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James Baldwin Bio’s Oscar Nod 28

Jacqueline B. Arnold Is Phyllis Hyman 34

Draper Shreeve’s “Queer City” 38

Liberty

in the balance © Gay City News 2017 | NYC community media, LLC, All Rights Reserved

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FREE | voLUME SIXteen, ISSUE THREE | FEBRUARY 02 - 15, 2017


Trump immigration order mobilizes thousands 04 Women — and more — march in NYC, DC, globally 06-07 Texas governor aims to undo marriage equality 11 Gay ex-prosecutor’s bid for Brooklyn DA 10 You, me, and everyone we know 18 MILO HESS

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February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


LIBERTY IN THE BALANCE

Trump Goes With Scalia Acolyte for High Court

Neil Gorsuch, federal appellate judge, holds expansive views on religious exemptions BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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n a brief White House event that was nationally televised, Donald Trump nominated a conservative federal circuit court judge often compared to Justice Antonin Scalia to fill the US Supreme Court seat that was left vacant by Scalia’s death in early 2016. “You’ve entrusted me with a most solemn assignment,” Neil Gorsuch said after Trump introduced him and his wife, Louise, on the evening of January 31. “I pledge that if I’m confirmed I’ll be a faithful servant of the Constitution of this country.” The event began with the usual crowd of Trump boosters –– including his two sons now running his business empire –– who gave the former celebrity, now president, an extended round of applause and cheering as he came to the podium. Scalia’s “image and genius” were on his mind when considering a replacement for the jurist, Trump said. Scalia, who was on the court for 30 years, was known for his bitter and angry dissents in cases won by the LGBT community at the nation’s highest court.

Gorsuch, who described Scalia as a “lion of the law,” gave a speech at the law school at Case Western Reserve University roughly two months after Scalia’s death in which he heaped praise on Scalia as a judge who limited his decisions according to the original intent of the drafters of the US Constitution and of Congress, a doctrine that is popular among conservatives, but is practically impossible to implement. Scalia reminded us, Gorsuch said last year, that judges “should instead strive (if humanly and so imperfectly) to apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to text, structure, and history to decide what a reasonable reader at the time of the events in question would have understood the law to be –– not to decide cases based on their own moral convictions or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best.” Gorsuch was nominated to the 10th Circuit, an appellate court that covers six western states, in 2006 by then-President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate. Previously, he worked in the US Department of Justice in the Bush adminis-

WHITEHOUSE.GOV

President Donald Trump introduces Judge Neil Gorsuch, seen here with his wife Louise, in the East Room of the White House.

tration. Earlier in his legal career, Gorsuch clerked for Byron White and Anthony Kennedy, both US Supreme Court justices. He also clerked for David Sentelle, a conservative judge on the District of Columbia federal appellate court. “These justices brought me up in the law,” Gorsuch said at the White House event.

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GORSUCH, continued on p.43

Gorsuch Pushes Court Balance to the Right Nominee’s tight embrace of Free Exercise Clause poses risk for LGBTQ anti-discrimination gains BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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hen Justice Antonin Scalia died last February, then-candidate Donald Trump said that if he were elected he would appoint somebody in the mold of Scalia to take his place. That statement came in the context of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement that his Republican majority would not consider, much less confirm, anyone nominated by President Barack Obama to fill that seat. As far as the GOP was concerned, Obama had gotten his two seats on the high court, with the appointments of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, and was entitled to no more. They wanted to preserve the chance to keep the Scalia seat as their own should their party’s candidate prevail in November. GayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

In fact, in recent decades, two seats are what presidents have gotten –– George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush. Ronald Reagan got to appoint four (though it took six tries to fill those seats, with two nominations founder ing), but Reagan came to office following Jimmy Carter, who had no opportunity to name a justice –– so it’s not surprising there were more openings to fill. The four Democratic appointees on the current eightmember court were nominated two each by Clinton and Obama, and the four Republican appointees were nominated by Reagan and the two Bushes. At his death, Scalia was the senior member in terms of years of service, having taken the bench in 1985. The initial reaction to the Gorsuch nomination by some Supreme Court observers was that it essen-

tially restores the ideological balance that existed prior to Scalia’s death. Many cases each term are decided by unanimous or near-unanimous votes, but ideological balance comes into play on issues where there is a sharp divide between progressives and liberals, generally Democrats, and conservatives, usually Republicans. In recent years, those cases have been decided 5-4 or 6-3, and since Scalia’s death the court has deadlocked 4-4 on some significant cases, resulting in lower court decisions staying in place but with no new national precedent established. Had the Senate given Obama’s pick, Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland, its typical consideration, the opening left by Scalia’s death could have been of monumental significance. A Garland confirmation would have reduced

the deeply conservative contingent of the court to three members, as against a Democratic majority plus Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee who sits at the ideological center of the justices, tipping the balance one way or the other on a case by case basis. Although Garland’s record on the DC Circuit suggests a centrist judge without strong ideological leanings, that would place him somewhere between Kennedy and the incumbent Democratic appointees on the ideological scale. Most significantly, Garland’s confirmation would have given the Supreme Court a Democratic majority for the first time since the Lyndon Johnson administration. A group of academics from the University of California at Berkeley

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LIBERTY IN THE BALANCE

Trump Immigration Order Mobilizes Thousands At JFK, Brooklyn courthouse, Washington and Foley Squares, New Yorkers say no BY GAY CITY NEWS STAFF

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resident Donald Trump’s draconian –– though ineptly crafted and implemented –– executive order on immigration and refugee entry into the US created a spontaneous eruption of protests nationwide and brought thousands of New Yorkers into the streets and to the airport nearly every day since January 26. The evening before T rump announced his order, issued on January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day –– which he bizarrely acknowledged without any mention of its six million Jewish victims –– thousands gathered in Washington Square in a rally hastily called by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Out gay Chelsea City Councilmember Corey Johnson, whose father, the child of a Korean woman and a US GI, was adopted at age three in Seoul and brought to the US and whose maternal greatgrandparents came here from Ireland, told the crowd, “We in New York City are going to be the face of resistance. Forty percent of New Yorkers are foreign-born. Why are we the greatest city in the world? Because of our people.” Of the president, Johnson said, “We have a leader who is not just a demagogue, but a pathological liar with no impulse control, and the facts mean nothing to him.” Though immigration rights advocates were clearly prepared for the worst, the breadth and arbitrariness of Trump’s order the following day shocked many. All refugee entry is barred for 120 days, and entry by refugees from the brutality in Syria is suspended indefinitely. Most immigration is also suspended for 90 days from seven Muslim-majority nations –– Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The libertarian, and generally conservative, Cato Institute immediately took note of the fact that between 1975 and 2015, not a single American was killed on US soil as the result of terrorist attacks

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DONNA ACETO

Crowds gathered in Washington Square on January 26 on the eve of the Trump immigration order.

by nationals from any of the seven countries. Other observers pointed out that Trump’s family business has no dealings in those nations but does in other Muslim nations, such as Saudi Arabia, where 15 of the 19 9/11 attackers came from. As customs of ficials began enforcing the president’s order, which had not been vetted by officials in the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Defense, or State, Americans in huge numbers spontaneously flocked to major airports around the nation in protest. The demonstrators who gathered outside Terminal 4 at Kennedy Airport were a strikingly diverse group made up of some home-grown New

Yorkers and others from far-flung parts of the world. One shocked bi-national couple turned out in support of those who were stopped at the airport and threatened with being sent back to their native lands. “It’s absolutely nerve-wracking because we are working on staying here,” said Camila Quinteros-Stein, 26, from Peru. “We are married and we are working on our green card, so I was like wait, I just submitted some paperwork, what do I do now?” Phoebe Quinteros-Stein, who is originally from New Jersey and married to Camila, said: “As the American in the relationship, I am pretty ashamed.”

Camila was not surprised by what has happened in America since coming back to the US, particularly in light of a history of military coups in Latin America. “I don’t think this is the end of democracy,” she said. “I think it is a wake-up call for a lot of Democrats and liberals to not accept that our conversation should be amongst ourselves... and to actually speak to people outside of our bubbles.” The outpouring of love for the refugees overwhelmed one Muslim man. “I’m from New York, born and raised in Queens, and I live in Westchester,” said Adil Iqbal, a 33-year-old doctor. When he learned of the president’s order, he said he knew he had to stand in solidarity for all people. “I’m grateful that I’m in New York City, the most tolerant place in the world. Islam is about peace, and I think the media has created a huge misconception on who Muslims are across the world,” Iqbal said. “This is the fruit of that. For a decade and a half the media been injecting fear toward Islam, and they have gotten this idiot Trump elected.” City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, an out gay Brooklynite who represents Sunset Park, Red Hook, and Windsor Terrace, said, “It was heart-wrenching to spend time with families at JFK Airport Terminal 4 who were waiting for their mothers and wives to be released.” He added, however, “I was able to bring some sense of community and hope to one family when I showed them photos and video of thousands of people gathering outside in solidarity. For a moment, their hearts lifted knowing they were not alone.” Kui Tan, 24, a Chinese American originally from Iowa and now living in New York, recalled past discrimination against Asian immigrants. “This is totally immoral, unconstitutional, and a lot of things have been happening with the executive orders, but this is the first

DONNA ACETO

The insistence that Trump’s presidency not be “normalized” is widespread.

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February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


LIBERTY IN THE BALANCE

Obama LGBTQ Protections Safe, Or a Trump Head Fake? Administration brags it won’t overturn contractors order, but religious exemptions still feared BY PAUL SCHINDLER

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midst all the confusion created by White House senior advisor Steve Bannon’s “shock and awe” campaign during the Trump administration’s opening days, the president’s team may just have faked out the LGBTQ media. On Monday, widespread reports by media outlets and online sites warned that Trump was about to issue an executive order reversing President Barack Obama’s 2014 directive that protected employees of contractors doing business with the federal government from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Obama issued that order after years of Republican congressional resistance to federal employment protections. Some of this week’s reporting even suggested the new president might go back two decades to eliminate job protections in federal government employment itself put in place by Bill Clinton. Wrong, crowed the White House late in the day on Monday. “President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election,” an administration statement read. “The president is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression.” Leading advocacy groups, however, made no rush to greet the White House announcement with enthusiasm. In fact, they reiterated suspicions about exactly what the administration is up to on LGBTQ rights. In an email message, Rob Flaherty, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, the community’s leading Washington lobby group, said, “Been getting a number of questions about why we’re not praising Trump’s decision to mainGayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

tain President Obama’s executive order. Just want to make one point clear: The Trump administration floated a number of provisions as part of a license to discriminate order that we are hearing is still circulating in the White House… If someone says they’ll rob a 7/11, a Wawa, and a Sheetz, and decides to skip the Sheetz, that doesn’t mean they’re good for the convenience store community. That means they’re still considering robbing two stores.” Flaherty’s message came shortly after HRC concluded a press availability in Washington with other leading groups, including the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the National Council of La Raza, Muslim Advocates, the Center for American Progress, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the National LGBTQ Task Force. At that event, Chad Griffin, HRC’s president, warned, “Right now the administration is still considering executive actions that would allow government employees, taxpayer-funded organizations, or even companies to discriminate against LGBTQ people. We would be naive to think that the Trump administration won’t pursue such an attack on equality. After all, Donald Trump pledged during this campaign to sign the so-called First Amendment Defense Act –– which would allow individuals and many businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people.” Widespread speculation remains that the president might at any time issue an executive order carving out broad religious exemptions for organizations and individuals from nondiscrimination protections. In a January 31 alert, Lorri L. Jean, the CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, warned such an order might be forthcoming on February 2. Rhetoric from the right has also fueled the community’s concern.

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HEAD FAKE, continued on p.10

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LIBERTY IN THE BALANCE

Throngs in NYC Offer Raspberries to Hometown Prez One day after inauguration, 400,000 dissenters flood Midtown streets BY PAUL SCHINDLER

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n massive numbers, a diverse group of New Yorkers — women, men, children, many in families, of all ages and races — marched through Midtown Manhattan to express their concerns, anxieties, and anger about the tone and polices President Donald Trump brought to the White House with his inauguration on January 20. “I watched the inauguration and it scared me,” said Charles Gould, a marcher who lives in Williamsburg. “We have to be active now more than ever.” Gould said he been considering joining the January 21 Women’s March on New York City, but made up his mind for sure only after watching the new president’s swearing-in on Friday. “The inauguration woke me up,” he said of Trump’s 16-minute speech widely viewed as “dark” in its “America First” tone. “I had been on the fence about coming today. He isn’t pulling back from his campaign style and then there was the executive order to pull back Obamacare.” Lisa Blumbert of Chatham, New Jersey, on hand with a friend and neighbor, also referred to Trump’s behavior and rhetoric on his first day of office. “We’re just so freaked out about what’s happening,” she said. “I was very disappointed by his speech yesterday. It was dark and meanspirited.” The march began at 10:30 a.m. at Second Avenue and 48th Street and proceeded south to 42nd Street before heading west. The crowd quickly filled the entirety of Second Avenue and then 42nd Street, with many people still in the streets after dark fell by 5 p.m., traveling north from 42nd Street on Fifth Avenue toward Trump Tower. In a tweet, Mayor Bill de Blasio put the crowd size at 400,000. Rallies in cities nationwide and globally brought out enormous crowds in parallel Women’s Marches. The crowd size in Washington was estimated at half a million, and crowds of 250,000 turned out in both Chicago and Los Angeles. Marches took place in locations from London, Paris, and Berlin to Mexico City and Buenos Aires and from Cape Town to Sydney and even Antarctica. There are always heated debates about crowd sizes when protests are involved, and in an extraordinary and bitter appearance in the White House press room early in the evening of January 21, Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, lashed out at the media for what he said were inaccurate reports about the size of the crowd for the inauguration itself. Spicer, who took no ques-

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GAY CITY NEWS

LGBTQ visibility near the Park Avenue Viaduct at Grand Central Terminal.

tions, misstated Washington, DC, mass transit numbers for inauguration day, and also falsely claimed that Trump drew the largest swearingin crowd in history — despite aerial photographs showing large empty areas in the space between the Capitol and the Washington Monument. Trump himself used an appearance before CIA staffers on that afternoon to talk about the enormous crowds at the inauguration and complain about the media’s efforts to minimize the turnout. Spicer was correct in calling out a Time magazine reporter for an incorrect tweet that a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr., had been removed from the Oval Office, though that reporter had already

apologized to the president, an apology Spicer had earlier accepted. What was undisputed was that the new Trump team, in its first hours in office, deleted pages from the White House website on issues ranging from climate change to LGBTQ rights. Though the calls for the marches in New York, Washington, and elsewhere initially focused on concerns about the threats the Trump presidency posed for women’s rights and health, including abortion access, marchers raised a full range of issues in their signs, their chants, and in comments to Gay City News.

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February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


LIBERTY IN THE BALANCE

DONNA ACETO

LGBTQ activism made a strong mark on the march in Washington.

Huddled Masses Jam DC at Women’s March

Half million gather for flagship demo in movement drawing huge crowds worldwide BY EILEEN STUKANE

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omen with their babies cradled in wraps, women with toddlers, pregnant women, mothers with their teen and adult daughters, women of color and of sexual diversity, females from a few months old to over 80, concerned gay and straight men — cisgender and transgender — fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, people from across the country stood shoulder to shoulder with barely inches of air between them, and everyone was smiling. This was the January 21 Women’s March on Washington, a sea of some 500,000, many wear ing homemade pink pussyhats as commentary on President Donald Trump’s recorded comments that he could grab a woman’s genitals whenever he may choose. Creative signs, also mostly homemade, shouted out support of equal rights for all and dismay at the bigotry, misogyny, and crudeness of the new president. “This Is Only The Beginning,” was the sign Kristen Rogers wore as she directed crowds as part of the organizing crew. An attorney, she traveled from California because she felt that “it’s more important than ever that people band together and truly participate in our democratic process. What we’ve seen in the GayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

DONNA ACETO

Crowds gathered near the West Building of the National Gallery of Art for the rally that preceded the massive march.

discourse of this past election cycle needs to be addressed head-on consistently in the next four years.” She added, “In two years we have midterm elections and it’s critical that we have incredible turnout among Democrats and progressives so we can affect the redistricting cycle.” The DC march was the heart of a worldwide swell of Women’s Marches Saturday that drew an estimated three million people. In her speech from the podium, longtime feminist leader Gloria Steinem said that 370 such gatherings were taking place in every state and on six continents (see page 4). On a bus from New York City

the day before the March, women explained their dedication and drive. Anne Beaty, from Connecticut, unfolded a banner that read: “Nasty Women Revolt” and said she was meeting a friend traveling from Paris. Alex Trinkoff, from Long Island, and her daughter Kyra Shor, who lives in Brooklyn, both Smith College graduates from different eras, have long shared feminist views. “I have felt extremely vulnerable since the election,” said Shor. “I’m sick of feeling not valued. I want my voice to be heard. My mother has been taking me to feminist rallies since I was a baby. It feels as if things have gotten worse.”

