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LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance raises funds for Lambert House

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Photo by Lauren Vasatka
Photo by Lauren Vasatka

On October 14, the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance's Western Washington Chapter held a drag brunch fundraiser at Smarty Pants Bar in the Georgetown district of Seattle to benefit the northwest's cornerstone social support and safe space for LGBTQIA+ youth, Lambert House.

The alliance is a nonprofit member organization that advocates for fair housing and works to empower LQBTQ+ community members to pursue home ownership.

Lambert House, a nonprofit that has been providing services since 1981, offers in-person and online programs to local and international Queer youth, plus access to resources, education, and a greater sense of community through peers and mentors. Its goal is to reduce homelessness, substance abuse, and self-harm among LGBTQIA+ youth.

Photo by Lauren Vasatka  

The drag brunch was the first event the chapter, established in March this year, has put together. The board president, Dan Darr, was excited to mention that it is "the fastest growing chapter in the nation" and that it was recently recognized at the national conference. The chapter aims to increase its membership to 150 members by the end of Pride next year.

Darr and Board Secretary Jeanie Kendell related how the alliance has benefited their careers and improved the lives of fellow LGBTQ+ people. "I'd say about 85% of my clients are Queer," said Darr, a real estate broker in Ocean Shores, Washington. "It's a great resource," said Darr, describing how real estate allies refer LGBTQ+ homebuyers to Alliance members.

Jeanie Kendell (l) with wife Crys Busby, and Board Member Sean Morris - Photo by Lauren Vasatka  

Kendell, one half of a Seattle realtor power couple along with her wife, added that most of her clients were also Gay.

The event sought to raise money for Lambert House through the event's ticket sales, donations, and an auction, which featured a stay at a vacation house, gift cards, bottles of wine, and more. The bar's seats and patio filled with guests while DJ Bugzy Beatdown finished setting up the speakers.

The first drag performance began, with LaRue lip-syncing to the classic "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" by Celine Dion. LaRue has a contagious manic energy that, combined with her impressive, exaggerated facial expressions, makes for a hilarious watch.

Paradisco was saucy and sexy, dancing to "This Is What You Came For" by Calvin Harris, featuring Rihanna. She wore a gold jumpsuit but unzipped it to reveal a skimpy leotard underneath. Both crowd-pleasing queens were showered in dollar bills by the brunch guests.

Ken Shulman Executive Director of Lambert House - Photo by Lauren Vasatka  

It was then time for the speakers, Ken Shulman, executive director of Lambert House, and Steve Marose, an influential LGBTQ+ activist.

"Youth come to Lambert House primarily to make friends. They feel lonely. They feel afraid they're not going to have a community," said Shulman. "Some of them face parents who are very cruel when the child comes out, or if the parents find out that they're LGBTQ. We offer them a lot of different ways to join together."

Photo by Lauren Vasatka  

He then related several stories on how Lambert House's services have changed young lives. One standout example was of an exemplary student who had been kicked out of his family's home because of his sexual orientation. Lambert House aided him by not only finding him housing but also helping him get a full-ride scholarship to the University of Washington. That student went on to attend graduate school at Harvard.

Marose then took the mic, saying, "I want to share a story of hope and resilience." In 1988, he joined the Air Force as an aircraft maintenance officer, before the ban on LGBTQ+ people serving in the military was lifted. So, when his covert orientation was discovered in 1990, he was sentenced to two years in prison for three counts of consensual sodomy.

"After my release, old friends told me a light had gone out of me at that time," Marose added. "But, you know what? Another had been ignited, because I emerged as a militantly out Gay man."

Photo by Lauren Vasatka  

After the speakers finished, the final performance uplifted the audience. LaRue made an angelic costume change and lip-synced to "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion.

LaRue, who was once a youth beneficiary of Lambert House, expressed her gratitude for the nonprofit, saying, "In more ways than one, Lambert House has saved my life."