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September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


September 13 Primaries: Glick v. Fouratt in Village; Stavisky v. Jung in Queens

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Woodside Rallies for Trans Woman Attacked in Hate Crime Elected officials join LGBT community in decrying “epidemic,” voice hope suspect will be apprehended BY ANDY HUMM

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GAY CITY NEWS

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GAY CITY NEWS

petite 28-year-old Latina transgender woman, who identified herself as Gaby, was walking at 68th Street and 41st Avenue in Woodside, Queens at 6 a.m. on August 17 when a tall man came up to speak with her and then grabbed her purse. As he fled on 41st Avenue, Gaby pursued him to 67th Street, where he struck her in the head with a hammer shouting, “This is what you get for being gay!” He fled once more, taking off in a gray Toyota 4Runner. The suspect is still at large, but police have released surveillance video (available at gaycitynews.nyc), which captures his image and that of his car, and are said to be close to an arrest. The Woodside community, elected officials, and LGBT activists — about 100 in all — rallied around the recovering victim on Thursday evening August 25, decrying the shocking violence, acknowledging that it is part of an “epidemic” of assaults on trans women of color locally and nationally, and vowing to do all they can to combat it. But while speakers were long on passionate concern, they were short on specific steps that will stem the tide of violence. The communities that gathered around Gaby, however, showed that Woodside stood with her and not with perpetrators who would harm a transgender person. “An attack on the transgender community is an attack on every single one of us,” said Jimmy Van Bramer, the out gay local city councilmember who serves as majority leader. “We will see to it that it never happens again.” City Comptroller Scott Stringer lamented how often “we have had to come together after an attack” like this. “I’m glad the victim is going to make a full recovery,” he said. Public Advocate Letitia James invoked transgender victims from Islan Nettles, murdered in Harlem in 2013, to Pearl Love, harassed earlier this year on the subway, but

Gaby (in red T-shirt), who was attacked with a hammer on August 17, with Public Advocate Letitia James, City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Gaby’s translator, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Congressmember Joe Crowley at a rally in Woodside on Thursday evening.

Transgender advocate Tanya Walker.

insisted, “Hate always loses. Love always wins.” Congressmember Joe Crowley said, “This is not representative of the Woodside community that I grew up in. It ought not be tolerated anywhere.” Bianey Garcia, a transgender activist with Make the Road, a social justice group out of neighboring Jackson Heights, said while this is the 13th known attack on trans women in Queens this year, “so many are not reported for fear of going to the police,” partly due to transphobia in official ranks and also to fear of exposure for those who are undocumented immigrants. Councilmember Rosie Mendez, an out lesbian, said the attacks have reached “epidemic propor tions” and called on the community to take action when witnessing such a crime. LaLa Zannell, a transgender organizer with the New York City Anti-Violence Project, said, “All of us need to work together to address the root causes,” citing the lack of “access to shelter, affordable housing, jobs, and health care.” James, the public advocate, echoed that perspective, saying the global issues confronting the transgender community need addressing. “They have among the highest rates of unemployment,” she said.

“This community has come a long way,” Crowley said of Woodside, and he called for the development of more “empathy” for transgender people as well as more civil rights protections “at the state and federal level.” But, President Barack Obama’s recent guidance on how schools must treat transgender students is under a fierce legal assault in federal courts (see page 6) and a comprehensive federal LGBT rights bill, the Equality Act, cannot get a hearing in the Republican-led Congress. Tanya Walker, the trans care outreach coordinator at a new program created by the Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens launching September 29, said, “Trans people need education and jobs, and we need to train people in businesses and in government about trans issues, and we need to get paid to do it.” She, too, was grateful for the rally of support. “It sends the message that what happened is not okay,” Walker said, recalling an attack she suffered from a stranger who came to her door on Staten Island in the 1990s. In that incident, police did nothing.

“We need to treat them as members of our family.” Gaby, the survivor of the attack, spoke in Spanish and closed the rally by saying she was “so thankful for all of you here.” She acknowledged, however, “I feel a lot of fear.” Van Bramer was confident that the police were closing in on the suspect. Bill Kregler, president of the Fire Marshals Benevolent Association, said after the rally, “The cops are going to ID this guy. He can give himself up safely or be captured by the police department.” Kregler said the suspect was a six-foot tall black man aged 30-35. Asked what could stem the tide of violence, Van Bramer said it would help to “make sure the NYPD is sensitive and aware of all the issues” facing the transgender community so that is easier for trans victims to report the crimes against them. Mendez said that the LGBT caucus in the Council has begun initiatives on LGBT youth and older people, but “needs to talk more about how to help the transgender community.” Asked if police should consider going undercover — acting as transgender women to catch anti-transgender attackers — no one on hand embraced the idea of using such decoys.

Anyone with information regarding the suspect should call Detective Sebastian Chichotky of the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force at 646-610-5267. September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | September 01 - 14, 2016

5


Texas AG Halts Trans Students’ Access to Bathrooms Nationwide US court bars enforcement of Obama administration Title IX gender identity bias policy

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BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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TEXASATTORNEYGENERAL.GOV

federal district judge in Wichita Falls, Texas, has issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the Obama administration’s requirement that schools allow transgender students to use restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity — in a ruling that straightjackets current government efforts to advance that policy. Judge Reed O’Connor’s August 22 ruling is directed at a joint “Dear Colleague” letter from the Department of Justice and the Department of Education sent to all the nation’s schools subject to the 1972 Education Amendments Act’s Title IX. That May 13 letter, spelling out how the government is now interpreting federal statutes forbidding sex discrimination, advised schools that failing to allow transgender students access to facilities consistent with their gender identity would violate Title IX, endangering their eligibility for funding from the DOE. The letter from the DOE and the DOJ followed shortly on a ruling from the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals holding that federal courts should defer to the administration’s posture, which had previously been articulated in filings in a Virginia lawsuit. The case in Virginia involves the right of Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy, to use boys’ restroom facilities at his Gloucester County high school. The ACLU filed the case on Grimm’s behalf after his school district adopted a rule forbidding students from using single-sex-designated facilities inconsistent with their “biological sex” as identified on their birth certificates. That rule is similar to the one adopted by North Carolina in its notorious H.B.2, which is itself now the subject of several federal lawsuits (see page 7 story). After the Fourth Circuit ruled, Robert Doumar, the federal district judge hearing Grimm’s case, issued a preliminary injunction requiring that he be allowed access to the boys’ restrooms while the case is pending. On August 3, however, the Supreme Court voted 5-3 to grant the school district’s request for a stay of Doumar’s injunction. Judge O’Connor, in his Texas injunction, prominently mentioned the Supreme Court’s action, commenting that the case presents a question that the high court may be resolving this term. The case was brought by Texas’ Republican attorney general, Ken Paxton, who took the lead in a joint lawsuit brought by 11 states challenging the May 13 DOE/ DOJ position. Paxton specifically aimed to bring the case before O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee who previously issued a nationwide injunction against the Obama administration’s policy of deferring

deportation of undocumented residents without criminal records and had also ruled to block an Obama administration interpretation of the Family and Medical Leave Act favoring family leave for gay employees to care for same-sex partners. Paxton enlisted a small school district in north Texas, Harrold Independent School District — one that has no transgender students but adopted a restrictive restroom access policy anyway — as a co-plaintiff in order justify filing it in the Wichita Falls court.

Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Tea Party favorite.

At the heart of the controversy here and elsewhere is the Obama administration’s view that federal laws banning sex discrimination should be broadly interpreted to ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation — a position it adopted officially in a series of rulings by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency charged with enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC’s interpretation is in line with several federal circuit court decisions in cases brought by transgender plaintiffs challenging discrimination under the Violence against Women Act, the Fair Credit Act, and Title VII. In the initial years after Title VII was enacted, the EEOC and other federal agencies repeatedly rejected this broad interpretation, but transgender people began to make progress after the Supreme Court, in a case brought by a woman denied partnership at Price Waterhouse, ruled in 1989 that sex-stereotyping by employers — disadvantaging employees who failed to comply with the employer’s stereotyped view of how men and women should act, groom, and dress — could be considered evidence of sex discrimination.

Building on this growing body of rulings from courts as well as the EEOC, the DOE first expressed its new posture formally last year in a letter it sent in connection with a restroom access lawsuit involving a transgender student against an Illinois school district, participated in negotiating a settlement in that case under which the school district opened up such access, and then began to take a more active approach as more lawsuits emerged. When the Fourth Circuit ruling became the first from an appellate panel agreeing that the DOE/ DOJ position is a reasonable interpretation of the existing regulation that allows school districts to provide separate facilities for boys and girls so long as they are comparable, the administration was ready to push the issue nationwide. Since that regulation does not specifically resolve the question of access for transgender students, the DOE and the DOJ argue that their position is a reasonable interpretation, given its consistency with the EEOC’s position on workplace discrimination and rulings that have emerged from the federal courts under other sex discrimination statutes. According to Supreme Court precedent, agency interpretations of ambiguous regulations should receive judicial deference if they are reasonable. The May 13 letter provoked widespread backlash, leading not only to the suit brought in Texas by Paxton, but to another initiated by Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, also a Republican, leading a coalition of nine other states in the federal district court there. Both cases rely heavily on an argument first proposed by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an anti-gay Christian public interest law firm, in a lawsuit it brought in May on behalf of parents and students challenging the settlement of the Illinois case, and a copycat lawsuit filed by ADF in North Carolina. The plaintiffs argue that the DOE/ DOJ position is not technically an “interpretation” of existing Title IX requirements, but rather a new “legislative rule” that imposes legal obligations and liabilities on school districts. As a result, they argue, it cannot simply be adopted in a “guidance” or a “letter” but must go through the formal process for adopting new regulations under the federal Administrative Procedure Act. That process involves publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register inviting written comments from the public, perhaps one or more public hearings around the country to receive more feedback, and then publication of a final rule, which would be subject to judicial review in a case filed in a US Court of Appeals.

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TEXAS, continued on p.19

September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


In North Carolina, US Judge Bans H.B. 2 Enforcement at UNC District court sides with three transgender plaintiffs in preliminary halt to “bathroom” law BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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GayCityNews.nyc | September 01 - 14, 2016

HAL GOODTREE/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction brought by attorneys for three transgender plaintiffs who are challenging North Carolina’s notorious “bathroom” law, H.B. 2, based on their claim that it violates their rights under Title IX of the 1972 federal Education Amendments Act. The Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals — under whose jurisdiction the North Carolina court falls — in a ruling in transgender high school student Gavin Grimm’s challenge to Virginia’s Gloucester County School Board, deferred to the Department of Education’s interpretation that Title IX bans gender identity discrimination and requires restroom access for students consistent with their gender identity. Finding he was bound by the Fourth Circuit decision, District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder, in an August 26 ruling, concluded that the North Carolina plaintiffs had demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits — a key factor in deciding a motion for preliminary injunction. Though the Supreme Court has since stayed the Fourth Circuit decision, on which the Gloucester School Board is seeking review, Schroeder observed that the high court had not vacated the decision and so it remained precedent in the Fourth Circuit. The North Carolina lawsuit arose out of an “emergency” bill rushed through a special session of the legislature in March that aimed to preempt a new civil rights ordinance from taking effect in Charlotte. The law limited nondiscrimination protections in municipalities to those categories protected under state law — which does not bar discrimination based on either sexual orientation or gender identity. Much of the legislative debate focused on provisions of the Charlotte ordinance that would have required all places of public accommodation — in public facilities and private business settings — to allow transgender individuals access to bathroom and

Governor Pat McCrory, digging in on defense of North Carolina's “bathroom” law, faces political backlash in his reelection bid.

locker facilities without discrimination. Stressing their concerns about the privacy and safety of women and children against imagined male predators posing as women, the law’s champions insisted that all government-run facilities, including schools and universities, limit access to bathrooms and locker rooms based on “biological sex” as designated on a person’s birth certificate. The requirement that private businesses offer their public accommodations to transgender people without discrimination was also overridden in the new law, though of course private businesses could respect the rights of transgender customers if they so chose. A furious round of litigation ensued after the measure’s hasty adoption, with cases brought in two of the three North Carolina federal districts by a variety of plaintiffs, including the three individuals in this case, students and employees of the University of North Carolina represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina and Lambda Legal. Despite widespread condemnation and boycotts, including the NBA’s decision to pull its 2017 All Star Game from Charlotte, Governor Pat McCrory — now struggling in his reelection campaign — and Republican state legislative leaders have dug in, suing the federal government, seeking declaratory judgments that

H.B. 2 does not violate federal sex discrimination laws. The US Justice Department, meanwhile, has sued the state officials, seeking a declaration that H.B. 2 does violate both federal sex discrimination laws and the US Constitution. Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian law firm that opposes LGBT rights advances nationwide, has sued on behalf of parents and students challenging the validity of the Justice Department and the Department of Education’s adoption of guidelines requiring that schools comply with their interpretation of Title IX. Judge Schroeder’s ruling responded solely to the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary relief in their case against UNC, Governor Pat McCrory and other state officials, including Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Democratic candidate for governor who is refusing to defend H.B. 2. McCrory hired outside counsel to defend the state’s position. Reaction from the university to H.B. 2’s enactment has been curious to watch. Initially, its president, Margaret Spellings, announced that UNC was bound by the state law and would comply with it. Then, after a storm of criticism and the filing of lawsuits, she pointed out that the law has no enforcement provisions and that the university would not actively enforce it. That led the

state to argue there was no need for an injunction since UNC was doing nothing to interfere with the three plaintiffs’ use of restroom facilities. Schroeder rejected this argument, pointing out that “UNC’s pronouncements are sufficient to establish a justiciable case or controversy. The university has repeatedly indicated that it will — indeed, it must — comply with state law. Although UNC has not changed the words and symbols on its sex-segregated facilities, the meaning of those words and symbols has changed as a result of [the bathroom provisions], and UNC has no legal authority to tell its students or employees otherwise.” Schroeder continued, “The sex-segregated signs deny permission to those whose birth certificates fail to identify them as a match. UNC can avoid this result only by either (1) openly defying the law, which it has no legal authority to do, or (2) ordering that all bathrooms, showers, and other similar facilities on its campuses be designated as single occupancy, gender-neutral facilities. Understandably, UNC has chosen to do neither.” Since UNC has not expressly given transgender students and staff permission to use facilities consistent with their gender identity and has acknowledged that H.B. 2 is “the law of the state,” Schroeder said there is a live legal controversy about which a preliminary injunction in appropriate. Schroeder’s key factual finding was that the state failed to show that allowing transgender people to use restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity posed any significant risk of harm to other users of those facilities, and he also found little support for the state’s privacy claims. The state, he suggested, has been lax in providing any factual basis for its safety and privacy claims and even failed until rather late in the process to provide a transcript of the legislative proceedings, leaving the court in the dark about the stated purposes of H.B. 2’s bathroom provision.

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NORTH CAROLINA, continued on p.18

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POLITICS

In Glick Versus Fouratt, Clash Over A Legislator’s Role Incumbent emphasizes long hauls to move the needle; challenger says the people need an organizer BY PAUL SCHINDLER

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FACEBOOK.COM/JIMFOURATT

DEBORAHGLICK.COM

sked to describe the significance of her nearly 26-year tenure in the State Assembly, out lesbian Democrat Deborah Glick talks about the legacy issues that would define a legislator’s career. “I am clearly one of the foremost spokespeople for women’s reproductive rights,” she said in an interview this week. The chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education, Glick, unsurprisingly, added, “I am a strong and effective advocate for public higher education in New York.” Lest anyone assume that a legislator first elected in 1990 is now simply part of the establishment, however, Glick is quick to remind listeners of the historic role she played as the first out LGBT person elected to public office in New York State. “The only lesbian in the legislature is too much of an insider?,” she asked rhetorically in response to criticism from her September 13 Democratic primary challenger in Lower Manhattan’s Assembly District 66. “Women are outsiders. I see myself as someone who has worked effectively despite being an outsider.” That primary challenger, Jim Fouratt, who is also gay, runs little risk of being branded as part of the establishment. In a career that has spanned Off Off Broadway, record producing, alternative radio and newspapers, and founding big name nightclubs, he built the résumé that backs up his claim to being a “cultural instigator.” Fouratt has also been part of street activism

Incumbent Assemblymember Deborah Glick.

