For almost four years, Tagg Magazine has had the privilege of spotlighting numerous lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women within our community. And, we continue to do so!
In the D.C. metropolitan area, we see too many events, happenings, and issues that are often segregated by gender, race, and class, within our own LGBTQ community. In some ways, it has become a norm for the community.
In this issue, we salute the men in our community who steer away from the norm and effortlessly support queer and transgender women.
We call them our Lezbros: Men who have a close and personal relationship with lesbians and the queer women’s community. Specifically, gay and trans men who recognize the need to unite no matter your gender expression.
The men featured have moved from all over to be an active part of the community in D.C. Their efforts reflect the right for equality and the strength that comes with solidarity and activism.
Here’s to our lezbros!
Feature photography by Denis Largeron
Jason Laney has been living in the Washington, D.C. area for 12 years and actively working on fundraising campaigns that have a global and local impact.
Laney is currently the development director at Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) and has been on the board of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for five years. One of the first events he was in charge of was an HRC event attended by 600-800 women.
SMYAL is an organization that reaches out to LGBTQ youth dealing with issues from bullying to depression to homelessness. “It is reassuring to see so many youth reaching out in schools with leadership in gay/straight alliances,” said Laney, reminding them that it is still important to make sure you are in a safe place when you are ready to come out.
To extend outreach and diversify efforts, they are also hosting more events aimed at uniting women who are interested in networking with others who want to influence change. In August, they plan to host a book signing event with a lesbian author.
The diversity within the HRC has allowed Laney to expand his network, outreach, and friendships. He co-chaired HRC’s national dinner in 2013 and 2014 with community activist June Crenshaw. The two produced the fundraising aspect of the event, while building a team and executing the game plan. The two continued their tandem efforts as HRC co-chairs in the management of volunteers.
Through HRC partnerships, Laney was instrumental in promoting and sponsoring collaborations such as the quarterly mega women’s event hosted by the Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. He also worked with HRC and Tagg Magazine in helping to produce last year’s Capital Queer Women’s Summit.
In Laney’s work with HRC, he sees the impact and power to make change happen throughout the nation and the world. Diversity does not have to mean division, in a better world, diversity can produce strength, result in unity, and reveal the truth.
Paul Marengo has lived in the Washington, D.C. area for 17 years, working for many non-profit organizations in the areas of development and event production.
With over 25 years of experience as a development professional, Marengo has been running his own consulting firm since 2000. Through Promethean Fundraising, Marengo is able to guide and empower non-profit organizations to grow and become more competitive in their fundraising efforts. He also serves as the webmaster for CHERRY Weekend (The Cherry Fund) and Reel Affirmations through The DC Center.
Through CHERRY Weekend, Marengo was responsible for identifying women’s organizations—like Mautner Project and Women’s Collective—to donate and support. Reel Affirmations, which is a non-profit, all-volunteer, international LGBTQ film festival in Washington, D.C. that is one of the largest LGBTQ film festivals in attendance within the U.S. and worldwide.
Not only is Marengo a consultant for fundraising events and non-profits related to media, art and film, he has a specific interest in queer filmmakers. “Everyone has a story and that story should be told,” said Marengo. Currently, he works with the Executive Director of Reel Affirmations Kimberley Bush in bringing queer women’s films to their monthly screenings. Marengo enjoys an opportunity to provide a different perspective of life in general. “I am always interested in how different people see different things,” said Marengo.
“Summertime” is the next film scheduled in the series. The story follows a lesbian relationship and gives viewers a glimpse into the feminist movement of 1970s France. In the film, a leader of a Parisian feminist group works to rally her community toward freedom and equality for all sexes.
Recently, Marengo was the first man to co-chair The DC Center’s annual Beajuoulais Nouveau women’s event, and looks forward to making it a success again this year.
A volunteer at many women’s events, including the annual Enterprising Women Reception and Capital Pride festivities, Marengo finds it is easier to work with women and openly contributes his time. “I was always taught to support your community,” said Marengo, becoming involved wherever he can make a difference.
In the shadow of the Orlando massacre, Marengo calls for everyone to mobilize and get involved. “We could do so much more now than we are actually doing,” said Marengo. Reminding the community to take the next step beyond the fundraisers and vigils and encouraging lobby visits to effectively advocate for change in policies.
Shane Mayson is the Marketing Director for JL Restaurant Group and the “head cheerleader” for Hank’s Oyster Bar, Hank’s Pasta Bar, and The Twisted Horn.
Mayson invites the community to come together and support the overall efforts of each group within the LGBTQ community, who share the same struggles, yet face separate battles. “I’ve always been drawn more to women, especially lesbians. I’ll always remember that it was the lesbians who took care of all us gay boys back during the AIDS epidemic,” said Mayson. “They didn’t desert us…which bought my loyalty.” Mutual support among groups in the LGBTQ community is needed now more than ever.
Mayson is the brainchild behind the successful monthly Ladies Tea event at Hank’s Oyster Bar in Dupont. It was important for him to create a space for women to mix and mingle in a unique atmosphere. Now in its third year, the first Sunday event hosts over 100 women each month.
“As long as I’ve known Shane, he has been a never ending source of support for LGBTQ women. He is constantly looking for opportunities to help the community and his drive is inspirational,” said Jamie Leeds, owner of JL Restaurant Group.