Trinkoff made clear, “I’m walking for my daughter. What I say and what I do matters. We have to stand against rhetoric that incites violence and promote the love quotient.” Despite a chilly, gray mist, the mood of the marchers was sunny. Ann Grant, a public defender from Massachusetts with her sevenmonth-old daughter Vivian wrapped tightly to her chest, said of her child, “It’s important that she start her civic duty early. This presidency is going to require a lot of dissent and a lot of action by the people to demonstrate that they don’t approve of his creeping autocracy.” Grant held a sign that read: “There’s More To Protest Than I Can Fit On My Sign.” Also in the crowd, a group of five activists, several from the group Women of Green, who had driven 1,800 miles from New Mexico. Their sign encouraged everyone to “Meditate, Listen, Organize, Dance, and Make America Beautiful Again.” Tess Young, a dancer, personal trainer, and member of the New Mexico contingent, said that she was “born and raised in Korea, so I know when you have a country with a bad leader, the country is really in trouble. I’m here to participate.” Greg Newcomb, who works in advertising and graphic design and lives in DC with his husband,

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–– Professors Lee Epstein, Andrew D. Martin, and Kevin Quinn –– released a study in December analyzing how the court’s ideological disposition would be affected by the appointment of any of the candidates Trump had previously announced as being in the running, a list based on suggestions he received from conservative think tanks. They concluded that most of the sitting judges on that list, based on close scrutiny of their records, would have voting patterns similar to Scalia and Samuel Alito, who was appointed by George W. Bush to the seat vacated by Sandra Day O’Connor, and whose appointment was then seen to have moved the Court rightward. They placed Alito and Scalia close together on the ideological scale, with Scalia slightly more conservative than Alito. The Berkeley group rated Gorsuch as among the more conservative judges on Trump’s list, and situated him on the ideological voting scale between Scalia and Clarence Thomas, but somewhat closer to Scalia. Thus, on balance, Gorsuch’s addition to the court would move it to a more conservative disposition than it had before Scalia died, but probably without affecting how cases would have been decided had Gorsuch been sitting in Scalia’s chair during recent court terms. Based on his writings on and off the bench, it is clear that Gorsuch is a committed “originalist” more in the mold of Thomas than of Scalia, who in recent years had taken to describing himself as a “fainthearted originalist” because of his gradual acceptance of some constitutional interpretations that depart from what America’s founding generation might have embraced. Thomas, as shown in his dissenting opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 marriage equality case, clings to archaic constructions of constitutional language –– such as the use of “liberty” in the Due Process Clause –– because they are the meanings that American and English lawyers would have attached to the term in 1791 when the Bill of Rights was adopted. Gorsuch has not written any opinions on LGBT issues for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, where he has sat since 2006, though he has joined two unpub-

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lished opinions written by other judges in cases filed by transgender plaintiffs. In one, Druley v. Patton (2015), an Oklahoma state prisoner was incarcerated in 1986, by which time she had already gone through gender transition, but she has been housed in a men’s prison. She complained there had been frequent interruptions in hormone treatments and the adequacy of the dosages provided by the prison, and that her request to be allowed to wear feminine underwear had been denied. The case came before a 10th Circuit panel after the district court denied Druley’s request for a preliminary injunction. Druley, representing herself, had obvious flaws in her complaint making it unlikely to succeed, but the biggest problem she faced was that a 1986 10th Circuit panel had ruled that transgender inmates have no constitutional right to receive hormone therapy.  Although 1986 is practically the Dark Ages regarding gender identity law, that panel decision has never been overruled and so only the Supreme Court or the full 10th Circuit, sitting en banc, can reverse it –– not a single three-judge panel. On the question of whether the prison’s actions regarding hor mone dosages amounted to cruel and unusual punishment forbidden under the Eighth Amendment –– because officials were “deliberately indifferent” to Druley’s serious medical condition –– Circuit Judge Jerome Holmes, writing for the panel that included Gorsuch, noted the plaintiff’s suggestion the prison should follow treatment levels suggested by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health but pointed out that those standards “are intended to provide flexible directions” and leave it up to individual professionals and organized programs to modify as particular cases require. Druley asserted she had received no hormone therapy at all from 1988 until 2011, but she was not seeking damages for that deprivation, but instead an order that her dosage be increased. On Druley’s effort to win the right to wear feminine underwear or be moved to a different building to alleviate an asthma condition, neither issue would typically raise Eighth Amendment concerns, and her 14th Amendment equal protection

claims were defeated by existing 10th Circuit precedent that complaints of discrimination based on gender identity are not subject to heightened scrutiny. As long as the prison could demonstrate a rational purpose in its policy toward her, its actions would withstand her suit. “Ms. Druley did not allege any facts suggesting the [prison’s] decision concerning her clothing or housing do not bear a rational relation to a legitimate state purpose,” Judge Holmes wrote. Given the precedents binding on this panel in the Druley case, it is difficult to read much into this opinion, which Gorsuch signed but did not write, regarding his underlying view on transgender rights. In another gender identity case, where Gorsuch was sitting as a guest judge in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a transgender woman who was an instructor at Maricopa County Community College in Arizona was banned from using the women’s restroom after other females complained about a “man” in their restroom. Rebecca Kastl, who was presenting as female but had not undergone sex reassignment surgery, was denied renewal of her teaching contract after the complaints from the women. She filed sex discrimination claims under Title IX of the 1972 federal education statute and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but the district court dismissed the case on summary judgment in 2006. In 2009, an unpublished “Memorandum” not attributed to any of the judges on the panel where Gorsuch sat acknowledged that a transgender person could pursue a discrimination claim under both Title VII and Title IX using a sex-stereotyping theory to bring it within the scope of sex discrimination protections. The panel concluded, however, that the college had “satisfied its burden” of justifying its actions by presenting evidence that “it banned Kastl from using the women’s restroom for safety reasons.” At that point, she would have to show that this reason was merely a pretext for the college’s discriminatory intent, but the court found that she “did not put forward sufficient evidence demonstrating that MCCCD was motivated by Kastl’s gender.” A footnote to the opinion, however, seemed to undermine the rea-

sonableness of the panel’s conclusion: “We note that the parties do not appear to have considered any type of accommodation that would have permitted Kastl to use a restroom other than those dedicated to men. After all, Kastl identified and presented full-time as female, and she argued to [the college] that the men’s restroom was not only inappropriate for but also potentially dangerous to her.” That language suggests some sensitivity to Kastl’s concerns, but not enough to cause the panel to reverse the district court. This opinion, more than the prison ruling, might say something about Gorsuch’s opinions about discrimination claims by transgender plaintiffs. Curiously, Kastl was represented by a Tucson attorney, Andrew Martin Jacobs, and Lambda Legal filed an amicus brief by F. Brian Chase in support of her appeal. Yet in Lambda’s review of Gorsuch’s record, posted on its website, the Kastl decision is not mentioned while the Druley one is. The most important LGBT rights decisions by the 10th Circuit in recent years, its two rulings striking down bans on same-sex marriage in Utah and Oklahoma, were decided by three-judge panels that did not include Gorsuch. Nor was Gorsuch on the panel that decided Etsitty v. Utah Transit Authority, a 2007 decision that rejected the argument that gender identity was a “suspect classification” that would have qualified a transgender public employee’s equal protection claim for heightened judicial scrutiny. Gorsuch, then, is not “on the record” directly on LGBTQ issues, but his overall record suggests that there are good grounds for the community to oppose his confirmation. He was part of the 10th Circuit en banc panel in the infamous Hobby Lobby case –– where the Supreme Court ultimately granted a privately-held company a religious exemption from complying with the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage requirement –– and signed on to a concurring opinion, containing language suggesting he would support broad religious exemptions from antidiscrimination laws. Now pending before the Supreme Court is a petition to review a case

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SCOTUS, from p.8

from Gorsuch’s home state, Colorado, in which the state courts held that a baker violated the state’s public accommodations law by refusing on religious grounds to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. If that petition is granted (the court recently requested records from the Colorado courts for discussion at one of its remaining conferences, signaling interest in the case) and Gorsuch is quickly confirmed, it could be among the first cases argued after he takes his seat. (The court has scheduled arguments through the end of February, and it plans to conclude hearing arguments for this term in April.) In an essay he published in 2005, Gorsuch expressed opposition to civil rights impact litigation, characterizing it as an attempt by liberal groups to advance their agenda through the courts rather than through the democratic process in legislatures. He left no doubt he would have rejected an attempt to get a court where he sat to order states to allow same-sex marriages, based on his view that such policy issues should not be decided in the courts. His views on this are consistent with those of the four Obergefell dissenting justices, Chief Justice John Roberts famously ending his dissent by writing that the majority’s decision had “nothing to do with the Constitution.” Gorsuch has also never ruled in an abortion case, though he dissented from the 10th Circuit’s refusal to reconsider a panel ruling that a religiously-affiliated organization with religious objections to contraception methods it deemed a form of abortion could be required under the Affordable Care Act to notify the government of its objections so an alternative means for contraceptive coverage could be arranged. Gorsuch specifically endorsed the argument that the organization’s refusal to be complicit in any way with providing coverage –– even through such a minimal requirement as notifying the government that the organization itself would not provide it –– placed a substantial burden on the organization in violation of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Gorsuch appears to place such heavy weight on an expansive reading of the Free Exercise Clause that GayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

it would not be much of a stretch to suggest he might be willing to overrule the Supreme Court’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith, an important 1990 case, in which Scalia wrote for the majority, holding that the First Amendment does not privilege people to violate neutral state laws of general application based on their religious beliefs. This ruling led to the enactment of the federal RFRA and subsequent state RFRA statutes, which are now at the heart of the contention that people with religious objections to same-sex marriage or gender transition should be excused from complying with anti-discrimination laws. There is widespread speculaBAR/BAT MITZVAHS SWEET SWEET SIXTEENS SIXTEENS WEDDINGS WEDDINGS tion that the Trump administra- BAR/BAT MITZVAHS BAR/BAT MITZVAHS SWEET SIXTEENS WEDDINGS FEBRUARY 12th tion may release an executive order allowing federal contractors and MANHATTAN || 12-4PM FEBRUARY 12th MANHATTAN 12-4PM federal employees to discriminate $%+('$+(-'/  , (!+# MANHATTAN | 12-4PM $%+('$+(-'/  , (!+#  &  &)$* )$* in providing services and makFREE TICKET With Online Registration & be entered to win a FitBit $%+('$+(-'/  , (!+#  & )$* Registration & be entered to win a FitBit ing employment decisions based FREE TICKET With Online CelebrateShowcase.com FREE TICKET With Online Registration & be entered to win a FitBit CelebrateShowcase.com on religious beliefs. Such an order $10 at the door CelebrateShowcase.com $10 at the door would undoubtedly be challenged $10 at the door in litigation that could end up in the Supreme Court. Gorsuch was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on a voice vote after his nomination to the SERVING 10th Circuit by President George TOP $ PAID SAME DAY MANHATTAN HOUSE HOUSE FOR JUDAICA SERVICE W. Bush. He has all the credentials AND THE ENTIRE CALLS CALLS AVAILABLE COLLECTIBLES TRI-STATE AREA that suggest an easy confirmation: elite education (Columbia, Oxford, Harvard Law), federal clerkships (including the Supreme Court), practice in a big firm, service as a federal appeals judge, no scandal Paintings, Clocks, Watches, attached to his name, and a reputaEstate Jewelry & Fine China, tion as a collegial judge who writes From Single Items in a clear, conversational style without the kind of hyperbole, venom, to Entire Estates! and sarcasm that Scalia employed s Coin & Stamp Collections in his dissenting opinions. s Costume Jewelry Gorsuch has been a frequent s Antique Furniture s Lamps dissenter on the 10th Circuit, but s Bronzes s Paintings s Prints his dissents are temperate and MOVING dispassionate in tone and closely s Chinese & Japanese DOWNSIZINor G reasoned, although they frequently CALL ? Artwork & Porcelain rest on conservative premises that US! Military s Sports Collectibles most progressives would instincCollections s Comic Books s Old Toys s Records Wanted tively reject. Swords, s Cameras s Sterling Flatware Sets He can’t be opposed as techniKnives, Helmets, etc. cally unqualified, but he can be HUMMELS & LLADROS characterized as far to the right of the judicial “mainstream,” justifySEE OUR AD IN THE SUNDAY POST Top $ Paid ing firm opposition by those confor Antique Sterling! cerned with LGBTQ rights, reproASK FOR CHRISTOPHER ductive rights, and the ability to live in a civil society that does not countenance disadvantaging people We We buy buy anything anything old. old. One One piece piece or or house house full. full. WILL TRAVEL because of the religious beliefs held WILL TRAVEL. HOUSE CALLS. WILL TRAVEL. HOUSE CALLS. WILL TRAVEL. WE MAKE HOUSE CALLS. ENTIRE by their employers or by legislators. Estimates! TRI-STATE! 1029 WEST JERICHO TURNPIKE, SMITHTOWN L.I.

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CRIME

Gay Ex-Prosecutor Wants to Be Brooklyn DA

Marc Fliedner, first hired by Liz Holtzman in 1987, takes on incumbent Eric Gonzalez BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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arc Fliedner wasted little time when he announced he is running to be the Kings County district attorney. “There is agreement, consensus, that our criminal justice system is broken,” he said during the January 26 event, which was held near Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza. “To its foundation. That it needs to be reconsidered and reconstructed from the ground up.” Any reform should be “First and best,” not “baby steps, not shaking hands on some little tweak you made to the system while you were talking to your cronies at a bar association dinner,” he told the roughly 20 friends and family members who joined him for the announcement. “I’m talking reform,” he said. “Real and comprehensive reform that benefits all, including the most vulnerable and historically disenfranchised of our neighbors.” The 54-year -old Fliedner also aimed squarely at Eric Gonzalez, who has been the acting district attorney and presumptive frontrunner in this year’s race since Ken Thompson, who won the office in 2013, died this past October. “So why in the world isn’t our prosecutor’s office using that platform, that great opportunity, to lead the nation in reform?” Fliedner said. “Why isn’t the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, the third largest prosecutor’s office in the nation, in fact doing it first and best?”

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Thompson unseated Charles Hynes, who first won the office in 1989. While Hynes was known for some progressive reforms, efforts that Thompson expanded during his brief tenure, he also ignored misconduct by some prosecutors in his office, and he failed to prosecute crimes committed by members of the politically connected Orthodox Jewish community. Hynes, who is Irish-American, did not fully appreciate the demographic changes that had swept Brooklyn since 1989. Fliedner recognizes those changes. “I am not Asian but I have sisters of my heart who are,” he said during his announcement. “I am not of African descent, but I surely know why we’ve been marching together and what matters and why. I am not a woman, but I have been shaped by many, and know what it is does to the soul when you’re directed to stand over there and wait your turn.” Fliedner first joined the Brooklyn prosecutor’s office right out of law school in 1987, when it was headed by Elizabeth Holtzman. He left for the Monmouth County prosecutor’s office in New Jersey in 1992 and then had a private practice there from 2001 to 2006. In 2006, he returned to Brooklyn, where he lives in Bay Ridge, and saw steady promotions under Hynes, a prosecutor who was known for not tolerating assistants who lose cases. Fliedner eventually joined the homicide unit and made executive assistant district attorney and chief of the Major Narcotics Investigations Bureau in 2011.

HEAD FAKE, from p.5

After the White House ruled out a full retreat from the Obama directive, Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, voiced optimism that the religious exemption demands groups such as his have made would be satisfied. “I think this is going to be addressed,” he said, according to a report on CNBC. Though he acknowledged he hasn’t “gotten complete clarity” on what the president will do, Perkins said, “I have every confidence” Trump will follow through on promises he earlier made to social conservatives.

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GAY CITY NEWS

Marc Fliedner outside his Atlantic Avenue law office in downtown Brooklyn.

Most recently, Fliedner prosecuted two police officers, including Peter Liang, who was convicted in the 2014 fatal shooting of an unarmed Akai Gurley. Fliedner had a public falling out with Thompson last year and left the office. Thompson was known for an abusive management style and then, like Hynes before him, appeared to be allowing politics to play too great a role in prosecutorial decisions. Fliedner was heading the Civil Rights Bureau when he left. Through much of his career in law enforcement, Fliedner was closeted due in some measure to law enforcement’s hostility to LGBTQ people. Prior to his second stint in the Brooklyn prosecutor’s office, he was married to a woman and raising two kids with her. His male spouse of four years, a musician, attended the January 26 announcement. “I think I stayed in the closet longer than I would have because of the messages that I got,” he told Gay City News during an interview

Among the objections the community’s advocates have raised about Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is the clear sympathy his record evidences for expansive claims of religious exemptions from laws that neutrally apply across society. Advocates were also surely jolted this week by claims made by Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of Liberty University, that he’s been asked by the president to head up a new task force to review policy within the Department of Education. Falwell told the Chronicle on Higher Education that Trump offered the assignment in November and that Bannon gave him the go-ahead to discuss it

in his Brooklyn law office. “I’m not running as the gay DA, but I’m certainly out and proud.” The reforms he emphasized in his announcement include diverting more offenders to mental health services or drug treatment rather than sending them to jail and reducing the number of defendants who are incarcerated pre-trial. He also promised to more broadly engage Brooklyn residents. “There are a lot of neighborhoods I am talking to where people feel like the DA’s office is absent, like they’re being ignored,” Fliedner told Gay City News. He even poked Gonzalez and senior staff members in the office for their travel habits. “Executives in the current DA’s office ride to work every day with their security details in big fancy, expensive vehicles, driving past the people they serve and then getting whisked into the big marble building,” Fliedner said during his announcement. Brandishing a Metrocard, he added, “This is how I’ll be getting to work. If the streets and subways aren’t safe enough for you, and I’m the district attorney, shame on me. And if they’re safe enough for you, they’re safe enough for me. We’ll chat on the way.” The race, in the final analysis, represents Fliedner’s return to a career that he loves. “I love being a prosecutor,” he told Gay City News in a 2011 interview after he took over the narcotics unit. “I love being a law enforcement official.”

publicly this week. Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education nominee whose confirmation is now in doubt with the defection of at least two Republicans, had already raised concerns given the substantial support her family has given to anti-LGBTQ groups over the past 15 years –– though friends of hers scrambled to beat back the image of her as hostile to the community in a New York Times article this week. The Department of Education played a leading role on LGBTQ policy during the Obama administration, not only on bullying issues but also the question of transgender students accessing bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