Challenger Jim Fouratt.

in New York going back half a century — arrested in anti-Vietnam War protests, participating in the Stonewall Rebellion and joining the ranks of the Gay Liberation Front, marching with ACT UP, and most recently fighting to save St. Vincent’s Hospital and block a hydro-fracked natural gas pipeline from being built along Lower Manhattan’s far west side. His recent activism informs his case against Glick. She was “silent,” Fouratt says, on St. Vincent’s closing in 2010; “silent” on the gas pipeline some environmentalists charge has created a “blast zone.” And, he asserts, “Glick’s stealth Hudson Park Trust air-rights giveaway” is enabling a major shift in the streetscape and skyline of the historically low-rise West Village. Underlying these specifics, however, is Fouratt’s view of what role an elected official should play — that of community organizer-in-chief, keeping voters informed every step

of the way in developing policy and mobilizing them to demand responsiveness from the centers of power. The St. Vincent’s issue is a case in point. That its closing is still being discussed six years after the fact is indicative of the potency its demise had in the minds of Lower Manhattanites. Then-City Council Speaker Christine Quinn had her one-time frontrunner status in the 2013 mayoral contest tarnished and then destroyed due in no small measure to charges that she too had been “silent.” That, despite the fact that many healthcare experts chided the hospital itself for its chronic mismanagement and said its departure was a sign of the times in that sector. Responding to suggestions that it would be possible to bring a full service hospital back into

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PRIMARY, continued on p.24

LGBT Issues Animate Queens Senate Primary Incumbent Stavisky’s challenger Jung opposes marriage equality, representation in school curriculum BY ANDY HUMM

O

ne of the most hotly contested Democratic primaries on September 13 is in central Queens’ 16th State Senate district, pitting pro-LGBT 17-year incumbent Toby Ann Stavisky against a return challenger, immigrant advocate S.J. Jung, who the Daily News revealed this week told a Korean-language audience that he would “fight to bar

8

pictures of same-sex couples from appearing in school textbooks.” “I pray Jesus Christ’s love to spread and his message speak through this election and your prayer of faith to make me a warrior clad in armor,” he told the religious group, according to the News. Jung also opposes same-sex marriage, which Stavisky voted for in a tight Senate showdown, when it was enacted in 2011. “That Friday night was the

most memorable legislative day I have ever had,” she told Gay City News, “because of its significance and the tremendous tension” over the outcome. “It’s hard to believe in this day and age that a guy who represented an immigrant rights group for years holds these views,” said out gay City Councilnember Daniel Dromm whose Jackson Heights district overlaps with Stavisky’s Senate district. “You have to wonder what he

did for LGBT immigrants when he was at MinKwon,” the social service agency Jung has led. Dromm, head of the Council’s Education Committee, said he has worked with Jung on immigrant issues. But Dromm is also a leader in pushing for the integration of LGBT issues into the school curriculum. “What he is attempting to do is make us invisible again,” Dromm

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QUEENS, continued on p.37

September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


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HEALTH

Stepping Up to Prostate Cancer Surgery An invader in the pleasure dome: second in a three-part series

I

BY PERRY BRASS

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I had a difficult time telling people about the upcoming surgery. I dreaded that look of concern on their faces, and frankly it was hard to reveal that I’d fallen through the rabbit hole of cancer. My friend Mark Horn, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, or PC, eight years earlier, was scheduled

to have his prostatectomy two weeks before me, and he reassured me, saying, “The decision who to tell is yours. It’s hard to talk about it, I know.” About two weeks before the operation I went to a meeting of the Gay Men’s Prostate Cancer Support Group held the first Monday of the month at what was Beth Israel on Union Square (but is now called Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Union Square). I’d heard about the group, sponsored by MaleCare, a non-profit that works with prostate cancer survivors, through a flyer at Mt. Sinai’s radiology department. One of the first to arrive in a large conference room, I met the moderator, Paul, and was impressed when 14 men showed up, ranging in age from their late 40s or early 50s to their 70s and 80s. The men were friendly, but not effusively so — prostate cancer doesn’t seem to inspire the same kind of bonding that, say, HIV often does. The men easily divided into two groups: those who had been treated, and were dealing with the problems and side effects of their treatment, and those who had not yet been, because they were either newly diagnosed or on what is known as Active Surveillance, a wait and see approach. Hugh and others had warned me about support groups: they can be “iffy” because everyone’s story is different and it’s easy to pick up newfound fears there. It’s accepted wisdom that if you are not having post-treatment problems, you won’t go to a support group. As a result, there’s little chance of hearing from men who have gone through PC treatment and are now free of both cancer and major problems. But that wasn’t really the experience I had. Some men went to the support group because only there could gay men with PC talk about it for 90 minutes without anyone either dozing off or telling them to get over it. And there was lots to talk about. Some men faced continued urinary incontinence after

COURTESY: PERRY BRASS

woke up at 1:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday, June 14, in a recovery ward in Mt. Sinai Uptown. My robotic-assisted, laparoscopic radical prostatectomy, performed by Dr. Ash Tewari, had begun at 7:30 a.m., and six hours later, I felt fine, even if a little groggy, still enveloped in anesthesia and painkillers. I was examined several times by nurses who told me I was doing beautifully. I didn’t want to look at my lower body; I’d have to face that later — when I was brought up to my room, hooked up to an IV feeding me antibiotics, painkillers, and glucose. I could have cold water, but no solid food until I passed gas. Carbon dioxide is pumped into your abdomen for the operation to extend it so that the “Da Vinci” robotic arm can get in there and do its work. The main way to release the gas is to… well, I had never wanted to fart so much in my life. A month earlier, when I had first met with Dr. Tewari, the head of Mt. Sinai’s Urology Department, at Mt. Sinai Uptown on Fifth Avenue, he immediately drew me a diagram of how this prostate cancer intervention would go. “I will make five incisions right here,” he said, pointing to my lower abdomen, “and then draw out your prostate from this one.” He pointed to an incision marked next to my navel. “The operation will take about 90 minutes. A day later, you should be able to walk a mile. The day after that, three miles.” In that drawing, it all looked simple. After several months of numerous medical consults, I was so glad to finally settle the question of my course of treatment that I accepted everything he said calmly. We went into an examining room and he did a quick digital exam of my rectum: “Yes, I can feel it,” he said. “We need to cut the cancer out of you.” He then took me over to Denise Ramos, a young woman who is his

scheduler and told her to book me for the operation. She opened a large scheduling book, and found the next available date: June 15. Exactly one month away. She then handed me a large folder filled with pre-op instructions and I put it in my backpack. On the way back to Riverdale with Hugh, my husband, all I could think about was that this part was over. I didn’t have to go for another “second opinion” — I’d had plenty — and I felt altogether confident in Ash Tewari. But it was still hard for me to accept that, at 68, I now had cancer. I glanced briefly at the inside of the folder, but avoided looking at it again for the next two weeks; I couldn’t make myself do it. I knew that every day brought me closer to the operation, and up ahead all I could see was a sense of panic settling in. Two years earlier, I had had a transurethral resectioning of the prostate, or TURP, done to open my prostate enough so that I wouldn’t wake up to pee six times a night. The TURP performed at Mt. Sinai West (what used to be Roosevelt Hospital) was arduous. I was in severe pain for weeks afterwards, and had a raging infection that required more antibiotics. But in my mind I decided the TURP was a dress rehearsal for the prostatectomy. At least I had an idea of what this operation might be like, and how I would be afterward. Following the TURP operation, it took five months for the benefits to kick in. I was finally getting up only once or twice a night to pee. Now, I was preparing to lose my prostate altogether — quite a zinger!

Perry Brass wearing size large sweat pants to conceal the catheter a week after his radical prostatectomy, with his Riverdale neighbor Marnie Wood and his husband Hugh Young.

treatment and talked about where to get and how to wear “adult diapers” without feeling ridiculous as well as how to live with “accidents” that happen. Others discussed their trials in overcoming difficult sexual problems — including, sadly, potential boyfriends who run because getting an erection might require a post-treatment man to inject his urethra or penis with powerful, direct-delivery drugs. And still others gave vent to intense fear, depression, and, also, genuine anger — at urologists who still can’t deal with gay patients, at insensitive caregivers, or at hospital staff who piss them off. I took notes and found myself choked up. Some of these men were so gallant, so brave, I thought, in dealing with all this. I learned that I would to have a Foley catheter inserted in my urethra during the operation and it would stay with me for nine days afterward to drain my urine. I hadn’t known this, but should have — it was in the folder I hadn’t yet read. I was also warned of the risk of dead scar tissue blocking urination, coagulating inside the urethra, and leading to an emergency room visit. Some men reported that they figured out they could take care of the dead tissue themselves by pulling it through their penis. I had to swal-

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September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


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low hard hearing that, but was glad to know. Paul, the facilitator, had to smile. “This is something you don’t usually get at the regular support group,” he said, alluding to the value of a specifically gay support group. “They don’t talk about things so personally. There are a lot more barriers set up.” A few days afterward, I finally went through the pre-op folder. It said I should be getting myself as strong as possible by exercising a lot, including doing Kegel exercises — a difficult series of squeezes to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that undergird the pelvis. I was strong from constant daily exercise, but I had not been doing Kegels — and despite finding online instruction in doing so, I didn’t make much progress. Interestingly, women and an increasing number of gay men use these exercises to improve the quality of their orgasms. I wasn’t happy that my operation was set for the very middle of Pride Month, and would mean my missing parties and maybe even the parade itself. I’d read that my exercise for six weeks after the operation would be limited to walking and lifting no more than eight pounds. Having exercised virtually every day of my life — doing Pilates, full body exercises, and interval aerobics — I was convinced my body would fall apart completely my first week without that. Visiting Mark Horn at Mt. Sinai Uptown the day after his operation, I found he looked good considering what he had been through. He was being released — no one stays in hospitals very long these days — and I helped him out of his hospital gown and into his clothes. I got to see his incisions and also his catheter. That was difficult, but I had to face it.

My week leading up to the scheduled operation on Wednesday, June 15, was packed with tying up loose ends, so I was caught up short when I got a call on Monday that it was being moved up a day to Tuesday. I was expected at Mt. Sinai at 5:30 a.m. the next morning. The pre-op instructions asked for a light diet leading up to the operation and a 24-hour fast immediately beforehand, but GayCityNews.nyc | September 01 - 14, 2016

Suddenly I snapped to attention. I could do this — and having one day less of anticipation meant less time to get nervous. Denise Ramos assured me, “You can have a light dinner before, just nothing after midnight.” Suddenly I snapped to attention. I could do this — and having one day less of anticipation meant less time to get nervous. I went to bed early, woke up at 4 a.m., got some exercise, did a pre-op Fleet enema, and dressed. Then I started worrying about the change of clothes needed for the day I’d be released, and I began throwing things in my backpack like crazy. I realized this was the only way I could face this, as if I were going away on a trip and needed to pack for it thoroughly. Hugh drove me downtown from Riverdale and when we arrived at the surgery holding area, I figured I’d be sitting there for a while. Instead, everything started instantly: intake, resolving insurance questions with billing, seeing an intake nurse who was very sweet and comforting, then out of my clothes and into a gown, saying goodbye to Hugh. It all happened so fast, I had that feeling someone else was doing it. On the surgery floor, I saw Dr. Tewari for a moment; he too was positive and cordial. Then I met my anesthesiologist, a very matter-of-fact young man who started an IV line in my left hand. The line was taped to me, I peed again, and was then walked into the operating room. To me, operating rooms have a very theatrical quality — you feel like the audience for a moment, and everyone is performing for you. Surgeons love music; they were playing Frank Sinatra: “Fly me to the Moon, let me play among the stars…” I felt good. Tewari’s assistants smiled, I was positioned on the table, and told in a second I’d fall asleep. And of course I did.

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11


ADVOCACY

The Small Agency With a Big Voice

VOCAL-NY emerges as leading Cuomo critic on AIDS policy, housing BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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A June 21 protest outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Midtown office organized by VOCAL-NY.

a concern that has grown with the city health department recently reporting a 158 percent increase in heroin overdose deaths from 2010 to 2015. With Cuomo, AIDS organizations face a dilemma. Sixty-three of them, including VOCAL-NY, were on the task force that created the Plan to End AIDS along with senior members of the Cuomo administration. The groups still need Cuomo for money and to implement policy. If they criticize Cuomo at all, their comments have been guarded and polite. VOCALNY is filling a needed role, though at least one large group, Housing Works, has shown increasing willingness to chastise the governor. At a June 21 protest over the housing MOU held outside Cuomo’s Manhattan office, Andrew Coamey, the senior vice president who oversees construction, facilities, and housing at Housing Works, called on Cuomo to “show some honesty, show some integrity” and “keep your promises.” Charles King, the chief executive at Housing Works, is credited with developing the Plan to End AIDS, along with Mark Harrington, the head of the Treatment Action Group, a policy organization. King,

GAY CITY NEWS

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GAY CITY NEWS

hile most AIDS groups have remained silent as Gover nor Andrew Cuomo has declined to fully fund the Plan to End AIDS, VOCALNY has emerged as the principal antagonist of the governor as it repeatedly presses Cuomo to pay for the ambitious plan. “He says all the time that it’s a priority of his, nothing gets done,” said Alyssa Aguilera, co-executive director at the agency. “If there is not pressure to move him, if there is not a strategic reason, he won’t move… He’s going to do what organizations make him.” Most recently, the agency joined other housing groups in organizing a regular Wednesday protest outside Cuomo’s Manhattan office on Third Avenue to demand that he keep a promise to build 20,000 units of housing. The Plan to End AIDS aims to reduce new HIV infections in New York from the current roughly 3,000 annually to 750 a year by 2020. The plan uses anti-HIV drugs in HIV-negative people to keep them uninfected and treats HIV-positive people so they are no longer infectious. Cuomo has consistently underfunded the plan. The plan also relies on delivering services to some HIV-positive people, such as stable housing, nutrition, and transportation, because those services make it more likely that people will adhere to their anti-HIV medications and remain non-infectious. In January, Cuomo said the state would spend $20 billion over five years to build 20,000 units of affordable housing, emergency shelter beds, and supportive housing, which combines housing with services. When the state budget was passed for the fiscal year that began on April 1, only 6,000 supportive housing units were funded. The budget said that Cuomo would negotiate a memorandum

of understanding (MOU) with the state Senate and Assembly that would control how $1.9 billion for housing would be spent. AIDS groups lobbied to have the housing component of the Plan to End AIDS in the MOU. When the legislative session ended on June 17, the MOU was not completed and advocates learned that just $570 million would be spent on housing in the current fiscal year and just $150 million of that represented new money. “We’re going to keep going,” Aguilera said during an interview at the agency’s Brooklyn offices. “It’s a lot of money and it’s a substantial amount of housing. Our strategy is to escalate.” Prior to the start of the current state fiscal year, roughly 30 AIDS activists organized by VOCAL-NY seized a suite near Cuomo’s office in Albany and refused to leave until he committed to spending $70 million on the Plan to End AIDS in the current fiscal year. The activists occupied the suite for 24 hours and six were arrested. Founded 17 years ago, VOCALNY employs 16 people full-time and another six part-time. With a current annual budget of $1.7 million, it is tiny compared to other AIDS and housing organizations that have budgets in the tens of millions, but VOCAL-NY has long been a leader in advocating for people with HIV along with those larger agencies. The agency has also worked on criminal justice reform issues. “We’re known for our organizing and advocacy work,” Aguilera said. “The core of our work is community organizing, but we’re not just rabble rousers. We see organizing as a strategic approach to winning concrete policies that will improve the lives of our members.” In addition to its organizing, the agency runs a syringe exchange program out of its offices on Fourth Avenue near Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn and it distributes naloxone, which treats opioid overdose,

Alyssa Aguilera, co-executive director of VOCAL-NY, outside the group’s Fourth Avenue office in Brooklyn.

who has a long record of aggressive advocacy, has largely avoided criticizing Cuomo. King was not at the protest. Aguilera said that the absence of other AIDS groups was not significant. “I wouldn’t take that as much more than who has the capacity to turn out on short notice,” Aguilera said. “There’s definitely a relationship where we have different roles in the work.” September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


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13


CRIME

Cop Admits Weak NYPD Effort in Black Gay Man’s Assault In 2013 alleged Hasidic patrol attack in Williamsburg, case closed in 65 minutes

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BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

iving credence to allegations that police initially made little effort to investigate a brutal attack on a black gay man in Williamsburg, the detective in the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force who took over the case six days after the assault said he received a single report from the local precinct when he began his investigation. “I think it was just a single interview,” Eric Sanchez, the lead detective, said during trial testimony in Brooklyn Supreme Court on August 30 when asked about any contact with witnesses early in the investigation. Taj Patterson, now 25, was assaulted in the Brooklyn neighborhood early in the morning on December 1, 2013 allegedly by members of a community patrol organized the Satmar Hasidic Jewish community that dominates a portion of Williamsburg. He suffered a broken eye socket, bruises, abrasions, and was left blind in one eye. The single interview was with Patterson. Pinchas Braver and Abraham Winkler pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment in the attack. Charges against Aharon Hollender and Joseph Fried were dropped. Mayer Herskovic refused a deal, and his trial began on

August 29. He faces multiple counts of unlawful imprisonment, assault, gang assault, and menacing. In June of this year, Patterson filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, three of the police officers who were involved in the initial investigation, the five men who were charged and a sixth man, the Williamsburg Safety Patrol, and the Shmira Volunteer Patrol. In the lawsuit, Patterson charged that the city and the police department have long privileged these patrols and this community. The initial investigation is just one more example. “The defendant officers personally participated in the decision not to pursue an investigation into crimes committed against [Patterson], based solely upon the races, religions, and sexual preferences of [Patterson] and other defendants,” the federal complaint charges. A day after the assault, Patterson obtained a police record called a 61 that showed the investigation had been closed about an hour after the attack, which occurred at roughly 4:40 a.m. The 61 is dated December 1, 2013 and is time stamped 5:45 a.m. It says “CLOSED” under “Case Status.” The record lists names and contact information for four witnesses to the assault and gives the license plate numbers for two cars that the assailants used to leave the scene. The attack was

Taj Patterson, after suffering an assault by a gang of men in Williamsburg in December 2013.

described as a misdemeanor assault in the 61. Andrew Stoll, a partner at Stoll, Glickman & Bellina, who is representing Patterson in the federal case, has been attending the Herskovic trial. He was not surprised by the testimony.

