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47 November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
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GayCityNews.nyc | November 26 - December 09, 2015
New Report Quantifies Disparities for Transgender New Yorkers Findings, produced by Pride Agenda, State AIDS Institute, point up social, economic, health barriers
Strength in Numbers’ Somjen Frazer discusses the key findings of her consulting group’s study.
BY PAUL SCHINDLER
new survey-based assessment of the educational, employment, income, housing, and health status of transgender residents of New York State demonstrates startling disparities in their well-being, even when compared to other segments of the LGBT community. Among the findings was evidence that the transgender portion of the queer community is 50 percent more likely to be in poor or only fair health, 150 percent more likely to have a history of homelessness, twice as likely to live in poverty, and three times more likely to have less than a high school education — all by comparison to lesbian, gay, and bisexual respondents. “This data is not something we didn’t know, this is our community,” said Carrie Davis, a transgender woman who is the chief programs and policy officer at the LGBT Community Center, where the report was announced on November 20. “But what always strikes me when I look at data like this is how extreme the disparities are.” Though the picture the new report paints is not necessarily different than what advocates like Davis see in their everyday work, the size of the survey sample and specificity of its findings could prove a powerful policy tool for advancing important government and social service interventions. “We are always asked to provide specific data,” said Matthew McMorrow, director of government affairs at the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), one of the lead players in putting the report together. “Bringing personal stories and anecdotal evidence is good, but when we can actually bring numbers to the legislators, it makes them better advocates.” The report, produced by the Strength in Numbers Consulting Group, on behalf of ESPA, the
New York State LGBT Health and Human Services Network — a group of 54 non-profit organizations statewide coordinated by ESPA — and the AIDS Institute within the state’s Department of Health, was part of a larger study examining the health and social well-being of the state’s LGBT population. A total of 3,792 self-identified LGBT people made up what is known as a “convenience sample,” meaning they stepped forward to participate, rather than being identified randomly. Of that total, 583 respondents identified as transgender. (Another 295 respondents who identified as gender nonconforming but not transgender were not included in this report, but will be discussed in future reports based on the data collected.) The findings demonstrate that across a broad array of social, economic, and health outcomes, the transgender community in New York faces significantly more serious challenges than the rest of the LGBT community. Not only are transgender New Yorkers over the age of 24 three times more likely to have less than a high school education, they are also only half as likely to have a college degree. Regardless of whether they have completed college, they are twice as likely to be unemployed and 140 percent more likely to be living in poverty, as compared to other LGBT New Yorkers. Among transgender respondents of all ages, they are twice as likely to live in poverty as their LGB peers. The transgender community also faces significant housing barriers, being 150 percent more likely to have a history of homelessness and twice as likely to currently be homeless. Among those in stable housing, transgender respondents are two-thirds less likely to own their homes. More than 10 percent say they were denied housing because of their gender identity and expression, and more than a quarter reported being harassed by neighbors. The educational, employment, and housing barriers the transgender community faces have important health impacts. Nearly half of all respondents indicated they are “food insecure” — meaning they have difficulty affording nutritional meals on a consistent basis. Transgender New Yorkers are three times more likely to report having inadequate health insurance, which likely contributes to the fact that they are 50 percent more likely to rate their health as poor or only fair, as compared to others in the LGBT community. They are also more than 50 percent more likely to report experiencing depression. Stark as these findings are, they may underestimate the degree of the disparities. The fact that the sample was one of “convenience” rather than random means that it is likely that the most marginalized portion of the community did not participate, the report notes. The transgender respondents were 85 percent white and nearly 70
percent of them lived outside the five boroughs, which means that people of color in the city — who bear some of the gravest disadvantages — were underrepresented in the findings. In all reliable data on anti-transgender hate crimes, people of color, particularly women, make up the overwhelming majority of the victims. The Center’s Davis said that the most important contribution of the new report is its focus on the “social determinants of health outcomes.” If transgender health is thought of as a “cascade,” she said, there are a series of “disruptions” — educational disadvantages, lack of employment, poverty, and homelessness — that lead to health problems. Most studies on transgender health, Davis noted, focus on the prevalence of HIV, driven by the need to engage in survival sex for employment. But when asked what the most effective way to tackle the HIV crisis is, Davis said, she responds, “Get them jobs. Economic insecurity leads to HIV risk.” And it is that insecurity, and not HIV specifically, that is topmost on the minds of transgender people, she said. “When I do focus groups with trans people, they don’t talk about HIV much,” Davis said. “They talk about getting jobs.” Then, in a cautionary note about the prospects for ending the AIDS epidemic by 2020 — something advocates, the state, and the city are all striving for — Davis said, “We’re not going to get there with PrEP alone, as long as people seek purposeful sere-conversion as a way to access benefits.” During the press event announcing the report, Daniela Simba, a trans woman who now works at the Apicha Community Health Center, spoke about the job hurdles she faced when she first completed her education. She lost out on one job, she was told, because of her “sexual orientation,” a clear sign, she said, that too many people remain in the dark about what being transgender even means. Discrimination, of course, is central to all of the report’s findings, and frustration with achieving a statewide civil rights law protecting the transgender community led to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent announcement that the State Division of Human Rights would now interpret nondiscrimination provisions based on sex and disability to cover instances of anti-trans bias. Still, as Davis noted, 50 years of federal protections based on race and sex — not to mention 13 years of transgender protections in New York City — have not conquered discrimination. From the Center’s perspective, the most important immediate objective is helping prepare transgender people for those employment
HEALTH, continued on p.26
November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
GayCityNews.nyc | November 26 - December 09, 2015
Manhattan US Court Says Trans Equal Protection Claim Merits Heightened Scrutiny Southern District Judge Jed Rakoff’s finding first within Second Circuit’s jurisdiction BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD
or the first time within the US Second Circuit, a district court judge has ruled that a transgender person’s equal protection claim will receive “heightened scrutiny.” The November 15 ruling by Senior Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York, in Adkins v. City of New York, relied on the Second Circuit’s decision in Windsor v. United States, which found that anti-gay discrimination merited a heightened scrutiny review. (That ruling was affirmed by the Supreme Court on alternative due process grounds.) Heightened scrutiny is the standard used to evaluate sex discrimination claims, and it places the burden on the government to show that the discriminatory treatment significantly advances an important government interest. In this case, the city is defending steps that police officers took in detaining a transgender man arrested during the 2011 Occupy Wall Street Brooklyn Bridge demonstration. Rakoff’s ruling should be a wakeup call to the New York City Police Department, since it rests in part on Justin Adkins’ allegations that the department follows a policy of discrimination against transgender detainees and has failed to take any action in response to internal recommendations to modify its policies. Adkins was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1, 2011 and taken to the 90th precinct and placed in a cell with other men. Although neither Adkins nor anyone else in the cell raised any complaint about his presence, after police officers identified him as transgender, they removed him, seating him in a chair next to the bathroom handcuffed to a metal rail along the wall, where he was left for seven hours. Other detainees were fed, but he was not. He alleges that being restrained in that awkward position for so long caused soreness in his arm and shoulder that lasted for several weeks. He was ultimately released without being prosecuted. Adkins leveled a barrage of constitutional claims against the police officers responsible for this treatment
and against the city as their employer. The city moved to dismiss his lawsuit, and Rakoff dismissed most of the claims in summary fashion, but he found that the equal protection claim had enough merit to survive. An equal protection claim must allege that the plaintiff was “treated differently than others similarly situated as a result of intentional or purposeful discrimination” and that “the disparity in treatment cannot survive the appropriate level of scrutiny.” Rakoff found that Adkins had adequately alleged differential treatment, and that this treatment was purposeful “because it was pursuant to the NYPD’s custom of subjecting transgender detainees to special conditions,” such as, in this case, “handcuffing them to railings.” Adkins also alleged discriminatory intent, citing individual police officers’ “responses to learning of his transgender status, which included gawking, giggling, and inquiring about his genitalia.” Rakoff found that this met the plausibility requirements for pleading a constitutional claim. The main issue, then, in deciding whether to dismiss the claim was whether Adkin’s complaint merits “heightened scrutiny” or would be relegated to the “rational basis” standard of review, a deferential standard under which the officers and the city would escape liability if there was any imaginable justification for their action. Rakoff turned to the Second Circuit’s Windsor decision, which analyzed this question in the context of the Defense of Marriage Act. There, the appeals court held that heightened scrutiny would apply, finding that gay people qualify as a “quasi-suspect class.” Rakoff reached a similar conclusion regarding transgender people, applying the same sort of reasoning. “While transgender people and gay people are not identical,” he wrote, “they are similarly situated with respect to each of Windsor’s four factors.” The first factor is deciding whether there is a history of persecution and discrimination based on membership in the class. The Second Circuit said that this factor is “not
US Senior District Court Judge Jed Rakoff.
much in debate” for gay people. Speaking of transgender people, Rakoff wrote that “this history of persecution and discrimination is not yet history. Plaintiff cites data indicating that transgender people report high rates of discrimination in education, employment, housing, and access to healthcare.” The second factor is deciding whether the status in question bears any relation to the ability of class members to contribute to society. “Some transgender people experience debilitating dysphoria while living as the gender they were assigned at birth,” he wrote, “but this is the product of a long history of persecution forcing transgender people to live as those who they are not. The Court is not aware of any data or argument suggesting that a transgender person, simply by virtue of transgender status, is any less productive than any other member of society.” The third factor is deciding whether transgender status “is a sufficiently discernible characteristic to define a discrete minority class,” and Rakoff found that it is. Here the Windsor analysis really came in handy. “Windsor helpfully describes the scenarios of a person of illegitimate birth applying for Social Security benefits and thereby making their illegitimate status manifest, or two gay people seeking a marriage license and thereby revealing their homosexuality,” he wrote. “Transgender people struggle with similar scenarios on an even more frequent basis: many forms of identification required for asserting legal rights, such as birth certificates, indicate the bearer’s gender. A mismatch between the gender indicated
on the document and the gender of the holder calls down discrimination, among other problems. Document troubles aside, transgender people often face backlash in everyday life when their status is discovered. For instance, plaintiff alleges that, upon learning that he was transgender, police officers gawked and giggled at him and asked him what he had ‘down there.’” Finally, courts look at whether a particular class is a “politically powerless minority,” and here, too, Rakoff found transgender status met the criteria. “Particularly in comparison to gay people at the time of Windsor, transgender people lack the political strength to protect themselves,” he wrote, citing as an example the continued exclusion from military service. Having found that heightened scrutiny applies, Rakoff concluded that Adkins had put into play the question whether his removal from a general cell and handcuffing to a rail for seven hours was “substantially related to an important government interest.” The city’s response was to argue that “there is no constitutional right to be detained with cellmates of the same gender,” but there they cited a case that did not involve heightened scrutiny, and so it didn’t address the question. The city also invoked “safety concerns,” referring to Adkins’ own complaint, which alleged that “numerous transgender individuals detained by the NYPD have alleged that they have been placed with individuals who posed a risk to their safety.” But Rakoff pointed out that Adkins had not alleged there were any safety concerns here: “Neither he nor the men with whom he was initially held raised any safety concerns.” Rakoff added, “Moreover, defendants cannot argue their actions were substantially related to ensuring plaintiff’s safety when they removed him from an allegedly safe place and caused him injury, albeit minimal injury, by handcuffing him to a wall next to the sole bathroom in the precinct.” However, since Rakoff’s ruling was
EQUAL PROTECTION, continued on p.24
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GayCityNews.nyc | November 26 - December 09, 2015
Mel Wymore opens the Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil.
Delores Nettles holds up the City Hall proclamation honoring her slain daughter’s memory after receiving it from Councilmembers Carlos Menchaca and Corey Johnson.
TRANSGENDER DAY OF REMEMBRANCE ON CITY HALL STEPS gender Day of Remembrance commemorations also focus on suicides in the community, “Most did not commit suicide. They were killed.” She added, “We are honoring transgender women killed due to male brutality.” Noting that community leaders are in agreement that a unitary commemoration at City Hall organized by transgender people is the appropriate way to mark the day, Love said, “Don’t allow this day to be co-opted. Nicole Bowles chose to focus on the strengths of individuals within the trans community. “Let’s shed some light on those of us who are alive,” she said. “Everyone must take their power and throw it into the community.” At the end of the roughly 45-minute vigil, Josephine Perez spoke passionately about the need for the community to support those with developmental disabilities. A particularly poignant moment in the commemoration came when Delores Nettles, whose transgender daughter Islan Nettles was murdered in Harlem more than two years ago, was recognized and also given a proclamation in her daughter’s memory by City Councilmembers Carlos Menchaca and Corey Johnson, two out gay men who identified themselves as trans allies. Nettles, clearly emotional as she spoke, said the trial of her daughter’s accused killer, James Dixon, is due to open on January 11 in Manhattan. She and other speakers urged people to turn out at 100 Centre Street, 11th floor, part 72 to show solidarity with Delores and other family and friends of Islan Nettles. — Paul Schindler
Ashley Love, center, holds up a poster commemorating transgender people lost to hate violence.
Activist Brooke Cerda Guzmán (r.) addresses the crowd.
In the twilight hour on November 20, a group of about 75 people gathered with candles on the steps of City Hall to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance. The annual worldwide event comes as advocates here in the US note that at least 23 transgender people across the nation, most of them trans women of color, have been murdered this year. Transgender men and women and their allies spoke to the variety of meanings that the day has for them. Mel Wymore, a transgender man who is a longtime Upper West Side community board member, opened the event by saying of the gathering, “This is more important than you can imagine.” Though sponsored by the LGBT Caucus in the City Council, the event was organized and produced by a variety of transgender leaders across the city. Tiara St. James said that in addition to remembering those lost to violence, it was important to focus on the need for investment in the community and for transgender people and their allies to avoid working in “silos” that separate like-minded people. “To make the most impact as a community, we have to work together,” St. James said. Adrienne, a nurse who chose not to mention her last name, talked about her fear of being outed on her job, where she said she would then have to put up with “misgendering” from co-workers unaccepting of transgender people. Ashley Love emphasized that even though some Trans-
As the vigil concluded, Josephine Perez insisted that the community support its members with developmental disabilities.
