Page 1

Military Open to Trans Enlistees, For Now 06

LGBTQ Allies & the Tax Bill 08

Philly Abe at Anthology Film 24




by Maurice W. Dorsey


Maurice W. Dorsey


Maurice W. Dorsey


A story about a gay African American man born to a Catholic father who accepts his son unconditionally and a Methodist mother who is homophobic-- tells her son throughout his life that she never wanted to have him. Seymour reflects on 3 generations of emotional insecurity and feelings of being unloved and unwanted. At the end of his mother’s life, Estelle, through her years of malcontent, has him come to terms with mother and family history. This book is fictitious but based on a true story. Available on or


In This Issue

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Mr. Speaker As of January 3, Corey Johnson is the City Council’s new leader BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


ne thing was said over and over again about Corey Johnson as the City Council convened to elect its new speaker — the 35-year-old works hard. “Everybody in this body cannot deny that Corey Johnson worked harder to be the speaker of this body than anybody else in this body,” said Laurie Cumbo, who represents parts of Brooklyn in the 51-member City Council, as she nominated Johnson to be the speaker on January 3. Beginning with a field of eight candidates, the speaker’s race was winnowed to two by January 3. The other contender, Inez Barron, who also represents Brooklyn neighborhoods, was reduced to nominating herself. Johnson’s nomination was seconded four times and the final vote was a lopsided 48-1, with two members not attending the Council’s first meeting of 2018. Members who took time to explain why they were supporting Johnson, who is openly gay and HIV-positive, talked about how he aided their campaigns or how he reached across the ideological spectrum to talk to them. “He came out and he helped me win my race,” said Daneek Miller, who represents parts of Queens. “He walked the walk with me.” When Ruben Diaz, Sr., a former state senator who now represents Bronx neighborhoods in the City Council, was in the hospital following major surgery, Johnson paid him a visit. Diaz is a well-known opponent of the LGBTQ community and voted against same-sex marriage in the State Senate in 2011 and 2009. “A man that doesn’t agree with what I say, this person, Corey Johnson, came to see me in the hospital,” Diaz said as he cast his vote for Johnson. Similarly, Fernando Cabrera, who also represents parts of the Bronx, traveled with Johnson to Israel in February 2017. Cabrera has a history of working with antiLGBTQ groups and like Diaz is an



City Council Speaker Corey Johnson moments after winning the near unanimous support of his colleagues to succeed Melissa Mark-Viverito.

opponent of same-sex marriage. Cabrera traveled to Uganda when that country was weighing a law that imposed the death penalty for homosexuality. During the Uganda visit, Cabrera made a YouTube video praising the nation’s anti-gay forces. Johnson also distributed a lot of campaign cash to his fellow councilmembers during the 2017 election cycle. He donated to 26 candidates who now hold Council seats. He did not donate to Diaz or Cabrera. He also supported a large number of city Democratic political clubs and donated to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign. Johnson arrived in New York City from Massachusetts in 2001. He was known then as the high school athlete who came out on national television. He held various jobs and volunteered for the political campaigns of Mark Green and Carl McCall. Johnson learned about the intricacies of city law on housing and development while serving on Community Board 4 in Manhattan. He eventually chaired the board. His knowledge of housing and development issues was apparent when he first ran for the City Council in 2013 for a Manhattan district that includes the West Vil-

lage, Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen. He defeated attorney Yetta Kurland in the Democratic primary, though that race was known for its acrimony and one or two embarrassing conflicts between the candidates. Johnson faced no serious opposition in 2017 in the primary or general elections. The degree to which he has cultivated kingmakers and the politically connected was evident when he spoke following the vote. He acknowledged Congressmember Joe Crowley, who represents a Queens district in the House and chairs that county’s Democratic Party, and Keith Wright, a former member of the State Assembly who chairs the New York County Democratic Committee. Crowley and Wright were sitting in the balcony of the Council chamber watching the proceedings. They were joined by Yvette Clarke, who represents a Brooklyn district in the House. Also sitting in the balcony and recognized by Johnson was the president of New York City’s Central Labor Council, an AFL-CIO umbrella group comprised of multiple union locals, and the heads of three locals in the Central Labor Council. What has dogged Johnson’s race for speaker is that he is a white

man heading a City Council that has a majority of members who are Latinx, African-American, and Asian. This matter came up when Barron nominated herself. “White men, a white woman, and a Latina have been speaker, but we’ve never had a black speaker,” she said. “I think you have to recognize that I am not white and I’m not male and I’m not going to get the blessing of the power structure.” Charles Barron, who represents a Brooklyn district in the State Assembly and previously served in the City Council, was in the Council chamber to support his wife. When it became apparent that she had lost the race, he noisily exited with a small group of friends. “My real view is that I am never going to compare my experience to that of a person of color in New York City because we all have our own unique experiences,” Johnson said during a press conference following the vote when asked about Baron’s comments. “I recognize the privilege in the color of my skin… I’m going to ensure that the leadership structure of the Council, that the committee chairs of the Council are represented by women, by people of color, by LGBT people, and ensure that all voices are heard.” January 4 – 17, 2018 |


Military Accepting Transgender Enlistees, For Now After 10 federal judges reject Trump ban, Justice Department regrouping BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


espite a July 26 tweet from President Donald Trump announcing that “the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military” — an approach amplified by an official August 25 memorandum — the military, as of January 1, began accepting enlistees who are transgender. That development came in the wake of the unanimous resistance from 10 federal judges who have had a say on it. On Friday, the last working day of 2017, the Justice Department announced it would not, prior to the New Year, pursue any further challenges to the four nationwide injunctions against the president’s ban, but would instead await a new study on the impact of open transgender service it expects from the Pentagon no later than February 21. “The administration,” the DOJ said, “will continue to defend the president’s lawful authority in district court in the meantime.” The administration apparently believes the Pentagon can yet provide it with a rationale for barring transgender service that federal judges have yet to discern in any of the president’s pronouncements on the issue. Nine of the 10 judges who have rejected the Trump ban were appointed by Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. One, US District Judge Marvin Garbis in the Maryland District Court in Baltimore, was appointed by President George H. W. Bush. As of December 22, the Trump policy had provoked four nationwide preliminary injunctions, with two federal circuit courts of appeals refusing “emergency” motions by the government to stay the injunctions regarding the January 1 date for allowing transgender individuals to enlist. Trump’s memorandum set out three policies: a requirement that all transgender personnel be dis-



Ryan Karnoski, a 23-year-old Seattle social worker, is the named plaintiff in one of the lawsuits that challenged President Donald Trump’s effort to ban out transgender military service, and is represented by Lambda Legal, OutServeSLDN, and, on a pro bono basis, Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Newman Du Wors LLP.

charged, a ban on allowing trans individuals to enter the military, and a ban on use of Defense Department or Homeland Security Department funds to pay for sex reassignment procedures for military members. The memorandum assigned the Defense Department the task of figuring out how to implement these policies and reporting back to the president in February. Prior to that, nobody would be discharged or denied medical treatment. The memorandum also specified that the existing ban on enlistments would remain in effect indefinitely, contrary to a Pentagon announcement in June that it would be lifted on January 1. In June of 2016, the Obama administration Defense Department had announced that open transgender service would begin on July 1, 2017. Four lawsuits were filed in different federal district courts shortly after the policy was announced, with complaints alleging an equal protection violation and a variety of other claims. All sought preliminary injunctions to stop the Trump policies from going into effect while the cases are litigated and specifically asked that the Pentagon adhere to the previously announced January 1 lifting of the ban on transgender enlistment. The Justice Department (DOJ)

moved to dismiss all four cases and vigorously opposed the motions for preliminary injunctions. On December 22, US District Judge Jesus G. Bernal, sitting in California’s Central District in Riverside, became the fourth district court judge to issue a nationwide preliminary injunction on the Trump policy, following DC District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on October 30, Judge Garbis on November 21, and Western District of Washington Judge Marsha J. Pechman in Seattle on December 11. On December 21 the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stay Garbis’ injunction, and on December 22 the DC Circuit refused to stay Kollar-Kotelly’s injunction. All four district judges rejected DOJ’s argument that the cases should be dismissed because no actions had yet been taken to implement the Trump policies, which were being “studied” by the Defense Department under a September “Interim Guidance” issued by Defense Secretary James Mattis. The district court judges all accepted the plaintiffs’ arguments that simply announcing the policies and instructing the Defense Department to devise a method of implementing them threw the lives of transgender service members and those planning to enlist into turmoil and uncertainty. The announcement also disrupted plans

for sex reassignment surgery for several of the plaintiffs, three of the four judges found. All four cases are proceeding on an equal protection theory, with the judges finding the plaintiffs have standing to bring their constitutional challenges. Each judge agreed that the high standards for issuing a preliminary injunction against the government were easily met, embracing the view that policies treating people adversely because of their gender identity should be reviewed by the same standard as those discriminating on the basis of sex, which is called “intermediate scrutiny.” Under this standard, the government bears the burden of showing it has a justification for the policy that is “exceedingly persuasive,” “genuine,” “not hypothesized,” “not invented post hoc in response to litigation,” and “not rel[iant] on overbroad generalizations,” wrote Judge Bernal in his December 22 opinion, picking up quotes from the other three cases. The government’s “justifications do not pass muster,” he wrote. Trump’s argument that transgender service is burdensomely expensive, Bernal found, “is unavailing, as precedent shows the ease of cost and administration do not survive intermediate scrutiny even if it is significant. Moreover, all the evidence in the record suggests the ban’s cost savings to the government is miniscule.’ The unit cohesion argument, long used to oppose open gay service in the military, is “unsupported” regarding transgender soldiers, as well, he found, “by the proffered evidence. These justifications fall far short of exceedingly persuasive.” Bernal concluded, as had the other three district judges, that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their equal protection claim, so it was unnecessary to analyze the other constitutional theories they offered. Bernal also rejected DOJ’s argument that the court should follow

TRANS ENLISTEYES, continued on p.17

January 4 – 17, 2018 |


LGBTQ Senior Advocates Join Elizabeth Street Debate Residence with 121 units, SAGE services set against longtime Little Italy garden in fierce tussle


Longtime gay activist Jim Fouratt and City Councilmember Margaret Chin at a December 12 City Hall rally in support of a senior housing facility on Elizabeth Street where SAGE would provide LGBTQinclusive services.



new constituency has joined a long-running battle over the future of the Elizabeth Street Garden in Little Italy: gay seniors. The city targeted the garden for affordable housing five years ago, setting off a battle over a Lower Manhattan statuary that pits the needs of low-income seniors against the demand for green space in this dense urban pocket. New plans for the site unveiled two weeks ago described the proposed 121-unit residence as affordable, “LGBTQfriendly” senior housing. SAGE — or Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, the nation’s largest and oldest advocacy group for queer elders — would provide on-site services for residents in the proposed complex, as would the housing group Habitat for Humanity, which would move its New York City headquarters there. The de Blasio administration clearly hopes the participation of the two groups — along with a pledge to preserve about one-third of the site as green space — will tip public opinion in favor of the proposed Haven Green development. At a December 12 rally in support of the project, Councilmember Margaret Chin, the project’s lead sponsor, championed the needs of gay seniors. “We have an opportunity before us to do the right thing for our | January 4 – 17, 2018

niors, including LGBTQ seniors of the Stonewall generation, the pioneers who fought in the face of insurmountable odds to make our city a place that welcomes all of us,” Chin told the crowd of about 30 supporters who gathered beneath the portico at City Hall to shelter from the rain. Behind her, a supporter held a sign that proclaimed: “Housing for LGBT Seniors is a RIGHT!” But whether the inclusion of SAGE and its community of advocates will sway those who support preserving the garden — including nearly every other elected official in Lower Manhattan — remains to be seen. Rather than bending to the project’s critics, Mayor Bill de Blasio is making the Elizabeth Street site a showpiece for its new Housing New York 2.0 agenda, which includes fast-tracking the creation of senior housing on “underutilized public lots.” “We are building a movement,” declared Michael Adams, SAGE’s executive director, speaking at the rally with Chin. “This is how we are going to make our city a city of equity.” SAGE is already at work on two other LGBTQ-friendly senior housing residences — in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and in Crotona Park in the Bronx. Jim Fouratt, a gay activist for decades, congratulated Chin for standing up to opponents of the


The day before the Chin-SAGE rally, Comptroller Scott Stringer and other elected officials joined supporters of the existing Elizabeth Street Garden.

project. “I’m part of the creative community that came to the Village in the ’50s and ’60s,” said Fouratt, who took part in the Stonewall uprising and later co-founded the club Danceteria. “I live in a six-floor walkup, and for the past year and a half I’ve been in court with my new landlord,” he shouted, raising his fists. “I’m putting in for this lottery!” Also lining up alongside Chin were the heads of several nonprofit groups serving seniors, including LiveOn NY and Vision Urbana, the latter which serves primarily lowincome Latinos on the Lower East Side. All spoke to the pent-up demand for affordable housing. Jackie Wong, director of operations at Chung Pak Local Development Corp, a rental building for low-income seniors in Chinatown, said when his company opened the waiting list for apartments there last August, it received more than 7,000 applications. Clearly the need for more senior housing is urgent, but to the project’s critics the question is why such housing should be built atop a much loved, community-run park. “This is a false choice,” declared City Comptroller Scott Stringer, speaking out at a rally called the previous day by the two nonprofit groups fighting to preserve the Elizabeth Street Garden.

To about 75 garden supporters, also gathered outside City Hall, Stringer added, “Affordable housing cannot come at the expense of green public space.” Remarking on the city’s insistent effort to build over the Little Italy garden even in the face of broad opposition from local residents and the repeated condemnation of Community Board 2, the comptroller told the crowd, “I’ve tried to struggle with why this is happening.” Then, taking a swipe at the de Blasio administration’s record of using a top-down approach in siting new developments, Stringer said, “We have to go back to being a city that does community-based planning. We are not accounting for the numbers of amazing children that are coming to Lower Manhattan. These kids need a place to play.” Public Advocate Letitia James was equally emphatic. “It is a false choice, it is a Hobson’s choice, and it’s a false dichotomy,” she said. “We can do affordable housing — in fact, we can do more affordable housing,” alluding to CB2’s call for shifting the project to an empty, city-owned lot on Hudson and Clarkson Streets in Hudson Square, where board says five times as much housing could be built. “I’ve been to that garden and it is a peaceful place,” James told the

ELIZABETH STREET, continued on p.17



LGBTQ Allies Support the Tax Bill Advocates Deride HRC skewered NCAA for caving in North Carolina, mum on Trumponomics corporate cheerleaders Carolina lawmakers off the hook.” HB2, which was enacted in 2016, required transgender people to use public bathrooms that were consistent with the gender on their birth certificates and barred local jurisdictions in the state from enacting ordinances that outlawed discrimination in employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. While HRC never explicitly called for a boycott of the state, the NCAA, which regulates college athletics at nearly 1,300 institutions, pulled some championship games from there and threatened to move later games to other states.



fter the NCAA ended its boycott of North Carolina over a state law there that barred transgender people from using public bathrooms that match their gender identity, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) did not hold back. “The NCAA’s decision to backtrack on their vow to protect LGBTQ players, employees, and fans is deeply disappointing and puts people at risk,” Chad Griffin, president of the nation’s leading queer lobby, said in an April 2017 press release. “After drawing a line in the sand and calling for repeal of HB2, the NCAA simply let North


HRC President Chad Griffin at the group’s 2016 gala in New York City.

