A nonprofit dedicated to providing resources for Northern Virginia’s LGBTQ community has officially chosen Oakton for its headquarters.
After operating as a pop-up for 18 months, NoVA Prism Center opened its first physical offices at 10467 White Granite Drive, Suite 322, on Nov. 1. Open by appointment from noon to 7 p.m. daily, the headquarters hosts a publicly accessible library, a clothing closet and events, along with the organization’s administrative base.
“With the public opening of NoVA Prism Center, we will give our community a place to come together, learn, and thrive with access to stories about queer lives, bodies, and history,” Executive Director Leon van der Goetz said in a statement. “While we will not stop our Library Pop-up programming, our goal is to provide access to our community year-round, because the need for connection and representation doesn’t stop at the end of June.
Founded in May 2022, NoVA Prism was created by local transgender educators and activists after book challenges in 2021 led Fairfax County Public Schools to temporarily remove Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer: A Memoir” and Jonathan Evison’s coming-of-age novel “Lawn Boy” from library shelves.
With schools and libraries across the U.S. continuing to face pressure to ban books, particularly ones that deal with race, sexuality and gender identity, NoVA Prism wants to ensure the local LGBTQ community has access to books and other resources going forward, its website says.
Prior to opening its headquarters, the nonprofit appeared at local Pride festivals and other events, including ones hosted by Fairfax County Public Library. It has also brought a pop-up library to businesses and community groups, such as Reston Museum.
The organization announced the location for its new headquarters at an inaugural “Coming Out Gay-la” fundraiser in Reston on Oct. 20.
Van der Goetz says NoVA Prism Center chose 10467 White Granite Drive as its headquarters because the building already houses several other nonprofits, including ServiceSource and the Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons, “whose communities frequently overlap with our own.”
“The opportunities for collaboration and connection, intentional architecture supporting the Disability community, and access to a shared community classroom and conference rooms to support our programs made the space ideal for meeting our needs,” he told FFXnow.
The nonprofit is continuing to fundraise to bring more events and resources to its new center. In addition to accepting donations through its website, it publishes a zine called The Lantern that focuses on the experiences of LGBTQ teens and adults in the D.C. area.
The Oakton-based nonprofit that runs Northern Virginia’s suicide and crisis hotline is now offering mental health services specifically geared toward young, LGBTQ people.
PRS announced yesterday (Thursday) that it’s hiring 40 new crisis workers who have specialized training and experience to handle calls and texts from LGBTQ individuals who are 25 or younger.
“Providing tailored crisis services will help us reach more people and connect them with safer life-saving services and resources that affirm their identities,” PRS CEO Joseph Getch said in a statement. “We now have crisis workers dedicated to this community that have additional training, lived experience, and a dedication to serving individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community. We are proud and eager to provide hope, empathy, and compassion.”
Formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 9-8-8 was established by Congress in 2020 as the nationwide phone number for accessing emergency mental health support. It officially replaced the pre-existing, 10-digit number on July 16, 2022.
The legislation required the new lifeline to have a “mechanism” where LGBTQ youth, minority and rural callers can access specialized services, because those populations are statistically at higher risk of contemplating or dying by suicide.
More than half (52%) of high school students who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual or who are questioning their sexual identity reported recently experiencing poor mental health, and 45% had seriously considered suicide within the past year compared to 15% for their heterosexual peers, according to a February report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC report, which examined trends from 2011 to 2021, didn’t address gender identity, but this summer, Denmark released a first-of-its-kind study that found transgender people died by suicide at 3.5 times the rate of the rest of the country’s population.
In Virginia, 43% of LGBTQ youth, including 53% of transgender and nonbinary youth, reported seriously considering suicide in the past year. In addition, 13% of LGBTQ youth, including 17% of trans and nonbinary individuals, attempted suicide in the past year, according to state-level data collected in 2022 by The Trevor Project.