LIBERTY IN THE BALANCE

How Texas Governor Hopes to Undo Marriage Equality A fight over Houston municipal employee benefits could turn dangerous after two Trump high court picks BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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onservatives eager to bring the marriage equality issue back to the US Supreme Court after President Donald Trump has the opportunity to appoint some right-leaning justices may have found a vehicle in an employee benefits dispute from Houston. On January 20, Inauguration Day, the Texas Supreme Court announced it had “withdrawn” its September 2, 2016 order refusing review of a lower court ruling that implied the city of Houston is required to provide the same spousal health benefits to same-sex and different-sex spouses of municipal workers. The state’s intermediate court of appeals’ ruling pointed to the 2015 US Supreme Court marriage equality ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in sending the case back to a trial court. The Texas high court has now scheduled oral argument on the appeal for March 1. The plaintiffs in the Houston case, taxpayers Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks, filed a motion for rehearing with the active support of Republican Governor Greg Abbott and GOP Attorney General Ken Paxton, both ardent marriage equality opponents eager to chip away at the marriage equality ruling or even get it reversed. The Texas Supreme Court’s original order denying review last fall had been issued over a fervent dissent by Justice John Devine, who argued for a limited reading of Obergefell. Abbott and Paxton’s amicus brief in support of review channeled Devine’s arguments. Trump’s nomination of a conservative to fill the seat left vacant when Justice Antonin Scalia died last February would not change the Supreme Court line-up on marriage equality. Obergefell was decided by a 5-4 vote, with Scalia dissenting. However, it is possible –– even likely, if rumors of a possible retirement by Justice Anthony Kennedy at the end of the Court’s 2017-18 term are GayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

accurate –– that Trump will get an opportunity to replace the Obergefell decision’s author with a more conservative justice in time for the Court’s 2018-19 term. Regardless of how the Texas Supreme Court rules on this appeal, its interpretation of the scope of the Obergefell decision could set up a federal constitutional law question that could be appealed to the US Supreme Court. If the issue gets to that court, it is possible that the Obergefell dissenters, strengthened in number by the net addition of a new conservative appointee, could take the opportunity to narrow or even overrule the marriage equality decision. The Houston dispute dates back to 2001, when Houston voters reacted to a City Council move to adopt same-sex partner benefits by approving a City Charter amendment that rejected city employee health benefits for “persons other than employees, their legal spouses, and dependent children.” After the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, an out lesbian and longtime LGBTQ rights advocate, announced the extension of health benefits to same-sex spouses of city employees. Although same-sex couples could not then marry in Texas, they could go to other states to get married, and Parker and her city attorney concluded that under the DOMA ruling Houston’s city government was obligated to recognize city workers’ lawfully contracted same-sex marriages and provide them the same benefits accorded to other employees. Pidgeon and Hicks filed suit in state court, contending that Parker’s action violated the Texas Constitution and statutes, as well as the City Charter amendment. A trial judge issued a temporary injunction against the benefits extension while the case was pending. The city appealed that ruling to a state appeals court, which sat on the issue as marriage equality litigation exploded across the

GOV.TX.GOV

Texas’ Republican governor, Greg Abbott, is a fierce opponent of marriage equality, as is the state’s GOP attorney general, Ken Paxton.

nation. When Texas began issuing marriage licenses in the wake of the Obergefell ruling in 2015, that court, the 14th District Court of Appeals, finally reversed the temporary injunction and sent the case back to the trial court to consider the issue in light of the US Supreme Court’s action. The appeals court, then, did not rule on the merits and left the question of what impact Obergefell had on city employee benefits policy a matter of some dispute. Pidgeon and Hicks petitioned the Texas Supreme Court to review the court of appeals’ lifting of the injunction, but the high court initially denied them last September, at which point Justice Devine issued his dissent. Devine argued the appeals court’s majority incorrectly “assumed that because the United States Supreme Court declared couples of the same sex have a fundamental right to marry, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires cities to offer the same benefits to same-sex spouses of employees as to opposite-sex spouses.” From his perspective, however, “Marriage is a fundamental right. Spousal benefits are not. Thus, the two issues are distinct, with sharply contrasting standards for review. Because the court of appeals’ deci-

sion blurs these distinctions and threatens constitutional standards long etched in our nation’s jurisprudence, I would grant review.” Devine was mistaken, however, regarding what the appeals court decided. That court did not find that same-sex spouses of Houston employees are entitled to health benefits from the city, but instead ruled that because of “substantial change in the law” since the temporary injunction was issued, the issue should be litigated “consistent with” the Obergefell ruling. That left open the chance the trial court would still rule in favor of Pidgeon and Hicks. In any event, Devine’s argument rests on a very narrow reading of Obergefell. He interprets the Supreme Court’s decision to be sharply focused on the right of same-sex couples to marry, based on its conclusion that the right to marry is a “fundamental right.” The Supreme Court never explicitly said that the US Constitution requires state and local governments to treat all marriages the same, regardless whether they are same-sex or different-sex marriages, he noted. And, Devine argued, public employees do not have a fundamental constitutional right to receive health insurance benefits from their employer. He contended that the state could decide who gets benefits based on its own policy considerations, which the courts should uphold if they satisfy the relatively undemanding judicial standard of “rationality” applied where a fundamental right is not at stake. On that point, he argued, the state’s interest in procreation by married differentsex couples could justify extending benefits to them but not to samesex couples. Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Obergefell, however, specifically listed health insurance as one of the many benefits associated with marriage that contributed to the conclusion that marriage is a fundamental

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TEXAS, continued on p.27

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IMMIGRATION, from p.4

time that people’s live are affected, international relations are shot, and this is like Japanese internment,” she said. “When it’s convenient to discriminate, they are not going to care.” Chtindarpal Singh, a South Ozone Park resident who came to New York from India, reflected on the importance of Americans uniting in the face of anti-immigrant sentiment. “To be honest, I feel really loved,” said Singh, who is often mistaken for Muslim. “I know it’s kind of crazy, but what you see [here] is love for Muslims. I’m Sikh, a different religion, but I feel like New York has got our back and I love it. There is always a mix-up between Sikh and Islam, but any hate is bad. I’m not going to say, ‘No, I’m not Muslim.’ There shouldn’t be any hate at all.” Even as thousands held vigil at Kennedy, news of an emergency federal court hearing on Trump’s order in Brooklyn on Saturday evening spread quickly on social media, and demonstrators high-tailed it to Cadman Plaza East near the Brooklyn Bridge. By the time the court’s decision came down at 9 p.m., a large crowd erupted in singing, chanting, and cheering alongside a live brass band. “It was a party feeling,” said Marika Plater, who lives in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn. “It’s really nice to see this response to all the anger that’s out there right now.” Inside, Judge Ann Donnelly had to shush whoops as she granted a temporary stay regarding a por tion of Trump’s order, finding that returning some of those detained –– already holding visas, green cards, or refugee status –– could subject them to “irreparable harm.” “If they had come in two days ago, we wouldn’t be here,” said Donnelly. Somewhere between 100 and 200 people –– even government lawyers claimed they didn’t know exactly –– were being held at airports around America on Saturday, including dozens at Kennedy. Though some detainees were allowed to enter the country, Donnelly’s decision doesn’t necessarily mean all will be freed, lawyers warned — they could be held in detention until the case is actually heard on February 21.

12

BILL PARRY

Lawyers rushed to Kennedy Airport to aid detained travelers trying to enter the US.

“That’s a lot of time to be sitting in a detention center,” said Anthony Romero, head of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit. The attorneys who successfully intervened won widespread praise, as did the thousands who turned out in support of those struggling to enter the country. “This is just so beautiful, I am just so proud,” said Congressmember Nydia Velázquez, a Democrat who spent the whole day at Kennedy Airport with her colleague, Jerry Nadler, who represents Manhattan’s West Side and portions of Brooklyn. Velázquez, whose district spans many immigrant neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, added, “Now we have to bring justice to all the refugees who are escaping violence in their countries to be here — this is who we are.” The energy expended on Saturday did not dissipate passion about the issue, and on Sunday, an estimated 10,000 gathered in Battery Park , with America’s most enduring symbol of immigration as a backdrop. Many of the protesters sported foam Statue of Liberty hats they bought from vendors, and at least one demonstrator’s sign quoted Emma Lazarus’ famous poem inscribed on the statue’s pedestal: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses… send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.”

NAEISHA ROSE

Many protesters view Trump’s policy on immigration as fascism.

The crowd chanted, “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!” and “No ban, no wall!” — a message many bore on signs and banners. Numerous Democratic elected officials attended the rally — including Mayor Bill de Blasio, Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and their New Jersey colleague, Cory Booker, Velázquez and Nadler, along with their fellow House members Carolyn Maloney, Adriano Espaillat, Hakeem Jeffries, and Joe Crowley.

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ImMIGRATION, continued on p.13

STEFANO GIOVANNINI

The crowd massed outside the federal courthouse in Brooklyn on Saturday night as Judge Ann Donnelly prepared to issue a stay on Trump's order.

February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


MILO HESS

MILO HESS

Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, spoke to the Battery Park crowd, many of whom felt he was not resisting the new Trump administration as strongly as he should.

A crowd of 10,000 gathered in Battery Park on Sunday.

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IMMIGRATION, from p.12

Schumer vowed that he would “not rest until these horrible orders are repealed,” and credited Saturday’s protests at Kennedy with helping ease restrictions and allow dozens of people being held there to enter the country. But he warned the work was not over. “We have made progress for 42 [visa holders],” Schumer said, “but

we have to make progress for thousands, and tens of thousands more, and hundreds of thousands more.” Schumer, who as Senate minority leader is the most powerful political opponent Trump has in Washington, received a lukewarm welcome from the crowd, in part because he has supported some of the president’s less controversial cabinet nominees. Some demonstrators chanted “oppose the nominees” following his speech.

Later on Sunday, Maloney asked a House committee to investigate “how the executive order banning and restricting immigration signed on Friday came to fruition,” according to a press release from her office. She wants to know what federal agencies the Trump administration consulted in preparing the order. Throughout the week, activism and street protests have continued in New York regarding the Trump

order. On Wednesday evening, the Syria Solidarity New York City and CISPOS: Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria co-sponsored a rally in Foley Square, the site of the federal courthouse in Manhattan. –– Reporting by Lincoln Anderson, Ruth Brown, Lauren Gill, Dennis Lynch, Naeisha Rose, and Paul Schindler

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LIBERTY IN THE BALANCE

One Inauguration Eve, NYC Already Revved Up

Mayor joined by celebrity organizers in pledging 100 days of resistance BY JACKSON CHEN

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star-studded rally outside Trump International Hotel aimed to ignite a 100-day resistance movement against the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump. “We are here united in protecting our family, friends, neighbors, fellow New Yorkers, and people across this great nation during his time in office,” actor Rosie Perez, a Brooklyn native, said at the January 19 event. “Donald Trump is from this city, he is a New Yorker, and yet he has spread a message across the country that is the opposite of who we are as New Yorkers.” Kicking off the evening, Perez introduced Hollywood icons like Robert De Niro, Mark Ruffalo, Alec Baldwin, and Julianne Moore, alongside Michael Moore, Natalie Merchant, and Cher, all united in standing against a Trump administration. “We’re all rooting for the new administration to abandon the divisive, racist, misogynist, ignorant plans it’s trumpeting and lead us with intelligence and compassion,” De Niro said. Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the thousands of attendees in cheering the final night of Barack Obama’s administration. As soon as the mayor mentioned the peaceful transition of power taking place the following day in Washington, the crowd was united in booing, but de Blasio emphasized that Trump’s first day in the presidency also would be the first day of action for the many who oppose his plans for the next four years. “Some people think we’re going to be dejected, some people think we’re going to be in a state of mourning, that we’re just going to shirk away from playing any role in our nation,” the mayor said. “No, tomorrow we begin to organize, tomorrow we gather together, look at the thousands here tonight and this is only the beginning.” The thousands came from all over New York, with many from Westchester County joining the

14

JACKSON CHEN

The LGBTQ Rainbow Flag was raised at the rally.

large number of West Village residents in united resistance to the Trump presidency. “This isn’t about politics, this is about Donald Trump. Those of us in Manhattan have been used to this for the last 30 years,” Nick Beef, a West Villager said. “It’s a man who talks and has no action… it’s all about him, not our country.” Coming down from Westchester County, Theo Allen was proud to carry signs protesting the president-to-be. “This president has decried women, people with disabilities, LGBTQ community members, and has divided us, not united us,” Allen said at the rally. “As a citizen of these United States, I cannot allow

us to be a divided nation.” One of the main organizers of the rally, the film director and activist Michael Moore, had a stark but also empowering message for the crowd that filled Central Park West. “First the bad news, as sad as we think it’s going to be, it’s going to be worse,” Moore said. “But here is the good news, the good news is there’s more of us than there are of them!” Moore noted that the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, won close to three million more votes than Trump and there were more nearly eight million others who voted for neither the Republican nor Democratic candidate. “This is the beginning of our 100 days of resistance, and that’s just

the first 100 days,” Moore said. “Every day you have to contact your member of Congress or one of your two senators. It takes three minutes, wake up, brush teeth, make coffee, contact Congress, that’s the new morning routine.” Many had already begun taking action by organizing the Women’s March on Washington for January 21, the day following the swearing in of the nation’s new president. In New York City and in cities nationwide and across the globe, similar marches were planned (see pages 4 and 14 ). As the rally concluded with Natalie Merchant leading a celebrity-jammed cover of “This Land Is Your Land,” the crowd began moving toward Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, where they were met with a large force of New York Police Department officers and barricades. But, the words of Moore, Ruffalo, and Baldwin fueled the crowd to continue their protest, no matter the restrictions. “Donald Trump and Steve Bannon and Mike Pence and all these people that are part of the Trump administration, they think you’re going to lay down,” Baldwin said to the crowd. “Are you going to lay down?” The crowd shouted back, “No!” “Are you going to fight?” “Yes!” “Are we going to have 100 days of resistance?” “Yes!”

JACKSON CHEN JACKSON CHEN

Hoisting the American Flag, protesters had a simple message for the soon-to-be president: No!

Filmmaker Michael Moore, one of the rally’s organizers, speaks to the crowd.

February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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15


PERSPECTIVE: The View from Paris

Women Rising? BY KELLY COGSWELL

I

’m back in France, and about the time Donald Trump was taking the oath of office in the rain, I was trapped on a bus in the dark going around in circles. That’s what it felt like anyway, going round and round traffic roundabouts in the dark countryside after being bottlenecked for hours. I was afraid it was a metaphor. I’ve been afraid for months. Of losing my insurance. Getting hassled, beaten, attacked by newly emboldened bigots. Targeted for being a dyke, or using the women’s bathroom while slightly butch, or maybe for speaking a foreign language out in public with my partner or friends. It’s happened before. I didn’t know a few syllables of Spanish could turn a white guy’s face so red. But then that Saturday,that Saturday. I turned on the TV in the afternoon, and saw women, thousands of women. All those pink and red and magenta pussyhats. And signs, funny, furious, witty, obscene, and glorious

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messages of hope and resistance. I was taken aback, not just by the protesters, but the fact that the misogynist French mainstream media was actually covering the Paris Women’s March. They were even interviewing a range of women. An old white one. A young brown one. And that was just the beginning. All night long they followed marches in the US. The BBC, meanwhile, reported on the tens of thousands of protesters who filled Trafalgar Square. I couldn’t believe the images from the US, all those gazillions of people, mostly women, pouring into the streets in Chicago, and Detroit, and even mustering several thousand in Lexington, Kentucky. I got kind of teary, but with joy for a change. At the marchers. But also at a new opening in the media that might just pay attention this time because democracy itself is in danger. And I tuned in occasionally to the Washington March, and listened to the speakers who were a righteously diverse bunch. Even the longwinded mansplainer Michael Moore offered

Ashley Judd the opportunity to school other women in how to deal with that kind of masculine gasbaggery. You pull the plug, totally step on their ass. I was also impressed at how comfortable she was performing that poem that had her talking about racism, and queers, and trans people. That gave me hope, too. I admit, I didn’t expect such a high turnout for the Women’s March, especially in the US, where most Americans have never been on the street. Even the black marchers of Black Lives Matter are only a small percentage of their communities. And seasoned activists are often snobs. Before we go to a march, we want to know who’s organizing the thing, what their pedigree is. Is it up to snuff? Are they? Who else is going? Are they radical enough? Inclusive enough? There’s a reason for our skepticism. We often see LGBTQ describing an organization or event even though it’s dominated by gay white men. The women’s movement in the US, and many other places, has a history of indifference, if not outright hostility toward dykes, poor women, minorities, trans people.

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VIEW FROM PARIS, continued on p.17

RASPBERRIES, from p.6

Lara Tyson, an Upper West Sider who has taught in public schools for a decade and currently works in Harlem, held up a sign reading “Teachers against Betsy DeVos,” the president’s nominee for secretary of the Department of Education who has been a leading advocate for charter schools in her home state of Michigan. “It’s ridiculous to hire a lobbyist against public money for public schools,” Tyson said. “She knows nothing about student loans or Pell grants. Charters have been a total failure in Michigan. They’re there to fake people into thinking there is choice. There is not oversight there.” Others voiced a more generalized concern about the threats many communities in the US could face under Trump. Ella Fine is a 13-year -old girl who was marching with her mother, Jocelyn. “I think equal rights for everyone is so important and I don’t think our president agrees with that,” Ella said. “I think it’s important for us to fight for equality.” Ella added she is “upset” by Trump assuming the presidency. Pastor Astrid Storm leads St. James Episcopal Church in Scarsdale. She explained, “I’m here for

16

GAY CITY NEWS

GAY CITY NEWS

New York’s Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps marching band was part of the enormous crowd.