HRC, continued on p.9


LGBTQ Health Clinic Opens in Bedford-Stuyvesant Woodhull facility on Broadway is NYC Health + Hospitals’ second specialized unit BY JULIANNE CUBA


orth Brooklyn and city leaders were on hand December 20 to snip a rainbowcolored ribbon celebrating the opening of the borough’s first NYC Health + Hospitals facility dedicated to treating the LGBTQ community. The opening of Pride Health Center at Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Woodhull Hospital is an inclusive step toward making sure no patients fall through the cracks in getting the treatment they need, according to the area’s city councilmember. “In a region as vibrant and diverse as Brooklyn, public institutions must ensure they are able to address a wide range of culturally-specific needs,” said Councilmember Robert Cornegy. “The addition of a dedicated LGBTQ health center further demonstrates the hospital’s continued commitment to being at the forefront of addressing this area’s health care needs in a comprehensive way.” Doctors at the center inside the public hospital at 760 Broadway, at Flushing Avenue, are specially trained in serving LGBTQ patients, including primary care, obstetrics and gynecology, hormone therapy, behavioral health, and HIV and other sexually-transmitted-infection prevention, testing, and treatment. Clients can currently visit the gay-friendly clinic on Mondays from 4 to 8 pm, but hospital



Gregory Calliste, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals/ Woodhull, Assemblymember Maritza Davila, First Lady Chirlane McCray, Dr. Edward Fishkin, Woodhull’s chief medical officer, and patient Dovear Calhoun cut the ribbon to celebrate North Brooklyn’s first LGBTQ-focused health center.

officials expect to expand its operating hours as patient volume grows. And doctors at Woodhull are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to serve LGBTQ patients. The Pride Health Center is the second LGBTQspecialized clinic in the city’s public hospital system — the first, at Metropolitan Hospital on First Avenue in East Harlem, opened in 2014 — but it is not the only health facility that will be serving Brooklyn’s queer community. The Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, which has served the LGBTQ community for decades in Chelsea and in the past several years

has also run a clinic in the South Bronx, expects to break ground early this year on a facility in Downtown Brooklyn on Flatbush Avenue. The Callen-Lorde clinic is expected to open in mid2019. Since 2015, the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center at Clarkson and New York Avenues in East Flatbush has also provided specialized treatment to LGBTQ patients. First Lady Chirlane McCray, who in September announced the NYC Unity Project aimed at developing a strategy to deliver comprehensive services to LGBTQ youth citywide and was on hand at the Woodhull ribbon-cutting, emphasized the significant role the city’s public health system plays in serving queer health needs. “At a time when health care services are under attack, the Pride Health Center at NYC Health + Hospitals/ Woodhull in Brooklyn will be a safe haven for countless LGBTQ New Yorkers,” said McCray. “NYC Health + Hospitals is leading the way to secure freedom and equality for the city’s LGBTQ community with affordable, culturally competent mental and physical health care.” Assemblywoman Maritza Davila of Bushwick praised the new Woodhull initiative, saying, “As we move forward into the 21st century, it is imperative that we strive to build an inclusive society that respects and embraces individuals of all walks of life.” January 4 – 17, 2018 |

HRC, from p.8

North Carolina’s Republicandominated state legislature and Roy Cooper, its new Democratic governor, nominally repealed HB2 in 2017 and the NCAA announced that “this new law restores the state to… a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships… [T]his new law has minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment.” HRC said repeal “keeps some of the most discriminatory provisions of HB2 alive” and that “this action targeting LGBTQ individuals, particularly transgender people, is the very definition of discrimination and continues a shameful chapter for North Carolina.” The NCAA was not alone in objecting to HB2. The association was joined by many non-profit entities and for-profit companies that opposed the law but were generally less public than the NCAA in their opposition. With a few exceptions, those other com-

panies did not threaten the state with any sort of economic penalty as the NCAA did. When the nominal repeal occurred, the HB2 opponents quietly walked away from any boycott talk. So it was the NCAA, an entity that was among the HB2 opponents that did the most to fight the law, that HRC kicked around in 2017 following the repeal. Other companies were spared HRC’s opprobrium. What is more striking is that some of those companies have done far worse than abandoning the North Carolina boycott. Some of those companies were likely spared by HRC because they are also major supporters of the queer rights group. Most recently, AT&T and Wells Fargo issued glowing press releases after Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a law that gives large tax breaks to businesses and the wealthiest Americans. The law will cost an estimated $1.4 trillion over 10 years and could lead Congress to slash entitlement programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, to pay for those tax cuts. In its press release,

HRC called the law the “TrumpPence tax scam.” The telecommunications giant announced it would give 200,000 US employees a $1,000 bonus and “invest an additional $1 billion in the United States in 2018.” The Trump administration is opposing an AT&T merger with Time Warner. Wells Fargo said it would increase its minimum wage to $15 per hour from the current $13.50 per hour and spend an additional $160 million in charitable giving in 2018, bringing the total to $400 million. The bank also promised $100 million over three years “to support the growth of diverse small businesses” and $75 million in 2018 for “sustainable homeownership and neighborhood revitalization.” AT&T and Wells Fargo are among those companies that have both opposed anti-LGBTQ laws and made substantial donations to the state Republican lawmakers who enacted those laws, including elected officials in North Carolina. At least 60 percent of the federal political giving by AT&T and Wells

Fargo has gone to Republicans in Congress in the 2018 and 2016 election cycles. AT&T took no public position on HB2 that Gay City News could find, but it is represented on the board of North Carolina’s state chamber of commerce, which sought changes to the law, and on the board of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the law. Wells Fargo publicly opposed HB2. Wells Fargo remains a featured “Corporate Partner” on HRC’s website. AT&T partnered with HRC on the AT&T Live Proud on Campus campaign. AT&T was also a supporter of HRC’s 2016 Time to Thrive conference. HRC has been willing to oppose at least one company that was previously an important ally on HB2. In 2017, HRC rejected $325,000 from Bank of America after the bank was engaged with a small number of other companies that negotiated the ostensible repeal of HB2, according to published reports. HRC did not respond to a request seeking comment.

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Decisive Win for Lesbians in Oregon Cake Case Appeals court finds wedding baker discriminated in clone of matter before SCOTUS BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


n a case that is — for all practical purposes — a virtual clone of the Colorado case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, argued at the US Supreme Court last month, a unanimous three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals of Oregon affirmed a ruling by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) that Melissa and Aaron Klein, doing business as Sweetcakes by Melissa, violated the state’s public accommodations law by refusing to provide a wedding cake for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer. The appellate ruling upheld an award of $135,000 in damages, rejecting the Kleins’ argument that this application of the state law to them violates their First Amendment rights. The court did, however, overrule BOLI’s determination that the Kleins’ public remarks in connection with the matter violated a separate section of the law forbidding businesses from announcing in advance that they will discriminate. Judge Chris Garrett wrote for the panel. When Rachel and Laurel decided to marry in 2012, Rachel and her mother, Cheryl, went to a Portland bridal show and visited the Sweetcakes by Melissa booth at the show. Sweetcakes had created the wedding cake for Cheryl’s wedding two years earlier, and Rachel and Cheryl told Melissa that they would like to order a cake from her. When Rachel and Cheryl went to the bakery for a cake-testing appointment in January 2013, Aaron Klein asked for the names of the bride and groom, and was told there were two brides. “At that point,” wrote Judge Garrett, “Aaron stated that he was sorry, but that Sweetcakes did not make wedding cakes for same-sex ceremonies because of his and Melissa’s religious convictions. Rachel began crying, and Cheryl took her by the arm and walked her out of the shop. On the way to their car, Rachel became ‘hysterical’ and kept apologizing to her mother, feeling that she had humiliated her.” | January 4 – 17, 2018


Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer and their children.

After the two women left the shop, Cheryl turned around and returned to talk with Klein by herself. “During their conversation,” Garrett wrote, “Cheryl told Aaron that she had previously shared his thinking about homosexuality, but that her ‘truth had changed’ as a result of having ‘two gay children.’ In response, Aaron quoted a Bible passage from the Book of Leviticus, stating, ‘You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.’” At that point, Cheryl left and returned to the car, to find Rachel, the judge wrote quoting her mother, “‘holding [her] head in her hands, just bawling.’” Cheryl later said that hearing that Klein had called her an abomination “made me feel like they were saying God made a mistake when he made me, that I wasn’t supposed to be, that I wasn’t supposed to love or be loved or have a family or live a good life and one day go to heaven.” When Laurel heard the story, she “felt shame and anger,” Garrett wrote, adding that Rachel being “inconsolable… made Laurel even angrier.” Laurel filed an online complaint with the Oregon Department of Justice, but later she filed a complaint with BOLI, as did Rachel. The story quickly blew up in the media and Rachel, Laurel, and the Kleins all received death threats.

BOLI’s investigation concluded that the Kleins violated two sections of the public accommodations law: one forbidding discrimination by businesses in providing goods and services based on customers’ sexual orientation, the other, based on statements the Kleins had made about the case, as well as a sign they posted in their bakery, being a provision barring businesses from announcing an intent to discriminate. Though the second finding sparked some disagreement during the proceedings — with an administrative law judging finding that the comments in question related to the Kleins’ position on this case and was not a general announcement of discriminatory intent — the agency found the Kleins liable on both counts. BOLI awarded Rachel and Laurel $135,000 in damages to compensate for mental, emotional, or physical suffering sustained because of the discrimination, but it declined to award additional damages for suffering stemming from the adverse publicity that came when they filed their complaint. The first issue facing the appeals court was whether the Kleins were correct in arguing they do not discriminate against people because of their status as gay, but rather they refuse to “facilitate the celebration of a union that conveys a message about marriage to which

they do not subscribe and that contravenes their religious beliefs.” The court rejected this attempt to skirt the issue, commenting that “there is no reason to believe that the legislature intended a ‘status/ conduct’ distinction specifically with regard to the subject of ‘sexual orientation.’” Garrett also pointed to the Oregon Family Fairness Act, which specifically provides that same-sex couples should be entitled to the same rights and privileges of different-sex couples. “The Kleins have not provided us with any persuasive explanation for why the legislature would have intended to grant equal privileges and immunities to individuals in same-sex relationships while simultaneously excepting those committed relationships from the protections of” the public accommodations law, Garrett wrote. The court pointed out that “under the distinction proposed by the Kleins… a restaurant could refuse to serve an interracial couple, not on account of the race of either customer, but on account of the conduct — interracial dating — to which the proprietor objected.” Garrett also wrote that “where a close relationship between status and conduct exists, the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected the type of distinction urged by the Kleins,” citing a 2010 ruling, upholding the University of California-Hasting’s refusal to extend official recognition to a Christian Legal Society chapter whose membership policies excluded gay people. He also pointed to the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas sodomy case, where Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that making gay conduct a crime was “an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres.” The court also rejected both the free speech and free exercise of religion constitutional arguments made by the Kleins. Conceding there could be an element of artistic expression in making a wedding cake, the panel found

WEDDING CAKE, continued on p.15



Cisgender Students Rebuffed in Illinois Bathroom Case Federal judge denies preliminary injunction to halt school district’s trans-inclusive policy BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


ederal District Judge Jorge L. Alonso ruled on December 29 that a group of parents and cisgender students are not entitled to a preliminary injunction blocking Township High School District 211 in suburban Chicago from allowing transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. Alonso’s ruling accepted the recommendation of US Magistrate Judge Jeffrey T. Gilbert. The dispute grew out of prior legal action by a transgender girl at William Fremd High School in Palatine seeking to use the girls’ facilities. During the Obama administration, the Education Department responded to the student’s complaint by negotiating a settlement agreement with the school district allowing her access to the appropriate facilities. The school district’s willingness to settle turned on a formal guidance that the Obama Education and Justice Departments had issued, interpreting Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to protect gender identity under its sex nondiscrimination requirement. Reacting to that settlement, an ad hoc group of parents of students at Fremd, together with some girls who attend the high school, brought this suit in May 2016, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal group that fights LGBTQ rights advances nationwide. The suit asserted that the girls had a constitutional and statutory right not to have “biological boys” present in their restroom and locker room facilities where they could see girls undressing. The US Departments of Education and Justice and the school district were named as defendants. The court granted the transgender girl who made the original complaint about facilities access and two other transgender students in the district and their parents intervenor status as defendants. On October 18, 2016, Magistrate Judge Gilbert issued his report, concluding that plaintiffs were un-



Cisgender students in suburban Chicago were rebuffed in their bid for an injunction against a school policy allowing trans students to use bathroom and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, and their attorneys took a misplaced shot at the Seventh Circuit victory by Ash Whitaker, seen here at right with his mother Melissa, who prevailed in winning appropriate bathroom access at his Kenosha, Wisconsin high school.

likely to prevail on their claims, and recommending their motion be denied. The plaintiffs filed objections with Judge Alonso. In the meanwhile, significant developments at the federal level have affected the case. After President Donald Trump took office, his Justice and Education Departments withdrew the Obama guidance on Title IX protections for transgender students and announced that the underlying issue should be resolved at the local level. Shortly after that, the Chicagobased Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling in a similar case, Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District No. 1 Board of Education, found that Title IX does extend to gender identity discrimination claims and upheld an injunction ordering a Wisconsin school district to allow a transgender boy to use the boys’ facilities at a public high school. The Trump administration’s actions withdrawing the Obama guidance mooted that part of the lawsuit involving the federal government departments, but the school district remained a defendant, as did the transgender stu-

dent intervenors. The plaintiffs’ case was predicated on a Title IX regulation that authorizes schools to maintain sex-separate restroom and locker room facilities, provided that the facilities are comparable in scope and quality. They argued that in authorizing sex-segregated facilities, the law was recognizing the privacy concerns of the students and that requiring students to have to share such facilities with transgender students of a different “biological” sex contradicts those privacy concerns. Magistrate Judge Gilbert had rejected this argument in 2016 and the Seventh Circuit’s Whitaker decision subsequently confirmed his understanding of this issue. Alonso quoted from the Seventh Circuit ruling, which is binding on the Northern District of Illinois where he serves, writing “discrimination against transgender individuals is sex discrimination… because ‘by definition, a transgender individual does not conform to the sex-based stereotypes of the sex that he or she was assigned at birth’… a ‘policy that requires an individual to use a restroom that

does not conform with his or her gender identity punishes that individual for his or her gender nonconformance which in turn violates Title IX.’” The plaintiffs tried to distinguish the Whitaker case from their own because it addressed only restrooms, not locker rooms, but Alonso concluded that nothing in Whitaker “suggests that restrooms and locker rooms should be treated differently under Title IX or that the presence of a transgendered student in either, especially given additional privacy protections like single stalls or privacy screens, implicates the constitutional privacy rights of others with whom such facilities are shared.” The plaintiffs also maintained that the Seventh Circuit ruling in Whitaker was so “astonishingly wrong” that its reasoning undercuts its “worth even as persuasive authority.” That, of course, is not a winning argument in a district court about a circuit precedent which is binding on it. Alonso also found that even if plaintiffs had shown a likelihood