November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
US Judge Lets Michigan Transgender ID Challenge Go Forward Six plaintiffs seek end to birth certificate requirement in changing driver’s license sex designation BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD
federal judge has refused to dismiss a claim by six transgender Michiganders that a state policy governing changes of sex designation on driver’s licenses and personal identification cards violates their constitutional privacy rights. In a November 16 ruling, Senior US District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds found that transgender people have a fundamental right of privacy under the 14th Amendment regarding their gender identity. That right, she concluded, was heavily burdened by the state’s policy. Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, in 2011, adopted a policy under which a “certified birth certificate showing the sex of the applicant” was the only acceptable form of identification for anyone seeking a change of sex on their driver’s license or state per-
sonal ID card. US passports were specifically excluded. The plaintiffs pointed out the difficulties this policy imposes. Some states refuse to issue replacement birth certificates for transgender individuals and that could preclude a trans resident of Michigan from obtaining a state ID, which is needed to vote. Other states — including Michigan itself — will only issue
In their affidavits opposing the state’s motion to dismiss their case, the plaintiffs recount a wide range of circumstances in which they have encountered demeaning or antagonistic responses when complying with requests to show ID, including when voting or attempting to cash a check. Every such occasion is an “outing” with respect to information they prefer to keep
The plaintiffs recount a wide range of circumstances in which they have encountered demeaning or antagonistic responses when complying with requests to show ID. new birth certificates with proof of gender reassignment surgery. The US State Department, however, does not have a sex-reassignment surgery requirement for getting an appropriate passport, a policy that has also been adopted by many states, including, now, New York.
confidential, and they cite the incidence of violence against transgender people as a looming threat when their status is involuntarily revealed in this way. Judge Edmunds rejected the state’s argument that plaintiffs had not presented a constitutional
claim. She found numerous precedents, including decisions from the Sixth Circuit that are controlling in federal cases in Michigan, recognizing privacy interests in medical information and sexually-related information. She also relied on a 1999 decision by the New York-based Second Circuit Court of Appeals in a case involving a transgender prison inmate, where the court recognized that the “hostility and intolerance” against transgender people bolstered its conclusion that “the Constitution does indeed protect the right to maintain the confidentiality of one’s transsexualism.” Using language from an earlier Sixth Circuit case, Edmunds found “no reason to doubt that where disclosure of this highly intimate information may fall into the hands of persons harboring such negative feelings, the Policy creates a very
MICHIGAN, continued on p.15
Oklahoma High Court Gives Lesbian Co-Parent Standing in Custody Dispute Retroactively applying rights recognized in US Supreme Court marriage ruling, Sooner State leapfrogs New York BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD
he Oklahoma Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that a woman who spent 10 years raising a child with her former same-sex partner can use a legal approach known as the equitable doctrine of “in loco parentis” to get standing to sue for custody or visitation of the child. The November 17 opinion, written by Justice Joseph M. Watt, drew on the US Supreme Court’s June 26 marriage equality decision and an early 10th Circuit marriage equality ruling that the high court declined to review. According to Watt’s opinion, Kimberly Sutton proposed marriage to Charlene Ramey in 2004 and the women exchanged rings as life partners. They then decided to have a child and to raise the child jointly, with Sutton conceiving the child through donor insemination. A friend of the couple donated the sperm with the understanding that he would have no parental responsibilities or rights, and the baby boy was born in March 2005. The court’s opinion makes clear that Ramey
was involved in Sutton’s pregnancy and the child’s delivery, in line with the birth mother’s wishes. “Sutton prepared a baby book for their child identifying both Sutton and Ramey as parents,” Watt wrote. “Sutton gave a card to Ramey congratulating her on becoming a ‘mother’ to their son and that she would be a wonderful mom.” During the Sutton’s pregnancy and the child’s early months, Ramey supported the family, and when Sutton went back to work, given their schedules, Ramey ended up being the primary caregiver to their son, who always referred to Ramey as “mom” but, according to the opinion, “did not begin to refer to Sutton as ‘mom’ until the age of five or six. Even today, their child will sometimes refer to Sutton, the biological mom, as Kimberly and not as ‘mom.’” The couple lived as a family, and it was Ramey who claimed their son as a “dependent” on tax returns. Even after the women ended their relationship, they continued living together as roommates for many months while continuing to raise the child together. After Ramey moved out, however, Sutton opposed her attempt to maintain parental ties.
When Ramey sought custody and visitation rights, Sutton argued that since they had no written parenting agreement and Ramey had no legal relationship to the child, she lacked standing to do so. The district court agreed with Sutton, dismissing the case for lack of a written parenting agreement, and Ramey appealed. On appeal, the court framed the questions before it this way: “(1) Whether the district court erred finding that a non-biological parent lacked standing because the same-sex couple had not married and had no written parenting agreement; (2) Whether a biological mother has the right as a parent to legally erase an almost 10-year parental relationship that she voluntarily created and fostered with her same-sex partner.” Siding with Ramey, the court answered the first question “yes” and the second question “no.” Noting that a 2014 ruling it made upheld the right of a non-biological mother to enforce a written co-parenting agreement, the State Supreme Court acknowledged that Ramey’s
OKLAHOMA, continued on p.15
November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
MICHIGAN, from p.14
real threat to Plaintiffs’ personal security and bodily integrity.” The state could only win this case, the judge found, if it could show a compelling interest, and that its policy was “narrowly drawn to further that interest,” which requires that it be the least restrictive way to achieve its goal. Noting that the state “vaguely identifies two purported interests — albeit not in the context of a fundamental right — in support of the Policy: (1) ‘maintaining accurate state identification documents’ to ‘promote effective law enforcement’ and, (2) ensuring ‘that the information on the license is consistent with other state records describing the individual,” Edmunds found that the challenged policy “bears little, if any, connection to Defendant’s purported interests, and even assuming it did, there is no question that requiring an amended birth certificate to change sex on one’s license is far from the least restrictive means of accomplishing the state’s goal.” The judge took particular note of the fact the current policy means that many transgender people have a sex listed on their driver’s license that “fails to match their appearance and the sex associated with their names.’ In this way, the Policy undermines Defendant’s interest in accurately identifying Plaintiffs to
OKLAHOMA, from p.14
challenge presented a new issue and that the district court had ruled based on a narrow reading of last year’s decision. Relying on the US Supreme Court and the 10th Circuit marriage decisions, the state high court said it was broadening its earlier ruling and “acknowledging the rights of a non-biological parent in a same-sex relationship who has acted in loco parentis” in cases where a couple “(1) were unable to marry legally; (2) engaged in intentional family planning to have a child and to co-parent; and (3) the biological parent acquiesced and encouraged the same-sex partner’s parental role following the birth of the child.” The Oklahoma court, then, is effectively applying the marriage
‘promote law enforcement.’” As well, the fact that a transgender person’s driver’s license and passport could well reflect different sex designations, Edmunds wrote, contradicts “the state’s purported interest in ensuring ‘that the information on the license is consistent with other state records describing the individual.’” Pointing to the plaintiffs’ assertion that at least 25 states allow changes of sex designation on driver licenses without proof of sex reassignment surgery, Edmunds wrote, “The Court seriously doubts that these states have any less interest in ensuring an accurate record-keeping system.” Edmunds’ refusal to dismiss the case puts the plaintiffs in a strong position to negotiate a change to the policy. If negotiations fail, they can probably count on winning this case through a motion for summary judgment unless the state can come up with something better than its meager arguments to date. The plaintiffs are Ermani Love, Tina Seitz, Codie Stone, E.B., A.M., and K.S. Their attorneys include Daniel S. Korobkin, Michael J. Steinberg, and Jay Kaplan of the ACLU Foundation of Michigan in Detroit, John A. Knight of the ACLU of Illinois in Chicago, and cooperating attorneys Jacki Lynn Anderson, Michael Frederick Derksen, and Steven R. Gilford of the Proskauer Rose law firm’s Chicago office.
rulings retroactively to benefit couples who had children at a time when they were being denied the constitutional right to marry. The ruling presumably would not apply to same-sex couples who do not take advantage of the right to marry now, though such a non-biological parent can presumably still be protected if there is a written co-parenting agreement. The court pointed out that this new case only applies to the issue of standing. Once a trial court determines that a samesex co-parent has standing to seek custody or visitation, it will then examine what is in the best interest of the child, just as it would in a custody and visitation dispute involving divorcing different-sex couples.
GayCityNews.nyc | November 26 - December 09, 2015
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OKLAHOMA, continued on p.22
Doctors’ Embrace, Knowledge of PrEP Seen as Obstacle to Uptake BY DUNCAN OSBORNE
GAY CITY NEWS
uggesting that medical providers may be an obstacle to the wider use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), panelists at a town hall noted that there is reluctance on the part of some doctors to prescribe the HIV prevention drug regimen and there is an ongoing challenge for patients to find providers who know what PrEP is. “There are very few providers that have an expertise around this issue and there is a lot of provider ambivalence around anything having to do with sex,” said Carrie Davis, the chief programs and policy officer at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, at the November 19 event. “When people come forward and go to their provider, there’s a strong chance they’ll be met with rejection from the provider.” Billed as a PrEP rally, much of the discussion touched on the struggles to get PrEP, which uses anti-HIV drugs in HIV-negative peo-
Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, a senior city health department official, makes a point during a November 19 town hall about PrEP at the LGBT Community Center, as (on l.) Tiffany M., and Carrie Davis, and (on r.) Victor Hogue look on.
ple to keep them uninfected, and the extent to which HIV stigma may be keeping people from accessing PrEP, which is highly effective when used correctly. PrEP, along with post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and treatment as prevention (TasP), is a central component of the Plan to End AIDS, an effort that aims to reduce new HIV infections in New York State from the current roughly 3,000 a year to 750 annually by 2020. If doctors, who are the gatekeepers for PrEP prescriptions,
resist writing prescriptions or are unaware of the intervention, that could have a significant impact on the plan’s success. The panelists were unanimous in the view that finding a doctor who is educated about PrEP and will prescribe it can be difficult. “A lot of my friends were having problems with their doctors prescribing it so I told them to find a gay doctor,” said Kashif Amin, who has been on PrEP for roughly a year, at the town hall. Victor Hogue, a care technician
at the Chelsea-Clinton health center operated by the William F. Ryan Community Health Centers, which sponsored the town hall, described his visit with a doctor after he began PrEP. Upon seeing that he was taking Truvada, the only drug approved for PrEP, she assumed he was HIV-positive. When Hogue explained that PrEP is an HIV prevention tool, the doctor said, “I don’t think that’s correct.” New York City has seen recent increases in the number of gay and bisexual men who are using PrEP, but the growth has been modest, with much of the increase driven by uptake among white gay men. The state health department estimates that the number of New Yorkers who are enrolled in Medicaid, the government-run insurance plan for the poor, who are on PrEP has grown from 259 in 2012 to 1,330 in July of this year. In an email, Gilead Sciences, which manufactures and mar kets Truvada, reports that “8,512
DOCTORS, continued on p.17
Stigma Around PrEP Takes on Several Forms BY DUNCAN OSBORNE
arious forms of stigma and a lack of education about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) may be keeping people at risk for acquiring HIV from using the HIV prevention drug regimen, panelists at a November 19 town hall said. T iffany M., a transgender woman and one of the five panelists, described an encounter she had with a male sex partner. She disclosed that she was on PrEP after they had sex and the man immediately assumed that she was HIV-positive. With the man threatening violence, she had to have a lengthy conversation with him to prove that PrEP is an HIV prevention tool and not treatment for the virus. “It just tur ned into a whole big thing,” she said at the event, which was held at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & T ransgender Community Cen-
ter. “People should know more about the medication.” PrEP uses anti-HIV drugs in HIV-negative people to keep them uninfected. PrEP, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and treatment as prevention (TasP) are central components of the Plan to End AIDS, an effort that aims to reduce new HIV infections in New York from the current roughly 3,000 a year to 750 annually by 2020. All three drug regimens are highly effective when used correctly. The plan, which launched in 2014 and has the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, faces a number of hur-
dles. Among these is the concern that Tiffany encountered — if people take PrEP, they will be perceived as HIV-positive. Another is history. “When we hear about a new medication, automatically we think about the Tuskegee study,” said Victor Hogue, a care technician at the Chelsea-Clinton health center operated by the William F. Ryan Community Health Centers, which sponsored the town hall. The Tuskegee study, which began in 1932, followed some 399 African-American men who had syphilis and another 200 who did not have the bug until 1972 without treating the men who had the
infection. The US Public Health Service was following the natural history of the disease. Tuskegee’s legacy has been to create a profound distrust of the medical establishment on the part of some African Americans. In the case of Truvada, the only drug currently approved for PrEP, the regimen is seen as a “white man’s drug,” Hogue said. The suspicion that PrEP’s real purpose is to har m gay men, and African-American gay men in particular, is something that Kashif Amin, a panelist and PrEP user, has had to confront with his sex partners. “I’ve had to teach so many people about PrEP on Grindr,” he said. “It’s not a massive cover up to kill the gays.” For transgender people, who endure pronounced discrimination, education about PrEP is a key starting point.
STIGMA, continued on p.17
November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
DOCTORS, from p.16
unique individuals started Truvada for PrEP in the United States between January 1, 2012, and March 31, 2015.” That estimate uses data from “39 percent of all US retail pharmacies that dispensed Truvada for PrEP.” Gilead’s estimates are seen as conservative by AIDS activists. The company is reporting “a 332 percent increase in the number of unique individuals that started Truvada for PrEP in the United States between first quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of 2015.” There is very little data on what doctors know about PrEP and their willingness to prescribe it. On a November 24 conference call with reporters, Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), discussed a 2015 survey of doctors and nurses by Porter Novelli, a public relations firm, that found that just 34 percent of the providers participating in the survey did not know about PrEP. The survey did not assess if the remaining two-thirds would
prescribe the drug. “Thirty-four percent were not aware of PrEP,” Schuchat said. “The idea that two-thirds are aware of it doesn’t mean that two-thirds are willing to prescribe it.” The CDC convened the conference call to promote PrEP use, saying that too few people who would benefit from PrEP are on the drug. “We need to work to ensure that clinicians are aware of PrEP,” Schuchat said. “Doctors need more prep about PrEP.” PrEP requires that doctors ask patients about their sex lives and drug use and screen for any HIV risks. Then people on the drug must have quarterly visits with their doctors to check for side effects and to screen for sexually transmitted diseases. “If you are not screening people for risk… and you’re not offering people who may be exposed to HIV PrEP, that kind of feels like malpractice to me,” Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the assistant commissioner in the city’s health department who oversees HIV programs, said at the town hall. “This is not just an idea, it’s an expectation.”