The threat to immigrants — and Muslims, in particular — was a major theme of the day.

the same reason most people are here — for women and for women’s rights.” Storm said 12 people from her congregation had traveled from Westchester County to Midtown to participate, and were part of a group of roughly 100 people from nearby churches. Melissa Faliveno, a young woman from Greenpoint, emphasized her solidarity with women across the nation. “I don’t want to accept or condone misogyny or homophobia or xenophobia or racism,” she said. “I am marching for all the women in my life and their daughters and for

marchers suggested that concern within the LGBTQ community about what a Trump administration could herald is keeping some circumspect in their criticisms. “We’re here to show our support for those who are under attack,” a Sunset Park man marching with his husband said. “Building unity and speaking out against injustice, tyranny.” The man, however, declined to give his name. “I work in the public domain,” he explained. His husband identified himself as Joseph Canale.

those women who don’t feel safe marching today. And I am marching to resist.” Joanna Leff, who lives in Crown Heights, carried a sign for Equality NY, a political action committee formed in 2016 to advance LGBTQ rights in the wake of the demise of the Empire State Pride Agenda, which had carried that mantle for more than 25 years. “We’re all here for the same thing, to defend women’s rights and human rights and LGBT rights,” Leff said. “I am worried about how the next four years are going to go and how things are changing already.” Comments from at least a few

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RASPBERRIES, continued on p.17

February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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VIEW FROM PARIS, from p.16

On the other –– left –– hand, the last time I went to a march in Paris for International Women’s Day I thought I was in the wrong place. All the signs were about Palestine or the Iraq War or the environment, and didn’t even include the word “Femme.” The bodies in the crowd didn’t give a hint either. Most of the women were there with men so no one would think they were dykes. It seemed like women needed some kind of modifier to be valued, were expected to embody an inclusiveness that other groups, like #BLM, are entitled to push back from. Don’t come here with that #alllivesmatter nonsense that stinks of racism and privilege. And yet, and yet. Women are half the population of the earth. Half of every racial and ethnic and religious group. All social and political issues everywhere affect

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the lives of women in some profound way. Don’t expect me to leave my dykeness at home. The place I came from. Our experience of race is entangled with everything. The challenge for the new women’s movement is to acknowledge these threads without erasing fundamental truths about the identity that arbitrarily unites us –– how our lives are marked by a toxic masculinity that systematically attacks and diminishes those of us with female bodies or touched by femininity in any way at all. After a rocky start, the March organizers did a good job of pulling all the issues, all the people together. If Trump and his minions have performed one service, it is to make visible the deep connections between our country’s hardcore misogyny and antiqueer, white supremacist hate. All us social minorities are in the same boat. And if we don’t rise and resist together, we’re sunk.

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RASPBERRIES, from p.16

A woman carrying a sign labeled with the logo of the Human Rights Campaign, the Washington-based LGBTQ lobby, and reading “Equality, Justice, Love Make America Great,” said, “We have to do something. We can’t just sit down and let this happen. Keep resisting. Keep fighting. Telling our legislators how we feel. Keep speaking up. I am very concerned about LGBTQ rights, about violence and hatred against all minorities.” The woman, who lives in Westchester County, was marching with her young daughter and her mother, who was celebrating her 78th birthday the day of the march. Asked her name, the woman said, “I’d rather not.” The spirited crowd alternated chants throughout the day, and addressed a variety of issues as they did so. “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go” and “Donald Trump, go away, racist, sexist, anti-gay” were the most common refrains, but the crowd also chanted, “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.” And in a reminder that many in the crowd have ambivalence about the prospect of Trump at some point over the next four years giving up his position, marchers also chanted, “Pence sucks, too.” GayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

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The call for women’s solidarity quickly broadened to include many other groups alarmed by President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

GAY CITY NEWS

Amidst a buoyant crowd, defiance was also in the air.

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FOUNDING MEMBER

BY CARLOS MENCHACA

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rump has thrown us all into chaos after his first full week of executive orders and the “shock and awe” campaign engineered by Steve Bannon, who was flagrantly appointed with powers never seen in previous administrations. However, they haven’t come out the victors in all of this. We all rushed to JFK to protest and the superhero lawyers flexed their mind-muscles to represent the families in detention. (Follow the legal teams on Twitter @NoBanJFK for updates.) It was heart-wrenching to spend time with families at JFK Airport Terminal 4 who were waiting for their mothers and wives to be released. I was able to bring some sense of community and hope to one family when I showed them photos and video of thousands of people gathering outside in solidarity. For a moment, their hearts lifted knowing they were not alone. We all know Trump, Bannon, and the growing gaggle of goons wielding White House power will come for you, me, and everyone we know. That means we have to fight back smarter. I work in a predominantly immigrant community that is gentrifying. I witness first-hand the power of smarter neighborhood organizing by thinking about identity and its relationship to power –– scholars call it intersectionality. First articulated on behalf of black women, it brought to light the invisibility of many constituents of groups that claim them as members, but often fail to represent them. This happens with black women; with people of color within the LGBTQ movement; with girls of color in the fight against the school-to-prison pipeline; with women within immigration movements; with trans women within feminist movements. (There are people who study this and write books about it. Pick one up at your locally-owned storefront bookstore.) The aim of all this is to have awareness of your own privilege and power and identity when you walk into a room, a conversation, or a relationship. This is seriously messy for most of us. The power of this awareness is the fuel that will help neighborhoods confront the orange-headed monster and the things that scare us on the ground in our own neighborhoods:

MILO HESS

City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (left) with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and immigration rights advocates at a Battery Park rally on January 29.

gentrification, climate change, police brutality, xenophobia, sexism, and homophobia. In Sunset Park, families immediately after the election began to organize themselves. One mother organized a spontaneous vigil days after the presidential election. She met another mom who lived on the same block; the two never officially met until that night. Today, they are soul mates. These neighbors united and formed a Facebook group called LOVE TRUMPS HATE SUNSET PARK and began to meet regularly. The rest is history –– that will continue unfolding. I was invited to attend these meetings to support, not lead. They asked a specific question: what do our immigrant neighbors need? They asked undocumented families directly, letting communities who have historically been marginalized be at the center of the conversation. Out of this emerged something that defines solidarity. A family with resources hosted a dinner for 15 undocumented neighbors at their apartment, they invited an immigration lawyer to conduct a Know Your Rights Workshop, and they invited me to talk about what it means to be a Sanctuary City and the city services we offer today, such as IDNYC (visit nyc.gov/IDNYC to learn more for yourself). Four dinners have been hosted and there is now a monthly calendar continuing this new tradition, one that is spreading across the neighborhood. These dinners are just one example of what we can all do to build alliances and mini-movements in our own backyard. This requires a lot of personal and political work to confront

trauma, to share power by stepping back and removing ourselves from the center if we are privileged, and to place the most affected at the center of the discussion to take leadership. Next week, the Brooklyn Lambda Independent Democrats (LID) are hosting their monthly general meeting in Sunset Park for the first time. We have invited an emerging group of undocumented trans Latinas from Staten Island, who are just starting their journey of political organizing with the hopes of building a club, to address us. The aim is to break down geographic walls and, like the Know Your Rights dinners, we are getting diverse communities into a room, breaking some bread –– in awareness and respect for both our neighbors and the incredible powerhouse experience and history the LID board brings to the table. The LID meeting is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 9 at St. Jacobi Lutheran Church, located at 5406 Fourth Avenue (R train to 53rd Street; N train to 59th Street), if you want to join us. I know this work is not easy. Practicing it on a daily basis is key, and with the constant stream of shock and awe coming down from the White House we will have a plethora of opportunities to engage in meaningful local organizing that dismantles the systems that oppress us all. Don’t be afraid to meet your neighbor and begin to organize. That is where we must start to stand up and fight back. City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca represents the 38th District, which includes Sunset Park, Red Hook, and Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn. February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus

Lie with Dogs, Wake up with Fleas BY ED SIKOV

I

t certainly has been a brisk few weeks in the media. Rarely have so many column inches been devoted to whether the word “lie” can or should be used to describe the steady stream of bullshit coming out of a politician’s mouth. But since the politician in question is the president of the United States, and that president happens to be the popular-vote-loser Donald J. Trump, the question answers itself. There is simply no other word in English that captures the perfidy that issues forth daily from the fat man’s spewing maw. Ah, but apparently there is. Dan Barry wrote a whole News Analysis column about it in the New York Times. He quoted a language expert from academia: the “‘language has a rich vocabulary for describing statements that fall short of the truth,’ said Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Information. ‘They’re “baseless,” they’re “bogus,” they’re “lies,” they’re “untruths.”’” Barry also drags in a journalism professor from Harvard: “‘This is the very unique situation that we find ourselves in as journal-

ists and as a country,’ said Joshua Benton, the director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. ‘We have an administration that seems to be asserting a right to its own facts and doesn’t seem to be able to produce evidence to back those claims.’” In addition to pointing out that a situation cannot be “very unique” (it’s either one of a kind or it isn’t, and a Harvard professor ought to know that), I question the words “seems” and “seem.” This isn’t a matter of distinguishing between appearance and reality, the situation to which “seems” should be limited. (For instance, “Donald Trump seems to be saying something coherent sometimes, but in actual fact his pronouncements are always disjointed and confused, the crazed ramblings of a wacko.”) If you take away the obfuscation, what both Benton and Barry are saying is simple: President Trump is a sociopathic liar. Barry returns to Nunberg for some more verbiage: “‘A whole vocabulary has come bubbling up that would not have been used five years ago,’ Mr. Nunberg said in an interview. ‘People are going to have to sit down and decide: Are we going to want to go over the

moral consequences of telling an untruth? The mere fact of it being untrue? Or the fact that it’s bogus, baseless, or groundless?’” Oh my aching dick! We are not going to “have to sit down and decide” anything of the sort! The distinction between “the mere fact of it being untrue” (and what’s that unnerving “mere” doing there?) and “the fact that it’s bogus, baseless, or groundless” is — not seems — quite minuscule. The president of the United States is a liar. Period. He lies constantly. Period. He is a craven, boldface liar, and his lies are multitude. And yet the best this Harvard schmegege can muster is an absurd parsing of the distinctions between “untrue,” “bogus,” “baseless,” and “groundless?” We’ve heard the word “Orwellian” used extensively for the last week and a half to describe Kellyanne Conway’s infamous “alter native facts” meme, but the term “Orwellian” doesn’t begin to capture the comedy element of Kellyanne’s new locution. If George Orwell had written a Looney Tunes cartoon while tripping on acid, then maybe Trump’s blend of horror, farce, and meaninglessness would be Orwellian. As it is, Orwell’s great novel “1984” — which has skyrock-

eted to the top of the Times bestseller list since Kellyanne coined her terrifying term — doesn’t begin to describe the situation in which we find ourselves in 2017. We presume that the people who run Oceania in “1984” are brilliant in a terrifying sort of way. Not so with the current White House crew. They’re little better than the Three Stooges multiplied by 7 or 8. (What’s up with Steve Bannon’s ginblossomy complexion? Even W.C. Fields had better skin!) And for the next four years we’ll all be under their thumbs. Actually, it’s beginning to remind me of my favorite line from Woody Allen’s “Bananas”: “It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham!” Hey, you gotta pull your laughs out of anywhere you can find them. As the great Abraham Lincoln once said, “I laugh because I must not have a complete howling nervous breakdown, that is all, that is all.”

Headline of the Week: From the Washington Post: “America might need to buy 25 billion avocados so Mexico could pay for the wall.” That works out to a measly 78 avocadoes per person — just one and half a week! And don’t tell me either that you don’t like avocadoes or that you might get bored with guacamole. Your lack of patriotism sickens me.

PERSPECTIVE: The Long View

How Resistance Can Take Hold, Make Change BY NATHAN RILEY

S

everal million marchers have already vented their revulsion and damned Donald Trump, revealing an enthusiasm for resistance that could sustain a left backlash, while Trumpites are accusing the protesters of dividing the nation. Beneath the bluster of administration officials, however, they are worried. His chief of staff, Reince Priebus, warned that it is an existential threat to “delegitimize this president,” while his press secretary denied that the crowd of Women’s Marchers was larger than the audience for the new president’s inauguration. Sean Spicer’s facts were false and immediately attacked by the media, though that’s a dynamic favored by GayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

this administration –– make journalists debunk, and then use the debunking to prove the media is hostile and cannot be trusted. The scary thought persists: it isn’t obvious that truth will win this argument. In the aftermath of the Women’s Marches worldwide, the activists from Adbusters, whose postings helped sparked the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests, issued this caution. Micah White called it an “enduring myth” that “if you can get enough people into the streets from diverse demographics, largely unified behind a clear message, then our representatives will be forced to heed the crowd’s wishes.” The last time a Republican was in the White House, demonstrations didn’t work. While George W. Bush slammed the Dixie Chicks, a

Southern country group, for opposing the military build-up in the Middle East, Mayor Michael Bloomberg did his part by denying anti-war groups permission to march. The NYPD authorized a gathering at the UN but professed it would be a security risk if they paraded. The crowd was larger than could fit into UN Plaza so it extended west as far as Third Avenue. Mounted cops forced the crowd off the avenue onto the sidewalk with the help of nightsticks and pepper spray. Monster protests rocked London and Rome the same day. The world demonstrated on February 15, 2003, and on March 20, the US invaded Iraq. The protests were more a ripple than a tide, and Bush was reelected the following year. This year’s Inauguration offered a preview of life under Trump and his new “law and order” crowd. Masked protestors, who broke windows and set fire to limousines, face felony riot charges with harsh 10-year maximum sentences. A crackdown on protests started on the very first

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LONG VIEW, continued on p.25

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PERSPECTIVE: A Dyke Abroad

Lessons from Egypt on Organizing the Resistance BY KELLY COGSWELL

S

ix years ago last week, on January 25, 2011, mass demonstrations began in Egypt that would topple the corrupt, brutal regime of Hosni Mubarak. Following the lead of Tunisia, demos were at first just inspired by, and reported on, social media. After a couple days, they became so big even Egypt’s official radio and TV were forced to acknowledge them. Inspired by hearing about the huge crowds, even more protesters joined in, demanding “Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice” and the end of the regime. A few weeks later, protesters had taken to the streets in such vast numbers, everything ground to a halt, and Mubarak stepped down. The lesson here, if we hadn’t learned it before from the Tea Baggers or the black Civil Rights Movement or a host of others, is that resistance doesn’t require political savvy or pollsters, just large numbers of pig-headed participants willing to face down the state again and again. Already, after two days of mass protests in airports all over the country, and some brave judicial rulings, Trump was forced to reverse at least part of his executive order banning Muslim immigrants. This gives me hope that we may actually be able to fend off the worst under Trump and Pence if we’re on the streets every day for two years, for four, for eight, saying no to everything. Making nuisances of ourselves. Trampling Trump even if he miraculously promises to undo trade deals we don’t like, suddenly reverses himself on walls, makes the trains run on time. We have to stand in the way, literally.

But we also have to start thinking of the future. Because if Egypt teaches us about the effectiveness of protest and direct action, it also warns us to be prepared not just for disaster, but victory. There, where it came so quickly, demonstrators were taken by surprise. Young activists and bloggers didn’t have either the skills or desire to become parliamentarians. No central unifying figures emerged, and the military quickly moved into the power vacuum and seized control. While the US doesn’t necessarily face a military dictatorship, we do face a profound crisis of leadership among both conservatives and progressives. Neither seems able or willing to stand up to Trump. And if we don’t have a plan, and participants, to repair our damaged country, another radically far right win is not just possible but inevitable in the long run, with even more disastrous results. This time, even a moderate Democrat as POTUS won’t be enough. Obama’s election did end eight years of a torture-apologist, Constitution-eroding Bush, but did little to restore our civil liberties taken away under the guise of security, little to reverse the gerrymandering of election districts. Neither did it end dirty votes in places like Florida, which was what put Bush in the White House to begin with. Queers were as bad as anybody. We breathed a quick sigh of relief then pushed successfully for our legal rights like marriage. We did too little of that grassroots organizing that is essential in building broad movements and giving social change deep roots. The faces of our organizations remained far too white, far too cis male. We understood “inclusive” as an advertising concept, not something that ties us to other communities and makes us strong.

Activists, too, sometimes seem to misunderstand “intersectional,” as the obligation to make laundry lists that just produce new pecking orders. To survive this time, we have to truly understand — beyond emotions and ideology –– how we’re in this together, how we’re all relying on the health of democratic institutions for the basic tools of social change, like free speech and assembly, voting, the judiciary. No more asking what’s the difference between Hillary and Trump? What are a few Supreme Court nominees? As a result of our short-sightedness (and a lot of help from Putin and Assange), we find ourselves facing a total breakdown of democracy, from attacks on an independent press to the dismantling of our procedural safeguards, with no real opposition in sight. For the moment, New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand is the only senator voting against all of Trump’s nihilistic appointees, whose mission is not to administer departments, but to dismantle them. If we want to save our country, we have to quickly identify candidates who don’t need to register a certain number of phone calls to know that bans on Muslim immigration are moral, legal, and security disasters. That the head of the Justice Department should care about justice. That the head of the Department of Ed should know something about education. Or that the head of the Environmental Protection Agency should accept scientific fact and consensus just like Mike Pence accepts Jesus Christ as his lord and savior. Any congressmember willing to collaborate with these anti-immigrant, anti-queer, anti-education, anti-science, white Christian nationalist monsters needs to be sent home on the next bus. And if we can’t find enough candidates, we have to be willing to run ourselves. Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.

PERSPECTIVE: Snide Lines

Visiting Herman In The Age Of Trump BY SUSIE DAY

T

his past year was good for prison activists. Those who advocated for high-profile political prisoners in the federal system celebrated when President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of Chelsea Manning and Oscar Lopez, both now scheduled for release on May 17. Activists who supported less-known “social” prisoners, most serving inordinate time for what the media like to call “nonviolent

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drug offenses,” rejoiced at Obama’s unprecedented 1,715 commutations by the end of his presidency. Locally, New York State activists, having spent years beseeching Andrew Cuomo to grant prisoners clemency, finally saw a little light when Cuomo commuted the 75-year-to-life sentence of Judith Clark, as well as those of six other people with felony convictions. All told, about 1,722 actual human beings, who once contemplated their deaths inside prison, are now free or facing the increasing pros-

pect of walking out alive. But given that Obama also denied a record number of petitions (14,485, including Leonard Peltier’s) and that this country has for years held the world’s largest prison population, there remain about 2.2 million people behind US bars. Social prisoners and political prisoners, disproportionately black and brown. People like my friend Herman Bell. Eleven years ago, I wrote about visiting Herman (gaycitynews.nyc/ gcn_506/visitingherman.html), a

former Black Panther convicted of killing two police officers and sentenced to 25 years to life. In 2006, my partner Laura, our Canadian friend Tynan, his two-year -old daughter Frankie, and I visited Herman at the Eastern Correctional Facility on his 58th birthday. Herman was then preparing to go before the New York Parole Board for the second time. I’m writing again about visiting Herman, except that Frankie is 13 and prefers to be called Franca; and Herman has just turned 69 and has now been denied parole seven times.