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Alleged Boyfriend Murderer Asked Forgiveness on Facebook Marcus Bellamy, Broadway dancer, posted cryptic “confession” in Bronx slaying of Bernardo Almonte BY PAUL SCHINDLER

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man charged in the August 19 strangulation murder of his boyfriend in the Bronx took to Facebook in the immediate aftermath of the violence with a series of posts that amounted to a cryptic confession of sorts. “Forgive me father,” Marcus Bellamy, a 32-year-old Broadway dancer, wrote at 3:57 p.m. that afternoon, just moments after he allegedly killed Bernardo Almonte, Jr., 27, whom the Daily News reported Bellamy told police was his boyfriend. That post was followed in rapid succession by the following posts: “For god so loved the world that he gave his only son.”

“Lucifer.” “I am god. I give life and can take it away. So let it be. #‎therapture” “Forgive me. I did it because I love you. I love you all. I loved him also. He told me love and hate are the same emotion. Forgive me. I know not what I do. I did it for love. For god. On high.” The criminal complaint, which charges Bellamy with murder in the second degree and manslaughter in the first degree in Almonte’s strangling at 104 West 174th Street in the Morris Heights section, puts the time of the killing at approximately 4 p.m. The Daily News reported that after the killing, Bellamy left the apartment and told a neighbor that he had just slain Almonte. Bellamy will next appear in court

Marcus Bellamy.

Bernardo Almonte, Jr.

on September 9, at which time an indictment could be announced. Florida-bor n Bellamy was a back-up dancer in the Broadway production of “Spider-Man, Turn Off the Darkness,” and was in the

ensemble of the 2006 production of “Tarzan.” He also danced in the NBC show “Smash,” and the films “Across the Universe” and “A Mid-

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“It’s what everybody has long known to be the practice that when Orthodox Jews are suspected of a crime, they are either not arrested or walked out of the backdoor of a precinct,” Stoll told Gay City News. “Quite the opposite is true if an Orthodox Jew is a victim of a crime, then the practice is to bend over backwards.” Eventually, as many as 20 police officers and detectives were involved in the investigation, and it lasted five to six months. The investigation was difficult even after it was handed off to the Hate Crimes Task Force. When police canvassed for video footage that might show the attack, neighborhood residents were “uncooperative,” Sanchez testified. They obtained some video footage only after sending Jewish police officers into the neighborhood saying they were looking for video evidence related to a robbery of a Jewish person on December 1. That “ruse,” as Sanchez termed it, produced some video. When Israel Fried, Herskovic’s attorney, asked Sanchez if that lack of cooperation was typical of a number of communities, Sanchez said, “Not this magnitude.”

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summer Night’s Dream.” Almonte’s Linkedin.com profile identified him as a freelance IT technician. In the early morning of August 19, between 12 and 15 hours before the killing, Bellamy made a series of bizarre and also cryptic Facebook posts. At 12:43 a.m., he wrote, “About a month ago.. God sent a thought to me. The thought continued to reoccure [sic] in my mind … So. Now.. I am … Asking god .. To let me know. If it’s true.. God said to me not to worry about Donald Trump being elected into presidency.. Because he will pass away before the voting happens. He will pass away from an illness that no amount of money or medication will be able to save him from. That’s what god said to me.. If it will happen.. I don’t know. God” About three hours later, he wrote, “I don’t need to do anything. GayCityNews.nyc | September 01 - 14, 2016

As of August 31, no witness at the trial had identified Herskovic as one of the men who attacked Patterson. However, on that day, Patterson testified that the man who punched and kicked him in the face was the same man who pulled off his sneaker and threw it onto a nearby roof. Patterson’s sneaker was recovered from that roof and it had Herskovic’s DNA on it. On August 30, Evelyn Keys, a city bus driver who was named on the 61, testified that on the night of the attack her bus was blocked by cars as she drove down Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn. She saw “a group of Hasidic Jews” standing in a circle on the sidewalk near the cars. She saw one of them toss something on to the roof of an adjacent building. Keys stood in the door of her bus and overheard a man say to one of the men in the circle, “I’m not going to leave here and let you hurt him like that.” When the men left in the cars that had blocked her way, she went to the young man who was lying on the sidewalk. He said, “I can’t see, I can’t breathe,” Keys said. “He was speaking softly as though he was in pain,” she said. “He was in agony.”

All I need to do is be. God will work out all the details. #‎relax #‎earthquake” And then, at 4:12 a.m., he wrote, “Trust me. This is just the beginning. Of a whole new world.” In a written statement, Beverly Tillery, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, said, “We are deeply saddened by the homicide of Bernardo Almonte, and send our condolences to his friends and loved ones. Too often we only hear of LGBTQ intimate partner violence through these most tragic homicides.” Earlier intervention in relationship violence before it escalates, Tillery added, is essential. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects documented 15 intimate partner homicides within the LGBTQ community in 2014, the last year for which full data is available. The group has responded to 10 such incidents this year.

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LEGAL

New York State Tosses Noxious Custody Precedent Court of Appeals reverses 1991 ruling that barred standing for parents without biological, adoptive ties BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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ew York State’s highest bench, the Court of Appeals, has overruled a quarter -century-old precedent, establishing a new rule for determining when somebody who is neither a biological nor an adoptive parent can seek custody of a child. The August 30 opinion for the court by Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam provides that “where a partner shows by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together, the non-biological, non-adoptive partner has standing to seek visitation and custody.” The court was ruling on two cases that originated with similar facts but then developed in different directions. According to the plaintiff’s petition in Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A.C.C., the women began their relationship in 2006, announced their “engagement” the following year, and then decided to have and raise a child together. Elizabeth became pregnant through donor insemination and bore a son in June 2009. Brooke and Elizabeth lived together with the child, sharing parental duties, until their relationship ended in 2010. Elizabeth permitted Brooke to continue visiting with their son until the relationship between the women deteriorated, and Elizabeth terminated Brooke’s contact in 2013. Brooke sued for joint custody and visitation rights, but the trial court and the Appellate Division agreed with Elizabeth’s argument that by virtue of a 1991 Court of Appeals ruling, Alison D. v. Virginia M., Brooke could not bring the lawsuit because she was neither the biological nor the adoptive parent of the child. Brooke appealed to the Court of Appeals, asking it to overrule Alison D. Although the term “parent” is not defined in New York’s Domestic Relations Law provision authorizing custody and visitation lawsuits, the Court of Appeals in Alison D. limited its meaning to biological or adoptive parents. At that time, New York did not allow same-sex marriages or second-parent adoptions, so the ruling effectively precluded a same-sex co-parent from seeking joint custody or visitation after a break-up with the biological parent, in the absence of “extraordinary circumstances” recognized in other cases the Court of Appeals decided. The court specifically ruled that the facts in Alison D. — similar to those in the Brooke S.B. case — did not constitute such “extraordinary circumstances.” In the other case decided by this new ruling, Estrellita A. v. Jennifer D., the women began their relationship in 2003, registered as domes-

tic partners in 2007, and then agreed to have a child together, with Jennifer becoming pregnant through donor insemination. They agreed they would obtain sperm from a Latino donor, matching Estrellita’s ethnicity. Their daughter was born in November 2008, and they lived together as a family for the next three years until the women’s relationship ended. Estrellita moved out in September 2012, but continued to have contact with the child with Jennifer’s permission. The following month, Jennifer started a proceeding in Family Court seeking child support payments from Estrellita, who responded by petitioning for legal visitation rights. The Family Court granted Jennifer’s petition for support, finding that “the uncontroverted facts established” that Estrellita was “a parent” of the child, and so could be held liable to pay child support. But in responding to Estrellita’s petition for visitation, Jennifer argued that the Allison D. precedent should block her claim. The Family Court disagreed with Jennifer, finding that having alleged that Estrellita was a parent in order to win child support, she could not then turn around and deny that Estrellita was a parent in the visitation case — such inconsistent legal arguments barred by a doctrine known as “judicial estoppel.” After a hearing, the Family Court concluded that ordering visitation was in the child’s best interest. The Appellate Division affirmed this ruling, and Jennifer appealed to the Court of Appeals. Judge Abdus-Salaam’s decision for the state’s high court refers repeatedly to the dissenting opinion written by the late Chief Judge Judith Kaye in the Alison D. case. Kaye, a quarter century ago, emphasized that the court’s narrow conception of parental standing would adversely affect children raised by unmarried couples, thus defeating the main policy goal of the Domestic Relations Law, which was to steer policy and decisions in the best interest of the child. In adopting the posture it did, the court cut short legal proceedings before the child’s best interest could even be considered. Unfortunately, Kaye passed away before learning that her dissent would be vindicated in this new ruling. However, her 2006 dissent from the Court of Appeals’ refusal to rule for same-sex marriage rights was vindicated in 2011 when the Legislature passed the Marriage Equality Act, and she also lived to see her legal reasoning vindicated by the US Supreme Court last year in Obergefell v. Hodges. Abdus-Salaam pointed out that Kaye’s arguments in 1991 were even stronger today, with the growth of diverse families and the large numbers of children living in households head-

The late Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith Kaye had her 1991 dissent in a precedent-setting same-sex couple custody fight vindicated this week by the state’s highest court.

ed by unmarried adults. She referred to a concurring opinion in a case decided by the court five years ago, in which then-Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Associate Judge Carmen Ciparick (both since retired from the court) argued that the Alison D. ruling “had indeed caused the widespread harm to children predicted by Judge Kaye’s dissent,” and asserting that Alison D. was inconsistent with some subsequent rulings. That concurring opinion called for a “flexible, multi-factored” approach to decide whether there was a parental relationship between a child and an adult outside the narrow definition of Alison D. In that same case, Judge Robert Smith (also now retired) argued that an appropriate test for parental status would focus on whether “the child is conceived” through donor insemination “by one member of a same-sex couple living together, with the knowledge and consent of the other.” In its new ruling, the Court of Appeals — acknowledging strong court precedent recognizing the constitutional rights of biological parents took a cautious approach. Although some parties to the case urged the court to adopt an expansive, one-size-fits-all test for determining the standing of those who are neither biological nor adoptive parents, the court focused on the facts of these two cases, where the plaintiffs alleged they had an agreement with their samesex partner about conceiving the child through donor insemination and then jointly raising the child as co-parents. The court left to another day resolving how to deal with cases where a biological parent

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September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


YOUTH

Religious Freedom Challenge to Conversion Therapy Ban Fails Ninth Circuit again upholds California’s law protecting LGBT minors BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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GayCityNews.nyc | September 01 - 14, 2016

EMILYSLIST.ORG

California law that prohibits state-licensed mental health providers from engaging in “sexual orientation change efforts” — so-called “conversion therapy” — with minors has withstood another First Amendment challenge. A unanimous August 23 decision by a three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based Ninth Cir cuit Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling by US District Judge William B. Shubb that the law, SB 1172, does not violate the religious freedom rights of mental health providers who wish to provide such “therapy” to minors or of the potential patients themselves. In a previous ruling, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that the law violated their free speech rights. Those challenging the law argued that such therapy mainly involves talking, making the law an impermissible abridgement of freedom of speech. The court countered that the law was a regulation of health care practice, which is within the traditional powers of the state. The court found that the state had a rational basis for imposing this regulation, in light of evidence in the legislative record of the harms such therapy does to minors. In this new case, the plaintiffs were arguing that their First Amendment religious freedom claim required the court to apply strict scrutiny to the law, putting the burden on the state to show that the law was narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest. The plaintiffs contended that the law “excessively entangles the State with religion,” but the court, in an opinion by Circuit Judge Susan P. Graber, said that this argument “rests on a misconception of the scope of SB 1172,” rejecting the plaintiffs’ claims that the law would prohibit “certain prayers during reli-

The Office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris again successfully defended the state law ban on so-called “conversion therapy” on LGBT minors.

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gious services.” Graber made clear that the law “regulates conduct only within the confines of the counselor-client relationship” and doesn’t apply to clergy — even if they also happen to hold a state mental health practitioner license — when they are carrying out clerical functions. “SB 1172 regulates only (1) therapeutic treatment, not expressive speech, by (2) licensed mental health professionals acting within the confines of the counselor -client relationship,” Graber wrote, a conclusion that “flows primarily from the text of the law.” Her conclusion was bolstered by legislative history, ironically submitted by the plaintiffs, which showed the narrow application intended by the legislature. “Plaintiffs are in no practical danger of enforcement outside the confines of the counselor-client relationship,” Graber wrote. Plaintif fs also advanced an Establishment Clause argument, contending that the measure has a principal or primary purpose of “inhibiting religion.” Graber countered with the leg-

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Transgender Funeral Director’s Firing Upheld Federal judge grants Michigan business religious out from sex stereotyping liability BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

A

federal judge in Michigan has ruled that a funeral home that discharged a transgender funeral director because of her intention to dress according to the employer’s dress code for women was not liable for sex discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The August 18 ruling by District Judge Sean F. Cox, which granted the Harris Funeral Homes, which has three locations in the Detroit area, its motion for summary judgment, based on its free exercise of religion defense raised under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The plaintiff in the case, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that enforces Title VII, failed to show that requiring Harris Funeral Homes to allow Aimee Stephens to wear the approved female outfit was the “least restrictive alternative” in achieving the government’s compelling interest in preventing sex stereotyping discrimination in the workplace, the judge found. Significantly, Cox made clear in his opinion that had Stephens sued the funeral home on her own behalf, Harris would not have been able to raise the RFRA religious freedom defense, and she would most likely have won her Title VII case. Under Sixth Circuit precedent, by which the Michigan court is bound, a RFRA defense may only be raised in a case where “the government” is either the plaintiff or the defendant. There is some disagreement among circuit courts of appeal on this point, and the Supreme Court has never made clear whether RFRA is limited in this way. But in its controversial 2014 Hobby Lobby decision, the high court ruled that business corporations may claim protection from government actions under RFRA — in that case, the Obama administration’s requirement that employer health plans cover contraceptives. Respond-

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NORTH CAROLINA, from p.7

Schroeder also pointed out that North Carolina has long had criminal laws in place that would protect the safety and privacy interests of people using public restroom facilities. While concluding that the state could not demonstrate any real harm in having the injunction issued, the harm to the plaintiffs in keeping the bathroom provision in place was real and significant.