STIGMA, from p.16
“In general, trans people need to be prepped for PrEP,” said Carrie Davis, the Center’s chief programs and policy officer, but PrEP is just one of the things that they need. “They will need things like housing, they will need jobs,” Davis told the crowd of roughly 70 people who turned out for the town hall. When they seek PrEP, transgender people may be confronted with medical providers who do not wish to treat them or who may disapprove of their having sex. “We’ve all heard stories of trans people being discouraged,” Davis said. “We hear it more often than we expect. There’s a lot of provider ambivalence around sex.” Education about the need for PrEP, which is seeing modest increases in uptake, are key for all at-risk groups, including men who have sex with men and drug injectors. The first thing those populations may have to understand is that they are at risk for acquiring HIV and would benefit from using PrEP. “I would say that people don’t
think they have the risk,” Hogue said. Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the assistant commissioner in the city’s health department who oversees HIV programs, agreed. Prior to joining the health department, Daskalakis provided HIV testing and sexually transmitted disease screening in some of the city’s bathhouses and sex clubs. When he recruited men in those venues to participate in a PrEP study, a large number of men who had sufficient unprotected sex to qualify for the study did not think they were candidates for PrEP. “Seventy-eight percent of the people who qualified for the PrEP study didn’t think they needed PrEP,” Daskalakis said. Providing education can bring its own challenges. Tiffany does outreach in Jackson Heights LGBT bars and among the topics she discusses is PrEP, a topic that people may not want to confront when they are out dancing and drinking. “Some people don’t want to hear about stuff like that because they’re there to party,” she said.
USING TECHNOLOGY TO SUPPORT TREATMENT ADHERENCE AND ENGAGEMENT VillageCare, a New York City community-based, non-profit organization serving people with post-acute and chronic care needs,operates a unique program called “Rango.” Enrolling participants since April 1, 2015, Rango is a technology-based patient community that supports and improves self-management for people living with HIV/AIDS – currently supported by a Health Care Innovation Award from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “We all know that educated and activated patients have the best outcomes, but providers have long struggled with how to support that. Now, with Rango, we put the tools into the hands of the patients themselves,” said Emma DeVito, president and chief executive officer at VillageCare. Rango participants can access a variety of features at their discretion – and all with complete anonymitythrough an avatar alter-ego. Features include: • A Medication Cabinet and an Appointment Calendar, allowing patients to keep all their treatment information handy; • Text Reminders for taking medications, getting refills, and keeping appointments; • Community Discussion Boards on a variety of health and healthy living topics, where patients share their successes and challenges, and get advice and support from both their peers and professional Health Coaches; • Virtual Support Groups and Workshops, held by telephone and live chat, including a new popular option that supports Smoking Cessation; • Virtual Q&A with a Health Coach, to ask those ‘stupid questions’ that patients may not want to ask in a group, or even ask their doctor or case manager; • An ever-growing Article Library with easy-to-understand explanations about HIV/AIDS, common co-morbidities, nutritional tips, and lots of other information; • Matching to a trained Peer Mentor, who can help an individual through specific concerns over a longer period of time; and • Coming in March, 2016: access to a curated and comment-able Social Services Database.
of peer encouragement, appropriate education, personal reminders and professional adviceall in one easy-to-access package that patients are finding most valuable.” Individuals who are Medicare and/or Medicaid beneficiaries and have been prescribed medications for HIV/AIDS are eligible to participate. Participants can access Rango from any computer or smart phone with a username and password. Most features are also available via a standard cellphone. In addition to the suite of features for participants, VillageCare has also built a data warehouse that facilitates continuous improvement, and deliversaggregated feedback to its health care partners.“Rango serves as an important ‘tool in the toolbox’ to ensure compliance,” says Jerome Ernst, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Amida Care Health Plans. “If someone is highly challenged they can use Rango in collaboration with a care manager, or if someone is stable, they can continue independent education and support through Rango.” Health care partners currently include a mix of health plans, primary care providers, and community-based organizations. By the end of its first six months, Rango had enrolled more than 1,300 participants. Early feedback gives Rango extremely high scores in both ease of use and perceived helpfulness to managing health. As one participant posted: “Thank you Rango, I haven’t missed a dose since I started using this,” which was then followed by an outpouring of congratulations and encouragement, including one who chimed in that s/he was inspired by this example and has signed up for their own reminders. Rango is supported by Grant No. 1C1CMS331353-01-01 from the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or any of its agencies.
Rango is built on expertise in health behavior change and patient engagement, but it is not just for individuals who are struggling with compliance. “Rango creates a community of individuals facing similar issues,” notes Jessamine Buck, program director. “It is the combination
GayCityNews.nyc | November 26 - December 09, 2015
World AIDS Day 2015 Commemorative Event 1992 Syringe Exchange Program Approved in NYS
Council Details $6.6 Million Funding for Plan to End AIDS
Spending focuses on drug interventions for prevention as well as medication adherence for those living with HIV
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BY DUNCAN OSBORNE 2003 Rapid HIV Testing
2012 Integration of HIV Testing at MD visits 2015 Use of PrEP to prevent HIV
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oving on the Plan to End AIDS, the City Council will spend $6.6 million to fund pre-exposure and post-exposure prophylaxis programs and efforts to aid people with HIV in staying on anti-HIV drugs so they remain non-infectious. “This initiative will help continue to provide programs and education to raise awareness of this devastating epidemic,” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a joint November 23 statement with Corey Johnson, the openly gay and HIV-positive Council member who represents Chelsea. “It is critically important that all New Yorkers do their part to fight the spread of HIV/ AIDS. The more we take advantage of these resources, the closer we’ll get to ending the epidemic.” The plan, which was first proposed by leading AIDS groups in 2014, relies largely on using antiHIV drugs in HIV-positive and HIV-negative people to reduce the number of new HIV infections in New York State from the current roughly 3,000 a year to 750 annually by 2020. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) uses anti-HIV drugs in HIV-negative people to keep them uninfected. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) uses the same drugs in someone with a recent exposure to HIV to keep them uninfected. So-called treatment as prevention (TasP) uses anti-HIV drugs in HIV-positive people to keep them healthy and reduce the amount of virus in their bodies so they are no longer infectious. All three drug regimens are highly effective when used correctly “New York has a plan to end the HIV/ AIDS epidemic and now we’ve got to fund it,” said Johnson, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Health, in the statement.
City Councilmember Corey Johnson, the chair of the Health Committee.
“Every dollar of the Council’s $6.6 million contribution will bring us closer to achieving this goal.” More than 90 percent of new HIV infections in New York State are in the city, so the plan will only succeed with the city’s funding and participation. The Council money funds citywide PrEP programs run by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center and ACRIA, an AIDS group, and TasP efforts at Housing Works, which has been very successful in getting its clients into treatment and virally suppressed, and at Amida Care, a special needs health plan. The Council dollars will also fund PEP education and training. While little known, PEP is more than 20 years old and is currently used primarily by healthcare professionals who have an exposure to HIV, typically through an accidental needle stick. The money also funds HIV testing and efforts to link those who test positive to care so they can begin treatment. The $6.6 million comes from $2.7 million in City Council HIV dollars that have been repurposed and $3.9 million that was in the
COUNCIL, continued on p.29
November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
GayCityNews.nyc | November 26 - December 09, 2015
WORLD AIDS DAY 2015 MON.NOV.30 The ABCs of PrEP The Callen-Lorde Community Health Center and Amida Care have developed a six-part video series detailing what people should know about PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, a regimen of the drug Truvada that taken as prescribed is highly effective at preventing HIV infection. Tonight, Callen-Lorde, Amida, and the LGBT Community Center host the premiere of the series along with a panel discussion of experts moderated by Andrew Seaman, a senior medical journalist at Reuters Health. 208 W. 13th St.; 6 p.m. networking, 6:30 panel discussion and screening; 7:30 p.m. reception. RSVP at email@example.com.
TUE.DEC.1 From Vision to Reality: Together We Can End AIDS by 2020 The End AIDS NY 2020 Coalition, which includes more than 60 AIDS service and community-based organizations, medical providers, and the New York City Council Speaker’s Office, hosts the second annual “From Vision to Reality: Together We Can End AIDS by 2020” in commemoration of World AIDS Day. The event has three sections: (1) Embracing the Present, featuring a native American dance performance and an update on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Ending the AIDS Epidemic Blueprint; (2) Tracing the Past, featuring a memorial with the reading of names of people who have died of AIDS-related complications and a musical performance by the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus; and (3) Facing the Future, featuring speakers discussing populations disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS, such as young men of color who have sex with men, homeless/ unstably housed transgender women and men, injection drug users, cisgender women, and undocumented persons. The final section will close with a voguing performance by LGBT youth of color. Among those speaking are State Senators Brad Hoylman and Gustavo Rivera, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Councilmembers Corey Johnson and Stephen Levin, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Apollo Theater, 253 W. 125th St., btwn. Frederick Douglass & Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvds. 11 a.m.- 1 p.m.
TUE.DEC.1 It’s About Time: Together We Can End AIDS Mo Rocca, a correspondent for “CBS News Sunday Morning” moderates a panel discussion about the latest advances in prevention, the coming battles in advocacy, and the challenges that can be overcome through united efforts. The panel includes Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the city health commissioner, Dr. Mark Feinberg, CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, Charles King, CEO of Housing Works and co-chair of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s AIDS Task Force, Kelsey Louie, CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis and a member of the AIDS Task Force, and Chase Strangio, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union. Housing Works Bookstore Café, 126 Crosby St., btwn. Houston & Prince Sts. 6:30 for cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, 7-8:30 panel. RSVP at EndAIDSTogether.Eventbrite.com.
THU.DEC.3 When Dogs Heal In honor of World AIDS Day, the LGBT Community Center presents “When Dogs Heal,” a storytelling project about the healing power of canine companions within the HIV-positive community. View touching portraits by the nationally acclaimed fine art dog photographer Jesse Freiden, accompanied by personal accounts of how canine companions have helped the community stay healthy, hopeful, and supported. 208 W. 13th St. The exhibit runs from Nov. 24 into the New Year. Reception is Dec. 3, 6:30 p.m. RSVP at gaycenter.org/whendogsheal/register.
SUN.DEC.6 United in Anger: A History of ACT UP
TUE.DEC.1 Benson AIDS Series Named for the late Eric Benson, a gifted composer, performer, and writer, the Benson AIDS Series features songs by composers who died of AIDS, including Chris de Blasio, Kevin Oldham, Richard Jetter, and Robert Chesley. The program also features songs from Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” and “A
Simple Song,” the first movement of Copland’s “Sonata #1 for Violin and Piano,” the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra,” and music by Schubert and Gluck. The program is produced by Downtown Music Productions, with Mimi Stern-Wolfe on piano and guest violinist and counter-tenor Marshall Coid. Middle Collegiate Church, Second Ave. at Seventh St., 7 p.m. Suggested donation is $15. Information at 212-477-1594.
The Bureau of General Services — Queer Division and the LGBT Community Center present a screening of “United in Anger: A History of ACT UP,” director Jim Hubbard and producer Sarah Schulman’s 2012 documentary. Both are on hand for a discussion following the screening. 208 W. 13th St., room 301. 6 p.m. Suggested donation is $5.
November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
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Lesbian Adoptive Mom Turns to US Supreme Court After Alabama Defeat At issue is Alabama Supreme Court’s unprecedented refusal to recognize Georgia adoption BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD
ttorneys for the adoptive mother of children bor n to her for mer same-sex partner have asked the US Supreme Court to review a decision by the Alabama Supreme Court that refused recognition of the adoption, which was approved by the Georgia Superior Court. The attorneys also asked the high court to restore her visitation rights while the appeal is pending by suspending the Alabama Supreme Court’s order in the case. The petitions on behalf of V.L. were filed on November 16 by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and cooperating attorneys from Jenner & Block LLP in Washington and local counsel Traci Owen Vella and Heather Fann in Birmingham, Alabama. V.L. and E.L. lived together in a
OKLAHOMA, from p.15
The court’s decision is not without precedent in other jurisdictions, where courts have used various equitable doctrines to establish standing for a samesex co-parent to seek continued contact with the child he or she was helping to raise. But some states, including New York, have refused to embrace this equitable route. The New York courts still adhere to the now-anachronistic 1991 Alison D. v. Virginia M. ruling by the Court of Appeals, the state’s
Action Changes Things
17-year relationship in Alabama. In 2000, V.L. changed her last name to E.L.’s and the women decided to have and raise children together. E.L. gave birth to one child in 2002 and twins in 2004 through donor insemination. The women played equal parental roles in raising the kids. In order to give
This startling result drew a sharp dissent from a member of that court, who wrote that it “creates a dangerous precedent that calls into question the finality of adoptions in Alabama.” the family’s relationships greater security, they temporarily rented a home in Atlanta in order for V.L. to obtain a legal adoption from the Fulton County Superior Court. The Georgia judge construed that
highest bench, which treated a co-parent as a “legal stranger” to the child who has no right to seek custody or visitation. We now have the anomalous situation that the Oklahoma Supreme Court is more progressive on gay family law than the New York Court of Appeals! Brady R. Henderson of the ACLU of Oklahoma Foundation and Oklahoma City attorney Rhonda G. Telford Naidu represented Ramey on this appeal. Sutton was represented by Oklahoma City attorney Kacey L. Huckabee.
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state’s adoption law to allow second-parent adoptions without terminating the birth mother’s parental rights, as several other Georgia trial courts have also done. No Georgia appeals court has ruled against such adoptions, and the State Supreme Court has not addressed the issue directly.
After the adoption, the women returned to Alabama. When they later separated, E.L. eventually cut off V.L.’s contact with the children. V.L. registered the adoption with an Alabama court and filed an action seeking custody or visitation. The Alabama trial and appellate courts concluded that V.L. must be recognized as an adoptive parent entitled to assert her claims. On September 18, however, E.L. won a reversal from the Alabama Supreme Court. The lower Alabama courts applied the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which requires that the courts of one state accord “full faith and credit” to the judgments issued by courts in other states. More than a century of well-established court precedents provide that courts may not refuse to accord full faith and credit to a sister state court’s ruling because of a disagreement over the merits of that ruling. The limited exception to full faith and credit would be cases where the court that issued the judgment did not have jurisdiction to do so, either because the court was not authorized to decide such cases or because the parties were not properly within the jurisdiction of the court. In this case, the Georgia Superior Court had specifically concluded that it had jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter of the case. Indeed, Georgia statutes provide that the Superior Court has jurisdiction over all adoption proceedings.