The LGBTQ youth-focused suicide prevention nonprofit attributes those trends to the rejection and discrimination those populations experience in society, especially in a year when lawmakers have introduced hundreds of bills restricting their access to health care, education and other rights.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration rolled out policies in July that direct schools to identify students based on their legal sex and names, though Fairfax County Public Schools has maintained its existing policies that support transgender and gender-expansive students.
“We know these young people face stigma, discrimination, and oppression making reaching out for help and connecting to safe resources incredibly difficult and scary,” Gretch said, noting that PRS is continuing “to evolve our crisis services to meet the needs of different populations.”
Established in 1963, PRS provides therapy, peer support, housing and employment assistance and other behavioral health services, along with its CrisisLink call center, which receives 14,000 calls per month on average, including 4,500 from Northern Virginia.
According to a press release, PRS is one of only four 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline centers in the country to offer chat and texting option to LGBTQ youth in addition to calls.
The LGBTQIA+ service provides several ways to get in touch: text “Q” to 988; press 3 when prompted while calling 988; or go to 988lifeline.org/chat and check the LGBTQI+ box in the pre-chat survey. These options are designed for anyone under 25 who wants to connect with a trained crisis worker specifically focused on meeting the needs of LGBTQIA+ youth and young adults.
Fairfax County Public Schools has officially announced that it will not implement the Virginia Department of Education’s recently finalized model policies regarding transgender and nonbinary students.
Yesterday (Tuesday), FCPS Superintendent Michelle Reid released a statement confirming that FCPS won’t adopt the new guidelines after a “detailed legal review” found that its current policies are “consistent” with state and federal law.
The statement notes that gender-expansive and transgender students will continue to be referred to by their chosen names and pronouns, given access to school programming and facilities based on their gender identity, and “have their privacy respected,” regardless of their gender identity or legal sex.
“Let me be clear that FCPS remains committed to fostering a safe, supportive, welcoming, and inclusive school environment for all students and staff, including our transgender and gender expansive students and staff,” Reid wrote. “We believe that supporting our students and working with parents and caregivers are not mutually exclusive; we already do both and will continue to do so. We know that students can only learn effectively when they feel safe and supported.”
The policies that FCPS plans to keep in place directly oppose Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s guidance, which has two main requirements:
- Students must participate in school activities and use school facilities according to their sex legally assigned at birth rather than gender identity
- Parents must provide written consent if a student wants to go by a name and/or pronouns that differ from what appears on the student’s official records
Youngkin has characterized the policies as keeping parents involved “in conversations about their child’s education, upbringing, and care.”
FCPS Pride, an LGBTQIA+ advocacy organization for employees and other adults affiliated with FCPS, played a leading role in advocating for FCPS to take a firm stance against Youngkin’s policies and in favor of transgender and gender-expansive student rights.
FCPS Pride co-chair Robert Rigley Jr. says the state guidelines — which he nicknames the “Don’t Be Trans” policy — make transgender and non-binary students feel unwelcome in Virginia schools and “remove civil and human rights.”
“[The policy] makes it so that some adults have veto power over someone’s gender identity, which from a queer person’s point of view is absurd,” Rigley Jr. said. “…It steals agency in particular from transgender children. It says that you are not in control of your identity at a very basic level, and it turns families and schools against one another, battling over children who are among the most vulnerable children in this state.”
“It traumatizes a whole generation of queer kids in Virginia,” he continued.
FCPS Pride and nine other community organizations held a rally at Luther Jackson Middle School (3020 Gallows Road) in Merrifield. Originally intended as a protest for FCPS to take a clear stance against Youngkin’s policies, the rally transformed into a celebration after the release of Reid’s statement. Read More
After months of review, the Virginia Department of Education has released a final set of policies guiding public schools on how to treat transgender students — including many that contradict the policies currently used by Fairfax County Public Schools.
Released Tuesday (July 18), the “model policies” generally direct schools to require that students use names, pronouns and facilities, such as bathrooms, based on their legal sex as designated in their official school records. All local public school systems are obligated by state law to adopt a version of the policies.
