Monday, March 03, 2014

2014 LGBT Media Journalists Convening-Moni's Busy DC Weekend

Another year, another trip to Hobby Airport to board a jet plane for the 2014 edition of the LGBT Media Journalists Convening.  

Once again I was pleased to receive an invitation to participate, represent my community and hang out with many of my fellow journalists and bloggers from around the country.

As the days rapidly ticked off the calendar toward my February 28 departure I found myself getting excited because this year's convening was in Washington DC.

But what I wasn't excited about was that I was leaving the 70 degree (21 C) warmth of H-town to head to a nation's capital still in the grip of winter weather and which on the day of my arrival would have a high temp of 25 degrees (-4 C)

But as usual, it wouldn't be a Moni trip without some drama in the mix.

Decided to take the bus to Hobby, and planned to leave myself time to get to the airport, check my bag and play with my new Asus laptop (thanks Samantha Master) at my gate after clearing TSA security. 

But as my bus left the UH campus and approached Spur 5 from UH University Drive, to my horror I saw standing between me and my connecting 88 Hobby Airport bus due at the Eastwood Transit Center  a trail ride plodding its way up the feeder.   

I'd forgotten that Friday was Go Texan Day, the date that all of us Houston denizens are encouraged to wear Western style clothing for the day.  It was also the date the various trail rides taking part in Saturday's parade to kick off Rodeo Houston would hit town and converge at Memorial.Park for their big campout before the last ride up Memorial Drive to downtown for the rodeo parade on Saturday.  

That little factoid was now impacting my trip out of town for the convening.  As we excruciatingly plodded along on my METRO bus headed north toward the Elgin-Lockwood intersection behind the horses, wagons and the HPD car guarding their rear, I with increasing stress looking at my watch hands tick inexorably closer to that 10:07 arrival time of the 88 Hobby bus into the transit center knowing that if I missed it, next one was not scheduled until 10:52 AM.  

That means instead of getting to Hobby at 10:30 AM and having time to check my bag and clear TSA security, I wouldn't be getting there until 11:17 AM, a few minutes after boarding started for my 11:45 AM nonstop on Southwest to DCA.  

I got to the Eastwood Transit Center at 10:06 AM and did my FloJo impression to the 88 Hobby southbound bus bay on the opposite side of where I got off of my initial bus as the 88 Hobby entered the transit center exactly 60 seconds later. 

Good thing I did make it because as it turned out my Southwest flight left early and arrived at the gate in DC at 3:15 PM EST.

I arrive at Washington National's (I refuse to call it Reagan National) Terminal A and after scooping up
my checked bag, called Ruby Corado to let her know I'd arrived.   She sent her executive assistant Caprice Williams to get me and take me to Casa Ruby after detouring by the Capital Hilton to allow me to check in, dump my bags in my room and head over there.

When I arrived at the Capital Hilton which is on 16th and K Streets two blocks from the White House, I noted as we pulled into the driveway police officers positioned on the roofs of adjacent buildings.  When I got out with my bags I noted a larger than normal doorman presence, multiple police cars parked on both sides of 16th Street, K-9 and other units in the lobby.  Didn't know until later that the DNC Winter Meeting was also being held at that location.

After depositing my bags in my 7th floor room, spending an enjoyable two hours with Ruby catching up with her life post Creating Change 14, getting a tour of the facility, hanging out with many of the people there, and saying hello to my Latina trans sisters who were arriving for a Friday support meeting, 6:30 PM comes way too soon and it's time for Caprice to take me back to the Capital Hilton.    

The game plan before I arrived in DC was for me spend some time at Casa Ruby, then head back to the hotel and change from my travel clothes into something nicer so I could attend the opening event of the Convening, the reception at the AFL-CIO building two blocks up the street. 

The reception would give us a chance to connect with and catch up with each other before the keynote speech by MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell and we dove into the full day of seminars Saturday.
However, while I was at the Georgia Avenue location of Casa Ruby, the security plan for President Obama's speech to the assembled DNC Winter Meeting masses was being executed.   Two blocks from the hotel we ran into it and Caprice had to drop me off.

I also found out the next day Caprice just three hours after she dropped me off would be involved in another ugly incident of Washington Metro Po-po's fracking with non-white transpeople that I'll discuss in a separate post.   

President Obama Puts Heckler In His Place! ‘What the heck are you talking about?’ (Video)While I was gone the POTUS arrived at our hotel to speak at the DNC meeting and it was on lockdown.  I ended up across the street from the Capital Hilton  at 16th and L St but wasn't allowed to cross the street at that point by the officer stationed there.   The peeps inside weren't being allowed to leave either.  

After twenty chilly minutes in that corner I finally got the idea along with a Hilton hotel employee standing there with me trying to get to work to just simply walk in the opposite direction to 17th Street, go to K St, and them come back up to the hotel that way where the police officer was letting people through a security checkpoint set up there.     

