Page 1

LGBTQ Legal Groups Charge Ahead 07

Gerald Busby’s “3 Women” Memoir 28

Flame Con This Weekend 32

TRUMP’S CRAVEN COWARDICE IS AMERICA’S SHAME Pages 8, 12

© GAY CITY NEWS 2017 | NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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FREE | VOLUME SIXTEEN, ISSUE SEVENTEEN | AUGUST 17–30, 2017


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August 17–30, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


COVER STORY Fire and fury aimed at Trump homecoming 08

PERSPECTIVE Racism, Tiki torches & elements he just can’t quit 13

Trump’s craven cowardice is America’s shame 12

FILM Boardwalk boys 28

EDUCATION Is Gavin Grimm’s case moot? 23

THEATER A very cold “1984� 30

PRIVACY Anonymity in legal name, gender changes 17

OPERA Summer of sequels 34

FILM: Eroticism & shame in a male ritual

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GayCityNews.nyc | August 17–30, 2017

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CIVIL RIGHTS

LGBTQ Legal Groups On the Offensive Lambda, GLAD, NCLR step in to forestall transgender ban, stop Texas marriage sabotage BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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GBTQ legal groups last week went on the offensive, filing important new lawsuits seeking injunctions against government discrimination. GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) sued Donald Trump and Defense Department officials on August 9, attempting to put a halt to the president’s attempt to ban open military service by transgender people. The following day, Lambda Legal sued the City of Houston, seeking to vindicate the same-sex marriage rights of city employees, who are mired in state court litigation about whether their spouses are entitled to equal benefits. The GLAD/ NCLR suit, titled Doe v. Trump, is a gutsy move to try to nip in the bud any implementation of Trump’s July 26 Twitter storm declaring that “the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” The president’s announcement caught the Pentagon and much of the White House staff by surprise, and appears to have been precipitated by political considerations rather than any real problems posed by transgender people serving in the military. House Republicans threatened to hold hostage a defense appropriations measure unless it was amended to prohibit spending money on gender transition health care for military personnel. Though the House had rejected the amendment, with a significant number of Republicans crossing the aisle to join with Democrats on the issue, news reports indicate Trump was somehow persuaded that any such political obstacle would be solved if there were no transgender people serving. Until July 2016, a military regulation barred transgender service purportedly on medical grounds, but after a lengthy period of study by Pentagon leaders in the Obama

GayCityNews.nyc | August 17–30, 2017

PETE SOUZA / THE WHITE HOUSE

Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, with former President Barack Obama, announced that transgender service members could serve openly, a policy that Donald Trump is threatening to overturn and the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights are fighting to preserve.

administration, the ban was lifted. The Defense Department adopted a written policy allowing transgender service members to come out openly and extending coverage for transition-related health care to them, following a study concluding the costs would not be excessive and that allowing members to transition would not impair military readiness. Relying on the new policy, several thousand trans service members came out and are now at risk of discharge if Trump’s tweets become policy. When then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the lifting of the ban last June, he delayed opening up enlistment of new transgender service members for a year to allow regulations and procedures to be put in place. On the eve of that deadline, Trump’s defense secretary, James Mattis, announced he was extending it to the end of this year. The president’s tweets followed several weeks later. For days prior to GLAD and NCLR filing their suit, press reports indicated that the White House counsel had signed off on a written guidance to the Pentagon detailing how Trump’s policy was to be implemented. The document itself has not leaked, but sources who claimed to be familiar with it

said that rank and file members would not be allowed to re-enlist when their current terms of service expire and would be encouraged to resign earlier. Officers would be dismissed when they came up for promotion. Enlistment of transgender individuals would be prohibited, and transgender-specific health care would not be covered by the military As of August 9, this guidance had not yet been submitted to the Pentagon, and Defense Department officials, from the secretary down to the service branch chiefs, indicated that nothing would be done to implement Trump’s announcement until a guidance was in hand. There were even some hints of resistance against Trump’s policy shift by military leaders. The plaintiffs are five transgender members of the military who stand to lose their careers and health care coverage if Trump’s idea is put into effect. They range from relatively recent recruits to long-term members with distinguished service records. They all identified themselves to their commanding officers as transgender after the 2016 policy implementation, and several sought to initiate transitional treatment. One, a member of the Air Force, needs only two more years of service to

qualify for a 20-year military pension and fears the policy change would result in her discharge short of this goal. Trump’s tweets sought to justify his action by stating, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” The White House released no documentation that transgender service actually involves “tremendous” medical costs and causes “disruption,” because there is no such evidence. A Rand Corporation study commissioned as part of former Defense Secretary Carter’s review of the issue concluded that additional medical costs would be minor in the context of overall military health care expenditures and that disruption was not a significant issue. Several thousand transgender members have served openly for more than a year without causing significant costs or disruption. The lawsuit proceeds on three legal theories, the first alleging a violation of the federal government’s obligation of equal protection of the laws. “The categorical exclusion of transgender people from military service lacks a rational basis, is arbitrary, and cannot be justified by sufficient federal interests,” the complaint states. The complaint also alleges a violation of due process of law, asserting that the 2016 policy, together with the plaintiffs’ reliance on it in notifying their superiors about their transgender status, “created a protected interest in Plaintiffs’ ability to continue serving in the military as openly transgender service members.” The due process argument also relies on the contention that a categorical exclusion of all transgender people, regardless of their individual qualifications and service records, “is arbitrary and capricious and lacks any rational basis,” and “impermissibly burdens the Plaintiffs’ fundamental rights to autonomy and privacy.”

OFFENSIVE, continued on p.10

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POLITICS

Fire and Fury Aimed at Trump Homecoming Thousands turn out Monday amidst president’s nuclear war, Nazi-sympathizing outrages

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On Sunday, August 13, Rise and Resist demonstrators protested outside Trump Tower, in the wake of the president’s statement that “many sides, many sides� were responsible for the violence in Charlottesville.

BY LEVAR ALONZO

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resident Donald Trump returned home late in the evening on Monday — his first visit since being inaugurated — to a not so warm welcome. Several thousand people waited

to greet the president outside his Trump Tower residence on Fifth Avenue chanting, “Not my president� and “Shame,� shame,� shame.� The president’s motorcade came from a different direction, bypassing the enormous crowd. Sanitation dump trucks lined the entrance to the building and

CHRISTIAN MILES

Protesters drew attention to the encouragement President Trump and senior advisor Steve Bannon are giving to white supremacists.

police erected hundreds of yards of metal barricades to contain protestors. Many demonstrators brought along signs that read “the White House is no place for white supremacy,� “Trump loves hate,� and other placards voicing resistance to this past weekend’s Nazi visibility in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The racial tensions that erupted in Charlottesville — and led to the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, killed when a vehicle driven by a neo-Nazi plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters — joined with alarm over the president’s tough

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A Rise and Resist protester emphasized that the death of Heather Heyer was at the center of the Charlottesville tragedy.

CHRISTIAN MILES

Protesters from the queer community stood in solidarity with other marginalized people in the US.

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CHRISTIAN MILES

Demonstrators pointed to the fight Americaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Greatest Generationâ&#x20AC;? waged against Nazi Germany.

Among the handful of Trump supporters at the scene on Monday was a group of Orthodox Jews, who emphasized the presidentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tough talk on foreign affairs, his support of Israel, and his intention to choose conservative Supreme Court justices.

August 17â&#x20AC;&#x201C;30, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


Building

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Opposition to racism, support for Black Lives Matter, and rejection of a reckless policy toward North Korea were key themes of Mondayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s protest.

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CHRISTIAN MILES

One protester on Sunday asked Republicans when they will have had enough of Trump.

The march from the Public Library to Trump Tower was fronted by a â&#x20AC;&#x153;No Warâ&#x20AC;? banner.

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Vandeven, a 22-year-old Queens College student, said of the president. Another group of protestors, Rise and Resist, which took the lead in organizing the Monday protest, showed their displeasure by singing and clapping along to â&#x20AC;&#x153;Nasty Neo-Nazi,â&#x20AC;? to the tune of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Yankee Doodle Dandy,â&#x20AC;? and â&#x20AC;&#x153;Goodbye Donny,â&#x20AC;? adapted from â&#x20AC;&#x153;Hello Dolly.â&#x20AC;? The group drew attention not only to Trumpâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s failure to unambiguously denounce the racism displayed in Charlottesville, but also his tweets saying the American military is â&#x20AC;&#x153;locked and loadedâ&#x20AC;? should North Korea act unwisely. Rise and Resist is a direct action group that emerged after Trumpâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s surprise election last year. â&#x20AC;&#x153;In the wake of all this dangerous saber-rattling by the Republican Party, I feel itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s my duty to march and demand the hostile threats of war stop now,â&#x20AC;? said Maryellen Novak, a Manhattanite and Rise and Resist co-organizer of Mondayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s protest. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We are here to demonstrate a force of peace and love.â&#x20AC;? Rise and Resist had held an ear-

HOMECOMING, from p.8

rhetoric last week suggesting war with North Korea spurred demonstrators to spend more than four hours boisterously giving Trump a thumbâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s down on his homecoming. Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matters of Greater New York, was among the counterprotesters in Charlottesville and described what he encountered there. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It was warâ&#x20AC;Ś people throwing rocks at us, hitting us with pipes and sticks, and the police just standing there, doing nothing to separate or even help the group being attacked,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It was absolutely horrifying.â&#x20AC;? At the entrance to Central Park, a number of people dressed all in black held a mock funeral procession to mourn Heyerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s death. Twenty-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr., was arraigned on a second-degree murder charge, among others, in Virginia on Tuesday. â&#x20AC;&#x153;He is not doing anything to judge the supremacist that started the violence or even bring some solace to the Heyer family caused by this senseless attack,â&#x20AC;? Allison GayCityNews.nyc | August 17â&#x20AC;&#x201C;30, 2017

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OFFENSIVE, from p.7

Finally, the complaint also relies on what is called the equitable theory of estoppel, a court-created doctrine that protects a plaintiff’s reasonable reliance on the statements of the defendant. Here, the Defense Department told transgender people that they could serve openly “subject to the same rights, responsibilities, benefits, and opportunities as other service members.” Relying on that, many service members came out to their superiors and, in some cases, applied for transition-related health care coverage. “Plaintiffs have served honorably and successfully in the military since coming out as transgender, and their transgender status has not had any detrimental effect on their ability to serve or to fulfill their duties,” the complaint states, so they are entitled to protection from adverse consequences. The estoppel argument can have considerable weight. A quarter century ago, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals used it in ruling against the Army’s refusal to allow Perry Watkins to re-enlist. Watkins was an openly gay man who had enlisted during the Vietnam War and made a career in the Army, both as a valued supply officer and a celebrated drag performer! Though known to be gay, he was highly esteemed by his superiors and allowed to reenlist several times, until a new commander insisted on applying the anti-gay regulations and denying him further enlistment, at a time when he needed one more term of service to qualify for his pension. Having allowed Watkins to serve while knowing he was gay, the Army could not turn around and cut him off just shy of qualifying for his pension, the appeals court ruled. At that point, the Army reached a financial settlement with Watkins, who got his pension without being reinstated. The complaint challenges the “rationality” of the proposed change in policy because, even though some federal courts have recognized that gender identity discrimination is entitled to “heightened scrutiny” under due process and equal protection theories, the Supreme Court has not ruled on the question. This case was filed in the US District Court for the Dis-