CISGENDER SUIT, continued on p.15

January 4 – 17, 2018 |

WEDDING CAKE, from p.13

that this expression did not present the type of free speech issues to which the court would have to apply strict scrutiny. The Supreme Court’s public accommodations jurisprudence, Garrett noted, has treated such laws as neutral laws — not specifically targeted on particular political or religious views but instead intended to achieve a legitimate purpose of extending equal rights to participate in the community. The Kleins largely relied on the Supreme Court’s rulings on a gay group’s right to march in the Boston St. Patrick’s Day and a gay scoutmaster’s right to stay in the Boy Scouts. In those cases, the high court found that public accommodations law would have to yield to the free expression rights of an organization or association that has a particularly expressive purpose. They also focused on the famous flag salute issue from World War II where the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot compel private individuals to express a specific message.


they would prevail on the merits, “they would still not be entitled to a preliminary injunction because they have not shown they are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction, or that they lack an adequate remedy at law in the event that they ultimately succeed on their claims.” The only “specific harm to which they point,” Alonso wrote, “is the risk of running late to class by using alternate restrooms to avoid sharing with a transgender student and the ‘embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, fear, apprehension, stress, degradation, and loss of dignity’” sharing the bathroom would allegedly entail. These harms, Alonso concluded, “were insufficient to establish irreparable injury.” During the time in which the district had its new policy, Alonso noted, “either Student Plaintiffs did not notice that transgender students were using restrooms consistent with their gender identity, or they knew and tolerated it for several years,” since no examples of actual incidents were cited in their | January 4 – 17, 2018

Even granting that the Kleins’ “products entail artistic expression,” the court was not persuaded that the expression was entitled to “the same level of constitutional protection as pure speech or traditional forms of artistic expression… it is not enough that the Kleins believe them to be pieces of art… they have made no showing that other people will necessarily experience any wedding cake that the Kleins create predominantly as ‘expression’ rather than as food.” The court concluded that “any burden imposed on the Kleins’ expression is no greater than essential to further the state’s interest,” pointing out that “BOLI’s order does not compel the Kleins to express an articulable message with which they disagree,” such as “God Bless This Marriage.” Given the state’s interest in preventing “unequal treatment” in public accommodations, Garrett wrote, “there is no doubt that interest would be undermined if businesses that market their goods and services to the ‘public’ are given a special privilege to exclude certain groups from the meaning of that

word.” Looking to another Supreme Court ruling, the panel also concluded that the “incidental effect” on the Kleins’ free exercise of religion does not violate the First Amendment. The appeals panel also rejected the Kleins’ arguments that recognizing a narrow exception for businesses whose owners had religious objections to same-sex marriage would have only a “minimal” effect on “the state’s antidiscrimination objectives,” pointing out that “those with sincere religious objections to marriage between people of different races, ethnicities, or faiths could just as readily demand the same exemption.” The panel also concluded that the award of $135,000 had an adequate basis in the trial record and was not out of line with awards in other cases. The one area on which the court agreed with the Kleins was in finding that their public comments about their determination to defend this case and to adhere to their religious beliefs did not specifically violate the state’s ban on

businesses announcing an intent to discriminate. The Kleins were careful in wording the sign they put up at their bakery and in their comments on Facebook and in the press to avoid stating that they would discriminate because of a customer’s sexual orientation. The court was not willing to interpret the nondiscrimination statute as exposing businesses to additional liability for stating publicly their belief that their past action had not violated the law. The Kleins were represented in this appeal by attorneys from several law firms, some specializing in championing socially conservative causes, so it would not be surprising to see them file an appeal with the Oregon Supreme Court. The Oregon attorney general’s office represented BOLI. Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed amicus briefs, joined by a long list of liberal religious associations, on behalf of Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer. A Supreme Court ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case is expected by June.

motion for an injunction. “The passage of time therefore further undermines Plaintiffs’ claim of irreparable harm,” he wrote. In light of the Whitaker case and Alonso’s strongly-worded opinion, one would expect the school district to promptly file a motion for summary judgment, if Alliance Defending Freedom does not decide to fold up its tent and steal away. This issue could be clarified if the Supreme Court were to take up the Kenosha school district’s appeal in the Whitaker case. News reports, however, indicate that the two sides there are close to a settlement and have asked the high court to extend the time for Whitaker’s counsel to file a response to the school district’s petition. As a result, it appears likely that no Supreme Court action to take up the Whitaker case will occur prior to the February 8 status hearing in the Illinois case. The transgender student intervenors in this case are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and the national ACLU Foundation, with pro bono attorneys from Mayer Brown LLP.



Chinese Food Can’t Hold a Candle to Jewbilee A gay Jewish Christmas tradition thrives in its 11th year


Miz Cracker entertained a crowd of more than 1,000 on December 24 in the Flatiron.



hat’s a gay Jew to do on Christmas Eve in New York? One option is heading over to the Jewbilee, which on December 24 marked its 11th year. This most recent edition was held in Slate in the Flatiron district. According to Andrew Friedman, the assistant manager of HeBro, the gay Jewish-themed



Blake Deadly performs, with DJ Nandi in the background.

Jewbilee has become a huge draw for Christmas Eve.

A dancer in the spotlight at Jewbilee.

promotional group behind the event, more than 1,000 gay Jews and their friends turned out to listen to Israeli and American pop music spun by DJ Nandi. Go-go boys provided eye-gelt — garbed in blue, white, and silver, the colors of Hanukkah and the Israeli flag, stars of David dangling from their chests catching the strobe lights as they moved. Drag performers Miz Cracker and Blake Deadly, both New York Jewish queens, entertained the crowd, many of their

jokes focused on being one of the Chosen People, sweating in their drag outfits like their ancestors did building pyramids, and the irony of many popular Christmas songs being written by Jews (Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” probably the most famous example). Lest anyone forget, without the most famous Jew of all, Jesus, there would be no Christmas. No matter persuasion or orientation, the Jewbilee has become part of the New York holiday season cal-

endar. Friedman said of the evening, “While eating Chinese food is the go-to for our ancestors on Christmas Eve, the Jewbilee has created a low-fat gay alternative to that tradition! There’s only a few days a year where Jews feel Jewish and Christmas Eve is one of them. Jewbilee brings together over a thousand gay Jews and the guys that love us and queer Jewish talent for a night of fun, dancing, and maybe some husband-hunting!”


Holiday Twist from Gay Against Guns, Rise and Resist Activists “reinterpret” classic carols, make clear what they want for Christmas


I 16

n a series of appearances around the city in the days leading up to Christmas, Gays Against Guns,

the activist group that grew up in the wake of the Orlando Pulse nightclub murders in June 2016, did some holiday caroling with a “twist.” In Bryant Park on December 22, the group and its Sing Out

Louise singers, in Santa caps, offered up subservice lyrics. The day before, at Trump International Hotel in Columbus Circle, Rise and Resist, born out of Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, declared

impeachment and much more were what they wanted for Christmas. January 4 – 17, 2018 |


crowd. “And I say, the fight is not over. Mr. Mayor, when I tell you the fight is not over, you know I mean it!” Among the other officials on hand to support the garden were State Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, who said the Little Italy area was already woefully underserved with open space. “Everyone supports affordable housing,” Niou said. “But we can’t be always asking for affordable housing to the point that we make it unlivable.” None of those politicians stand-


customary practice of according “a highly deferential level of review” to Executive Branch decisions about military policy. Quoting a 1981 Supreme Court ruling that stated such deferential review is most appropriate when the “military acts with measure, and not ‘unthinkingly or reflexively,’” he observed, “Here, the only serious study and evaluation concerning the effect of transgender people in the armed forces led the military leaders to resoundingly conclude there was no justification for the ban.” He agreed with Judge Kollar-Kotelly that “the reasons offered for categorically excluding transgender individuals were not supported and were in fact contradicted by the only military judgment available at the time.” Bernal also easily concluded that blocking the policy’s implementation and ending the enlistment ban on January 1 were necessary to prevent irreparable harm to the plaintiffs —essentially finding that allowing the Trump policies to go into effect would cause injuries to transgender individuals that could not be completely remedied by monetary damages awarded after the fact. DOJ argued that “separation from the military would not constitute irreparable harm because it is within the Court’s equitable powers to remedy the injury,” but Bernal countered, “These arguments fail to address the negative stigma the ban forces upon Plaintiffs,” including the “damaging public | January 4 – 17, 2018

ing with Stringer on December 11, however, will get to vote on the project as it goes through the city’s Uniform Land-Use Review Process, or ULURP. To move forward, the project must be approved by the City Planning Commission and the City Council, which tends to follow the lead of the councilmember in whose district the project falls — in this case, Chin. The community board and Manhattan borough president have only advisory votes, although the borough president can force a supermajority vote if she votes “no.” Thus far, Gale Brewer — who’s been a steadfast ally of Chin on other issues — has been noncommittal on

the Elizabeth Street site. In a press release, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development pledged to “recreate many of the existing features and layout of the site, including passive spaces, sculptures and art pieces, lawns, diverse plantings, space for gardening, and open seating.” But garden advocates say the current proposal, placing the seven-story residential complex on the Elizabeth Street side of the garden and shifting the open space to the Mott Street side, would result in a public lawn that’s mostly in shadow. “There will not be one blade of grass in the garden that’s pro-

posed, so this is a sham” scoffed Kent Barwick, the former president of the Municipal Art Society, who lives on Mott Street. “It’s another concrete slab with benches,” charged local mom Emily Hellstrom, one of the founders of Friends of the Elizabeth Street Garden. “We’ve found a gravelstrewn lot could provide five times as much housing. Why are we being cast as the villains?” Chin, however, argued that both locations could be utilized to expand senior housing availability, saying, “That’s not an alternative site, but an additional one. The need for senior housing is so great. We need both.”

message that transgender people are not fit to serve in the military. There is nothing any court can do to remedy a government-sent message that some citizens are not worthy of the military uniform simply because of their gender. A few strokes of the legal quill may easily alter the law, but the stigma of being seen as less-than is not so easily erased.” Federal courts, he noted, have frequently held that “deprivation of constitutional rights unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.” Quoting Kollar-Kotelly’s opinion, Bernal wrote, “There is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effect on the military at all. In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects.” With the district judges who have ruled unwilling to stay their preliminary injunctions, DOJ has so far filed “emergency” appeals in the DC, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits, particularly to forestall the opening up of transgender enlistment as of January 1. On December 21, a three-judge panel in the Fourth Circuit rejected the motion for stay without comment. The next day, a three-judge panel of the DC Circuit issued an opinion explaining its refusal to grant a stay, writing that the government has “not shown a strong likelihood that they will succeed on the merits of their challenge to the district court’s order. As the

district court explained, ‘the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the [Memorandum], the unusual’ and abrupt ‘circumstances surround[ing] the President’s announcement of [the exclusion], the fact that the reasons given for [it] do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself,’ taken together, ‘strongly suggest that Plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment claim is meritorious.’” The DC Circuit noted in particular the adverse effect that staying the injunction would have on transgender students at the service academies who anticipate being accepted into active service when they graduate. Indeed, the court suggested, federal law treats those students as members of the military, so letting the discharge policy go into effect posed an immediate threat to them. In seeking “emergency” relief, DOJ contended the Defense Department was not ready to being enlisting transgender people, but in rejecting a stay motion on December 11, Kollar-Kotelly pointed out that DOJ was relying on “sweeping and conclusory statements” without “explaining what precisely needs to be completed by January 1.” In fact, the Defense Department’s own actions have undermined the emergency motions. The DC Circuit noted that the government failed to inform the court of a December 8, 2017 Pentagon memorandum providing “detailed directions and guidance governing ‘processing transgender applicants

for military service.’” The DC panel also was totally unconvinced by DOJ’s argument that, absent a preliminary injunction, Mattis had any discretion to alter the terms set out in Trump’s August memorandum. In addition to denying the stay, the DC panel set out an expedited calendar for addressing DOJ’s appeal of the district court’s injunction, with oral argument be scheduled for January 27. Federal judges may too polite to say so, but the clear implication of their opinions is that Trump lied in his original tweet when he said his decision was made “after consultation with my Generals and military experts.” To date, neither the president nor anybody speaking for him has identified any specific military leaders or experts who were consulted prior to his July tweet. Secretary Mattis, who was on vacation when the president issued his tweet, was, according to press reports, informed it was happening the night before, but is not said to have been consulted about whether this policy change should be made. And the Defense Department has offered no studies to counter the extended government studies that preceded then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s announcement in mid-2016 that service would be opened to transgender Americans. All that adds up to the references in the court opinions issued to date to the lack of “facts’ backing up this policy and the judges’ unanimous agreement that the usual judicial deference to military expertise is inappropriate here.