18

ing to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s warning, in her dissent, that the decision would endanger the enforcement of Title VII and other anti-discrimination laws, Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, argued that that an employer would not be able to rely on RFRA to defend against a Title VII race discrimination charge. That statement, however, was “dicta,” language that is not part of the ruling’s precedent. Alito made no distinction between cases brought by the EEOC and those brought by individual employees. Hired as Anthony Stephens in 2007, Stephens, a funeral director and embalmer, informed Thomas Rost, the owner of 90 percent of Harris Funeral Homes, in writing of her intention to transition in 2013, explaining that as part of the process she would live and work full-time as a woman for a year prior to undergoing “sex reassignment surgery.” Rost responded to the letter by firing Stephens, according to his own testimony. “Anthony, this is not going to work out,” Rost recalled telling Stephens. “And that your services would no longer be needed here.” Stephens filed a sex discrimination charge with the EEOC, alleging she was fired due to her sex and gender identity. After investigating the charge, the EEOC concluded that there was “reasonable cause” to believe that Stephens’ “allegations are true.” The EEOC also concluded, as a result of its investigation, that Harris discriminated against its female employees because it provided appropriate suits and ties for male employees but required female employees to assume all expenses of complying with the company dress code. Given the EEOC’s increased commitment to litigating gender identity discrimination cases itself, the agency filed suit in the Eastern District of Michigan in September 2014. In response, Harris filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming that gender identity discrimination claims are not covered under Title VII. At

Schroeder did not base his ruling on 14th Amendment equal protection and due process claims asserted by the plaintiffs, which he found less well developed than their Title IX claims. Even invoking heightened judicial scrutiny to any claim of sex discrimination under H.B. 2, he concluded, might not be sufficient to overcome Fourth Circuit precedents about North Carolina’s legitimate interest in protecting the individual privacy of users of public restroom facilities. Other cases underway in North Carolina

this point, the funeral home did not mention any religious freedom claim under RFRA. Judge Cox agreed that gender identity discrimination claims are not covered, as such, but refused to dismiss the Title VII claim, concluding it was covered by Sixth Circuit precedent involving transgender public employees who sued on a theory of “sex stereotyping” — an avenue for sex discrimination claims dating back to a 1989 Supreme Court ruling about a woman denied a promotion because she was seen as insufficiently feminine. After Harris lost its motion to dismiss, it got new legal representation from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a so-called Christian public interest law firm, which raised for the first time the claim that the funeral home had the right to discharge Stephens regardless of Title VII because Rost’s objection to her proposed mode of dress was based on his religious views against transgender status. Rost asserted his belief that gender and biological sex are created by God and immutable. During discovery, ADF presented evidence, not questioned by the EEOC, that this was Rost’s sincere religious belief and that he had consistently expressed his intention to operate this family-owned corporate business in line with his religious beliefs. Harris’ website and literature provide evidence to back up that claim. Cox’s August 18 ruling did, in fact, find that Harris violated Title VII by discharging Stephens over the anticipated dress code violation. While some appellate rulings uphold the right of employers to condition employment on a formal dress code, Cox found that a Sixth Circuit precedent specifically rejected the idea that a dress code would necessarily insulate an employer from a charge of sex stereotyping. However, Cox went on to find that Harris should prevail based on its RFRA defense. The

may yet accept a 14th Amendment claim against the new state law. Judge Schroeder explained that his injunction directly protects only the three plaintiffs and not all transgender students and staff at UNC, a point that prompted Lambda Legal, on August 29, to announce it would seek to have it broadened. “The current complaint asserts no claim for class relief or any Title IX claim by ACLU-NC on behalf of its members,” he wrote. “Consequently, the relief granted now is

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FIRING, continued on p.39

as to the individual transgender Plaintiffs.” Regardless of that caveat, UNC is now on notice that any action to exclude transgender students or staff from restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity is a likely violation of Title IX. That will, no doubt, deter the university from any enforcement efforts, which it has eschewed in any event. Schroeder was appointed to the federal court in 2007 by President George W. Bush. September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


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TEXAS, from p.6

The plaintiffs also contend that this new rule is not a legitimate interpretation of Title IX, because Congress did not contemplate the question of transgender access to restrooms back in the early 1970s. In his August 22 ruling, O’Connor concluded that the plaintiffs met their burden of showing they would likely succeed on the merits of their claim, which is necessary to support a preliminary injunction. In doing so, he rejected the Fourth Circuit’s conclusion that the existing statute and regulations are ambiguous and so subject to administrative interpretation. The legislative history, he found, makes clear that Congress was not contemplating outlawing gender identity discrimination when it passed sex discrimination laws more than four decades ago. The existing regulation allowing schools to provide separate facilities for boys and girls, he concluded, was intended to protect student privacy against being forced to be undressed in front of students of the opposite sex. Also in support of his preliminary injunction, O’Connor found that without it school districts would face the burden of either changing their facilities access policies or potentially losing federal money. On that point, he noted the Obama administration’s suit against North Carolina seeking to block the facilities access restrictions in H.B.2. The administration argued that any preliminary injunction should apply only to the states in the Fifth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over the federal district court in Wichita, even though the co-plaintiffs include states in sev-

eral other circuits, but O’Connor rejected this argument, agreeing with the plaintiffs that the injunction should be nationwide. Given the terms of Title VII, he noted, states willing to provide transgender students access to the restrooms corresponding to their gender identity are free to do so. O’Connor ordered the government — and specifically the Labor Department and the EEOC, as well as the DOE and DOJ — not to enforce its guidelines on restroom access or to carry out any investigations based on the interpretation underlying them and to “maintain the status quo” until the merits of the case are resolved. Since the injunction mentions only Title IX, it is questionable whether it would affect the ability of the EEOC or the Labor Department to pursue gender identity employment discrimination cases under Title VII. O’Connor apparently concluded that the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the injunction in the Gavin Grimm case from Virginia suggests that school districts should not be required as a matter of federal law to allow transgender students access to facilities consistent with their gender identity unless and until there is a binding Supreme Court ruling to the that effect. Civil rights organizations that represent transgender plaintiffs immediately emphasized that the injunction was binding only on the federal government, not on private parties and organizations. Under the terms of the injunction, however, the federal agencies identified as defendants here are barred from joining such lawsuits as co-plaintiffs or amicus parties as long as the injunction remains in effect.

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19


PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus

Milo Yiannopoulos Is a Bore

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Gay City News, The Newspaper Serving Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender NYC, is published by NYC Community Media, LLC. Send all inquiries to: Gay City News, One Metrotech North, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Phone: 212.229.1890 Written permission of the publisher must be obtained before any of the contents of this paper, in part or whole, can be reproduced or redistributed. All contents © 2016 Gay City News. Gay City News is a registered trademark of NYC Community Media, LLC. Jennifer Goodstein, CEO Fax: 212.229.2790; E-mail: jgoodstein@cnglocal.com

© 2016 Gay City News. All rights reserved. FOUNDING MEMBER

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FOUNDING MEMBER

BY ED SIKOV

I

’m embarrassed to devote column inches to Milo Yiannopoulos, the racist gay tech editor for Breitbart.com. But he’s been in the news lately and this is a media column and, well, I feel a certain obligation. In case you’ve somehow managed to avoid encountering his entirely predictable attention-grabbing stunts, Yiannopoulos is a professional Internet troll who was recently banned from Twitter after a sustained barrage of nasty, debasing personal attacks on Leslie Jones, the African-American “Saturday Night Live” and “Ghostbusters” star. Yiannopoulos specializes in meeting expectations. He’s the new Ann Coulter, only he really is male. He’s just a publicity hound, sniffing at the shitty ass of a gullible public. Just when you think Yiannopoulos couldn’t sink any lower in his never-ending pursuit of outrage, he comes up with something new — or better, seemingly new, because in all cases his attempts to self-aggrandize by way of seizing on some supposed scandal not only work but work in the most mechanical and obvious way possible. In January, for example, he launched the Yiannopoulos Privilege Grant, a charity which, of course, he named for himself and is designed to help underprivileged white guys pay for college — because black people have all the luck and support, you know. Your basic, garden-variety stooge might believe in this principle, but it takes a real asshole to go ahead and put it into action. The fund turned out to be grossly mismanaged, but Yiannopoulos turned the negative publicity to his advantage; responding to a claim that he’d spent $250,000 of the fund’s funds on drugs, he said, “I only wish I could get that much up my nose.” Ho, ho, how droll. Of course Yiannopoulos is a Trumpie. And of course he’s a white supremacist. As Slate.com’s Michelle Goldberg writes, “In March, Breitbart published ‘An Establishment Conser vative’s Guide to the Alt-Right,’ by Yiannopoulos and Allum Bokhari. ‘Just as the kids of the 60s shocked their parents with promiscuity, long hair, and rock’n’roll, so too do the alt-

right’s young meme brigades shock older generations with outrageous caricatures, from the Jewish “Shlomo Shekelburg” to “Remove Kebab,” an Internet in-joke about the Bosnian genocide,’ they wrote. ‘Are they actually bigots? No more than death metal devotees in the 80s were actually Satanists.’ When Britain voted to leave the European Union, Yiannopoulos tweeted, ‘Sorry about it (((Soros))),’ accompanied by a photo of a little blond girl. He was referring to the liberal financier George Soros, and the triple parentheses are the altright symbol for Jew. This was apparently arch, ironic anti-Semitism, not the vulgar earnest kind.” But his ironies are themselves ironic; they cancel each other out. In other words, he really is a bigot. Nevertheless, Kristen V. Brown, of Fusion.net, is smitten: “Perhaps the most shocking thing about Milo Yiannopoulos is that he is utterly charming. Online, the 31-year-old conservative Breitbart columnist is the sort of frustrating troll who, for instance, might declare his birthday World Patriarchy Day, suggest Donald Trump is ‘blacker’ than Barack Obama, or, although he is gay himself, assert that gay rights have ‘made us dumber.’ He was recently booted from a demonstration against sexual violence in Los Angeles after showing up with a sign that read ‘“Rape culture” and Harry Potter. Both fantasy.’ A dedicated contrarian, Yiannopoulos seems to delight in making enemies. But in real life — in spite of all this, or, perhaps, because of it — Yiannopoulos is disarmingly likeable. After all, you don’t amass 85,000 Twitter followers, become the conservative torch-bearer in a gaming industry civil war, attract a cult following among young, Internet-savvy men, and become a figurehead of the Men’s Rights movement without knowing a little something about exploiting the human psyche.” Yeah, that and the fact that there’s a sucker born every minute. The jizz on the cake is Yiannopoulos’ widely self-publicized taste for black cock. “I keep getting accused of being a white supremacist. But if that’s the case, I must be the first black-dicksucking white supremacist in history,” he has said.

But of course that’s inane. Leni Riefenstahl, the Nazi filmmaker and photographer, may not have actually sucked off the men of the Nuba tribe she fetishized in her book “Die Nuba,” but she certainly eroticized them. Some Nazis fetishized Jews, some misogynists fetishize women, and some white supremacists get off on sucking black cock. It’s all just so calculating.

Can you spell h-y-p-o-c-r-i-t-e? Via Towleroad comes this delightful nugget: “A Georgia pastor who said that the victims of the Orlando massacre ‘got what they deserved’ has been arrested for child molestation of a young male who attended his church.” If it weren’t for the fact that a real person was — ahem, allegedly — molested, this item would bring unadulterated joy to my heart. Towleroad continues: “Ken Adkins, 56, also fought against expanding non-discrimination protections to LGBT people in Jacksonville, Florida.” Of course he did. There is nothing more delightful than a self-righteous preacher exposed. Towleroad’s source was Jacksonville.com, which (you should pardon the expression) fleshed out the details: “One of the two charges against the 56-year-old is aggravated child molestation, said Stacy Carson, special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Kingsland office. District Attorney Jackie Johnson asked the GBI on Aug. 12 to assist the Brunswick Police Department in an investigation of an accusation of child molestation against Adkins, Carson said. The investigation focused on suspected molestation in several locations in the Brunswick area including at Adkins’ church, a vehicle, and a victim’s home, Carson said. The investigation is ongoing. Lawyer Kevin Gough told the Times-Union he is representing Adkins and believes the accusations are said to have occurred in 2010. He said Adkins had willingly turned himself in.” Oh, that’s nice. The good pastor didn’t have to be frogmarched out of the church clamping a Bible in his jaws. Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook. September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Above the Campaign Din

The Fierce Assault on Philanthropy BY GINA QUATTROCHI

I

don’t know much about the Clinton Foundation. My knowledge is limited to what I read online. I do not seem to be alone. Two weeks ago the Trump camp broke what Trump calls “the biggest political scandal of our time” referring to alleged illegal dealings by the foundation. As public memory of political scandals like Watergate recedes, the claim was his to make. No one objected. For two weeks, Trump and the alt-right have portrayed the Clinton Foundation as a sleazy slush fund that allowed foreign donors to buy a seat at the table when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. They also accused the Clintons of using the foundation to boost their speaking fees, which they in turn pumped into their personal accounts. Trump’s base went into a frenzy while centrist Republicans like Joe Scarborough and his “Morning Joe” pundits demanded the foundation shut down before week’s end. As the story was unfolding I kept waiting for the Clinton Foundation to respond. Was their public relations staff missing in action? Were they too distracted by the cam-

paign to care about the foundation? Were other foundations afraid to come to their defense? Ironically, it was James Carville who saved the day. In his inimitable way, he praised the foundation’s programs and scorned the naysayers all in one breath. A few days later, former President Bill Clinton lashed out. It was too late. Founded in 1997, the foundation’s almost 20 years of domestic and global work has been turned into a symbol for greed and treachery. Almost overnight, it became synonymous with “pay to play.” Calls for the foundation’s instant shutdown are disturbing. Under the title “11 Calls to Shutdown the Clinton Foundation by Left-Wing Media,” Brietbart.com, ground zero for the alt-right and home to Trump’s new campaign chief Steve Bannon, quotes articles from the New York Times, the Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and USA Today. Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief, mocked donors with his tweet “If you shut down the Clinton Foundation how would the world’s oligarchs achieve their main goal in life, eradicating disease and poverty??” Slate senior writer Josh Voorhees wrote, “As long as Hillary

Clinton is either running for the White House or running the country from inside it, she and her husband should temporarily shutter their foundation.” The most brutal call came from New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait, who is quoted as saying, “The Clinton Foundation needs to die.” Some media sources even offered up ways to get the Clintons out. USA Today’s editorial board offered “the only way to eliminate the odor surrounding the foundation is to wind it down and put it in mothballs, starting today, and transfer its important charitable work to another large American charity such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.” Demands that a foundation with a 20-year track record and hundreds of domestic and global programs transfer its assets and programming instantaneously to another foundation is chilling. It demonstrates that even powerful institutions may be destroyed by unsubstantiated claims of “pay for play.” To date, there is no evidence that any of the foundation’s actions or its dealing with Hillary Clinton’s State Department were illegal. Donors give for a myriad of issues: commitment to the issue, visibility, access to other support-

ers, naming opportunities, and sometimes just being seen prominently at benefit galas. That’s the reality of philanthropy. Last year I was walking down the street behind two very well dressed women. One remarked on the success of their charity event the night before. The other replied, “It wasn’t successful, Bill Cunningham never showed up. I promised a few donors they would be in ‘Evening Hours.’ We failed.” If the current pile-up on the Clinton Foundation isn’t stopped, philanthropy in this country is in trouble. In the post 9/11 years, we witnessed stepped up surveillance of donations to Muslim organizations that were accused of funneling money to terrorists. I don’t know how the donation tracking affected charitable giving to such organizations, but I am betting that support plummeted. The danger of the current attacks on the Clinton Foundation is that donors will pull back their contributions to avoid being dragged into the ugly fray fueled by Trump and the alt-right. What would be criminal is for this scandal to shut off hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the causes the foundation now supports. Gina Quattrochi has been CEO of Bailey House, the nation’s first AIDS housing organization, since 1991. This article expresses her personal views.