Photo: Super awesome to meet Kortney Ziegler! I'm fixing to make a bi hackathon sometime real soon just cause he's THAT inspiring! #LGBTMedia14So as I executed my Plan B to get to my room while making a new friend, we arrive at the hotel doors just as they release it from lockdown and I end up running into Will Kohl, Viktor Kerney and several other people in the #LGBTMedia14 crew trying to get down the street to the AFL-CIO building for the reception..

So I get to the building moments later and start running into all the peeps I know like Bi Net USA's president Faith Cheltenham, Dr. Kortney Ziegler, Kimberley McLeod of Elixher, TLC's Masen Davis, Daniel Villarreal, Rebecca Juro, media trainer extraordinaire Joel Silberman, Reina Gossett, Mike Rogers and Autumn Sandeen.  I also begin to get introduced to others who were there for the first time like Ebone Bell, Dyana Bagby of the GA Voice, Brynn Tannehill, Trish Bendix of AfterEllen and Dana Rudolph of Mombian.

After some animated conversation in the lobby with various people including my Lone Star homegirl Cristan Williams and some tasty finger food, it was time to head into the room to start the portion of the evening's events that would lead up to Andrea Mitchell's keynote.

After several speeches, the reading of a proclamation from Washington Mayor Vincent Gray, and opening remarks from Sarah Blazucki, Matt Foreman and Bil Browning, with Bil telling his humorous story about how he met Andrea, he yielded the podium to our keynote speaker for the evening.

Michell discussed several topics during her speech such as international issues, her journalism journey, and a shoutout to her MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow.

But the major theme was human rights progress, the progress of the LGBT movement and our roles in making that happen.

When her speech concluded, she opened the floor to questions before yielding the podium back to Bil who made a few announcements concerning the White House tour that would happen tomorrow and what we could not bring with us before concluding the reception. 

Saturday dawned sunny and cold as a group of us bounced from the hotel at 7 AM to make the two block walk over to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and take part in the tour that was set up for us. 

Let's just say I will never complain about the TSA security at the nation's airports ever again after undergoing the gauntlet you have to go through just to get into the White House for the tour.

But it was fascinating to see the White House and all those rooms that I have up to this point only seen in photos or on television. 
PhotoAfter the conclusion of the White House tour, we headed back to the Capital Hilton to begin the long day of #LGBTMedia14 seminars which ironically were across the hall from the DNC Winter Meeting.

After the announcements from Bil and Matt Berger about the media trainings and the scenario that they were setting up for it, the rest of us not signed up for one introduce ourselves to the rest of the room and were challenged by Bil to come up with not more than three words to describe ourselves.  

Mine: Texas Trans* Troublemaker

The first seminar that kicked off at 9:20 AM was Mythbusters: Understanding and Deconstructing The Lies of the Anti-LGBT Industry with Nathaniel Frank, Joel Silberman and Masen Davis as panelists and moderated by Matt Foreman 

Loved Masen Davis pointing out the lack of Rachel Maddow show coverage of trans issues by stating. "Rachel Maddow, it's time to say the words 'transgender'."  He also pointed out that only 11 percent of Americans know or are friends with a trans person, and that gives anti-trans messages more power.   Joel Silberman also made the point that responses to opposition should be according to our message, not their framing of the issue.

That discussion ran until our 11:00 AM break, and 20 minutes later we dove into the second seminar of the day moderated by Erin Rook entitled What We Don't Talk About: Radical Methods For Greater Diversity In Queer Journalism with panelists Reina Gossett, Robyn Ochs and Paul Kawata.

There was an interesting discussion dominated by HIV issues and bisexual erasure issues hat ran right up to lunch time. I asked Reina the question of if the LGBT media was doing a better job of covering trans issues and also reminded the people in the room that "'POC LGBT people do not have the luxury of separating our ethnicity from our LGBT status."

That took us to our lunch break at 12:50 PM, and while I was out fixing my plate ran into Earl Fowlkes, who I met during CC14 and was here for the DNC meeting.  He told me that he'd just left the DNC LGBT caucus one and everyone was in high spirits and enthused about the upcoming 2014 midterms.   We also got visited by Dana Beyer and DNC member Babs Casbar Siperstein

We came out of the lunch break with Rebecca Juro introducing our next speaker, DREAMer Lorella Praeli, who talked about immigration reform for a few moments before heading into our 2:10 PM Trish Bendix moderated panel entitled Geek Tech: The Future Of LGBT Media with Tyler Chance and Kortney Ziegler.  

Kortney got to talk about Trans* H4CK for a few moments before launching into along with Tyler developments in tech world that affect bloggers and the LGBT community.