In addition to supporting the entire LGBTQ community, Mayson is an active member of the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs organization (WCR), assisting the organizer with their annual conference.
At JL Restaurant Group, he is known for being Leeds’ right-hand man. He consistently looks for opportunities to bring visibility to Leeds’ efforts and bring women chefs to the forefront of the food and beverage industry.
In this time of turmoil, cohesiveness is a powerful tool. “We are stronger together,” said Mayson, who hopes for a promising future for the LGBTQ community. “It’s important for me to leave the world better than I found it for our LGBTQ young people.”
Camden Mitchell Hargrove is a field organizer at the National LGBTQ Task Force. He is a transgender man of color and a proud husband and father to two daughters. Hargrove considers himself a feminist, partly because he lived as a woman and experienced, witnessed and felt the unfairness women encounter in society.
Hargrove was interested in working for the Task Force for a long time and now he travels to different states to work with local organizations by supporting and assisting with agendas that are important to the local need. The Task Force works closely with organizations to help build their team and provide skills and tools to keep their efforts going. “They know the people in the community and what the need is,” said Hargrove.
“We do a lot of work with supporting trans women, specifically trans women of color,” said Hargrove. Trans women of color are frequently targeted and have a history of violence against them. They also face issues associated with being a triple minority. He asks masculine/male communities to support queer women and trans women. “I have a wife and two daughters and I want them to be treated fairly,” said Hargrove.
Hargrove emphasizes the importance of standing up for women’s rights and seeking justice for women. “We need to work together so our small communities are working as one instead of being divided,” said Hargrove.
As misogynistic attitudes toward women impact all genders, no one is truly exempt from the results of bigotry. Working to bring trans men and trans women of color together, Hargrove encourages trans men to use their male privilege to
advocate and help trans women.
Abdur Rahim-Briggs has lived in the Washington, D.C. area for 22 years, working as an advocate in the community in HIV/AIDS prevention, an active philanthropist and non-profit founder.
In 1994 Briggs began volunteering with Us Helping Us and People Into Living, Inc. In 2001, he received the Marvin E. Young Volunteer of the Year Award. In 2015, Briggs’ “Annual White Attire Affair” celebrated its 15th year and is one of the longest running LGBTQ philanthropic events in the D.C. area. This event was inspired by the news that his twin brother tested positive for HIV in 1997. Briggs responded with outreach efforts to increase awareness and unite the Black SGL/LGBT/Queer community.
Briggs recently launched a new non-profit that will focus on urban philanthropic activities and projects. Project Briggs, Inc., which is inclusive of all communities, allows Briggs to extend his outreach to the transgender and lesbian communities.
“To broaden your scope, you have to include women,” said Briggs, but that is not the only reason he is reaching out to the LBTQ community. Briggs stands behind his female counterparts, stating, “I believe women rock!”
In 2008 Briggs formed Al Sura, Inc, a group that focuses on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Al Sura actively supports women’s events and causes, also providing grants for women’s causes. During his annual fundraising event for QPOC, Briggs has been instrumental in getting more queer women involved by joining the board or participating in events. He works closely with many women promoters on fundraisers and events.
One of the goals of Project Briggs is to broaden the scope of reach that was limited with Al Sura, but will be limitless with Project Briggs. In this kind of inclusive group, LGBTQ people are given an opportunity to form and strengthen straight alliances. “We have an opportunity to learn about each other and educate people,” said Briggs.
“Change will happen,” said Briggs. “If we keep laying the foundation, it will eventually come.”
Scott Wallis is the co-owner and creative director of Avenue Jack, a men’s clothing and accessory store that warmly and actively welcomes women.
His background includes experience as a Washington, D.C. editor for GayCities.com, skills in event management, as well as producing and co-hosting a weekly podcast show aimed at reaching a national LGBTQ audience.
The D.C. retail store Avenue Jack boasts the tagline “Stuff for Guys”, but they carry plenty of favorites for women. “Chicks dig us too” is often seen in their messaging. Supportive of lesbian, transgender and queer fundraising efforts, last year Avenue Jack donated clothing to the Capital Queer Women’s Summit Fashion Show.
Wallis also hosts events at the store that are promoted to the LBTQ community, such as a recent wine tasting event that drew many women, as well as a few men. Feeling the welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, many of these women attending the events have become loyal Avenue Jack customers.
As men like Wallis continue to advocate for LGBTQ unity, the community grows stronger. Efforts in LGBTQ united movements become more effective as individual groups within the community make a greater impact when they act as one. Rallying for change, Wallis asks everyone to keep things on the forefront, saying, “We need to hold our lawmakers accountable.” Therefore, it is crucial that the community continues to gather, rally and celebrate.
A favorite outing, Wallis describes the monthly women’s event BARE at Cobalt as one of the better monthly events in D.C. nightlife, with amazing DJs and a fun crowd. “It’s great that more [lesbian spaces] are supporting events that include guys,” said Wallis. He invites men to be open to attending more mixed and women’s events, emphasizing how important it is to include everyone and how much fun it can be. “I would be completely comfortable walking in and just being a part of it,” said Wallis when speaking of attending women’s gatherings that are inclusive of men. Wallis speculates on the need for more inclusive LGBTQ spaces where everyone is welcome and it is not specific to one demographic or niche group.
“Each group is going through something completely different. By sharing that and sharing other people’s stories I think we get a better understanding of everything we have to work for as a whole,” said Wallis.