PERSPECTIVE: The Long View

Hillary Clinton and the New Liberal Consensus BY NATHAN RILEY

T

he emerging likelihood that Hillary Clinton will be our next president confir ms the political paradox that has always surrounded that storied family. The 1990s was the era when Americans in large numbers came to accept lesbians and gays. The social issues that had elevated Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan to the presidency began shifting away from the Republicans’ advantage. Change did not happen overnight, but these trends became pronounced under President Bill Clinton. GayCityNews.nyc | September 01 - 14, 2016

The first President Clinton fueled the war on drugs and allowed states to offer no welfare whatsoever, creating an underclass living on less than $5 a day. He created the poisonous Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy and signed the Defense of Marriage Act. His neo-liberal policies repelled large numbers of the “Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party,” but whatever his policies, Americans during his two terms in office turned decisively more liberal. George W. Bush’s razor-thin 2000 victory did not alter that shift; in fact, W’s anti-gay marriage reelection campaign in 2004 pushed many Democrats to recognize that marriage

equality represented a cutting-edge political issue. What was a very scary moment for the LGBT community ultimately boomeranged on the Republicans and culminated in the 2015 Supreme Court decision recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry. “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of that law,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote of the plaintiffs in the case. “The Constitution grants them that right.” Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president represents another historical watershed in this two-decade evolution. Trump is crowing, “White men matter more.” As recorded in a recent New York Times video, his jubilant fans boisterously shout their opposition to diversity: “Fuck political correctness.” They push protesters around yelling, “Get out of here, fag,” and scream at the mention of President Barack Obama’s name, “Fuck that

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THE LONG VIEW, continued on p.23

21


PERSPECTIVE: A Dyke Abroad

The Queer Kitchen BY KELLY COGSWELL

S

o, I’ve been trying to write a cookbook for the last couple of years, deluded into thinking it would be a nice, light-hearted distraction from the horrors of politics. And why not? I had a bunch of good Kentucky recipes and decent home cook creds. There was even that summer during college that I did a stint in a professional kitchen at Yellowstone National Park. I began as a dish dog, and got promoted to prep cook where I chopped about a thousand pounds of onions for French onion soup and made broccoli quiche. The adventure came to a quick and very painful end when I was lifting an enormous pot of boiling pasta, hit the edge of the stove, and tipped it over on myself. Who knew polyester pants could actually melt and stick to your flesh? After that they shuttled me out of there as fast as they could. The guys didn’t like having a girl in the kitchen, and they reassigned me to the gift shop where the most dangerous things I faced were the mice attracted by the huge blocks

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NINTH CIRCUIT, from p.17

islature’s stated purpose to “protect the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, and to protect its minors against exposure to serious harm caused by” this “therapy.” The court found that the “operative provisions” of the statute are “fully consistent with that secular purpose.” A law that has a secular pur pose with a possible incidental effect on religious practice is not subject to strict scrutiny under Supreme Court precedents Again, the court pointed out, religious leaders acting in their capacity as clergy are not affected by this law. The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ contention that a minor’s religiously motivated intent in seeking such therapy

22

of fudge. It was too late, though. I was hooked, had learned how to use a chef’s knife and cutting board like Julia Child on TV. When my mother or grandmother wanted to chop anything from a potato to a peach they’d hold it in their left hand and cut away at it with a small paring knife in their right. It was a miracle no one ended up with nubs. For cookbook text, I thought I could tell a few stories like that about my family, and maybe even make them funny. You’d have to, after all. Cookbooks are a peculiar genre in which we all love the mothers and grandmothers who influenced us as home cooks, or even as professional ones. The cooking of our roots is shared without resentment. Healthy recipes are offered without the anxiety, self-loathing, and fear that spawned them. If we admit we grew up on fried bologna sandwiches, Hamburger Helper, and canned green beans, it is done only with sophisticated irony. In fact, let’s have a dinner party with Jell-O salad and tuna casserole slathered with cream of mushroom soup and those crispy little onion rings. A martini will help us choke it down.

I tried to write that way, I really did. But it came off as false. I am as disgruntled in the kitchen as I am in the activist street, and have such mixed feelings about the whole thing it’s a miracle that my cakes rise and the milk doesn’t curdle. I have an abject fear of getting fat, which is partly vanity but mostly the diabetes that runs rampant in my family. One of my aunts died not long after they amputated both her legs. And while my grandmother would bring out the baked ham and homemade cucumber pickles on holidays, and maybe a big pan of apple crisp, the rest of the time, she just wanted to boil up a hotdog for dinner or eat cheese and crackers. If she wanted to work all day in a hot kitchen, she could have stayed on the farm, working like a dog and popping babies. Lord, she was happy when she got her tubes tied after her fourth baby. It was a step up to work in a factory. I think of her when I read about the slow food movement, or some writer hectoring us to get back in the luminous kitchen. Then there are the cookbooks by black writers who carefully describe the contribution of black chefs to the Southern kitchen, detailing everything from cooking techniques to the actual seeds that

they brought along on the slave ships. They celebrate survival and ingenuity, the ability to transform the leavings from the master’s kitchen into haute cuisine. And I can only marvel at how rational yet heartfelt it is, and begin to imagine the writer on Xanax. Yes, I know that “soul” food was reclaimed during the Black Power era, in the same way many of us have reclaimed the words fag or dyke or queer, but doesn’t that recipe for mustard greens stick in your craw? Don’t you want to throw that okra in my white face? I mean, the food is tasty and all, but doesn’t it leave a bitter taste in your mouth? I often forget just how deep my own grief goes until I step into the kitchen and roll out a pie crust or drop some biscuits onto a pan, and evoke my family and Kentucky, remember how my Southern Baptist mother disowned me for decades. And the preachers and politicians there still wish I were dead. And should that happen as it did in Orlando, would refuse to bury me or bring a covered dish to my mourning lesbian family.

would be thwarted by the law, thus impeding their free exer cise of religion. The court pointed out that “minors who seek to change their sexual orientation — for religious or secular reasons — are free to do so on their own and with the help of friends, family, and religious leaders. If they prefer to obtain such assistance from a state-licensed mental health provider acting within the confines of a counselor-client relationship, they can do so when they turn 18.” The appeals panel acknowledged that a law “aimed only at persons with religious motivations” could raise constitutional concerns, but that was not this law. Its legislative history, the court found, “falls far short of demonstrating that the primary intended effect of SB 1172 was to inhibit religion,” since the legislative hearing record was

replete with evidence from professional associations about the harmful effects of SOCE therapy, regardless of the motivation of minors in seeking it out. Referring in particular to an American Psychiatric Association Task Force Report, Graber wrote, “Although the report concluded that those who seek SOCE ‘tend’ to have strong religious views, the report is replete with references to non-religious motivations, such as social stigma and the desire to live in accordance with ‘personal’ values.” Graber continued, “An informed and reasonable observer would conclude that the ‘primary effect’ of SB 1172 is not the inhibition (or endorsement) of religion.” The panel also rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that SB 1172 failed the requirement that government be “neutral” concerning

religion and religious controver sies, and it rejected the assertion that prohibiting this treatment violates the privacy or liberty interests of the practitioners or their potential patients. Quoting from a prior Ninth Circuit ruling, Graber wrote, “We have held that ‘substantive due process rights do not extend to the choice of type of treatment or of a particular health care provider.’” Attorneys from the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative legal organization, represent the plaintiffs. The statute was defended by California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris’ office. Attorneys from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, with pro bono assistance from attorneys at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, filed an amicus brief defending the statute on behalf of Equality California, a statewide LGBT rights group.

Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.

September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Demanding Real Progressive Change

New York City Policing at the Crossroads BY FREDERIC GINYARD

P

olice criminalization of poor, queer, and trans communities of color, in the form of state-sanctioned genocide, has become the standard approach in New York City and across the country. With the departure of Commissioner Bill Bratton, New York City is at a crossroads and needs real progressive leadership. We already know our communities are fed up with the status quo. FIERCE is an organization that works to uplift the leadership of queer, trans, and gender non-conforming youth of color. We know what side of the line they fall on. They are on the side that is disproportionately impacted by poverty, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, racism, hyper-surveillance, homelessness, and the criminalization of survival. We live in a city that continues to throw away human beings fighting to survive without the resources to live. We can either continue to throw away human life or we can change our systems to uplift marginalized communities. Incoming Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill has already stated he plans to continue the work of Commissioner Bratton; most of us are horrified if that prospect becomes true. When things like this transpire we wonder what happened to the progressive promises of Mayor Bill de Blasio. Does he want us to continue to get harassed? Does he want us to get searched without consent? Does he think police should have the right to be anonymous? We have a city government that claims to be progressive and to hear the systemat-

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THE LONG VIEW, from p.21

n****r.” They proudly wear Trump that Bitch T-shirts. Campaign events ring with chants of “Build the wall” One man in the video called Trump the “last chance to preserve the culture I grew up in.” “Make America great again” reeks with nostalgia for the days when homos existed as fags, there to service their heterosexual betters. A time when men shared a knowing grin after saying, “That lesbo chick needs a stiff dick.” An era that believed if white men are to prosper, then black and brown must be underfoot. Women may work if they bring the men their coffee. That mythic America would bring back nightstick justice and mean no chance of punishment for cops shooting minorities. Trump’s popularity has scared the nation: if whites without a college education became GayCityNews.nyc | September 01 - 14, 2016

ic issues facing many communities across New York City. The reality of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Commissioner Bratton’s backroom deal shows their support for the continuation of a city that is not built for us to live free or even to survive in. The fact is New York City’s solution to the problems of poverty, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, racism, and homelessness is out of sight, out of mind. We have had enough of the Broken Windows policies that are used to displace, brutalize, and kill our communities. We want more policies grounded in our collective freedom, healing, and liberation. New York City has been and continues to be a place where pilot programs, policies, and laws are created, tested, and spread across the country. It is time for New York City to become a beacon of hope to the rest of the nation’s marginalized communities. We live in a society that is deeply interconnected. Each life — no matter the circumstances of that life — brings a value to our society. Those who are at the bottom rung of society have fallen through the cracks systemic oppression has created. If we truly want to build a society that is built on the solid foundation that every person is created equal, then we must lift up those who have fallen. We must listen to the solutions that marginalized communities have created to address the problems that the privileged do not see. These solutions are not attempts take away the hard work of other people but to say we are here and we can help build a better world for us all. New York City could be the place that holds police accountable to the demands of all black

truly energized and their turnout rises to unprecedented levels, the Donald could get elected. That isn’t happening. The Democrats are coming together, and the Republicans recognize the danger. The situation is grave, say GOP officials especially from the Bush era: it is time to choose country over party. Mike Coffman, an ex-marine who is a Republican congressmember from the Denver suburbs, is running a TV ad insisting that country comes first and pledging, “I will stand up” to Donald Trump. Other GOP donors and former GIs are repeating that message. A gap now separates Trump from many veterans and experts in the military industrial complex. Republican women are endorsing Hillary in growing numbers, including Meg Whitman, the Hewlett Packard CEO who is a former GOP candidate for governor of Califor-

women, black girls, and black women of trans experience. New York could be the city that leads the fight to end the genocide on black, brown, immigrant, indigenous, queer, trans, gender non-conforming, youth, poor, and homeless communities. In order for this to happen, New York City must take the road least traveled. The path will be long and hard. However, nothing worth doing is ever easy. New York City’s elected officials must become the progressive leaders the people of New York elected. New York City must stop throwing away human life and start investing in it. New York City must divest in practices that kill New Yorkers like the militarization of the NYPD. New York City must end the racial, religious, and gender profiling of all New Yorkers. New York City must end the use of Broken Windows policing as a tool of gentrification that pushes out marginalized communities. New York City must end the relationship with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement that separates and destroys families. New York must create a real independent system of accountability for police officers that abuse their power and New Yorkers across the city — as spelled out in the proposed Right to Know Act, which would require police to identify themselves, state the reason for stopping and interrogating a citizen, and obtain objective proof that a citizen has consented to a search. New York City must create laws based in the complex intersectional identities, experiences, and interdependence of New Yorkers if we want to see New York City rise as the city we all know it can be. This is not something that can wait. How many more lives will our communities have to lose before New York City is ready to act? This is a call to action for today and not tomorrow. Tomorrow will be too late. Frederic Ginyard is director of organizing at FIERCE (fiercenyc.org).

“Make America great again” reeks with nostalgia for the days when homos existed as fags, there to service their heterosexual betters. nia. It is nearly unprecedented for people of such eminence in a political party to desert it. These are signs that Republicans will not turn out for Trump and he will lose in a landslide. That is an outcome we should all hope for and vote for. Hillary would be the first woman president, and could become the knight that slays the now awoken dragon of overt racism and homophobia.

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PRIMARY, from p.8

the West Village, Glick told The Villager, Gay City News’ sister publication, “I do feel that people who think that a full-scale hospital is coming back aren’t facing the reality of healthcare.” In turn, Fouratt’s indictment of Glick on St. Vincent has less to do with that hospital’s financial management and the economics of healthcare in today’s economy and more with political style. “Why didn’t she try to intervene?,” he said. “She had the power to rally people.” In response to Glick’s statement that her hands were tied on the siting of the gas pipeline in the West Village because it was a federal government decision, Fouratt said, “She should have been informing the public.” That kind of rallying is a legislator’s job, Fouratt asserted, and he pointed to sever al Manhattan colleagues of Glick’s — Brian Kavanagh and Linda Rosenthal — as examples of that style of leadership and community engagement. Neither Democrat has returned the compliment, though. Fouratt is clearly sensitive to charges that in rallying crowds, in being an “instigator,” he runs the risk of being simply a gadfly. He was stung by criticism reported in The Villager from Allen Roskoff — president of the LGBT-focused Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club and himself a maverick unafraid to make noise (and like Fouratt, an erstwhile Bernie Sanders supporter) — who was scornfully dismissive of Fouratt’s chances with “anyone of any credibility.” Fouratt insisted he is not running to be another Charles Barron, a fiery African-American assemblymember from Brooklyn who earned a reputation as a disrupter from his days on the City Council — though Fouratt was also quick to voice respect for the role Barron plays in politics. Anyone who doubts Fouratt’s ability to work to forge solutions out of difficult circumstances, he said, should learn about the role he played in helping push then-Mayor Ed Koch from his intransigent position that he would never sell an old schoolhouse on West 13th Street to LGBT advocates hoping to build a community center. The other daunting challenge facing Fouratt is his decision to take on an historic figure in the LGBT community. “It is very hard to run against someone who has served so long and someone who made history,” he conceded. “I credit her work on women’s health issues, but you don’t stand up for a hospital? Really?” When Glick first arrived on the scene, Fouratt said, “I thought identity politics worked, all other things being equal. In 2016, it becomes very different. There has to be very different criteria.” In his reading of her career, Glick changed fundamentally after her 1997 borough president race, when the party establishment went with C. Virginia Fields instead. Since then, in

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his accounting, she’s been a loyalist, which explains her staunch support for disgraced Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver to the bitter end. If she was silent about St. Vincent’s, Fouratt charged, it was because Silver decided Democrats weren’t going to stand in the way of Rudin Management’s redevelopment of the hospital into luxury condos. There is no doubt that Glick was an ally of the speaker, and the toughest criticism on that score is her continued support for Silver after secret settlements he authorized for women who lodged sexual harassment claims against Brooklyn Assemblymember Vito Lopez came to light in 2012 — almost three years before Silver’s own legal troubles emerged. Looking back on that, Glick said she was uncertain as to whether Silver was acting on advice of counsel but that the Democratic conference demanded and received a public apology from the speaker for those payments. Reforms have since been made in Assembly handling of such complaints, and with Glick now overseeing the intern program there, she said there have been no problems. Fouratt’s central charge against her — that she is too ingrained with Albany’s leadership structure — is something Glick said her “colleagues are quite surprised to hear.” In terms of transparency, she noted that Fouratt is only on the ballot because he was chosen to replace Democratic district leader Arthur Schwartz, who collected the signatures needed to run and then begged off for health reasons. Glick described the switch as a “backroom deal.” In declining Fouratt’s challenge to a debate, she said he has “never demonstrated any public support” and then alluded to the gadfly rap on her opponent, saying, “This is a people business, and you have to get along with people. Do I think Jim has had measurable support in any group he’s belonged to? No.” Glick and Fouratt may disagree on the ethics of her longstanding relationship with Silver, but there can be little doubt but that she is a fierce defender of the Assembly as an institution — and of its Democratic majority. She regularly denounces the obstructionism that the Senate Republican leadership throws in the way of progressive advances and of issues important to New York City. But if she is rarely critical of Assembly Democrats, the same is not necessarily true of Democratic governors. In discussing her mission as chair of the Higher Education Committee to preserve “access” to the state’s two public college systems — CUNY and SUNY — Glick lamented, “Not that we have a receptive executive, but I can’t think of when we did, except for a short time with [Governor Eliot] Spitzer before all the noise began.” With New York State having reaped nearly $7 billion in legal settlements last year, Glick had pushed to set aside $1 billion — half for SUNY, half for CUNY — to buffer the systems’ endowments. Governor Andrew Cuomo showed no interest, and instead she spent the last session “fighting rearguard actions.”