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JUSTICEJEFFBOYD.ORG

A 2014 campaign ad for Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey S. Boyd, who wrote the astonishing opinion from June 30 asserting that the 2015 US Supreme Court ruling did not necessarily settle the question of whether same-sex spouses of Houston municipal workers deserve the same benefits as different-sex spouses.

trict of Columbia, within a circuit that does not have an appellate precedent on the issue of heightened scrutiny. The attorneys here are prepared to argue that even applying the most deferential level of judicial scrutiny — that a law or policy has a “rational” basis — the proposed Trump change is unconstitutional. Their preparedness on this point makes particular sense given the significant deference federal courts have traditionally given the Defense Department on personnel policy matters. That deference stymied opponents of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the years prior to its repeal. There is a good argument to be made that because the policy decision was dictated unilaterally by Trump, without any real consultation with military experts, and appears to have been motivated entirely by political concerns, it is not entitled to any deference by the courts and should be subjected to heightened scrutiny because of the serious equal protection and due process issues it raises. The government will likely argue that this lawsuit is premature given that no change in policy has been implemented. That would require, of course, a concession that Trump’s tweets do not constitute official government policy. Any admission that the policy is going to be implemented would undercut the government’s argument that the lawsuit is premature. And plaintiffs could argue that the potential for the policy imposes emotional and psychological burdens and is already disrupting their

military careers and, in some cases, their gender transitions. Volunteer lawyers from Foley Hoag LLP, in Boston, and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP, with offices in Boston, New York, and Washington, have joined with GLAD and NCLR on this complaint. Lambda’s Houston case was prompted by a politicallycharged June decision from the Texas Supreme Court to defy the US Supreme Court and revive litigation by two taxpayers there who are anti-gay activists contending that Texas law prevents the city of Houston from providing benefits to the same-sex spouses of its employees. The Texas court’s defiance took the form of intentionally misconstruing two US Supreme Court decisions, the 2015 Obergefell marriage equality ruling and the Pavan decision this year, regarding birth certificates in Arkansas. In Obergefell, the high court found that same-sex couples have a federal constitutional right to marry and to have their marriages recognized by the states. The ruling made clear that same-sex marriages are to be treated under the law the same as all other marriages. This point was reiterated in Pavan, where the court rejected Arkansas’ refusal to treat same-sex spouses the same as different-sex spouses when listing the parents on a birth certificate of a child born to a married woman. In Pavan, the court made clear, if further clarification were needed, that under Obergefell same-sex couples are entitled to

all the rights and benefits of marriage, without exception. The Houston litigation arose after the Supreme Court’s 2013 Windsor decision, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act provision barring the federal government from recognizing samesex marriages legal under state law on due process and equal protection grounds. That decision led Mayor Annise Parker to ask the city attorney for an opinion about whether Houston was required by the US Constitution to recognize same-sex marriages of its employees contracted in other states. Based on the attorney’s affirmative response, Parker administratively extended benefits to city employees’ same-sex spouses. At that point, Houston residents Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks, asserting taxpayer standing, ran into state court and won a preliminary injunction against the benefits policy from a trial judge who found their allegation that the mayor’s action violated Texas constitutional and statutory prohibitions plausible. The city appealed to the Texas Court of Appeals, which sat on the case while a lawsuit challenging the Texas marriage ban, DeLeon v. Perry, played out. The US district judge in that case ruled in favor of the same-sex marriage plaintiffs, and the state appealed to the Houston-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. When the US Supreme Court handed down the Obergefell ruling in June 2015, the Fifth Circuit issued a brief decision affirming the district court on the unconstitutionality of Texas’ marriage ban. In turn, the Texas Court of Appeals reversed the Houston trial court’s decision and sent the case back for disposition “consistent” with the Fifth Circuit’s DeLeon ruling. Pidgeon and Hicks appealed that ruling to the Texas Supreme Court, which initially denied review. However, the state’s leading Republican elected officials — including the governor, the lieutenant governor, and the attorney general — and local conservative anti-gay forces mounted a strident campaign to persuade the Texas Supreme Court, an elected body made up entirely of Republican judges, to change its mind.

OFFENSIVE, continued on p.11

August 17–30, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


OFFENSIVE, from p.10

Amazingly, the court did just that on June 30, asserting, quite implausibly, that the question whether Houston was obligated to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of its employees was not necessarily decided by Obergefell and Pavan. The ruling also exhibited the running tension between state and federal courts over interpreting the US Constitution. Technically, the only federal court whose interpretation of the US Constitution is binding on state courts is the Supreme Court. The Texas Supreme Court, in its disingenuous ruling, said that the Texas Court of Appeals should not have treated the Fifth Circuit’s DeLeon decision as a binding precedent, but merely as a possibly persuasive one. Since Texas never appealed the DeLeon decision to the US Supreme Court, it was argued, that court has never declared the Texas marriage ban unconstitutional. This conclusion is clearly inconsistent with the Pavan decision, which involved another state, Arkansas, that was also not directly involved in the Obergefell case. The Pavan ruling makes clear that the US Supreme Court’s interpretation of the federal Constitution is binding on all states, not just those that were directly involved in the case decided. When the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution, it is stating a uniform rule for the country. When the Supreme Court says that same-sex couples are entitled to the “full spectrum” of marital rights, that means everywhere in the US. As a result, contrary to the Texas Supreme Court’s finding, there should be no need for a trial court in Houston to continue considering whether the same-sex spouses of municipal workers qualify for benefits. The new lawsuit filed by Lambda on August 10 aims to short-circuit the process and get a quick declaration from the federal district court that any effort to treat the same-sex marriages of Houston employees differently from different-sex marriages violates the 14th Amendment, as clearly indicated by Obergefell, Pavan, and DeLeon. A federal court order to the city would take priority over anything GayCityNews.nyc | August 17–30, 2017

the state courts might do. Lambda represents three couples, each of whom is entitled to spousal benefits coverage. Noel Freeman, a division manager in the city’s Public Works and Engineering Department, married William Bradley Pritchett in Washington, DC, in 2010. Pritchett has health care coverage from his own employer, but relies on the city for vision coverage. Yadira Estrada, a Houston Police Department sergeant, married Jennifer Flores in Florida in 2013. Flores’ employer provides insurance, but it is more expensive and the coverage is less extensive than under the city’s benefits policy, which she relies on as they start a family. Ronald Reeser, a central network administrator for the city, married Vincent Oliver in Vancouver in 2008. Like Flores, Oliver works for a company that provides benefits, but the plan is more expensive and less extensive than city coverage. All three of the city employee plaintiffs enrolled their spouses for benefits shortly after Mayor Parker announced the new policy in 2013, so all clearly have legal standing to pursue their claims. Lambda’s legal theory is straightforward. Under Obergefell and Pavan, the city is obligated to treat the same-sex spouses of its employees the same as oppositesex spouses when it comes to providing employee benefits. The city cannot rely on the Texas marriage amendment or statutory bans on same-sex marriage because they are clearly unconstitutional under Obergefell. “The City can offer no important or compelling governmental interest as a public employer that would sufficiently justify providing different compensation packages to similarly situated, married employees solely because of the sex or sexual orientation of the employee,” the complaint reads. “Nor could the City justify demeaning and stigmatizing same-sex employees and spouses by denying them equal recognition of their marriages and access to family protection and benefits.” Lambda Legal is joined by volunteer attorneys from the Houston and Washington offices of Morgan Lewis & Bockius, LLP, in representing the plaintiffs.

Back to (Sunday) School! Adults, too. We invite you and your family to worship, learn and volunteer with us this fall. Our growing LGBTQ community is eager to welcome you.

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12

I

t hardly seems possible that after two years in national politics and a half-dozen years since he pulled his Obama birther outrage that Donald Trump can still shock us. And yet he can and does, with wearying regularity. Just a week ago, the focus of our alarm was his bellicosity toward North Korea. His “fire and fury” tweet shocked American allies, none more so than South Korea, and was, by all reports, done without the advice of “his generals,” as he’s so fond of referring to them. We have a 71-yearold wildly impulsive man with the instincts of a bully but no real understanding of war, diplomacy, or foreign affairs freelancing on a question of existential magnitude. This is the world we Americans now find ourselves in — and to which we are subjecting the rest of humankind. The president’s ludicrous and dangerous tough talk was no doubt prompted by frustration that the media won’t follow whatever narrative he’d like to see — and the manic sense within the White House that the topic of the day needs to be anything other than Russia. Our stomachs hadn’t yet settled from the rat-a-tat series of warmongering tweets when another self-inflicted crisis consumed the presidency — this one arguably showing Trump at his very worst (though that judgment is open to revision down the line). This past Friday night, an angry, brazen mob organized as Unite the Right — largely young men who alternately style themselves as altright activists, white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Nazis — marched through the campus of the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson, in the liberal enclave of Charlottesville. Carrying guns, Confederate flags, and swastikas — and, farcically, Tiki torches, as well — they chanted, “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil,” a phrase right out of Hitler’s play book. They also reveled in their racism, while holding their right arms aloft in the Nazi

salute. The following day, these thugs met counter-protesters on hand to reclaim Charlottesville for the cause of decency, and violent clashes ensued. Numerous counter-protesters described being assaulted with tear gas, rocks, and other crude weapons by the armed legions of the right, who in turn claimed they were attacked. After authorities declared a state of emergency, the two crowds were separated and the Unite the Right rally called off. Then, as the counter-protesters moved through the Charlottesville streets, a self-avowed Nazi admirer, James Alex Fields, Jr., a 20-year-old Ohio man, plowed his car into the crowd, killing 32-yearold Heather Heyer, one of the counter-protesters. Hours later, on vacation at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf resort, Trump faced reporters and said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.” The president paused, looked into the camera, and repeated, “On many sides.” The reaction to the moral ambiguity and false equivalency in Trump’s statement was harsh, drawing rebukes from the likes of Orrin Hatch, the conservative Republican Utah Senate veteran, and Florida’s Marco Rubio. The White House tried to do damage control, with unattributed statements emphasizing that, of course, the president opposes white supremacy and neo-Nazism. But, it wasn’t enough, and so on Monday, a tight-faced Trump marched out in front of the cameras and read the following from a teleprompter: “Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals, and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” It was yet still possible to believe the president had learned something from all this, but his withering Twitter attacks on an AfricanAmerican CEO who resigned his seat on a White House manufacturing advisory board over the tragedy signaled that Trump’s obstinance

would not go gentle into that good night. By Tuesday, we saw — as perhaps we never have before — the real Trump, as he ranted at the media in the lobby of Trump Tower that there was nothing wrong with his original statement on Charlottesville. Describing the crowd who had marched through the UVA campus with torches shouting racist and anti-Semitic chants, the president said, “If you look, they were people protesting very quietly the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. I am sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest… You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.” About the counter-protesters, demonstrating against racism and neoNazis, Trump said, “What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? Let me ask you this: What about the fact that they came charging, that they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do… And you had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that. But I’ll say it right now… I think there is blame on both sides.” There you have it — a statement that cheered both ex-KKK leader David Duke, who tweeted praise for Trump’s “honesty & courage,” and avowed white supremacist Richard Spencer, who texted that he was “really proud of him.” News sources are confirming what we would expect, that Steve Bannon, the alt-right senior strategist whom Reuters reports the president is “afraid” of firing, advised Trump not to come down too hard on the Charlottesville thugs. They’re his base, after all. His peeps. Which leaves every other Trump voter in the nation with a defi ning test of conscience: Is this a party you want to stay at? It is time to choose. There are not “many sides” here. August 17–30, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus

Of Racists, Rump, and Tiki Torches BY ED SIKOV

T

he hits, as they say, just keep on coming. Since the last Media Circus, Mad King Rump has ratcheted up his already inflammatory statements about a potential nuclear war with North Korea, which is of course led by the equally demented Kim Jong-un. Just think — the two men with the most ridiculous haircuts on Planet Earth will be responsible for its destruction. I haven’t thought so much about being vaporized by an atom bomb since I was in fi rst grade, when my elementary school ran a test to determine how fast we could all make it safely home in the event that Russian A-bombs would rain down from the skies over our little steel mill town in western Pennsylvania. That way we’d all be turned to ash in the loving but equally ashen arms of our mothers instead of on school property; Fairmount Elementary School thus could not be held liable for damages, as it would be if the school district employed the old “duck and cover” strategy that

would have kept us under our little desks at the time of detonation. We returned to school in the afternoon and reported our times: “Jimmy?” “Three minutes.” “Linda?” “Five minutes.” “Billy?” “Two minutes.” “Eddie?” “Fourteen minutes.” A hush fell over the classroom as everyone — including me — thought to themselves, “Eddie’s gonna die.” But enough about my carefree childhood. We now know that we’re all going to die! The 163,000 residents of Guam will apparently be the fi rst to go up in a mushroom cloud of smoke. Fox News, always fair and balanced, initially announced on a graphic, “Total Americans affected: 3,831,” when of course all 163,000 Guamanians — yes, that’s what they are named — are as American as anyone who writes the shit they broadcast on Fox News is, Guam being an American territory and all. As Gene Park reports on washingtonpost.com, “The video was later updated, labeling them as active-duty U.S. troops. The other lives? Ignored. But at least

the video is a bit more honest about the focus.” Bloomberg News and other media outlets reported that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the press, “It could escalate into war very quickly — yes, that’s called war. If they shoot at the United States, I’m assuming they hit the United States — if they do that, then it’s ‘game on.’” While it was most helpful of “Mad Dog” Mattis to defi ne the word “war” for anyone unfamiliar with the term, it’s disconcerting that the defense secretary thinks that “game” is an appropriate way to characterize nuclear Armageddon. In other news, an unsigned Associated Press story on businessinsider.com reports the following incident: “A Massachusetts police department is investigating a Facebook post by a policeman who wrote ‘Hahahaha love this’” in response to the story of the neo-Nazi from Ohio who crashed his car into counterprotesters at the white supremacist riot in Charlottesville, killing one person and injuring 19 others. Officer Conrad Lariviere wrote in response to the violence: “Hahahaha love this, maybe people shouldn’t block road ways.” Charming. Almost as endearing is Lariv-

iere’s response to getting caught and being exposed as a racist: “I am not a racist,” the good officer stated. Oh, really? Could’a fooled me. It’s denials like this that provoked the opening of a Twitter account with the handle @YesYoureRacist, which has set out to identify the Charlottesville neoNazis by name through cell phone photos taken at the scene. While I’m a bit discomfited by the ample possibility of misidentification (after all, don’t all white people look more or less the same?), in the many cases in which @YesYoureRacist gets it right, I say the bastards deserve whatever comes their way. Meanwhile, Tweeter-in-Chief Rump began his day the Monday after the Charlottesville riot with the tweet, “Heading to Washington this morning. Much work to do. Focus on trade and military. #MAGA” (What is MAGA, you may be asking. It’s shorthand for “Make America Great Again.”) As businessinsider.com put it, “The president on Saturday decried the ‘display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides,’ seeming to equally condemn the counterprotesters gathered to oppose the white nationalists.” Why do so many people insist

TORCHES, continued on p.39

PERSPECTIVE: The Long View

The Worst Elements Trump Just Can’t Quit BY NATHAN RILEY

I

n raising the alarm about the threat of Islamist terrorism, President Donald Trump had perhaps no more potent symbol of its randomness than images of vehicles plowing into unsuspecting innocent crowds in Western European cities. But the terrorist incident that struck Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend was not the work of a Muslim extremist, it was carried out by 20-year-old Ohio man who might well have been one of his voters. James Alex Fields, Jr., a selfGayCityNews.nyc | August 17–30, 2017

styled Nazi, is also somebody who has violently threatened his mother. On numerous occasions, Samantha Bloom, described as a paraplegic and confi ned to a wheelchair, called police out of fear of her son. Fields now faces the possibility of many years behind bars if convicted of killing 32-yearold Heather Heyer and injuring more than 19 others, who found themselves on the scene because of their belief that all humans are created equal. Opposition to that fundamental principle was the unifying idea behind the Unite The

Right riot in Charlottesville. Addled white people — the bulk of them appearing to be young men — turned out in the liberal college town to shout their certitude that they are superior to blacks, to Jews, to immigrants, to Muslims, to queers. In their brazen exuberance, there was little indication they understood that governments advocating their ideology had literally been crushed throughout history. Hitler’s Germany and the South’s Confederacy, each after years of hideous violent confl ict, found themselves no match for the united wrath of people fi ghting, no matter how imperfectly, for the cause of humanity. In accepting unconditional surrender, both the Third Reich and the Confederacy forfeited the right to govern in a civilized

world. In what was surely a stupid move, this past weekend’s racists mixed swastikas with their beloved Confederate Flag and so dealt a devastating blow to their cause of preserving statues glorifying the slave owners willing to break up the Union so they might hold on to their chattel. Slavery’s use of violent terrorism to control human beings was thus underscored, and the illegitimacy of the “it’s our tradition” argument broadcast far and wide. The weekend also exposed the mortal threat facing a Republican Party that continues to cosign its president’s divisiveness. Immediately seeing this new danger, prominent GOP lead-

CAN’T QUIT, continued on p.39

13


PRIVACY

Anonymity Accorded for Legal Name, Gender Changes Indiana appeals court rules dangers in “outing” trans people outweigh public notice regs BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

C

oncluding that enforcing a statute requiring that transgender name changes be published would result in a dangerous “outing” of the applicants, a threejudge panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals unanimously reversed two rulings by the Tippecanoe Circuit Court. The panel, on August 10, ruled that the publication requirement should be waived. The court also ruled that the circuit judge erred in requiring that an intent to seek a change of gender marker on a birth certificate, not specifically required by Indiana law, also be published. State law provides that anybody applying for a name change must publish their intention to do so in a general circulation newspaper, but an administrative regulation gives courts discretion to waive that requirement if the applicant’s health or safety would be threatened. In such cases, court records related to the name change can also be sealed. The August 10 ruling involves two applicants, identified by the court as A.L. and L.S., both transgender men seeking to change their official records. In May 2016, A.L. filed a petition for a name change, having published his intent to do so in a newspaper, and the trial court granted his petition. He had been living as a man for two years at that point, according to the Court of Appeals opinion by Judge John Baker. At his name change hearing, A.L. asked to have his birth certificate’s gender marker changed. The judge instructed him to publish that intention and scheduled a subsequent hearing. A.L. then hired a lawyer, who filed a motion arguing that the law does not require him to publish his gender marker change. The circuit court judge, however, rejected that motion, even though he acknowledged that A.L. was acting in good faith without any fraudulent intent and had presented evidence that “transgender individuals are dis-

GayCityNews.nyc | August 17–30, 2017

proportionately subject to violence based on their status as transgender individuals.” A.L. fell short in failing to show that he “is personally at increased risk for violence (other than as a general member of the transgender community),” the judge found. Such specific evidence was necessary, the trial judge argued, because if a general waiver were applied, it could increase the potential for fraud “in that individuals might be able to seek multiple gender changes in attempts to avoid identification by creditors, governmental actors, or other aggrieved parties without those parties having an opportunity to object or even be aware of said changes.” As a result, the judge went beyond the statutory requirement, in concluding that the public interest demands the publication of both name changes and gender identification changes. Even while conceding the burden imposed by “forc[ing] well-meaning and potentially vulnerable individuals to address intimate and personal issues central to their personal identity in the harsh public light of open court,” the judge asserted that this is common to anybody seeking “court intervention in the most personal areas of their lives.” He noted that “open” and “transparent” court proceedings are a preference “well established in American jurisprudence.” L.S. filed his petition for change of name and gender last September in the same circuit court and encountered the same response. Having published no notice of his intentions, L.S. was rebuffed by the judge. According to Judge Baker’s opinion for the Court of Appeals, the trial judge repeated much the same arguments he had made in response to A.L.’s petition. The two cases were consolidated for appeal, and the Court of Appeals totally rejected the trial judge’s reasoning. First, the court pointed out that authority to change gender markers on birth certificates stemmed from its own 2014 ruling — not from Indiana law governing name changes

— relying on a statute authorizing the state’s health department to “make additions to or corrections in a certificate of birth on receipt of adequate documentary evidence.” The 2014 Court of Appeals ruling noted that “the vast majority of states” allowed such changes. “It was erroneous to create a requirement where none exists,” Baker wrote. So long as a request is made in good faith and without fraudulent or unlawful purpose — as was found to be true with both L.S. and A.L. — “no further requirements need to be met,” the Court of Appeals found. Regarding the name change, the court said, the question was whether the trial court should have waived the statutory publication requirement. “The rule seeks to balance, among other things, the risk of injury to individuals with the promotion of accessibility to court records as well as governmental transparency,” Baker wrote, factors that also apply to having a court record sealed. Baker then summarized the evidence L.S. had presented about violence against transgender people, including the significant percentage who had responded to surveys showing harassment at the workplace and in school as well as physical assaults. L.S. also testified about a transgender friend who had been brutally assaulted on the street, and he pointed to the discrimination he himself faced in seeking a work internship because the way he was identified on his So-

cial Security card did not “match” how he appeared. L.S. “testified that he believes that if information about his transgender status became public, he would be ‘at great risk of potential harm,’” according to Baker’s opinion. Even though the trial judge considered this evidence credible, he denied the request to waive the publication requirement or seal the record because he found that L.S. had not specifically shown that there was an individualized risk to himself, as opposed to the generalized risk to the transgender community as a whole. The Court of Appeals, noting all the evidence that the trial judge had given credence to, disagreed with this conclusion. “Publication of his birth name and new name would enable members of the general public to seek him out, placing him at a significant risk of harm.,” Baker wrote. “And in today’s day and age, information that is published in a newspaper is likely to be published on the Internet, where it will remain in perpetuity, leaving L.S. at risk for the rest of his life. There was no evidence in opposition to L.S.’s evidence.” Sending the cases back to the Tippecanoe Circuit Court, the Court of Appeals ruled that L.S. should receive his name change without making public notice of it, that his case should be sealed, and that both petitioners should be allowed to have their birth certificates amended, again without public notice.