Lezzies at Large: The Innocence Project’s Karen Thompson





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ast week I spoke with Karen Thompson about her work as a lawyer and lesbian advocate. (The quotes used in this article have been edited for clarity and length; watch the interview at innocence-karen-thompson-video.) I fi rst met her more than two decades ago when she was a street activist and Lesbian Avenger. It was only several years ago, while working in a huge international law fi rm, that she realized she had a talent for criminal defense work. One of her last cases at the fi rm was representing Patreese Johnson, one of the four young New Jersey women jailed for defending themselves during a homophobic attack in the West Village in 2006. Besides insulting them, Dwayne Buckle had been caught on camera throwing cigarettes and spitting on them, before grabbing one of the young women by the throat. That’s when Johnson fi nally stabbed him, sending him to the hospital for five days. For this, she was sentenced to prison for 15 years, a substantially longer sentence than the 10 years a man might get for killing his girlfriend. “That was part of the argument on appeal,” said Thompson, who took on her case after the initial guilty verdict. “First, that his wounds were not the serious physical injury required to convict someone of fi rst-degree assault. And that secondly — does self-defense not count if you’re a dyke and you’re a dyke of color from Newark, New Jersey?” Not if you’re a tabloid. The case was tried in the press. The New York Post ran the headline, “Attack of the Killer Lesbians,” characterizing Buckle as an innocent victim. The Daily News rejoiced at the verdict, with “Lesbian wolf pack guilty.” The appeals courts largely disagreed, and in 2008 overturned the convictions of two of the NJ4, and later reduced the sentences of the two others. During the process, Thompson realized she wanted to be


Innocence Project attorney Karen Thompson.

doing this kind of work, and joined the Innocence Project. The Innocence Project I asked her about the gender breakdown of her work because we mostly hear about men exonerated by the project, though the group just won freedom for a California woman, Kirstin Lobato, who served more than a decade for a murder she did not commit. Thompson explained that it wasn’t just because many more men pass through the judicial system, but because certain types of violence are gendered. “When you look at things like stranger rape, people who are kidnapping children and raping them. People who are breaking into women’s homes and raping them. People who are grabbing women off the street and raping them. That’s entirely men,” she explained. “I’ve never had one instance of a sheriff or a cop, or a case where the victim said, ‘Oh, my attacker was a woman.’” Thompson affi rmed that women do murder, but they mostly arrive in court for cases involving shaken babies, arson, and as accessories to crimes. And minor drug offenses. But since the Innocence Project relies primarily on DNA testing, they

end up dealing primarily with rapes and sexual assaults. “That’s kind of a weird way to put it, but… semen gets everywhere,” she said. “That’s our tag line. A little dark humor at the Innocence Project, but it’s true.” Being an out lesbian impacts her work positively. “Walking into a small town courtroom in Arkansas, the dyke thing is probably the least of my concerns,” Thompson said. “But what’s great about it is that I’m not limited to being nice. I’m not afraid of being called a bitch. Or a dyke. Because I’m not really seen as a woman in the same way. In those environments, my blackness supersedes my womanness. So, if I’m not fuckable, it doesn’t really matter, right? This means I get to be the best advocate for my clients. Because I don’t care what the repercussions are of acting like a man in a courtroom. It’s amazing to see what happens when you’re not apologetic.” Women’s Spaces Thompson is also working on a project called the We Want the Land Coalition. She helped establish the

KAREN THOMPSON, continued on p.19

January 4 – 17, 2018 |


Starting the Year Back on Crackpot Alley BY ED SIKOV


e haven’t taken a stroll down Crackpot Alley in quite a while. So let’s go for

a walk! Guess who the first person we see is? Yes, that’s him, leaning against the decrepit wall of a clown-themed gay bar. It’s the three-time winner of the “World’s Greatest Asshole” contest, Milo Yiannopoulos. We’d hoped we’d seen the last of Milo when he lost a $250,000 book deal after a video surfaced appearing to show him coming out in favor of child sex abuse. But no — he’s back! Why? Because he’s the keynote speaker at a meeting funded by Hungary, which is currently ruled by Viktor Orbán and his far-right political party, Fidesz. In an article for Al Jazeera, Creede Newton writes of Milo, “He once told a radio host that if Australians allowed 12,000 Syrian refugees to stay in their country, it would result in their ‘daughters being raped.’” This sort of thing can’t possibly go over too well at Al Jazeera, which is of course headquartered in the Islamic nation of Qatar. Newton goes on to quote Cas Mudde, an expert in farright political parties in Eastern


not-for-profit last year to buy the 651 acres of land in rural Michigan that’s the former site of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. The goal is not a continuation of the festival. Instead, the organization is trying to preserve land that protects the water supply of a great many people. Equally important is making the land available to self-identified women and girls from all over the world so they can use the space to host their own events and “create the next thing, the next space for women, for dykes, for all feminist folks, feminist-minded, community-minded people.” Despite the #MeToo movement | January 4 – 17, 2018

Europe: “The inclusion of Milo is impossible to understand, as he is a flamboyant, openly gay internet troll, whereas Fidesz tries to sell itself as a conservative, pro-family values party.” Newton also quotes Scott Long, a human rights activist focused on LGBTQ rights, who tweeted: “Neofascist Viktor Orban enlists gay fascist Milo Yiannopoulos to keynote a conference... The horrors never stop.”, a social app and website for gay men, offers Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo’s yearend wrap up of things you should know in order to not look dumb at brunch. Leading their list is this: “It turns out shit does stink. ExBreitbart and ex-Trump darling Milo Yiannopoulos’ book deal for ‘Dangerous’ with Simon & Schuster was canceled. Yiannopoulos in turn decided to sue the book publisher for $10 million (LOL), which has bestowed a gift upon us all: The lawsuit has unearthed the editor’s notes on the Milo book manuscript, and the only thing ‘dangerous’ about the book was how dangerously close it comes to being a laughing stock. Simon & Schuster called the Milo book ‘unpublishable.’” And in Hornet’s own version of Crackpot Alley, “Whackjob of the Week,” we meet a real nutcase: “If

we hear about the Bible-supporting murder of gays one more time, we’re gonna scream. This time it’s GOP (surprise!) candidate for Texas governor Larry ‘Secede’ Kilgore. (Yup, for a time he allegedly changed his middle name to that.) He has since deleted the Facebook post expressing his support for executing ‘a convicted adulterer, sodomite or bestialiter.’” So that’s what they’re called. It’s been bothering me for quite some time. And who is that, lying in the gutter face down in his own vomit? Why it’s Roy Moore, who is quite possibly the world’s worst human being. As Craig Ford writes in an Associated Press article, “Angi Horn Stalnaker, a Republican strategist who ran previous campaigns against Moore, said it should not come as a surprise that Moore is not following the standard post-election script of conceding a loss and wishing his opponent well. Moore previously blamed his two ousters from the court on those he said didn’t like his push to ‘acknowledge God’ with a Ten Commandments monument and a ‘politically motivated effort by radical homosexual and transgender groups,’ who targeted him because of what he called his ‘outspoken opposition to their immoral agenda.’ ‘His whole shtick relies on martyrdom,’ Stalnaker said. ‘The big fat Republican establishment joined up with the big fat hippy dippy liberals, and “Once again look at me, crucified on the cross.”’”

Gee, I couldn’t have put it better myself. Moving further down the block, we find Bob Unruh of the crank website, who writes, “Three judges on the Oregon Court of Appeals on Thursday affirmed a penalty of $135,000 for a bakery whose owners refused to violate their Christian faith and promote lesbianism by providing a cake for two ‘brides.’ [Note the quotes — they’re not really brides in Unruh’s estimation.] The fine was a death penalty for the bakery, forcing it out of business. The Oregon judges, Joel DeVore, Chris Garrett, and Bronson James, also determined that in today’s America, quoting the Bible can cause ‘emotional harm’ to same-sex duos... The judges concluded it was a legitimate duty of the state to force Christians to promote same-sex duos.” The two brides, by the way, are Christian. The British website pinknews. com offers up our last visitor to — no — make that resident of Crackpot Alley, because in his case it sounds more like a permanent address: “Labour suspended Jared O’Mara MP in October after he allegedly referred to gay people as ‘fudge packers’ and ‘poofters,’ also alluding to anal sex as ‘driving up the Marmite Motorway.” Those crazy Brits! Everyone knows it’s the Hershey Highway!

and new attention to discrimination against women, which ranges from constant interruptions while speaking to harassment in public spaces and overt violence, including the rape and murder she is all too familiar with, Thompson recognizes the difficulties women have whenever they try to set up their own spaces. “Having space in a metaphorical and real way is how women have been able to create political space to get themselves free,” she said. “And it’s deeply, deeply threatening to power structures. If you’re at the top of the ladder you think that all people want to do is to turn the ladder upside down, so that people on the bottom are on top.” Thus beginning

a new cycle of oppression, which she noted is not equality at all. Dyke-baiting is one tool used against feminist organizers as well as lesbians. When a straight woman rejects a man’s advances, the fi rst thing she’s accused of is being a dyke. When she talks too loudly, she’s called a dyke. Dykes, ironically, are always accused of being straight: “Have you tried it? How do you know you don’t like dick if you’ve never tried it before?,” Thompson said, quoting the refrain. “When you say you’re a lesbian, that’s always the reaction. That is about keeping political liberation from happening.” Like any oppressed group, black people, too, have their intentions attacked any time they

try to create some kind of separate space inaccessible to their oppressors. “It’s not about you,” Thompson said. “That’s the other thing. It’s just not about you. Black people getting together is not about white people. Women getting together is not about men. It’s about creating a space for liberation. Our hope with the land is to make that space available for women to do that work again.”

Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook.

For more information on the Innocence Project, visit Read about the New Jersey Four in an NPR feature at More information about the We Want the Land Coalition is available at



Kettling Free Speech, Or Unicorn Riot Routs Times BY SUSIE DAY


oes anybody have enough strength left to pop a cork in celebration that we’ve made it through Trump’s first year in office? I don’t. There is stuff to celebrate, such as the December 21 jury trial acquittal of six of the 194 defendants facing decades in prison for protesting at Trump’s inauguration last January. But this remains a bellwether case, a sign that the judicial climate change begun by past administrations may well become unstoppable under Donald Trump. The mainstream media have all but ignored this case, but it bears watching. The J20 case, as it’s come to be known, resulted from the efforts, begun in July 2016, of DisruptJ20, a group organizing an “anti-capitalist, anti-fascist” inauguration day Festival of Resistance. There were other protests in Washington, DC, last Jan-

uary 20 not organized by this group, but J20 was largely black bloc. Black bloc is not a group; it’s a mostly anarchist tactic by which protesters dress in black and protest anonymously, often covering their faces. It was a black bloc protestor during the J20 protest who delivered the salutary — and meme-worthy — punch to white supremacist Richard Spencer, preempting Spencer’s explanation to Australian media of the political significance of Pepe the Frog. Thousands of protesters attended Trump’s inauguration, some dressed in black. While most marched down 13th Street, a few broke away to hurl rocks and bottles at police officers, set vehicles on fire, and throw “Make America Great Again” baseball caps into burning garbage cans, and others smashed windows of capitalist bulwarks like Bank of America and McDonald’s. Damage is estimated at over $100,000 — a pittance, compared to the damage that Trump’s

recent $1.3 trillion tax cut will likely wreak on the infrastructure. Meanwhile, the response of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to the “riot” was hardly peacekeeping. As observably nonviolent participants reached 13th and K, police suddenly — without warnings or dispersal orders — launched gallons of pepper spray, using handheld canisters and newfangled MK46 dispensers, called Super Soakers. Cops also fired rubber bullets and Sting Ball grenades that eject hard rubber balls into a radius of protesters. Police body cams at trial showed several instances of cops pushing protesters to the ground from behind with riot batons. Cops pepper-sprayed protesters even after large numbers had been “kettled” — herded into an enclosed space from which people could not move. Among other allegations, an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit charges the MPD with unconstitutional arrests at the J20 protests,

excessive force, denying kettled protesters food, water, and access to toilets for hours, and carrying out forced rectal searches. More than 230 people were arrested; 194 charged with felony rioting, which can mean up to 10 years in prison. Although about 20 defendants agreed to plea deals, 130 signed a “points of unity” agreement, pledging to refuse plea bargains that could hurt other defendants, to share information and resources, and generally to “stand together.” This likely served them well when, in April, the DC Superior Court handed down superseding charges, adding eight more felonies including inciting to riot, conspiracy to riot, and property destruction. Remaining defendants now face sentences exceeding 70 years. Why J20 compels attention: The prosecution in the recent trial acknowledged that none of the six

J20, continued on p.21


Legalizing Pot is Sound Policy and Social Justice BY NATHAN RILEY


egalizing recreational pot is a matter of justice and sound public policy. Starting January 11, the State Assembly begins laying the groundwork for legalizing such use in New York. If successful, that would mark a major step toward criminal justice reform. When I scheduled for State Senator Carol Bellamy’s 1977 race for City Council President — a citywide office now called Public Advocate — I had a standing order: she would drop everything and return to Albany to vote on marijuana decriminalization. That represented her recognition that criminal penalties aren’t appropriate for smoking marijuana. And for the last 40 years, that principle has been central to my reality. While working for the State Attorney General’s Office, I was arrested for possession. The police didn’t call for a tow truck, they let us drive to the precinct, completed the paperwork, and after one court appear-


ance the case was dismissed. The arrest made no ripple in my career and came to no public notice. Today, I make a phone call and pot is delivered to my apartment within the hour. Its delivery doesn’t intrude on the public. In my Upper West Side neighborhood, criminal arrests for marijuana are 50 for every 100,000 people, but travel two miles to East Harlem’s 30th precinct and the rate is 1,038. Kassandra Frederique, a fierce leader at the Drug Policy Alliance, slams this “staggering” disproportionality, and Queens College Professor Harry Levine, whose research documents the racial and ethnic disparities in marijuana arrests, minces no words, damning it as “Jim Crow” justice. There is one policy for white users like me, and another harsher one for African Americans and Latinos. This result is repugnant and contrary to the beliefs of virtually every member of the Legislature, most of whom entered public life despising racial discrimination. These injustices also repel those who don’t smoke, don’t get high, but

hold dear the principle that the law should apply equally to everyone. Supporters of the current state of the law, like Mayor Bill de Blasio, get tunnel vision when they discuss pot. He ignores the distinction between abuse and use and uncritically accepts the idea that people will gorge themselves on pot. In no country or state where pot is legal does use escalate out of control. It will open the “floodgates” said the mayor, while never mentioning either the harm that comes from imposing criminal convictions on people or the benefits that would result from ending racist enforcement of the law. Manhattan State Senator Liz Krueger and Buffalo Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes have introduced legislation to tax and regulate marijuana, which would allow the public to shop for pot. The legislative hearing suggests that the Assembly is open to placing this issue on its agenda. A tax and regulate system is becoming normal. California’s legalization regime just went into effect. Massachusetts will make its first

license applications available at the beginning of April. Another border state, New Jersey, has a new governor, Phil Murphy, who promised to legalize pot and was elected with almost 56 percent of the vote. Colorado sold its first legal pot on New Years Day, 2014. Washington, Oregon, and Alaska have also adopted legalization. New Hampshire and Maryland are debating legalization. Nationally, Gallup has recorded constant increases in public support for full legalization, with it reaching a record high of 64 percent in October. 2017 marked the first time a majority of Republicans supported it. This support reflects a changing attitude toward individual choice. Support for change in marijuana laws tracks growing support for same-sex marriage. The use of psychoactive drugs like marijuana or alcohol is an intimate behavior that can be regulated successfully but cannot be prohibited without causing incalculable harms. As gays battled for their civil

LEGAL POT, continued on p.21

January 4 – 17, 2018 |

J20, from p.20

defendants participated in property destruction. Also, the fact that few, if any, of the 188 defendants awaiting trial can be shown to have acted “violently” may not legally matter. Certainly, there have been larger mass arrests and greater police brutality, but the J20 charges present an open and egregious threat to First Amendment rights. If the prosecution succeeds in the next volley of trials, federal courts can sentence anyone to decades in prison, merely for attending a protest where a law is broken. Simple acts like yelling “Stay together” or wearing clothes supporting a protest message could be “reasonable” proof of conspiracy charges. At a time when Trump is packing the courts with unqualified conservative judges, J20 demonstrates increasingly reactionary interpretations of law. Although DC Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz reduced