FCPS, which has provided protections for students based on their gender identity since 2020, says it’s now “reviewing” the new policies from the state.
“FCPS remains committed to an inclusive learning environment for each and every student and staff member including those who are transgender or gender expansive,” FCPS Superintendent Michelle Reid said in a statement. “Our schools will continue to be safe and respectful learning spaces.”
Rolling back rules issued by the state in 2021 that let students use names, pronouns and facilities matching their gender identity, the new policies require school employees to refer to students by the name and pronouns corresponding to the sex displayed on their official school records.
Employees can use a different name or pronoun if a parent provides written permission, but even with a parent’s consent, the name and sex in school records can only be changed if a legal document, such as a birth certificate, passport or driver’s license, is provided.
The document says the use of bathrooms and other facilities must also be based on sex, even as it acknowledges that an appeals court found denying students access to bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity to be discriminatory.
Participation in school activities, including athletics, will also be determined by sex, though the state law requiring the VDOE to develop the model policies on transgender students explicitly excluded athletics from consideration.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin lauded the policies as affirming the importance of parents being engaged in their children’s lives.
“The VDOE updated model policies reaffirm my administration’s continued commitment to ensure that every parent is involved in conversations regarding their child’s education, upbringing, and care,” he said in a statement. “Public comment, input, and concerns were carefully evaluated and assessed to formulate the updated model policies.”
All children in Virginia deserve to have a parent engaged in their life and to be treated with dignity and respect.
I am committed to ensuring that every parent is involved in conversations regarding their child’s education, upbringing and care.https://t.co/eywLB6h15n
— Governor Glenn Youngkin (@GovernorVA) July 18, 2023
The Pride Liberation Project, a student-led LGBTQ advocacy group that organized the protests, blasted the final document as “Don’t Be Trans” policies — echoing the “Don’t Say Gay” moniker used by critics for a Florida law that banned discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools.
The VDOE policies represent “an attempt to force LGBTQIA+ students back into the closet,” the PLP said, urging school districts to reject them. Read More
A Pride Month celebration is coming to Springfield Town Center for the first time ever.
The shopping center at 6500 Franconia-Springfield Parkway will host its inaugural Pride Night Out tomorrow (Friday) from 6-9 p.m. in the lower level Grand Court area near Starbucks.
The event will feature music, giveaways and other activities to support Safe Space NOVA, an Alexandria-based nonprofit that assists LGBTQ teenagers. An ongoing fundraiser organized by the town center will be open through the end of June.
“This is the first time that Springfield Town Center is hosting a Pride Celebration and we couldn’t be more excited to partner with Safe Space NOVA on Pride Night Out!” PREIT Marketing Director Justin Roth said. “Partnering with a phenomenal non-profit that benefits LGBTQ+ youth was a no-brainer.”
PREIT, a Philadelphia-based real estate investment trust, owns Springfield Town Center. Pride Night Out will be its first Pride-related event at any of the properties in its mall portfolio, according to a media alert.
Planned activities include:
- A performance and charity meet & greet by drag queen Evry Pleasure
- DJ Pierre with Exclusively Entertainment
- Pride-themed Glitter Tattoos and Face Painting
- Pride Photobooth with Selfie station
- PRIDE ROCKS! — Rock decorating with pride-themed inspirational messages
- “What does pride mean to you?” banner project
- Raffle prizes, including two tickets to Wolf Trap’s Out & About Festival, tickets to the Washington Mystics, and much more!
Headlined by folk-rock singer Brandi Carlile, the first-ever Out & About Festival will take place at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts on Saturday and Sunday (June 24-25).
Looking further into the future, Springfield Town Center is gearing up to welcome a 32,000-square-foot Lego Discovery Center, which announced last week that it will open its doors on Aug. 9.
(Updated at 12:45 p.m. on 6/16/2023) As Pride Month got underway, a pair of hate incidents targeting the LGBTQ community shook up Falls Church and West Potomac high schools.