eee5Og1Wbg<Sea\gQ 17


HOMECOMING, from p.9

lier demonstration outside Trump Tower on Sunday evening. On Monday, roughly 1,500 demonstrators spanning two Midtown blocks marched from the main branch of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street toward Trump Tower at 56th Street — though via Sixth Avenue — with a “No War” banner carried by those on the front lines. Their “No War, No Hate” signs served to deliver two messages at once: the demand that talk of nuclear war be deescalated immediately and that the administration become proactive in challenging racism in the US. Shouts of “Black and trans lives matter” echoed against window panes on the Sixth Avenue towers, and the procession stopped briefly near the Fox News headquarters, where protesters shouted, “No hate, no bigotry, no more white supremacy.” The well-publicized welcome home protest was attended by many with no affiliation to any specific group. Brooklynite Sean Collins carried a sign saying, “White

CHRISTIAN MILES CHRISTIAN MILES

Police maintained order around Trump Tower with extensive barricading.

silence equals death.” He explained, “Despite the advice of family members, I came out to make my voice heard. It’s up to white people in this country to stand up for injustices done to other groups of people. We have to come together to take up one common cause.” The scene was not devoid of the president’s supporters, with about two dozen of them stationed two blocks away from Trump Tower chanting, “God bless President Trump.” They carried American flags and signs that read, “Now is not the time for divisiveness.” “I’m here to support the man

I voted for and will change this country, making it great again,” said Heshy Freedman, a Manhattan resident who is part of the group Jews for Trump. Freedman said he supports the president because he believes he will change the composition of the Supreme Court to make it more conservative, lend more support to Israel, and talk tough to countries like North Korea that threaten American freedom and security. Though protesters on both sides briefly skirmished, police quickly pinned each group behind barricades, as those in support of Trump continued yelling, “God

Rise and Resist members in front of Trump Tower on Monday evening.

bless President Trump,” and the other side shouted back, “Go home Nazi, go home.” The protest was largely peaceful, though at one instance a Trump supporter was hit by a bottle of water. Police tried to chase the attacker but he disappeared into the crowd. According to police, three people were arrested. “We are at a crossroads of time,” said Barry Zable, a performance artist and activist. “War costs the earth. It’s time for people to raise their consciousness, pursue peace and mitigation not matter what side you’re on.”

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EDUCATION

Court Must Decide If Gavin Grimm’s Case Is Moot Fourth Circuit sends trans student bathroom issue back to district judge BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

I

n what could signal a disappointing end to a remarkable battle for transgender equality, the Richmondbased Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has announced that instead of holding oral argument in Gavin Grimm’s lawsuit challenging the Gloucester County, Virginia, School Board’s bathroom access policy, it is sending the case back to the district court to determine whether the young man’s recent graduation from high school makes the case moot. The three-judge panel had tentatively scheduled an oral argument for September to consider yet again whether District Judge Robert G. Doumar erred when he dismissed Grimm’s Title IX sex discrimination claim, but on August 2 it said more fact-finding by the district court about whether appellate jurisdiction has ended is necessary. Grimm’s mother filed suit on his behalf against the school board in July 2015, the summer before his junior year, alleging that the board’s policy of requiring students to use restrooms based on their biological sex rather than their gender identity violated Grimm’s right to be free of sex discrimination protected under both Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. In September of that year, Doumar ruled in favor of the school board’s motion to dismiss the Title IX claim, reserved judgment on the 14th Amendment constitutional claim, and denied Grimm’s motion for a preliminary injunction to allow him to use the boys’ bathrooms as he appealed the Title IX dismissal. While the case was pending before Doumar, the Obama administration filed a joint statement from the Justice and Education Departments supporting Grimm’s claim that barring him from using the boys’ bathrooms violated Title IX, finding that anti-transgender discrimination was necessarily sex discrimination. In April of last year, the Fourth Circuit focused on the federal agencies’ statement and found that Doumar GayCityNews.nyc | August 17–30, 2017

DONNA ACETO

Gavin Grimm, at an American Civil Liberties Union event in New York last summer.

should have deferred to it. In response, Doumar, last June, issued the preliminary injunction Grimm had sought, which would have guaranteed him access to appropriate bathroom facilities during his final year in high school. Even though both Doumar and the Fourth Circuit refused the school board’s motion that they stay the injunction pending its appeal, the Supreme Court did issue a stay prior to the start of school last fall. The high court was scheduled to take up the school board’s appeal on March 28, but after President Donald Trump took office his attorney general and education secretary, Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos, on February 22, withdrew the Obama policy on Title IX’s applicability to transgender students. The Trump administration asserts that the question is best decided at the state and local level, despite the issue being one of federal statutory interpretation. The Supreme Court reacted to the new Trump administration posture by cancelling the oral argument, vacating the Fourth Circuit’s decision about deferring to a nowdefunct federal government policy, and sending the case back to the Fourth Circuit to address the mer-

its of Grimm’s appeal of Doumar’s original ruling. The Gloucester County School Board now argues the case is moot given that Grimm has graduated. While Grimm asserts his possible “future attendance at alumni and school-community events” there give him a continuing concrete interest in resolving the issue he raised, the board says the question of alumni bathroom access — on which it made no commitment one way or the other — is not before the court. The matter of a “concrete interest” is critical since courts do not have jurisdiction unless there is an “actual case or controversy” between the parties. “Thus,” wrote the court, “a crucial threshold question arises in this appeal whether ‘one or both of the parties plainly lack a continuing interest’ in the resolution of this case such that it has become moot.” Doumar, then, will not be ruling on the merits of the case, but should he conclude it is moot, Grimm could appeal that. If the district judge instead returns the case to the Fourth Circuit for a ruling on whether the Title IX claim was appropriately dismissed,

it may yet provide a vehicle for the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Right Project and the ACLU Foundation of Virginia, which represent Grimm, to get this issue back before the Supreme Court. This issue is also being litigated in other places, in some cases involving elementary school students, and it is possible that one of the other cases will get far enough along to knock at the Supreme Court’s door long before the plaintiff has graduated. On May 30, the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, in Whitaker v. Kenosha (Wisconsin) Unified School District, that Title IX prohibits a public school from refusing to let transgender students use bathrooms appropriate for their gender identity. That is the ruling Grimm and the ACLU would like out of the Fourth Circuit. The Republican Congress could conceivably intervene by amending Title IX to explicitly exclude transgender students from protection under its sex discrimination provisions — but that is unlikely so long as the Senate filibuster rule remains in place. So it’s likely the issue will one day get to the Supreme Court, with or without Gavin Grimm’s pioneering participation.

23


YOUTH

Changing Times, But the Pier Remains Queer youth talk about why Christopher Street retains its pull BY REBECCA WHITE

D

uring discussions over the past several years about the possibility that the West Village Church of St. Luke in the Fields might build a new “mission center” for an LGBTQ youth drop-in center at Hudson and Christopher Streets, one prominent critic of the idea — David Poster, head of the Christopher Street Patrol volunteer anti-crime group — said the facility really wasn’t needed anymore because queer youth no longer come to the area in the numbers they did even a decade ago. It is true that LGBTQ youth now have a visibility across the city they didn’t traditionally enjoy, making the West Village less of a critical refuge than it once might have been. One young person interviewed for this story, in fact, asserted that the new LGBTQ youth scene is centered in Bushwick. But a recent visit to the Christopher Street pier in the Hudson River Park made clear that for many queer youth the West Village retains its allure — as a venue to meet and mingle, to chill, to find romance, or to just make new friends. AARON WIGGINS, 24, works at Jivamukti Yoga School, at 841 Broadway near Union Square, and is an aerial circus-arts dancer. Originally from Texas, he moved to New York City in 2011 for college, studying ballet at Marymount Manhattan. REBECCA WHITE: How long have you been coming to the Christopher Street Pier? AARON WIGGINS: This is actually the first time at this pier. I’ve been to piers nearby, but I’ve never been to this one. R.W.: Do you come to Christopher Street often? A.W.: I come around every now and then. It’s like a lot of gay people. R.W.: Do you feel more comfortable here than other places in New York?

24

REBECCA WHITE

Aaron Wiggins said growing up as a ballet dancer helped make coming out easier.

A.W.: I do feel a little more comfortable in this area. I live in West Harlem where gay people are not as common, but I feel very accepted in that neighborhood, as well. R.W.: What has been your best experience at this pier? A.W.: This may not even make the article, but I got cruised at this pier already. It’s very common at piers. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, it was like way more common, from what I know of history and articles. R.W.: Where did that happen? A.W.: In the bathroom. But still… it’s like, come on. I’m on the phone with my therapist and it’s like happening. I’m just like, “Oh my God.” R.W.: What was your response to that? Did you ignore it? A.W.: I ignored. I was on the phone. It’s not my first time. I used to work in the nightclubs, so, I get it. It’s like, “All right, come on.” R.W.: When did you come out? A.W.: I was 16. R.W.: Was it hard? A.W.: I think I was lucky because I grew up a ballet dancer, and so it’s like, the odds are… And my parents never had any qualms about it, even with me being from Texas. There was never any issue, so I was lucky with that. R.W.: Do you think Christopher Street could use an LGBTQ drop-in

REBECCA WHITE

Amy Igarashi said that, nowadays, “queer culture has become more prominent and people are more accepting.”

center? A.W.: I think it’s a good idea mainly just because of whatever Trump’s doing right now. It’s like, are you kidding me? He’s like moving us backwards. If it was different, I would say maybe it’s not as important, but… who knows where we’re headed? I think we should have something, for sure. Especially for youth. I’m 24, but I feel like I’ve already kind of crossed the point where it’s like really tricky. I’ve already made it this far. With all my friends and family, I’m accepted.

AMY IGARASHI, 19, bisexual, sophomore astronomy major at San Diego State University in her home town. She was visiting New York City for the weekend. R.W.: Why did you come to the Christopher Street Pier today? AMY IGARASHI: Just chillin’ with my friends. R.W.: Do you feel comfortable here? A.I.: I feel like coming here. I feel more comfortable expressing myself as like more towards… like less as a cis-hetero person, I guess. And it’s, like, a pretty liberal city. R.W.: So how do you identify? A.I.: I would identify as — like, a lot of people say — bi or, I think, kind of like on the bi/ pansexual spectrum. More like I don’t really have a preference. It’s a hard question.

Most broadly, I would identify as like pan. I feel, for me, that sexuality is kind of fluid. It really depends on the point I’m at in my life, but also I feel like I have been attracted to women. But also woman’s a broad term. I’m just open to anything. R.W.: Are you single at the moment? Do you have a girlfriend or boyfriend? A.I.: I’m currently single. R.W.: When did you come out? A.I.: I feel like that’s kind of a hard question. A lot of people say, “What is coming out, really?” Is it telling your close friends or just do you really have to tell the whole world that you’re out? For me, there hasn’t been like a coming-out thing. I’ve just, like, been more, like, open about it with a few people in my life. I have queer friends that I’ve definitely talked to about our own queerness and stuff. And there are people who are bi-curious that I know. And when sometimes people come out to me, and I’m like, okay, like, cool. I fall under that umbrella, too. R.W.: Have you gotten more comfortable with your identity over time? A.I.: I think the older I got the more comfortable I felt. And also I feel like queer culture, in general, has, like, really become more prominent, I guess. People are more accepting now. When I was younger,

THE PIER, continued on p.25

August 17–30, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


THE PIER, from p.24

that concept wasn’t even there. I didn’t even know it was possible to be anything more than straight. R.W.: When did you first feel comfortable talking about it your sexual identity? A.I.: Maybe, like, freshman year of college, which would be around 17, 18. REBECCA WHITE

CHELSEA ALLISON, 18, bisexual, just finished high school on Long Island, where she lives in a town she didn’t want to name. She plans to attend the New School this fall as a freshman. R.W.: Is this your first time on the pier? CHELSEA ALLISON: This is my third time. R.W.: What’s the best experience you’ve had out here? Do you feel more comfortable here than other places? C.A.: Yeah, the pier’s a cool place. I think this would probably be the best time we’ve come. It’s a bunch of us, and we just had some girl talk. It’s a pretty open area. It’s nice. Not a lot of congestion of people. For the most part, it’s a really calm atmosphere. R.W.: How old were you when you came out? C.A.: I came out to my mom the past year and a half. My dad’s pretty recent — about two weeks ago. Yeah. So, that’s an experience. I think the hardest part is understanding where the stigma comes from and understanding that it comes from such a place of fear. That’s what it was. My dad, especially. He’s a retired correction officer, and then just the stigma of homosexuality in the prisons and how that was perpetrated there. And then him coming home and him having his own ideas about what it meant to be a queer body living now in this time and age and my own experience — how those two have collided, almost. It’s been really difficult, but we’re getting there. R.W.: How old were you when you came out to your mom? C.A.: 16.