After our snack break at 3:40 PM, we headed into the final panel discussion moderated by Sarah Blazucki entitled: Airing Our Dirty Laundry: Best Practices in Airing Touchy Subjects with panelists Mara Keisling, Darlene Nipper and Steven Thrasher.

And yeah, we did touch on race in that discussion, in which I made the point that the LGBT community does have a race problem that we need to solve.  I reiterated the point I made earlier that  POC LGBT people don't have the luxury as our white counterparts do of separating their race from the rainbow community status and don't want to.  Because of the LGBT Two Americas and white privilege, there are times non-white LGBT people are going to see things differently like the Piers Morgan interviews with Janet Mock
That brought us to the wrap up and feedback portion of #LGBTMedia14 that Daniel Villarreal moderated in which we threw out suggessions for topics to cover at the next convening.     

One I would like to see is a TBLG sports one which I believe is sorely needed as more trans and SGL athletes come out like Fallon Fox, Michael Sam, Brittney Griner and others.  In addition to trans, bi and SGL athletes we also have trans and SGL sportswriters like Christina Kahrl and LZ Granderson who would be perfect panelists for it 

We in the BTLG media ranks need to be able to bust the myths and lies of the haters and also explain to the community that our LGBT athletes are trailblazing heroes and sheroes, too.

That wrapped up at 6:00 PM and I dashed up to the room to get ready as I would get not one but two visitors wanting to hang out with me in Tona Brown and Candace Montague. 

Candace I met briefly during OUT On the Hill 2012, but we were finally going to get to spend some quality time together.   She'd already gotten a commitment from me to go to dinner with her, which was the reason I didn't go to the meetup at the Green Lantern.  

I know a lot of peeps in DC who the nanosecond I mentioned I was coming inside I-495 were blowing up my Facebook page and phone wanting to know when, what day and time. Some I couldn't catch up with like Imam Daayiee Abdullah and Kristopher Sharp.

And pro tip: In Ruby's case, she made sure she got her quality time in by grabbing me at the airport.   

Speaking of the airport, I started hearing rumblings about flights being canceled because of the approaching winter storm Titan, and called Southwest reservations to make sure my flight was still alive for Sunday.  If it hadn't been, I was looking at the prospect of spending an extra day or two in a snowed in Washington D.C.

I got checked in for my return non-stop to Houston (hallelujah) and got back to the business of prepping for my dinner outing with Candace and Tona.

In Tona's case I've known and talked to her for almost ten years, but we'd never officially met until that night.  Candace was coming to get me at the hotel at 7 PM and Tona rolled up from northern Virginia at 6:50 PM just as I made it downstairs to the lobby.

Tona has an amazing announcement to make about an upcoming event she's planning that I'm sworn to secrecy on, but as soon as the details are finalized I will announce to you what our classically trained history making mezzo soprano vocalist is up to.    

Candace arrives and we head over to Georgia Brown's for a wonderful dinner and even better conversation as I got my crabcake grub on.

When I come to DC, next to Five Guys, destroying somebody's crab cakes in the area is a must.   And yeah I do need to knock off my DC Bucket List a trip to Ben's Chili Bowl.

National Museum of African American History and CultureJust as quickly as it started, the LGBTMedia14 weekend drew to a close with the monument bus tour in which I and the other peeps on the bus with moi passed by the Newseum (another place I want to go) and the future site on the National Mall of the under construction National Museum of African American History and Culture slated to open in 2015. 

We also passed by the Canadian Embassy which wasn't hard to miss with all the Canadian flags on it.  I'm shocked they didn't put monster sized posters of the men's and women's Olympic hockey teams on the Pennsylvania Avenue side, too.

We returned back to the hotel after stopping at the Jefferson and MLK memorials and passing the Lincoln, World War II, Korean and Vietnam Veterans memorials and rolling by the White House, the US Capitol building, the OAS headquarters, and other major federal agency buildings.   .

My busy weekend in DC came to a close with me catching up with Ruby again, having lunch with her at a local pupuseria and finding out what the hell happened Friday night before she took me to DCA.

PhotoAfter hearing her side of it and from Caprice, I pointed out that the po-po's probably (racistly) assumed that the BMW Z3 SUV owned by Casa Ruby and full of trans folks minding their own damned business was stolen, and that a couple of magnetic Casa Ruby logo signs would end that BS. 

I also found out the interesting point that Metro PD Chief Cathy Lanier talks a good game about eradicating transphobia in her MPD force, but Friday's incident, the Kenneth Furr and Patti Shaw cases and a recently released report compiled by  the  Anti-Defamation League says otherwise.

As I chatted with Ruby, I noted the skies above DC becoming increasingly cloudy and the temp starting to drop, which let me know the cold front was starting to arrive in the area.

Well another busy LGBT Media Journalists Convening has come to a close, and as of today we don't know where it's going to be held in 2015.   But wherever that place is, sure hope one of the peeps getting an invite.for it is me. 

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