LEGAL POT, from p.20

rights, they faced a devastating crisis in AIDS. They didn’t stop having sex, but many stopped going to backroom orgies and used condoms until medicine opened up other avenues. There is no reasonable way to stop pot use, but there are ways to makes its use safer with legalization and regulation. In response to the complaint that pot keeps getting more potent, regulation could mandate that mild as well as strong vari-

two felony charges of the six defendants to misdemeanors — cutting their possible sentences from 60 to 50 years — she also declared that journalists filming and describing the protest, as defendant Alexei Wood did, were aiding and abetting “the riot.” Leibovitz also stated that street medics (one defendant was a nurse) could be aiders and abettors if they assisted an injured “rioter.” There’s no room here to fully explore the use of cyber-surveillance in obtaining evidence or the encroaching presence of the far right in J20 police and trial procedure. But you should at least know that video footage of a DisruptJ20 planning meeting, secretly shot by an informant from Project Veritas (the group recently exposed for trying to discredit the Washington Post with a fake sexual assault story) was used by the prosecution as evidence — even after the government admitted to editing it. Then there was the disciplinary record, revealed by the

defense, of MPD Commander Keith Deville. It was Deville — written up for joking about the Holocaust and making anti-trans and anti-queer remarks — who ordered and supervised the riot-police assault on protesters. The six J20 defendants were acquitted because their trial luckily retained some meager remnants of reason. As court adjourned, a juror explained the verdict: “The prosecution admitted, day one, that they would present no evidence that any of the defendants committed any acts of violence or vandalism. From that point … it was clear … we would find everyone not guilty.” But even if every single defendant of the remaining 188 is acquitted over the next year, charges like those embedded in J20 can effectively intimidate anyone from going to an anti-government protest. They also point to the growing infatuation of the Trump administration with

rulers like Erdogan and Putin who deploy similar, usually worse, punishments for dissent. In closing, three things:

eties are sold. According to the hearing notice from Brooklyn Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, chair of the Codes Committee that oversees New York’s criminal law, the discriminatory nature of marijuana law enforcement is an established fact. Two other committees will join Codes in what promises to be the most important hearing on legalization in the history of New York State. Manhattan Assemblymembers Richard Gottfried, chair of the Com-

mittee on Health, and Linda Rosenthal, chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, will join Lentol in convening the hearing on January 11 at 10:30 a.m. at 250 Broadway. The goal is the production of a report on the impacts of legalization on the criminal justice and public health systems. That report could persuade doubters like de Blasio and convince the Democrats in the Assembly to put it on their agenda. Then legalization supporters can

face off against the Republican Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s history of opposition. In that battle, pot advocates have one key advantage. At a time when New York will be hit hard by the new federal tax law, the state will be looking for new revenue streams that don’t compound the damage. New York is 3.6 times larger than Colorado, which leads to a seat of the pants calculation of $814 million in new revenues from taxes on legal pot.

• Solidarity matters: between movements (keep up with Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter) and within cases (don’t separate “good”/ nonviolent from “bad”/ violent defendants). • Never stop valuing independent media. Virtually no mainstream outlet reported J20 thoroughly. The New York Times, instead of covering the trial, ran a Style section article, “What to Wear to Smash the State.” Whereas, a host of mostly independent outlets, including Unicorn Riot, the Intercept, In These Times, the Nation, Democracy Now!, the podcast It’s Going Down, were timely and essential. • Happy New Year. Six down, 188 to go. Let’s keep in touch.



n an historic January 1 appointment, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that State Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Garry, an out lesbian member of the Albany-based Third Department appellate court since 2009, would become the Department’s presiding judge. Garry becomes the first out LGBTQ person to serve as a presiding judge in any department of the State’s Appellate Division, comprised of the intermediate level courts just below the state’s highest bench, the Court of Appeals. | January 4 – 17, 2018

Garry, who is 55 and grew up in the Albany area, will preside over a department with jurisdiction over 28 counties that run from just north of the metropolitan area up to the Canadian border and west into central New York. A graduate of Alfred University, Garry earned her law degree from Albany Law School. In written comments to LeGaL, the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York, Garry said, “I am so greatly honored by this appointment. I will strive to serve this Court I love, and the people of our State, with the support of my friends and colleagues in the bench and bar. I look forward to the opportunities ahead, working

with our Chief Judge, taking on new and challenging duties, and bringing the great traditions of my Court forward!” Garry’s appointment follows just six months after the confirmation of Judge Paul Feinman as the first openly LGBTQ judge on the State Court of Appeals, after his nomination by Cuomo. Feinman, a former LeGaL president, told the group, “It’s been my pleasure to get to know Justice Garry while working together in the Association of Supreme Court Justices of the State of New York, the Hon. Richard Failla LGBTQ Commission, and the International Association of LGBT Judges. Her

keen intellect, diligent work ethic, and kindness will serve New Yorkers well as she embarks on this new endeavor.” The Failla LGBTQ Commission, on which Garry serves as cochair, is a new organization tasked with addressing issues related to the community in the state court system. It is named for a the late Judge Richard C. Failla, the first out LGBTQ person elected to the State Supreme Court who died at 53 from AIDS-related complications in 1993. LeGaL’s immediate past executive director, Matthew Skinner, just became the Commission’s new executive director.



Following in Fellow Travelers’ Footsteps Gregory Spears, Greg Pierce, Kevin Newbury bring alive the ‘50s McCarthy Lavender Scare BY ELI JACOBSON n January 12, the Prototype Festival presents the New York premiere of “Fellow Travelers,” an opera with music by Gregory Spears and a libretto by Greg Pierce that debuted at Cincinnati Opera in June 2016. Prototype is bringing the Cincinnati Opera production directed by Kevin Newbury to the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College for four performances from January 12-14. The opera is based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Thomas Mallon, which tells the story of the illicit love affair set during the 1950s McCarthy era between handsome State Department official Hawkins Fuller and recent college grad Timothy Laughlin, who is eager to join the crusade against Communism. Their forbidden relationship takes place against the political background of the Lavender Scare led by Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy that targeted homosexuals working in the State Department as possible security risks, subversives, and traitors to the “American Way of Life.” Like many operas, the political and the personal intertwine, ending in tragedy for a pair of forbidden lovers — but the twist here is that the lovers are two men. Composer Spears and director Newbury spoke to Gay City News about the challenges of telling this story in music and how it speaks to today’s America in the era of Trump and the religious alt-right.



ELI JACOBSON: “Fellow Travelers” is set in the 1950s Lavender Scare. Today, alt-right Republicans are targeting the gay community as the boogeyman to unify their Christian conservative base against a perceived foe to Christian and American values. Can the progress and sacrifices made by the gay community in the last 60 years be erased in Trump’s America? What does this story set in the 1950s have to tell us today and what


Gerald W. Lynch Theater John Jay College of Criminal Justice 524 W. 59th St. Jan. 12-13 at 8 p.m. Jan. 13-14 at 2 p.m. $30-$75; fellow-travelers Two hrs., five mins. “Fellow Travelers” that share our history and make sure we don’t allow it to be repeated.


Joseph Lattanzi and Aaron Blake in Cincinnati Opera’s world premiere of Gregory Spears and Greg Pierce’s “Fellow Travelers,” based on the 2007 novel by Thomas Mallon.

EJ: Opera is very good at dramatizing personal conflict — most operas deal with forbidden or doomed love affairs like the one involving your two protagonists. Political issues are not as well suited to musical drama. What were your dramatic and musical solutions for tackling that problem? KN: Like Thomas Mallon’s novel, Greg Pierce and Greg Spears’ opera vacillates between the personal and the political, both intertwining in surprising ways. Audiences respond to seeing political characters they know —like McCarthy — but it’s the personal that really resonates. GS: Actually, I would say one of opera’s greatest strengths is its ability to dramatize the political through the lens of a personal conflict, for example “Don Carlos,” “Tristan und Isolde,” “Tosca,” “Norma,” and countless others. In that way we saw opera as uniquely suited to this story.


Gregory Spears, seen here, wrote the music for “Fellow Travelers,” with the libretto by Greg Pierce.

themes are resonant with contemporary society? GREGORY SPEARS: The Lavender Scare shows one of many historical examples of how a group of people can be scapegoated in service of another person’s pursuit of political power. This is something we must always be working against. KEVIN NEWBURY: I believe

so strongly that we stand on the shoulders of the generations that came before us. The queer community fought for our rights during the pain and humiliations of the Lavender Scare, Stonewall, the AIDS crisis, the fight for gay marriage, and everything in between. We will continue to fight and, as artists, we will continue to share pieces like

EJ: Mr. Spears, what should the listener be aware of in taking in your score? Were the musical content and style dictated by the story? What kind of sound world were you as the composer aiming for? GS: Opera thrives on stories with rich subtext, where characters cannot fully express themselves in words. My goal was to craft a musical

FELLOW TRAVELERS, continued on p.35

January 4 – 17, 2018 |

Cape Cod’s New Impresario David Drake moves in to head the Provincetown Theater BY DAVID NOH ld Cape Cod is really gonna rock, theatrically speaking, with the recent appointment of writer and actor David Drake as artistic director of the esteemed 13-yearold Provincetown Theater. “Beginning in 2010, David Drake has built a wonderfully successful relationship with our theater community, staging shows for us as a freelance director,” said the theater’s board president, David Wilson. “And while we are grateful to our outgoing artistic director Tristan DiVincenzo for his terrific work the past three years, we are extremely excited by the fresh, caring, and creative vision that David is bringing to take us into the future.” I met with Drake, who has seemingly been a presence in every cultured New Yorker’s life ever since a billboard on Seventh Avenue (subsequently used by Marc Jacobs) depicting him shirtless and touting his career-making “The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me” popped up in my Greenwich Village neighborhood back in 1992. We chatted at the Hudson Diner — the kind of establishment where a lot of Drake’s writing has been done — and he was filled with enthusiasm for his enviable new gig, even though lodgings are not provided with the job (which I had to ask). “I’m thrilled,” he said, “especially as Provincetown was pretty much where the American drama was born, with [Eugene] O’Neill and others, in the last century. I feel honored to help lead it into the 21st century. I want to revive key gay works as well as develop new ones. Plus I love this community, where I’ve been coming — and working — for years, the rich history, the wonderful people.” Although the job doesn’t start until April, with a production of Kaufman & Hart’s “You Can’t Take It with You” as Drake’s first official offering, last month he staged a holiday revue, “A Very Townie Christmas,” which replaced a planned production of “A Christmas Carol”

O | January 4 – 17, 2018


Actor, director, and playwright David Drake, after years of work with the Provincetown Theater, officially takes the helm this coming spring.

and a New Year’s gala canceled due to the theater’s outstanding debt of some $50,000 (a third of which had been covered by generous pledges as of our mid-December conversation). Drake has previously directed productions of “Our Town,” “The Weight of Water,” and “Slap & Tickle,” among others, at the Provincetown Theater. Drake acknowledged the responsibility he now faces, which includes balancing more challenging dramatic fare with the kind of commercial offerings that will appeal to summer residents and tourists, but he is optimistic and brought to the revue “the feel of a holiday party” and the hope it will “maybe become an annual event.” “I want to take a real look at some older gay plays like Jane Chambers’ ‘Last Summer at Bluefish Cove,’ and see what’s there,” he said, “as well as reach out to playwrights today, many of them living in Provincetown, and to women, in particular, who comprise such a large part of the community.”

An artistic Cancer, Drake, 54, hails from Edgewood, Maryland, and was raised in Baltimore. When he was seven, his mother officially changed his surname from Drakula. Yes, we’re talking about the infamous vampire, aka Vlad the Impaler, and Drake’s search in Romania for his roots provided the basis for his 2002 one-man show, “Son of Drakula.” But a decade before that, there was that Larry Kramer play: “Oh, you remembered that crazy big billboard! No one was doing anything like that back then, and it really helped get the word out, a result of someone brilliantly thinking outside the box. The play has had such a life, who would have known that an autobiographical monologue about my personal and political coming-of-age in New York would have such legs? It won an Obie, ran for a year, one of the longest running solo shows in New York, and then I took it on an international tour and a movie was made of it, by Tim Kirkman.

“Yes, Larry Kramer has seen it. He even came to the 20th anniversary performance in 2013 [which raised more than $60,000 for Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS and Sero Project, which battles HIV criminalization]. It had an all-star cast and was performed as an ensemble rather than solo piece, and I was taken with how well it worked that way, especially with wonderful actors like Brandon Cordero, Robin De Jesús, André De Shields, Claybourne Elder, Rory O’Malley, Anthony Rapp, and BD Wong.” Charles Busch recognized Drake’s talent early on, and hired him to replace him in his own career-making “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom.” “I was also his understudy in ‘The Divine Sister,’” Drake recalled. “I was able to play a variety of roles — butch and in drag — and he said there weren’t many who could realy carry that off.” A memorable acting gig was Drake’s Michael in the 1996 revival of the long unseen gay canon classic “The Boys in the Band” by Mart Crowley: “That was quite a cast — Chris Sieber, David Greenspan, James Lecesne — but it was hard. Because it’s really all about Michael, despite all the other colorful characters. I didn’t realize that until I did it, and it was hard work every night, carrying that role! I hope Jim Parsons [who is playing the part in the upcoming revival in 2018] realizes that. I almost feel like sending him a letter.” Even without his recent appointment, Drake — who knew he was gay from an early age with his fascination for Barbie dolls, is currently single, and has been living with HIV for decades (“due to a bad choice”) — is one busy guy. Besides teaching at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, he’s a much in demand, super versatile director, working with artists like Taylor Mac, dancer/ choreographer Antonio Ramos, and two artists I recently saw who could not be more different. “Porn to Be a Star,” which Drake

DAVID DRAKE, continued on p.35



How Philly Became Lower East Side Queen Indie filmmaker Todd Verow’s muse honored at Anthology Film Archives BY GARY M. KRAMER or two decades, Philly (aka Philly Abe) has been a muse for independent queer filmmaker Todd Verow. The performance artist and actress is an engaging presence on screen, often vibrantly costumed and spouting philosophies in an abrasive style that makes viewers hang on every word. On January 7, Anthology Film Archives is screening a double feature — “Once and Future Queen” and “This Side of Heaven” — that showcases Philly at her best and boldest. The evening is a tribute to her career in Lower East Side low-budget films, and will feature live appearances by her and Verow. In “Queen,” Philly plays AntiMatter, a punk rocker on a mission. In “Heaven,” she is V, a transgender woman fighting a corrupt



Directed by Todd Verow Bangor Films Anthology Film Archives 32 Second Ave. at Second St. Jan. 7 at 6 p.m. $11; $9 for students, seniors at the door


Philly Abe in Todd Verow’s “Once and Future Queen” from 2000.

landlord. Philly chatted with Gay City News about her fi lms, her life, and her collaboration with Verow.