At Falls Church High School (7521 Jaguar Trail) in West Falls Church, a student admitted to stealing a rainbow Pride flag from the school and burning it, principal Ben Nowak said in a message to the school community on June 6.
According to Nowalk’s letter, a circulating video that the student recorded of the flag burning captured “another young person…using homophobic and hate-filled language towards the LGBTQ+ community.”
Nowalk emphasized that Fairfax County Public Schools and Falls Church High School “will not tolerate this kind of behavior” as it goes against “the kind of school community we seek to cultivate.”
“Each and every student in FCHS has the right to feel safe and affirmed in our school,” he wrote. “June is Pride Month, when we recognize the resilience and determination of the many individuals who are fighting to live freely and authentically. We stand with those facing an ongoing struggle against discrimination and injustice. This is sadly more evident today given this hateful act.”
An FCPS spokesperson indicated that the student has been disciplined, but the school system can’t share further details due to federal laws protecting the privacy of students and families.
“Please know we take such incidents of hate seriously and appropriate disciplinary actions are always taken,” FCPS spokesperson Julie Moult said.
The Fairfax County Police Department confirmed that the theft of the Pride flag, which was displayed outside a classroom trailer, was reported to its school resource officer (SRO) at the school.
“The SRO determined that a juvenile stole the flag,” the FCPD said. “The SRO discovered that the flag was reportedly burned by another juvenile. The juveniles have been referred to the juvenile justice system.”
Also last week, graffiti with messages described as antisemitic and homophobic was painted on the “spirit rock” outside West Potomac High School (6500 Quander Road) in Belle Haven, according to a message to families from principal Dr. Tanganyika Millard.
The graffiti was discovered the morning of June 7, when the community gathered at the school for the Class of 2023 graduation ceremony.
“It has always been a point of pride that we live in a diverse and caring community,” Millard wrote. “To see these symbols of hate at the space that welcomes others to our school is devastating. We will make every effort to find those responsible and hold them accountable.”
The FCPD said it doesn’t have a record of any reports of antisemitic graffiti at West Potomac High School last week.
In response to the incidents, FCPS Pride, an advocacy organization for LGBTQIA students, staff, family and allies, announced earlier this week that it will hold a Pride Rally Against Hate at Luther Jackson Middle School (3020 Gallows Road) in Merrifield today (Thursday).
The rally will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. before the Fairfax County School Board’s meeting, which will include a proclamation honoring Pride Month.
“Hate incidents…against all communities have been accelerating in FCPS, and we demand by our presence that the system take action,” FCPS Pride said in a media advisory.
Moult confirmed that FCPS is currently developing a system for tracking hate and bias incidents, as previously reported by WTOP.
The school system announced last month that it would hire an investigator to look into an anonymous email that complained about Oakton High School’s former Black cheerleading coaches.
Pride Month starts today (June 1), and opportunities to celebrate in Fairfax County extend through the month.
This Saturday (June 3) features events in the Mosaic District, Reston and the City of Fairfax. Closer to the end of the month, folk-rock musician Brandi Carlile will headline the Out & About Festival at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.
Pride Month marks the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan and has become an occasion to celebrate LGBTQ individuals and communities.
Below are more details about Pride Month celebrations across the county this June:
Mosaic Pride Festival
Saturday, June 3
A parade begins at 2 p.m. in front of One Medical (2987 District Ave.) and will proceed down District Avenue to the main stage. Performances will feature drag queens, dance, and live music by George Mason University’s Green Machine band and more.
Saturday, June 3
Lake Anne Plaza
Indie pop trio BETTY will headline the Reston Pride Festival at Lake Anne Plaza (1609-A Washington Plaza). The event will also feature comedian Chelsea Shorte and local businesses including Elden Street Tea Shop and Scrawl Books.
Saturday, June 3
Old Town Hall
The City of Fairfax and George Mason University are hosting the first Fairfax Pride at Old Town Hall (3999 University Drive). The evening will begin with face painting, crafts and other activities. Later, there will be drag queen performances and a dance party.