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SNIDE LINES, continued on p.43

February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


c

LONGVIEW, from p.19

day of the new administration. But the angry demonstrations that erupted within hours after the president banned immigrants have upped the ante, and offered hope that resistance will take hold. Perhaps Democrats and progressive will create a tea party of their own in reaction to Trumpâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nasty indifference to human suffering. The politics are just starting to be felt, but it is crucial that organizers go into congressional district after congressional district to foment the opposition. Trump rules by a narrow margin: had Pennsylvania and Florida gone Democratic, the Donald would have lost, but Hillary Clintonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s victory would have been marred by Republican control of Congress in any event. Beginning in 2009, the Tea Party forced Republicans to rigidly oppose Obama; now the early evidence is that popular anger is feeding a spirit of resistance among Democrats. The rapidity of the change is breathtaking. This rebirth of progressive forces can yet make lemonade from the Trump debacle. For most state legislatures and even House seats, the path to nomination is open. A new candidate will not be unseating a center-left Democratic incumbent. This weakness offers openings to a new generation of candidates. Every candidate to become chair of the Democratic National Committee has pledged to organize in all 50 states. That represents a return to the strategy abandoned when Obama replaced Howard Dean as party leader. The object isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t conversion of Republicans into Democrats; the goal is shifting votes within a small group and energizing key left constituencies. The cost is small, but the stakes are huge. It requires that progressives take the fight into the battleground and even the red states. It behooves the LGBTQ community and progressives groups to work with these grassroots organizers, especially in the search for candidates. In the past, Democrats elected from conservative states have created tensions within the party by adopting troubling positions on issues like mass incarceration, LGBTQ rights, and income and food security. GayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

As the high-profile firing this week of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates makes clear, Democratic appointees hounded out of government service by the new Trump regime could just make for attractive candidates for office, especially those who hail from red states. But the biggest advantage stems from the weakness Democrats currently endure. They are in opposition â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; they donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to defend this president. They can advocate new and daring policies and make old ones like single payer health care attractive to a broader public. There is an opportunity here to retire a stale playbook.

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But the biggest advantage comes from the Democratsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; weakness. They are in opposition â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; they donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to defend this president. The Republicans will fight back. Trump has blown the dog whistle. Three million illegal voters did not vote against him, but the message is loud and clear â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; ramp up voter suppression. According to the president, Republicans must find a way to keep elections â&#x20AC;&#x153;honestâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; which in practical terms means making it harder for people to vote. Eric Holder, Obamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first attorney general, understands this and is now focused on the issue of voting rights and redistricting. Democrats and progressives, especially those in blue states, need to contribute time, money, and expertise to improving the partyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s standing in traditionally red states if they are to change the dynamic on issues they care about â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; such as LGBTQ rights, womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s health care, immigration reform, and climate change. Resources â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; from both party organizations and advocacy groups â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; must be redirected from national lobbying to local elections. The left, particularly the Green Party, knows this â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; they are fielding an unprecedented numbers of new candidates for office everywhere. Will the Democrats keep up?

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c

DONNA ACETO

Women’s issues formed the basis for an organizing effort that broadened quickly.

DC MARCH, from p.7

explained, “We’re a gay couple. We believe in human rights. We are supporters of equality for everyone. We have a lot of women in our lives, strong, powerful women that we are here to support. I’ve said to friends, ‘I came out of a vagina so I believe in supporting those who gave us life.’” Young marchers included Accalia Frey, a 17-year-old freshman at Hofstra University, who worked behind the scenes at the presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at the Long Island college. “I’m not really happy with this president so I wanted to be able to come here and express my views,” she said.

"Trump and his handlers have found a fox for every chicken coop in DC. A Twitter finger must not become a trigger finger."

DONNA ACETO

The new president’s diss of Georgia Congressmember John Lewis, a Civil Rights Movement hero, was still fresh in marchers’ minds.

26

Even younger was six-year old Sophie Cruz, accompanied by her undocumented parents, who offered a heart-melting speech from the stage. “Let us fight with love, faith, and courage so that our families will not be destroyed,” she said, “I also want to tell the children not to be afraid, because we are not alone. There are still many people that have their hearts filled with love.” Sophie spoke in English, then repeated the same words in Spanish, and ultimately led a call to action that filled the air with hundreds of thousands of voices: “Si se puede!” or “Yes we can!” The stage welcomed more than 40 other speakers as well as several dozen performers. “Sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are,” Steinem told crowd early on. “Trump and his handlers have found a fox for every chicken coop in Washington. A Twitter finger must not become a trigger finger.” Turning to the issue of reproductive choice, she added, “If you can-

not control your body from the skin in, you cannot control it from the skin out. You cannot control your lives — our lives — and that means the right to decide whether and if to give birth without government interference.” In that vein, Scarlett Johansson made an impassioned plea in support of Planned Parenthood, talking about the difference it made in her life when at age 15 she was able to seek guidance and care from the organization. Then, addressing the new president, she said she was marching in support of her daughter, “who may actually — as a result of the appointments you have made — grow up in a country that is moving backwards, not forwards, and who potentially may not have the right to make choices for her body and her future that your daughter Ivanka has been privileged to have.” New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, Illinois’ Tammy Duckworth, and California’s Kamala Harris were among Democrats from the US Senate who addressed the crowd. “This is about our country,” said Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who lost both legs in battle. “I didn’t shed blood to defend this nation — I didn’t give up literally parts of my body — to have the Constitution trampled on. I did not serve along with men and women in our Armed Forces to have them roll back our rights.” Among other familiar names who came to the stage were filmmaker Michael Moore, actresses America Ferrera and Ashley Judd, activist and academic Angela Davis, political commentator Van Jones, singers Janelle Monáe, Maxwell, Alicia Keyes, and Toshi Reagon, and the march’s four co-chairs, Bob Bland, Carmen Perez, Linda Sarsour, and Tamika Mallory. The stage program, scheduled to end at 1 p.m., stretched until 2:30, by which time the crowd wanted to start moving and chants of “March, march” began. When marchers began their route from the Capitol end of the Washington Mall toward the Ellipse above the Washington Monument, the enormous crowd made movement nearly impossible and organizers scrambled to improvise a more viable route. The Women’s March on Washington was certainly one of the largest nonviolent demonstrations in history. February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


right because of its importance to the welfare of a couple and their children. And Kennedy did not consider the â&#x20AC;&#x153;procreationâ&#x20AC;? argument persuasive in justifying the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples. Still, Devine is correct that Supreme Court did not say anywhere in its opinion that states are constitutionally required to treat same-sex and different-sex couples exactly the same in every respect, ignoring any factual distinctions between them. His argument, though strained, is not totally implausible, especially if considered by a conservative panel of judges. Timing is everything, especially if the aim of Texas conservatives and their anti-LGBTQ allies around the country is to get the issue to the Supreme Court after Trump has made two appointments. Once the Texas Supreme Court hears oral argument on March 1, it can take as long as it likes to issue a ruling. That court could choose to be strategic about holding up a decision until it looks likely that any appeal to the US Supreme Court appeal would be considered after its 201718 term ends in June 2018. If the Texas Supreme Court affirms the state court of appeals, it is highly likely that Pidgeon and Hicks, abetted by Abbott and Paxton, will seek US Supreme Court review. If the Texas Supreme Court reverses, the City of Houston will have to decide whether to seek Supreme Court review, or whether to adopt a wait-and-see attitude while the trial court proceeds to a final ruling on the caseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s merits. And the trial court could well decide, upon sober reflection, that Obergefell compels a ruling against Pidgeon and Hicks, which would put the taxpayer plaintiffs back in the driverâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s seat regarding any decision to appeal to the Supreme Court. If a second Trump appointee were confirmed while all of this was playing out, the case would be heard by a bench with a majority of conservative justices appointed by Republican presidents â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; one by George H.W. Bush (Clarence Thomas), two by George W. Bush (Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito), and two by Trump. The presidentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s appointees would be joining three GayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

Republican colleagues who filed or signed dissents in the Windsor and Obergefell cases. If a majority of the newly constituted Supreme Court is eager to revisit Obergefell, they could grant review on the question whether Obergefell was correctly decided. Much of this is conjecture, of course. Devine was a lone voice dissenting from the September 2 order to deny review in this case. But that order was issued at a time when pollsters were predicting that Hillary Clinton would be elected and, consequently, filling the Scalia vacancy and any others that occurred through 2020.

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If Trump appoints anti-Roe v. Wade justices, marriage equality could be at risk, as well.

The political calculus changed dramatically when Trump was elected. Even though he said he accepts marriage equality as a â&#x20AC;&#x153;settled issue,â&#x20AC;? his announced intention to appoint justices in the image of Scalia and to seek reversal of Roe v. Wade, the courtâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s seminal abortion decision from 1973, suggests that his nominees would likely agree with the Obergefell dissenters that the marriage equality ruling was illegitimate. (In his dissent, Roberts wrote it had â&#x20AC;&#x153;nothing to do with the Constitution.â&#x20AC;?) After the election, many LGBT rights organizations issued statements to reassure people that marriage equality would not immediately disappear after Trump took office, which remains true. Any threat to that status quo is at least two years off. But in those reassurances â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and in an earlier analysis where I argued the unlikelihood of any reversal â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; there were caveats that in the long run it was possible that Trumpâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Supreme Court appointments and new appeals headed to the high court could come together to endanger marriage equality. This new development in the Houston benefits case and the enthusiasm Texasâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; top two Republican officials have for the issue point to one way that could happen.

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c

TEXAS, from p.11

27


FILM

The Fire This Time

Raoul Peck lets James Baldwin speak for himself to heighten his urgent voice's immediacy BY GARY M. KRAMER

T

he extraordinary documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” uses text from James Baldwin’s unfinished work “Remember This House,” along with archival footage ranging fr om the author speaking at Cambridge University to his appearance on “The Dick Cavett Show,” as the cornerstone for examining the oppression and invisibility endured by African Americans –– then and now. Director Raoul Peck judiciously intercuts Baldwin’s texts and appearances with images drawn from school integration battles and vintage Hollywood films as well as more contemporary footage of Rodney King and the Black L i ves Matter m o v e m e n t . T h e result, a Best Doc Oscar nominee, is a sobering, stirring probe into race’s impact on America. “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time,” Baldwin, an out gay man who lived from 1924 until 1987, eloquently states at one point in the film. (His life as a gay man is not explored, though there are several fleeting references to his homosexuality.) Vi e w e r s o f “ I A m N o t Yo u r Negro,” however, are as likely to be inspired as enraged. In a recent phone interview, Peck explained that his film is “about the words and the importance of this man and his work.” “My motivation — and I started 10 years ago, before Obama — was that there was this feeling that the way we were handling the discussion about race in this country was resolved,” he said. “We have Black History Month, and Martin Luther King Day, and a black bourgeois, which profited from the Civil Rights Movement. The ones who are still poor or are in the ghettos and victims of violence, it’s their fault. We were going further and further away

28

MAGNOLIA PICTURES

James Baldwin, as seen in Raoul Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro.”

from Baldwin, who was lesser and lesser known in this country. He was seen as a has-been or a minor writer, and there was all this ignorance.” Peck, who was born in Haiti, said that he came to appreciate Baldwin after someone gave him a copy of “The Fire Next Time,” and has been reading and reflecting on the author ever since. Working alone, Peck secured the rights to Baldwin’s body of work from the author’s estate, and he took the time to make the film he wanted. “The film was about how do I make sure James Baldwin is remembered, and his words come back center stage?,” he explained. To do this, the documentar ian decided he had to confront the audience directly with the author’s words. He features no talking heads in “I Am Not Your Negro” — “because no one has to interpret Baldwin,” Peck insisted. “It has to be as direct and raw as Baldwin can be so the present generation has access to what I had access to when I was young,” he continued. “So they can see through the confusion of a media world where people are getting data without any information.” The film toggles back and

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO Directed by Raoul Peck Magnolia Pictures Opens Feb. 3 Film Forum 209 W. Houston St. filmforum.org

forth in time to contrast history with current events to show how things have — or sadly, have not — changed in the decades since Baldwin wrote his books and gave his speeches. Peck is successful in making these connections resonate because of the care he took in assembling the film. When the filmmaker discovered a quote of Baldwin’s, he would also find notes from the author such as: “I was listening to this music when I was talking about that…” Discoveries prompted Peck to investigate: What was that music? Because he did his homework, the film is richer and more illuminating. One of the best qualities of “I Am Not Your Negro” is Baldwin moving audiences –– both at the time and those today who will

see him speaking in Peck’s film –– to think about representations of African Americans in popular culture and political discourse. When Baldwin unpacks the image of Joan Crawford in 1931’s “Dance, Fools, Dance,” admiring her beauty and talent, he also questions the lack of roles for African Americans in the musicals of that era. Peck appreciates Baldwin’s ability to stir such introspection. “No one who sees my film can be innocent anymore,” he said. “You’ve seen through the machine. You can watch the musical and beautiful people dancing in a magical world, but then you question — where are the others? You can’t watch those films the same way again.” That perspective, Peck asserted, can change the way Americans engage the culture and the political system. “It should be part of our education, how to watch images, TV, and the entertainment industry,” he said. “Baldwin likens it to the use of a narcotic. Reality shows are there to empty your brain, and if your brain is full of ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta,’ how can you make a revolution?” He continued, “The magic of a musical — you can get into it, and let yourself go. But that’s soft power. This idea goes everywhere in the world. I grew up watching ‘Tarzan’ and John Ford films, and even in Haiti, playing Cowboys and Indians as a child, no one wanted to be the Indian. That’s how ideology functions, as well. The same is true with gender images of women or a little girl. Nothing is innocent. I wish that people will get that from the film and question what they are watching.” Baldwin certainly questioned and critiqued what he saw, in his writing and his speeches. Peck’s astonishing film “I Am Not Your Negro” could well prompt renewed participation in the conversations Baldwin started. February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


Triple Play Lesbian, gay, and straight couples sing “Marry Me a Little” BY ALEXANDRA SIMON

L

ove is love is love! Park Slope’s Gallery Players has put a same-sex twist on Stephen Sondheim’s lovelorn musical “Marry Me A Little,” which opened January 26. The group presents the show with three alternating casts in the central role –– portraying a different-sex couple, a gay male couple, and a lesbian couple –– but otherwise unchanged from one version to another. The show’s director said she jumped at the chance to disrupt standard theater tropes in a very specific fashion, while showing that of course love is universal. “As much as I love theater, a lot of it has relied on the heteronormative boy meets girl and they fall in love and live happily ever after,” said Barrie Gelles. “Rarely do you come across a story that could be any one single couple — it doesn’t have to be boy and girl. I couldn’t waste the opportunity to turn that norm around and show how people can find love in all genders.” “Marry Me a Little” follows two New Yorkers — named only Him and Her — who live in adjacent apartments, each pouring out their hearts through song and unaware that their soulmate is just a few steps away. Those parts will be played by two men, two women, and a man and woman on different nights of the run, but the company has not changed any of the lyrics, keeping all of the pronouns the same. The male actor playing Her said that he had no problems stepping into a traditionally female

MARRY ME A LITTLE SCOTT CALLY

role — and as an openly gay man, he felt right at home with Her songs. “I didn’t really change anything, and we haven’t changed anything as far as pronouns go because it doesn’t really need to be changed,” said Adrian Rifat. “In [fairy tales] we hear all those stories of the prince and the princess, and even as a gay little boy hearing that I would aspire to find a prince, but I knew I had to be prince myself. So it wasn’t really difficult to assimilate or justify the pronouns.” Each set of actors brings their own nuances to the roles, said Gelles, and she hopes that audiences will come back in order to appreciate the different takes. “The actors of are all different people telling the same story — people will see every single actor portray their characters in different ways,” said Gelles. “Each duo kind of adds their own

High Infidelity A modern couple dabbles with an open marriage, in a very belated world premiere

RICHARD TERMINE

Max von Essen and Elisabeth Gray in the Mint Theater Company world premiere of Miles Malleson’s 1933 “Yours Unfaithfully,” directed by Jonathan Bank, at the Beckett Theatre.

GayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

Paul Williams and Adrian Rifat are Him and Her in the Sondheim musical "Marry Me a Little."

Gallery Players 199 14th St., btwn. Fourth & Fifth Aves. Park Slope Through Feb. 13 Thu-Sat. at 8 p.m. Male cast: Feb. 2, 11 & 16 Female cast: Feb. 3, 9 & 18 Different-sex cast: Feb. 4, 10 & 17 $25; $20 for seniors At galleryplayers.com Or 914-414-5236

SCOTT CALLY

Laura Cetti and Cassandra Dupler are Him and Her.

feel to it, bringing their own personality and way of seeing things.” Return visitors will also appreciate the difference in the tunes, simply because male and female voices sound different, Gelles said. “The differences are in the pairing, not the music — we have not changed a note or a lyric, but hearing male voices or hearing females sing — each is very unique,” she said. “It’s very noticeable, but very worthwhile to see more than once because each song has a different feel to it. It’s glorious in any presentation and very exciting to hear the combination of the voices.”

BY DAVID KENNERLEY

T

he Mint Theater Company is famous for unearthing old theatrical gems and polishing them to a brilliant luster for a new generation to enjoy. Plays that may have been hits back in their day yet, for whatever reason, got lost over time. With its latest production, “Yours Unfaithfully,” the Mint even tops itself. Although the prickly comic drama, about a couple experimenting with an open marriage, was published in 1933, it was so scandalous that it was never produced. The Mint can lay claim that it has a bona fide world premiere on its hands, albeit some eight decades after its author had intended.

