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Anying Guo

Janet Redman and Winifred Quinn: Leaders in Health, Partners in Life

This article was first published in TAGG and can be read on their site here.

It’s a breath of fresh air to be able to find overlapping interests with someone, particularly with a romantic partner. Even luckier is being able to have a shared interest in serving communities and making a difference in those populations’ health and well-being.

For Janet Redman and Winifred Quinn, working in the health and wellness industry has become a staple part of their relationship. Redman works for Bell Rock Capital, LLC and Quinn works at AARP, additionally serving on the board of directors for Whitman-Walker Health (WWH). The pair share a passion and dedication for health and wellness, specifically focusing in women’s and LGBTQ health.

Their worlds collided at the 2013 Mautner Gala, where Redman was honored as their Volunteer of the Year. Quinn recalls being immediately charmed by Redman’s presence, a Facebook friend request later sealing the deal.

“It was one of the highlights of my life,” says Redman. “And that was before I realized I met the love of my life that night as well.” It wasn’t until 2015 that the two reconnected, with Redman reaching out to Quinn to ask if AARP had any programs that would aid in the caretaking of her parents.

Before meeting, each developed and established their own unique career path in the industry, though remain jointly dedicated to erasing stigmatization of LGBTQ health and wellness, aiming to provide care and programming that advances health care rights and accessibility.

Growing up in a family of nurses, Redman soon became involved in health and wellness within her own life. As a part of a committee at CAMP Rehoboth and a financial advisor, Redman helps the aging population, including the LGBTQ community, plan for healthy retirements while considering the cost of healthcare.

“Health and finances are tied so closely,” says Redman. “Healthcare remains a wild card for so many people, and having access to providers like WWH, who understand the unique needs of the community and offers care without judgment, is critical.”

Quinn shares a similar passion, with almost two decades of experience as a researcher and advocate in the health care sector. She sees herself as a “family caregiver” within the health care policy space, currently working on policies that “intersect consumer needs and nursing and leadership skills.”

Whitman-Walker Health has become a large part of that mission. Quinn began getting involved with WWH by an almost chance encounter; after spotting a rainbow flag above the Elizabeth Taylor Center at Whitman-Walker, she became a patient then became a board member.

“The goal is to provide much better prevention and primary care when people need it – especially at-risk, under-served people,” says Quinn. Quinn emphasizes the importance of nurses within the health industry and how crucial their role is to the quality of care that is provided, particularly those within the LGBTQ community.

Both Redman and Quinn discussed their dedication to advocating for more accessibility and transparency for the LGBTQ community. Quinn has seen WWH specifically expand its footprint in the Washington D.C. area to better serve communities and eliminate stigma and disparity in treatment and service.

“The LGBTQ communities have come a long way over the past 35 years,” says Quinn. “But many in our community are still being left behind. We need to change that and make sure we’re taking care of each other.”

Redman echoes Quinn’s words; being awarded Mautner’s Volunteer of the Year was the “catalyst” for her to continue standing up for those who weren’t always included in health care conversations.

“Win and I both spent many years helping our aging parents and navigating the health care system was challenging, eye-opening, and sometimes infuriating,” Redman explains. “We need to be our own best advocates for health care. We need to be better.”

Beyond a shared passion and dedication to health and wellness, the couple describes themselves as loving, supportive, and fun. Though they are currently based in two different locations (Quinn in Washington D.C. and Redman in Rehoboth Beach, DE) they try to see each other frequently, especially on weekends.

“When I go see Janet, I feel like I can let go of all of the stress from the week and just relax and have fun with her,” says Quinn. Redman agrees, adding that she loves the way they push one another to try new things while still being a strong support for the other. Though living apart isn’t the most ideal situation, the busy schedule of their individual lives allows them to appreciate their relationship and time together more.

The Freedom to Marry is 2017’s Best Reminder of Hope

This article was first published by TAGG and can be found on their site here.

The afterglow of the Supreme Court’s 2015 rule on marriage equality finally felt like something tangible had progressed into our lives and homes. The decision felt like a finally released sigh that marked an elevation of rights for LGBTQ people of the nation.

Although many collectively celebrated the long-awaited, landmark decision, the decades long campaign for the freedom to marry winded down to an end, a behind the scenes effort that takes center stage in Eddie Rosenstein’s exceptional documentary “The Freedom to Marry.”

The film follows Evan Wolfson, founder of the organization Freedom to Marry, his team, and those in the LGBTQ community the entire year leading up to the Supreme Court ruling. The film emphasizes that the fight for marriage equality’s increased visibility has been propelled by people like Wolfson, whose everyday work was dominated by finding new angles and approaches to outline the argument for marriage equality.