Tuesday, June 6
Starr Hill Biergarten at Capital One Center
Drag queens Crimsyn and Logan Stone will host a drag bingo night at Starr Hill Biergarten at Capital One Center (1805 Capital One Drive South, Suite 1100). There will also be music and drinks. An encore is scheduled for Sept. 12.
Pride Flow and Celebration
Sunday, June 11
Celebrate pride with a colorful outdoor yoga class at Lakeside Park (5216 Pommeroy Drive). Attendees should bring their own yoga mats and water and plan to wear bright colors.
The Out & About Festival
Saturday, June 24 and Sunday, June 25
Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods performances at 10:30 a.m.; festival starts at 4 p.m.
Wolf Trap National Park
Brandi Carlile, Yola, Rufus Wainwright and other artists will gather at Wolf Trap (1645 Trap Road) in the last weekend in June for a three-stage festival. The festival features LGBTQ+ artists and allies.
Pride Month Poetry Reading
Saturday, June 24
Ellanor C. Lawrence Park
Poets Sunu Chandy, Kim Roberts, Holly Mason Badra, and Malik Thompson will convene at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly (5040 Walney Road) for a reading. “This reading lifts up a variety of voices and experiences to honor the rich legacy and contributions of poets and poetry in the queer community,” according to the event description from Arts Fairfax.
Fairfax County Public Library is also hosting events throughout the month, including a “crafternoon” on Sunday (June 4) and a screening of the 2018 film “Rafiki” on June 7.
Photo via Mosaic District/Twitter
A private library for the local LGBTQIA+ community is expanding its reach in Reston.
NoVA Prism Center, a planned community center and private library, is working with Reston Museum to tour its collection books and resources on March 18. The pop-up collection will be featured at the museum from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“The community is invited to come to the museum, relax with a book, connect with the local LGBTQIA+ community and support our mission to bring access to information about LGBTQIA+ lives, stories, and history to Northern Virginia while participating in the LGBTQIA+ community by gathering to celebrate ourselves, friends and loved ones,” event organizers said in a news release.
NoVA Prism was founded as a nonprofit in May 2022 by local educators and activists in response to an attempt to eliminate two books dealing with LGBTQ topics from Fairfax County Public Schools.
“As a LGBTQ+ run organization with roots in the community it serves, NoVA Prism Center & Library is an answer to both the threat of lost access for LGBTQ+ teens in the region, as well as being the community resource that the LGBTQ+ community desperately needs moving forward,” Leon van Der Goetz said on behalf of the organization.
NoVA Prism has pop-up events and hopes to open a physical location. Planning for the project is in the preliminary stages, and a location has not yet been determined. The organization is currently funded by individual and corporate donations.
Alex Campbell, Reston Museum’s executive director, said that the partnership came about after a board member connected the two organizations.
“NoVA Prism Center & Library was looking for a space to do a pop up event and the museum was a good fit,” Campbell said.
Reston Museum is a nonprofit organization that aims to preserve Reston’s past, form its present and influences its future. The museum features a collection of archival material and artifacts.
It’s open from Tuesday through Saturday.
Photo via Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash
A music festival celebrating LGBTQ artists is coming to Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts this summer.
In its first programming announcement for the upcoming season, the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts said today (Monday) that it will host a family-friendly, two-day Out & About Festival headlined by folk-rock singer Brandi Carlile.
The festival will take place across three stages on June 24 and 25, coinciding with LGBT Pride Month.
“The Out & About Festival captures the spirit of Wolf Trap — we are a community where music and nature are for all to enjoy,” Wolf Trap Foundation President and CEO Arvind Manocha said in a statement. “Brandi is an inspiration to artists and audiences, both for her unmistakable sound and for standing proudly as an icon of the gay community. We are really grateful for the chance to collaborate with Brandi and all of the guest artists to realize a shared vision.”