Written by Miles Malleson, a multi-talented yet equally neglected British dramatist and char acter actor who excelled on both stage and screen, the drama’s time has finally come. Under the astute direction of Jonathan Bank, the work feels fresh and vibrant, despite its 1933 setting. To his credit, Malleson wrote a comedy of manners about personal choice and sexual liberation that was free from the typical moralizing and dogma of the period. If the drama feels immediate and intimate, perhaps that’s because the story is torn from a page of the playwright’s own life (he was married three times and all of them were considered open).

c

INFIDELITY, continued on p.33

29


PERFORMANCE

Church of the Safe to Say It “SANCTUARY” seats marginalized artists in the front pew BY SCOTT STIFFLER

I

t wasn’t that kind of Inaugural Ball. Nobody looked past trans theater artist Maybe Burke’s talent; there was nary a word about who designed the clothes. Eyes didn’t dart when Natalie Douglas declared, “I’m a woman, so bleeding is political” before nailing a song about meeting Jesus in a Christopher Street gay bar. And not a single person in attendance answered the refrain of vocal trio Siren — “How am I going to be an optimist about this?” — with the snide suggestion that they just get over it already and give the new guy a chance. There were, however, plenty of knowing nods when “SANCTUARY” co-creator Jonathan Cottle opened the month-long series by acknowledging, “Yeah. It’s been a day.” Those assembled on January 20 in the mainstage space of Manhattan’s HERE Arts Center stood in stark contrast to how Donald J. Trump celebrated the first night of his presidency. Actually, they sat — cabaret-style, downing wine and beer and cheese puffs, and looking pretty damn good in the candlelight, given the grim tone of that day. By the 8:30 p.m. curtain, a number of progressive causes had been –– and, yes, remain –– ghosted from the White House website, and a prediction of the same fate for federal arts funding was among the ominous things occupying the top of everybody’s news feed. Although Twitter and Facebook know what you like to hear about, an infor med algorithm doesn’t cut it when the thing you really need is a brick-and-mortar destination whose prime directive is to celebrate lives lived outside the margins. Performances, dance events, panel discussions, and community organizing training sessions on the “SANCTUARY” schedule

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HUNTER CANNING

HUNTER CANNING

Jonathan Cottle and Adam Salberg left their comfort zone to host the “SANCTUARY” Inaugural Ball.

Theater artist and trans activist Maybe Burke talked about visibility, invisibility, and the power of identity.

through February 18 may provide a safe space for participants, but the project itself is rooted in leaving one’s comfort zone. Cottle, a set designer who created the church-meets-counterculture look of the space, told Gay City News, “We’re not a writing/ directing duo” — a disclaimer repeated at the “SANCTUARY” Inaugural Ball, where he and duo partner Adam Salberg, a sound designer, submerged themselves in the uncharted waters of hosting a variety showcase. “Fair warning,” said Salberg, “I’m on enough Xanax to sedate a small horse.” The natural-born techies and reluctant emcees didn’t have much to apologize for. Between the two of them, they turned out to be one fine Ed Sullivan. As for what you’ll see during the monthlong series, Azure D. OsborneLee, Debra Morris, and Jenna Grossano (she of the nonprofit theater company Less Than Rent) were brought on board to curate the talent. “We decided,” said Cottle, “to make the heart of this about providing a forum for artists who were from traditionally margin-

of “intimate resistance.” Panel discussions — including “Envisioning Full Gender Inclusivity in the American Theater: What Does It Look Like?” — are expected to land in the last two weeks of the schedule. Many of the artists presented by “SANCTUARY” have been making personal, political, confrontational work, noted Cottle, “since way before the election, and they will continue to make work like this. We didn’t seek out any specific thematic material. We did get some stuff created in response to the election, but many people already had stuff that addresses racism or misogyny — and it’s made all the more relevant now.”

alized groups, who are targets of the administration: queer folks, feminists, people of color.” The results of their effort include “Next Faggot Nation,” which ran January 27-29. Inspired by Larry Kramer’s 1978 novel “Faggots” (and a 2016 interview with the author), the Fossick Collective’s often damning but rarely cynical collage of songs, scenework, and video testimonials found its restless young cast well-informed by several centuries of oppression and defiance. Grateful for the political gains of the AIDS generation if not par ticularly enamored of their icons (they channel flip past Judy and Babs!), these post-PrEP, appsavvy searchers are at their best when asking uneasy questions about the future — and very purpose — of gay identity. Their contemplative nature suggests steady hands on deck for choppy waters ahead. Upcoming at “SANCTUARY,” “Holding: A queer black love story” (February 14) has Alex Farr and Kimiko Matsuda-Lawrence performing monologues about bodies under attack, rights under siege, and tenderness as an act

SANCTUARY HERE Arts Center 145 Sixth Ave., enter on Dominick St. Through Feb. 18 Most performances at 8:30 p.m. Most tickets are $20 Schedule, tickets at here.org Or 212-352-3101

February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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Honorees are being celebrated at the Gay City News Impact Awards Gala on March 30 To Get Your Tickets Today, Visit gaycitynews.nyc/impact or Contact Jennifer Stern

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31


THEATER

Dazzling and Theatrical An August Wilson Broadway premiere, a witty adaptation by David Ives rewarding in different ways BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE

AUGUST WILSON’S JITNEY

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he first Broadway production of August Wilson’s “Jitney,” from Manhattan Theatre Club, delivers the kind of moving and magnificent experience one always hope for in that moment between the dimming of the houselights and when the action begins on stage. The play, the first one written in what became Wilson’s 10-play cycle chronicling American black lives in the 20th century, beautifully balances abstract theatricality with searing, believable characters. Set in a jitney station in Pittsburgh’s Hill neighborhood in 1977, the stories of men who drive what New Yorkers know as gypsy cabs flow, overlap, and intersect with the fluidity of jazz, which often inspired Wilson’s writing and dramatic structures. The impressionistic sense of this world, where traditional cabs won’t travel and jitneys are essential to a marginalized community, filled in with episodic unfolding of the men’s lives as they interact in the station, gains dramatic heft as it slowly builds toward a quiet but devastating climax. The genius of “Jitney” is in the way it summons the challenges facing these characters through snippets of their lives without ever seeming polemical. In many ways, it is reminiscent of a play from 50 years earlier, Elmer Rice’s “Street Scene,” which brought another peripheral world to life, in that case a New York tenement. The characters in “Jitney” are all on the brink of inevitable change. The jitney station is about to be boarded up, part of an urban renewal program aimed at upgrading the Hill, though whether that will really happen is open to doubt. The station owner, Becker, is searching for ways to keep the business running for the men and the community he hopes to have a stabilizing influence on. His estranged son, Booster, is about to be released from jail, having been convicted of murder. The youngest driver, Youngblood,

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Samuel J. Friedman Theatre 261 W. 47th St. Tue.-Wed. at 7 p.m. Thu.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $79-$159; telecharge.com Or 212-239-6200 Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission

JOAN MARCUS

John Douglas Thompson and Michael Potts in August Wilson’s “Jitney,” directed by Ruben SantiagoHudson, at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

is struggling to show his girlfriend, with whom he has a son, that he has changed and is ready to settle down. Older drivers whose lives are tied to their work wonder what will become of them. What all of these characters have in common is their search for an identity in a rapidly changing world over which they have little control, a theme that would animate much of Wilson’s subsequent writing. Under the detailed and big-hearted direction of Ruben SantiagoHudson, the world of the play is vibrant and compelling. Through the characters, we see the life within the Jitney station and get a sense of the world beyond the huge plate glass windows on David Gallo’s inspired, down-at-heels set. Every performance is fully realized, and the ensemble works together with effortless precision. John Douglas Thompson is powerful as Becker. André Holland is complex, warm, and intense as Youngblood. Carra Patterson, who plays his girlfriend Rena, is the only woman in the piece, and she is grounded, focused, and moving as she fights for the life she wants. Michael Potts as Turnbo, a highstrung, gossipy gadfly, is amazing, as is Keith Randolph Smith as the comparatively complacent Doub. Harvy Blanks’ exuberant portrayal of Shealy, the numbers runner who

uses the station’s phone, and Anthony Chisholm as the older, alcoholic Fielding are both outstanding. It is impossible to see “Jitney” outside the context of the contemporary world. There are no white characters in the play, but their impact and influence can’t be avoided. Whether in displacing a community for urban renewal or denying cab service to a decaying neighborhood, this unseen force imposes undeniable burdens on the characters’ lives. The survival of these jitney drivers amidst this reality is profound, hilarious, and heartbreaking all at once. Given the political moment we are living through, this play disturbingly reminds us how little has changed in the past 40 years.

David Ives is at it again. He’s taken an antique French play and turned it into a rollicking comedy that will leave you in awe of his linguistic facility, crying with laughter, and thoroughly delighted. Just as he upended Molière with “The School for Lies,” he has now taken on “Le Menteur,” a 1644 piece by Pierre Corneille. “The Liar,” Ives’ adaptation now at CSC, preserves the plot and farcical nature of the original while adding levels of contemporary intellectual silliness that recall the best of “Monty Python” in a brilliant blending of high and low comedy.

THE LIAR Classic Stage Company 136 E. 13th St. Through Feb. 26 Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m. Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat.-Sun. at 3 p.m. $61-$126;ovationtix.com Or 866-811-4111 Two hrs., 15 mins., with intermission

The plot concerns a compulsive liar whose tall tales are mostly designed to bolster his own ego and make him seem much more than what he is (contemporary analogies surely coincidental, even if very satisfying). The provincial gentleman Dorante arrives in Paris to find a wife. On his first morning there, he meets the beautiful Clarice, whom he aggressively courts over her objections, going so far as to grab her by the… hand. (It’s 17th century France, after all!) He also meets Clarice’s companion, Lucrece, and acquires a servant, Cliton. And as luck would have it, he reconnects with an old friend, Alcippe. Busy morning. Alcippe is in love with Clarice. Dorante thinks Lucrece is Clarice, and Cliton falls for Clarice’s servant, the bawdy Isabelle who, unbeknownst to him, has a puritanical twin, Sabine. Meanwhile Dorante’s father is trying to marry him off advantageously. In other words, it’s typical French comedy of the period.

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February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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INFIDELITY, from p.29

While the plot might be unthinkable in a play staged in 1930s, it is completely fair game today â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and ripe with dramatic possibility. After eight years, the once-idyllic marriage of Stephen and Anne has gone stale. Stephen, a novelist, has lost inspiration to write and has become a grouch, while Anne has grown impatient. To reignite his passion for life, Anne encourages Stephen to â&#x20AC;&#x153;go and get into mischiefâ&#x20AC;? (code for â&#x20AC;&#x153;have an affairâ&#x20AC;?). â&#x20AC;&#x153;A marriage ring ought be strong enough to stand occasional other little circles hooked onto it,â&#x20AC;? Anne declares. But when her reluctant hubby takes up with her attractive friend Diana (Mikaela Izquierdo) and indeed does seem reinvigorated, Anne tries to fend off crippling bouts of jealousy, with little success. Never mind that she recently had a fling with Dr. Alan Kirby (Todd Cerveris), who has since become a confidante. Not that infidelity comes naturally to Stephen. His father (Stephen Schnetzer, who valiantly took over for John Hutton due to a sudden schedule conflict) is a strict minister quick to judge lapses in morality, and often makes Stephen revert to the fearful little boy he once was. For his part, Stephen has a devil of a time reconciling his progressive views with his puritanical upbringing. None of this would fly were it not for a top-notch cast. The matineeidol handsome Max von Essen, fresh from his Tony-nominated turn in â&#x20AC;&#x153;An American in Paris,â&#x20AC;? is

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YOURS UNFAITHFULLY Mint Theater Company Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row 410 W. 42nd St. Through Feb. 18 Tue.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m. Wed., Sat.-Sun. at 2:30 p.m. $65; MintTheater.org or 212-239-6200 Two hrs, 15 mins.,with two intermissions

sublime as the conflicted, emotionally raw Stephen. He brings multiple layers of tenderness to the philandering husband, who is somehow both devoted and selfish at the same time. No less impressive is Elisabeth Gray as Anne. She is totally convincing as a pragmatic, forward-thinking wife who realizes she is not as liberal-minded as she wants to be. The Mint is in top form here â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the beautiful set of a country house living room and garden is crafted by Carolyn Mraz, and smart period costumes are by Hunter Kaczorowski. Despite its age, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Yours Unfaithfullyâ&#x20AC;? navigates tricky terrain that resonates today, not only in regard to the price of free love, but also the combustibility of father-son relationships, the thrill of being a nonconformist, and the soul-crushing danger of fascists. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I think the ruling passion in my fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life was to keep his boys strait,â&#x20AC;? Stephen says, with a note of despair. â&#x20AC;&#x153;And his chief weapon was fearâ&#x20AC;Ś He used to tell us a whole lot of downright lies.â&#x20AC;? A line that, on the night I attended, elicited a burst of nervous laughter from the audience.

GayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

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This yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s honorees include: Governor David Paterson

Donna Lieberman

Ana MarĂ­a Archila & Andrea Batista Schlesinger

Carmen Neely Anthony Nicodemo

Christopher Bram

Eunic Ortiz

Lisa Cannistraci

Leo Preziosi

Staceyann Chin

Manny Rivera

JD Davids

Doug Robinson

Bryan John Ellicott

Therese Rodriguez

Suzanne Goldberg

Allen Roskoff

Charles Rice-Gonzalez Oriol R. Gutierrez Bishop Zachary Glenn Jones

Robyn Streisand Jennifer Flynn Walker

Howie Katz

Jillian Weiss Edie Windsor

Paul Kelterborn

Mel Wymore

Terrance Knox

Emanuel Xavier >`SaS\bSRPg(

List in formation

DAZZLING, from p.32

Michael Kahn directs the whole undertaking with wit and verve, and the company is sensational. Christian Conn as Dorante, whose lies mount one on top of the other, is spectacular. Carson Elrod as Cliton is the perfect comic foil, with impeccable timing. Tony Roach as the besotted Alcippe is hilarious, and Kelly Hutchinson is marvelous as Isabelle and Sabine. Amelia Pedlow and Ismenia Mendes as Lucrece and Clarice, respectively, are charming, gamine, and deft comediennes. Among the many pleasures of this production, the consistent

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RICHARD TERMINE

Tony Roach, Christian Conn, and Carson Elrod in David Ivesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Liar,â&#x20AC;? an adaptation of Pierre Corneilleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 1644 â&#x20AC;&#x153;Le Menteur,â&#x20AC;? at Classic Stage Company through February 26.

juxtaposition of the Corneille and the contemporary â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; right down to Adam Wernickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s exceptional original music â&#x20AC;&#x201C;â&#x20AC;&#x201C; is what makes Ivesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; latest romp an immediate classic not to be missed.

Post your congratulations message in the special keepsake issue proďŹ ling the honorees on March 30, 2017 â&#x201E;˘

Contact Amanda Tarley For More Information: 718-260-8340 | amanda@gaycitynews.com

gaycitynews.nyc 33


IN THE NOH

They Know How to Love Her A fabulous celebration of the very special Phyllis Hyman BY David NOH

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he was quite literally a goddess of song. Amazonian, too, standing six feet tall with a luscious face that bespoke the beauties in canvases by Gauguin and BurneJones. And when she opened that succulent mouth, waves of dulcet, soulful resonance enveloped you like the warmest, most sensual aural caress, with, intriguingly, something slightly bruised about it. She was Phyllis Hyman, sparkling Tony nominee for the Duke Ellington musical “Sophisticated Ladies,” and best-selling recording artist of songs largely dealing with the romantic heartbreak and loneliness she knew all too well. Her life was marked by dazzling highs and the darkest, most hopeless lows, until she ended it, herself, at 45, in 1995, in her New York apartment just hours before a scheduled concert appearance at the Apollo Theater. Her suicide note read, in part: “I’m tired. I’m tired. Those of you that I love know who you are. May God bless you.” She was truly unforgettable, but not nearly well-known enough today, and to address this comes the quite terrific show “An Evening with Phyllis Hyman,” playing through the weekend at the Actor’s Temple (339 W. 47th St., Feb. 4, 8 p.m., Feb. 5, 2 & 7 p.m.; phyllishymanshow.com). Devoted Hyman fan that I am, I was delighted to discover that the two guys behind this project, Kendrell Bowman and Anthony Wayne, are the same ones who brought us the wonderful Sylvester musical, “Mighty Real,” a few years ago. Jacqueline B. Arnold portrays Hyman, and, after catching this absolutely terrific show on January 29, I can safely say that a true star has stepped into the shoes of the departed one. Arnold is an absolute phenomenon, ferociously capturing the late diva’s huge, suffering heart, authentic wit, deep personal style, and above all, beautiful, beautiful low-slung voice, with just enough Hymanistic shading and colors in it

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PHYLLISHYMANSHOW.COM

Jacqueline B. Arnold in “An Evening with Phyllis Hyman,” created by Anthony Wayne and Kendrell Bowman.

to make it far better than any mere imitation. Last weekend’s shows sold out in a flash, so act today. I met with Arnold, Bowman, and Wayne on a miserable Manhattan winter’s day, with icy wind mixed with rain lashing about, but talk about this very special singer did much to warm us all up. “This is the first time the world will see something we’ve been creating for three years,” the deeply passionate Bowman confided. “I remember Phyllis being on BET’s ‘Video Soul,’ always with the big hats and shoulder pads, and we are happy to bring her music back because people still sample it today. But we’re bringing her life story behind the music, as well, and much more. It’s also about depression and, when you think about it, a lot of stars don’t live past 35 or 40 because of midlife crises. Her mental illness was hereditary in her family, something our community doesn’t really talk about. Anthony and I created a great evening of her songs and fun but also take you on a journey of real life that each audience member can identify with. People love her music but this is about exposing facts, making different choices.” Arnold explained, “ Especially in ethnic –– particularly in the black –– community, we don’t talk about this, because black women are not allowed to show any kind of weakness. If you have some sort of

depression or feel sad, you are supposed to suck it up and deal with it or deal with it quietly instead of asking for help. It’s not something that is a through-line in a lot of cultures and I think Phyllis dealt heavily with that along with being a public figure. When you are a public figure, like her, you may be singing this very haunting and love-stricken sort of music, but you’re still meant to come out with a happy ending, and that also goes back to American movies. We are always wrapping it up with a pretty bow, but life isn’t necessarily that way and she didn’t necessarily believe that. She had a firm, staunch feeling about her life being hers and she could do whatever she wanted with it. I’m sure you know she understood –– and to some degree supported –– Dr. Kevorkian and that theory of it is your life. “She definitely understood the idea of someone choosing all the aspects of their life, where a lot of us tend to wait and see what happens or tough it up, whatever the case. Unfortunately, we all know someone who suffers from depression and bipolar disorder in our lives.” Hyman was a Cancer, with the hyper -sensitivity, wit, and creativity associated with that sign, and, along with so many of us, unsuccessfully chased Hollywood’s all-white dream of romantic happiness.