GARY M. KRAMER: What’s the best way to identify you: Philly, or Philly Abe? PHILLY ABE: That dumb cunt

down the road… My name is Philly. My real name is Phyllissima, so Philly is a shortening of that. I was born in South Philadelphia, but I moved to East Oak Lane and was raised in [Philadelphia suburb] Cheltenham.

PHILLY, continued on p.25

Navigating Spaces Off the Map Maysaloun Hamoud offers feminist take on Arab lives in Tel Aviv BY GARY M. KRAMER he terrific queer-themed Israeli film “In Between” is writer/ director Maysaloun Hamoud’s absorbing drama about three Palestinian women living together in Tel Aviv. Leila (Mouna Hawa) is a lawyer. Her roommate Salma (Sana Jammelieh) is a closeted lesbian who slowly acts on her attraction to Dunya (Ahlam Canaan). These women like to have fun, drinking and doing drugs with their gay and straight friends. When Nour (Shaden Kanboura), a Muslim student studying computer science, moves into the apartment, the women become more supportive of one another — especially when Nour’s fiancé Wissam (Henry Andrawes) behaves badly. As Arabs living in Israel, these




Directed by Maysaloun Hamoud Film Movement Opens Jan. 5 Landmark Sunshine Cinema 143 E. Houston St., btwn. First & Second Aves. FILM MOVEMENT

Sana Jammelieh, Shaden Kanboura, and Mouna Hawa in Maysaloun Hamoud “In Between.”

women are described as “in between” — “neither here nor there.” Hamoud, who writes from experience, spoke with Gay City News about her film. GARY M. KRAMER: What can you say about being “in between?” MAYSALOUN HAMOUD: I think there is a lot of “in betweens” — this feeling is something everyone in the

world shares. My “in between” is between traditional rules of society and the world which is supposed to be liberal and open minded and all those things you wish for in your normal life. But in reality, I am outside, because I am Palestinian, not Jewish, so I am always a second-class citizen [in Israel].

GMK: What I see as the strength of your film is that you give the women agency. How did you conceive of the film, these characters, and their relationships and storylines? MH: I spent three years working on the script. I myself lived this life, and I wanted to capture all of the dynamics that occur between flat

IN BETWEEN, continued on p.26

January 4 – 17, 2018 |

story anyway. We always like to gild the lily with glitter and shit. When you see glitter and shit on the street you know you’ve had a transcendent moment.


GMK: You tend to be fearless on screen, but you also seem to be, from my interactions with you offscreen, fearless in real life. Can you talk about where you get your strong personality? PA: Things come through me. I take no credit for anything. I feel like a transmitter and signal, receiver and sender. I have terminal pancreatic caner, and I’m now dealing with dying with love and understanding. I think the fierceness comes out of love as well. It’s wanting to break down the stupid walls people put up. I want to shake people and say, “Be alive! Be real!”

Philly in Verow’s 2016 “This Side of Heaven.”

PHILLY, from p.24

GMK: You have collaborated with Todd Verow for approximately 20 years. How did you connect with him? PA: I got started when he moved into my Lower East Side apartment after he answered a newspaper ad. We started living together and enjoying each other, and then we started doing movies together. We collaborated as friends, coworkers, and co-conspirators. It has grown so beautifully over time. Todd Verow and the Kuchar brothers are my favorite influences and people to work with. GMK: What do you like about working with edgy queer filmmakers? PA: It’s very confrontational. It’s getting down to the essence of revulsion and life and death and playing with things. Seeing the bubble floating on air, tapping it, and stepping on it and grinding it into the ground. I believe in magic and working with directors who are effervescent and creative beyond all human comprehension. GMK: Let’s talk about your work in “Once and Future Queen.” PA: In “Queen,” I play AntiMatter. She’s the universal punk rock’n’roll soldier. She’s on the edge of getting it, but never | January 4 – 17, 2018

ally does. You love her, but you wouldn’t give her the keys to your house. She’s dancing on the edge. When we showed that at the Director’s Guild, people kept wanting to party with me. But it’s not me. If I were the characters I play I’d be dead! It’s acting. I’m channeling. I’m opening myself up to the possibility of anything entering me while I’m working. I’m a great believer in mysticism. GMK: What about V, the trans shut-in dealing with a horrific landlord? That film is based on your real-life experiences in New York, right? PA: Todd and I lived together, so it’s his experience, too. I said we should do something about it. He said, with a shit-eating grin, that he had a script for me. The role was written for me. My gender is very mutable so I found it easy to slip into an old-style trans character. GMK: My favorite role of yours is the kooky 3-D art teacher you played in Verow’s “Between Something & Nothing.” What can you say about that role? PA: I got some guidance in that. That part was every bad, horrifying art teacher. Todd told me the lines were verbatim from one of his art teachers in school. I might be wrong, but it’s still a good

GMK: What observations do you have about your life now? PA: Elizabeth Nichols is making a documentary about me, so I’m playing myself to give people an insight into what makes me tick. I’m delighted by my body of work,

and it continues because of the movie I’m doing now. We’re shooting this interview, and possibly pieces of it will be in the movie. GMK: What do you think is the craziest thing you’ve ever done on screen? PA: The double-headed dildo scene with Michael Burke while talking dialectics in Verow’s “Xx: Where Your Heart Should Be.” We threw the dildo out the window and you can see it lying out there in the garbage. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do under the right circumstances. GMK: What can people expect from your appearance at Anthology Film Archives? PA: I’m hoping to be able to do the Q&A. I will provide honest, open, crazy, delicious answers like I always give them. I love being in front of an audience, and the New York audience is the most beautiful and vicious in the world. Either they get us or they don’t get us — and, more recently, people have been getting us more than they don’t, which is a delight.


Wouldn’t it be fun to stop keeping it all together?

A NEW COMEDY by Isobel Mahon

starring Academy Award® Winner

HAYLEY MILLS directed by

Amanda Bearse • 212-581-1212 • 131 W. 55TH ST. NY CITY CENTER STAGE II • NYCITYCENTER.ORG



Original Sin Daniela Thomas’ visually rich tale of colonial Brazil explores race, class, and gender BY STEVE ERICKSON n a statement in the press kit of “Vazante,” Brazilian director Daniela Thomas describes her country as “perhaps, the most miscegenated people on the planet.” Fifty percent of Brazilians have some African blood, and official versions of its history often claim it has achieved some kind of “post-racial” harmony. But slavery ended there more than 20 years after it did in the US, and the country now has a worse record than the US for police killings of black people. While a kind of closeness between whites and blacks that escapes the worst problems of isolation and total segregation comes across in “Vazante,” the film never lets one forget the horrible power imbalance — both in race and gender terms — underpinning all this. In addition to slaves not yet having been freed, white Brazilians were still governed by Portugal at the time of the film’s 1821 setting. Ironically, “Vazante” is a co-production between Portugal and Brazil: the two countries’ close relationship persists to this day. Shot in black and white and using a screen ratio slightly wider than Cinemascope, “Vazante” recreates the look of a 19th century photograph rather than an old movie. It has a sense of distance and detachment rare to conventional period pieces, without going anywhere near as far as Peter Watkins’ “Ed-



IN BETWEEN, from p.24

mates. Each character is in a different stage of liberation and they are all from different backgrounds. I tried in my writing to maximize that dynamic in a dramatic way. GMK: Many of the characters in the film have to live a lie or repress their true natures. What decisions did you make regarding how these women present themselves versus who they really are?


Directed by Daniela Thomas Music Box Films In Portuguese with English subtitles Opens Jan. 12 IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St.


Luana Nastas and Adriano Carvalho in Daniela Thomas’s “Vazante.”

vard Munch” or Roberto Rossellini’s “The Rise Of Louis XIV.” Paradoxically, Thomas shoots cruelty in a very beautiful style, but this never seems hypocritical since the cinematography retains the same eyepopping quality no matter what’s happening onscreen. Antonio (Adriano Carvalho) married into a family that owns a decrepit estate. In the film’s early scenes, he heads home accompanied by slaves and mules. His wife is pregnant, and expecting to greet her he instead learns she and her fetus died during labor. His place is taken by his brother-in-law and his family. The slaves who live there find their uneasy peace disturbed by new arrivals from Africa. The two groups don’t speak the same language, and “Vazante” doesn’t subtitle the latter’s speech, which I thought was a technical error at first. Antonio winds up marrying his 12-year-old niece

MH: I lived a dual life always, but now after the movie I have to admit I cannot. I liberated myself through the movie. I don’t need to live a dual life. It is something so strong in our being, especially as a woman, that you have to act not in your truth because of society’s rules. It’s so tough to be in this mindset that you always have to lie, but this is the price you pay for your journey of liberation. GMK: What influenced you that you adopted a feminist perspective?

Beatriz (Luana Nastas), his brotherin-law’s daughter, although she is barely old enough to menstruate. The sound design is uncommonly central to “Vazante,” and something that seems to benefit from a theatrical setting. Thomas builds her narrative leisurely and carefully, and she uses little speech. Her characters don’t seem particularly articulate, and even the white men appear to feel as though they speak a language that doesn’t truly belong to them. As Antonio heads home with his mules, their bells ring and their hooves clog away. In an odd way, “Vazante” reminds me of another Latin American film directed by a woman: Argentine director Lucrecia Martel’s “La Ciénaga.” Martel depicted a contemporary upper middle class family going to seed in the summertime. There’s a near-sculptural quality to the direction and cinematography of “Vazante.” Thomas’ work is very immersive. If it connects with any tradition in Brazilian cinema I’ve seen, it evokes the ‘60s Cinema

MH: I got it not from my progressive family, but from my life experience. I saw things that did not seem logical to me: Why can boys go out and I have to be home before sunset? It started from a feeling from injustice. My brother grew up to be a man in a society, where he could do things his sister was not allowed to do. So it started from a personal perspective. But then I was exposed to feminist educators and radicals. From those seeds, I developed that mindset.

Novo films that intersected with Westerns. But the sense of youthful anger that powered the work of filmmakers like Glauber Rocha is much more diffuse here. There’s a sense in “Vazante” that Brazil went wrong at its founding due to the original sin of slavery and that miscegenation could have repaired this. But despite all the death, misery, and abuse of women (including girls) depicted here, Thomas’ film has a relatively mellow tone. The use of natural locations also recalls the ways the landscape in Argentine director Lisandro Alonso’s “Jauja” gradually turns into a reflection of its protagonist’s psychological space. I don’t think Thomas created or faked any of the rock formations she shot, but she selected ones that resonate with the narrative. She also creates a potent evocation of a crumbling aristocracy. On the cusp of Brazilian independence, something is about to replace people like Antonio, even if that happenstance doesn’t lead to real freedom or the end of racism. Thomas has made three features in collaboration with Walter Salles, best known in the US for the rather middlebrow “Central Station” and “The Motorcycle Diaries,” and several shorts and directed the opening of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to try and represent Brazil on a world stage. “Vazante” is another go at that ambitious goal, one reflecting the fact that its director has degrees in both history and cinema.

GMK: I love the opening scene of the cosmetician reinforcing gender roles. Can you talk about how “In Between” breaks stereotypes? MH: I wanted to play with my audience and to give them the feeling that they think that they know how women are supposed to be. I think it’s a lesson for viewers to break stereotypes, even ones that they don’t know they have. This is the feeling the Western eye and the Israeli eye

IN BETWEEN, continued on p.27

January 4 – 17, 2018 |


Uncivil Society Ziad Doueiri looks at the anger still poisoning Lebanese life

Eastern politics. Having come to the US to go to film school and then worked as a camera assistant on Quentin Tarantino’s first three films, Doueiri has only made four features in 20 years. “The Insult” marks his return to directing in his native Lebanon after his 1998 debut, “West Beirut.” To a large extent, that film, set during the country’s civil war, told the story of his adolescence, although the Muslim director has said that he only began to fully recognize the humanity of Jews and Christians upon his arrival in America. He has co-written the scripts of his three subsequent films with a Christian Lebanese woman, Joelle Touma. “The Insult” is grounded in seemingly local issues; its narrative ultimately depends on a return to wounds created by the civil war and calls for a re-examination of its events. However, given the extent to which the entire Middle East often feels like a tinderbox, its tentative optimism resonates. Very overtly, “The Insult” explores anger. It’s a revenge fan-

tasy of sorts, but one that plays out the full consequences of that vengeance. Yasser answers Tony’s words with fists, breaking several of his ribs in response to his antiPalestinian comments. When this winds up in court, both men hire female lawyers. Their testimony often plays in relatively long takes that turn from medium shots into close-ups without any cuts. Doueiri and cinematographer Tommaso Fiorilli’s camera is fairly mobile. But the film suffers from its inability to dial down its emotional temper. Once the rage gets boiling, it seems content to have various characters repeat the sentence I quoted at the beginning of this review and shout a lot. “The Insult” aims to take the pulse of Lebanese society, particularly its inability to integrate Palestinians and come to terms with the scars left by its civil war and its free-floating hatred of Israel, which ventures from a justifiable anger at that nation’s government into antiSemitism. Doueiri uses the format of the courtroom drama as his entry point. Before the film’s first half hour is up, Tony and Yasser have had their first confrontation before the law, but much more will follow.

Sidney Lumet seems like a major influence on Doueiri, but as Canadian critic Adam Nayman has observed, the Lebanese director seems to want to reach international audiences with the specificities of his country’s political problems. In fact, the film’s press kit asks Doueiri whether he thinks audiences outside Lebanon will understand the film. (Its American distributor, the Cohen Media Group, which also owns the Quad, the theater showing it in New York, invested some money in its production, so it certainly thinks so.) The very fact that “The Insult” is being released in the US at a time when American interest in subtitled film is sinking lower and lower suggests a welcome respect for our ability to care about the subtleties of conflict between Palestinians and ethnic Lebanese. I wouldn’t take that ability for granted. At the same time, Nayman is also right to suggest that the metaphorical and political dimension of “The Insult” works better than smaller details like fathers facing off against their daughters on opposite sides of legal teams. There’s a tendency for the film to play like a state-of-the-nation address more than the drama about two men where it began. Its heart seems closer to the courtroom than the working-class environs where Tony works (and it never takes us to Yasser’s refugee camp, for some reason). Still, if “The Insult” sometimes feels like a Lebanese version of a TV legal drama, it’s a very trenchant and well-executed one.

about the same subject with a feminist approach. This wave started after the Arab Spring, and it is an immediate link to the spirit of the Arab Spring and freedom, change, and anti-patriarchy. All these directors — women and men — are in exile from their countries to have a chance to live after they made a strong movie that questions the system around them. I am able to stay where I live in Israel, but the feeling of protection is greater than in the Arab country.

