it can be really hard the older you get. But even though the journey might be difficult, you should never be afraid of embracing who you really are. There are certain struggles that come with admitting that you are lesbian later in life but there are ways to deal with them.

Not everyone figures out who they are early on. It’s all about letting things come naturally and then taking it from there. That’s why dating expert Mary Malia’s advice on how to make the process easier is completely spot on. Before you let the stress of not knowing what comes next get to you, there are two important things that you need to know.

1. You need to be proud of yourself for being courageous enough to stand up for yourself and your beliefs.

2. It may take some time getting used to everything but it will definitely be worth it in the long run.

Mary Malia stresses that even though there will be people who don’t support you or may question how you feel, you have to stand firm in your resolve. After checking out her helpful guide on coming to terms with your sexuality as a lesbian, you’ll see why this approach is foolproof. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t worry about what anyone else has to say. Just focus on your own journey.


YourTango is the premier media company dedicated exclusively to love and relationships. Their mission is to help people love their best and be at the center of this never-ending conversation.

Should I Start School As A Boy Or A Girl?

Back to school is a notoriously tough season for us. It’s not because we have to wake up and get going earlier than we did all summer (which, yes, sucks). And, it’s not because our days (once again) become dominated by schedules, homework and packing lunches.

photo 3Back to school marks the annual peak in C.J.’s anxiety levels (which, in turn, makes me more anxious than usual, though I try not to show it, especially to C.J.). For C.J., it marks the start of weeks and months of self-editing and agonizing over every little decision.

Will he wear girl clothes to school? Will he use the bathroom or hold it all day? Will he be brave enough to carry the “girls” backpack and lunchbox he cherishes? Will he let his classmates see his true, colorful, quirky, fabulous, sparkly, sassy self?

Or, will he play it safe?

The start of first grade was the worst. He took baby steps (and sometimes no steps) toward being his authentic self and finally started sharing his gender nonconforming ways with his classmates and classroom a full three months into the nine-month school year. He didn’t feel truly accepted and comfortable until five months after that first bell rang.

It’s little things, like picking a Monster High lunchbox, but refusing to carry it – opting, instead, for a plain brown paper bag – until November and not wearing a headband to school until March. The days leading up to finally carrying the Monster High lunchbox and rocking the headband were filled with questions and false starts.

“Should I take my Monster High lunchbox tomorrow?…I’m going to do it…I’m going to take it….Do you think the kids will make fun of me?…Do you think anybody will bully me?…Maybe I’ll just wait until tomorrow…”

photo 2My heart breaks with each step in the deliberation process, as I let him make his own decisions while reminding him that his father and I are supportive of whatever he decides because we love him no matter what.

This August and into September, C.J. was getting excited, not anxious. I worried that his usual slow, two-week climb up Anxiety Mountain would, this year, be a race to the top in two days. I was bracing myself.

But, it never came.

Then, the night before school was to start, as we were packing backpacks, C.J. turned to me.

“Mom, I can’t decide.”

“Decide what?”

“When I start second grade tomorrow, should I start as a boy or a girl?”

I panicked, and not because my son might be my daughter, but because a social transition like he was suggesting takes at least more than the 12 hours he was giving me – eight of which we were supposed to be asleep.

“I think that’s up to you. That’s a question that only you can answer,” I said calmly while feeling anything but.

“But, what do you think? Just tell me!” he insisted.

“I think you should go as you. I like you.”

“So, I should go as a boy because I’m a boy? A boy who likes girl stuff?”

“If that’s who you are.”

“That’s who I am.”


After I got C.J. and his brother to bed, I watched reality television and ate four more chocolate chip cookies than I should have, in an attempt to soothe my aching heart. I worried that the next day — the first day of school — would be drenched in anxiety.

It wasn’t.

photo 2C.J. carefully laid out his outfit. Yes, it was decidedly more masculine than first day outfits from years past and much more so than the clothes he wore during the freedom of summer, but the decision wasn’t painful for him. He wore blue and purple plaid shorts and a polo shirt with a necktie printed on it because he thought it was “fancy but not too hot.”

He carried his pink backpack and pink rhinestone lunchbox without a second thought. We walked onto campus and were greeted by one “Hi C.J.!” after another. He smiled and waved and got a little shy.

He got in line and scoped out his new classmates. After three years at the same school, he knows more than half of them. And, more importantly, they know him.

By the third day of school, he had a wrist full of bracelets he’d beaded himself and orders from classmates who wanted a few of his one-of-a-kind creations on their wrist too.

Tomorrow marks the end of the first full week of school and I would never jinx us by saying this has been the best back to school ever, so I’ll just say that C.J. is loving second grade so far and his teacher read Matilda to the class and C.J. loves Matilda.


Printed with permission from Raising My Rainbow, a blog and book by the same name by Lori Duron. Raising My Rainbow is the first parenting memoir to chronicle the journey of raising a gender nonconforming child.