For a governor who is fighting to increase the state minimum wage, she noted, support for CUNYwould benefit the very same families, who have been faced with significant increases in public college tuition in recent years, clouding the economic future for their children. On women’s health, Glick is also often fighting off efforts to turn the clock back. Fourteen years ago, after a five-year fight, she was successful in ensuring that state insurance regulations required any employee drug reimbursement program to cover contraceptives — an issue she now sees headed south on the national stage in the wake of the Supreme Court’s controversial 2014 Hobby Lobby decision. “I’m afraid I will have to fight that for the rest of my natural life,” she said. A women’s health and wellness law now mandates that insurance cover the cost of mammograms for women 40 and over, reducing what had in many plans been a minimum age of 50. But Glick’s efforts to codify Roe v. Wade in state law — essentially bringing New York’s abortion rights statute enacted in 1970 up to the standards of the 1973 Supreme Court decision — continue to founder on staunch opposition in the GOP Senate. And every session, Glick said, she fights proposed women’s health reversals one would expect to see in the Texas legislature, including repeated efforts to ban Medicaid reimbursement for abortion services. Glick shares the view of many of her Democratic colleagues on a key issue of concern in the LGBT community — that despite Cuomo’s executive directive last year that resulted in regulations interpreting sex discrimination provisions of state law to ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression, the legislature should pass the long-stalled Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. “As a legislator, I am never comfortable with executive orders alone,” she said. “Whether it’s fracking or GENDA or sexual orientation conversion efforts, you need to codify all these things. It could always be overturned by a new governor.” On that, she is in agreement with Fouratt, who said, “Personally, I think the legal protections are in place, but I have been persuaded by people who are closest to the issue that this law is needed.” Ye a r s a g o , F o u r a t t , w h o h a s a l w a y s described himself as gender -nonconforming, got himself into some amount of trouble with the transgender community over doubts he expressed about whether gender transition was always the right course. Saying that he now sometimes helps transgender people access services at the LGBT Community Center’s Gender Identity Project, Fouratt admitted he has “tempered my statements.” But being the iconoclast he is, he also speaks his mind, saying, “I am very worried about the survival of femme boys and butch girls.” September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


ADVERTORIAL

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PLEASURE DOME, from p.11

Celebrating our Union Made City

When I next saw Hugh, in my room, he asked how I was doing. I felt great — painkillers again — and also twitchily energetic, like my body wanted to bounce out of bed, even though I was also exhausted. Hugh told me Tewari had said the operation was a real success. “There was no cancer in your pelvic lymph glands or the margins,” meaning the areas between organs, Hugh repeated. And soon enough, Tewari himself turned up, shook my hand, and confirmed Hugh’s report. It’s important to start walking after surgery to prevent blood clots, and, within several hours and with a nurse helping me, I was walking around the ward, still attached to my IV pole and with a catheter draining urine out of me. By 7 p.m., I started a round of groggy phone calls with my friend Ricardo Limon as well as my sister Nancy from San Antonio. I was already impatient due to my fatigue and hunger, with Jell-O and clear broth my only food options. Finally, around 8, it happened — the gas passed! I was so relieved. At 11, with a nurse’s assist, I went for another walk, feeling more secure on my feet now. It was good to be occupied because the idea of sleeping in the hospital suddenly terrified me. Cancer once again sent me into a panic. The hospital room’s clinical coldness. Being alone and knowing it. I called the nurses’ station and asked if they could give me something for anxiety. A pharmacist came in with one Zoloft pill. I took it, and a short time later fell asleep. I left the hospital the next day, with full instructions on how to deal with the incisions on my stomach as well as with the catheter, and a goody bag of catheter supplies (plastic bags for urine collection, bandages, gauze, and more) and six prescriptions for drugs I’d have to take for the next two weeks, including antibiotics and two painkiller alternatives: 800 ml ibuprofen and Percocet, the latter of which I avoided as much as possible. I was so happy to be back home, doing daily walks to build up my strength and eating real food again. I learned how to empty and change the catheter bags myself — GayCityNews.nyc | September 01 - 14, 2016

Cancer once again sent me into a panic. The hospital room’s clinical coldness. Being alone and knowing it.

By Vincent AlVArez Each year on Labor Day, we pause to celebrate the contributions of working New Yorkers in building and growing our national and local economies. On the Saturday after Labor Day, working men and women from all over the area take to Manhattan’s Fifth Ave. to march in the Annual Labor Day Parade. They celebrate their training, hard work, and dedication to their crafts. They also celebrate the wages, ben-

Janella Hinds, a United Federation of Teachers member, showing her union pride.

efits, and job security that are the trademarks of union membership.

a daily one attached to my leg and a night bag stored in a plastic pan next to my bed. The catheter didn’t especially bother me; I was energetic enough and free from pain due to the ibuprofen that most of the time I was able to enjoy myself walking outside, soaking up June’s weather, or reading, free of thinking about cancer and what I had gone through. What I did not yet realize was that I was only at the beginning of my recovery.

This year will be no different.

Next installment: “An Invader in the Pleasure Dome — The Recovery and Facing Life After Prostate Cancer.” A gender rights pioneering and award-winning writer, Perry Brass has published 19 books, including poetry, novels, short fiction, science fiction, and bestselling advice books (“How to Survive Your Own Gay Life,” “The Manly Art of Seduction,” “The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love”). A member of New York’s radical Gay Liberation Front, in 1972, he co-founded, with two friends, the Gay Men’s Health Project Clinic, the first clinic on the East Coast specifically serving gay men that is still operating as the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. Brass’ work, based in a core involvement with human values and equality, encompasses sexual freedom, personal authenticity, LGBT health, and a visionary attitude toward all human sexuality.

in supporting our union made city.

Marching with us this year as our Grand Marshal is International Union of Operating Engineers General President James Callahan. District Council 37 AFSCME Executive Director Henry Garrido will march as our 2016 Parade Chair. These men have proven to be true advocates on behalf of their members, and though the jobs they represent are as varied and diverse as our City’s labor move-

Jed Matalon, a District Council 37 AFSCME member, showing his union pride.

ment, they all play an integral role So as Labor Day and the Septem-

On the surface, the concept of

ber 10th Labor Day Parade approach,

“union made” seems to only apply to

I ask you to take a moment to think

buildings and clothing. Digging a lit-

about the contributions of unions

tle deeper, though, we can see that any-

and organized labor in making and

thing created or gained through qual-

keeping NYC a world class city. In

ity union labor is, in fact, union made.

fact, dig a little deeper and consider

From our skyscrapers, to our subway

how the conditions at your own

and healthcare systems, union labor

workplace are better as the result of

built our city, and we work hard day

workers having a voice. Workers are

in and day out to maintain it.

always stronger when they are able

Don’t just take my word for it.

to stand together to fight for what

The NYC Central Labor Council has

they deserve. The freedom workers

heard from union members about

have through a secure voice at work

what it means to be “union made.”

is, and will always be union made.

The responses have varied from “protection of our workplace con-

Vincent Alvarez is President of the

ditions,” to “the worker’s right to

New York City Central Labor Coun-

bargain,” to “a secure retirement.”

cil, AFL-CIO, which is comprised of

Working men and women recognize

300 unions, representing 1.3 million

the union difference.

workers in the New York City region.

25


FILM

A Real Phony AMAZON STUDIOS / MAGNOLIA PICTURES

Offering Laura Albert apologia, Jeff Feuerzeig dodges tough questions about “JT Leroy” BY STEVE ERICKSON

I

t’s not necessarily exploitative for a writer to be a recluse or use a pseudonym. Elena Ferrante is one of Italy’s most celebrated contemporary writers, and no one knows who she is, although consensus holds that she’s really a woman. Thomas Pynchon and J.D. Salinger used their real names, but they shied away from the camera and never gave interviews. But Laura Albert, who created the persona of queer and trans teen waif JT Leroy and published two novels and one book of short stories as him, is a different case. For starters, she began using the

Leroy persona to call psychological crisis centers. Before Leroy started writing his popular short stories, he was a telephone-only patient of shrink Dr. Terrence Owens, and Albert seems to have recorded all their years’ worth of sessions. (I’m referring to Leroy with masculine pronouns because Albert does, despite the persona’s strong hints of gender ambiguity.) Albert used people in a way that Ferrante hasn’t, and she also exploited drug addicts, HIV-positive people, and the trans community along the way in creating Leroy’s backstory. Jeff Feuerzeig’s documentary “Author: The JT Leroy Story” — counting a program on the ID cable channel, the third Leroy doc

Laura Albert, Savannah Knoop, and and Asia Argento in Jeff Feuerzeig’s “Author: The JT Leroy Story.”

made so far — doesn’t have a skeptical bone in its body. It’s content to gawk at the mess Albert made of her life and claim it’s a profound statement about fame and identity. Albert began writing short stories in the late ‘90s, one of which was published in an anthology of memoirs. She claims she tried to give up fiction, but she ended up writing the acclaimed novel “Sarah.” As it propelled Leroy to

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AUTHOR, continued on p.31

AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY Directed by Jeff Feuerzeig Amazon Studios/ Magnolia Pictures Opens Sep. 9 Film Society of Lincoln Center 165 W. 65th St. filmlinc.org Landmark Sunshine 143 E. Houston St. Btwn. First & Second Aves. landmarktheatres.com

Songs of Freedom

A Tunisian girl rebels and also grows up

KINO LORBER

Baya Medhaffer singing, with Montassar Ayari in the background.

BY GARY M. KRAMER

T

he excellent drama “As I Open My Eyes” chronicles the coming of age of Farah (Baya Medhaffer), a babyfaced 18-year-old who lives in Tunis with her mother Hayet (Ghalia Benali). Farah, who is as unruly as her kinky hair, sings political songs in a band called Joujma. She is also romantically — and secretly — involved with her handsome bandmate Bohrène (Montassar Ayari). This film, directed and co-written by Leyla Bouzid in her feature debut, is set in the summer of 2010, a few months before the Jasmine Revolution. The setting’s authenticity provides some nice texture to what might otherwise seem like a familiar story of a young

26

person gaining wisdom. An early scene has Farah drinking her first beer. Bouzid creates atmosphere as she focuses on the wizened faces of elderly men in the bar. Farah entertains an old drunk, who tells her that during the day he suffocates, but at night he is able to sing and his voice frees him. His words comment on her own situation; Farah’s music, which is soulful and mournful, is an expression of her emotional vulnerability but also of her strength. Farah is a rebel, and her mother is duly concerned about her — especially after Hayet’s friend Moncef (Youness Ferhi), a government employee, warns her that Farah is hanging out with people known to the police. Farah is shaming her mother and putting their lives in danger. “As I Open My Eyes” slowly steps up the drama as Farah’s risky behavior escalates. Barred by Hayet from attending a concert, Farah locks her mother in her bedroom and escapes to perform. Though anxious about what she has done, Farah’s singing thrills and inspires her. Empowered by performing songs about the country’s poverty and inequality, Farah’s insistence that she do what she likes

may have serious ramifications. When one evening a venue where the band is supposed to perform is closed, Farah takes to singing in the street, unmindful of warnings that she go home and stop courting trouble. Farah is no bratty teen; instead she emerges as an engaging heroine who, though curious and reckless, is also deeply passionate. The film does not judge her actions. She may be petulant when asked to censor her singing and foolish when Bohrène warns her not to dance so provocatively, but she is willing to heed her father Mahmoud’s (Lassaad Jamoussi) counsel when he tells her to accept more responsibility for her actions. Bouzid is thoughtful and unhurried in presenting Farah’s story. The film absorbs viewers as they soak up the rhythm of Farah’s life going back and forth from home to perform with her band. Eventually, a series of betrayals shift the direction of the story, and the political element lurking in the background overtakes the narrative. “As I Open My Eyes” examines Farah’s maturation through familial, sexual, socio-cul-

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FREEDOM, continued on p.35

September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | September 01 - 14, 2016

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THEATER

Crushing Midlife Crisis One man’s desperate bid for satisfaction and salvation before it’s too late BY DAVID KENNERLEY

D

RICHARD TERMINE

oes something happen soon? It’s pretty dull, this.” That’s what grumpy Uncle David says about a long-winded story halfway through the first act of “A Day by the Sea,” the latest neglected play reanimated by the Mint Theater Company. Apparently, that’s also what American theatergoers griped when the drama premiered on Broadway in 1955, where it ran for a mere 24 performances. Not even Jessica Tandy or Hume Cronyn could save it (the production, however, had been warmly received in London a couple of years earlier). With the advent of McDonald’s fast food joints and hip-swiveling Elvis, Americans no longer had the patience for talky, three-act Chekhovian domestic dramas. The play’s author, N.C. Hunter, was a celebrated British playwright until he was scuttled in the late 1950s by the wave of Angry Young Men, led by John Osborne.

Julian Elfer, Jill Tanner, and Curzon Dobell in the revival of N.C. Hunter’s “A Day by the Sea,” directed by Austin Pendleton.

Sedate, restrained naturalism was usurped by gritty, kitchen sink realism. So how does “A Day by the Sea” fare more than a half-century later? Exceptionally well, as it happens. Under the guidance of veteran director/ actor/ playwright Austin Pendleton, this gentle, meticulously crafted drama is a welcome break from the calculating, overwrought

productions typically seen on the boards today. If the drama, set in a vast English coastal estate in 1953, is short on plot, it is long on richly drawn, flesh-and-blood characters, evoked by a highly capable ensemble. Naturally, in a play about the passage of time, a wide range of ages is represented. The 40-year-old master of the

house, Julian Anson (Julian Elfer, who strikes just the right mix of brashness and charm), has just returned after a long stint in Paris serving as an official in the Foreign Service. Julian’s devoted mother, Laura (Jill Tanner), a widow who manages the house, farm, and gardens in his absence, is worried that her work-

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BY THE SEA, continued on p.29

Boxed In

A Corporate team-building exercise tries to be theater BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE

28

CALEB SHARP

I

am not a fan of company “team building” exercises. And — full disclosure — I used to put together and run them when I was in the corporate world. They range from competitive games to trust exercises to, yes, falling backwards and being caught by colleagues. While they provided an engaging respite from daily work, they never resulted in measurable improvement in team cohesion or productivity. The exercises were always fashion-driven to some extent, and in 2016 the fashion is for so-called “escape rooms.” You and a group of people go into a room and have a certain amount of time to solve a puzzle to get out. At best, at the end, you drink with your co-workers and “bond” over something more than a review of last quarter’s numbers. At worst, there’s no harm done,

and people get to do something different for an hour or so. To take this concept and try to turn it into “immersive theater,” however, is a ridiculous stretch. It ends up feeling as though an enterprising corporate event company is moonlighting by running more people through its escape room in off-hours — and at 60 bucks a pop. That, presumably, is how we get to “Paradiso.” The creator and director, Michael Counts, calls it theater and says it was inspired by “The Divine Comedy.” I’m glad they told me that in the press materials because the only thing that recalls Dante is that you are trapped in the offices of the Virgil Corporation, so named for the character of Virgil’s Ghost who appears throughout the epic poem. You will arrive at a nondescript office building in Koreatown (the exact location is only revealed

The entryway to the Virgil Corporation in “Paradiso: Chapter 1,” Michael Counts’ immersive experience staged at an undisclosed Manhattan location.

hours before your experience is set to begin), where you are ushered into a karaoke bar to buy drinks. You are then taken into a closed office where the first of a series of clues are presented.

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PARADISO, continued on p.29

September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


c

BY THE SEA, from p.28

Mint Theater Company Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row 410 W. 42nd St. Through Sep. 24 Tue.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m. Sat.-Sun. at 2:30 p.m. $57.50-$65; minttheater.org Two hrs., 50 mins. with two intermissions

— the power of family bonds, coping with advancing age, seizing the day before it’s too late, and the urge to ignore harsh realities. “Why must we have these wearisome world problems dragged into the garden, among the flowers?,” Laura says about the men debating the “age of anxiety” and the brutal politics of war. Granted, the nearly three-hour running time (with two intermissions) is not for everyone, and there are lulls. But I found this eloquently complex drama a tranquil, refreshing respite from the harsh realities of today’s political climate, not unlike, well, a day by the sea. It’s an excursion well worth taking.