A majority of the Alabama Supreme Court, however, departing from established constitutional precedents, decided based on its own reading of Georgia’s adoption statute that the Georgia law could not properly be construed to allow second-parent adoptions. The Alabama high court decided that the Georgia Superior Court’s departure from its interpretation of the Georgia adoption statute is a “jurisdictional” fault that justifies refusing to recognize the adoption. This startling result drew a sharp dissent from a member of that court, who wrote that it “creates a dangerous precedent that calls into question the finality of adoptions in Alabama: Any irregularity in a probate court’s decision in an adoption would now arguably create a defect in that court’s subject matter jurisdiction.” V.L.’s attorney, in their petition to the US Supreme Court, argued that the Alabama Supreme Court’s departure from established constitutional precedent requires a resolution of whether state courts are permitted to inquire into the merits of rulings by sister state courts in deciding whether to accord full faith and credit to those judgments, particularly in adoption cases where the result would interfere with family relationships that had been established and then legally ratified in completed adoption proceedings. The attorneys noted a 10th Circuit ruling that invalidated an Oklahoma statute that barred recognition of same-sex couple adoptions, holding that the law violated the obligation of Oklahoma courts under the full faith and credit clause to recognize such adoption judgments. V.L., who had enjoyed visitation rights with her children under lower court rulings in Alabama, had those rights suspended by that state’s high court. She is seeking to have those rights restored pending her appeal and is looking to have the right to return to an Alabama trial court, which would determine whether the children’s best interests are served by giving their legal adoptive mother custody or visitation rights.
November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
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#Rentboy Raid Town Hall Concludes Real Problem Is Street Worker Harassment Race is key to police action say panelists, with some arguing website shutdown a “white cis gay privilege” concern BY DUNCAN OSBORNE
oward the end of a more than hour -long panel discussion at the #Rentboy Raid town hall, Mitchyll Mora, the moderator, asked the three panelists to comment on the August 25 raid that shut down the male escort website and resulted in the arrests of its seven employees for violating the federal Travel Act. “Basically, for me, it means privilege,” said Monica Jones, who was representing the Best Practices Policy Project, a group that advocates for sex workers. “It comes from the white cis gay privilege.” The November 11 event, which was held at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, was intended to leverage the national attention that the raid received and bring focus to the concerns of a broader population of sex workers, including women and transgender people. The subhead on the town hall was “The #Rentboy Raid Is Every Day” so Jones’ posture was not a complete surprise. Still, it was not at all clear how dismissing the experience of the seven employees, who face up to five years in prison,
Mitchyll Mora, Monica Jones, Jenna Torres, and Brendan Conner on the November 11 #Rentboy Raid panel.
and the thousands of escorts, who saw their livelihood impaired or perhaps even ended when rentboy.com was shut down, will expand any conversation about sex work. A second panelist was equally unsympathetic. “It happens to us every day,” said Jenna Torres, an organizer at the Red Umbrella Project, which also advocates for sex workers. Brendan Conner, the third panelist and a former rentboy.com advertiser, did represent the views of the escorts on that site and discuss his conversations with some of the escorts as a staff member at Streetwise and Safe, a youth advocacy group. Mora, who is also on staff at Streetwise and Safe, and Conner
EQUAL PROTECTION, from p.10
the first in the Second Circuit to conclude that heightened scrutiny applied to transgender equal protection claims, it could not come into play against the individual police officer defendants in the case. Under the “qualified immunity” doctrine, individual public officials can be held liable for constitutional violations only when they violate established rights, not rights newly-identified in the case in which they are being sued. “Accordingly, defendants could not be expected to know that their actions could be subject to any standard more stringent than rational basis review,” Rakoff wrote. Although Rakoff refrained from deciding whether Adkin’s complaint would survive a motion to dismiss using rational basis review, he concluded that it would have been “objectively reasonable for defendant [officers] to conclude” that it would not, so “qualified immunity” applies in their cases. The qualified immunity doctrine, however, does not protect the city as a defendant, Rakoff found. In order to hold the city liable, Adkins would have to plausibly allege a practice or policy of discriminatory treatment of transgender detainees. “Plaintiff has
were the primary organizers of the town hall, but under the rubric of the #HookUp Collaborative, an adhoc group that formed after the rentboy.com raid, and not as staff from Streetwise and Safe. The town hall was endorsed by ACT UP New York, which launched the gofundme.com page to pay expenses for the event at Conner’s request. The panelists and Mora were effective in advocating for their own views and experience. All the participants were former sex workers who have since left the business, but continue to work on behalf of sex workers. They shared a pronounced pessimism about efforts by government to aid sex workers, notably the Human Trafficking
alleged that both eyewitness accounts and internal police documents show the existence of a specific pattern of misconduct, viz., handcuffing transgender detainees to railings, and further show official inaction in the face of this pattern,” he wrote. “Plaintiff claims that an internal NYPD recommendation called for changes in the department’s treatment of transgender people, but the NYPD chain of command took no steps in response to it. He claims that numerous transgender people detained by the NYPD have alleged they were chained to railings,” citing, among other things, a 2007 deposition by a transgender man who had been subject to such treatment. Rakoff ruled that Adkins’ allegations were sufficient to survive the city’s motion to dismiss his claim, finding that he had “nudged his claims across the line from conceivable to plausible. Adkins’ claim against the city for violating his rights under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, therefore, may go to trial if the city does not offer an acceptable settlement. Andrea Juanita Ritchie, a Brooklyn attorney, represents Adkins. The City Law Department attorneys working on the case are Dara Lynn Weiss and Cheryl Leah Shammas.
Intervention Courts (HTIC), which began in New York in 2013. Each borough in the city has an HTIC court and there are others in six counties outside the city. Some advocates for sex workers have rejected these courts saying they treat victims like criminals by bringing them into court in handcuffs and then requiring that they participate in counseling or job programs under the threat of being rearrested if they miss appointments. Participants who comply with the mandated programs get their prostitution arrests dismissed. “They need money, they need housing, they need jobs,” Torres said. “They need stability in their lives… Sex work isn’t an illness. It’s not a moral issue. It’s economic.” The panelists shared the view that the prostitution arrests were akin to the police department’s use of stop and frisk. The data on stop and frisk shows that police overwhelmingly targeted young African-American and Latino men. Similarly, the panelists argued that police target African-American women and transgender women for prostitution arrests. In his opening remarks, Mora likened the criminal justice response to prostitution to slavery and the “forced removal of indigenous people” in that it is “designed to police our bodies.” One striking point in the evening was the discussion about legalization of sex work versus the decriminalization of sex work. Legalization was opposed by the panelists. Decriminalization was their preference, because with legalization comes government regulation of the industry that could result in many current sex workers being barred from the work. “The word decriminalization is meant to be expansive,” Jones said. “Legalization often comes with its own exclusionary policies.” Torres shared that view saying, “What ultimately we need to do is decriminalize sex work. That’s what needs to happen… I think legalization is about privilege.” Roughly 75 people attended the event, and about 30 stayed to discuss possible solutions in two small groups.
November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
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HEALTH, from p.8
opportunities that do exist. “We need to find employers who want to take a leadership role, similar to what we do with LGBT youth,” Davis said. “But opportunities won’t help if you’re not prepared. We need to work with people to populate their résumés, learn how to interview, and catch up with their education. It’s about taking responsibility for their own lives, which I think they are already doing.” The Center is about to roll out an employment readiness program for its transgender clients. For now, as with many start-up initiatives, the effort is funded by private donor support, but government funders will certainly pay attention if the program can demonstrate results. All of which is helpful for other advocates, like ESPA’s McMor row. He said that the Legislature’s support for the LGBT Health and Human Services Network has been steady in recent years at just under $5 million, with the AIDS Institute kicking in several hundred thousand dollars more. The overall study that Strength in Numbers produced could be helpful in trying to grow that funding level in the future. Given that the funding is spread over 54 groups statewide, McMorrow did not have a ready answer on how much of the $5 million serves transgender New Yorkers, but he said the results of the current report make clear that “a larger proportion should go to transgender services.” Several legislators on hand when the report was announced on November 20 spoke to its significance. “This study is really profound,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay West Side Democrat. “These statistics really give power to us to understand why so many transgender people are treated the way they are because they are disempowered. This is going to be very important as we start the budget process.” Hoylman’s view was echoed by West Village Assemblymember Deborah Glick, an out lesbian Democrat, and the two Democrats who sponsor the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, Chelsea Assemblymember Dick Gottfried and Lower Manhattan-Brownstone Brooklyn Senator Daniel Squadron.
TRIBUTE ARTISTS OF: Tina Turner, Prince, Lady Gaga & Rod Stewart
Daniela Simba talks about overcoming employment obstacles during the November 20 press conference.
What comes next in the effort to enact GENDA is unclear. Gottfried is the most adamant about the need to keep pushing, noting that Cuomo’s order could potentially be undone by a future governor and that the new interpretation of the Human Rights Law does not extend protections under the state’s hate crime law to the transgender community. Nobody has contradicted Gottfried in his continued commitment to GENDA, but others have emphasized both the strength of the governor’s recent action and the need to focus advocacy efforts on what can be achieved. “I’m really impressed with the power of the governor’s order,” the Center’s Davis said. “I want to look at what is there, how easily can it be overturned. Wouldn’t it be foolish to do otherwise?” Still, she acknowledged that the legislation remains an important goal. “We haven’t been able to pass GENDA and that’s hurtful,” Davis said. McMorrow at ESPA captured the essence of what many are saying about GENDA’s future. “I think generally everyone says GENDA should pass,” he said, but the immediate concern is protecting the governor’s action, which he described as “a big leap for transgender rights.” ESPA is urging allies and advocates to register their support for the new regulations during the Division of Human Rights’ public comment period that ends in mid-December. Saying “we are not abandoning” GENDA, McMorrow acknowledged that as long as the Republicans keep control of the State Senate, the terrain “does not seem fer tile.” For 2016 advocacy efforts on behalf of the transgender community, he said, the key question is establishing “priorities.”
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Steamed, Grilled, or Raw The happy, sexy surprises to be found at a West Village joint called Fish BY DONNA MINKOWITZ
e cracked the lobster’s claws together and shoved the meat in our mouths. There was drawn butter all over the table and my hands. My wife kept slipping me more freshkilled meat. “You need to keep your strength up.” I pulled off one of the lobster’s legs and sucked the little hole, marveling. I’d never found a Homarus americanus worth going after the minuscule meat in its legs before. This inexpensive one on Bleecker Street was worth thrusting one way, then the other, wrenching, cracking, drawing out with your teeth, and sucking. Fish Restaurant is the opposite of a fancy place. On the mirror over the bar it says, “Please throw your peanut shells on the floor,” and people do. Cute, un-well-heeled diners of all colors seek out crab, oysters, and clams in the somewhat narrow space, where a table in the front is disturbingly made level with a now-filthy cloth napkin shoved under its leg. I don’t order steamed lobsters outside of Rhode Island or Massachusetts all that often, because I expect to be disappointed. They are usually (a) rubbery or (b) untenably expensive for what is actually happening in your mouth. But the lobster dinner at Fish (a “market price,” often $29, includes fries, corn on the cob, and clams) was served piping hot, straight out of the pot, and cooked for exactly the right amount of time. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a lobster more, not even on Block Island, where nearly every shellfish served could make you go out of your mind. That lobstery taste — a mixture of labia, mushroom, and nipple (and then all of those flavors, dipped in butter) — was the best thing I’ve had in many years. The 1 1/4 pounds of it went wonderfully with Fish’s prosecco (Pergolo, $11 a glass; other terrific wines can be had for $7-$9). I have to say straight out that the three small half-ears of corn on the plate tasted like packing peanuts.
Fish Restaurant promises that at least one of these things is on the menu. Who knows, maybe more than one.