GMK: The film is very progressive in terms of its treatment of women and lesbianism. A fatwa was issued because of your film. Can you discuss the reaction the film got and what that meant? MH: The fatwa was very normal because if it had not happened that would have been strange. When you criticize society — which is men as the patriarchy — the actions they take when you criticize them has to be dramatic. They acted as we ex-

pected, but a bit more. The fatwa was weird. Since 1948, this [particular] committee of Islam didn’t attack anything until the movie came out. There are a lot of issues, and you are going to give a fatwa for a movie? But I understand where it came from. I have to say that after a while, the opposite voices — the seculars, empowering women organizations, the gay community — raised their voices very loud and resisted that wave of hate and violent speech.

BY STEVE ERICKSON wish Ariel Sharon had wiped you all out.” That sentence, initially delivered in anger by a Lebanese Christian man, Tony (Adel Karam), to a Palestinian refugee, Yasser (Kamel El Basha, who is also a director and playwright), gets repeated at least two dozen times in Ziad Doueiri’s film “The Insult.” The hatred between the two initially began with Tony’s attempt to ignore Yasser telling him he needs to repair a drainpipe on the garage the Christian man owns. It spirals into an incident that leads to political discussions on TV, a lengthy court battle, and street demonstrations. The personal becomes political to an extent that turns ludicrous, but then Lebanon is a country that’s still officially at war with Israel, making Tony’s remark something more than a casual dig. Doueiri has personally suffered the consequences of similar political posturing after shooting much of his last film, “The Attack,” in Israel. One would think that a dark exploration into the alienation of “assimilated” Arabs who live in Israel would honor the spirit of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, if not its exact demands, but Doueiri has bizarrely been accused of glorifying Zionism with it. This experience, although never directly referred to in “The Insult,” seems to have fueled its view of the absurdity of Middle



IN BETWEEN, from p.26

have: they think they know us, but it is always a stereotypical image, not the real thing. That’s the surprise you get from the film. Then you ask questions about that. GMK: Can you talk about your film being part of an exciting Arab New Wave? MH: More movies from the Arab world are telling stories from different point of views. We are talking | January 4 – 17, 2018

Directed by Ziad Doueiri Cohen Media Group In Arabic with English subtitles Opens Jan. 12 Quad Cinema, 34 W. 13th St. COHEN MEDIA GROUP

Adel Karam and Kamel El Basha in Ziad Doueiri’s “The Insult.”



Under the Lens and Now Under Fire Dancer Marcelo Gomes, with new biopic arriving, leaves ABT in sex scandal BY GARY M. KRAMER natomy of a Male Ballet Dancer” goes on stage, in the dressing rooms, and on tour with Marcelo Gomes, the out gay, Brazilian-born ballet dancer. Several days after this interview was conducted, Gomes resigned from American Ballet Theatre following an allegation of sexual misconduct that the company said took place eight years ago and “did not occur in relation to his employment duties with the company.” Washington Ballet is going forward with a work Gomes is developing for that company to be presented in March, and Film Forum is screening the film as planned. “Anatomy,” a fabulous documentary directed by David Barba and James Pellerito, toggles back and forth between Gomes’ performances and scenes from his childhood to present a grounded sense of his life and work. The film certainly celebrates Gomes’ career highs, from choreographing “Kings of the Dance” and performing “La Bayadère” to dancing “Don Quixote” in Brazil and “Giselle” in Russia. “Anatomy” also explores some emotional lows, including physical injuries he’s endured and his effort to motivate his father to come see him perform on the New York stage. Throughout “Anatomy of a Male Ballet Dancer,” Gomes is charming, whether talking about coming out on the cover of the Advocate in 2003 or sweating as a trainer pushes him to develop his body to lift ballerinas on stage. The dancer chatted via FaceTime with Gay City News about his life, his work, and his “Anatomy.”



GARY M. KRAMER: What prompted you to become the subject of this documentary? MARCELO GOMES: It was the filmmakers who had the idea. They reached out to me. They had made



Marcelo Gomes, having left ABT, is moving forward with a project at Washington Ballet.

a documentary on Johnny Weir. They came to a ballet I was performing and liked how I danced and the emotions I portrayed. They reached out to me on Facebook. I was reluctant at first. GMK: So let’s talk about your anatomy. You have concerns, as every dancer does, about aging and injury, dancing until your body can’t take it. Can you talk about developing your body, your thoughts on your workouts, as well as your injuries and surgeries? MG: I’ve always been brought up to take ballet class, do rehearsals, and then go home and rest and repeat. In my early 30s, I had ankle and knee surgery and I rehabbed well. I was fine, but I wanted to do more prevention work. I started working with a trainer. I’d never lifted a dumbbell at the gym before. I liked what it did to my body, and I’m dancing today because I got into a cross-training mindset. If I do get injured, I come back quickly because the rest of my body is in shape and can help me recover from my injury. GMK: Male ballet dancers have a softness but they are also masculine. What are your thoughts about a male dancer’s masculinity and femininity? MG: I think there’s a big discussion about that right now — whether men can partner with men on stage, or women with women. If a pas de deux is made for a man and a woman why can’t two men do it? A lot of companies and chore-


Marcelo Gomes dancing in Central Park.

ographers are making male-male pairing part of their repertoire. There is a masculinity a guy can have with a woman that isn’t portrayed when two guys are together, and two guys have something that you can’t have with a woman. Male dancers have more mass and muscle, but they are in tights. We use our hands and arms and there is a fluidity of movement that you can play with. [Gomes demonstrates.] The lines are strong, but the ends are softer. There’s a vulnerability and strength behind it. I enjoy seeing it, and I enjoy being a part of both of those experiences. GMK: Can you talk about coming out on the cover of the Advocate in 2003? Why would anyone be surprised a male ballet dancer was gay? MG: I’m not sure. It was a big deal for the time. My colleagues weren’t publically out, and they saw that I could be a young principal and say I am gay. I didn’t want to give another interview where someone asked me if I had a girlfriend. That’s how it started. I’m glad I did it, and ABT was fully behind me and they had no problem with me taking that step. Hopefully, it inspired other guys to be who they want to be. GMK: You are not seen having much of a social life in the film as you are constantly working and traveling. You say in the film that you’d like to fall in love, get married, and even have a kid. Can you talk about your personal life? Do

Directed by David Barba and James Pellerito Retribution Media/ Cinema Tropical Opens Jan. 3 Film Forum 209 W. Houston St.

you date or is that difficult because of your schedule? MG: I don’t think I was with anyone when the film was finished. Since that film came out, I have a boyfriend. We have been together for two and a half years now. He’s seen the film, and we chuckle when the “I want to get married” line comes on. Dancers can have a social life. It’s just not very much talked about. But there are people who go out to clubs and bars. GMK: I think the film shows how charming you are, but do you ever feel you come off as a bit of a drama queen? You are seen to have high standards in the film. MG: I think that after a while in the dance world, people expect a lot from you. Based on your experiences and what you’ve done, when little things go wrong and not quite the way you imagine there’s a fear you won’t be at your best level when you perform. So dancers throw a little tantrum — the light’s too bright, the floor is slippery, the costumes are too tight. Anxiety takes over. GMK: You are seen teaching a few classes and choreographing a show. Is this where you think your career will move, in that direction? MG: I don’t know. I like choreographing and working with dancers. I don’t know if I’ll do that forever. I enjoy being in the studio. I’ve done three productions with Matthew Bourne, and I like working with him. I hope to continue my relationship with him as a dancer. January 4 – 17, 2018 |


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- | January 4 – 17, 2018

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.



Love, Lucre… and Laughs A musical and a comedy to warm up the winter, and a play to make you think BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE hat is more powerful? Love or death? That’s the question raised by the Caribbean folktale at the center of “Once On This Island,” now getting a glorious revival at Circle in the Square. As often happens in mythic tales, humans are little more than playthings for the gods, but there are lessons to be learned with earthly resonance as well. One night, a small girl terrified of a violent storm is told the story of Ti Moune, a peasant girl who was cast adrift in a similar storm many years before, and her love for the grand homme, Daniel Beauxhomme. Ti Moune, the lone survivor of the storm from her village, asks the gods to show her her purpose. The gods initially laugh, but Erzulie, goddess of love, sends her love. This touches off a conflict with Papa Ge, demon of death, and thus the tale begins. Ti Moune, who lives on the poor side of the island, saves Daniel who is wealthy. Ti Moune becomes the first person from her side of the island to breach the barrier between the two worlds, as she heals Daniel and they fall in love. But it is not to be. Daniel rejects Ti Moune for a wealthy wife. In her grief, Ti Moune plants herself outside the gate, immovable. She dies and is transformed into a tree whose roots destroy the gates and with them the separation between the two worlds. Love wins, and as the storm clears the once-frightened little girl begins to tell the story. Like many folktales, the apparent simplicity of the story is deceptive — and didactic. Daniel’s flaw is that he cannot see beyond his world. Ti Moune’s is that, blinded by her passion, she cannot see “reality.” Though their lives end in tragedy, like “Romeo and Juliet,” it is a lesson for those still living. The musical with book and lyrics by Lynn Aherns and music by Stephen Flaherty was first




Hailey Kilgore in Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s “Once on This Island,” directed by Michael Arden, at Circle in the Square.

ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Circle in the Square 1633 Broadway at 50th St. Mon., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Tue. at 7 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m. Sun. at 3 & 7:30 p.m. $89.50-$169.50; Or 212-239-6200 90 mins., no intermission

seen on Broadway in 1990. This sumptuous production, directed by Michael Arden, is a feast for the eyes, ears, and heart. Arden has transformed Circle in the Square into the island, complete with dirt, livestock, and some masterful theatricality that conveys the dichotomous worlds in ways both abstract and human. With witty and gorgeous costumes by Clint Ramos, the show unspools in an orgy of color and vibrancy that is pure genius. The company is uniformly excellent. Under the direction of Chris Fenwick, the score is beautifully realized by some of the finest voices going. From the opening number, “We Dance,” one is instantly transported into the world of the show. Sound design by Peter Hylenski is particularly


Keegan-Michael Key, Jeremy Shamos, Amy Schumer, and Laura Benanti in Steve Martin’s “Meteor Shower,” directed by Jerry Zaks, at the Booth Theatre through January 21.

noteworthy because Circle in the Square can be such a problematic barn for sound, yet here it sounds full and human. Standouts in the company include the gods Merle Dandridge as Papa Ge, Quentin Earl Darrington as Agwe, and Lea Salonga as Erzulie. Hailey Kilgore as Ti Moune sings and acts brilliantly, and both she and the outstanding Isaac Powell as Daniel deliver star-making performances in their Broadway debuts. After seeing — and laughing my way through — Steve Martin’s new comedy “Meteor Shower,” I may have to rethink my opinion of Amy Schumer. I know she has a devoted following, but I’ve always found her aggressively vulgar stand-up distasteful. Here, as Corky, the wife in one of the play’s two couples, she demonstrates a level of comic skill that ranks with the best comediennes of all time — Lucy, Carol, and so forth. With a look or a gesture, she reduces her audience to a puddle of giggles and outright belly laughs, and her timing is impeccable. Martin has written a “great room” comedy. (In another time, we’d call that domestic architectural feature a “drawing room,” but that’s too quaint for the timely topics here.) Norm and Corky are

METEOR SHOWER Booth Theatre 222 W. 45th St. Through Jan. 21 Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $59-$169; Or 212-239-6200 80 mins., no intermission a contemporary married couple, who “work on” their relationship in nearly every interaction. Martin is clearly skewering the god-awful, overly self-conscious behaviors promoted by talk shows and relationship books. (Moreover, they live in Ojai, California, so the granola crunchiness is doubly trenchant.) These labored mechanisms are, of course, ridiculous and hilarious, but they seem to work for Corky and Norm. That is until Gerald and Laura arrive, ostensibly to watch the celestial event of the title. Freewheeling, openly sexual, and unbounded by the strictures and rules that restrain Corky and Norm, they threaten to destroy Corky and Norm’s world. How they fight back and hold their own is

METEOR SHOWER, continued on p.31

January 4 – 17, 2018 |


JUNK Vivian Beaumont Theatre 150 W.` 65th St. Jan. 4 at 7 p.m. Jan. 5-6 at 8 p.m. Jan. 6 at 2 p.m.; Jan. 7 at 3 p.m. $87-$147; Or 212-239-6200 Two hrs., 30 mins., no intermission


Teresa Avia Lim and Michael Siberry in Ayad Akhtar’s “Junk,� directed by Doug Hughes at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre through January 7.


METEOR SHOWER, from p.30

what the fun is all about. To say more would ruin it, but with a mix of the absurd and the ridiculous, Martin’s 80-minute play is satirical and serious, reinforcing something many believe: relationships are worth fighting for. In addition to Schumer the cast includes Keegan-Michael Key in his Broadway debut as Gerald. Not surprisingly for those who know his comedy, Key nails every moment and is, as the script demands, both sexy and annoying. Jeremy Shamos as Norm is hilarious. Shamos is easily one of the most versatile actors working today, equally at home in all types of work, but here his comic chops are on full display to great effect. Like so many others, I could go all fanboy on Laura Benanti in everything she does, and here she’s at the top of her form and like the rest of the company, lands every nuance and earns every laugh. Jerry Zaks directs, so it’s no surprise that the company works so well together. No one can mine a script for comedy as he can, or find such sophistication in the silliness. Like the heavenly rocks Martin evokes, “Meteor Shower� burns bright as it blazes by. | January 4 – 17, 2018

“Junk,� now at Lincoln Center, is a fascinating tale of financial shenanigans in the mid1980s as companies are bought and sold and the business of business shifts from making things to making money. Ayad Akhtar’s play recalls Lucy Prebble’s “Enron,� which dealt with similar themes. Akhtar, however, has more trust in the subject and is content to tell a rich story simply rather than freighting it with obscure theatricality. Indeed, the effectiveness of the play rests in its almost completely expository nature. Characters are developed only to the extent that they advance the story. It works because there is something larger at work here. The essential conflict in the story is what happens when the quest for shortterm gain obliterates all human considerations — and even sustainable business. Though set 30 years ago, the play is timely as we see how these tactics have undone so many American business. Case in point: the recent Toys “R� Us bankruptcy, where the can long kicked down the road finally hit a wall. Akhtar writes powerfully and (pun intended) economically, and under Doug Hughes’ sure-handed direction makes even some of the more complex points accessible. The outstanding company includes Steven Pasquale, Henry Stram, Rick Holmes, Michael Siberry, Matthew Rauch, and, in a standout performance, Teresa Avia Lim, but all are excellent. Especially as this holiday season winds up, we are conscious, with a nudge from Charles Dickens, of how business and pursuit of gain can rob our souls. But we don’t have Scrooge’s advantage of spectral intervention, and as the last moments of “Junk� make clear, some of us will never learn.




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Mostly Met “Hansel and Gretel,” “Thais,” Le nozze di Figaro,” Verdi’s “Requiem” close out 2017 score with consummate skill, making “Thais” a very worthwhile operatic evening. Villaume was a wise choice to take over the new “Tosca” as of December 31.