Interspersed between historical context of the fight for the rights for the LGBTQ community are countdown clips featuring Wolfson and his team. Wolfson has often been seen as the proprietor behind the movement to legalize same-sex marriage and started his fight for equal rights nearly thirty years ago.

After growing up in Pittsburgh (alongside director Rosenstein), Wolfson went to Harvard Law in 1983, where he wrote a thesis entitled “Same-sex Marriage and Morality: The Human Rights Vision of the Constitution” that outlined the argument for marriage equality for the community LGBTQ.

This was the thesis that led him to founding Freedom to Marry. Alongside National Campaign director Marc Solomon, the documentary shows the pair travelling to rallies across the entire nation before the Supreme Court decision came down. The film reveals the often-difficult terrain that comes with promoting equality for the LGBTQ community, including clips of homophobic protests and outright protests against the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Juxtaposing the opposing side of the argument are real stories of couples and families who want the same rights as anybody else. Part of promoting the legalization of marriage equality was introducing the universal notion of parental love; that LGBTQ families wanted the best for the children and their families, above all else, just like heterosexual couples. It was a touching collective truth that became exemplified through the stories of regular families and their stories.

By spotlighting ordinary people who were denied the legality of their families, the campaign for marriage equality became even more necessary and nuanced. April and Jane, a lesbian couple from Michigan, agreed to be the plaintiffs, a decision that required time and energy dedicated to a cause that was bigger than just their family.

“By denying marriage to same sex couples, we’re denying not only the protection to the adults, which is not only independently important,” said Mary Bonauto, a GLAAD lawyer who made one of the arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges. “We’re denying those protections and that security that would come from having married parents.”

Producer Jenni Olson highlighted the usage of these stories as one of the biggest successes of the documentary. “Regular people found a way to stand up,” said Olson. “It’s incredible that they had the courage and willingness to say that we want to make a difference, we want to make things better for our family, but also better for everyone. Now more than ever we need those stories.”

Marriage equality felt like the obvious, mandatory choice for some, and the ruling came with a feeling of “finally.” We forget that this decision, as overdue as it may have seemed, took decades to fight for. We forget the sacrifices and efforts made so that not only would no future generations have to fight for marriage equality, but that this decision does not end the fight for equality on every front for the LGBTQ community.

Olson talked about how almost everyday we wake up and feel overwhelmed and discouraged by the state of the world. It is films like these that remind you that there will always be regular people together and stepping up to make change. “I would like to think there’s another chapter coming,” Wolfson wistfully said at the end of film, signifying another generation will continue the fight for equality.

Reel Affirmations Film Festival Returns with More Queer and Transgender Representation

This article was first published on TAGG and can be read on their site here.

To be able to live your truth every day is a blessing. To be able to make art that can help others do the same is a blessing and opportunity that should not be taken lightly. Reel Affirmations Film Festival, Washington D.C.’s annual international LGBTQ film festival, aims to showcase media that not only promotes representation, but increases visibility for the entire community, no matter where they are on the spectrum. The four-day festival will feature director talk-backs, Q&A sessions, and a filmmaker reception.

The DC Center Director of Arts and Cultural Programs Kimberley Bush, who first joined the film festival as a volunteer, emphasized that the film festival has steadily become more inclusive since its 1991 inception. “[When I first joined], the organization was run by cisgender gay white men,” says Bush, whose love of film brought her to the festival. “A lot of the films we were screening did not affect people of color, women, and non-cis people.”

Bush and her programming team, comprised of individuals of diverse and varied backgrounds, sort through every submission they receive and sometimes solicit films for the festival. They find a common theme within the chosen submissions and then start to program a showcase for the short films. What is unique about the Reel Affirmations Film Festival is the division of film categories into women’s films, male-focused films, and transgender/gender non-conforming films, which help to hyper-focus on proper representation for audiences.

Bush emphasized the importance of having these categorical distinctions, particularly one for those who are not cisgender. “[The transgender/gender non-conforming category] is so necessary, especially with the multitude of gender expression that is out there,” says Bush. “It’s important for people to see themselves out there on the screen.” Within these categories are stories that represent intersecting facets and topics within the LGBTQ community.

The short film Right of Passage explores the stories of transgender refugees and the multitude of struggles they face as they leave their homes and into new foreign territory. Other films such as Will & Nicki and Finding Pride discuss the distinction between being transgender and gay, all the while emphasizing that transgender individuals are people who deserve the same rights as cisgender individuals. In Right of Passage, one refugee summed it up best: “I deserve to live in a place where I don’t have to worry about tomorrow.”