They were overcooked and had been kept far away from butter or salt. If the waiter lets you, substitute one of the excellent green-vegetable sides (sautéed spinach was a delicate, garlicky marvel, and collard greens were Southern and ripe). But the fries were great and crispy, and the three top-neck clams (not steamers as the menu claimed, but better, in my view) had been prepared with a very light touch and were probably the best steamed clams I’ve ever had. On a second visit, I got what was called an appetizer portion of steamed King Crab legs ($22), which, most oddly for Manhattan, was large enough to serve as my dinner entrée. The taste was more delicate than lobster but just as sexy. Lesbians and gay men, come on down and sample that ephemeral, moist, froggy, genital taste. It was rich and peculiar dipped in a little drawn butter, and completely satisfying. The crab turned out to be so far superior to the $45-$60 version served at the yuppie Village restaurant Fatty Crab that it could make you organize a demonstration at the latter. It came with an unlikely, delicious, and very fresh salad of field greens and tomatoes. Where did this place come from, table-balancing dirty napkin, cheap
wonders, and all? It was opened in 1998 by local seafood distributor Edward Taylor and initially intended as a fine-dining joint. But when the original chef, his business partner, left two years later, Taylor, who got his start storing clams in the basement of the apartment house where he lived on Christopher Street, decided to change it up. “I wanted it to be a simple, simple seafood place, as reasonably priced as possible,” he said in a recent interview. The former porter, Christian Perez, became the chef. A straight man who lived in the then-gayest part of the city for 30 years, Taylor has beautifully windswept, slightly long gray hair and dark eyes, like a handsome version of Captain Ahab. He now divides his time between Gay Street and Purdy’s in Westchester, and owns Down East Seafood, which supplies over 200 restaurants and caterers. Down East has more than 70 employees in its 17,000-foot location in the South Bronx, and Taylor says many are gay men, leading to a new tradition in the warehouse: every Friday is Tiara Day. Women, including Taylor’s current business partner, Tanya Maczko, are also leading figures in the company. Alas, not everything at Fish is delicious. You can get awesome fried clams at just about every
cheap joint on the coast from Connecticut to Maine, but here they are a bready abomination ($15 for an appetizer, $26 for an entrée with two sides). Canned potato chips and diner oatmeal (these clams taste like a combination of them) would be more worth the calories. And we actually bit down on big pieces of clamshell that had been breaded accidentally and somehow lost among those poor, bread-smothered nubs of clam. Dine at Fish anyway. Fried calamari ($14) were only okay, but the fried hush puppies served with a blackened catfish dinner (good, $21, and including the collard greens) were complex and terrific. In addition to fried seafood, I would advise you to avoid the soups. Seafood gumbo had lovely, fresh shrimp and one nice oyster, but the soup base itself was bland, gummy, and weirdly spiced, and did not blend with the proteins. The gumbo definitely wasn’t worth $8 for a cup ($10 for a bowl). The New England clam chowder was even worse, with hardly any clams and an overly thin broth. In general, I’d advise you to steer clear of items on the menu that are not steamed, grilled, or raw. This is probably one of the best places in the city to get raw oysters and clams. A popular special, available at all hours, gets you half a dozen clams or Blue Point oysters, along with an excellent chardonnay or merlot or a Pabst Blue Ribbon, for $9. The clams were fantastic, the Blue Points only okay, a little smaller and less meaty than usual. Both came with two phenomenal sauces, housemade cocktail sauce more subtle and less sweet than many and a reddish mignonette that was the best I’ve tried. I’ve never been a big fan of Blue Points anyway, and would suggest going with more exotic oysters, like West Coast Kumamotos ($2.75 each) or Fanny Bays ($2.25), or Wellfleets ($2) or Spinney Creeks ($2). All the oysters are wonderfully cheap, evidently a result of Taylor sourcing them himself. (The Blue Points, if you like them, are only $1.25.) As I’m trying to get across, this is
LOBSTER ROLL, continued on p.29
November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
COUNCIL, from p.18
budget for the current fiscal year. The de Blasio administration contributed an additional $1.9 million in the current fiscal year. The Cuomo administration spent $10 million for the plan, an amount that was well below what advocates were seeking. The budget for the state fiscal year, which began on April 1, spent $5 million for a program to help PrEP users pay for the drug regimen and another $5 million to fund various other components of the program. According to a June email sent from David Lara, a deputy director in the state Division of the Budget, to Alphonso David, a senior member of the Cuomo administration, $7.5 million of the $10 million was funded by Medicaid and $2.5 million was new spending from the general fund. The email was among 127 pages of records that Gay City News obtained from the City Council in response to an open records request. Among the roughly two dozen community groups funded by the Council are GMHC, Harlem United, the Ali Forney Center, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, the Latino
LOBSTER ROLL, from p.28
a great date restaurant, much more so than any joint with a snooty maître d’. Waitstaff are friendly and helpful (plastic bibs are handed out with the lobsters, and wait and bar staff give honest advice when asked). The place can get crowded, especially on weekend nights, so it’s best to go early. One sophisticated dish, a scallop ceviche with tomato and jalapeno, was fresh and surprisingly good ($14 and enormous, like all the appetizers here). But my most startling dish at Fish was a so-called tuna salad sandwich at lunch ($16). I love tuna in almost all its forms, including the
Commission on AIDS, the Apicha Community Health Center, the AIDS Center of Queens County, and BOOM!Health in the Bronx. The money also pays for programs at major city hospitals, including a PrEP pilot program for adolescents at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. “I am thrilled by the leader ship shown by the New York City Council, creating a new initiative to fund Ending the AIDS Epidemic efforts in New York City,” Charles King, the chief executive at Housing Works, said in the statement. “Both Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Health Committee Chair Corey Johnson deserve credit for not only carefully tracking the recommendations made by the Ending the Epidemic Taskforce in its Blue Print, but also funding the priorities developed by the community.” King is credited, along with Mark Harrington, the head of the Treatment Action Group, with developing the Plan to End AIDS. King has negotiated much of the funding and details of the plan with the city and state. The statement also included laudatory quotes from another seven groups.
canned stuff with mayonnaise on rye. But this grilled variety, roughly chopped and very lightly infiltrated with mayo on a split bun, was like an elite lobster roll or crab roll that had somehow happened to a tuna. It tasted of the sea and our bodies, and was sexy in a way I have never found tuna salad before. Fish Restaurant, 280 Bleecker Street at Jones Street (fishrestaurant.nyc; 212-727-2879) is open Sunday-Thursday, noon to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday, noon to midnight, and does not take reservations. The entrance is narrow, and bathrooms are down a long flight of stairs.
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Upstate Maloney’s Egregious Refugee Vote BY PAUL SCHINDLER Anyone who wonders whether Congressmember Sean Patrick Maloney regrets having given up his days and evenings as a Manhattan attorney in exchange for the life of a minority party House member sitting through long DC committee hearings and weekending in his upstate district to attend pancake breakfasts and ribbon-cuttings should consider just what the out gay Democrat is willing to do to keep his job. Last week, the Republican House, in a wildly zenophobic reaction to the Paris tragedy, voted essentially to shut down the entry of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the US by imposing — on top of already zealous screening procedures — the requirement that the head of the FBI, the secretary of Homeland Security, and the director of National Intelligence personally certify that each refugee poses no threat to national security. Democrats who opposed the measure argued that the personal certification requirement was a cumbersome, infeasible requirement that would effectively block the Obama administration’s plan to allow entry of 10,000 Syrian refugees fleeing the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in their homeland. Those voting for the measure ignored pleas to consider the plight of women, children, and the elderly who are flooding into Turkey and from
there Europe. The president rightly termed the GOP action “hysteria.” This hysteria, of course, has in good measure been “trumped” up by GOP presidential hopefuls, who have wildly inflated the number of refugees headed here — the Donald has used the figure 250,000, with no shame — and the prospective dangers they pose. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has pledged to use the threat of a filibuster to forestall action there. The surety that the refugee measure would remain a “one-house bill” may have comforted the almost four dozen Democrats who deserted the president to vote with the GOP, nearly giving the measure a veto-proof margin. With Senate action unlikely, House Democrats may have been given leave by their party leaders to cast a “political” vote. There are issues, however, where the ethical considerations should outweigh any political calculus and this is certainly one of them. Maloney was one of the 47 Democratic defectors, and bad as his vote was, his explanation for it was even more egregious: “Our nation has long stood as a beacon of freedom, but after the events of the last few weeks some leaders have given into fear and turned their backs on refugees. These actions are reprehensible, and present a false choice between our values and our security. It’s understandable that people are scared, and Americans have a right to know that the process we use to screen refugees will keep
us safe. I have faith in our system, and I don’t believe these refugees — the overwhelming majority of whom are women, elderly, and children — threaten our communities or national security. So instead of slowing the program or pausing it, the administration should agree to immediately certify refugees if they pass the current extensive screenings and we should all refocus on actual threats.” Maloney’s assertion that the refugee program can continue despite the legislation’s new constraints is disingenuous, and his effort to distance himself from what he terms the “reprehensible” actions of his allies on this bill is, in itself, reprehensible. One reader of Maloney’s Facebook posting of his statement — skimming it, clearly — “liked” it, under the false impression that Maloney had stood up to the GOP’s efforts to block refugees. That misimpression probably troubles the congressmember little. Two years ago, Maloney was one of nine Democrats who voted with the Republicans when they shut down the government in their effort to scuttle Obamacare. Despite the fact that he first won his House seat narrowly during the 2012 election, when the president swept New York State and outperformed him in his 18th congressional district, Maloney has repeatedly distanced himself from Obama, while routinely calling himself a Clinton Democrat. Beyond that glibly convenient characterization, Maloney really needs to figure out exactly what kind of Democrat he is and what the heck he is doing in Washington. And it would be reassuring if Hillary Clinton could demonstrate that she is not a Maloney Democrat.
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PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus
GOP Hopefuls Cozy Up to Kill-the-Gays Pastor: Where’s the Outrage?
BY ED SIKOV
arlier this month, in Des Moines, the prominent home-schooling advocate and pastor Kevin Swanson again called for the punishment of homosexuality by death. To be clear, he added that the time for eliminating America’s gay population was ‘not yet’ at hand. We must wait for the nation to embrace the one true religion, he suggested, and gay people must be allowed to repent and convert.”
So began a New York Times op-ed piece on November 16. Penned by Katherine Stewart, the short essay continued with a detail that must have come as a surprise to people who get their news only from the Times: “Mr. Swanson proposed this at the National Religious Liberties Conference, an event he organized. Featured speakers included three Republican contenders for the presidency: the former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Governor Bobby
MEDIA CIRCUS, continued on p.33
November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
PERSPECTIVE: A Dyke Abroad
The Paris Attacks BY KELLY COGSWELL
’ve been trying to write a piece about Paris since the attacks happened here 10 days ago. I’m not sure what I can add. Or if I should. Silence is underrated. Especially these days when even the posts by people who lost sisters or brothers or lovers begin to sound the same, but somehow still get you in the guts. Then, of course, there is the “if only” brigade. “If only the crowd had been armed,” said Donald Trump. “If only the French government hadn’t been involved in Syria,” said, it seemed, everybody on the left. Both are sure that the actions or inactions of France and other big Western powers somehow pushed the terrorists to do it. No matter that the (minimal) French role in Syria and elsewhere seemed like an afterthought in ISIS’ post-attack statement. Their obsession with Paris was in its role as “the capital of prostitution and vice.” Instructively, the cafés and
concert hall they chose to attack had nothing to do with the heavy-handed power of the French state, and everything to do with a neighborhood in which genders, races, and religions mix. Which means the attacks on Paris were not a reprise of 9/11, but more of a continuation of the Islamic State’s own campaigns in Iraq and Syria. Or attacks by Boko Haram in West Africa, where the real issue is often the refusal of other Muslims to embrace extremist strains of their religion marked by the literal enslavement and rape of women and the spectacle of tossing gay men off of cliffs. If we insist on talking about foreign meddling, let us at least mention how Saudi money finances extremist mosques in places like Molenbeek, Belgium, nurturing the likes of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, presumed mastermind of the Paris attacks. The guy looks so fucking happy to be holding a gun in all the snapshots on the news, and positively ecstatic in that video shot in Syria where he got to kill a bunch of rival Muslims, then drag them behind his truck.
Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.
PERSPECTIVE: On the Public Health Frontier
A Chelsea Clinic for the 21st Century BY WILLIAM A. SMITH
umbers released last week from the Centers for Disease Control and Pr evention indicate that we are experiencing a major explosion in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) across the country. At the same time, STD clinics in too many communities have been permanently shuttered due to budget cuts while incorrect assumptions are being made that the expansion of insurance coverage makes publicly funded STD clinics unnecessary. Thankfully, in New York City, the health department is going through a process of renovating STD clinics, doubling down on ensuring they don't just survive, but that they become centers of excellence providing the highest quality sexual health care to patients in need. The Chelsea STD Clinic is well known to be a center for crucial HIV and STD services for New Yorkers and especially the LGBTQ community; its recent closure has made headlines, and community protests and frustrations have been aired and heard by city offi-
cials. But the story that has been buried under those headlines are the precautions that were taken to avoid the eventual clinic closure, the diligent efforts to temporarily redirect services with available resources, and the great need for clinic renovations to provide higher quality health services to the community it serves. Chelsea Clinic is one of nine New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) STD clinics in the city that provide free or low-cost STD and HIV services. It is the latest in a series of STD clinic renovations by the DOHMH to improve patient experience and clinical services. Anyone who has visited the Chelsea Clinic in recent years knows that it had been in dire need of major renovation and additional space for its growing patient needs. However, in knowing the importance of the Chelsea clinic as it serves a population with a high burden of HIV and other STDs, DOHMH initially developed renovation plans that would allow for clinic services to continue in one end of the clinic as the other end was being restored.
GayCityNews.nyc | November 26 - December 09, 2015
An unfortunate and unexpected obstacle to this initial plan appeared when construction began and conditions for employees were found to be not workable. Grievances were filed and the DOHMH was forced to quickly alter its plan to address these grievances for the safety of the clinic staff and the patients. As a result, the DOHMH had to close the STD clinic and work quickly to ensure that Chelsea’s vital services could be re-directed and remain available to patients. The resulting challenges that DOHMH faced in relocating its services is a perfect example of how the public health infrastructure is hanging on by a tenuous thread. DOHMH made significant efforts to relocate clinic activities to another location in the Chelsea neighborhood (such as renting temporary space), but, with a limited budget and resources, was not successful. In addition to working quickly to notify patients, providers, elected officials, and community-based organizations of the clinic closure, DOHMH developed a comprehensive plan for accessing services during the renovation:
• Effective March 31, 2015, DOHMH relocated its Chelsea services temporarily to Riverside Health Center, where they will remain during the course of the renovation. • DOHMH maintains a presence with its “concierge van” located at the southwest corner of 28th Street and Ninth Avenue, which currently operates five days/ week (Monday-Friday), 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. NYC DOHMH concierge van staff can guide clients to complete, low/ no cost STD and HIV testing and treatment services housed in the Chelsea community, or at an adjacent mobile van operated by a community health provider that provides on-site STD and HIV care, or at one of the other eight DOHMH STD clinics located throughout the city. Cognizant of winter, the DOHMH is actively looking to transfer the concierge van services to a building facility. • For many years, DOHMH has funded STD screening at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), and the Asian Pacific
CHELSEA, continued on p.32
PERSPECTIVE: The Long View
Drug Reformers Take Stock of Attitudes Moving Their Way BY NATHAN RILEY
nderneath the jubilant mood that swept through last week’s Drug Policy Alliance international conference in Washington was a realization that the campaign to respect the human rights of drug users is proceeding slowly, even as marijuana legalization picks up speed. Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, campaigned for marijuana legalization. Colorado’s experience with open sale shows no jump in youthful toking while tax revenues climb. Three other states — Alaska, Washington, and Oregon — also legalized. Next year, there will be a referendum to enact legalization in California, and Bernie Sander has made legal pot a plank in his campaign for president. One United States senator sent greetings and two members of Congress spoke to the plenary session of the leading drug reform organization. A working majority exists in Congress to permit states to liberalize marijuana laws. State’s rights is no longer solely a conservative catch phrase, it is a new haven for progressive causes, as well. Har m reduction measures like needle exchanges now enjoy bipartisan support in the wake of the largest HIV outbreak in Indiana’s history. More than 160 people tested positive in rural Scott County — most of the cases linked to injection drug use. Suddenly, Republicans dropped their opposition to the distribution of sterile needles for injecting users. Cory Booker, the Democratic senator from New Jersey, sent televised greetings endorsing the philosophy of drug reform. Hakeem Jeffries from Brooklyn enthused over the bipartisan support for drug law sentencing reform. Jeffries did not look like a man who wanted to be
CHELSEA, from p.31
Islander Coalition on HIV/ AIDS (APICHA). These activities will continue, and have recently been augmented: GMHC is now funded to provide additional STD screening. • Sites already funded by DOHMH for sexual and behavioral health activities will receive additional funding to continue to provide full STD screening,
mayor, but sounded pleased to be in Congress. Earl Blumenauer, another Democrat, from Portland, Oregon, spoke with pride of his state’s decision to allow marijuana purchases, vindicating a position he endorsed decades ago. New York City is gathering the courage to combat HIV infections among homeless and destitute drug users. Quietly, preliminary steps are being taken to allow safe injection facilities. Injecting in public parks, underneath bridges, behind garbage cans leads to reuse of needles and facilitates transmission of the viruses causing HIV and Hepatitis C. A study demonstrates the likelihood of both increased arrests and adverse health outcomes when users inject in public places like restaurant bathrooms. Dan O’Connell, director of the New York State Health Department’s AIDS Institute, and Dr. Mary Bassett, the city health commissioner, both appeared in a documentary that was favorable to the creation of health facilities for injecting users where a nurse is present. In Vancouver, where millions of injections have occurred in such facilities, no overdose has led to a death — even when a batch of overly potent street heroin led to 16 ODs in two days. Zero fatalities in an attractive outcome and particularly compelling to New York officials, who have witnessed an increase in overdose deaths here since 2010. Unreasoned fear, however, still provokes punitive solutions. While efforts to remove the stigma surrounding drug use build, the rise of a synthetic marijuana that can cause serious side-effects has led to new demands for criminal prosecution and almost no calls for legalizing real weed, which would take the market away from this dangerous product. In California, the fight for over-the-counter sales of marijuana will be decided by the tenor of the 2016 campaign debate. If the legalization measure becomes identified with “let’s party
PEP, PrEP evaluation, and treatment for STD for the uninsured near the Chelsea Clinic site. There is no denying that this is not an ideal solution, but with the unexpected closure DOHMH made sustainable decisions that fit within the scope of its budget and capacity. As the national organization representing public health department STD programs and their clin-
ics across the country, we stand behind the decisions made by the New York City DOHMH and, in particular, in ensuring that STD clinics like the Chelsea Clinic are being modernized to provide the absolute best care when such clinics in too many other cities are being shuttered for good. William A. Smith is the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors.