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PARADISO CHAPTER 1

PARADISO, from p.28

When a clue is solved, you move with your group to the next room and so on. You’ll go through narrow areas, an airshaft (apparently), and a library, until you get to the final room, from which you have approximately 10 minutes to escape. After that, you are ushered out past a janitor’s closet back to a dreary corridor, then a tiny elevator before going on with your life. Since the group I was in figured out the puzzle, I have no idea what happens if the time runs out. The participants — groups of about 12 — are pushed through the experience by actors who make no bones about the fact that you are on a time schedule. They become downright aggressive at handing out hints if it seems that the group is taking too long, as one expects they need to do since groups begin on the half hour. You also have to give them your cell phone number because in addition to a series of texts before the experience begins, you may get clues sent to you as you’re going through the rooms. As inevitably happens in this type

Midtown venue disclosed day of performance Schedule varies One hr., beginning on the half hour $60; paradisoescape.com

of event, a group dynamic emerges with some people taking charge, others hanging back, and some simply being obnoxious, largely dependent on the level of pre-event tippling at the karaoke bar. If one is going to do this, do it with a gang of people you know as a lark. It could be a fun activity with your buds, but as for being legitimate theater? Not even close, no matter how it’s marketed. Also, be advised: the puzzles are not that complicated, and to someone with any experience with this type of game they will feel very much “off the shelf” rather than original and engaging. There’s one literary element to all this I guess I should concede. By the time you’re done with “Paradiso” you’ll feel that you, like Dante, have been through purgatory.

PHOTO: CHAD HEIRD

aholic bachelor son is too preoccupied by pressing matters of state to literally stop and smell the roses. Once Julian is notified by his boss (Sean Gormley) that his post will not be renewed, he is confronted with the ghastly collision of his past and his future. While on a picnic at the beach, Julian contemplates his lackluster career and empty social life and realizes it’s time to rebound from his mistakes and seize his dreams. One of his dreams involves his childhood friend Frances (Katie Firth, who springs to life in the third act), now a divorcée with a shameful past, who happens to be visiting with her two rowdy children and governess (Polly McKie) in tow. Julian loathes the idea of becoming an anachronistic country squire. Or does he? Also on hand are 82-year -old Uncle David (George Morfogen), his boozy caregiver, Doctor Farley (Philip Goodwin), and a pesky solicitor (Curzon Dobell). “A Day by the Sea” offers the chance to reflect on timeless themes

A DAY BY THE SEA

AN IMMERSIVE THEATER EXPERIENCE

www.thegrandparadise.com GayCityNews.nyc | September 01 - 14, 2016

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OPERA

Mostly Marvelous Mozart Strong evenings helmed by Louis Langrée and René Jacobs BY ELI JACOBSON

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RICHARD TERMINE

his year’s Mostly Mozart Festival kicked off on July 25 with an all-star gala concert of Mozart’s operatic hit parade billed as “The Illuminated Heart.” The stunning video projections, costumes, illuminations, and visual effects were designed by Netia Jones who also directed the show. A mix of familiar Mozart specialists and new voices performed beloved Mozart arias, duets, trios, and ensembles accompanied by the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra led by musical director Louis Langrée. Musically, the evening wasn’t very adventurous — the selections centered on the Da Ponte trilogy, the serious operas “Idomeneo” and “La Clemenza di Tito,” and one aria from “Die Zauberflöte.” “The Abduction from the Seraglio” went unheard but we did get the ravishing “Ruhe sanft, mein holdes leben” from Mozart’s obscure “Zaide.” The evening kicked off with a fleet, weightless rendition of the overture to “Le Nozze di Figaro” led by Langrée. Peter Mattei repeated his familiar Conte Almaviva with a darker more menacing sound but also unveiled a potentially fascinating Don Alfonso in the trio and Act I finale from “Così fan tutte.” Christopher Maltman was pleasant but forgettable in Papageno’s and Don Giovanni’s arias. Singing Don Ottavio’s “Dalla sua pace,” Matthew Polenzani was musical but vocally inhibited. Polenzani then gave a promising preview of his Idomeneo at the Met this coming season in the lovely quartet “Andrò ramingo e solo” (supported by Nadine Sierra, debutante Marianne Crebassa, and Christine Goerke). Goerke heard more often recently as Strauss’ Elektra than as Mozart’s Elettra in “Idomeneo,” emerged late in the evening with a fire-breathing “D’Oreste, d’Aiace” that brought down the house. She proved surprisingly supple vocally — had she been given more to sing (maybe Donna Anna?), she might have stolen the show. The title of top diva of the night was a close contest between mezzo-soprano revelation Marianne Crebassa, rising ingénue Sierra, and the locally underexposed Ana Maria Martínez. Martínez’s dark but cool soprano sailed through the intricate difficulties of Fiordiligi, the Countess Almaviva, and Donna Elvira, easily surpassing the recent efforts of Susanna Phillips, Amanda Majeski, Miah Persson, and Emma Bell in these roles at the Metropolitan Opera. Sierra went from soubrette to ingénue as Susanna, Ilia, Servilia, and Zaide, bringing a mix of silvery spin and creamy sweetness to each role. Her quick vibrato added emotional urgency and vul-

Christine Goerke in the Mostly Mozart Festival’s “The Illuminated Heart” program.

nerability. For me, the vocal pinnacle of the evening was French mezzo Crebassa singing Sesto’s “Parto, parto” from “La Clemenza di Tito,” with clarinet obbligato played by Jon Manasse. Crebassa’s liquid supple tone mixes equal parts mahogany richness and gleaming point with a virtuoso command of scales and trills. Langrée and the Mostly Mozart Orchestra played with increasingly sensitive lyricism expertly supporting the soloists. Mostly Mozart should repeat this staged concert gala concept in the future but highlight instead the less familiar Mozart operatic, oratorio, and concert aria repertory.

Cult maestro René Jacobs took over the baton to lead a sold-out concert performance of “Idomeneo” on August 18 at Tully Hall. The Freiburg Baroque Orchestra sounded transformed from their unfocused work in the unevenly cast “Così fan tutte” concert earlier that week (see note below about this article’s online extras). Despite his reputation for unorthodox and provocative musicological theories and period practices, Jacobs when he gets onto the podium is a supreme musical dramatist striving for bold color and expression. All

evening Jacobs discovered in Mozart’s youthful opera seria infinite varieties of color and emphasis as changeable and overpowering as the mighty ocean itself that looms in the background of the opera. Jacob’s interpretation of “Idomeneo” was more theatrical than Langrée’s glib “Così” days earlier, despite the “Così” cast and conductor having participated in staged performances in June. Tenor Jeremy Ovenden in the title role of Idomeneo proved a sensitive, thoughtful interpreter despite a voice on the small and dry side for the role. Ovenden’s rendition of the full-length virtuoso “Fuor del mar” was more a triumph of musical intelligence and intention than vocal heroics. Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser as the captive Trojan princess Ilia revealed a voice of real substance with gleaming tone, long breath, and firm resonance, suggesting a young woman of character and authority, not a pathetic maiden. French mezzo Gaëlle Arquez debuted as a youthfully moving Idamante displaying a slender bright sopranoish sound with a quick vibrato. Alex Penda is well remembered by New York audiences for her demented diva performance in the title role of Rossini’s “Ermione” back when City Opera was City Opera and she was the multi-syllabic Alexandrina Pendatchanska. Since dropping the syllables, Penda has taken on roles like Fidelio and Salomé. Her voice is now darker and less supple without gaining in size or power. However, as the angry princess Elettra, Penda’s fiery temperament, vivid textual delivery, and authoritative stage presence were evident from her first entrance. Her tone was covered in her entrance aria, and in the lyrical “Idol mio” la Penda had noticeable trouble floating the vocal line. Demented divas cannot help but chew the scenery in “D’Oreste, d’Aiace,” and there Penda found her footing, tearing a passion to tatters and earning a long ovation late in the evening. Fine supporting work from tenor Julien Behr as Arsace and Nicolas Rivenq as the High Priest of Neptune added to the success of the evening. The underpopulated Arnold Schoenberg Choir lacked ensemble power in Mozart’s powerful “O Voto Tremendo” chorus. One hopes René Jacobs will return here often and soon. In a web-only addition to this story at gaycitynews.nyc, Eli Jacobson writes about Louis Langrée leading the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra in a staged concert reading of “Così fan tutte” on August 15 as well as Langrée’s presentation of a double bill of Mozart’s “Mass in C Minor” and “Requiem” on August 19. September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


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AUTHOR, from p.26

fame, her sister-in-law Savannah Knoop, wearing a wig and sunglasses, took on the task of incarnating the writer in person. (He was supposedly too shy to appear at his own readings, so Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine read from “Sarah” at early club dates.) Eventually, “Sarah” led to movie deals and fashion spreads for Leroy, but the fact that the author didn’t really exist was exposed.

Baptist prostitutes and the truck stops they haunt under her real name? I think it would have quickly become obvious that the Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner comparisons she received on a Canadian talk show excerpted in “Author” were wildly overinflated. “Sarah” was always sold as a novel with the frisson of its author’s backstory, giving its readers the thrill of secondhand degradation. For her part, Albert admits that the first truck stop she ever visited

There are aspects of the JT Leroy story Feuerzeig left on the cutting room floor, probably because they’d make Laura Albert look bad. There are aspects of the JT Leroy story Feuerzeig left on the cutting room floor, probably because they’d make Laura Albert look bad. Albert started out contacting a group of writers whose work dealt with issues of sex and violence in a way superficially similar to hers, including Mary Gaitskill, Bruce Benderson, and Dennis Cooper. With hindsight, one can see that she tailored the Leroy persona to appeal to these authors, in fact. Benderson and Cooper are interviewed in “Author,” but the film doesn’t discuss the way Leroy emotionally manipulated them by constantly calling at all hours of the day claiming he was about to commit suicide. If Albert was genuinely suicidal, it’s odd that she would funnel such intense feelings through a persona. Watching the film, I kept thinking, “She needs help, and she’s not going to get it by talking to her psychiatrist as a person who doesn’t exist.” Albert has a point when she insists that her work was always published as fiction and that her reputation shouldn’t have suffered so much when its true authorship was revealed. She says that she always felt more comfortable writing about the sexual abuse she suffered if presented from the perspective of a comparable male victim. But why didn’t she write the same stories about male Southern

GayCityNews.nyc | September 01 - 14, 2016

was on the set of Asia Argento’s film of her story “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.” So much for a life of teenage prostitution at truck stops across the South! As “Author” progresses, it goes from cute animation — if that applies to a depiction of a teenage junkie shooting up — to endless images of tapes from celebrities like Billy Corgan and Courtney Love playing in an answering machine. The film is slickly made. That only makes its apologia for Albert worse. The woman clearly had and still has numerous problems: an addiction to food that led to childhood teasing about her weight and eventual surgery to prevent diabetes, a frightening ability to switch back and forth between personae. Even without the New York magazine and New York Times articles that destroyed the JT Leroy persona, something was going to give. But “Author” gives Albert the last word in a way that made me faintly nauseous. She describes abusive games at the hand of her uncle, blaming them for the entire course of her life. So it’s okay to manipulate other people while using them to climb the social ladder because you had a rough childhood? If that’s the case, there are millions of potential JT Leroys out there. Can a memoir possibly be far behind?

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Star Treatment for Movies’ Greatest Costumer Fifty years after his death, Orry-Kelly’s own story is told in new documentary bio-pic BY DAVID NOH

W

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ANNA HOWARD/ WOLFE VIDEO

hen asked who was the greatest movie costume designer, some aficionados might pump for the multi-Oscared Edith Head, who used ambition and political maneuvering to drive an astonishingly long career — despite a talent that was mostly just okay. Or it could be Cecil Beaton who, if he had only done “My Fair Lady,” would be a contender, for both the dreams it fueled everywhere and its inspiration to future designers. T ravis Banton was wholly emblematic of the silvery glory that was Deco Paramount, with his opulently sexy ensembles for the likes of Lombard, Colbert, and his special muse, Marlene Dietrich. That unquestioned genius Adrian is naturally in the running, for iconically draping Garbo, Crawford, and Shearer, as well as a little show called “The Wizard of Oz.” But, for overall versatility and true authenticity — in outfits that served the text of the script, period or modern, rather than showcasing a star — Orry-Kelly may well be the one. Think of Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca,” cool as a cucumber in Africa, her timeless, simple white ensembles making her the universally desired Woman. Or, on the opposite end of the feminine spectrum, Monroe in “Some Like It Hot,” virtually naked in transparent bespangled soufflé, a Jazz Age — though really 1950s, for who had those tits in the Roaring 20s? — Venus on the half shell. When it came to exhibitionist high fashion, he was the equal of any with his arresting concoctions for flawless, willowy dark beauties like Kay Francis and Dolores Del Río, as well as the divinely chic Ruth Chatterton, far from willowy, but a superb clotheshorse. And then there was his most famous muse, Bette Davis, for whose career Kelly was a major architect and most constant presence, transforming her into Queen Elizabeth I, Empress Carlotta, an icy Maugham murderess (“The Letter”), a glittery whore disfigured by the Mob (“Marked Woman”), a

selfish beauty hanging on to her looks through the decades (“Mr. Skeffington,” a ridiculous film distinguished only by its costumes), and, in their most triumphant collaboration, Charlotte Vale in ”Now Voyager,” a hideous spinster butterflied into beautiful sophistication. Rosalind Russell, no great beauty herself, knew the importance of a good costumer and remained faithful to Kelly, who’d dressed her magnificently in “No Time for Comedy,” as well as to Banton, even after drink had led to the destruction of their careers. She hired Banton for the stage version of “Auntie Mame,” and Kelly for the film of that and “Gypsy.” Orry-Kelly is the subject of “Women He’s Undressed,” the first feature length documentary about a movie costume designer, directed by Gillian Armstrong, for whom costumes, starting with her 1979 “My Brilliant Career,” have always been vital. I snatched the opportunity to interview her and she said, “ Orry-Kelly is the man to me. It’s good to talk to aficionados like yourself. It was an amazing career, with such incredible diversity, which you don’t see with many other costume designers.”  The project started “with my producer Damien Parer, whose father, Damien, Sr., had won an Academy Award for ‘The Kokoda Track,’ a World War II documentary. Damien grew up interested in other Aussies who’d won awards. He was researching it and came across Orry, and couldn’t believe that no one in Australia had ever heard of him, someone who won the Oscar three times.” Surprising, but not shocking, for how many costume designers apart from maybe Edith Head or Bob Mackie can most people name? As important as they are — with costumes being the first thing you see when an actor appears on the screen — designers have traditionally been given short shrift, sometimes without an onscreen credit, as if the actors dressed themselves.  “Damien approached me about doing a documentary about Orry, and here I am in the film busi-

Darren Gilshenan as Orry-Kelly in Gillian Armstrong’s “Women He’s Undressed.”

ness, someone who loves costumes and costume designers, and I had never heard of him! But when I saw the list of his films, I went ‘Ohmigod! He did “Casablanca?” “Irma La Douce?” “Some Like It Hot?”’ “You gotta understand: Kiama, Orry’s home town, is down the south coast, a tiny little town. He came from there in the 1920s and wound up in Hollywood? How did he get there? That’s what I was interested in, and at the same time you have to tell the audience what a costume designer does, so you can understand how great he is.” Armstrong started with Inter net research and discovered much misinformation. “Then we got going into the archives and found correspondence with Hedda Hopper, Marion Davies, George Cukor. We also heard early on that he had written his memoir, but nobody had been able to find it. Warner Brothers were very helpful, but said they had nothing. At the end, after a year of research, my writer, Katherine Thomson, happened to be in Los Angeles, and she decided to just turn up at the Warner and UCLA archives. Barbara Warner Howard, the daughter of Jack and Ann Warner, came on board and was very enthusiastic because she remembered Orry from when she was a little girl. She rang the Warner archives and said, ‘Please let Katherine in,’ and lo and behold, the day before she turned up they

WOMEN HE’S UNDRESSED Directed by Gillian Armstrong Wolfe Video $3.99 rental; $14.99 purchase wolfeondemand.com

said, ‘We found an unmarked box.’ I think it was like when your best friend clears up your house when you die. The box had personal photos of George Cukor (“Love to Orry”), a picture of Cary Grant, his one-time roommate and rumored lover (‘from your best friend’), drawings from three films. “All this had been stuffed into an unmarked box which had been completely lost. I think what happened was when Ann Warner’s stuff was all being packed when they were selling the house, someone said, ‘Oh, it’s film stuff that belongs at the Warner archive.’ But it was Orry’s stuff. Our script had been written, and we had talked to [costume designer] Ann Roth and Scotty Bowers [who recently wrote a tell-all about early gay Hollywood], and I happened to be on this local radio station for a short film festival in a country town north of Sydney, going. ‘Please come see the festival, blah blah.’ And the announcer said, ‘What are

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IN THE NOH, continued on p.34

September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


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you working on?’ ‘Oh, working on a doc about a famous Australian, Orry-Kelly.’ “The next day, my agent got an email from this lady who happened to be driving through that area, listening to her radio. She said, ‘If she’s interested, I am a very good friend of his grand niece, who, by the way, has his memoir.’ It was in a particular hall cupboard, where she had hidden it. “We knew there was a letter to Marion Davies that read, ‘I want you to read what I’ve written about you. Ah, finally finished and looks like we’re going to get a publisher.’ And then he said, ‘Oh, the lawyers read it and I had to change things with him.’ It was stuff about Cary that he was forced to change.” Armstrong admits that on a personal level the diary isn’t very revealing, “because when you think about it, this is the 1960s. He talks in depth about his friendship with Cary. There’s funny stuff about when they were sharing a speakeasy table and were raided, and when he first got to LA he was broke with Cary. Cary and he had fights and someone would be sleeping on the couch. He told Cary he should go to a speech therapist: ‘You’ll never get anywhere in the movies with that accent,’ and Cary got so angry, he pushed Orry out the door. Really great stuff about their affection and he also talks about how he was later completely cut off by Cary. In his point of view, Cary was always after the main chance for people who were useful to him. He lost all his old friends. The rest of it was all in code, and says things like ‘Be true to yourself.’ He couldn’t talk. The word ‘gay’ hadn’t been developed then, except for ‘a gay old time.’ You can read between the lines.” There is a certain over-emphasis in the film on this big gay “get” involving a superstar. I would have preferred more focus on the actual work Kelly did with his actors, and Armstrong remarked, “He called his memoir ‘Women I’ve Undressed,’ and recalled all of his leading ladies. He was a huge fan of Bette and said she was one of the smartest actresses he had ever worked with. He said his favorites were the ones who were intelligent. He also talked about working with

COURTESY: WOLFE VIDEO

I Get It At Home... Do You?