A total of 11 artists are scheduled to perform at the inaugural festival, including singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, British soul singer Yola, who appeared in the movie “Elvis,” electric indie pop band Lucius, and spoken-word artist Celisse.
Saturday, June 24
- Brandi Carlile (Filene Center)
- Yola (Filene Center)
- Rufus Wainwright (Filene Center)
- Jake Wesley Rogers (Meadow Stage)
- Bad Moves (Meadow Stage)
- Alphabet Rockers (Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods)
Sunday, June 25
- Brandi Carlile (Filene Center)
- Lucius (Filene Center)
- Celisse (Filene Center)
- Brandy Clark (Meadow Stage)
- Oh He Dead (Meadow Stage)
- Jazzy Ash & The Leaping Lizards (Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods)
The festival will mark the first time in decades that Wolf Trap’s three stages — the Filene Center, the Meadow Stage, and Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods — will all be used on the same day, according to the press release.
Each day will open with the Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods performances, which will start at 10:30 a.m. and require separate $12 tickets.
Gates will open for the main festival at 3 p.m., with Meadow Stage performances running from 4-6 p.m. and Filene Center performances starting at 6:30 p.m.
Festival tickets will range in cost from $75 to $345, with VIP tickets for prime orchestra seats and added amenities going for $498. Tickets will go on sale to the public at 10 a.m. on Feb. 17, though a presale for Wolf Trap members and the VIP ticket sales will start tomorrow (Tuesday) at 10 a.m.
Additional Pride Month activities are expected to be announced in the future.
The battle over transgender student rights has taken center stage in the race for the Fairfax County School Board’s Providence District seat.
Consultant and Vienna resident Jeff Hoffmann officially launched a campaign on Tuesday (Jan. 17) to challenge incumbent Karl Frisch, who announced last week that he’ll seek a second term in office this November.
“It really is time for change on the School Board in Fairfax County,” Hoffmann wrote in a statement on his decision to run. “The current incumbency has become too comfortable, and they choose to vote a Party line agenda versus listen to us, the parents and other taxpayers who invest a high percentage in education.”
Founder of the Virginia Parents First Coalition, a political action committee (PAC) that says it backs candidates “who believe in traditionally conservative education principles,” Hoffmann drew the local LGBTQ community’s attention this weekend with a stunt phone call to the Inova Pride Clinic, where he claimed to be the stepfather of a transgender kid.
Started last June to coincide with Pride Month, the clinic is the first health facility in Northern Virginia to provide primary care specifically for LGBTQ individuals. It serves patients 12 and older.
As reported by NBC4, Hoffmann told a receptionist at the Falls Church-based clinic on Saturday (Jan. 14) that he was looking to schedule a nurse visit for his transgender stepdaughter based on advice from Fairfax County Public Schools staff and a teacher.
Asking if the clinic works with FCPS Pride, an advocacy group for LGBTQ employees and families in the school system, he said his kid would be accompanied by a teacher but not her unsupportive biological father, an apparent attempt to see if a student could get medical services without their parent’s knowledge.
Admitting that the kid he described in the call doesn’t exist, Hoffmann says he wanted to raise “awareness” that gender-affirming care is available to local adolescents, who he claimed are being referred to the Pride Clinic by FCPS Pride.
FCPS Pride said in a statement on Saturday that some of its members obtain services from the clinic, but the group has no direct affiliation.
“FCPS Pride does not have a relationship with the Inova Pride Clinic, does not operate in schools, and does not give any medical advice or make medical referrals,” the group’s executive board said.
Though he says this is “not a priority issue in my campaign,” Hoffmann has a history of opposing FCPS’s policy supporting the right of trans and gender-expansive students to be treated in accordance with their gender identity, criticizing it as a distraction from issues like addressing learning loss and other impacts of the pandemic.
Hoffmann’s campaign for school board continues a trend of candidates for local and state offices in Virginia running on anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans platforms, according to FCPS Pride co-president Robert Rigby, Jr. Read More