hearty,” it will fail. About 30 percent of California voters are undecided, so whichever side captures the support of swing voters will win the election. Many Latino and black voters are on the fence. Success will depend on smokers making a sensible case for their habit and a campaign that credibly argues that controlling marijuana will be fairer and more effective with legalization. The indefatigable Harry Levine, whose research exposed the racial bias in the New York City Police Department’s pot busts, warned that real progress doesn’t come from new laws. In 1977, New York decriminalized pot and even with this liberal law on the books, the city became the marijuana arrest capital of the world due to a “public view” exception. Policing strategies and tactics undermined progressive policies and led to racially biased enforcement. The Alliance is well aware that even after reforms take effect, the police may shift priorities to crimes like open container laws, riding bicycles on the sidewalk, and others — and continue racially biased enforcement. Ethan Nadelmann, the Alliance’s executive director, is making a determined effort to partner with Black Lives Matter. The group was invited to the confab and time was set aside for socializing. This group, whose stature keeps growing, directly challenges law enforcement’s control over the bodies of people of color. They make a more fundamental challenge to racism than any law making pot legal. The Drug Policy Alliance’s objective is to make the world understand that drug use is normal and appreciate the humanity of users. This is an international movement. In April, the UN General Assembly will review treaties criminalizing drug use. The referendums legalizing pot in the US have reverberated in Latin America. Uruguay adopted legalization, and the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting possession violated the human rights of pot smokers. The underground drug markets in Latin America cause violent crime waves that shake the foundations of society, so the shift in Latin American opinion was a big factor in creating a majority calling for the General Assembly session. There is a slow realization that governments have exaggerated the dangers of use. The delusion that using drugs necessarily enslaves a person into hopeless addiction feeds a pernicious stigma that causes violations of human rights. Fighting beliefs that dehumanize drug users exposes the deep philosophical ties that unite drug reform with other human rights pushes, including gay rights. For much of the 20th century, homosexuals were assumed to be dangers to the national security and children, by recruiting innocents into a queer life. It was assumed society could and should change “them.” The stigma and shame moralistic attitudes like that create are today imposing a heavy burden on drug users, one that the anti-drug general public may well be blissfully unaware of. One popular T -shirt at the Washington gathering read simply, “Nice people do drugs.” November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
MEDIA CIRCUS, from p.30
Jindal of Louisiana, and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.” Yes, you read that correctly. Not only does a well-known Christian minister want us all to be executed, presumably by the United States government, but three Republican candidates for the presidency were oh so pleased to attend a conference he organized. Astoundingly, this was the first time the Times mentioned it. Apparently, the newspaper of record didn’t think the idea of mass murdering gay people was newsworthy on its own — outside of the opinion page — let alone the fact that Huckabee, Jindal, and Cruz embraced the executioner. Since then, Jindal has dropped out of the race and Louisiana voters this past weekend repudiated his tenure by electing a Democrat to replace him, rather than the Republican candidate, US Senator David Vitter — but none of this had to do with Jindal’s dance with the devil Swanson. To be clear, it isn’t as if no other news sources covered the Swanson story. MSNBC’s Rachel Mad-
dow devoted a good deal of time to it on November 9. “This is a political event,” Maddow felt the need to point out. “This is a Republican presidential candidates’ event. It really was a ‘kill-the-gays’ call to arms. This was a conference about the necessity of the death penalty as a punishment for homosexuality.” Michelangelo Signorile, writing for the Huffington Post on November 12, wondered why no one in the mainstream media gave a rat’s ass. “CNN's Jake Tapper asked Cruz if it was appropriate to speak at the conference before the event,” Signorile wrote, “and Cruz dodged the question, claiming to know nothing of the pastor's views, and spinning back to religious people supposedly being under attack, but there was no coverage I could find on CNN after the conference and focused on this evangelical leader who called for a future genocide after introducing presidential candidates who lauded him. As far as I can tell, no broadcast networks or major American newspaper covered the blood-curdling speech in which several times Swanson said the punishment for homosexuality
is the death penalty.” HuffPo’s Marc Leandro wrote a stinging story on November 13 in which he contrasted the GOP’s warm acceptance of Pastor Kevin Swanson with the Republican rage over then-candidate Barack Obama’s relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose fiery commentary on race relations in American looks like love letters to white people compared to Swanson’s call for gay gas chambers. Salon’s Amanda Marcotte was one of the precious few reporters who saw the conference coming and wrote about its newsworthiness before it convened: “Republican candidates may want softball questions for the rest of the debate season, but here’s something that the moderators should be confronting at least some of them about: Three candidates — Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal — are scheduled to speak this weekend at a conference hosted by a radio host named Kevin Swanson who has openly advocated for putting gay people to death.” Her insightful article went up on Salon. com on November 2.
But to repeat Mike Signorile’s question, where was the rest of the news media? I can understand waiting until the conference actually happened before writing about it, but given Swanson’s extraordinarily vicious, Final Solution-esque proposal, the near-absolute silence of the media after the event occurred is breathtaking, frightening, and shameful. As a point of comparison, according to the veteran journalist Bill Moyers, the number of news stories devoted to Jeremiah Wright between March and April 2008 was somewhere around 3,000. By my rough estimate, Pastor Swanson’s call for the murder of five million Americans and the tacit endorsement of the three Republican presidential candidates who served as star attractions at the good reverend’s conference have captured the attention of only about 60 news outlets, and that figure includes LGBT publications and websites, the readers of which personally have more than a little at stake. Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook.
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GayCityNews.nyc | November 26 - December 09, 2015
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Midlife Crisis, with Music Another shrewd appraisal of the pleasures and perils of same-sex domesticity BY DAVID KENNERLEY
teve” is the second Off Br oadway play this month to explore the vagaries of modern gay relationships. Both have scenes set in New York City restaurants and the Fire Island Pines; both feature gay dads wrestling with friendships and fidelity. But if the first play, “Dada Woof Papa Hot,” is an earnest drama tinged with comedy, then “Steve” is primarily a comedy with somber touches of drama. And what a rowdy comedy it is. Courtesy of the New Group, “Steve” is written by newcomer Mark Gerrard and helmed by none other than Cynthia Nixon. Who knew this former “Sex and the City” actor, known for taking on no-nonsense roles, had such a way with the funny bone? The glee begins as you take your seats. The ensemble is already onstage singing bouncy stan-
Malcolm Gets, Jerry Dixon, Mario Cantone, and Matt McGrath in Mark Gerrard's "Steve," directed by Cynthia Nixon, at the Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre through January 3.
dards around an upright piano, expertly played by Malcolm Gets (“Amour,” “Hello Again”), which sets the tone for the evening. While no one would mistake “Steve” for a musical, the piece is inflected with peppy bursts of song. The overarching joke is that the
names of the gay-dad couple are Steven (Matt McGrath) and Stephen (Gets). The sexy Latino waiter (Francisco Pryor Garat), who somehow turns up at several eateries in the play, is named Esteban. Oh I almost forgot, there’s also “Trainer Steve” who never actually appears
The New Group The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre Pershing Square Signature Center 480 W. 42nd St. Through Jan. 3 Tue.-Fri. at 7:30 p.m.; Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $25-$95 at thenewgroup.org Ninety mins.; no intermission
onstage, yet he’s an object of obsession. Apparently he is young, gorgeous, musically gifted, and has a giant uncut penis. The action begins with a group of friends assembled at a fancy restaurant in honor of Steven’s 47th birthday (he claims he’s only 43). The celebration, however, is doomed from the start. Steven’s closest friend Carrie (Ashlie Atkin-
STEVE, continued on p.37
Terms of Internment
the Wind,” features traditional Japanese costumes and dance while the company sings:
Musical starring George Takei traces the plight of Japanese-Americans during WWII
“Wishes on the wind Dreams that touch the sky Our heads are bowed Our eyes are lifted Hope is riding high.”
BY DAVID KENNERLEY
llegiance,” a bold, heart-stirring musical starring George Takei, shines a light on a dark chapter in American history, tracing the conflict of identity that confronted people of Japanese heritage living in America during World War II. While the book is credited to Marc Acito, Jay Kuo, and Lorenzo Thione, the story is inspired by Takei’s actual experience as a young boy in an internment camp. Immediately after Pearl Harbor is attacked, the innocents are branded the enemy, ripped from their homes, and literally railroaded into prison camps, forced to live in appalling conditions. There’s no running water but plenty of fleas. They are torn between devotion to their old traditions and love of their new country. Even those born in America and who never set foot on Japanese soil are considered enemy alien “Japs,” not American citizens.
The production itself suffers from a similar identity crisis. On the one hand, it’s a solemn drama about wartime atrocities, fraught with hunger, bloodshed, and death. On the other, it’s a bouncy musical — out of nowhere, the inmates start swing dancing and burst into song, crooning that they “Gotta get in, gotta get in the game” and band together to make their camp livable. Although director Stafford Arima does a nice job keeping the action moving, he has a tough time reconciling these conflicting moods. Certain moments, including the death of a baby and the accidental murder of a beloved character, should pack a punch but instead are muffled, drenched in a gooey film of sentimentality. The score, by Jay Kuo, is a surprising mix of plaintive ballads, Japanese folk tunes, jazzy ditties, and triumphant power anthems that could have been lifted from “Les Miz.” One delicately touching number, “Wishes On
The folk song is enlivened by Donyale Werle’s set featuring a magical “wishing tree” filled with fluttering, colored paper ribbons, a moving counterpoint to the grim encampment set. The handsome period costumes are by Alejo Vietti. The plot revolves around Sammy Kimura, as a young man played by Telly Leung and as an elderly man by the splendid Takei. Sammy defies his stern father Tatsuo (Christophoren Nomura) and enlists as a soldier (later in the war, a segregated Japanese battalion was allowed) and emerges as a hero, with his picture on the cover of Life magazine. He is smitten by a caring blonde American nurse (an affecting Katie Rose Clarke), then clashes with a fellow inmate (Michael K. Lee) who protests the war — and their barbaric treatment — by burning his draft notice. Tatsuo is outraged when they are required to fill out a government questionnaire, renouncing
ALLEGIANCE, continued on p.42
November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
Raves All Around
A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
Three very different but exciting evenings of theater
Lyceum Theatre 149 W. 45th St. Through Feb. 21 Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $30-$135; telecharge.com 212-239-6200 Some same-day stage seats at $20 Two hrs.
ON YOUR FEET
BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE
he images created on stage by director Ivo van Hove are the kind that stay with — and haunt — you pretty much forever. More than a decade ago, he staged Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” at New York Theatre Workshop, and I can still see her with a staple gun violently attaching flowers to the drywall of an unfinished loft. He has done the same with his Broadway debut, Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge,” and if you see it — if you love theater, you really must — you will find the production thrilling, in all senses of the word, and breathtaking, or more accurately breath-holding, as the tension and stakes mount to a shattering climax. Van Hove, however, is about much more than stage pictures that take your breath away. He has an uncanny ability to see into the heart of a play and its characters to give it contemporary resonance. While his 2004 “Hedda” was an exegesis of pathological solipsism, his “A View from the Bridge” examines the perceived threat immigrants pose to the American dream. Originally written in 1955 in the waning days of McCarthyism, the distrust of the foreigner is sadly resonant in today’s American political night-
mare. All you have to do is substitute Muslim for Italian immigrants in Miller’s play, and it could be written today. That’s the power of this production; its tragedy is that in a putatively more enlightened time, fanning the fires of easy, ignorant hatred sells. The plot concerns a Sicilian family in Brooklyn. Eddie Carbone works as a longshoreman. He lives with his wife Beatrice and his orphaned niece Catherine, whom he has taken in and raised. When two cousins, Marco and Rodolfo, arrive as illegal immigrants, the family tries to help them. Marco is hardworking and intends to return to Italy, but Rodolfo falls in love with Catherine. Eddie finds this highly threatening on many levels, and conflict and tragedy ensue. The story is simplistic, and it takes a backseat to the character study of Eddie, a deeply flawed man crippled by a belief system that closes off any chance of redemption. The play is narrated in the past tense by Alfieri, a lawyer, an approach that underscores the inevitability of Eddie’s tragedy. As staged on a white platform with no props or sets, the focus is on the language and character details. Designer Jan Versweyveld has added one ingenious element. Eddie talks repeatedly about how the community is watching him,
GayCityNews.nyc | November 26 - December 09, 2015
Russell Tovey, Mark Strong, and Phoebe Fox in Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge,” directed by Ivo van Hove, at the Lyceum through February 21.