GayCityNews.nyc | August 17–30, 2017

Chelsea Allison talked about the challenges with her family since coming out, adding, “but we’re getting there.”

R.W.: Would you support the idea of a drop-in center nearby here on Christopher Street? C.A.: Yes. That’s definitely a necessity that the community needs, just because it’s so common for queer voices to always be stepped on, or for plans to always just fall through. It never works out. So, I think having that and having that place, that stability for people to come and feel welcomed and be able to be themselves is a necessity, and it’s something the community needs. R.W.: Do you feel that, if there was a drop-in center around here, you would ever need to use it? C.A.: Of course… because at the end of the day, while I’m a person and I’m living life, I’m also a queer person. Because certain times there are certain experiences that you have one day that just kind of mess up your whole day and you just might need a place to go to get stable for a second. And that could be one of those places. And to have that would be fantastic.

ROBIN OWENS, 20, sophomore at New York University, works at a Soho pharmacy, models, lives in the East Village. Originally from Richmond, Virginia, she’s been coming to the pier for slightly more than a year — every few weeks with friends. R.W.: Why did you come out here today? Do you come to the Christopher Street Pier a lot? ROBIN OWENS: Yeah. Especially my freshman year. I lived right on Fifth Avenue, and so I’d come here with friends, kind of a place to hang out, I guess, and smoke and get away from the campus and the park. Today was just, we were at Washington Square Park trying to

REBECCA WHITE

“You come out in little ways every single day,” Robin Owens said.

kill some time. So, we just decided to skate down here. R.W.: When was the first time you came down to Christopher Street and the pier? R.O.: The first time was I think in April 2016. R.W.: Do you feel more comfortable, in general, on Christopher Street? R.O.: I think, in general, New York is a really safe place… Ever since coming to New York, it’s been the biggest relief off my chest and my shoulders because people are way less judgmental and just don’t care. Being up here, it’s more that I have felt relief and comfort in my identity. R.W.: How do you identify and when did you come out? R.O.: I would say I identify as bisexual. I’ve known since I was pretty young… 10 or 11. But, I definitely never felt comfortable being out at home in Virginia. It’s a stifling place to be. So, ever since coming to NYU, I’ve been out here since my first day. It was like always a non-issue. As soon as I came here, I felt very comfortable. I was 18. R.W.: Did you come out earlier to any family or friends? R.O.: Yeah, I had come out to, like, my close friends and a couple of people in my family. I was 16. But it was kind of something that I really was uncomfortable with just because people, especially being bisexual, it’s like very different. People seem to understand now, like in Virginia, being gay. They can at least wrap their minds around that. But being bisexual is kind of a different story, because you don’t necessarily fit into a mold. Especially being a bisexual woman, there’s always this

idea that you’re doing it for a man’s attention or that you’re lying about it. R.W.: Or that you just haven’t figured it out yet? R.O.: Yeah, that you just want to, like, make out with girls. That’s always the stigma that I kind of felt in Virginia. I ended up meeting so many people here who identify as LGBT or were in an LGBT community that it made me way more comfortable being open about it, talking about it, not being uncomfortable making comments, sharing with people, making jokes about it. It’s kind of like you come out in little ways every single day. It’s not like you come out once and you have some tattoo on your head that says, like, “bisexual.” You come out every time somebody says, “Oh, you’re into girls.” R.W.: Would you support the idea of having an LGBTQ drop-in center on Christopher Street? R.O.: I would be really in support. I’ve had a lot of friends whose families have been very unaccepting of the fact. And I think that when you live in a city like this — especially me coming from a school like NYU, it’s a very expensive school — so, you don’t really see that side. You really only see the LGBT parties and people having fun and the sexual side. I think, a lot of times, it’s easy to forget that it’s not as easy for everybody and there are so many LGBT youth that don’t come from these affluent families and they’re struggling. I think it’s easy to put that out of your mind when it seems like, “Oh, times have changed,” yet the area is getting more gentrified. There is a reason why we don’t see it as much. But just because we don’t see it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not there.

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FILM

Eroticism and Shame in a Male Ritual Nakhane Touré shines in John Trengove’s story set among South Africa’s Xhosa BY GARY M. KRAMER ut director/ co-writer John Trengove’s remarkable feature debut, “The Wound,” opens with Xolani (openly gay musician Nakhane Touré, in an astonishing performance) leaving his Johannesburg factory job to head out to the mountains in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. There, he will be a caregiver for Kwanda (Niza Jay Ncoyini), a “soft” (read queer) initiate in a manhood ritual involving circumcision. Xolani, however, is more interested in reconnecting with his lover, Vija (Bongile Mantsai), another caregiver, who does not identify as gay. “The Wound” is compelling because Trengove deftly captures shifts in power and shadings in sexuality as Vija toys with Xolani’s affections and tangles with Kwanda, who is on to his games. Trengove spoke with Gay City News about his film’s depiction of manhood rituals and homosocial bonding, as well as pride, shame, and power.

THE WOUND

O

GARY M. KRAMER: What fascinated you about the Xhosa culture and manhood rituals? JOHN TRENGOVE: Like many men of my generation, I don’t know that I am a man. What does that mean? I’m getting older and I’m still grappling with where do I fit in and how should I behave? That there is a ritual that has a community of men showing a young boy his place in the world of men is for me — having never experienced anything like that — a potent and interesting idea. Before “The Wound” existed, I was fascinated with the initiation for that reason. GMK: I admire how you portray isolation and homosocialization in the film. This is a very masculine community, and the queer characters are continually ostracized. Can you discuss this? JT: I think that is what this rite of passage is really about — realigning the identity in a community of men. The thing for me

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Directed by John Trengove Kino Lorber In Xhosa with English subtitles Aug. 16-29 Film Forum 209 W. Houston St. filmforum.org

KINO LORBER

Softness and feeling need to be repressed and not seen, and if it is seen it has to be violently repressed or stopped. Those were the connections I was working with. A lot of it came out of research in Xhosa language. With certain expressions, softness and homosexuality are equated, and men disconnected or drifted away from their traditional culture are “soft.”

Bongile Mantsai and Nakhane Touré in John Trengove’s “The Wound.”

that is so potent about Xolani’s experience is that he occupies this strange double standard — he is accepted and integrated in the patriarchal organism, but is also oppressed and ostracized by it. Those contradictory things sit together in an unspoken way. If Xolani doesn’t express his inner life and feeling or say certain things or feelings, his homosexuality is tolerated. A blind eye is turned. When the ideas start finding expression, the system can no longer hold and he is ostracized. GMK: What observations do you have about creating the film’s three protagonists and their interactions? JT: It’s something that evolved organically. There was no explicit design. Looking back on it, they are all outsiders struggling with this idea of a masculine ideal and reacting differently. Kwanda subverts and rejects it. Xolani submits to it, and Vija turns it in to hypermasculine theater, he exaggerates it. They are all reacting to the same thing. The dynamic between Xolani and Vija is a love story, and I think that the mutual love is, in fact,

very strong. But Vija chooses to repress his deeper feelings, and that is convenient — it gives him a position of power. In the course of the story, as Xolani pushes him and the status quo, some of his stronger emotions bubble to the surface. What’s significant is that the only way he knows how to react to these feelings is through violence. As much as Kwanda outwardly rejects the society, he craves it as well. As a white middle class outsider and a gay man, I invested the character of Kwanda with my ideas… I see the story like a virus. There’s an organism that is imperfect but functional, and along comes this virus that enters and challenges the organism. You think the cells will be transformed, but they reject it. GMK: There are many issues of pride and shame in the film. Can you talk about how you wanted to explore these themes vis-à-vis masculinity and sexuality? JT: I think that there is something in the idea of softness in the culture that is equated with shame and feelings about not being masculine or male enough, and that the ritual toughens up young men.

GMK: Many scenes have either a homoerotic quality to them or are fraught with danger. Can you talk about the tone of “The Wound?” JT: It started with it being set in an all-male universe, which is very attractive to me because something allegorical happens in that moment where one gender is isolated. You move into metaphor and non-literal expression. You read signs and moments. The other thing for me is that the film is strong with the ritual about doing. It’s not about thinking about things but demonstrating who you are through what you do. It was always about finding ways of showing the undercurrents, the erotic tensions under the surface of the physical activity, the woodcutting, the fighting. Also, in this all-male space, I had a real opportunity to explore the full range of experience within the company of men — power plays, politics, intimacy, and sexuality. There’s a rich range of experience in the film and true of male-only communities. A lot of these moments have more value. There is violence and power play in the sex, and at all times sex is an opportunity to express the subtext of the relationship. August 17–30, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | August 17â&#x20AC;&#x201C;30, 2017

27


FILM

Boardwalk Boys Harris Dickinson is the brilliant, conflicted center of Eliza Hittman’s stunning “Beach Rats” BY GARY M. KRAMER rankie (Harris Dickinson), the main character in writer/ director Eliza Hittman’s phenomenal drama “Beach Rats,” doesn’t think of himself as gay but regularly cruises Brooklyn gay chat rooms. He cloaks himself in darkness on his webcam but is often persuaded to show more of his face and body. When Frankie wants to convince a guy online to expose himself, he has trouble saying what he knows he wants — but eventually manages to get the words out. His conflicts form the backbone of this absorbing character study. Hittman brings no judgment but tremendous intimacy to her look at Frankie at a critical juncture in his life. She is less interested in telling a coming-out story than in exploring the Janus-faced nature of a broke, bored, and horny guy. Frankie moves from a homosocial world hanging out with his hand-

BEACH RATS

F

Directed by Eliza Hittman Neon Opens Aug. 25 Landmark Sunshine Cinema 143 E. Houston St., btwn. First & Second Aves. landmarktheatres.com Film Society of Lincoln Center 144-165 W. 65th St. filmlinc.org NEON

Harris Dickinson (in profile) in Eliza Hittman’s powerful “Beach Rats,” which opens at Landmark Sunshine and the Film Society of Lincoln Center on August 25.