“In the 1950s, in ‘Far from Heaven,’” Arnold said, “Julianne Moore’s character is severely depressed and medicates her condition with drugs, some sort of amphetamine to stay perked up. There’s the scene of her making a cake and how proud she is of her ability to get that done and how proud she wants to be of herself, because that menial task is difficult for her. That’s a very. very white American sort of way to be, which is we don’t show that in Asian, black, or Hispanic culture. We don’t do it, either. We go to church and keep it moving. “She wasn’t the smallest woman in the world. When you are six feet and one-half inches, that half inch matters. You don’t wear heels and that was why she always performed barefoot, she didn’t need to be any taller. That’s when shoulder pads became a thing for her. They helped her to stand a little bit taller, especially as she started to gain weight. She didn’t have to be embarrassed about that, because they created a different sort of silhouette that was acceptable. I’m not short and when you are a tall woman, dating is always an issue. On top of being tall, you got something to say and you’re firm about it. Because of what men are taught to be, nobody really wants that.” I asked Arnold what her favorite Hyman song was and she replied, “My favorite song to sing is –– and this is going to surprise these guys here –– ‘Meet Me on the Moon.’ And to listen to, I’m still a big fan of ‘What You Won’t Do for Love,’ I love her rendition. And I will always, always love ‘You Know How to Love Me,’ because that’s what you do. You get up and get a little groove going on.” That song, which Arnold searingly performed in such a way as to have the entire audience in full, rockingly ecstatic groove mode the night I saw her, holds such meaning for anyone who loved Hyman. Legendary deejay Larry Levan used to turn it out at the Paradise Garage, making for unforgettable evenings,

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February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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PHYLLIS, from p.34

and it was always a romantic secret weapon of mine when pitching the woo to a new love. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d play it and, inevitably, no matter what their background, delight would instantly fill them as theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d ask, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s that song?!â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? Ar nold, a serious vocalist, observed, â&#x20AC;&#x153;She didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t do many uptempo dance records, apart from that and â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Want to Change the World,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; her only number one single, on which she even rapped. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m slightly older than both of my producers, but Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve always sang and been attracted to deeper toned voices, so her and Anita Baker were what I listened to, and also that round tone. As I got older, I learned as a singer to bend the note, so that it fits your vocal abilities. Growing up in the house with my mom, thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what we listened to, and I found out that Nancy Wilson was Phyllisâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; favorite. When I got heavy into jazz in my later high school, early college days, she was everything, along with Dinah Washington. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I like lyrically driven music, not note driven, and really enjoy hearing poetry set to a melody. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m from LA and got into the UCLA music theater program, but put it on hold because I moved here to do a show called â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Bright Lights Big Cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; at New York Theatre Workshop. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve actually been working ever since, so I never finished college. After my first show I went on the second national tour of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Rent.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x153;â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Bright Lightsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; was adapted into a musical by Michael Greif, on the coattails of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Rent,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; with music by Paul Scott Goodman. Sometimes they do a concert version of it, very interesting but it was very hard to follow because it is very cinematic as the Jay McInerney book was. It has a long way to go.â&#x20AC;? Wayne, whose embodiment of the legendary disco star Sylvester was as thrilling as Arnoldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Hyman, weighed in, â&#x20AC;&#x153;My birthday is the same as Phyllisâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. I remember when she passed away: they played all her music that night. I bought her boxed set and really got into her. She is one of my favorite sounds and her tone is amazing, like Nancy Wilson. Since then, I have always been a fan. Then Terrell came to her, and said, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;I really love Phyllis and want to do something with her GayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

story.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Jackie was doing â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; and when she came down from the ceiling, I thought, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Wow, look at her eyes, her expressions!â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s exciting to see it come to life.â&#x20AC;? As with the Sylvester project, the producers sent their script to Hymanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s family, who gave them the thumbs up, with a cousin even sending some rare footage to them. Bowman said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;We do things with class and integrity, not only trying to entertain but also addressing social issues to educate. With Sylvester it was about HIV/ AIDS and trying to erase the stigma of that, and this time mental health and depression.â&#x20AC;? Among other talented black females who died tragically too early, I brought up the intense, vibrant Sharon Redd, who had a couple of dance hits (the sizzling â&#x20AC;&#x153;Can You Handle It,â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;In the Name of Loveâ&#x20AC;?), was a lesbian, and succumbed to AIDS in 1992 at age 46. The guys didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know from her, but Arnold said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;I only know her because she was a Harlette [Bette Midlerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s backup singer], as was I, during Betteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s London tour a couple of years ago. She was sort of a famous Harlette, and when you become one you gotta learn whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what. They used to call me â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The Thin Harlette,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; and I was the one that calms Miss Midler, her voice of reason. You fall into those categories which have been in place since she started them. Sharon was the feisty one, from what I understand. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It was fun, Bette was great and treated us all good, all those things were on point. Watching her, I was made to realize, on a monetary level, what your name means when a company puts all that faith in you. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a lot of pressure and you have to deliver. There is no excuse for her not knowing how every single mechanism of her giant machine turns. Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been working very hard for months on â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Hello, Dolly!â&#x20AC;&#x2122; and sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s going to be wonderful. I see her, from time to time, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not like I call her, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Hey girl! Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s up?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; [Laughs.]â&#x20AC;? When I asked Arnold to name a personal career highlight, she answered â&#x20AC;&#x153;This is a massive highlight. I have been a principal in musicals before, but I never headlined a show of my own. I grew up

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PHYLLIS, continued on p.40

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OPERA

Winter Voices at Lincoln Center “Candide” at NYCO, Tchaikovsky at NYFOS, “Magic Flute,” Nabucco” at Met BY David Shengold

I

n principle it was a good idea for the reconstituted NYCO to revive “Candide”: the Bernstein centennial approaches, and there’s life in the 1956 musical yet, as Glimmerglass showed quite handily in 2015. Some attractive names from Broadway as well as opera took part, and at the second show January 7 there were moments to enjoy. I fear the revival foundered on what had been proclaimed the coup, awarding the direction to the aptly legendary Hal Prince. The octogenarian director had supervised two previous Broadway “Candide” productions, including the 1974 reimagining that got the piece back in play. He also did a cartoonish but popular NYCO version back in the Sills era. But the world has changed; the kitschy, cheap laff-garnering “traveling players” concept on view seemed stale and flat. The energetic ensemble of singers and dancers featured some accomplished artists; Curt Olds, the cover Pangloss, might well have been a better option than Gregg Edelman, who was bland and vocally patchy with lyrics not always comprehensible. An aging jeune premier does not perforce a character actor make. Genuine character actors Chip Zien and Brooks Ashmanskas –– in multiple roles –– got their laughs, but much of what Prince asked them to do was tired shtick 30 years ago. And so it went: the director and his team seemed to have done no rethinking whatsoever of this difficult piece, made more difficult by Hugh Wheeler’s horrendous book with its multiple rape jokes and witless, clichéd treatment of “fiery” Latin Americans and corrupt Turks. Charles Prince — the director’s son — led credible players without special flair. Jay Armstrong Johnson made an endearing Candide, though singing in a very contemporary Broadway mix of tremolo and mic-enabled croon that didn’t suit his big moments, the sound

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KEN HOWARD/ METROPOLITAN OPERA

Morris Robinson brought force-of-nature sound to Sarastro in Mozart’s “Magic Flute at the Met.

enhancement channeling overkill throughout. One had to applaud the energy and pizazz of Linda Lavin, dishing out the schmaltz as the Old Lady yet always reacting to her colleagues. Jessica Tyler Wright returned from NYCO’s 2008 show as an apt Paquette. Hands down, the best singing came from the mercifully unbrassy Cunegonde, Meghan Picerno (not virtuosic in “Glitter and be gay” but legato and supported throughout) and the suave-toned Keith Phares (Maximilian). Not a wasted afternoon, but one wanted to like it so much better.

January 24 at Merkin Hall, the genial pianists Steven Blier and Michael Barrett’s always-heartening New York Festival Of Song offered a splendid program devoted to Tchaikovsky’s songs. Blier gave a typically engaging, thoughtprovoking biographical context, but unfortunately had been reading David Brown’s almost willfully

homophobic Tchaikovsky studies and rehashed the now quite discredited story of the composer’s supposed honor-induced suicide. Brown dealt in Alternative Facts and presented another gay martyrdom that we hardly need as the Era of Pence proceeds. But the music was salutary, a mix of chestnuts and lesser-known songs, plus one apiece by Tchaikovsky’s teacher Anton Rubinstein (the stunning “Zuleika,” replete with melisma) and his students Anton Arensky and Sergei Taneyev. Ukrainian soprano Antonina Chekhovska took a song or two to warn up, but displayed an impressive, multi-layered voice of considerable range and color. She lingered more over linguistic details than did the Met’s excellent middleweight baritone Alexey Lavrov, though his more operatic delivery certainly impressed on its own terms. More consistent legato would be welcome, but Lavrov is certainly one

of the most gifted young artists on the Met roster. It would be great to hear both him and Chekhovska in “Iolanta” soon.

At year-end holiday time, the Met alternates family-friendly programming, each season offering an English language, lower priced option: the sanguinary “Hansel and Gretel” (maybe most suitable for tweens and teenagers) plus condensed versions of “Barber of Seville” and “Magic Flute.” With the Rossini and Mozart, one must steel oneself that whole numbers will vanish — with “Flute,” this year’s pick, that included “Bei Maennern” and “Bald prangt,” two of the score’s highlights –– and that others, like “Dies Bildnis,” are cut to one verse, but it’s kind of a relief not to hear every word of the original dialogue, the Priests’ duet and the like. Plus, the “quest” plot and showy Julie

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WINTER VOICES, continued on p.38

February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERFORMANCE

Outing the Atonal Music of Mr. Copland Thorny textures rendered poetic by stunning virtuosity in performance by Adam Tendler BY GERALD BUSBY

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t a recent concert featuring the serial music of Aaron Copland (1900-1990), Adam Tendler played “Piano Fantasy” — a piece I first heard 60 years ago. William Masselos was the pianist on that occasion, and he hammered home the stiff angularity of the music as if force-feeding the audience something they hated. So I was surprised and delighted when Tendler made the same notes sound familiar and likable, even delicate. His phrasing turned even the most complex and discontinuous passages into satisfying music. It sounded like a wild, beautiful bird trying to escape from its cage to fly home, deep in the forest. Those thorny textures and complex rhythms I remembered from 1957 became poetic in Tendler’s hands. The “Serial Copland” program, performed January 19 at Bleecker Street multimedia art cabaret venue (Le) Poisson Rouge, began with a gentle piece: 1921’s “Petit Portrait (ABE).” It created a calm atmosphere that contrasted sharply with the blunt assertiveness of the “Piano Variations” that followed. Third on the program, “Quartet for Piano and Strings,” was a kind of sorbet between “Piano Variations” and “Piano Fantasy.” Three members of JACK Quartet — Austin Wulliman (violin), John Pickford Richards (viola), and Jay Campbell (cello) — joined Tendler for a precisely intoned, lyrical, and tender reading. Then came the main course, “Piano Fantasy,” Copland’s intense journey into atonality. It wasn’t a strict 12-tone composition (and neither were any of the others), but the effects of atonality were all there. Tendler –– who will perform at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music on February 10 –– gave this formidable work a shape and momentum that held the audience’s unwavering attention for the duration of the 30-minute piece. There wasn’t a single extraneous sound to be heard in the large room, filled to capacity with people eating and drinking — and not a cough or a whisper from the crowd standing at the bar. Tendler, a scholar as well as a virtuoso, wrote comprehensive program notes that can be accessed online (bit.ly/serialcoplandprogramnotes). They give a clear and entertaining narrative of Copland’s sporadic affair with serialism. In 1930, when Copland wrote “Piano Variations,” the influence of Arnold Schoenberg (18741951) was keenly felt in Western classical music. He declared the demise of tonal function and reorganized the way notes could be sequenced in a musical phrase. No composer could ignore this new concept. Tonal classical music, principally in the German tradition — from the early 18th through early 20th centuries — was the template against GayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

which Schoenberg rebelled. Some critics think it was World War II and the Holocaust that provoked this revolution. I give credit for Schoenberg’s becoming a pioneer of music composition to the philosophy of history put forth by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). Hegel propounded a dialectical scheme in which an idea, a thesis, competes with another idea, its antithesis, until the two merge as a synthesis. That synthesis becomes a new thesis. Schoenberg’s rules for tone rows and the unfamiliar sounds they created, the antithesis of tonal music, resolved in a new synthesis: serialism.

GREG PARKINSON

Adam Tendler’s January 19 program at (Le) Poisson Rouge showcased the range of his touch and the inventiveness of his phrasing.

Between pieces on the program at (Le) Poisson Rouge, Tendler played recordings of Aaron Copland’s genteel voice, which described, with quiet earnestness, how Schoenberg’s aesthetics influenced his own method of composition. I think Copland’s voice also communicated the ordeal he experienced in being accepted by the academic establishment, who were the guardians and promulgators of Schoenberg’s ideas. Being gay and closeted played a role in Copland’s desire to be approved by the music establishment at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. It was his way of finding a place in academic high society that disapproved of homosexual behavior. Neither Copland nor Virgil Thomson (18961989) ever said publicly that they were gay, even though it was obvious. “You don’t rub their noses in it,” Thomson told me when I asked why he wouldn’t support efforts to stop the spread of AIDS. In the early ’70s, I had dinner with Copland in his home upstate, with Michael Tilson Thomas, David Del Tredici, and Robert Helps. Copland

couldn’t have been nicer. A short time later I attended a concert of his music and afterwards approached him. “Aaron, I loved your music.” He looked at me without smiling and replied, “Call me Mr. Copland.” Robert Helps, a brilliant pianist who played complex modern music with uncanny ease, had a deep fear of being “discovered” as gay. He studied music composition with Roger Sessions and was famous for his performances with Bethany Beardslee of Schoenberg’s “Pierrot Lunaire” and Milton Babbitt’s “Partitions.” Whenever Babbitt came to hear him play at Yale, Helps warned me not to say anything remotely gay in Babbitt’s presence. Denial was a major part of our lives back then, and it was a source of excitement as well, to see what we could get away with in such austere company. Our conversations were loaded with gay allusions and innuendos. One might say that Copland alluded to serialism in his music more than he employed it methodically — Schoenberg’s sounds seeped into Copland’s music. Ivy League composers, theorists, and teachers back in the ’50s were the bastion of propriety with regard to Schoenberg’s theory. Copland, despite his failure to fully embrace the technique, was nevertheless accepted as a practitioner of it in the elite coterie of academic serialists. I think it was because of his enormous popular success with pieces like “Appalachian Spring” and “Fanfare for the Common Man.” Maybe a musicologist will someday write about how some gay composers absorbed the aesthetics of 12-tone music without really committing to its formal demands. Every time I’ve heard Adam Tendler play modern American piano music, he has surprised me with the range of his touch and the inventiveness of his phrasing. His performance at (Le) Poisson Rouge was no exception. A few months ago, in a recital of John Cage’s piano (and toy piano) music at Lincoln Center, Tendler talked about Cage’s indications in the score to play as soft as possible. It reminded me of sitting in the top balcony at Carnegie Hall, hearing Vladimir Horowitz play pianissimo; every note had a “ping” that carried to the back of the house. The strings in the first and third movements of Copland’s “Quartet for Piano and Strings” also had gossamer moments. Most impressive was their perfect intonation of delicate phrases. Tendler, Austin Wulliman, John Pickford Richards, and Jay Campbell seemed to breathe together. Aaron Copland was a gentle genius, and his atonal music, meticulously performed by this ensemble, demonstrated that humanity. Visit adamtendler.com and jackquartet.com for upcoming performance dates, music, and other information.

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FILM

A Timely Celebration of Diversity Draper Shreeve ferrets out resonant tales of a very queer city BY GARY M. KRAMER

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ut filmmaker Draper Shreeve set out to capture the “spirit of queer life” in his fabulous documentary “Queer City,” now available on Flix Premiere as well as other streaming services. The film profiles a diverse range of LGBTQ New Yorkers, from Kris and Sarah, two lesbian parents in Brooklyn, to former State Senator Tom Duane, Mr. Pam, a gay porn director, Eric, a Haitian immigrant, and Tee, a Latina woman. “Queer City” showcases stories of LGBTQ life that aren’t featured in many films, and Shreeve’s intimacy with his subjects — showing Kris and Sarah having dinner with their kids, or Eric just taking a walk — make the film resonate. Viewers get a strong sense of the lives of these inhabitants of Queer City. The filmmaker spoke with Gay City News via Skype about making his inspiring documentary. GARY M. KRAMER: How did you find the subjects for the film? DRAPER SHREEVE: I have been taking yoga for about 15 years at the Gay Center on 13th Street, and going there twice a week, I’ve encountered a lot of different people. I was struck by the incredible diversity… I talked to 12 to 15 people for the film, and I wanted a certain mix. I know that if I chose people who didn’t interest me, how would they interest other people? I wanted a range of folks. To spend time with them and hear and report stories, you have to fall in love with all

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WINTER VOICES, from p.36

Taymor production do hold most of the kids’ visual interest. It’s a worthwhile investment in audience building, and December 29’s matinée under Antony Walker provided much to enjoy. Caitlin Lynch, as Pamina –– in the single performance awarded her all season –– proved a triumph lovely and moving, physically, musically, and vocally. Why don’t we hear this outstanding soprano more often? Ben Bliss’ stock is certainly rising with the company; his light, clear voice executed all Tamino’s pitfalls with ease and style if not much impact, though granted, the makeup Tamino wears in this staging renders facial expressions hard to perceive. Morris Robinson’s force-of-nature sound serves Saras-

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QUEER CITY

Mr. Pam and passenger Rafael Alencar zip across Manhattan.

of them. They are not stars or celebrities. I started envisioning a canvas that had a really large stretch. So I had a former state senator, a janitor, and a porn director in the same film. They are all gay, and all New Yorkers.

tro well, and he’s steadily improved in the part. Ideally, dialog could be a touch slower and grander. Jessica Pratt (Queen) made all five high F’s but the idiom suits her less than her Rossinian ventures; the music, neither shaped nor acted with dramatic distinction, made her timbre sound rather chalky and ordinary. In contrast, Christopher Maltman’s utilitarian baritone suited Papageno perfectly, and he sang and acted with commendable style and energy. Dísella Lárusdóttir made a charming Papagena, with far more varied verbal expression than most manage. Another bright spot was Noah Baetge’s clarion First Armed Man, The three boys playing the Genies (Daniel Katzman, Misha Grossman, and Dylan Hansen Hamme), understandably a crowd favorite,

GMK: Why did you take the approach you did to tell these stories, which is a mix of observational scenes and talking head interviews?

proved unusually good.