Josh Segarra and Ana Villafañe in Alexander Dinelaris’ “On Your Feet,” directed by Jerry Mitchell and with choreography by Sergio Trujillo, at the Marquis.
and there are two banks of audience seats on the stage creating that community. I was seated there, and it took on an immediacy and power that were profound. (The production has just announced that some stage seats will be sold for $20 on each performance day. That is the deal of the season.) The cast is nothing short of magnificent. Every one gives a fearless, brilliantly realized performance. Michael Gould as Alfieri becomes the conscience of the piece, alternately understanding and outraged at the events. Michael Zegen is powerful as Marco, particularly when he accuses Eddie of killing his children. Russell Tovey is exceptional as Rodolfo, exuberant, loving, and truly incapable of understanding Eddie’s hatred. Phoebe Fox is compelling as Catherine, and Nicola Walker gives as master class in naturalism as Beatrice, who can’t help loving the flawed Eddie. Mark Strong as Eddie gives a performance that is nothing short of dazzling. He attacks the role like a force of nature, and though Eddie is not a sympathetic character, one’s heart goes out to him. He makes the conflict and the tragedy palpable, and there is not a moment that isn’t perfectly conveyed. Interestingly, van Hove has decided to restore the play to its original one-act structure, and that
Marquis Theatre 1535 Broadway at 46th St. Tue. at 7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat . at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $55-$149; ticketmaster.com Or 800-745-3000 Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission
works. The accumulation of tension and emotion is so beautifully orchestrated as to be awe-inspiring. I expect I’ll still be talking about this one a decade from now, too.
Move over “Beautiful” and “Jersey Boys,” you have to make room for the new bio-musical, “On Your Feet: The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan.” It’s landed on Broadway in an explosion of music, dance, and talent, and it will likely stay a very long time. Yes, it’s a formulaic story, but the book by Alexander Dinelaris is long on charm and has just the right amount of humor. And the music is, well, the music. This is a buoyant, vibrant, feel-good story of a fabulous career with its ups and downs that was almost cut short by a terrible accident. We’re not looking for a Pulitzer here; we’re looking for entertainment. And that’s what this show delivers. If you like the music of Gloria Estefan, it’s impossible not to have a good time. It helps that this good time is able to rely on so much amazing talent. Choreographer Sergio Trujillo comes into his own with this show — not that he doesn’t already have an impressive résumé. The scope and intelligence of his choreography in marrying Broadway to Latin movement are consistently exciting. Director Jerry Mitchell, a Broadway stalwart, knows exactly what he’s doing and tells the story with fluidity and warmth. You may
RAVES, continued on p.36
Classic Filmmaker Collaboration Revisited Half-century later, Kent Jones pays tribute to Truffaut’s meeting of genius with Hitchcock BY GARY M. KRAMER
RAVES, from p.35
find yourself, literally, at the end of act one dancing in the aisles… or wanting to. The entire cast is great. Ana Villafañe as Gloria and Josh Segarra as Emilio are both gifted performers who bring the music and the story alive in a vibrant and endearing way. Special note should be made of Alexandria Suarez as Little Gloria, who has an amazingly mature voice for someone so young. She’s delightful. With colorful sets by David Rockwell, lighting by Kenneth Posner, and costumes by ESosa, every ele-
ment in this show (including some cringe-inducing ‘80s memories) enhances the experience. This shows creators know how to put on a killer show. Go and have a blast.
A few brief words on Michael John LaChiusa’s “First Daughter Suite,” which unfortunately just closed at the Public. I’m always one to jump at a chance to see Mary Testa, Barbara Walsh, or Alison Fraser — three of the most gifted and accomplished women in musical theater today. To see them in one show was a gift of the theater gods. Structured as four movements, it is the sequel to LaChiu-
PHILIPPE HALSMAN/ COURTESY: COHEN MEDIA GROUP
n 1966, film critic-turned-director François Truffaut interviewed Alfred Hitchcock for the seminal book “Hitchcock/ Truffaut.” Their weeklong Q&A (with the help of an interpreter) was Truffaut’s effort to show that, as a filmmaker, Hitchcock was an artist — in his mind, the World’s Greatest Director — and not just an entertainer, as was the popular opinion of the day. Now, with the documentary feature, “Hitchcock/ Truffaut,” Kent Jones — the New York Film Festival director of programming and Film Comment contributor — has a made a loving, film geek tribute to the book, the filmmakers themselves, and the contemporary directors who have been influenced by “Hitchcock/ Truffaut.” Jones’ film is both artful and entertaining, deftly using film clips, photographs, quotes, passages from the book, and interviews with Martin Scorsese, Richard Linklater, and Olivier Assayas, among others, to discuss the magic and power of Hitchcock’s work. The documentary addresses how the author and subject came from different generations, backgrounds, and approaches to cinema and the importance of their collaboration. Hitchcock was a rigorous visual artist and controlled craftsman, a point echoed by interviewees David Fincher and Paul Schrader. Truffaut, a Cahiers du Cinema critic who subscribed to the auteur theory of filmmaking, took on the book project as if it were a film. Their collaboration paid off. As the film “Hitchcock/ Truffaut” shows, both directors gained more respect for each other and their friendship lasted for the remainder of their lives.
Jones provides a few scenes that tie the filmmakers together, as when he shows how both directors recall a moment from their childhood where they spent time in jail, or when Hitchcock and Truffaut discuss the latter’s approach to a pivotal sequence in “The 400 Blows.” These are affectionate moments that magnify the camaraderie between the two filmmakers. Jones also presents the world of these directors off-screen. “Hitchcock/ Truffaut” includes a few terrific shots of a photo session with the filmmakers as well as a nice nod to Hitchcock’s wife, Alma Reville, who is seen briefly in some home movie footage. At its best, the documentary serves as a companion piece — and at times as a mirror — to the book as a cinema primer. The film showcases Hitchcock’s inimitable visual style and themes. In his mini-lessons, Jones unpacks how editing was used to expand or contract time in a film. He illustrates how Hitchcock used space both in a room and in an exterior shot from the film “The Birds” to generate emotion or create unease. The use of film clips in these mini-master classes emphasizes the points being made better than any film still or interview text in the book does. Seeing the scene of a man pacing on a glass floor in Hitchcock’s early film “The Lodger” drives home the “wow” factor better than reading about it does. Likewise, when Hitchcock explains why he wants actor Montgomery Clift to look up at a building across the street in “I Confess,” the clip of the scene shows why the director’s decision, which Clift objected to, was correct. A few lengthy sections of the documentary analyze specific scenes and themes in Hitchcock’s classics. An interesting discussion of the director’s use of high angle shots evolves into
François Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock, as seen in Kent Jones’ Hitchcock/ Truffaut.”
HITCHCOCK/ TRUFFAUT Directed by Kent Jones Cohen Media Group Opens Dec. 2 Film Forum 209 W. Houston St. filmforum.org Lincoln Plaza Cinema 1886 Broadway at W. 62nd St. lincolnplazacinema.com
how the themes of sin, guilt, and God are all interrelated in the director’s work. A key scene from “Psycho” is used to explore this point visually, and it provides a nice “aha!” moment. A discussion of a favorite theme of the innocent-man-unjustly-accused narrative (such
sa’s “First Lady Suite,” both examining the interior lives of women in the White House straining for identity in a very public way. The four stories begin with Pat Nixon (Walsh) negotiating a crisis on Tricia’s wedding day. The second is a fantasy about Amy Carter and Susan Ford trying to rescue the Iranian hostages, with Rosalynn Carter and Betty Ford (Fraser) involved as well. Nancy Reagan (Fraser again) confronts the neurosis of daughter Patti Davis in part three. Finally, Barbara Bush (Testa) muses on her family legacy as she’s being dragooned into campaigning for W’s re-election.
HITCHCOCK, continued on p.37
LaChiusa’s music is wonder fully rich and sophisticated, and as sung by the cast, which also included Betsy Morgan, Caissie Levy, Theresa McCarthy, Rachel Bay Jones, Carly T amer, and Isabel Santiago, was consistently exciting. The stories don’t delve any more deeply into the lives of these women than we already knew from media reports, but that’s not the point. This musical explores the absurdities and pressures of life in a fishbowl and suggests that for all of us there is really no such thing as “normal.” This show certainly wasn’t normal; it was exquisite.
November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
STEVE, from p.34
son), who wears a scarf around her head, talks about dying (she has an aggressive form of cancer) and her recent breakup with her girlfriend. Another couple, Matt (Mario Cantone) and Brian (Jerry Dixon, who happens to be Cantone’s husband) arrive late, perhaps detained after having a three-way with Trainer Steve. Steven is on edge, and we’ve already figured out why before the others — he inadvertently saw racy text messages on Stephen’s smartphone. Within minutes, Steven has a colossal meltdown — or does he? The scene is just one of several astonishing fantasy curveballs the play throws at us during its brisk 90 minutes. Throughout the proceedings, more conflicts arise, bonds are tested, and hearts are broken. The nimble cast does a wonderful job of delivering the razorsharp, rapid-fire, often overlapping dialogue, though sometimes it’s their thumbs that do the talking. “Steve” is the first show I’ve seen to use dialogue via text messages (and sext messages), projected on a backdrop. And it’s done well. While the cast is solid across the board, it’s McGrath, fresh from his brilliant turn as an aging drag queen in “The Legend of Georgia McBride,” who locates unexpected layers of heartache and hope in his character, Steven. Especially moving is his heart-to-heart chat
HITCHCOCK, from p.36
as in “The Wrong Man”) makes connections to the psychological underpinnings of characters. Even the most casual of moviegoers will respond to these points because they are so well articulated. There is also a fun montage of “fetishized” objects in Hitchcock’s films, from a key in “Notorious” and the glass of milk in “Suspicion” to the title object of “Rope.” Sadly, a discussion of dreams does not include the famous Salvador Dali dream sequence in “Spellbound.” Other minor case studies devoted to repeated visuals that Hitchcock employed — such as scenes of characters falling from buildings or the use of rear projection — also seem underdeveloped. There is no finer moment in the
with Carrie, where he laments his unnerving ability to turn “Just Enough” into “Not Quite Enough.” Also impressive is the perfectly cast Cantone, who injects a giddy, go-for -broke abandon to Matt’s silly antics. Though not required, it certainly helps if you’re a theater geek — the script is generously sprinkled with references to shows like “West Side Story,” “Into the Woods,” “Evita,” “Mame,” and “The Music Man,” to name just a few. There’s a passing mention of “blue roses” that only fans of “The Glass Menagerie” could appreciate. I’m embarrassed to admit I had to look up “Drink your juice, Shelby” to learn it was from “Steel Magnolias.” When Steve ordered a Vodka Stinger, I smiled in recognition. As it happens, there’s good reason for the tuneful shenanigans. Steven, Carrie, and Matt were once aspiring musical theater performers, crooning show tunes and slinging hash at a diner suspiciously like Ellen’s Star dust on Broadway. Like so many actor-waiters before them, their show careers went nowhere. Steven bitterly refers to himself as a “failed chorus boy.” Sure, you might appraise “Steve” as being little more than a sitcom. But with such brilliant, laugh-out-loud TV shows these days like “Modern Family” or “The Big Bang Theory,” that can be quite a compliment.
film than a lengthy discussion about “Vertigo.” As Scorsese and others wax poetically about this classic, which was long kept out of circulation, the analysis of point of view and the ideas of fantasy and realism, visual motifs, and even plot holes in the film could be expanded to comprise its own documentary. “Hitchcock/ Truffaut” genuflects appropriately in the discussions of Hitchcock’s oeuvre. If the film is a bit slight at 80 minutes, this is a minor complaint. The book “Hitchcock/ Truffaut” was comprehensive. The documentary is deliberately not. However, this is hardly a drawback. If Jones’ film prompts viewers to read (or re-read) the volume to gain more insights about Hitchcock’s work, it has done its job.
GayCityNews.nyc | November 26 - December 09, 2015
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Small Companies, Big Ambitions Years into the crises for major players, upstarts bring us new operas production by co-producer/ director L ynne Hayden-Findlay exemplified the art of creating a great deal out of very little.
On October 9 and 10 at the Teatro at El Museo del Barrio, the Process Studio The-
Adrienne Danrich, Aaron J. Casey, and Randal Turner in Stefania de Kenessey and Michael Bergmann’s “The Bonfire of the Vanities.”