ball buddies, Jesse (Anton Selyaninov), Nick (Frank Hakaj), and Alexei (David Ivanov), to the furtive space online where he can explore his same-sex desires. Of course, these two worlds will collide. The filmmaker coaxes an exceptional performance from Dickinson, who is onscreen in just about every scene. The British actor, who has a commanding presence, is convinc-

ing as a working-class Brooklynite — sexy and moody and able to communicate Frankie’s thoughts and emotions through the blankest of expressions. His vacant stares speak volumes about his anxieties and internal conflicts. “Beach Rats” is focused more on mood than plot, which works in its favor. The film’s look is textured — whether in showing the shirtless

buff boys, the plumes of smoke exhaled in a vape shop they frequent, or in Frankie simply sitting in the rain at a particularly downbeat moment. Hittman captures the rhythms and tactile sensations of the Coney Island boardwalk with aplomb, bringing authenticity to the noise of arcade games and even to the feel of the waves when Frankie and his pals, in their underwear, jump around in the ocean

BEACH RATS, continued on p.29

An Assignment Secured, A Life Transformed The composer for Robert Altman’s ‘3 Women’ looks back and ahead BY GERALD BUSBY n April 1976, when I was 41 years old, my life was in the tempestuous and exhilarating stages of becoming a composer. Still, I was anxiously riddled about what to do next. At the time, I was living with my boyfriend, Rafe Blasi, in a loft on Seventh Avenue and West 27th Street, just opposite the Fashion Institute of Technology. A giant metal trash container, used to collect debris from a building being demolished, stood at the curb just outside our front door. It was filled with arms, legs, and torsos from dismembered manikins and epitomized an only-in-New York scene. People walking by would reach into

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the pile of plastic limbs, pull out an arm or a leg, look it over, then toss it back into the container with a look of disdain. Rafe and I considered assembling a pile of arms and legs near the large windows at the front of our loft as an homage to the fashion industry. Rafe was a unit publicist for movies that were about to open. He wrote press releases and arranged screenings for critics. He knew other public relations people in the movie industry, including Robert Altman’s full-time publicist, Mike Kaplan. Altman in the late ’70s was writing, directing, and producing three films a year and selling them FILMLINC.ORG

3 WOMEN, continued on p.29

Shelley Duvall in Robert Altman’s “3 Women.”

August 17–30, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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BEACH RATS, from p.28

and to the smell of hotdogs. In his claustrophobic house and at the seedy motel and dark beach dunes at night where he meets his sex partners, the environments surrounding Frankie and the other characters inform the stories of lives lived on the margins. Frankie meets Simone (Madeline Weinstein) at the Coney Island fireworks and takes her home, where she makes clear she wants to have sex. He doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and takes an easy way out, saying he is too wasted when she strips off his shorts and finds him limp. Frankie then mocks her, rudely, angering her, but he later apologizes and takes her out on a real date. But he continues cruising for men and meeting them, and despite his macho swagger, he plays the bottom in these encounters. Preoccupied with the chat rooms, Frankieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s relationship with Simone suffers. Dating Simone is a cover for Frankieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s queer desires, and insecurities keep him from coming out. Behind his cocky façade, he is scared and unmoored â&#x20AC;&#x201D; out of school, without a job or any money, and with no real thoughts about the future. His whole life in front of him, all Frankie wants to do is get high and escape.

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3 WOMEN, from p.28

3 WOMEN Film Society of Lincoln Center â&#x20AC;&#x153;â&#x20AC;&#x2122;77, a 40th Anniversary Survey of a Diverse Year in Cinemaâ&#x20AC;? 165 W. 65th St. Aug. 18 at 4:15 p.m. & 8:45 p.m. Aug. 19 at 4:15 p.m. & 9:30 p.m. Aug. 20 at 4 p.m. & 8:30 p.m. Aug. 21 at 4 p.m. & 9:15 p.m. Aug. 22 at 4 p.m. & 8:30 p.m. Aug. 23 at 4:30 p.m. & 9 p.m. Aug. 24 at 4:30 p.m. & 9:15 p.m. 14, $11 for students & seniors filmlinc.org

to 20th Century Fox for distribution. Alan Ladd, Jr., was Altmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s contact and primary supporter at Fox, and he got a green light for â&#x20AC;&#x153;3 Women,â&#x20AC;? a film based on a dream GayCityNews.nyc | August 17â&#x20AC;&#x201C;30, 2017

A subplot involving Frankieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s family reveals other pressures in his life. His father (Neal Huff) is dying from cancer, and Frankie frequently steals his medication to remain comfortably numb. His mother, Donna (Kate Hodge), may or may not be fully aware of her sonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s drug use but she does voice concern when Frankie comes home early one morning high as a kite. Their relationship has moments of mutual concern, but she also rides him hard once she understands how aimless and self-destructive he is. Hittman is relentless in depicting Frankieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life, and Dickinson so fully realizes the characterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s internal conflicts that it becomes difficult to watch as he boxes himself in with his family, with Simone, with his buddies who want him to score them drugs, and in his secret sexual encounters. His despair transparent, Frankie is a sympathetic character whose breakdown of sorts on a party boat is so intense it will have viewers craving relief for this troubled character. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Beach Ratsâ&#x20AC;? traverses familiar coming-of-age territory â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Hittman also brilliantly explored a teenage girlâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sexual awakening in her debut feature, â&#x20AC;&#x153;It Felt Like Loveâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; but here the realism and emotional rawness set â&#x20AC;&#x153;Beach Ratsâ&#x20AC;? apart. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t miss this movie.

and shot without a script in the desert near Palm Springs. It was a totally improvised movie, and it represented Altman at his most daring, willing to risk his money and reputation on a bizarre idea. Rafe sent Altman a cassette containing a suite for solo flute I had just written called â&#x20AC;&#x153;Noumena.â&#x20AC;? The performance was by Michael Parloff, a brilliant young flutist just out of Juilliard, whom I met in a restaurant called Ruskayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, where I cooked Sunday nights. Michael was hired to serenade the diners and played virtually every solo flute piece in existence. Over steaming carrots, I absorbed his beautiful flute sounds as I plated my filet of sole Helen Corbitt, a dish I created to pay tribute to the first chef I ever idolized. In the early â&#x20AC;&#x2122;50s, the original Neiman Marcus in Dallas hired Corbitt to create a restaurant called the Zodiac Room. There, at

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3 WOMEN, continued on p.31

     

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THEATER

Play Dead Three earnest but unsatisfying evenings of theater BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE eorge Orwell’s “1984” has been read as a dark satire by at least three generations of high school students, and, like the best of this genre, it affords each reader the chance to find harrowing parallels to his or her own time. In today’s world of “alternative facts” and daily accusations of “fake news,” Orwell’s classic seems to take direct aim at the Trump administration’s efforts to manipulate the truth while demanding fealty with threats of a hail of Twitter retribution for those who are disloyal. Orwell’s story tells the tale of Winston Smith, an unprepossessing functionary in the ominously named Ministry of Truth whose job is to rewrite history in the “newspeak” that turns truth upside down. He also has to “unperson” people the Ministry wants to eliminate from history. When Smith joins the Resistance that seeks to overturn the party and reestablish objective reality, he is deceived and destroyed. In adapting the novel for the stage, writers and directors Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan have created a highly theatrical, often expressionistic interpretation of the tale. Through assaultive lighting and sound, they effectively create the dangerous and terrifying world Smith lives in, where thought crimes are punishable by disappearance. The writers use clever techniques such as repeating scenes with minor changes to build tension and convey Smith’s fear and frustration at feeling like the only one who sees what’s going on. When he fi nds a kindred soul in a young woman, Julia, they seem to escape the oppression for a brief moment, only to be duped and undone. But all is not bleak, since the authors created a framing device in which a book club, having found Winston’s diary, looks back at the events of a century ago and celebrates the return of a rational world.

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JULIETA CERVANTES

Tom Sturridge and Reed Birney in Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s adaptation of George Orwell’s “1984.”

1984 Hudson Theatre 139 W. 44th St. Through Oct. 8 Mon-Wed. at 7 p.m. Fri.- Sat 5 & 9 p.m. Weekend times vary in Sep. & Oct. $35-$149; telecharge.com Or 212-239-6200 One hr., 40 mins., no intermission For all its impressive theatricality, however, the production stays at a cool remove from the audience. Techniques such as showing Winston and Julia in their haven on video rather than on the stage distance the action from the audience. The intention seems aimed at conveying the point that even when they think they’re safe from Big Brother’s watching, they’re not, but that cerebral conceit comes at the cost of emotional identification with the characters. That is ultimately what makes this production less engaging — concept overrides connection, making the piece feel disjointed. What works are the performances of the three main char-

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St. Luke’s Theatre 308 W. 46th St. Through Oct. 10 Tue. at 7 p.m. $20-$99; telecharge.com Or 212 239-6200 Two hrs., 10 mins., with intermission

59E59 59 E. 59th St. Through Aug. 27 Tue.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m. Sat. at 2:30 p.m.; Sun. at 3:30 p.m. $25; 59e59.org Or 212-279-4200 Two hrs., with intermission

acters. Tom Sturridge is compelling as Winston, and his struggle is visceral, particularly when he is taken to the ominous Room 101 and tortured. Olivia Wilde is often quite moving as Julia, though the character is not fully developed. Reed Birney delivers another exceptional performance as O’Brien, the party representative who seems to enroll Winston in the Resistance and then turns the tables on him and becomes the torturer. What makes Birney’s performance so harrowing is that his O’Brien is fully committed to the party and his work and seems to care about “saving” Winston. The question of whether that makes him evil is for the audience to decide.

If more of the production delivered the visceral impact of Birney’s committed performance, this “1984” would leave audiences emotionally drained rather than merely intellectually challenged. That’s one thing totalitarian regimes know well: capture the emotions and the supposed rational mind can be easily manipulated. It’s summer, the season of vanity productions. That can be the only explanation for the disappointing new musical “Lili Marlene.” The tale of a Jewish cabaret singer’s escape from the Nazis with the help of a noble count,

VANITY, continued on p.39

August 17–30, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | August 17â&#x20AC;&#x201C;30, 2017

 

          

       