Attendees will also be able to see films such as Be Right Back, a short film whose playful and warm-toned aura features a vintage store shop owner who fantasizes about the customers that walk through her shop. Other short films like Giovanna Cheslar’s Java and Jessica Fuh’s Us touch upon topics of burgeoning sexuality, unrequited love, and acceptance in a 21st century backdrop. Bush stressed that the stories from these works are often directly from the filmmaker’s life and are not “just some frivolous storyline.”

Above all else, the film festival intends to be a place of comfort and affirmation for all those who attend, and especially for those who never see versions of themselves properly represented.

“I see firsthand individuals enter our film screenings questioning themselves and their place in this world and exit substantially impacted and with an uplifted and positive shift in their energy and outlook in their lives,” she says. Bush’s dedication to LGBTQ representation in film prompted her to start Reel Affirmations XTRA, a monthly LGBTQ film series that continues beyond the four-day festival.

The Reel Affirmations Film Festival will be occurring from October 19–22 at the Gala Hispanic Theater. You can find the full schedule for the Reel Affirmations Film Festival here.

Actress Shannon Dorsey Talks New Play, Representation, and the Depth of Love

This article was first published on TAGG and can be read on their site here.

From the time she started to form words, Shannon Dorsey was acting, shaping the theater into not only a home, but an eventual haven of self-expression and love. The space underneath the family dining table was her first stage, and she made anyone around her watch her early childhood shows.

“I’ve always enjoyed theater as a form,” said Dorsey. “I’ve danced since I was three years old, tap, Hip-Hop, but have been doing ballet the longest. I found [dance] satiated this thing of being on stage but it didn’t do everything I needed it to do.” As a student of both Wilson High School and Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Dorsey could take theater courses at the latter for half the day in her senior year of high school. Though she was not always exposed to roles in plays, she stayed on stage.

“Everyone knew I was going to be an actor,” said Dorsey, reminiscing on her early performances and community encouragement. “That’s something that has been so consistent from high school to college – acting was something that I was always going to do, regardless whether I had access to it.”

Growing up in Washington D.C., Dorsey’s childhood and education consistently emphasized the importance of arts and reinforced her identity as an African-American woman and actress. In her sophomore year of high school, Dorsey was cast as a Russian woman in a “white play with white characters” in a majority black high school, a humorous incident that allowed her to realize the extent of whiteness on stage, despite her teachers and community reinforcing an environment where her identity was not only validated, but celebrated on stage.

Dorsey continued to seek out theater as a safe space, attending Temple University where her pedigree grew and obtaining two degrees: one in communications in theater and another in African-American Studies. “[In college], I realized I am really, really a minority in this world and in my craft,” said Dorsey. “I was told about it, but it was different really experiencing it.”

Dorsey recalled an incident early on in her career where she and her cast were on a national tour for a play. The rest of the cast, who were all white, would make comments on the potential dangers of the neighborhoods they were in. The misplaced comments were discouraging to Dorsey, but led to a pertinent revelation. “I was the only black dot on this white bus,” said Dorsey. “Everyone else was white, only white, and all had perspectives that reflected each other, but not me.”

Dorsey continues to be “fascinated” by the way humans communicate effectively and began to seek out multi-faceted roles of characters that did not just represent her, but the complicated nature of the human spirit. Dorsey spoke on the difficulty on finding roles that sated her desire for diverse and complex representation, while avoiding roles that overly relied on shock value. Still, she continues to make conscious efforts to seek out roles that challenge stereotypes and societal norms, a steadfast motto that has led her to plays such as “Breath, Boom,” “In the Red and Brown Water,” and “Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet.”

For the role of Shanita in “Skeleton Crew,” the Dominique Morisseau play that is currently playing in Washington D.C.’s Studio Theatre, the studio reached out to Dorsey to audition, which delighted her. “Shanita wasn’t a damsel in distress,” Dorsey said on what drew her to the role. “It wasn’t another story of a black pregnant woman and how things suck.”

Dorsey and director Patricia McGregor, as well as the rest of the cast, worked through character development from the first table work on, coming up with an intimate and stirring play with multifaceted characters. Dorsey stated that nobody’s words could “do the play justice,” urging everyone to see the play for its universal and touching themes.

Beyond representation, Dorsey consistently approaches all her roles with love. “Love is the ultimate complexity we haven’t figured out yet,” she said. “I want to take roles that touch my heartstrings. Love is everywhere, and I am made of love.”

Skeleton Crew is currently playing at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St NW, Washington, D.C. and ends on October 15, 2017. For more information, click here.