The Met’s “second cast” “Nabucco” December 27 did little credit to the house, though one wouldn’t have known that from the screaming ovations. Lots of Ukrainian speakers in the audience may have helped there. The first soprano ever to make a company debut in the voice-killer role of Abigaille, Tatiana Melnychenko was gutsy and managed to move her large frame around the treacherous set but seemed a provincial throwback, with huge, growly, out-of-control tones that often veered off pitch when not becoming downright screams. James Levine barely looked at her and in general seemed on autopilot. Zeljko Lucic encountered his usual pitch issues as soon as he

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SHREEVE, continued on p.39

opened his mouth; but after intermission sang very creditably and with feeling. The other moving performance was Nancy Fabiola Herrera’s Fenena — not an improvement on the luxury-cast Jamie Barton but a valid interpretation with the strong, beautiful top notes her music needs. Dmitry Belosselskiy, a good bass also from Ukraine, lacks the crucial low tones for Zaccaria plus something of the majestic delivery this indomitable character warrants. Tenor Adam Diegel (Ismaele) and promising young Sava Vemic (High Priest) disclosed truly alarming vibratos. Danielle Talamantes sounded good as the near-invisible Anna. David Shengold (shengold@ yahoo.com) writes about opera for many venues. February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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SHREEVE, from p.38

DS: Talking heads are interesting, it helps the subject focus and come up with things they wouldn’t say in a different context. But I think it’s revealing and interesting to see people in their natural environments and how they behave. I think you need that, and I went to a lot of trouble to get that. GMK: How did you get the subjects to trust you to tell their stories? DS: To get people to open up, you have to put in the time. They knew I was passionate about making this film. We did multiple interview sessions, and the fur ther we got into it, the more they opened up. GMK: What did your subjects reveal that intrigued or surprised you as you made the film? DS: When you make a movie like this, you have an idea what you’re going to get, but you don’t really know. With all of these people, there were surprises along the way. When I explained the project to Tee, she was up for it. She was fabulous on camera. She said things that really blew me away. She was talking about her love life — and she’s very forthcoming about that — and she did time and was a heroin addict. But at the end of the interview, she shifted into a lower, quieter gear. The lesbian couple in Brooklyn, their kids were very articulate and bright, and they surprised me with their observations about their mothers. Geoffrey, the 81 year old British man in the film, talks about going to the Everard Baths in the 1960s…. All of them were surprising. GMK: What stories did the subjects recount that hooked you? DS: Mr. Pam is one of the most evolved people I’ve ever met. She’s incredibly open about her sexuality. We called her “Pam-sexual.” She is passionate, and very intelligent, and cognizant of her work. She knows that people are addicted to porn, and she acknowledges that, but says she does her work not to cause trouble, but to give pleasure. Geoffrey is also very community-oriented. He says how impor GayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

QUEER CITY Directed by Draper Shreeve Streaming at flixpremiere.com

tant it is for the gay community to do more for the elderly. It’s a demographic that is neglected. He’s also very much an advocate for gay youth. There is a large percentage of runaway LGBT kids because of religion and parents who have thrown them out. They escape for their lives because their parents and family will do them harm because they are gay. Many end up in New York without ways to support themselves. They hustle and become drug addicts. Geoffrey makes people aware of both extremes of the LGBTQ population. Each end of the spectrum is neglected. Tom talks about being mugged in the parking lot of a gay bar. When did you ever hear a senator say something like that? GMK: What can you say about shooting on location in New York City? DS: The technology has changed so much it made making a film like this possible and shooting in New York a lot easier than it was years ago. The equipment is so light and portable. Officials in New York are very savvy about people shooting on the street here, and more and more they are asking for permits. The cops were pretty cool. I would just pick up a camera and go down into the subway and shoot. When the cops played rough and stopped me and said I needed a permit, I played dumb. It was essentially a no-budget movie we cobbled together over a number of years. The whole film from start to finish was about four years. GMK: If you turned the camera on yourself, what would your life look like? DS: I’m probably not as interesting as these people. I think the audience would say, “That guy works a lot!” Watching someone work and watch movies and eat all the time, it’s interesting for me, but I’m not sure it would be interesting to audiences. That’s why I chose people who had more colorful lives.

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FILM

On the Town Ceyda Torun’s cats too often described in human terms, but what about the reverse? BY SteVE ERiCKSON

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edi” purports to be a documentary about the feral cats that roam around Istanbul, many of them taken care of by people who haven’t fully adopted them as pets. I suppose it’s not surprising that in the end, it says more about the needs of humans than cats. Alas, “Kedi” makes a lot of facile assumptions about the personality of felines and humans. It’s far more ambitious than the 80-minute LOLcat video one might expect from its premise, but possibly less entertaining. Director Ceyda Torun and her cinematographer did a very good job of following her feline subjects through Istanbul, using a variety of camera angles, a very mobile camera, and even night-vision to depict one cat stalking mice. Kira Fontana’s vibraphone-driven score aims for the propulsive quality of minimalist composer Steve Reich and succeeds in capturing it. “Kedi” is certainly well-crafted. The trailer and press kit for “Kedi” give the individual cats profiled in the film human personality traits, describing them as “the gentleman,” “the ladies’ man,” “the hustler,” etc. This says more about our perceptions of these cats than their actual personalities. Who knows why a cat would refrain from entering an upscale restaurant but instead tap on its window to let the staff know he’s hungry and wants his dinner? The way people tend to perceive animal behavior as equivalent to human needs and wants is commentary on our species not cats. Torun clearly doesn’t think about things that

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PHYLLIS, from p.35

singing in bands and was a studio singer when I was younger, so I know what that is. But this is a big deal: ‘An Evening with Phyllis Newman’ is like an evening with Jacqueline B. Arnold. You are coming to see me be somebody, and I really have to be that person. I really have to embody her. I refuse not to and I cannot wait.” Hearing these words, Bowman started to tear up a little, and he apologized, “You know, I don’t cry, and it’s not easy for me to talk now. I’m an Aquarius, always thinking, and I don’t get much sleep. I am always thinking about numbers, lighting, etc. We both produced this show, but I am also

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OSCILLOSCOPE LABORATORIES

Two feral cats face off on the streets of Istanbul in Ceyda Torun’s “Kedi.”

KEDI Directed by Ceyda Torun Oscilloscope Laboratories In Turkish with English subtitles Opens Feb. 10 Metrograph 7 Ludlow St., btwn. Canal & Hester Sts. metrograph.com

way. A young dreadlocked hipster she interviews sees cats as a model for elegant femininity, but at least she’s using her imagination. More prosaically, another woman Torun talked to says, “Animals behave the same way as people.” If she had made a film about stray dogs rather than cats, there would undoubtedly be lots of talk about the importance of people leading packs.

directing it. You work with people who are loyal, and I thought of Jackie a long time ago in San Francisco for ‘Mighty Real’’s first tour. I gave her this book about Phyllis, and just believed in her talent, as I did Anthony as Sylvester. I’ll be honest: I went to theater school, as well, but these people are real actors, and nobody gives a shit about them in these Broadway shows. They’re used in a machine: you gonna put this black boy here in the back and this black-skinned girl over there. And guess what? You have a full cast with everybody else, but there are still not enough minorities on the stage. “I wrote a book, ‘How to Produce a Show From Your Couch,” available on Amazon and at Barnes

“Kedi” succeeds only when it focuses on people rather than cats. One man says he was able to bring himself out of a nervous breakdown, which drugs couldn’t treat, by taking care of a group of cats. There’s a lot of talk about the destruction of certain quarters of Istanbul, a city whose population has ballooned to 20 million. Implicitly, Torun parallels the human victims of gentrification to the more unfortunate feral cats. The cats profiled by Torun seem to have a pretty good life. They have no shortage of people willing to feed them and even offer them temporary housing. The film runs the risk of romanticizing feral cats. While it mentions the fights some of them get into, it never mentions the dangers they’re subjected to: starvation (for those unlucky enough not to catch enough mice or to have attached themselves to a person), disease, and overpopulation (spaying and neutering are barely mentioned in the film.) Istanbul is portrayed as a uniquely benign city for them to dwell in, which it may truly be. The press kit compares the treatment of cats there to that of cows in India, influenced by positive anecdotes about the animals in Islamic tradition. The concept of cat cafés –– a space where one can drink coffee and spend an hour petting cats –– started out in Japan and has spread around the world, including Brooklyn. If something about the notion of cats offering themselves to be petted by anyone recalls a brothel, at least some of the cafés are operated with the idea of hooking the animals up with potential adopters. “Kedi” is a virtual cat café, but the actual cafés don’t burden themselves with its lofty notions about human/ animal bonding. The film is cute, but nowhere near as profound as it thinks it is.

& Noble. Anthony and Jackie are in it, and I made a lot of mistakes and share all of that. ‘Mighty Real’ is going to Broadway, probably in the fall. We have a big Hollywood writer rewriting some of the script, and also a new set and production. And we’ve started looking at a tour for ‘Phyllis.’ There’s a lot of interest there, as she had a major following in Japan, and all throughout Europe she was massive. “I’m proud of our productions, with such diversity not just onstage but off, as well: makeup artists, stage managers. That’s the joy I have out of creating a show for bringing people who are very talented together. I’ll be honest, our core demographic doesn’t go to Broadway shows. But people who come

to Sylvester are music lovers and music is the universal language which brings together all sorts of audiences from all age brackets. But you have to be smart about the stories you put out. Honestly, there are some black shows I won’t go see, there has to be something that people are willing to see instead of just doing something to make a quick dollar. When you’re rich, you can do that. “But I’m not rich and gotta make mine count, or you won’t see no more productions. You say me and Anthony are like the new Ziegfelds [smiles], but I’m not gonna sacrifice not shopping, eating out, not going to brunch –– basically give up being gay –– for something I don’t care about.” February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle crashes and nearcrashes attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.

Daydreaming

Many people will admit to daydreaming behind the wheel or looking at a person or object outside of the car for too long. Per-

GayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

haps they’re checking out a house in a new neighborhood or thought they saw someone they knew on the street corner. It can be easy to veer into the direction your eyes are focused, causing an accident. In addition to trying to stay focused on the road, some drivers prefer the help of lane departure warning systems.

Eating

Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and

chewing gum at the same time may want to avoid eating while driving. The majority of foods require a person’s hands to be taken off of the wheel and their eyes to be diverted from the road. Reaching in the back seat to share some French fries with the kids is also distracting. Try to eat meals before getting in the car. For those who must snack while en route, take a moment to pull over at

a rest area and spend 10 minutes snacking there before resuming the trip.

Reading

Glancing at an advertisement, updating a Facebook status or reading a book are all activities that should be avoided when driving. Even pouring over a traffic map or consulting the digital display of a GPS system can be distracting.

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February 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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GORSUCH, from p.3

The general consensus in media reports is that Gorsuch is as conservative as Scalia, but more polite and not inclined to use invective in his opinions. His right-wing roots run deep. On February 1, Robert George, a Princeton University law professor who is a leading anti-LGBTQ voice, praised Gorsuch in a Washington Post editorial and noted that the nominee had studied under John Finnis at Oxford University. Finnis is a proponent of natural law theory, a conservative religious view that a universal morality can be discerned by analyzing human nature and the natural world. Gorsuch has a scant record on matters that are of interest to the LGBT community, but some groups are making not unreasonable inferences about his positions given his earlier rulings and are opposing his nomination. Gorsuch joined a ruling that held that it violated the religious beliefs of the owners of a closelyheld private company, Hobby Lobby, to require them to pay for contraception in employee health plans under the federal Affordable Care Act. He also ruled against a transgender prison inmate who sought consistent access to hormone therapy in 2015. Right wingers are agitating for a federal law

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SNIDE LINES, from p.20

Her man’s also been moved around to several other prisons, so these days, we take a five-hour bus ride to see him at the Great Meadow prison in Comstock. Since this “correctional facility” allows prisoners only three visitors, Franca couldn’t come this time. Ty, Laura, and I go through the usual body scan and metal detection before we’re allowed in the visiting room. We’re assigned a bench behind a long metal table set on painted cinder blocks, over which Herman will lean to hug us when he gets here. “Imprisonment exacts an incalculable toll on the body and mind,” Herman once wrote. It’s “the closest descent into Hell as one can imagine.” He ought to know. Herman’s been caged since he was 25. Research shows that, because of stress, bad food, and inadequate medical care, people in prison age rapidly –– so fast that by the time they’re 50, they’re considered “elderly.” That’s one reason why Laura, with Herman’s encouragement, helped start an organization called Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP). Now in walks Herman, in a rumpled green uniform, much the same “tall, sweet-smiling, quiet man” I GayCityNews.nyc | February 02 - 15, 2017, 2017

Right wingers are agitating for a federal that will allow them to cite their religious beliefs to deny services to LGBT people. Gorsuch's earlier ruling suggests he might be willing to uphold such a law. that will allow them to cite their religious beliefs to deny services to LGBT people. Gorsuch’s earlier ruling suggests he might be willing to uphold such a law. “The Supreme Court has played a central role in advancing the promise of equality for LGBTQ Americans, and Judge Gorsuch’s anti-equality record –– from opposing crucial medical treatment for a transgender person to supporting a license to discriminate for private corporations –– make him unfit to sit on the nation’s highest court,” Chad Griffin, the chief executive of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ lobby, said in a statement that was issued within minutes of the announcement. “We cannot afford a justice who will roll back our rights, or who will be a rubber stamp for Donald Trump’s unconstitutional actions.” Rea Carey, the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, also opposed the Gorsuch nomination in a statement. “Judge Neil Gorsuch’s record reveals a jurist

described over a decade ago. But he’s looking more worn and tired. For weeks now, he’s been telling us how he expects to lose his cell on the honor block. There are rumors that, because of the 2015 escape of two honor-block prisoners at Clinton prison, honor blocks in every New York state prison may close. If you’re a long-term prisoner in New York, honor blocks are an essential means of survival, especially as you age. To be granted the “earned housing” privilege, you have to work long and hard, avoiding any write-ups for misbehavior. The Comstock honor block isn’t much different from the rest of the prison, except that it’s blessedly quieter and has its own recreation area, making it easier to get to the phones to call the people allowed on your list. Without it, there’s uncontrollable noise, a kind of psychic drowning. Herman appraises the spread of junk food we’ve amassed from the vending machines. He starts to peel the plastic off a microwaved burrito, and we catch up on life. Laura keeps Herman posted on RAPP meetings. Tynan mentions Franca’s roller derby team, the Rhythm and Bruise. Herman’s relieved he didn’t see his name on this morning’s list of people to be moved off the honor block. He figures he’s safe for now.

who: believes that bosses should control their employees’ private health care decisions; supports the misuse of religion to legalize discrimination; and holds LGBTQ equality with disdain. He is also a darling of those who are vehemently opposed to marriage equality,” Carey said. In published reports made prior to the announcement, Senate Democrats were already saying they would filibuster any Trump nominee for the US Supreme Court. Republicans, who refused to consider President Barack Obama’s pick to replace Scalia –– Judge Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit –– have complained about Senate Democrats stalling Trump’s nominees. For his part, Trump argued for unity. “The qualifications of Judge Gorsuch are beyond dispute,” he said toward the close of the White House event. “I only hope that Democrats and Republicans can come together for once for the good of the country.”

I buy a chocolate chip muffin, hoping it will pass for a birthday cake; but first, some prison gossip. Rural, intensely Caucasian Comstock –– yet another prison holding mostly African Americans and Latinos –– seems to have employed exactly one black guard, who, Herman says, refers to himself as French Canadian. “Name of Deshawn,” sneers Herman, “yeah, right.” The muffin is still sitting unopened when a white guard taps Herman on the shoulder. “We’re packing up your cell,” he says. Herman can stay at the visit or go back to see that his possessions –– which fit into a few cardboard boxes –– aren’t broken or waylaid on their way to another cellblock. Herman says he’ll stay with us, but we insist that he go protect his stuff. People who’ve never been inside a prison usually can’t fathom how small, bureaucratic changes like this can prove life-threatening. And disappearing honor blocks may not be all that’s coming down the pipeline. Governor Cuomo, citing budgetary constraints, has proposed cutting visiting days at maximum-security prisons to three a week. Then there’s Cuomo’s 2017 State of the State platform. Even after Judith Clark’s commuted sentence, it doesn’t men-

tion releasing other prisoners in the “graying” population. Instead, Cuomo plans to “create a 50-bed dormitory at Ulster Correctional Facility to house eligible individuals aged 55 years or older.” As the Trump regime sinks its talons deeper into our body politic, people like Herman –– anybody left behind bars –– will be the first to be forgotten. Standing Rock, refugees, healthcare: such emergencies will –– rightfully –– demand our attention. Yet part of the trick of our survival will be to connect our lives to the lives of these people inside, grappling with their own deepening hells. Here at Comstock, Her man returns to our visit. He’s shaken, but cracks that his new cellblock resembles “south of the Mason-Dixon line.” Which makes us worry at yet another level. We sing “Happy Birthday,” share Herman’s cupcake, shoot a crap game with “dice” Ty has improvised from scrap paper, and leave when visiting hours end. We’ll need to contact Herman’s wife. Tell her he may not be able to call for a while. Susie Day is the author of “Snidelines: Talking T rash to Power,” published by Abingdon Square Publishing.

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