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the age of 15, I discovered the thrill of eating imaginatively conceived and skillfully prepared food. And now, as a cook at Ruskayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, I was connecting with a virtuoso flute player who was to become the star of my first film score and the principal flutist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Noumenaâ&#x20AC;? impressed Altman enough to consider me, along with two other composers, for â&#x20AC;&#x153;3 Women.â&#x20AC;? But it wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Altman alone who made the final decision. It was his staff of office workers and editors, as well as friends and actors heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d worked with, such as Elliott Gould, Lily Tomlin, and Peter Boyle. It was a late Friday afternoon when they gathered in Altmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s office for a drink and a little grass. When everyone was sufficiently drunk and stoned, Altman, asked for quiet, saying merely, â&#x20AC;&#x153;I want you to listen to some music.â&#x20AC;? Altman played music by each of three composers he had chosen, and he used a stop watch to determine exactly how long the group listened to each without commenting. The composer whose music lasted longest in silence was the winner. It was mine. As I was writing the score in December 1976, Altman told me how heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d gone about finding original music for â&#x20AC;&#x153;3 Women.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;I wanted something abstract, something none of my staff had ever heard before, and something theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d never on their own choose to listen to,â&#x20AC;? he explained. He found me in his Zen-like way, and I made a deal with him when he called to tell me the job was mine. I wanted Parloff, who played my music beautifully, to be the flute soloist in the orchestra assembled to record my score. John Williams, who wrote music for Altmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Long Goodbye,â&#x20AC;? chose every other instrumentalist in the ensemble, virtuoso studio musicians who could readily read modern music. I was especially nervous about facing those ace musicians as I took the podium, to tell them, right off the bat, that Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d never conducted before. But I did it, then quickly added that my score was really chamber music â&#x20AC;&#x201D; for 19 instruments â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and I hoped theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d follow Michaelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s example and just conduct

themselves. They at first looked dismayed, then, as the session progressed, they took charge and corrected themselves and repeated takes they didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t like. I was immensely relieved and flattered that my music had won their respect. It was Michaelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s flute playing that really convinced them, and during the lunch break they paid him the ultimate compliment of camaraderie by exchanging stories and quips about how different things used to be for professional musicians. Two of them had studied with musicians who played in the NBC Symphony conducted by Arturo Toscanini. The finished recording of my music for â&#x20AC;&#x153;3 Womenâ&#x20AC;? thrilled me. I had trouble grasping the fact that my first film score had been recorded by the best studio musicians in Hollywood and it was for a Robert Altman film. I kept thinking of my brother Marion, 16 years older than I, who had been a high school band director in Texas and was my first mentor and guide in music. How I wished he were alive and could hear my score for â&#x20AC;&#x153;3 Women.â&#x20AC;? It had passages that sounded like all the musicians he introduced me to in the early â&#x20AC;&#x2122;50s â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Stan Kenton, the Four Freshmen, and June Christy. I felt certain he would love it. Now, 40 years later, â&#x20AC;&#x153;3 Womenâ&#x20AC;? has become an international cult classic and is being featured by the Film Society of Lincoln Center this August, with 14 screenings. I still have trouble comprehending the reality of its success and the enduring devotion of fans around the world. Not bad for an East Texas Baptist who, as a teenager, toured the South with an evangelist named Angel Martinez and played gospel music to crowds of 3,000 in small-town football stadiums. That taught me how to write movie music, how to keep the show moving and persuade the Bible-toting attendees to give their hearts to Jesus and put their money in the basket to keep our â&#x20AC;&#x153;Campaign for Christâ&#x20AC;? on the road. My good fortune with â&#x20AC;&#x153;3 Womenâ&#x20AC;? continues. I have just completed an opera based on the film with a libretto by Craig Lucas and Frankie KL. This is another incarnation of Robert Altmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s extraordinary creation, dedicated to his memory with love and deepest gratitude.

       

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COMICS

Drawing Fire On eve of “Adventure Zone” release, Carey Pietsch shows off her work at Flame Con

ANANTH HIRSCH

Carey Pietsch is among the draws at this weekend’s Flame Con.

BY JULIANNE CUBA mong the draws at this year’s queer comics festival Flame Con, happening at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott August 19 to 20, is a Bedford-Stuyvesant cartoonist who will showcase her fantastical comics about lesbian witches, lost dragons, and goofy adventurers. Carey Pietsch said that the adaptation of the popular Dungeons & Dragons podcast “The Adventure Zone” –– on which she is working with “Zone” creators Justin, Travis, Griffin, and Clint McElroy for release next year –– has pushed her out of her artistic comfort zone. “I’m pretty lazy and would never want to write like a herd of horses into a comic I’m making for myself, and if unchecked those tendencies would end up limiting me,” said Pietsch. “Working with another writer gets me to learn to draw things I wouldn’t on my own — and it usually ends up being a really fun challenge!” “The Adventure Zone” follows a trio of “lovable dummies” as they journey through a fantasy world, and Pietsch enjoys the chance to take their adventures out of the headphones and onto the page. “I’m really, really excited about the ways that translating it into a sequential, visual medium is going to allow us to continue to develop these characters and the world,” she said. “I love how much personality shows through in the voice acting the team does already, and I’m really looking forward to building on that with characters’ body language and acting on the page.” At Flame Con, Carey will show off some of her original art, a ‘zine of queer fancomics set in the “Legend of Zelda” universe titled “Legend of Gay

A

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FLAME CON Brooklyn Bridge Marriott 333 Adams St. at Myrtle Ave. Aug. 19, noon–7:30 p.m. Aug. 20, noon–5:30 pm. $20–$79; flamecon.org

Zelda,” and many of her own mini-comic stories. When writing and drawing her own books, Pietsch said that she focuses on creating a world that showcases her characters’ relationships. “I write a lot of fantasy, too. I’m a big fan of the way that kind of setting can be used to present novelty or encourage a feeling of discovery, but even more than that, I’m interested in using it as a tool to explore interpersonal relationships in new settings,” Pietsch explained. “So my new comics generally come from me spending a lot of time thinking about the combination of those ideas and tossing out a lot of less-than-stellar false starts.” Flame Con will feature two days of panel discussions on queer nerd topics, games, and more than 200 exhibitors presenting their work. Pietsch said that she is thrilled to be able to bring her personal stories to a convention filled with like-minded fans. “Getting to exhibit at Flame Con means the world to me!,” she said. “I’m so, so excited to get to be a part of a convention that’s all about queer comics and queer creators. It’s really special to me that we get to have an entire show that’s all about celebrating and bringing together our community.”

CAREY PIETSCH

Carey Pietsch’s sweet stories of lesbian witches, injured dragons, and magic cats will be on sale at Flame Con August 19-20.

THEADVENTUREZONECOMIC.COM

Carey Pietsch is working on the adaptation of the Dungeons & Dragons podcast “The Adventure Zone” into a graphic novel, coming out in 2018.

August 17–30, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


ADVERTORIAL

TOP DRIVER DISTRACTIONS Using mobile phones Leading the list of the top distractions behind the wheel are mobile phones. Phones now do more than just place calls, and drivers often cannot pull away from their phones, even when driving. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers who are heavily engaged in cell

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 | August 17–30, 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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OPERA

Summer of Opera Sequels Bard Summerscape’s “Dimitrij” shines musically; On Site can’t save “La mère coupable” BY ELI JACOBSON he Bard Summerscape 2017 Festival presented Antonín Dvorák’s “Dimitrij,” the plot of which functions as an operatic sequel to Modest Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov.” Both operas are set during the early 17th century period of Russia’s “Time of Troubles” when the pretender False Dmitri usurped the czar’s crown from Feodor II, Gudonov’s heir. The final scene of Mussorgsky’s “Boris Gudonov” depicts the False Dmitri marching his troops through the Kromy Forest on his way to Moscow. The first scene of Dvorák’s “Dimitrij” reveals the pretender Dimitrij arriving in Moscow hoping to be recognized as the true son and heir of Ivan the Terrible by his “mother,” Ivan’s widow dowager Czarina Marfa. Whereas Mussorgsky’s False Dmitri/ Grigori Otrepyev is a patent fraud and political opportunist, Dvorák’s Dimitrij is a nobly misguided political pawn who has been raised from early childhood to believe he really is the czarevich, brought up in secret in a monastery. Married to the Polish Princess Marina Mniszech, Dimitrij becomes the protector and lover of Boris Gudonov’s persecuted daughter Xenia. This ill-fated love affair precipitates a tragic series of events where Marina’s jealousy and the opposition of Prince Shuisky combine to destroy both Dimitrij and Xenia. Dvorák’s score for “Dimitrij” was revised several times between 1881 and 1895 — it shows the influence of French grand opera but the later revisions brought it more in line with Wagnerian compositional forms. The four-act score is certainly Wagnerian in length; the Bard performance lasted just under four hours. Dvorák’s musical style here does not evoke Mussorgsky — “Boris Godunov” was not known outside Russia at the time — but sounds typically Czech, resembling the serious works of Bedrich Smetana with folk-like sprung

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CORY WEAVER

Clay Hilley and Olga Tolkmit were doomed lovers in Antonín Dvorák’s “Dimitrij,” presented by Bard Summerscape.

FAY FOX

Jennifer Black and Amy Owens were highpoints in On Site Opera’s earnest effort to salvage Darius Milhaud’s “La mère coupable.”

rhythms. In common with Russian opera, French grand opera, and Wagnerian music-drama, Dvorák’s score is filled with large choral sections — either somber hymns or warlike marches depending on the situation. The vocal solos are generally declamatory and free form in Wagnerian style. The extended love duets between Dimitrij and Xenia provide the lyrical high points of the score. The opera could use judicious cutting, and several scenes in Marie Cervinková-Riegrová’s libretto are theatrically static, including the entire first act. Anne Bogart’s updated produc-

tion combined dreary visuals with dramatically abstruse staging that set the action somewhere in Central or Eastern Europe at the end of the 20th century. The ugly unit set by David Zinn consisted of a distressed assembly hall/ gymnasium with blue brick walls and bare wood floors. Painted on the back wall in Cyrillic is the slogan “Victory Begins Here.” This depressing space was unconvincingly adapted into the crypt of Ivan the Terrible, a royal banquet hall, and the czar’s chambers in the Kremlin by extras wheeling in cheap-looking props and furniture. Constance

Hoffman’s costumes consisted of ill-fitting jeans and polyester print ensembles for the people of Russia and shabby suits and gowns for the nobility. A little blond boy in denim wandered alone onstage during the prelude and later revealed himself as the ghost of the murdered czarevich presiding over the final tableau. Musically things were much better. The voices were for the most part strong and powerful if not consistently beautiful. In the title role, Clay Hilley sounded like a Lohengrin in the making, sustaining the long, demanding high declamation with his brightly projected youthful heroic tenor. Hilley is still awkward as an actor, and Bogart’s direction and Hoffman’s costumes did not help him. Melissa Citro as the haughtily cynical Marina had the resting bitch face and contemptuous attitude down cold while modeling Slavic nouveau riche fashions. Her brilliant Wagner-Strauss soprano occasionally took on a hollow quality and cutting edge that actually suited the character. As Xenia, soprano Olga Tolkmit (Electra in Bard’s production of Sergei Taneyev’s “Oresteia”) projected a vibrant house-filling sound that surprisingly emanated from a waif-like frame. A few unsettled tones also proved dramatically suitable to her sensitive portrayal of a desperate girl. I was impressed by the dusky richness of Nora Sourouzian’s mezzo-soprano tone as Marfa and Peixin Chen’s imposing bass as the Patriarch. Baritone Levi Hernandez lacked vocal charisma as Shuisky but sang and acted with energy. Dr. Leon Botstein excels in this type of densely orchestrated late 19th century/ early 20th century Central European score. He and his strong musical team made a strong case for Dvorák’s highly melodic — if sprawling and dramatically unfocused — historical opera. Critics have asserted that Dvorák lacked the talent for oper-