BY ELI JACOBSON
he demise of the New York City Opera left a huge vacuum in the city’s musical life. Gotham Chamber Opera seemed the heir apparent ready to fill in the gap. Sadly, last month the new Gotham Chamber Opera management team discovered a large “undisclosed” deficit and shut down the company before its 2015-2016 season could begin. Meanwhile, small opera companies are sprouting up overnight. In Brooklyn, LoftOpera and Bare Opera are attracting a funky, hip younger crowd with their sophisticated, casual chic presentations. The New York City Opera Renaissance’s plans include five performances of “Tosca” (the opera that inaugurated the original company in 1944) staged at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center in January 2016. Nothing seems terribly settled, however — the legal rights to the NYCO’s name and assets are still at issue in the bankruptcy court. The Renaissance’s administrative team consists of two former members of the last NYCO board, which scuttled the company, as well as Michael Capasso, the former director of the defunct Dicapo Opera Theater who has a spotty artistic and financial record of his own. New American operas by living composers were something of a sub-specialty of the New York City Opera. This fall I saw two done by small independent companies. Chelsea Opera has been producing opera for 12 years now at St. Peter’s Church on West 20th Street. In 2010, the company premiered Tom Cipullo’s opera “Glory Denied,” the story of Colonel Floyd J. Thompson, America’s longest serving prisoner of war. It returned to Chelsea Opera
for two performances this month. The libretto, adapted by the composer from the book by Tom Philpott, presents in a fragmentary fashion the nine years of captivity in Vietnam that Thompson endured and the radically changed America and marriage he returned to. Two sets of singers play Thompson and his wife Alyce — the young newlyweds who went into marriage and war full of belief in the themselves and the older disillusioned survivors who return to face the Watergate era and the sexual revolution as damaged goods. The first act showed the Older Thompson (the fine baritone Peter Kendall Clark) remembering the past and stepping into it to enact various roles while the Younger Thompson (tenor Brandon Snook) fights brainwashing and torture. Alyce was split between Kate Oberjat as the platinum blonde, Sandra Dee-wannabe and the plainer brown-haired Martha Guth as her older counterpart who lived with another man and lobbied to have her husband declared dead. The first act had a driven, hard-edged musical drive that did not let up. The harsh chords, loud dynamics, and angular vocal lines persisted even in the vignettes where the Younger Alyce sings her letters from home — music that could have been (and should have been) a lyrical contrast to the scenes in the Vietnamese prison camp. The text was hard to decipher, and the tension never relaxed. Act II was dominated by two-hander scenes exploring the unraveling marriage of Floyd and Alyce. These were more engaging, lyrically flowing, and textually comprehensible. Clark, in particular, seized the greater vocal opportunities. Carmine Aufiero led the 10-piece orchestra with fierce conviction and dramatic flair. The
atre premiered an operatic adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s Reagan-era zeitgeist bestseller “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” with music by Stefania de Kenessey and libretto and stage direction by Michael Bergmann. Whatever reservations I have about the piece are overwhelmed by wonderment and respect for the fact that it actually got created and performed at all. Here was an opera by a younger female composer adapted from a major novel containing many characters and scenes that would require a large cast and scenic requirements produced without the sponsorship of a major opera company. The reservations: the story was uneasily updated to the present. We got a prologue with wealthy moms checking in with their babies using FaceTime on their iPhones. Yet in the pivotal attempted carjacking scene in the Bronx that precipitates the fateful hit and run incident, Sherman McCoy and his mistress Maria Ruskin have no cell phones to call the police or get roadside assistance. A lot of scenes and characters are sketched in quickly by practically reciting plot exposition right to the audience. De Kenessey’s score is in a tunefully accessible musical theater/ cabaret style. The musical line is led by vocal melody, a lost art in modern operatic composition. Her harmonic palette and chord progressions are very limited and by Act II were starting to repeat themselves. Stephen Sondheim is practically Alban Berg by comparison. Daniela Candillari led an 18-piece orchestra with aplomb. Expert use of projections and movable stage furniture took us instantly from Upper West Side penthouses to the mean streets of the Bronx. The cast was enthusiastic, accomplished, and talented, with a mix of experienced professional singers and fresh new talent. Baritone Randal Turner fully plumbed Sherman McCoy’s moral journey from shallow materialist to wronged society outcast. As his betrayed wife Judy, soprano Anne-Carolyn Bird’s finely focused acting and singing captured the moral strength and backbone beneath the self-absorbed society matron. As McCoy’s defense attorney Tamara Kilmore, who values justice over race politics, Adrienne Danrich was a tower of strength with a rich voice that ranged from mezzo to spinto soprano. Young Aaron J. Casey as the forgotten victim Henry Lamb revealed the scared kid beneath the street tough. Whatever the shortcomings, this event provided hope for the future — ambitious new operas can be done independently with few compromises. November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
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IN THE NOH
It’s a Dog’s Life Annaleigh Ashford’s perfect canine timing, Menzies’ design, a Glaspell gem BY DAVID NOH
The man whom many consider Hollywood’s greatest art director, William Cameron Men-
here is no better demonstration of ace comic timing on the New York stage now than Annaleigh Ashford playing a dog, in the titular role of A.R. Gurney’s “Sylvia.” It’s the kind of twee whimsy that rises or falls on the casting of this central role and one almost shudders to think what it would be like without her. Added to her arresting presence are the kind of huge-eyed, waifish adorableness Al Hirschfeld would have killed to caricaturize and a lovely singing voice which gets a brief chance to glow here on Cole Porter’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.” I’ve been a devoted fan of Ashford’s ever since “Kinky Boots.” As a British blue collar working girl, she took a peripheral role and, again using that distinctive, cannily gauged, slightly delayed comic performance rhythm (as original in its way as the technique of Jean Arthur or Judy Holliday), stole the show and was by far the best and freshest thing in it. Consolidating my adoration of her was her debut act at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below. Cabaret is not as easy as it looks, and I’ve seen talent like Sutton Foster, Megan Hilty, Lena Hall, and Alexander Gemignani be less than brilliant in their attempts at it. But Ashford, clad in an outfit that resembled a glittering silver disco ball, got it down perfectly, slyly paying homage to the club’s infamous past, with the entire performance like the most delicious in-joke, possibly the most purely festive act I had seen since the early, greatest days of Bette Midler live. She’s returning to 54 for the New Year’s show (254 W. 54th St.; Dec. 31, 11 p.m.; 54below.com), and I snatched the chance to chat with this very busy, white-hot star on the skies-the-limit ascendant. I asked her what we could look forward to on New Year’s 2016 and she said, “We are giving you a couple of the favorites from the first time around, but exploring some new material. It wouldn’t be a New
Annaleigh Ashford, the brilliant linchpin of “Sylvia,” currently on stage, returns to 54 Below on New Year’s Eve for a reprise and refresh of her lauded cabaret show there.
Year’s show without looking back on the year, so we will be celebrating some of the highlights of 2015!” Regarding the “Sylvia” revival, Ashford said that producers “Daryl Roth and Jeffrey Richards are great dog lovers and have wanted to produce this play for quite a while. The stars aligned for it to happen this year, and I was lucky enough to be invited to help tell the story. My dog, Gracie, has served as a great inspiration! And, for my costume, [designer] Ann Roth was so brilliant and generous! She made sure that we found a wonderful organic hybrid of pup and person. “Julie White and Matthew Broderick make me laugh every night. They are both such wonderful, dynamic, organic actors, so it has been such a joy to work with them. It only works if it’s organic. “You ask about my timing — where it comes from? It comes from a childhood of watching and appreciating comedy that stemmed from vaudeville like “The Carol Burnett Show” and ‘Saturday Night Live.’” Ashford took home the Tony
for her hilarious per formance as Essie, the worst — but most instantly lovable — ballerina in the universe in the delightful Roundabout revival of “You Can’t Take It With You.” She described that award evening as “an overwhelming dream come true. For Essie, like every character I create, I started with the clues from the playwright and shaped her with the director. I was so lucky to work with such a brilliant company of actors who took care of me so beautifully. James Earl Jones is everything you want him to be and more. I want to be him when I grow up. I did see the [1938 Frank Capra] film of the play. I love Ann Miller! And I love what she did with Essie in the film.” Ashford confided that her dream role is “Sweet Charity,” and the mind fairly reels at what comedy and pathos she could mine there, beyond, of course, nailing the singing and dancing. “Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below,” her album of her cabaret act was just released, and you can also catch her on the fourth season of TV’s “Masters of Sex.”
zies (1896-1957), is receiving a rare, so-deserved retrospective at Film Forum beginning November 27, coinciding with the publication of the book, “William Cameron Menzies: The Shape of Things to Come,” by James Curtis (209 W. Houston St.; filmforum.org). Menzies came to prominence in the silent era, creating no-expense-spared fantastical worlds for fabled stars like Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson, and the Talmadge sisters, a highlight being his Maxfield Parrish-influenced designs for “The Thief of Bagdad” (1924). His impressive Technicolor work on “The Adventure of Tom Sawyer” (1938) led producer David O. Selznick to entrust him with the entire look of “Gone with the Wind,” as well as the direction of the burning of Atlanta sequence. Menzies, with his panoramic vision, brilliant storyboards, and technical ingenuity, truly made the movies big and spectacular in the days before the empty, bland, and synthetic monotony of CGI. One of his trademark scenes was the field of dead and dying soldiers in “Gone with the Wind,” culminating in a tattered Confederate flag, limply waving in the wind. Those bloodied uniformed bodies were a mix of real extras and dummies, some of which had their limbs slyly manipulated like puppets for verisimilitude. The wonderful Film Forum festival is marked by a number of real rarities that I’ve never seen but am highly anticipating, and here are some of the ones I have seen and can recommend: “Alice in Wonderland” (1933; Dec. 6): This is a fairly static Carroll adaptation but interesting visually, with an incredible cast assembled from the Paramount ranks, most of them heavily costumed and unrecognizable: Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle (singing “Beautiful Soup”), Gary Cooper as
IN THE NOH, continued on p.42
November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
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ALLEGIANCE Longacre Theatre 220 W. 48th St. Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $55-$149; allelgiancemusical.com Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission
Michael K. Lee, George Takei, and Lea Salonga in “Allegiance.”
ALLEGIANCE, from p.34
loyalty to the emperor and swearing unqualified allegiance to the United States of America. “They took our farm, they took our home,” he sings. “And now our honor is at stake. But that they’ll never take.” Sammy is close to his sister Kei (played by the
IN THE NOH, from p.40
the White Knight, W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty, Edna May Oliver as the Red Queen, Edward Everett Horton as the Mad Hatter, Charlie Ruggles as the March Hare, and, as Alice, the pallid Charlotte Henry, in the role the young Bette Davis was desperate to do. “Things to Come” (1936; Nov. 27): Alexander Korda’s jaw-dropping adaptation of H.G. Wells’ vision of the future, namely 1970, had an incredible cast (Ralph Richardson, Raymond Massey, Cedric Hardwicke, who replaced Ernest Thesiger, hard-faced Margaretta Scott, Ann Todd) dressed in sleek neo-classical-looking garments at bizarre odds with all the gadgetry of space travel. “Foreign Correspondent” (1940; Dec. 5). What I consider to be Menzies’ masterpiece, Alfred Hitchcock’s stunning international World War II spy thriller has one brilliant Menzies-designed set piece after another: a diplomat’s assassination in the rain, a windmill providing a crucial hideout, a murder attempt atop Westminster Cathedral, and possibly the best airplane crash into the ocean in film history. “Our Town” (1940; Nov 28): Hollywood wasted no time bringing
winsome Lea Salonga, of “Miss Saigon” fame), but when allegiances abruptly shift, his world starts to crumble. The former “Star Trek” actor, who is 78, by the way, should be commended for bringing such a deeply personal and unlikely subject to a Broadway stage. Though no one should be surprised — he has been a lifelong activist, fighting for civil
Thornton Wilder’s revolutionary play to the screen, casting it with some of their most durable character actors as the denizens of Grover’s Corners (Thomas Mitchell, Beulah Bondi, Fay Bainter, Guy Kibbee, Frank Craven, Stu Erwin). Martha Scott was a tad mature by that point as Emily, but, as George, an achingly young William Holden was definitive — a beautiful performance. “The Devil and Miss Jones” (1941; Dec. 13): This was a more modest production for Menzies, about workers in a department store striving for their rights, framing one of the char mingly squeaky-voiced Jean Arthur’s most winning performances. “Kings Row” (1941; Nov. 29): Director Sam Wood’s powerful saga of dark psychological doings in a picture perfect American small town features perhaps the only decent performance Ronald Reagan ever gave, with Claude Rains and Charles Coburn both giving doctors a very bad name, a radiant Ann Sheridan, and fascinating Betty Field, expert at the time at playing high-strung neurotics who ended badly. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1943; Nov. 28): This florid adaptation of the book is much more Hollywood than Hemingway, but very enter-
rights in the 1960s, and in 2005 coming out as gay to join the push for marriage equality. You may recall in 2008 he was highly vocal against Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriages there. He married his partner Brad Altman in a highly publicized ceremony that same year. If you are looking for any gay themes in this musical, however, you will be disappointed. Far from just a slice of obscure history, “Allegiance” resonates powerfully today. Given the current political discourse, with talk of a hateful campaign to eject illegal immigrants from the US and build massive walls to keep them out, “Allegiance” reminds us just how inhumane and dangerous demonizing a group of people based solely on their heritage can be.
taining and memorable for its lush Victor Young score, Ray Rennahan’s Technicolor cinematography, Ingrid Bergman at her most luminous, and Katina Paxinou and Akim Tamiroff, a Greek and a Russian, cast as Spanish anti-fascist rebels, chewing every bit of Spanish mountain scenery they can. “Ivy” (1947; Dec. 2): The usually demure Joan Fontaine turned on the iciness and jumped on the noir-ish “La Belle Dame sans merci” leading lady trend of the 1940s (Gene Tierney in “Leave Her to Heaven,” Merle Oberon in “Temptation,” Hedy Lamarr in “The Strange Woman,” and, of course, Barbara Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity”) as an Edwardian seductress, exquisitely gowned by Orry-Kelly, fond of poisoning those who get in her way, from a book by that English specialist in period murder, Marie Belloc Lowndes.
The worthy Metropolitan Playhouse is staging Susan Glaspell’s 1931 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Alison’s House,” and it is an absolute don’t miss (220 E. Fourth St., btwn. Aves. A & B, through Dec. 13; metropolitanplayhouse.org). Besides founding the Provincetown Players with its major discovery of Eugene O’Neill, Glaspell (1876-
1948) wrote nine novels and 15 plays, all of which sadly went out of print, contributing to the lack of general knowledge about this early feminist writer who has been referred to as American drama’s best kept secret. “Alison’s House” is based on the family of poet Emily Dickinson, and what went on after her demise in terms of her estate and literary legacy. Under the febrile direction of Alex Roe, a perfectly assembled cast simply glows with human warmth and complexity, and the character of Alison, although dead and unseen, comes vividly to life through their hushed descriptions and awed reverence. It’s taken far too long for Glaspell to assume her rightful place as a playwright, alongside the overly revived O’Neill, Williams, Miller, and even Mamet. I hope this marvelous production spearheads the way. On November 29, following the matinee at 3 p.m., I will be moderating a talkback, in which I will touch on the original 1930 Broadway production, which was directed by and starred the great out and proud lesbian doyenne of the stage, Eva Le Gallienne. In that show, the part of Louise was played by her lover, actress Josephine Hutchinson.
November 26 - December 09, 2015 | GayCityNews.nyc
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