BY DAVID SHENGOLD usy with several choral groups, Kent Tritle conducted the Oratorio Society’s invigorating Carnegie “Messiah” on December 18. The orchestra proved adequate if not exceptional, though trumpeter Scott McIntosh scored alongside Dashon Burton’s lively, well-projected bass-baritone in their marvelous joint aria. This venerable amateur chorus makes an impressive sound, not always flawless in coordination but remarkably accomplished in the rollicking “And He shall purify” and “For unto us a Child is born.” We gratefully heard a fuller text than is sometimes offered, so that Part III included “O Death, where is thy sting?” and the exquisite “If God be for us” — to me essential parts of the work’s redemptive journey. Sara Murphy presented an oldfashioned “oratorio contralto,” imposing if sometimes over-ambitious in high interpolations. Lawrence Jones offered a fine-sounding classic Handel/ Britten tenor, lithe in phrasing and expert in divisions. All four soloists ventured decorations; Jones took the prize in taste and execution. Kathryn Lewek — the Met’s, indeed perhaps the world’s reigning Queen of the Night — sometimes gleefully ventured into “Mad Scenes from the ‘Messiah’” show-off territory, but what a gorgeous, flawlessly projected sound and what technical mastery!


The Met’s holiday offering was “Hansel and Gretel” in Richard Jones’ creative if snarky staging, maybe better for adolescents than wee kiddies. Donald Runnicles, an expert Wagnerian, gave Humperdinck’s ravishing score its full due, with translucent textures and thrillingly built climaxes. I caught the “cover” cast (December 28), missing Lisette Oropesa (Gretel) and Quinn Kelsey (Peter) who sounded sensational on the



Gerald Finley and Ailyn Pérez in Massenet’s “Thaïs.”

broadcast. Oropesa is among the world’s great current sopranos. Her replacement, Maureen McKay, is a very good lyric soprano, a spirited performer who’s paid her dues on many stages. She belongs at the Met; her Gretel danced confidently and sang increasingly well, especially in the upper register, up to the optional D. Ingeborg Gillebo, visually credible as a tween boy, sang pleasantly in a not-large voice finer in quality than the inexplicably prominent Tara Erraught. The Norwegian mezzo didn’t make her words clear, but then neither did the veteran American mezzo Dolora Zajick, rangy and trenchant in Gertrude’s tough music. Dwayne Croft, another veteran, remains a very valid Peter; he fared best with the text. Gerhard Siegel vocalized the Witch’s music better than most tenors and was quite droll; but why not give her music to a mezzo as Humperdinck specified? The Met has several qualified candidates signed. Still, a fine afternoon. The children’s chorus earned its fervent applause. The Met put on a “Thais” revival largely superior to 2008’s original production. Massenet’s B-movie-level opera is beautifully composed and constructed, with an Anatole France-derived dramatic arc of two lovers missing one another on opposite travers-

als between lust and renunciation. (Somerset Maugham stole that for “Rain.”) After two missed performances, Gerald Finley (Athanael) returned sounding somewhat health-challenged, but with sovereign vocal artistry in terms of voice production, verbal phrasing, and dynamics. Now 58, he made the obsessed monk at once a misguided moral force and credibly sensual. Finley is among our rare complete operatic artists. Two decades younger, Ailyn Pérez — beautiful and likeable onstage with a ravishing soprano under ever-better if still (at the top and in trills) imperfect control — may reach that status yet. She made an attractive, compelling heroine, even if the production’s botched final scene remains a tribute to prima donna ego: Thais expires enthroned on high, as if a Byzantine imperial icon instead of a frightened girl in a shift under a fig tree. Though not as dulcet as 2008’s Matthew Polenzani, Jean-Francois Borras brought welcome linguistic authenticity to Nicias. Deanna Breiwick (La Charmeuse), France Bellemare (Crobyle), and Megan Marino (Myrtale) sounded fresh and appealing. The only weak point was Sara Couden’s raucous Albine. Emmanuel Villaume — always a welcome guest — led the perfumed

Another demonstration — were any needed — that conductors play the key role in making operas worthwhile came when Harry Bicket opened the season’s run of “Le nozze di Figaro” December 6. The orchestra flowed quite delightfully and the most capable singers flourished. These included Luca Pisaroni’s sexy, fluidly vocalized Count, the very talented company newcomer Christiane Karg (an expert Susanna), and the muchimproved Rachel Willis-Sørensen’s beauteous Countess, lacking only a distinct timbral profile. Serena Malfi (Cherubino) proved decent, though unmemorable. Pity about Adam Plachetka’s dry, charmlessly sung and acted title character. By Act Four he sounded less mediocre but this much-touted career eludes me; he no longer resembles the boyish publicity pics and there’s too much bluster and too little secure tone. Revival director Jonathan Loy and Bicket welcomely had the comic comprimarios avoid camp and cheap “bits.” Robert McPherson (a luxury-cast Basilio) and Paul Corona (Antonio) actually vocalized their music with serious quality. With Katarina Leoson, one wondered why bother importing a vocally passé (if professional) Swede with no claim on audience nostalgia to bridge the quality gap. Hyesang Park voiced Barbarina beautifully. As of December 29, Bicket helms another crew of leads, including Pérez as the Countess opposite Mariusz Kwiecien, Nadine Sierra, and Ildar Abdrazakov. A good late holiday gift for opera newbies; the plot’s comeuppance for sexual harassers like the Count seems timely.

HARRY BICKET, continued on p.33

January 4 – 17, 2018 |


Reading Mark Merlis With Affection Community Center reading of late novelist’s writing warmed an early winter evening BY PAUL SCHINDLER n a warm gathering of colleagues, admirers, friends, and family of Mark Merlis, the late novelist was recalled as a writer of “impeccable” “voice, details, and language,” a bluntspoken but generous mentor, and a “humble person” who — making his living as a health policy expert — shunned attention from his social circle and colleagues for his life as an esteemed author. Chris Bram, the writer whose large body of fiction and historical work has ranged from novels including “Hold Tight,” “Father of Frankenstein” (adapted for film as “Gods and Monsters”), and “Exiles in America” to his 2016 “The Art of History: Unlocking the Past in Fiction and Nonfiction,” organized the memorial reading as part of the LGBT Community Center’s Second Tuesday Lecture Series on December 12. Merlis, born in 1950 and raised near Baltimore, died this past August 15 after living for a year with an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) diagnosis. His four novels were “American Studies” (1994), which won the New York Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award and the Los Angeles Times’ Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction; “An Arrow’s Flight” (1998),


HARRY BICKET, from p.32

Verdi’s thrilling “Requiem” — very theatrical compared to similar works by Brahms or Fauré — has been heard sporadically at the Met over the decades. This season’s run utilized three soloists intended for a sadly aborted Calixto Bieito production of “La forza del destino.” (The course of that “bad luck opera” never did run smooth.) Fair enough, but the second performance (November 27) was only sporadically worthy of Verdi — or of the run’s dedicatee, the sadly departed baritone Dmitri | January 4 – 17, 2018


Bob Ashe, Mark Merlis’ surviving spouse, at a December 12 evening of readings of the late novelist’s work.

Chris Bram, a novelist and history writer, organized the evening of readings.

Edward Hibbert reading from Mark Merlis’ “JD” was among the evening’s highlights.

which was honored by the Lambda Literary Foundation; “Man About Town” (2003); and “JD” (2015). Merlis was living in Philadelphia at the time of his death with his husband of 35 years, Bob Ashe, who was on hand at the reading, along with Mark’s brother Dr. Tony Merlis, his wife Ellen, and their daughters Jennifer and Abigail, and his brother Dan Merlis and his wife Deany. Bram opened the evening by admitting that when he first started reading “American Studies” for a Lambda Book Report review he was jealous at the competition. “He was so good I stopped feeling competitive,” Bram recalled. “He had a great subject: memories of gay love at the time of the Red Scare in the 1950s. The voice, de-

tails, and language were impeccable. Under that was a keen sense of structure and story.” Assessing Merlis’ body of work, Bram said, “He wrote in a deceptively traditional manner, and he made it look easy. Fellow writers were the first to recognize how much skill and knowledge went into his eloquent prose, and how much innovation was taking place under the surface.” Among the other readers and participants were Patrick Merla, the literary agent and editor who oversaw leading gay publications including Christopher Street, the New York Native, and the James White Review; Scott Heim, the writer, poet, and editor whose novels include “Mysterious Skin,” “In Awe,” and “We Disappear”; Michael

Lowenthal, a novelist and short story writer whose most recent books are “Charity Girl” and “The Paternity Test”; Edward Hibbert, the literary agent and actor with many Broadway and West End credits but most widely known for his role as food critic Gil Chesterton on “Frasier”; William Johnson, the program director at the Lambda Literary Foundation; the novelist, poet, and short story writer Paul Russell, a two-time Ferro-Grumley winner, most recently for 2012’s “The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov”; and short story writer William Walker, whose debut collection, “Desire: Tales of New Orleans,” was published in 2012. Heim, whose “Mysterious Skin”

tovsky. James Levine has led many memorable Verdi evenings but this episodic, in places suddenly muddled traversal of the “Requiem” will not count among them. The choral and instrumental work proved consistently good but Levine’s coordination and pacing failed at several junctures. Phraser extraordinaire Krassimira Stoyanova and the fulsome, welcomely returned Ekaterina Semenchuk provided much marvelous solo and duet singing, with usefully contrasting timbres that blended well. Any night featuring these two artists is worth attend-

ing. Semenchuk returns opposite Roberto Alagna as the Met’s newest Santuzza on January 8, 13, and 17. Ferruccio Furlanetto at 68 still wields a remarkable bite heard live and phrases with rare intensity, yet the bass was visibly nursing a cold, so his work varied from impressive to misfired. Aleksandrs Antonenko cannot claim artistry on his colleagues’ level. Though he managed some clean, loud high notes, his imperfect dynamic and pitch control led to some unpleasant moments, not least in his two starring opportu-

nities, “Ingemisco” — in which his indicated trills were unfortunate — and the wannabe floated “Hostias.” Where was Russell Thomas? Verdi’s music and the two women partially redeemed an otherwise unmagical evening. A few days later, the Met suspended its 45-year-long professional ties with Levine, long an unquestioned audience icon, due to resurfaced allegations of sexual abuse of minors. The force of destiny plays on.



MARK MERLIS, continued on p.35

David Shengold ( writes about opera for many venues



January 4 – 17, 2018 |

DAVID DRAKE, from p.23

helmed at the Stonewall Inn, featured gay porn star Chris Harder, who easily proved he has more talent than just winking at the camera (and I’m not talking eyes here), giving a raucous, merry, and sharply observed entré into his triple X-rat-

ed world. “I’d been impressed by Chris when I saw him perform at the Slipper Club and then our mutual friend, Lola RocknRolla, suggested me to him as a director,” Drake said. “He’s a really triple threat talent, besides being charming. “The Midwood Miracle” at Emerg-

ing Artists Theater’s New Works Festival on October 3, featured the deeply gifted singer-actress Deborah Karpel, who painted a hilariously authentic and very touching portrait of her highly individual, unconventional parents and her search for cultural roots in a 1960s “American Dream” boomtown of

people whose shoulders we stand upon and ensure that history does not repeat itself. GS: Homophobia, history, and politics aside, I think this piece is about the dangers and joys of falling in love under any circumstances. Love always takes courage and vulnerability — even more in a time or place where love could cause you to lose your job, family, faith, and your community. I think it can be hard for those who didn’t grow up in a society permeated by homophobia to understand that experience. Like so much gay history, the 1950s Lavender Scare seems to have been forgotten before it was properly remembered. I think it’s important for historians and artists to revisit this past in as many ways as possible so that we have some record of those stories.


language for “Fellow Travelers” that would foreground the undercurrent of clandestine machinations and forbidden longing churning under the surface of Greg Pierce’s elegant adaptation. Particularly in Tim and Hawk’s public interactions, love cannot simply speak its name. Music must bridge the gap. I was interested in going back to the original idea of opera as sung speech. It was very important for me that the characters felt like ordinary people whose emotions could expand into operatic passion or bravado when needed. The musical fabric is made from a combination of rhythmic minimalist textures and melismatic singing inspired by early troubadour melodies. The tension between those two modes of music-making was meant to dramatize the tension between the DC political machine and the private longings of the characters. KN: Audiences are welcome to listen to the commercial recording before attending the show but I recommend coming in blind and letting the music and story surprise and move you! EJ: Many younger millennial members of the gay community take their current freedoms for granted, are ignorant of the pioneering work of gay activists, social reformers,

MARK MERLIS, from p.33

was adapted for film by Gregg Araki, recalled reading “American Studies” in galleys at Houghton and later being asked to write a blurb for “a book that was 100 times better than anything I could write.” Lowenthal talked about the honor he felt being asked by Merlis to offer editorial suggestions on “JD,” and Russell also spoke about his relationship with Merlis in | January 4 – 17, 2018

Queens. Drake didn’t direct Karpel here, but has worked with her over the years directing her “Songs My Mother Never Taught Me.” When I told Drake how much I admire Karpel, he said, “Like you, I love Debbie, so sweet and talented, with this fabulous material at her fingertips.”

and protesters of the older generations, and often look down on the older generation for having been closeted and self-loathing. What would you wish younger gay people to learn from this story?

KN: As a 40-year-old openly gay man, I can see both ends of the queer experience over several decades and consider it my mission as an artist to bridge the gap between generations. We must honor the

EJ: What did you learn from working on the 2016 Cincinnati premiere of this work? In 2018 “Fellow Travelers” is premiering in New York City and in Chicago. Is the piece being adapted or revised in these revivals or has it remained the same? How is your relationship with the opera evolving over time? KN: We learned that audiences are starving for new pieces that are simultaneously politically engaged and emotionally moving. The piece continues to evolve as time passes, but the heart of it remains the same.

trading manuscripts for comment. Johnson praised Merlis’ ability to capture “the beauty and sadness of moving through this world.” Hibbert, who recalled sharing many meals with Merlis at Café Loup in the West Village, read from the ending of “JD,” and his delightful and dramatic British delivery was an evening highlight, but the heart of the experience came in Ashe’s comments about his late husband at the event’s close.

“He believed being a writer was the single greatest calling in life,” Ashe said of Merlis. Explaining why, then, Merlis would get angry if his husband told friends about his literary successes, Ashe said the writer’s answer was, “That’s my piece of me.” Many longtime friends of Merlis’ were shocked at his death to learn he was a writer at all. During their 35 years together, Ashe recalled, Merlis would rise three or four hours early to write

before going to work. “He started shopping work in 1971 right after college,” Ashe recalled. “Twenty-three or 24 years later, he was published.” Ashe admitted to some trepidation about traveling to New York for the evening of readings, fearing, “I’m not ready to do that,” that it would be like giving up Merlis. Then, with evident gratitude, he added, “But the readers tonight reminded me he will live on.”


Kevin Newbury directs the New York premiere of “Fellow Travelers,” which he also directed in Cincinnati.


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