IN THE NOH, from p.32

Orry-Kelly dressing Marilyn Monroe.

“He told Cary he should go to a speech therapist: ‘You’ll never get anywhere in the movies with that accent,’ and Cary got so angry, he pushed Orry out the door.”

Marilyn Monroe; they didn’t get along very well. He has this ironic, self-deprecating sense of humor, which we got from his letters and what other people said about him. “Tony Curtis, in a couple of other documentaries, talked about Orry, who said his bum was smaller than Monroe’s, and she didn’t get his humor. They had a fractious relationship. A lot of the little stories we put in the film, coming from the actor Darren Gilshenan, who plays Orry, are in his own words, setting himself up.” Random House published the memoirs in Australia and it’s online. “They’re negotiating for an American release. They did a beautiful job, and used a number of stills and drawings we found during our research. It’s a huge memoir, like a brick. There’s a lot of stuff about his early time in Sydney before he left, and quite a lot about how he was hanging out with this underworld in the criminal scene.” I was friends with the late Earl Luick, who was Kelly’s predecessor at Warner and told me that producer Jack Warner’s wife Ann was the one who shoved him out

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IN THE NOH, continued on p.35

September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


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IN THE NOH, from p.34

when her friend Kelly came along. Armstrong disputed this: “No, no, Orry got his break in 1932, when Jack Warner brought Ruth Chatterton, Kay Francis, and Barbara Stanwyck to the studio. Before that, Warner had been a gritty B-action-picture studio, and now they needed someone for glamour and style. Cary, who was under contract to Paramount, had an agent who recommended Orry to someone at Warner for the job. He took his portfolio to show it to Warner and then he had to present it to Chatterton, whom no one knows anymore, but was the biggest star and the biggest actress of all time then. “He got to know Ann later, once he started there and they formed a friendship. She did help him a couple of times when he was nearly fired over various issues and had fights with Jack. He volunteered to join the army when World War II broke out, which is interesting because a lot of Hollywood people managed to get out of that. There’s a lot more stuff. He was really

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burning bridges at both ends and just drank. He didn’t last very long when he came back from the war, and that’s when he was replaced at Warner. And then he got a contract at Fox, and did films with Betty Grable, which was so the opposite of everything he was about, although he had fun with ‘The Dolly Sisters.’” A highlight of the doc is an interview with Jane Fonda, who worked with Kelly early in her career, very late in his. Recalling the voluptuously overripe Monroe in Kelly’s skintight see-through shift, she waxes so enthusiastically about her breasts that it culminates in her miming being motorboated by them. “It was har d to arrange an interview with her, she said she couldn’t add much. But then she remembered that Orry’s costume designs always started with the character. She told me she had forgotten going to those George Cukor star-studded parties. George was such a wonderful character and both he and Orry were very kind to her, knowing the pressures she must face as Henry Fonda’s kid.”

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FREEDOM, from p.26

tural, and political lenses. She smiles at Bohrène’s clandestine affections in public, as when he touches her skin unbeknownst to others in a bar or kisses her under a tree. In turn, she peeks at his penis one morning after they sleep together. Over time, however, the lovers become more distant from each other, and when Farah publicly reads a letter Bohrène gave her their relationship changes dramatically. The conflict that festers between mother and daughter also reveals Farah’s character. With Mahmoud away working in Gafsa, Hayet struggles to control Farah. A formidable character, Hayet tries to intimidate Farah by speeding through traffic in one of many contests of wills between them. But when Farah disrespects her, Hayet tells her daughter, “Consider me dead.” The mother and daughter’s battle intensifies, but when Farah is sent off to Gafsa to stay with her father, Hayet’s disposition changes. “As I Open My Eyes” resists GayCityNews.nyc | September 01 - 14, 2016

AS I OPEN MY EYES Directed by Leyla Bouzid Kino Lorber In Arabic with English subtitles Opens Sep. 9 Lincoln Plaza Cinema 1886 Broadway at W. 62nd St. lincolnplazacinema.com

being overly melodramatic up until the ending. Bouzid’s neo-realist approach to the story is largely effective, and the cast of largely unprofessional actors offer naturalistic performances that ring true. (Ghalia Benali as Hayet is an exception to the non-actor rule here — just watch her expression and body language as customers in an all-male café stare at her when she enters looking for Farah one evening.) Baya Medhaffer delivers an auspicious turn as Farah, making her character’s difficult transformation from a self-centered teen to a wiser young woman credible and central to the film’s success.

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35


AT FLAME CON 2, GEEKS SHOW IN BROOKLYN

MIKE DESANTO

The X-Men.

Cecil Baldwin, from the popular podcast “Night Vale.”

MIKE DESANTO

CHRISTOPHER MURRAY

“As a queer trans girl with an asymmetrical haircut, I can’t help but stick out in the average convention hall, even among people cosplaying mutants with blue skin,” a blogger posted this week on the geek site themarysue.com. Bet she felt right at home at Brooklyn’s Flame Con 2, held August 20-21 at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott. Following the success of the inaugural Flame Con last year at Park Slope’s Grand Prospect Hall, this year’s “comics, arts, and entertainment expo showcasing creators and celebrities from all corners of LGBTQ geek fandom,” as organizers at Geeks Out described it, was a major ramping up from last year. Hundreds of participants, both in costume and not, roamed through more than 180 exhibitor tables featuring comics and ‘zine writers, illustrators and artists, hawkers of T-shirts and baubles, as well as publishers of sci fi and fantasy-themed queer books and posters. Performances by bands like Kittens Slay Dragons alternated on the main stage with an open mic poetry slam, a cos play costume contest, and a speed dating event. A whole room was dedicated to ongoing role-playing games while book-signing events included out celebrities like Cecil Baldwin from the popular podcast “Night Vale” and panels on topics like “The Importance of Queer Erotica” and writing a transgender or non-binary character. There was even a special Cos Play Costume Triage table for help if your costume got a rip or tear. Spoken word poet Taylor Steele, 25, who lives in Brooklyn and is a peer mentor through Urban Word NYC, presented her new poem “If the Joker Was a Black Girl.” at Flame Con 2. Dressed as the character “Spinelli” from “Recess,” the animated cartoon series, she asked, “Where else can I be a queer nerd?” Her new chapbook, “Dirty.Mouth.Kiss,” will be out in the fall from Pizza Pi Press. Illustrator John Jennison, 37, who is on the Geeks Out board of directors and also lives in Brooklyn, was exhibiting his own comics but also premiering a comic chapbook anthology called “Gun Controlled,” which he edited and published, with all the profits going to benefit the victims of the June shooting massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. He noted the Geeks Out decision to ban any toy or replica weapons from Flame Con 2 “in solidarity with the victims of gun violence and in support of changes in gun laws.” Contact Jennison through his website dogoodercomics.com to order a copy of ”Gun Controlled.” — By Christopher Murray

Guest artist Amy Reeder.

COURTESY: JOHN JENNISON

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MIKE DESANTO

MIKE DESANTO

Flame Con 2 stepped up the game.

"RuPaul's Drag Race" season eight contestant Dax Exclamationpoint cosplaying as Sailor Mars.

The cover of the comic chapbook anthology edited by John Jennison.

September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


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said. “And invisibility is our greatest oppressor. His trying to push us back in the closet by not allowing LGBT representation in textbooks is egregious.” Allen Roskoff, veteran gay activist and president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, said, “The remarks by Jung were quite alarming. It takes us back to decades ago when homophobia was more obvious and transparent. Toby Stavisky has always stood up for the LGBT community. We can’t afford to go backward.” Pauline Park, a Korean American who has lived in Queens for 20 years just outside the district and is the chair of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA), said, “S.J. Jung’s comments on LGBT people and same-sex marriage are completely unacceptable. Jung seems to think that he can win his primary race through homophobic appeals to Christian fundamentalists in the 16th Senate district, including the most right-wing and homophobic elements of the Korean community in Queens. But a campaign strategy predicated on prejudice will not succeed in doing anything other than discrediting him as a candidate for elective office in the most diverse county in the United States." Park added, “MinKwon does some good work, but it is known to be overly cautious on certain issues, particularly social issues,” such as LGBT rights. “S.J. Jung's views are appalling and offensive,” wrote Victoria Ng, Stavisky’s campaign manager via email. “His intolerance has no place in the State Senate or in our community.”

Jung has sought LGBT support in past races for the City Council and the State Senate, but does not seem to have this round. He got 43 percent of the primary vote against Stavisky in 2014 in the district that winds through parts of Flushing, East Flushing, Murray Hill, Queens Borough Hill, Woodside, Elmhurst, Corona, Bayside, Forest Hills, Rego Park, Fresh Meadows, Oakland Gardens, Pomonok, Electchester, and Middle Village. “It’s an increasingly Asian district,” said Dromm, who has built strong alliances with Asian communities, “but we need to head off any possibility that somebody with these viewpoints could achieve elective office.” Stavisky, who has been endorsed by the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens and the Stonewall Democrats as well as the Owles Club, was the lead co-sponsor on the same-sex marriage bill as early as 2009 and is a co-sponsor of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a transgender civil rights measure, as well as a bill banning so-called sexual orientation “conversion therapy” for minors. A former high school social studies teacher, Stavisky said LGBT issues “should be a part of the curriculum. It ought to be taught as part of American history.” Stavisky’s biggest concer n, though, is Jung’s position against abortion rights. “He is not pro-choice,” she said. “His position is to the right of Trump and Bush. He would not make exception in the case of rape,” only if the life of the mother were endangered. Jung’s campaign website says he is running on his experience building a community organiza-

Incumbent State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky.

Primary challenger S.J. Jung.

tion and small business, calling himself “a fearless reformer” who “has the courage and conviction to reject politics as usual and finally change the culture of corruption in Albany.” Jung did not respond to Gay City News’ call for comment on his stances on LGBT issues. Per his request, his campaign manager was emailed a list of questions on a range of issues and there was no response by press time. In comments to the Daily News, Jung insisted that his Bible-based opposition to same-sex marriage represented a “distinction, not a matter of discrimination.” He

explained that his comments to the Korean group warned of “the dangers faced by groups who are not in agreement with the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding gay people’s rights to marry.” He asserted that in raising the issue of samesex couples shown in textbooks, he was lamenting “a general trend” and he was concerned about protecting “the rights and freedoms of all, regardless of their views on this matter.” Jung did not respond to Gay City News’ question as to whether he would work to repeal New York’s marriage equality law or challenge last year’s Supreme Court ruling.

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September 01 - 14, 2016 | GayCityNews.nyc


c

NYS, from p.16

with a child gets a new partner who assumes a parental role, or where a child is conceived without such an advance agreement. Another sign of the court’s caution was its decision that the plaintif f would have to show such an agreement existed with “clear and convincing evidence” — an unmistakable nod to the strong constitutional rights courts accord to biological parents in controlling their children’s upbringing. The normal standard of proof in civil litigation is “preponderance of the evidence,” which means the plaintiff would have to show it was “more likely than not” that such an agreement existed. Of the six justices who participated in this case, four — all of them, like Abdus-Salaam, appointees of Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo — signed her opinion. The other member of the court, Judge Eugene Pigott, appointed by Governor George Pataki, a Republican, and whose term expires this year, wrote a separate opinion, concurring in the result but disagreeing about overruling Alison D. Pigott pointed out that the Alison D. decision had been

c

reaffirmed several times by the court, most recently just five years ago in a ruling that praised Alison D. as creating a “bright line test” that avoided unnecessary litigation and uncertainty about parental standing. In that case, Debra H., the court decided on alternative grounds that a co-parent could seek visitation because the women had entered into a Vermont civil union before the child was born, thus giving her equal parental rights under Vermont law, which New York State would respect. Pigott argued that since New York now has both marriage equality and co-parent adoption, same-sex couples stand on equal footing with different-sex couples and have no need for any modification of the definition of “parent” established by Alison D. Still, he agreed with the disposition of the two cases, finding that judicial estoppel barred Jennifer’s effort to deny Estrellita’s status as a parent which she argued for in her child support claim. In the case of Brooke and Elizabeth, he would apply the “extraordinary circumstances” doctrine, given the changed legal landscape between the couple agreeing to have a child in 2006 and Brooke

FIRING, from p.18

funeral home argued that requiring it to allow a funeral director identified as male in its employment records to wear clothing specified for a woman presented an unacceptable burden on Rost’s right to operate his business consistent with his religious views. Cox found that the EEOC failed to show that requiring the funeral home to let Stephens dress as a woman was the “least restrictive alternative” to achieve the government’s compelling interest in preventing workplace sex stereotyping. Cox noted that the EEOC had not presented any evidence of an attempt to negotiate with the funeral home about some sort of gender-neutral dress code that might be acceptable to both Stephens and Rost, and there was deposition testimony by Rost suggesting that a pants suit might be an acceptable compromise. Cox concluded his opinion by responding to the EEOC’s contention his ruling would severely undermine enforcement of Title VII. The judge pointed out that under Sixth Circuit precedent the funeral home would not have been able to raise the RFRA defense if Stephens had filed suit against it directly. GayCityNews.nyc | September 01 - 14, 2016

losing visitation in 2013. Pigott apparently sees this case as presenting a transitional problem now resolved by marriage equality being the law of the land. Susan Sommer of Lambda Legal represents Brooke with co-counsel from Blank Rome LLP and the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York, while Sherry Bjork represents Elizabeth and Eric Wrubel of Warshaw Burstein serves as court-appointed counsel for the child. In the other case, Andrew Estes of Kramer Levin represents Estrellita, Christopher J. Chimeri represents Jennifer, and John Belmonte is appointed counsel for the child. The court received amicus briefs on behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the New York City and State Bar Associations, the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, Sanctuary for Families, and Lawyers for Children. Lambda Legal had represented the plaintiff in Alison D. v. Virginia M. 25 years ago, with its then-legal director, the late Paula Ettelbrick, arguing the case before the Court of Appeals.

“In the vast majority of Title VII employment discrimination cases,” Cox wrote, “the case is brought by the employee, not the EEOC. Accordingly, at least in the Sixth and Seventh Circuits, it appears that there cannot be a RFRA defense in a Title VII case brought by an employee against a private employer because that would be a case between private parties.” Since Cox had rejected all of the other defenses offered by the funeral home under Title VII, it seems that Stephens would have won on the motion for summary judgment had she sued directly, leaving RFRA out of the picture. Cox declined to take up the EEOC’s claim that the funeral home discriminated generally against its women employees, finding that this claim did not relate to the issues in Stephens’ complaint and should be dealt with separately. In any event, the funeral home reacted to the EEOC’s investigation by changing its dress policy to provide financial assistance to female employees as well as males. Cox was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush and is the older brother of former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed an amicus brief in support of Stephens and the EEOC.

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