SEQUELS, continued on p.35

August 17–30, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


SEQUELS, from p.34

atic composition. “Rusalka” and, to a lesser degree, “Dimitrij” prove them wrong. The US premiere presentation on June 20 of Darius Milhaud’s 1966 operatic sequel “La mère coupable” (“The Guilty Mother”) revealed a composer with no idea how to set a vocal line or create theater with music. This was the final installment of On Site Opera’s “Figaro Project,” which previously presented Paisiello’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” and Marcos Portugal’s “Il Matrimonio di Figaro.” The Frenchlanguage libretto of “La mère coupable” was adapted by Milhaud’s wife Madeleine from the final play in Pierre Beaumarchais’ “Figaro” trilogy. This least popular and performed of the three comedies features the same characters from the earlier “Figaro” plays — older but no wiser in dealing with the fallout from their youthful follies and indiscretions. Set 20 years after the events in “The Marriage of Figaro” (and also after the French Revolution), the play and opera center on themes of forgiveness and reconciliation. The Count and Countess Almaviva have each had an illegitimate child outside of their marriage — the Countess bore Léon after a brief liaison with Cherubino and the Count’s ward Florestine is the fruit of one of his many extramarital affairs. The Countess is being blackmailed by the Irish blackguard Bégearss, who has stolen a hidden letter revealing her shameful secret. Bégearss, “another Tartuffe,” has hoodwinked the Count into disinheriting Léon and bestowing his diminished fortune on his ward Florestine, whom Bégearss schemes to marry for her inheritance. Florestine loves Léon but fears they may be half-brother and sister. Figaro and Susanna plot to foil Bégearss and set all to rights, reconciling the suspicious Count with the repentant Countess and freeing the young lovers to wed. Beaumarchais’ final “Figaro” play contains less wit and farcical situations than the earlier comedies — the sentimental story concentrates on the personal over the political. Milhaud’s orchestration is dense, mildly dissonant, and busy. There is not an ounce of lightness or wit in GayCityNews.nyc | August 17–30, 2017

the score — one would never guess from the music alone that this is a comic or tragicomic opera. The churning angst-ridden orchestral noise plods on for over two hours with no variation of mood or color in response to character or situation. Vocal lines consist of accompanied recitative, blustering vocal declamation, or tuneless arioso, with the Countess getting most of the vocal opportunities such as they are. The singers did what they could with this unrewarding material. The undervalued soprano Jennifer Black sang with rich tone and emotive generosity, giving tragic weight to the Countess’ life of regrets. Mezzo Marie Lenormand sang Suzanne with real French style and verbal acuity. Youthful coloratura Amy Owens was a sunny beam of light in sight and sound as Florestine. Adam Cannedy as the Count, Marcus DeLoach as Figaro, and Matthew Burns as Bégearss worked hard but without success attempting to create characters out of music that lacked character of any kind. Tenor Andrew Owens as Léon created a vivid character onstage but severe allergies reduced him to declaiming his vocal lines without tone or music. I suspect little was lost. The site-specific performance space On Site Opera chose for Milhaud’s opera was the Garage in Hell’s Kitchen — a large windowless white brick loft space as nondescript and empty as Milhaud’s score. Eric Einhorn’s serviceable modernized production placed the various settings in three corners of the huge open, characterless space with the orchestra placed in the middle (surtitles were awkwardly projected on the side walls causing spectators to constantly look left or right rather than directly at the stage). The scene settings of Cameron Anderson and costumes by Beth Goldenberg stressed the reduced circumstances of the Almaviva family in exile in Paris. Geoffrey McDonald led the wellprepared International Contemporary Ensemble in an energetic reading of the score. The well-intentioned failure of this enterprise must be blamed on the deceased composer. On Site Opera, as usual, approached the piece thoughtfully, employing gifted performers, but all that talent went to waste.

BRINGING MANHATTAN to BROOKLYN 943 Coney Island Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11230 646.494.7227 | AtlasSteak.com 35


AT 35th, GMHC MARCHES TO WEST VILLAGE AIDS MEMORIAL

PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO

O

n August 11, 1981, Nathan Fain, Larry Kramer, Larry Mass, Paul Popham, Paul Rapoport, and Edmund White gathered in Kramerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s apartment for an urgent discussion of how the gay community could confront a frightening new deadly disease striking men in their midst. The result was Gay Menâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Health Crisis, the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first organization to take on what came to be known as AIDS and HIV. Thirty-six years later, on Au-

gust 9, agency staff, clients, and supporters marched from its offices on West 33rd Street to the NYC AIDS Memorial, dedicated last World AIDS Day in the new park opposite the former site of St. Vincentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Hospital, which housed the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first AIDS ward. Today, GMHC serves more than 12,500 people living with and affected by HIV through mental health and substance use counseling, education, supportive housing, meals and nutrition programs, legal services, testing and prevention efforts, and public policy advocacy.

LATEX BALL DRAWS THOUSANDS

MANTA SPA FOCUSING ON MAN TO MAN MASSAGE                                                        

             

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everal thousand party enthusiasts gathered on the evening of July 29 at Terminal Five on West 56th Street for the 27th annual Latex Ball, the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest celebration of the House and Ball community. Fashion models and designers, photographers, and members of

the House and Ball scene gathered for a night of competitions, sexual health messages, and HIV testing â&#x20AC;&#x201D; all to benefit Gay Menâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Health Crisis and more than 20 other community-based health organizations. The theme this year was â&#x20AC;&#x153;Unleash Your Muse.â&#x20AC;? (Photos courtesy of GMHC)

   

  

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August 17â&#x20AC;&#x201C;30, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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August 17â&#x20AC;&#x201C;30, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


VANITY, from p.30

with whom she falls in love, is an unfortunately amateurish affair. The book, music, and lyrics are by Michael Antin, each as unfortunate as the next. The book is a hodgepodge of exposition without any character development and too many subplots — the lesbian cabaret owner, the brother in the Resistance, the subversive attempts to thwart the Nazis, not to mention the central love story. The lyrics of the songs are unsophisticated with forced rhymes that are telegraphed and painfully predictable. The music is banal and the songs often seem inappropriate to the action and inconsistent with the story’s themes. There is potentially a compel-

TORCHES, from p.13

on softening white supremacists and neo-Nazis by referring to them as mere “nationalists?” They were marching alongside — or actually carrying — swastika flags, fergodsake! And I question the lax “seeming to equally condemn….” “Seeming?” No, he did equally condemn the counter-protestors along with the neo-Nazis. He equated them. That’s why his remarks were the subject of such outrage across the political spectrum. As the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor and commentator Eugene Robinson hilariously opined on MSNBC’s “Hardball”: “It takes a lot to make Jeff Sessions look like a civil rights hero.” Meanwhile, the riot provided late-night talk show hosts with an opportunity to condemn Rumpy for

CAN’T QUIT, from p.13

ers wasted little time slamming Trump for giving the rioters the kid glove treatment and offering only the mildest of reproof to violence “on many sides, many sides.” South Carolina was the “cradle of the Confederacy” and long embraced a white historical reading of the Civil War. But, it’s been several years since the Confederate Flag last flew over the State Capitol, and its senior senator, Lindsey Graham, up for reelection next year, pinned GayCityNews.nyc | August 17–30, 2017

“A Real Boy” is a play that sounds interesting as a concept. What would happen if you engineered a reverse Pinocchio where the boy became the puppet? In the hands of playwright Stephen Kaplan, unfortunately, the execution is so rambling and

disjointed that the idea bogs down almost from the outset. The story concerns a kindergartener who is the adopted son of two marionettes. When his teacher suspects the boy is abused, she refuses to return him to his parents and holes up in the classroom as controversy swirls around her. When the boy starts to grow strings and turn into a puppet himself, the teacher’s judgment is challenged. A politician tries to make hay out of the situation, but it all falls apart in the end. Kaplan attempts to use his conceit to make points about parenting, politics, and individuality, but the story is so convoluted and confused that it succeeds neither as absurdist comedy nor social commentary. In trying to pack so

many ideas into the play, none is fully developed. Under the direction of Audrey Alford, the staging is clumsy and confusing in 59E59’s tiny theater and the play lacks a point of view. Worse yet, the puppetry, a central element of the show, is unsophisticated and frustrating — and ends up feeling like a gimmick. With all the wonderful, expressive puppetry seen in recent productions, this is a major miss. The concept inevitably invites comparison to Ionesco’s masterpiece “Rhinoceros,” an absurdist critique of fascism’s rise that for all its comedy has a focus that “A Real Boy” lacks. In trying to do too much, Kaplan’s play achieves nothing, fi nally strung up by its own concept.

his obnoxious “many sides, many sides” remark; Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers all opened their shows on Monday night with sober, joke-free opening monologues about Rump’s lame response to the riot. Fallon, of course, dripped with sanctimony that even he appeared to acknowledge as such by way of the telltale smirk on his face as he read his remarks off the teleprompter. Colbert and Meyers, in notable contrast, managed to pull it off. The fact that the white supremacists conducted a nighttime, preriot parade with Tiki torches was the subject of much ridicule. As both Colbert and Meyers pointed out, the makers of Tiki torches issued a stronger condemnation of white supremacy than Rump. “Our brand is designed to enhance outdoor gatherings and to

help family and friends connect with each other at home in their yard,” Tiki Brand stated in a press release, “not to support neo-Nazi closet cases who favor tight white polo shirts and muscles that wouldn’t be out of place in Fire Island Pines.” Okay, I made the second half of that up, but the first part is a direct quote. “Mr. Trump, you didn’t have to rise to the oratorical level of FDR or JFK or Barack Obama,” or words to that effect, Seth Meyers commented; “All you had to do was rise to the level of the makers of Tiki torches.” Brilliant. And both Colbert and Meyers drew the same comparison between Rump and an Internet retail giant in jokes about the fact that it took the president two days before he finally condemned racists without equating them with anti-rac-

ists. As Colbert commented, “Two days! Does he order his spine on Amazon Prime?” Sadly, Rump returned that order the very next day, when he ignited a firestorm — or stormtroopers’ fire — by doubling down on his initial, neo-Nazi-supporting response, equating, in an unhinged press conference in the lobby of Trump Tower, the nation’s real patriots (who see us all as being similarly human) with people (almost all of them male) who hate his daughter for marrying a Jew and converting to Judaism, hate his son-inlaw, Jared Kushner, for being a Jew, and of course hating his own grandchildren for being born Jewish. I’ve got to tip my yarmulke to you, Mr. President. Whadda guy.

Trump’s ear back for “his both sides are to blame” statement. “He missed an opportunity to be very explicit here,” said Graham said on “Fox News Sunday,” of all places. “These groups seem to believe they have a friend in Donald Trump in the White House. I don’t know why they believe that, but they don’t see me as a friend in the Senate, and I would urge the president to dissuade these groups that he’s their friend.” And this is how Charlottesville has become bigger than

the fl agrant visibility of neo-Nazi groups or the 19 hospitalized in the auto attack or even the tragic death of Heather Heyer. Will Americans come to think of the racists as Trump’s people, as his base? And will that make them uncomfortable being at the same party? Trump, no doubt at the insistence of his staff and family, tried to right the situation on Monday, only to backslide in unhinged fashion on Tuesday. He can read the right words, but when he speaks with his own voice he seems to

be saying, “Don’t do that,” while winking to the thugs that he enjoys their transgressions, their violence. His inability to make a clean break with the racists may be his undoing. Trump is letting himself be identified with the worst elements in American society. Meanwhile, the South Carolina senator spoke with a clarity that eludes the president. “Their cause is hate, it is un-American, they are domestic terrorists, and we need more from our president,” Graham said.

ling show in all this. Antin touches on our belief systems and how they are challenged, and looks at the randomness and irony in the singer, Rosie Penn, having her fate held in the hands of one man. The intriguing and tense scene at the end of the show when she is saved is the only truly dramatic moment in the piece — and the merest hint of what this show might have been. Alas, for “Lili Marlene,” it was too little and far too late.

Follow @edsikov on Twitter and Facebook.

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Gay City News  

August 17, 2017

Gay City News  

August 17, 2017